Duane Mann will never forget the moment he had to leave his first love, Peggy Yamaguchi.
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The two of them met nearly 70 years ago while he was stationed with the U.S. Navy in Yokosuka, Japan during the Korean War. He was in charge of the military base aviation warehouse but also spent time fixing slot machines at the Air Force NCO club. Meanwhile, Peggy was the hat-check girl.
“I really loved to dance and she and I found out we could really dance together, I mean to where people would watch us,” Duane said. “And gradually we fell in love, we couldn’t stop it.”
During their 14 months together, the two of them began to plan their wedding. Plus, Peggy found out she was pregnant! But their plans were suddenly thwarted when, instead of having three months to wed before Duane’s Navy discharge, President Dwight D. Eisenhower pulled all Navy personnel from Japan.
“We didn’t have any time to get married,” he said. “We were just trapped. I reassured her, ‘Don’t be afraid. When I get home I am just going to send for you.”
When Duane got home, however, he learned that his family had fallen on hard times. With no money to send for Peggy to join him in the states, he worked hard to earn what they needed. In the meantime, they wrote each other weekly letters.
Then, suddenly, Peggy’s letters stopped arriving. Finally, a final letter from Peggy let him know that she had a miscarriage and was marrying someone else.
But it wasn’t Peggy who stopped sending letters — Duane’s mom, who disapproved of their relationship, started to burn them.
“She didn’t want me to marry a Japanese girl,” Duane said.
And so the two of them moved on to live separate lives, each having separate marriages and children. Still, Duane never forgot Peggy, especially the way their relationship ended.
“It began to haunt me more and more through the years,” Duane recalled through tears. “I left her standing there, pregnant.”
Brian Mann, Duane’s son, has tried helping him find Peggy through the years, but they never had any luck until a news story on them spread throughout the world. In doing so, it reached Theresa Wong, a researcher in Canada who works for the History Channel. Through a newspaper article about Peggy’s marriage, they were finally able to locate her!
It was hard for Peggy’s son, Mike Sedenquist, to believe he wasn’t being scammed when someone first reached out to him, but his mom quickly reassured him that it wasn’t.
“I remember him,” Peggy said when Mike showed her a news clip of Duane. “He really loved me.”
With Peggy still married there wasn’t a chance of a romantic reunion, but that was alright with Duane. After all these years, he was just so happy to finally be able to tell the first love of his life, face to face, that he never abandoned her.
Despite what happened and the time that has passed, Duane and Peggy were able to reconnect immediately. They smiled as they reminisced on their time in Japan, something neither of them ever thought would happen again.
“He’s able to fulfill his dream, his lifelong dream to find the woman that he met and fell in love with and 70 years later,” Mike said. “What a wonderful story.”
Watch Duane and Peggy’s bittersweet reunion in the video below, and don’t forget to share with a friend.
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