48 year old Bruce Hollywood thought he was happy and content, then he had an experience that changed the course of his life. As he lay clutching his chest in the parking lot after suffering a heart attack, he was filled with regret. The one thing that he absolutely couldn’t die without doing was locating his birth mother. His Japanese birth mother who gave him up for adoption, allowing him to have the most fulfilling, loving life in Canada. He needed to thank her.
Born out of wedlock in post-occupation Japan in 1960, Bruce would have been entering a difficult world for a mixed race child. His mother was a Japanese native, and his father a Caucasian U.S. serviceman, their child was born into a climate that saw country-wide labor strikes and student protests against the adoption of a revised Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, it was a tumultuous time. Having ended Allied occupation some eight years prior in 1952, in the terms of the Treaty of San Francisco, Japan lost several territories including Korea, Taiwan and Sakhalin, Japan had to begin recalibrating itself without the territories. When Nobue Ouchi, his mother, fell pregnant with Bruce, she and her U.S. serviceman boyfriend had begun the necessary paperwork to wed. It was the best way to give this unborn child the best life possible. He would be sent back to South Carolina prior to it being completed.
When Nobue Ouchi, his mother, fell pregnant with Bruce, she and her U.S. serviceman boyfriend had begun the necessary paperwork to wed. It was the best way to give this unborn child the best life possible. He would be sent back to South Carolina prior to it being completed.
Having promised to call as soon as he arrived home, Nobue waited patiently for contact. She had to wait for some time, until he was back at army base, but the time dragged on, and as she waited she was getting more irate. When it finally came, she deemed it to have been too long a wait and fearing that the man in her life was less than honorable she cut off all communication.
The geo-political climate was not lost to Nobue, even at such a young age she understood the hardship ahead for her boy, and the best course of action in order to give him a wonderful life
She had to make a decision. The baby’s father was not going to be in his life and she was on her own in a heavily patriarchal society, as an unmarried mother. Having told her family about her impending child, Nobue’s father offered his support in raising the baby. Bruce’s biological grandfather was a fisherman, and though work was plentiful, money would no doubt become more freely spent with an extra mouth around the dinner table. This was not what caused Nobue concern however. For the young mother-to-be, she worried about the opportunities that would be afforded to her son, a child of mixed race in a Japan ever more frustrated by American interventionism post-World War 2.
Americans were not well regarded after the war, for a country that had lost territories and citizens in the conflict the Japanese were not ready to afford opportunity to offspring of Americans. Nobue made what she deemed to be the best decision for the future of her child. She would arrange for her son to be adopted by an American couple who, at the time where stationed in Japan but due to return to the United States; Edward and Eleanor Hollywood.
Before they left for the States, Eleanor would present Nobue with a photograph of the young boy and inform his biological mother of their intention to name him Bruce. By all accounts, the relationship between Eleanor and Edward and Nobue was one of co-operative concern for the well-being of the young boy. Nobue’s actions demonstrate motherly love at its purest. She wished for a life for her son that was better than she could offer him.
She would arrange for her son to be adopted by an American couple who, at the time where stationed in Japan but due to return to the United States; Edward and Eleanor Hollywood. Before they left for the States, Eleanor would present Nobue with a photograph of the young boy and inform his biological mother of their intention to name him Bruce. By all accounts, the relationship between Eleanor & Edward and Nobue was one of co-operative concern for the well-being of the young boy. Nobue’s actions demonstrate motherly love at its purest. She wished for a life for her son that was better than she could offer him.
But what was it that drove Nobue to give up her child? Why couldn’t she keep this mixed race boy in Japan. The answer lies in the climate of Bruce’s birth. For more than two decades the U.S.-Japan relationship was one filled with great tension. While it began with the surprise attack on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, it escalated beyond anyone’s wildest fears when President Roosevelt ordered the deployment of Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This ultimate display of might would lead to an enormous death toll, and generations of birth defects and high levels of aggressive cancers.
The internment of Japanese-Americans did little to help the relationship, and yet somehow when American ground troops were stationed in Japan after the War, having been told not to fraternize with the local women, love somehow managed to find a way; time and time again. This was afterall how Bruce came to be born. Yet outside the microcosm of these romantic relationships the general population had moved beyond anger, and into a deep-rooted frustration pertaining to a perceived interventionism.
It made America a very easy villain on which to hang all societal shortcomings and anyone fraternizing with the American occupiers was a target of mass frustration. Was there a less appealing environment for a young mother to raise a child knowing he won’t be easily accepted because half of his DNA signifies the next stage in American occupation? She knew he would never be accepted.
Though many Japanese saw the U.S. troops on the ground in the years following the end of World War 2 to be little more than the enemy. This didn’t stop many thousands of young Japanese women from marrying U.S. G.I.’s and migrating to the United States with their new husbands, where a whole world of challenges awaited. This was what Nobue had hoped for with the father of her child, even going so far as to begin the paperwork before he was called back, she hoped to become a war bride.
But Bruce’s father on his return home had disappointed her. One Japanese war bride, Hiroko “Susie” Tolbert told her story of arriving in America, and desperately trying to make the best impression on her new family. She travelled by train, having donned her best kimono but when she arrived ‘Upstate’, she found her new life was on a family farm, her in-laws wanted to change how she dressed, and even wanted to call her by a more ‘American’ name. Unlike Japan, American’s do not always remove their shoes when entering the house. On a farm, this can lead to issues of cleanliness, odour and even respect. Though it might seem like a small thing, for Hiroko it was indicative of all the unseen barriers to her happiness. Knowing what we do about Nobue, it is difficult to believe that someone as independent as her would acclimate to such a gentrified approach to integration.
For Nobue to make her decision she knew that young Bruce would be a reminder of a time many wanted to forget in Japan. At the time the harsh treatment suffered by Japanese-Americans during WWII left a black mark on American moral superiority. Nobue if she was to move to the USA could potentially suffer the discrimination and attacks made toward Japanese Americans. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese was an attempt to ensure that the isolationist Government of the time remained outside the conflict. In the end, it did the opposite. Fearful that the 120,000 Japanese-Americans living along the Pacific Coast would attempt to sabotage U.S. efforts against the ‘Motherland’, Roosevelt ordered them to be forcibly relocated to incarceration camps along the Western, Midwestern and Southern United States. This could have been Nobue’s life.
Arguably, the Westernisation Hiroko felt forced upon her upon her arrival in 1951 was an attempt at an effort to vaccinate her against lingering ill-feeling. Even when Bruce arrived in the U.S. with his new Caucasian parents, he would have found it difficult growing up Asian in America. With the Korean war, quickly followed by the Vietnam war, anti-Asian sentiment was entering its third decade. To those racially intolerant at the time, it would not have mattered whether Bruce was Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese or Taiwanese. Asian is Asian even if he had little to no connection to his heritage.
Bruce’s lineage was no secret to him growing up. He would describe how he was aware he had “Asian features” which were clearly not shared with either his Irish-American father or Norwegian-American mother. In fact, the Hollywood’s were so open about Bruce’s adoption that they not only reassured him that they “picked you out special”, but also told him about his birth mother including her name and where she lived.
As Bruce grew into a man in his own right, Edward and Eleanor would offer to pay for him to fly to Japan to meet her. Such was his life growing up, Bruce never felt like he had “missed out” on anything, and so never felt the need to seek out the woman who gave him up for adoption.
When Bruce joined the United States Air Force it was to serve his adoptive country, not avail of a chance to discover his native one. In Bruce’s mind he was not a hyphenated American, he was an American with Japanese features; he had no real connection to the land of his birth other than what Eleanor provided.
According to a Paediatr Child Health study, all adopted children “grieve” for their biological parents. Children adopted as infants, prior to conscious memory, are affected by the adoption throughout their lives causing issues surrounding their intrapersonal identity as operational thinking and causal logic begin to form their foundations as the child reaches school years, there are perceived cause-and-affect relationships drawn by them between their own birth, and their adoption. This can affect the child’s confidence and their ability, in future, to form lasting relationships.
This is heightened in transracial adoptions as the child can’t even infer similarities between themselves and their parents. Adoptive parents can alleviate a lot of the intrapersonal conflict regarding identity by openly using terms like “biological parents” and “birth family”, not to mention discussing adoption issues. Years before this study was undertaken, the Edward and Eleanor Hollywood were doing exactly this. It is, undoubtedly, thanks to their incredible and brave openness that Bruce grew up to be such a well-adjusted individual, contributing as he does, to the betterment of society.
A study carried out by North Western show the spike in adoption numbers in the United States from 1945 until 1960. One of the biggest factors attributed to these stats is World War 2. Up until this point, the most frequent adoption was U.S. parents to U.S. children. The war created a lot of orphaned children, both at home and abroad and while orphaned U.S. children were most likely adopted by existing family members, foreign adoption became so prevalent that in 1945 the federal government made the first endorsement of inter-country adoption through special legislation, which was followed by similar one-time legislations. Such was the rise of inter-country adoption that Congress passed permanent legislation, establishing a special visa category in 1963. It was during this time that foster numbers also increased.
A lot of servicemen, having returned from war, found it extremely difficult to integrate back into civilised society. Such was the trauma of the parents of that generation that many have drawn a cause and affect relationship between untreated PTSD in post-war parents and the rise of the ‘serial killer’ in the 1970s. When you look at the statistics of serial killers raised by parents who saw active duty, it reinforces how excellent a judge in character Nobue was in picking Edward and Eleanor to raise her boy.
As Bruce lay in his hospital bed recuperating from the heart attack he fully expected to be his end, he began to come around to the idea of finding his birth mother. By this point, Eleanor had passed; Bruce’s own children were preparing to take the steps to independence. He was thankful to be alive. Thankful for the life he had led; all of which stemmed from one woman’s selfless act to insure her son lived the best life possible.
Perhaps it was the fact that he was a father himself, or maybe it was just a testament to how well the Hollywood’s raised him, but Bruce wanted to make sure when he inserted himself back into Nobue’s life it wasn’t to the destruction of everything else. He had no idea whether she was married, if he had half-brothers and sisters, and if they knew of his existence. He decided to write Nobue a letter that simply stated “I live the best life ever. I’m a colonel in the United States Air Force. I’ve got beautiful children. Life is really good.”
Though his heart attack occurred in 2005, Bruce did not retire from active duty until 2007 bringing to an end an exemplary service record that spanned 21 years in the United States Air Force across a gamut of Space and Missile operational, staff, and leadership roles. Entering the Air Force in 1986 as a Distinguished Graduate of Officer Training School, he began his career in missile operations and operational testing. At Air Force Space Command, he was the Command Lead for the Space Based Infrared System, the Command’s top program. Having retired from active duty, Hollywood’s first Pentagon assignment was as Deputy Chief of the Space Launch Division.
In later years he joined the Joint Operational War Plans team prior to taking up a role as part of the initial cohort of the White House Leadership Development Program On his LinkedIn profile, Bruce labels his position within the Pentagon as ‘Dedicated Public Servant’. It is a telling insight into the psychology of this man. Irrespective of position, in his mind he’s had the same job since retiring from active duty.
Armed with the information he had from his American parents, Bruce approached first the Japanese Embassy and then the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, but to no avail. Neither institution had enough information to find her. Similarly, a private detective would try and fail. Unlike many Western countries that have subtle variations between their rural and urban landscape, Japan goes from 19th century rural to 21st century urban in a matter of miles. Prior to the world shrinking from global technological improvements, picking up a trail on Nobue would have been more to do with luck than ability.
Having made “all the effort that I can make”, Bruce resigned himself to the fact that his thank you would have to go unsaid. Having made a full recovery from his heart attack, and been cleared to fly again, Bruce sat at Dulles International waiting for his flight to Germany where he was to attend a conference. Across from him sat Admiral Harry Harris. The two servicemen would strike up a conversation, exchanging stories before Bruce got to the subject of his recent heart attack and his short-lived quest to find his birth mother. “Bruce, I can help you.” the Admiral stated. It would take Harris a mere 10 days to make good on his offer.
Having returned from Germany, Hollywood sat working at his desk when a call came in from the Japanese Embassy. “Colonel Hollywood,” the consulate said “we’re really pleased to tell you that we found your mother…” Bruce was suddenly awash with emotion. Having not held out much hope after Admiral Harris promised his help, he was suddenly one degree of separation from his biological mother. He’d request their help in writing a letter to her. One that needed to be accurate, and above all culturally sensitive.
Incredibly, the Embassy would tell him two things. The first, was that there was not going to be a letter. The second, was that she would be on the phone in ten minutes time so he would need a translator.
With necessity being the mother of invention, Bruce managed to wrangle himself a translator from within the Pentagon. True to their word, Nobue was on the phone with Bruce in ten minutes. As the emotions raced through both of them, the translator did their best as nervous, emotional words raced from both parties. The conversational process was slow, at times unnatural and most certainly unconventional but it was happening. Having turned Eleanor down on numerous occasions, Bruce was finally talking to his birth mother.
Having been out of one another’s lives for decades it is understandable that a wave of emotion would crash down on top of both parties. Bruce would talk quickly, the nerves and adrenaline unlocking his otherwise calm persona. For Nobue, she would cry at the mere sound of her long-lost boy’s voice. In order to get anything across to either party it was going to be down to the translator to steady the ship. Both mother and son were calmed. They took their turn to speak, their words were carefully translated absorbed on the other end of the line. So much time had passed, and yet timing appeared perfect.
The translator would tell Bruce that “tomorrow is your mother’s 65th birthday, and the birthday present that she dreamed of her whole life is that you would come back to her”. For Nobue, it must have been the perfect reunion not just because her boy had come back to her in time for her birthday, but because she was right. In giving Bruce up for adoption, in giving her boy to a good couple, she undoubtedly gave him the greatest gift of all. A full life, populated with love, opportunity and the ability to achieve more than he could have ever achieved in his native Japan.
Nobue would tell her son how she never married. For the mother of one, she only had room in her heart for one man and somehow she knew he would be back at some point to fill it. The proof was there that Nobue had never stopped thinking of her boy. With one forty year old photo and a named given to her by Eleanor, Nobue dedicated her every waking moment to her boy; even going as far to name her restaurant ‘Bruce’.
Finally the opportunity to be reunited with the boy she felt she needed to let go of, had arrived. Within a month of telling Admiral Harris his story, Bruce had gone from no hope to luscious greenery of coastal Shizuoka, Japan. Nobue, understandably, didn’t want to let her boy out of her sight. Ever the serviceman, Bruce would take himself out for a 5AM run. Returning to Nobue’s home, he would discover her frantic with worry about his sudden disappearance before dawn. That day he reassured her and thought nothing of doing the same thing the following morning, only this time Nobue was waiting for him by the front door, dressed in a full track suit.
The Japanese American Veterans Association is a non-profit fraternal, patriotic, educational and historical organisation who tries to provide assistance and support to Japanese-American veterans and their widows/dependents. The association was incorporated in 1992 under Maryland state law and is consists of veteran members who have fought in World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and both Gulf Wars. By the time Bruce Hollywood met his mother and began learning of his Japanese roots, this fledgling organisation was working hard at preserving the memory of Japanese-American servicemen. Tapping into his cultural identity, Bruce would become an active member of the association.
To this day, Bruce is heavily involved in JAVA, listed on their official website as the point of contact for the Veterans Day festivities. True to Bruce’s self-description, the ‘dedicated public servant’ prefers to be at the business end of the organisation rather than a loftier, arguably more fitting, position.
Whether it was in Japan when he went to visit, or in Washington when he flew Nobue out to visit him their morning ritual remained. Bruce would run, his mother would cycle alongside him. In the time between visits she studied English while he took Japanese. The relationship that initially began requiring a third party to bridge the language barrier was knitting into that of a loving mother and son, with shared experiences and memories.
Reconnecting with his biological mother placed the final piece of the puzzle down for Bruce. He had always thought of himself as American with Japanese features. He knew nothing of the darkest hour in American’s modern history; the internment of Japanese Americans. He knew nothing of his heritage outside of that he took from the Hollywoods. He no longer felt that he simply had “Japanese features”. He was Japanese-American and was becoming an active member of this veteran association. During one of their visits Nobue would give her son a piece of paper. It was all she had left of his biological father. All she had to give to him. On it was a name; LOIS BAZAL.
Bruce had found his biological mother, but had no intention of looking for his biological father. After all, the man didn’t even know that he existed however knowing that he was stationed in Japan in 1959, Bruce became curious enough to check military records. They came up blank. Figuring that his mother may have written his father’s name wrong he searched Louis Bazal, but again the search came back blank. Hollywood would write it off as a complication lost to time, and return his focus to his mother.
Nobue would die of a heart attack in 2009. She had her son back in her life for the final three years of her life. Though the loss of a second mother hit Bruce, he took comfort in the fact that he had not only gotten to know her but also a part of himself. He would entertain people with the story of their morning running ritual and savour that, having spent his life growing up on army base after army base, he finally had deep roots to call his own. He was United States Air Force retired Colonel Bruce Hollywood, Japanese-American.
Baby Bruce was never far from Nobue’s thoughts. Her restaurant stood as a lasting monument to the memory of the baby boy she could have raised had things with Louis worked out differently. Life is rarely static for long. Though Nobue would get her boy back, some four decades after offering him up to a better life, the other Bruce would be lost to time. Japan is a seismically active country and, as such, has some of the strictest earthquake building standards in the world. In 1981, major changes to the building standards act identified all structures pre-81 as kyu-taishin and post-81 as shin-taishin.
Over the years the requirements placed on kyu-taishin structures became more and more stringent. Inevitably, ‘Bruce’ reached the point in which it fell too far short of the minimum requirements for all structures under the Earthquake Code and was torn down for the safety of the populous. Hollywood had lost his last connection to an already tentative past. Fittingly, however, every demolition site inevitably births a taller, stronger structure. From the wreckage of ‘Bruce’ would come firmer foundations.
A few years would pass before Bruce became curious about the Caucasian roots. Having grown up in the Hollywood family, it is probably no surprise that his curiosity regarding his white roots didn’t peak until he had tapped into the rich heritage from his mother. Interested in knowing more about his ancestry, he purchased a DNA kit from Ancestry.com and discovered; like his adoptive father, he had Irish roots along with Spanish blood.
Meticulously, Bruce began exploring the results only to be presented with a 100% match to a genetic relative; a cousin on his father’s side. Genetically we pass on the Y chromosome unaltered from father to son. This means that relatives can be used to identify everything from missing persons to murderers as long as there is a reference sample to compare against. In Hollywood’s case, there was and with the help of the Ancestry database, it pointed him in the direction of his birth family.
Bruce, with one click of the mouse unlocked the mystery of Lois Bazal. His cousin’s details sat on his computer screen; the surname was Bazar. His mother, not being a native English speaker, had written his father’s name for him phonetically.
The mystery of Nobue’s note had finally been solved. Lois Bazal was actually Louis Bazar. Bruce’s email confirmation from the wife of his cousin had started a whole new chapter of his self-exploration. The uncle of the person identified by Ancestry.com had served in Japan in the 1950s, and even though Louis Bazar had passed away he had left behind a son in Louis Bazar Jr. Bruce placed a call to his half-brother but there was no answer. Naturally he avoided leaving a message. How could he simplify a story like his down a 30 second voicemail? He had no sooner hung up when his phone began to ring. Louis Bazar Jr was calling him back.
The call would turn a little bitter-sweet with a sting. Yes he was talking to Louis Bazar Jr, whose dad was Louis Bazar Sr. Yes, Bazar’s dad served in Japan and had unfortunately died some years earlier; but the troubling truth came when Bruce discovered out of the two of them, he was the younger brother. Louis Jr. was six years older than Bruce, meaning that when their father was in Japan, serving in the Air Force and romancing Nobue; he had a child back home in America.
When Nobue pushed Louis out of her life, it was because she didn’t believe he could be trusted. He had promised to call the moment he got home but allowed weeks to lapse. Suddenly, it appeared that Bruce was seeing the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. Louis Bazar already had a young child. Naturally, the thought process turned to the old adage about “a girl in every port”. Maybe what Nobue had with Louis wasn’t as true as they once believed. Maybe she was right to push him out of her life without telling him she was pregnant. Maybe it best that Nobue was no longer around to learn this about the man she never got over. Or maybe the answer was one even more heartbreakingly tragic.
When Louis was sent to Japan, he left behind a five-year-old son in the care of his sister. The child’s mother, having tragically died during childbirth, was Louis’ first love and one that he thought could never been equalled until he fell in love while in Japan. In Nobue, he had found a second chance at true happiness. He had been lucky enough to have found himself madly in love.
As Bruce and Louis Jr talked, half a century of misunderstanding and heartache became apparent. Louis, upon his return, would have had to hit the ground running. His child would have grown in the time he was absent and he would have not only had his own family to prepare, but the family of his deceased wife to ready to the idea that a Japanese woman was coming across to the United States to raise his son, and start their own family. He would have had to complete the paperwork, ready their home, and prepare to bring his bride-to-be to a country that had recently proven its intolerance towards Japanese citizens. Understandably, time got away from him. When he finally got round to making contact with Nobue she shunned him. The fact that Louis Sr. took ‘no’ for an answer points to just how devastated he was when Nobue rejected him.
Though Bruce was relieved that Louis’ intentions back in 1959 were honorable, he was also incredibly saddened that both Louis Sr and Nobue died without knowing how much each meant to the other and that they both stood alone at opposite ends of the world refusing to fill the void left by the other.
Like Nobue, Louis Sr never married. According to his son, he never even dated after Nobue. Having lost the mother of his child during the birthing process and then having the woman he had planned to marry, cut off all ties to him; Louis came to believe he would lose any woman he ever loved. He would never try a third time to find happiness. He seemed certain that his heart did not have a third strike in it.
Louis Sr would die in hospice care in 2005, the same year Bruce found himself alone on the floor of the Pentagon parking lot suffering from a heart attack. Louis Jr, would acquire a photo album belonging to his father that contained several pages of photographs of a beautiful young Japanese woman. Though Louis Jr. was aware of the Japanese girl who broke his heart, he never could have imagined the full story. Nor that, like his father, the Japanese girl on the other side of the story was equally as heartbroken. In a beautifully poetic way, the final chapter of Bruce Hollywood’s story was occurring at the same time the first chapter was beginning.
If Bruce Hollywood’s story has a core theme, it is sacrifice. When he was born to a single parent in Post-Occupation Japan, it was Nobue’s sacrifice that allowed him to live a life greater than the one she could give him. Adopted by Edward and Eleanor, Bruce grew up a child of a serviceman. Though honorable, it itself is not without sacrifice both from Edward who was serving his country in a difficult period of contemporary U.S. history, but also for Bruce. Bruce the child, would see himself move around a lot; never fully settling, making friends or laying roots. Unbeknown to him at the time, the two fathers in his life were servicemen. It would be inevitable that Bruce would answer the call and make his own sacrifices upon signing up. Having already looked at Bruce’s identity, it’s easy to see how Eleanor and Edward, in being so open with him, sacrificed a level of their own security (regarding their family dynamic) in order to provide an extra layer for Bruce. Finally, he would learn that his biological father, having lost the two loves of his life, would sacrifice any potential happiness, opting to never love after Nobue.
What began as a mother’s sincere effort to give her son the best possible chance in life set him on a road that would not only discover his own origins but also demonstrate the power of his parents love for one another. How it could last beyond the death of an emperor and remain till their own death, as unrequited as is was misunderstood. For Bruce Hollywood, a second generation U.S. serviceman and adopted child, who grew up on military bases with very little connection to his roots was no longer a mystery to himself. He had a wife and kids of his own, at one-time a restaurant named after him in Japan, and a big brother who himself had always wanted a younger sibling. Reaching out to Nobue allowed him to connect to a rich cultural heritage. It allowed him to be a ‘dedicated servant’ to the Japanese-American line, of which he belongs to. Reaching out to Nobue gave him just enough motivation to find his birth father’s family and not only round out his identity, but the identity of his children who suddenly have a much larger family tree than they grew up with.
According to Bruce, the first time he and Louis spent time together face-to-face he immediately felt like family claiming a “definite, unspoken sense that they were siblings”. In fact, during their first two-day meet-up, Louis cooked them both steaks. It’s tickled Bruce to learn that both brothers like their red meat the same way. Like many brothers, they are both similar and different in all the ways it matters. Bruce the extrovert enjoys talking, telling stories, and entertaining people. Louis is much more of the silent type. The pair have plans to meet up in South Carolina, where their father is buried. Louis would like to take Bruce to the grave and make the final introduction and to meet Bazar’s legion of cousins. “I warned him,” Louis joked “After you meet the rest of them you may want to go back to Virginia and never come back”.
Bruce credits the widespread coverage of his amazing life story to the fact that deep down, people just want to read a happy ending. He might have a point. On the Japanese-American Veteran Association Facebook page, where Bruce shared the second half of his story, simply posting “chapter 2”, there are dozens of well wishers leaving words of love for the retired vet. For the eagle-eyed, one of the Facebook posters stands out. Betty Bazar Cummings, Bruce’s cousin, is still incredibly eager to meet her kin. Along with introductions and the offer of anecdotes, Betty also offers a photo of her father, Bruce’s father and two other male relatives from a visit to Louis Sr’s room in Hospice Care.
Today Bruce continues to work at the Pentagon. Admiral Harris, who played no small part in Bruce’s journey, was nominated by the Trump Administration for the position of Ambassador to Australia ensuring the rich history of Japanese-American’s serving their country will continue on for some time.
Bruce’s story, though fascinating and unique, is one of an enormous cultural tapestry crafted during a particularly brutal period in world history. Like Bruce’s birth mother, Hiroko “Susie” Tolbert gave birth to a child to a U.S. serviceman. Her daughter, Kathryn has undertaken an extraordinary project mapping the untold story of an entire generation of Americans. Japanese War Brides: An Oral History Archive is part of a larger multi-media effort to document this complicated chapter in U.S. immigration history. The audio stories are organized by theme, painting the most incredible narrative and can be found at warbrideproject.com. In addition to An Oral History, Kathryn along with journalist Lucy Craft, and Karen Kasmauski made a short film in 2015 called Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides. They are currently working on a longer film and a traveling exhibit which will, undoubtedly unearth many more incredible tales like Bruce’s.
Bruce lives in Vienna, Virginia with his wife Megan. A graduate from the University of Denver, Megan is Vice President of Global Human Resources at BridgeStreet Global Hospitality. Surrounded by a proud, loving family, and a new extended family in the Bazar clan, Bruce has been incredibly open about how lucky he is. Believing his life “is blessed”, not a day goes by in which he doesn’t thank his mom(s) Nobue and Eleanor, not to mention fate, for the enduring love that has surrounded him throughout his life and has allowed him to realise the potential Nobue envisioned for him when she handed him over to the Hollywoods in 1960. Had Nobue been alive today, she would have been able to not only meet her grandchildren but also her great grandchild; no doubt marvelling at how far her family had come and how much it had grown.