Current News – Japanese Librarian

TOKYO — Thousands of newspapers dating back to 1945, countless clippings of old stories and half a million priceless photographs fill a room that Norio Muroi has tended for the past 42 years.

Stars and Stripes’ library in Tokyo preserves the stories and heroics of countless service members from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars alongside records of newsworthy events on American bases in the Far East over the past 75 years.

A tailor’s son from Otawara in Tochigi prefecture, Muroi in 1977 was studying economics at Hosei University in Tokyo when he started as a Stars and Stripes copyboy, he recalled during a recent tour of the library at Hardy Barracks, the newspaper’s Pacific headquarters in the Japanese capital.

“It was rare to see American people so much in those days and to have an opportunity to talk with native speakers,” he said of his first days on the job, when he was eager to practice the English he’d learned at school.

Just steps from the nightlife hub of Roppongi, Hardy Barracks was a hive of activity. Dozens of U.S. military and civilian staff and 180 Japanese worked to publish hundreds of thousands of newspapers each day for service members on the main islands of Japan, Okinawa, Korea and other parts of the Pacific such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and Guam.

It was an era before online news or Google searches, when printed newspapers provided a vital link to home for troops stationed overseas.

“We were like tennis ball boys,” Muroi said of the copyboys, who spent mornings rushing about the newsroom carrying story drafts and messages to editors. The youngsters burned plenty of calories and looked forward to a free Coke from the sports editor at the end of each shift, he recalled.

In 1979, he started full time in the library. Known today as the Toshi Cooper Library, it holds at least 250,000 clippings that are stored in envelopes and filed so they can be searched by subject, such as notable figures, military units and campaigns.

But Muroi didn’t spend his entire career among the archives. Some of his most memorable experiences involved serving as an interpreter for journalists in the field.

In February 1982, he and the other librarians acting as temporary linguists joined reporters rushing to a fire at the Hotel New Japan that, ultimately, claimed 32 lives not far from the Sanno Hotel, a U.S. military property.

The following day, Muroi was back in the field as an interpreter after a Japan Air Lines pilot intentionally crashed a DC-8 airliner at Haneda Airport, killing 24 people, he said.

Two of the most memorable stars he met on the job were folk musician John Denver and baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio, Muroi said, proudly showing off photographs of his 1992 encounter with Joltin’ Joe. He met the Yankee legend while helping a sports reporter cover the U.S.-Japan baseball series at the now-demolished Korakuen Stadium.

The library that he’s handing off to his successor, Akiko Takamizawa, is a recently renovated, state-of-the-art facility that features constant temperature and humidity control.

It stores hundreds of large, red volumes that contain original Stars and Stripes newspapers sorted by month all the way back to 1945, and countless clippings and old photographs preserved in hundreds of white boxes on metal racks.

The library has about 500,000 photographs taken by Stars and Stripes staff or sourced from news agencies or U.S. military service branches over the years, Muroi said.

He opened a box of photographs and found black-and-white prints of images taken during the Vietnam War by Gary Cooper, an enlisted Stars and Stripes reporter who eventually married the library’s namesake, longtime librarian Toshi Cooper.

One of those photos shows a wounded soldier getting aid from a couple of buddies on the battlefield. The print, like hundreds of thousands of others in the library, is coded to allow librarians to track negatives stored at the Stars and Stripes Europe library in Kaiserslautern, Germany. The libraries are gradually digitizing those negatives for posterity.

The library isn’t just a valuable resource for working journalists. Muroi’s work also involves tracking down old stories and photographs for veterans or those whose friends or relatives have appeared in Stars and Stripes over the years.

Muroi said he’s had plenty of useful advice over the years from Toshi Cooper, who served as librarian from 1948 to 1971. Now chairwoman emeritus of the Stars and Stripes Association, which organizes reunions of former employees, Cooper described Muroi as the ideal newspaper librarian.

“He has everything it takes to be the perfect research librarian,” she said. “He is studious, calm and steady, curious, patient, selfless, a good listener, devoted and above all that, he loves Stars and Stripes.”

Preserving Stars and Stripes’ archives and other documents in the building is important, Muroi added.  “No matter how digital technology expands in the future the original is coming from here,” he said.

Muroi plans to stay in Tokyo after retirement and spend time hiking with his wife, Yoshiko. The couple’s first trip will be to a Japanese hot spring, he said.

Condensed from an article by:

robson.seth@stripes.com

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor – 

“Stars and Stripes? Never heard of it!”

“Excuse me, you’re standing in my shaving water.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

June Chorn – Boise, ID; Civilian, jeep repair @ Gowen Field

Jack Clift (100) – Decatur, GA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Captain, 11th Airborne Division, Silver Star, Bronze Star

Daniel Fraunfelter – Falmouth, MA; US Navy, WWII, radioman

Frederick Hall – Whitefish Bay, WI; USMC, Korea & Vietnam

Claude Hensley – Asheville, NC; US Army, Vietnam, 82nd Airborne Division

Wilford K. Hussey Jr. – Hilo, HI; US Army, Korea, Cpl., Co. K/3/31/7th Infantry Division, KIA (North Korea)

Robert W. Marshall – Portsmouth, VA; US Army, Major 11th Airborne Division

Hugh Palmer – Lakewood, OH; US Army, WWII, PTO, 25th Infantry, Medical Unit

Gerald Thummel – Tipton, KS; US Navy, Korea & Vietnam, Ret. (27 y.)

George Wallace (100) – St. Paul, MN; US Navy, WWII
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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on December 12, 2019, in Current News, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 118 Comments.

  1. Wonderful post, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always love to read about another library and another librarian, and this is especially interesting if you grew up with the Stars and Stripes always around. Thanks for posting this fine piece!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. V informative thnx to share

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really like your blog. A pleasure to come stroll on your pages. A great discovery and very interesting blog. I’ll come back to visit you. Do not hesitate to visit my universe. See you soon

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a wonderful story! Thanks, GP for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. If I ever went to Tokoyo, I would have to go to this library. Very cool. Especially to meet DiMaggio!
    Hey, I was reading this today and thought of you. I don’t know if you are aware or interested, so, I’ll just share it with you.

    Click to access Fifty-Two-Misconceptions-About-the-Tuskegee-Airmen.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a fantastic piece! I love the little details down to them receiving a Coke after running up and down with the stories and materials.
    Best Wishes,
    Charlotte

    Liked by 2 people

  8. An important archive. Bravo to those special people who do such things.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. What a nice account of this mans contribution to his craft. I wish I could have meet John Denver. Excellent read.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I am in awe. Didn’t know there was such a valuable resource.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Touching to read about the love and faithful diligence of this Japanese librarian

    Liked by 2 people

  12. It’s wonderful to hear that the library preserves the hard copies. There’s something special about the actual old documents in this age of digitization.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Another fascinating read! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Always appreciate those who preserve history, G. Such as yourself, for example. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Reblogged this on e-Quips and commented:
    For years Start and Stripes has been the American Military hometown newspaper, particularly before the Internet and if they were stationed overseas. Read about the Japanese librarian who has made maintaining the Stars and Stripes as hie life’s work.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Mr. Muroi is a treasure himself. I was particularly caught by the description of him as “studious, calm and steady, curious, patient, selfless, a good listener, [and] devoted…” Those qualities aren’t often touted today, but they’re the very qualities that ensure the development and continuation of places like the Stars and Stripes library. I wonder if he has some younger people working with him, absorbing all the knowledge he’s surely gained over the years. I hope so. When he hikes off to the hot springs, someone will need to take his place!

    Liked by 5 people

  17. Working in archives must be fascinating, a great way to spend your days!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Extraordinary person! I never knew such as resource existed.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. A newspaper’s “morgue” is a priceless archive of history at it rawest. Newspapers are printed on low quality, highly acidic paper that is meant for short term use, then to be tossed out or recycled. Archivists have the double responsibility of preserving this raw history and of making it organized for use by researchers or just those interested in knowing what happened on the day they were born (for two examples).

    Different media have been used since the days when issues of the fragile papers were bound in books. Now, microfilm and digital files are available, thanks to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress and the United States Newspaper Program and the National Digital Newspaper Program. Thanks to these programs, states work to expand their preservation of their state’s newspaper histories.

    I’m encouraged to know, thanks to this post, that the same effort t preserve raw history in the Stars and Stripes Asian edition is in good hands!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so glad this post brought you comfort in knowing how well the issues, articles and photos have been treated for posterity, Doug. I know I was thrilled to hear that this collection existed!

      Like

      • I’ve regularly read through old papers on file and other archives. There are interesting stories oftentimes hunted at on grave markers, and looking up those stories in contemporaneous sources is fun! the Stars and Stripes archive is, no doubt, a gold mine for your post material searches!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through this library!! I envy you your experience in other archives. I know what it’s like to hunt for specific info in libraries and archives online – Phew!!

          Like

          • There is that thrill of a library hunt, the musty smell of old newsprint, the Scotch-taped papers, even those pages someone’s cut out an article when the librarian wasn’t watching… always obliterating part of what your were searching for. Of course, the first search is for the day your were born. Anyway, being able to access this same information on line is a real time saver and you make excellent use of those archives!

            Liked by 1 person

  20. Sounds wonderful! Good news, and a very good resource. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Terrific story, GP. Thanks for the information.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. What a fantastic collection! You could have information for articles for the rest of your life….

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Its nice to know their archives are well preserved. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  24. It’s great to read that such a library exists and in Tokyo of all places. Mr. Muroi seems to be an amazing guy and dedicated to the library and its vast collection of historical news items. That to me is a perfect job!

    Liked by 3 people

  25. The library holding thousands and thousands of newspaper clippings and photographs are a treasure chest for all researchers. Hopefully, the documents including the newspaper clipping will soon be digitized and thus made accessible. Very interesting post, GP!

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Love this GP. As a military librarian, this resonnates with me both because it involves a librarian and whose library it is. As soon as I get home tomorrow, this will be reblogged.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. That’s amazing! Lovely historians!

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Mr Muroi has spent his working years extremely well. Not many of us can claim to have achieved so much with our time in employment. Hopefully, Stars and Stripes, and much other material from those archives will one day be available to view on DVDs we can all buy.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I always looked forward to the next issue of Stars and Stripes. It’s great they are being preserved.

    Liked by 3 people

  30. What an amazing archive this must be. I’m surprised to hear that it’s been so well cared for over all this time. It’s also interesting to read that they had their own code to link the articles to the negatives. Some modern collections struggle with that detail.

    Liked by 4 people

  31. The surprises in this story, from the location (Tokyo) to the vast collection, to the custodian who made it his labor of love. From the start, this story and photos reminded me of the Ben Stiller movie ‘Walter Mitty’.

    Liked by 3 people

  32. The copy boys looked forward to a free Coke. What an effective little detail. A fascinating post, GP Cox.

    Liked by 3 people

  33. A fascinating story of wonderful dedication

    Liked by 3 people

  34. Mr. Muroi seems like a nice guy, and it’s great to hear the archive is taking such good care of these records while they’re being digitized, and accessible online. I have a few clippings from the 1945 Yokohama base newsletter, (not quite as well known as Stars and Stripes!) that one of my grandfathers mailed home, as his first “published work”. when the S&S digital archive is complete, I’ll look to see if he ever got anything into the 📰 newspaper. Thank you for an interesting article, I had no idea this archive existed.

    Liked by 4 people

    • My pleasure. I was surprised at the size of the collection. Those clippings from the 1945 Yokohama base are sheer treasures, Robert. Have you ever posted them. (sorry my memory fails me if you have).
      I try looking for things like that to add to my collection to donate to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. I’m jealous!!

      Liked by 1 person

  35. What an interesting story of the dedicated librarian, GP. I had no idea that such records were held in Japan.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 4 people

  36. Thank you for sharing the article about Mr. Muroi!!

    Like

  1. Pingback: Current News – Japanese Librarian — Pacific Paratrooper | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

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