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Veteran's 70-year journey searching for his long-lost love gets a happy ending
This is like something straight out of the movies. How romantic!
Michael Dabu
07.27.22

True love never dies, never!

YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7
Source:
YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7

When a Korean War Navy veteran, Duane Mann lost touch with the love of his life whom he met 70 years ago, all he had ever wanted was to meet her for the last time. He wasn’t actually hoping for a happy ever after, he just wanted a happy ending at the very least.

YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7
Source:
YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7

The now 91-year-old veteran first met his first love, Peggy Yamaguchi back in 1953 when his unit was based in Yokosuka, Japan, from 1953 to 1954. He was 22 years old back then and had worked as a slot machine repairman at an Air Force NCO Club while Peggy was a hat-check girl.

The two went on for 14 months of courtship.

YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7
Source:
YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7

“I really loved to dance and she and I found out we could really dance together, I mean, to where people would watch us. And gradually we fell in love, we couldn’t stop it,” the war veteran shared while trying to recall those beautiful moments.

Unfortunately, Mann was suddenly sent back to the U.S. and at that time, Peggy was pregnant with their child. He promised to send for her so they could start a family and be married eventually. However, he was shocked when he learned that his father had spent all of his savings which he was supposed to use in bringing Peggy to the U.S. and startup money as a family.

He was suddenly put in a tight situation because he didn’t have any means to be with Peggy and to financially support her pregnancy.

Long distance relationship.

YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7
Source:
YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7

Duane and Peggy managed to be in touch by regularly writing to each other for a month until one day, Mann stopped receiving them. Soon after, he learned that his mother had burned Yamaguchi’s letters simply because she didn’t want him to marry a Japanese woman.

Mann surprisingly received a letter from Yamaguchi, however, it wasn’t the news he was expecting. The letter broke the Navy’s heart because she mentioned in the letter that she had lost their child and that she had already married another man.

“It was over. That set in the idea that I abandoned her. [It] just wore me out. That’s not an honorable thing to do,” Mann said.

Grief and guilt from afar.

YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7
Source:
YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7

He couldn’t do anything else back then and carried that guilt and grief for years, centuries at that. He feared that Yamaguchi might think he didn’t stand up for her and their child and that he failed to fulfill his promises.

Local news station, KETV NewsWatch 7 learned about this story and decided to broadcast it. To no surprise, the story gained global attention and became extremely viral that even the Japanese media featured Mann’s 70-year search for forgiveness and closure.

One of the millions who saw Mann’s story was Theresa Wong, a 23-year-old Canadian researcher for the History Channel. She decided to conduct her own investigation hoping that she’d be able to help the veteran on his search.

Luckily, Wong stumbled upon a 1956 article, “Tokyo bride likes life in Escanaba” which became the key to many doors in finding Peggy.

YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7
Source:
YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7

The said article had the last name and an address, important pieces of information needed in search of Mann’s long-lost love.

After 70 years of searching, they finally found out that Peggy is still alive and she’s also 91 years old. She got married to a Navy soldier and they were blessed with three sons. They all lived in Escanaba, Michigan, just a few states away from Mann in Iowa.

With the help of Wong, reporter Michelle Bandur, and many others, they planned for the long-awaited reunion of Mann and Yamaguchi in a conference room at the Island Resort and Casino in Escanaba.

YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7
Source:
YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7

Right there and then, Mann made sure Yamaguchi’s thoughts about him and their past relationship were set properly and clearly.

“And I’ve thought about that all my life, I worried that you thought that I abandoned you,” he explained to her during their meeting. “And I’m here to tell you that I didn’t abandon you at all. I just couldn’t find you.”

“Thank you for remembering and [saving] all the pictures, you must have loved me,” Yamaguchi responded.

YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7
Source:
YouTube/KETV NewsWatch 7

Everything became clear at that meeting, it was such a beautiful reunion between the two. Yamaguchi also clarified that she didn’t feel abandoned and being able to see Mann was “a freeing experience” for her.

Watch the 70 years in the making reunion in the heartwarming video below.

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By Michael Dabu
hi@sbly.com
Michael Dabu is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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