Doris Adler was a new employee of the American Red Cross in August of 1945 when she embarked upon an assignment to support U.S. service members in Japan. Arriving shortly after Japan surrendered and the war ended, she describes her experience as profound and life-changing.
Adler, who is now 100 years old and resides in Detroit, Michigan, was recently presented with a certificate of recognition for her service under difficult circumstances and dedication to the U.S. Armed Forces during the war.
“We recognize this service with the deepest gratitude and respect. Doris connects the work from the past to our present,” said Alicia Dorr of the Michigan Red Cross.
Adler, who was 23 years old at the time, looks back on her experiences as both grand and nerve-wracking. Her trip across the Pacific took 28 days and during the journey she spotted a bomb in the water. “It was still dangerous at the time,” she said.
During her two-year tour in Japan, she welcomed war-weary GIs and ensured they had donuts and coffee. She and her colleagues boosted morale, offered books or just lent an ear to those who needed to talk. “We were there to remind them of home and help out where we could,” she said.
Adler says that so many young men just wanted to go home after years of grueling conflict. “You were holding them up, representing home after such a long war. We were hoping that they would make it home safely. That’s no different than our young men and women who are overseas today,” she said.
Adler says that her impression of Japan and its people changed during her time there. One of the most memorable moments of her tour was a trip to see the devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two cities decimated by atomic bombs. “I went in thinking the Japanese were our enemy. Then I met young children who had suffered through the war and that just opened my heart,” she said.
Following her tour in Japan, Adler served in Germany before returning home. “When young men are overseas, they want a connection to home to remember what it is all about. It was a wonderful experience. All the girls in the Red Cross service were wonderful gals. It’s a marvelous service that’s still needed today,” she said.
Dorr says that Adler’s experience is inspiring to all. “Our goal is to ensure Doris’ work and dedication live on and inspire new volunteers to continue this legacy of service,” she said. “We are currently serving alongside troops stationed in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. We assist them with emergency communications and boost morale.”
In Adler’s experience, when you’re overseas you can often still feel alone even when you’re surrounded by people. That’s why, she says, it is important for the Red Cross to make people feel connected to home while serving abroad.
“It was a wonderful time because we were doing what we thought was important. Looking back, it was really important,” she concluded.