History – Bro. Aloysius Soden

History – Bro. Aoysius Soden (Lt. Soden, USNR)

Francis Tanabe (’61) wrote to Franz Metzger ’58

“Just in case this is new material about Bro. Soden, I have attached a query
from the son of Bro. Soden’s cousin.”

from The US Navy Japanese/Oriental Language School Archival Project: The Interpreter, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries

from The US Navy Japanese/Oriental Language School Archival Project: The Interpreter, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries

Lt. Aloysius Soden, USNR, JLS 1944
Marianist Brother
I am looking for information about his service as an officer or missionary. He served as a Navy interpreter at the surrender of Truk and possibly onboard the USS Missouri. He resumed his missionary work in Japan in 1946 and passed away in 1966. Contact: K. Kennedy, 900 Palmer Rd., No. 3J, Bronxville, NY 10708.

Dear Mr. Kennedy:

In searching Google for possible hits on the entrants to the JLS/OLS, I found your query about Aloysius Martin Soden. He has a file in our Roger Pineau Collection. He entered the school at the University of Colorado in Boulder in October 1, 1942 from Philadelphia. He would have graduated in February/March of 1944. I will check the Pineau Collection for contents.

Dear Mr. Hays:

Thank you very much for your kind and informative email.

Aloysius was my mother’s cousin and godfather as well. I met him once as a young boy in the late ’50s when he spent two years in the states. Whilst researching family history for an Irish passport, I came across his obituary and wanted to learn more about him.

It’s interesting that he entered Colorado in October 1942. Family lore has it that he was detained by the Japanese in December 1941 and was later exchanged for Japanese citizens in the U.S. at the time of Pearl Harbor.

If he returned to the U.S. sometime in 1942, then it is clear to me that he was not part of the “Gripsholm” exchange that occurred in 1943 mediated by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

One other point that may interest you is that I learned that after he died, the Marianist facility in upstate New York was sold, the bodies disinterred and moved to Baltimore. My wife and I located his grave last June in a cemetery in the Dundalk area of Baltimore.

I am still trying to learn what he did in his Naval service. I know that he was the interpreter at the surrender of Truk on the U.S.S. Portland (you can find his picture in the Navy archives on the web by typing in Truk and Soden) and I now know where he was until the late winter of 1943. This is very helpful to me.

Dear Kevin:

I will be pleased to provide photocopies of the few pages that are in a file under his name in the Roger Pineau Collection, 27-1, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries.

Since we include the kin of US Navy Japanese/Oriental Language School attendees on our mailing list, I would be glad to add you to our mailing list for our newsletter. I have the address of one who was interned in Japan in 1941 and returned in 1942 to attend the US Navy JLS, Wendell Furnas. Although they entered the school on the same day, they did not follow the same assignment path during the War. Furnas went to JICPOA at Pearl Harbor.

Bill Hudson, another classmate on our list, knew him, as they corresponded. In addition, I recently contacted an OLS (school name was changed in 1944 to reflect the addition of several other Asian languages) graduate who was sent to Truk after the surrender, who may have run into, or heard of your godfather on Truk. Edward J. Michon attended the OLS several years after Brother Soden, so they would not have known each other at Boulder.

Yet another OLS graduate who might have run across your relative would have been the Jesuit missionary, Father Robert M. Deiters, who is still in Japan. They were both in Japan during the 1950s. I would find it highly unusual that they would not have known each other.

As Soden was more than 10 years older than most of those who attended JLS/OLS in Boulder, and since he had taken vows, he may not have fit in as well with the collegiate style of the early JLS students. But he most certainly would have stood out. He may run into John Hasbrouck, who later became a Trappist (he entered in July of 1942 and perhaps would have attended Mass with the devout brother Soden). Hasbrouck did not mention Soden in his memoir, but he did say that the pastor of the campus parish had been a former missionary. It seems that there were several devout Catholics among Hasbrouck’s fellow JLS students.

David Hays, Archivist

Picture of Lt. A.M. Soden, interpreter, right standing. Truk surrender ceremony.

Picture of Lt. A.M. Soden, interpreter, right standing. Truk surrender ceremony.


Following are email exchanges between Hans Enderle (’58) and Kunio (’60) and Yasuo (’56) Kikuchi

From: Hans Enderle

Dear Kunio,

Thank you for sharing your and your brother’s memories and comments about Bro. Soden. Thank you also for always stopping by the store on your Japan visits. That picture brought back memories for me too. If I remember correctly my classmate Tone called me when Brother Soden was dying and gave me his phone number so I called him. I was surprised when Bro. Soden himself answered the phone and told me, I don’t remember his exact words, but he said something like that he was about to be “taking a trip…..to heaven”. Only recently I came across words of his (when visiting my classmate Tane Yamamoto in Nappa) that impressed me very much I think they are in the 1949 Forward where Brother Soden writes to the graduates that year as follows, allow me to quote him:
“Your teachers have given you the principles on which you can mold a successful life and a happy death, in which you can find that peace which the world ever seeks and cannot give. The secret of living and dying is Christ, the Life and the Truth, and the way to reach Him is His Immaculate Mother. This is the heritage of a Marianist education: this we have tried to give you–and greater gift can no man give. That you keep it well is our daily prayer and our sincerest Graduation wish–in time and in eternity. Aloysius M. Soden, S.M. June 26, 1949.

I did not know about and was very interested to hear of Brother Soden’s book on Admiral Yamamoto. By chance I recently (I must be getting old) finally read a little bit of a diary my father kept when he first came to Japan in 1935 to open a Catholic bookstore. One of the first things he apparently did was, with the help of a professor from Sophia University, was to pay a courtesy visit to Admiral Yamamoto who apparently was the most influential lay Catholic in Japan at the time. I will try to find a copy of the book as Tom suggested, although it may not be easy.
Please say a prayer for Natsue-san, beloved wife of my classmate Stacy Akiyama who died in Los Angeles the other day. It was good to hear from you older brother, the first time since my graduation I think.

With best regards,
Hans (Class of 58)

From: Kunio Kikuchi

Dear Friends,

In mid-May Franz Metzger shared with us Brother Soden’s photo as a navy officer at Truk Island (September 1945).

I shared the photo with my oldest brother Yasuo Romuald Philip Kikuchi (SJC – Class of 56), and he shared with me some facts and memories about Brother Soden. I think some of you may be interested so let me pass it on to you today. Personally, I owe a lot to Brother Soden–he was at times the Principal, and I also rember him as my Freshman English teacher–making us read things like “A Dissertaion on Roast Pig” by Charles Lamb and testing us the next day on the definition of words–“don’t guess; you should know the precise definition”, he told us. But I remember him most because he fixed my pronunciation of “R’s” and “L’s”. When I was in the fourth grade, one day my father said–“Kunio, your R’s and L’s are terrible. He went to see Brother Soden–“after four years in SJC, my son still can’t pronounce the R’s and L’s…” So from the next day, I had to go to the Principal’s office after school, and Brother Soden made me say things like “the Lion Roared” until he was satisfied. It took me about 2 weeks, but I am grateful to this day. Sorry for the long Introduction; here is Yasuo’s Ode to Brother Soden.

Kunio (SJC Class of ’60)

From Yasuo Kikuchi

Dear Kunio,

Brother Soden was not in Japan before Pearl Harbor. (But Brother Francis Tribull was, he often told us about his being sent back to the U.S. via Lourenco Marques (now Maputo, capital of Mozambique) in Africa, under the exchange of civilians of the belligerent states. Our dad came back to Japan (from Sidney, Australia) under the same exchange, also via Lourenco Marques, travelling the other way.)

Brother Soden served in the U.S.Navy during WWII, and often told us of Pago Pago, American Samoa, where he was stationed for some time.

He also told us of Iwo jima, (Japanese “Iwo-to”) where he stopped by after the Island was captured by the U.S. Truk was never captured, but after the heavy bombings by Americans in February 1944, its functions as th “Pearl Harbor of the Japanese Imperial Combined Fleet (Rengo Kantai)” were completely destroyed, and the islands stayed “lame duck” till the end of the War. (similar situation for Rabaul, and parts of New Guinea which were completely neutralized so that the Allied Forces didn’t bother to land. Just continuous harassment by regular air raids.)

I used to hear the stories of the repatriated people from these places who were working at Tokyo Asaito KK (Numazu Factory) 1946 – 1948. (Of course, I’ve read a lot about this period and the places – World War Two was my speciality during my days at Fordham University.)

Brother Soden was the author of a book “山本中将のマリア信心”(Marian Devotion of Admiral Yamamoto); this Admiral Yamamoto was a fervent Catholic and was known for his devotions to the Blessed Virgin. (I think the timing was end of Meiji (1910) to early Taisho period). The book was written in English but was translated (by a professional translator) and was published from a Catholic publishing company. Brother Soden brought this book to the classroom and showed it to us. I cannot recall the exact year of the publication, but must have been in my Senior Year (1955-56), the year when Brother Soden was our home room teacher.

The book may be located in some library (or at Enderle Shoten?).

The last time I saw Brother Soden was in 1962 (before my marriage), when I visited him at the then Yamate General Hospital. I would have invited him to our wedding reception, if he were well.
God rest his soul, and the souls of our former teachers at SJC!

Yasuo (SJC Class of ’56)


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