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Okinawa Hawksbill Sea Turtles - Interview with Ann (Freimuth) Statland

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Okinawa Hawksbill Sea Turtles - Interview with Ann (Freimuth) Statland

Notes from an Interview with Anne (Freimuth) Statland about Okinawa Hawksbill Sea Turtles

that she donated to the Okinawa Karate and Cultural Center; Notes by Nestor Folta 5-14-2024

Ann (Freimuth) Statland:

I have two turtles from Okinawa that were presented to my dad before we moved to the US in 1966. One hung in our family room in Annandale, Virginia, for 35 years until his death, and the other resided at my grandparents' home in Pottstown, PA.  

My father, Edward Freimuth, arrived in Okinawa 1946 as an army captain. He was supposed to be stationed in Tokyo, and my mother had her orders to meet him there (he even found a house for them there).  Then, Dad got orders for Okinawa, and my mother’s orders were changed to meet him there.  She arrived in August 1946, and they lived in a Quonset home in Bucknerville.  When they arrived, the house was still being painted by Japanese prisoners of war. Dad left the service and worked as a civilian for the United States Civil Administration. Then, he was offered a job at the Pentagon. It was time to return after more than 20 years in Okinawa to get his kids to live in the USA for the first time. So he did, and we moved back to Annandale, Virginia. 

Before Dad left Okinawa in 1966, he received a gift of two sea turtles. I don't know from whom, but they were Okinawan. Dad was friendly with many Okinawa bankers and businessmen for 20 years. Anyhow, somebody presented him with the tortoise. I don't believe you can do that with the tortoise anymore. After Dad passed away, it was like, “I can't keep these.” But I never knew what to do with the tortoise. So, they were in storage in my basement.  

I was so excited when you (Master Folta) opened the Okinawa Karate and Cultural Center (OKCC) in Chantilly, VA. I thought, “Maybe the tortoises will find a new home!” I didn't know what to do with them in the house, but I couldn't get rid of them. I'm happy they're now at the OKCC and being preserved. I believe the tortoises were usually mounted on the wall of an Okinawan home or business. 

I wish I had kept the Okinawa lobster we had in the house. Yes, it was big in a made-to-order box, but I knew I couldn't keep it. I gave the box to a friend. 

My dad was the Director of the Liaison Office at USCAR (United Civil Administration of the Ryukyu) when we left Okinawa in 1966.  My dad had an extensive library about Okinawa in our home, and when he passed away in 2001, my brother and I decided to donate it to the Okinawa Prefectural Archives (OPA).  My dad’s friend, Kazuhiko Nakamoto (who worked for OPA), had been stationed in the US for quite a few years, working out of our National Archives, and he took on the cataloging project and having the library packed to be sent to Okinawa.  It ended up being 93 boxes shipped to Okinawa, and in 2003, we were invited to the opening of the Freimuth Collection at OPA. 

I told you about donating my Dad’s Okinawa 2003 to the Okinawa archives. The archives put on a reception. If somebody wants to come, they advertise in the newspaper, basically come, and give us 50 bucks, and you’ll be part of the reception. A gentleman came, and I cannot think of his name, of course, and he said, “You know your dad was undercover and stuff.” Our housekeeper would say, “You know they come to pick him (your dad) up at the house, and he'd be handcuffed with his briefcase.” So, it's like Dad did not talk about work. We knew he was a direct liaison. Apparently, there were some other shenanigans. Also, Dad somehow had access to unlimited money at work. So, that's another clue that his job was unusual. 

In our house in Okinawa, a part of the house was open at one time, like a porch thing. I mean, it was covered, but it was like a porch. Then, it became wholly enclosed, so it was a room, and the tortoise was hanging on one of those walls. I'll see if I can find a photo showing the tortoise. I wish I knew more about the turtles and who might've given them to my dad, but I don't know more stories about turtles. I will ask my brother if he remembers. My brother was six years old, so he may not remember anything. I will ask him. 

A heavy stone lantern was in our backyard in Okinawa; my parents would leave it there instead of taking it to the USA. The household goods packers said they should pack it. My parents said they didn't have enough weight allowance. My parents weren't going to take it. The packers said you'll be fine. So, I have the lantern now. Here's a photo of the Okinawa backyard lantern. It’s in great shape, especially with a little bit of washing. That photo was from 1965.

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Hawksbill Sea Turtle   – a critically endangered species –

 Distinguished from other sea turtles by its elongated, tapered head that ends

 in a beak-like mouth, sharp, hooked curving beak, the saw-like notches 

 around its shell, and two visible claws on each flipper.




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