Flame-haired Japanese woman, 67, who questioned her appearance as a child discovers she is the daughter of an American soldier who fought Congress to move her to the US

Marianne Wilson Kuroda, now 67, is a Japanese woman who went her whole childhood unaware of her American heritage 

Marianne Wilson Kuroda, now 67, is a Japanese woman who went her whole childhood unaware of her American heritage 

A red-haired Japanese woman who has long questioned her Caucasian looks has traced her ancestors to find she is the daughter of an American soldier. 

Marianne Wilson Kuroda, now 67, grew up in a one-roomed shack in the city of Yokohama, south of Tokyo, and was teased as a child for her fair skin and unusual hair.  

She was raised by her Japanese nanny who, on her deathbed in 1975, confessed to the then 26-year-old that she is the daughter of Texan soldier James Vaughn. 

Her mother, Vivienne Joy Wilson, died when she was one and her father, who returned to the US to fight for their rights as immigrants, never returned to Japan to collect his daughter. 

Marianne, who continues to live in Japan, claimed her US Citizenship in June this year. Born on April 19, 1949 as Mary Ann Vaughn, her parents married at a Japanese shrine in Yokohama.

James Vaughn was just 20 when he was assigned to the city’s US military base. There, he met Vivienne Joy Wilson, Marianne’s mother who was working in the postal exchange for money to support her family. 

Because Vivienne was half-Japanese, the couple was denied permission to get married by the military who, at the time, were required to approve marriages with foreigners. 

In fact Vivienne’s own mother, Helene Bouiss, had recently married an American soldier herself and was trying to gain entry to the US via Seattle when Marianne was conceived. 

After marrying in a Japanese ceremony, James returned to the US where he wrote to congress asking that his new wife and daughter be exempt from strict immigration laws and allowed to enter the US. 

He was granted his request on August 5, 1950. On the very same day, Vivienne died from tuberculosis. 

Marianne's parents were Vivienne Joy Wilson and Texan soldier James Vaughn. The pair met in Yokohama and married at a Japanese shrine before James returned to the US to try to gain his new wife and daughter immigration status
Marianne's parents were Vivienne Joy Wilson and Texan soldier James Vaughn. The pair met in Yokohama and married at a Japanese shrine before James returned to the US to try to gain his new wife and daughter immigration status

Marianne’s parents were Vivienne Joy Wilson and Texan soldier James Vaughn. The pair met in Yokohama and married at a Japanese shrine before James returned to the US to try to gain his new wife and daughter immigration status

Marianne only learned who her parents were when her nanny, who had raised her, died in 1975. She is seen above in September studying their photograph

Marianne only learned who her parents were when her nanny, who had raised her, died in 1975. She is seen above in September studying their photograph

Marianne was taken in by her Japanese nanny Fumi and raised by her in a one-bedroom shack. Fumi often took her to her mother’s grave but never explained who they were visiting. 

At some point in her early childhood, she was tracked down by GI Babies, a Swedish organization dedicated to caring for the abandoned children of American soldiers. 

In 1958, when she was nine, she was sent to an international school by the organization and her name was changed to Marianne Wilson. Recalling what her nanny had told her, Marianne said: ‘”I’m going to tell you something very important,” 

‘”Sit here and just listen. You’re going to quit this school. From September you’re going to go to a new school on the bluff where all the A-B-C kids are living. And from now on, your name is going to be Marianne Wilson.'”  

Marianne attended the school but struggled, speaking no English and having no appetite for its western food.

‘I just couldn’t understand a single word the teacher was saying. I couldn’t even write my own name.

‘On my first day, we took the bus to the bluff. To my big surprise came a little boy who looked like me accompanied by a Japanese woman. When I heard the boy addressing a Japanese lady “Mommy,’ my mind just spun with great joy. I had found the same species!”‘ 

As part of the arrangement set up by the Swedish Embassy, Marianne lived with a foreign host family during the week and with her nanny at weekends. Fumi was moved out of the slums and in to a house in Tokyo where the family enjoyed improved living conditions. 

Marianne later enrolled in the American School in Japan but was not told of her close ties to the US until 1975. 

Marianne later learned she has a half-brother in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Steve Vaughn (right) was never told of his half-sister's existence
Marianne later learned she has a half-brother in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Steve Vaughn (right) was never told of his half-sister's existence

Marianne later learned she has a half-brother in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Steve Vaughn (right) was never told of his half-sister’s existence

In June this year, Marianne was granted US Citizenship after a lengthy fight with officials

In June this year, Marianne was granted US Citizenship after a lengthy fight with officials

Fumi confessed that not only was she American, but her father had indeed been trying to find her. Suddenly, Marianne said, memories of listening to a record of the English version of ‘Happy Birthday’ made sense – it had been James Vaughn singing to her in a recording sent from overseas. 

In the 1990s, once she had married and had a son of her own, Marianne set about tracking down her American relatives. Through the Japanese Red Cross, she learned in 2004 that she had a half-brother, Steve, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Their father had died 11-months earlier at the age of 77. She traveled to the state three months after first making contact with her half-brother for a reunion. 

Steve Vaughn, now 56, is a doctor at Veterans Administration. He was never told about his half-sister, but only knew of an envelope which contained photographs of Marianne as a baby. 

A note accompanying them, that had been written by his own mother, James Vaughn’s second wife, read: ‘The baby in these pictures was named Marianne

‘The last time (I) heard about them was 1958. The mother had died, and baby or girl Marianne was adopted in Tokyo, Japan, by unknown parents.’

After reuniting with his half-sister, Steve Vaugh contacted the US National Archives and discovered an act under private laws dedicated to ‘the relief of Vivienne Joy Wilson and minor daughter Marianne Vaughn.’ 

It was the approval congress had granted the pair’s father to bring his new wife and daughter to the US in 1950.  

‘I saw the name Marianne Vaughn, which I was called in my very early childhood, and was shocked that she really existed, and my father was truly an American,’ said Marianne.

Twelve years later, and after a bureaucratic fight with officials, she was granted US citizenship in June. 

Now, she plans to visit the Texas cemetery where her paternal grandparents are buried. 

‘I want to show them my American passport and say, “Grandpa, Grandma. I’m home.”‘

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