A 91-year-old Korean War veteran, Duane Mann of Iowa, is taking to social media in hopes of finding his lost love, Peggy Yamaguchi, who was left behind in Japan.
Mann wrote in a Facebook post that he has been trying to find her for 70 years. He wrote on social media that he hopes his post will help him finally find his first love, so he can tell her that he never wanted to leave her.
Mann was a U.S. Navy veteran serving in Japan when he met Yamaguchi when he was 23. He told WYMT he fell in love with the young woman and they planned to marry. She was pregnant after a 14-month romance, he told the news station. Mann said he was shipped home suddenly, and they were unable to marry.
He planned to come back for her, but he learned his family had fallen on hard times when he was overseas, and he did not have the money to bring her back. Their love story turned to heartbreak when he received one last letter from Peggy. But he later learned his mother had been intercepting his letters, he said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Mann & Yamaguchi Fell in Love Over Their Shared Love of Dance
Mann told WYMT he was 23 years old and serving in Yokosuka, Japan, when he met Yamaguchi in 1954. He was an airman second class petty officer and oversaw the military base aviation warehouse, he told the news outlet. He spent his free time moonlighting at the Air Force NCO Club, where he would fix the slot machines.
She was working as a hat check girl at the time, and the two bonded and found love for each other over their mutual love of dance. He told the news station they could both dance well, but together, they drew attention.
“I really loved to dance,” Mann told the news station. “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.”
2. Mann & Yamaguchi Had Plans to Marry, But He Was Shipped Back So Suddenly Their Plans Fell Apart
Yamaguchi became pregnant in their 14-month courtship, Mann told WYMT. They had plans to marry in three months when President Dwight Eisenhower suddenly announced plans to pull all Navy personnel from Japan. Mann received papers saying he was going to be shipped back to the United States in one week, Mann told the news station.
“We didn’t have any time to get married,” Mann told the news station. “We were just trapped.”
Mann told Yamaguchi that he would come back for her, he told the news station. He thought that the savings he had at home would be enough to bring her back to the United States. But when he arrived at his parents’ home in Iowa, he learned that the family had experienced hard times and his father spent the savings, he told the news station.
3. Mann & Yamaguchi Continued Writing Letters to Each Other Until He Received One Last, Heartbreaking Letter
Mann took a high-paying job building highways in the Midwest to save money to bring Yamaguchi to America, he wrote in his Facebook post. They continued writing letters to each other, but he sent his letters from his family home while he was working six days a week.
“I corresponded with her. I would get a letter a week,” Mann told WYMT.
But her letters suddenly stopped, he told the news station. Three months later, he received one last letter.
“In that letter, she told me she married an Air Force man and that she had lost the baby and that was just dead for me,” Mann said. “I was pretty well devastated.”
But he later learned that Yamaguchi was not receiving his letters. His mother had been intercepting the letters and burning them, he told the news station.
“She didn’t want me to marry a Japanese girl. She wanted me to marry a girl from the church,” Mann told the news station.
4. Yamaguchi Went on to Marry Another Man & Mann Was Married Twice
After Mann received Yamaguchi’s last letter, he went on to marry and have children, he told the news station. He was married twice, with one marriage lasting 17 years and the other lasting 47 years.
Mann has six children, 18 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren, according to WYMT.
His youngest daughter, Janel Cogdill, told KETV she knows things would have turned out differently if Mann had married Yamaguchi.
“For me and my siblings, we’re all glad things that turned out the way they did because we wouldn’t be here, had he sent for Peggy and she came to the United States and they lived happily ever after,” Cogdill told the news station.
But she said they understand the desire to find Yamaguchi, and they are assisting him in his quest.
“He recollects his time in Japan very fondly,” Cogdill told KETV.
5. Mann Wants Yamaguchi to Know That He Did Not Abandon Her
Mann wrote on social media that his main goal is letting Yamaguchi know that he did not abandon her and that he never wanted to leave her. He told KETV that he is haunted by the image of Yamaguchi the last time he saw her.
“It began to haunt me more and more through the years … I left her standing there, pregnant,” he told the news station through tears.
Codgill told KETV that it was something her father always regretted.
“It’s something that’s bothered him all his life,” Cogdill told KETV.
The news outlet reported the only clues Mann has about Yamaguchi are that she is in her late 80s or early 90s and that she married an Air Force man from Wisconsin.
“The big thing that really makes it hard is that she thinks I abandoned her and I just can’t get that out of my soul,” Mann told KETV.
He told the news station that every night for 70 years he has been praying for the chance to make things right. He knows what he would tell her if he could see her, he told the news station.
“I would say, ‘I come to see you late in life. There’s one thing I want you to know: That I did not abandon you,” he said.