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A Winning Ticket? CARE in Japan, 1954

An American service member donated $25,000 in lottery winnings to Japan through CARE in 1954, yet the organization still closed its offices in Tokyo a year later.

On July 5, 1954, the Mainichi Shimbun (毎日新聞) issued a report on an altruistic decision made by an American soldier. Captain Cullen Irish of the United States Air Force (USAF) had returned home from Japan in January 1954, purchased a brand-new car that came with a lottery ticket from an automobile retailer in California, and found himself the winner of a first prize $50,000 award. The captain and his wife decided to donate half of their winnings, $25,000, to orphans in Japan. A picture was taken at CARE’s headquarters in New York when Capt. and Mrs. Irish presented a check to CARE’s executive director Paul French. The Japanese Consul General in New York also attended the ceremony. 

Since its establishment in 1948, CARE’s mission in Japan had been to work closely with the US armed forces, first under the oversight of the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers (SCAP) until the termination of the Allied occupation of Japan in 1952, and then with the Far East Command (FEC). Besides delivering packages and remittances to the Japanese people, CARE was also responsible for the delivery of “PX” packages for American soldiers stationed there. CARE’s strong ties with the US armed forces in Japan, in which Captain Irish had served, was probably the main reason that the Irish family decided to make their donation to Japan through the CARE organization. 

However, due to developments in Japan’s domestic political environment after the end of the Korean War, CARE’s relationship with the American armed forces became a source of concern rather than an asset. In a monthly report written by CARE’s chief of mission in Japan, Charles Bloomstein, on January 4, 1954, Bloomstein described escalating tensions between the leftwing and the rightwing over Japan’s possible rearmament. Bloomstein also reported growing anti-American sentiment among the Japanese people. The charged political environment and local frustration with the US armed forces were beginning to affect the work of CARE. As Bloomstein reported, due to a lack of cooperation among the FEC and local people, CARE had missed out on a tremendous publicity opportunity when it delivered the 29th Antiaircraft Artillery (AAA) battalion’s iron lung to the Chitose City Hospital.

The generous donation made by the Irish family in turn became one of the last acts that CARE made to support Japan in the aftermath of World War II. After failing to secure taxation privileges from the Japanese government, CARE also saw demand for it services begin to dip dramatically – both due to Japan’s rapid economic recovery and the reduction of US armed forces in Japan. As a result, CARE closed its Japan mission in 1955. 

About the Author

Sijie Jiang

Sijie Jiang graduated from the Columbia-LSE MA/MSc dual degree program in International and World History in 2022.

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