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From Janette,

... also, John Hersey, who wrote "Hiroshima", "The Call" ..... was said to be born in Weihsien, but registered in Tientsin, in all probability due to new consulate regulations, can this be true? or somehow be checked? and by whom?!!...
je suppose que ceci est une question pour Norman!
well, bonne continuation!

From Leopold

Dear Norman,
I think that I need your help.
--- About "The Call" written by John Hersey
I just had Janette on the phone this morning who told me that John Hersey was a novel writer and had never been a prisonner in Weihsien. He was born there -- in Weihsien -- though his papers said he was born in Tientsin (where the consulate's offices were).
"The Call" is a novel and not exactly an autobiography !? all the names of people and places are changed but the description of Weihsien is really perfect. What he wrote is pure imagination! (?). John Hersey lived there during his childhood and knows the place perfectly.
Also, the fact that I placed the text about Weihsien in the "Diary-Chapter" was not correct.
Do you think that I ought to open a new "subdivision" for "TheCall"? I could name it "NOVELS" or maybe someting else?
Could you write (for me) an explanatory text that could explain all this to the folks who visit the Weihsien-picture-gallery-web-site?
à bientôt,

From Norman,

I believe that, apart from the change of names, the above book is factual.
It is the most detailed description which we have of the earliest months of Weihsien Camp.
I don't think that he was born there.
The same has also been said of Pearl Buck and Henry Luce of Time & Life. I think that they were all born in the Weihsien area.

From Leopold to info@yale.edu

Dear Sir,
All John Hersey's biographies tell us that he was born in Tientsin-China in 1914.
Is it true (?) that he was born in the missionary camp of Weihsien (Shantung) and that he spent his early years there? ---- Later, the Weihsien compund was a prison camp for the civilian enemies of the Japanese Empire during World War II?
The fact that he was born in Tientsin is because his birth certicicate was established by the Consular services in Tientsin --- . Is this correct?

I was in that camp, --- 60 years ago!

Best regards,
Leopold Pander

From Yale.edu

Dear Mr. Pander,
John Hersey was born in Tientsin. I have never heard that he was born in Weihsien.
Martha Smalley

From Leopold

Dear Norman,
When I got the bone! I don't let it go so easily!
I looked in Ron Bridge's listings and didn't find John Hersey's name writen anywhere. The "Gripsholm folks" are on that list though. Must I conclude that he was NOT in Weihsien during WWII?
Made a search on "Google" and found this link: http://webtext.library.yale.edu/xml2html/divinity.145.con.html
John Hersey was born in Tientsin --- not in Weihsien.
I then asked "Google" what he thought of this: "John Hersey"+Weihsien
Astonishing: google sent me back to my own site:
I noticed though, that google's recearch engine is slightly different from one country to another!!
Where ends the "facts" and where begins the "legend"?
Could it possibly be that John Hersey had the story from one of the Gripsholm folks and included it in his book: The Call?
I am perplexe!
I'm sending this message to Topica. Maybe someone can help!
All the best,

The URLs mentionned above no longer exist. You may - however - use a search engine (Google or any other ...) for complementary information about the subject treated here.

From Ron,

Weihsien inmates.
The list that I let you have and which you have put on your website of Weihsien was originally based on a list that is held by several of us namely a Census of the Camp as at 30Jun44. That list had missing the names beginning with the letter "S" after Str...and all after Wolfson. The copy of that list that I have has the rooms that inmates were in in pencil in the margin but there is no date as to when people were in those rooms except that it must have been after the escape as the Chefoo School were in Block 61 the Hospital. ( it could well have had the room numbers added after the war but I suspect that it was no later than September 1945.
Further sources that have confirmed or added to names on the web site list are the following:
A similar list dated 30 Sep 44 obtained from Tokyo Archives but this is complete ( ie no missing pages and includes the names of the Iatalians who had been moved in from Shanghai).
A US Army Signal Corps telegram despatch of freed inmates dated 30 August 1945 ( This has some names missing and is corrupt text in others also forenames are not given but initials spelt phonetically) NARA Washington.
A list of British subjects complied by the Swiss Consul Tsingtao in June 1943, obtained from Berne. Sadly this is the only one surviving in Swiss records those of other nationalities were destroyed in the 1980s - this one was overlooked.
A list of British subjects moved from Chefoo complied by the Swiss Consul Tsingtao in Sep1943.
A list of Belgian religious raised by Assistance aux Belges d'Asie Orientale dated 6 Feb44.
A census of British Subjects dated 31Jul 43 ( This is one page per family and gives passport and next of kin details) totalling 779 British.
A list of Religious Communities undated but believed to be July 1943 held at Cardinal Stritch University.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission list of notified deaths ( original is held in Westminster Abbey).
A plan of the graveyard in Weihsien with the names of the 24 interred there. Their date of death, age, nationalityand the doctor certifying death ( found in the UK national Archives) The last entry is A Marinellis 6th Aug 1945 ( there is no mention of the garves allegedly outside the walls).
Camp lists of the camps in the Shanghai regions some of which have annotations liked " moved from Weihsien" ( generally applies to children or families which had been separated at the start of the war and were moved together) variety of archives.
Shanghai Times list of allied nationals repatriated in August 1942.
Passenger lists of the Kamakura Maru, Conte Verde, Gripsholm, Teia Maru,
Shanghai Times list of allied nationals repatriated in September/October 1943.
New York Times list of 1236 US citizens exchanged in Gao on 14th October 1943 who will be arriving in New York on the Gripsholm.
List of Allied subjects( all nationalities) repatriated from China published by the Malayan Research Bureau Sydney NSW Australia dated Feb 1944.
Cambridge Univ.
Sundry contemporary personal diaries. variety of archives.
I have also crossed checked against all the names used in books written about Weihsien. Including Gilkey's "Shantuing Compound" where although he used pseudonyms in the book I have copy of Hugh Hubbard's typed de-code provided by Mary Stanley to my late mother. However this quotes a Ramsey but there was no one of that name in Weihsien.
In using the names contained in the Newspaper lists has necessitated some elimination antics to arrive at the Camp that they were in. The Shanghai papers give the area( do not forget that they include Japan, Indo-China Philippines Hongkong and Manchuria) and in some cases the actual place particularly in the 1942 exchange the 1943 exchange and the one that really affects Weihsien has area but the Shanghai Camp lists give the names of those leaving and these can be identified on the ships lists to arrive at those who were in Weihsien.
Weihsien camp operated from Feb 1943 until Oct 1944 thus in no way can John Hersy have been born in camp if he was born 1914. Do not however forget that Weihsien had been a Protestant School and his parents may have been at that establishment. Martha Smalley of Yale is quite definitive but has she consider that births were registered at the nearest consulate. My own father's birth certifcate says registered in Tientsin whereas he was born in Weichen ( A different place) in 1904.
The name John Hersey does not appear anywhere in the 29,000 names of allied nationals interned by the Japanese that I have accumulated as of the time of writing.
As general rule I am however very wary of lists in books that have been written later than the 1950s as the human memory plays tricks and some names are mispelt. Also I have seen cases of people who were babies during the war claiming to have been in a camp and naming the camp. Examination of all known records has shown that the father was in the camp claimed and that the wife and the young children( Under 5) were allowed to stay outside. This happened particularly in the Shanghai area and when the mother was not British or American by birth. There were also several cases in Tianjin (Tientsin) where the Japanese allowed people to stay out of camp to look after aged relatives, this also occurred to my knowledge in Beijing( Peking) nd there are anecdotal references to the same policy in Shanghai and Hongkong. In the latter many part Portuguese were not interned and in Malaya the internment of the Jewish community occurred in May 1944 and normally they do not seem to have interned all of those of mixed blood. I must stop or I will be writing a thesis.
bien amicalement

PS if anyone has or knows of any other source documents please let me know.

From Gladys,

Yes, I know that the Hersey family lived in Tientsin as my father, Hugh Hubbard, worked with John Hersey's father in the YMCA in Tientsin.
Gladys Hubbard Swift

From Norman,

Dear Leopold,
I have not researched the matter as you have, but I believe that Hersey was genuinely in Weihsien Camp.
The details which he describes of camp life in that earlier period ring true.
There are no statements which conflict with anything which we already know. That is my opinion.

From Leopold,

Dear Ron,
Thanks very much for your prompt answer to my question. It is ― how can I say ― “on ne peut plus cartésien.”
My little sister, Mary-Lou was born in Weihsien and her birth certificate was delivered by the “Consul de Belgique” in Tientsin. Place of birth: Tientsin.
When we came back to Belgium in 1952 from Hong-Kong ― with no chance of ever going back to China again ― our dad had to declare us to the authorities. We all needed identity cards and little Mary-Lou insisted to have her birth certificate changed ― to Weihsien instead of Tientsin.
This explains that!
In Weihsien, there were quite a few births and maybe, 60 years later one of you are reading the “Topica-messages”? Your birth certificate mentions “Weihsien” or another place?
I’d like to know!
(pure curiosity!)
Best regards,

From Mary,

Speaking of legend or fact --
Weihsien rescuer, Jim Hannon, told me this week that he has completed his manuscript, which he has titled "THE SECRET OF WEIFANG." Long in the works, this is Jim's controversial account of finding in Weihsien a woman whom he says was Amelia Earhart.
When I visited him in 2000, he showed me the manuscript -- then in progress.
Jim did not tell me this week when he plans to release THE SECRET OF WEIFANG. (Weifang is today's name for what we knew as Weihsien.)
Mary Previte

From Stanley,

IInformation that might help to unravel the John Hersey legend.
The obituary in 1993 covered John Hersey's war time assignmentsa

(June 17, 1914-March 24, 1993)
Born John Richard Hersey in Tientsin, China; spent first ten years of life in China.
Graduated Yale in 1936; attended Clare College, Cambridge (1936-37).
During summer of 1937 worked as driver and private secretary for Sinclair Lewis.
Joined staff of Time magazine in 1937 as editor and correspondent, reporting on war from China and Japan (1939),
the South Pacific (1942),
Sicily and the Mediterranean (1943),
and Moscow (1944-45).
Traveled to Japan and China for Life and New Yorker, 1945-46; reported on atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Details about the research behind his book The Call can be found in the The John Hersey Papers
Yale University Library
Divinity Library Special Collections
409 Prospect Street
New Haven, Connecticut

This collection contains research materials gathered by Hersey while preparing to write his novel, The Call. The main figure in this novel, David Treadup, was partly based on the lives of six actual missionaries to China, including Hersey's father.

Hersey did a considerable amount of research in the personal papers of China missionaries and other figures such as ecumenical leader John R. Mott..

Based on the above information, it would be reasonable to assume that John Hersey's time line as a war correspoondent excluded any connection with Weihsien.

The fact that six missionaries to China had given him access to their personal papers, would help to explain the amazing detail of camp life, enhanced in the novel by the use of diary excerpts.

Stanley Nordmo

From Gladys,

To add a bit to what Stanley Nordmo has written (below), my father was one of the six missionaries whose lives were used in "The Call".
John Hersey personally called me to ask if I would give permission for him to use my father, Hugh W. Hubbard, 's papers in his book "The Call".
I gave permission, and also talked with him about the fact that my father had worked with John Hersey's father in the YMCA Tientsin, @ 1908 to 1910.
My parents were stationed in Paotingfu after their marriage, which was used by John Hersey in describing Treadup's early married life in Paotingfu and his missionary life there.
Gladys Hubbard Swift

From Don,

Regarding John Hersey's sources for "The Call," you might be interested in the following.
One of the sources he used for the composite character of Treadup was Hugh Hubbard, whose daughter, Gladys Swift, recently joined this group. Hubbard has been mentioned by several of you as one of the leaders of the "spirit team." He, like Treadup, started as a "Y" secretary and tranferred to the ministry under the American Board (Congregational). Before internment Hubbard was active in Paotingfu, and was especially important as a leader of the literacy movement in China. I think Gladys will confirm that many aspects of Treadup's character and adventures were based on her father, whom some of you remember.
Hersey's end-notes listing his sources also mention two unpublished manuscripts by Howard Galt, another American Boarder, who taught at Yenching Unversity in Peking. One of these describes life in Weihsien and the other deals with the trip back to the U.S. on the Gripsholm. I was able to get copies from the Yale Divinity School library and had them transcribed and saved to PDF format and posted on my "family" web site. You can download and print them by going to www.d.menzi.org, clicking on the Site Directory and then Weihsien.
(I just checked and found that the Weihsien documents are there all right but there is some problem with the Galt's Gripsholm memoir. I'll let you know when I've fixed it.)

From Norman,

I forgot to admit to you that I was wrong about Hersey being an internee in Weihsien.
The most convincing e-mails came from Hubbard's daughter and Nordmo.
The obvious conclusion is that he combined five or six people's stories into one.
Nevertheless it is valuable history on the camp.

From Tracy Strong,

Dear All
-- John Hersey was certainly not born in Weihsien, nor do I think he was interned there (from a conversation I had with him in the middle 1980's). He was living in Tianjin in the 1920's when my grandfather (Tracy Strong) and my father (Robbins Strong) visited the Hersey's on their way to Geneva. Hersey was also later a friend of Israel Epstein, the AP correspondent who stayed on after Liberation to become the editor of China Reconstructs.

I am the son of Robbins and Kitty Strong (deceased in 1999) and was born in the Weihsien camp.
best wishes,
Tracy B. Strong

Quite so: Hersey also used the AMB archives that are in the Houghton Library at Harvard. The figure in THE CALL is a composite of, I think, six missionaries are is to my mind one of the very best accounts of the complexities of the Christian Church in China.
Tracy B. Strong

For what it is worth, I visited the Weihsien camp in 1980 with my since deceased wife, Helene Keyssar, in the course of doing research for the book we published on my great-aunt, Anna Louise Strong (RIGHT IN HER SOUL: THE LIFE OF ANNA LOUISE STRONG (Random House). The local Friendship Committee took advantage of the occasion (not many visitors to Weihsien in 1980!!) to throw a banquet with TWO bottle of Mao-Tai.

They apologized for having torn down the building in which my parents (and I) lived, but assured me that ones there were "just like it." The main buildings are now a Middle School if memory serves.
Greetings to you all,
Tracy B. Strong

From Dwight W. Whipple,

Hello Everyone~
To add to the John Hersey discussion I offer the following correspondence I had with him in 1988:

March 1, 1988
Dear Mr. Hersey
Thank you for your novel, "The Call" which brought back so many memories of China to me. Throughout the book I was reminded of so many places and thought patterns and images of life during my childhood. I also identified with the struggle in and for faith that is represented in David Treadup. I enclose a copy of a letter that I have written to the Day Missions Library at Yale. Perhaps you have information regarding this inquiry of mine. Again, thanks for your book which I enjoyed immensely. I particularly appreciated the cameo appearances of your father, Roscoe M. Hersey, Sr.
(signed) Dwight W. Whipple

March 22, 1988
Dear Reverend Whipple:
Thank you for your kind letter about The Call. The Day Library will answer your questions; they may conceivably be willing to have the materials copied for you. A.W. March's account was of experiences at one of the other internment camps in China. My very best wishes to you.
(signed) John Hersey

For any of you "old China hands" The Call is must reading.
~Dwight W. Whipple

PS I found the library at Yale to be very cooperative.

From Glady Swift,

Another comment: Treadup in The Call may have been based on Hugh Hubbard (among the six) but I have not felt Treadup in any way lives up to his role model Hubbard!!! I said that to Arthur Hersey and he said he felt the same way about Treadup and his (Hersey's) father!