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About this collection

Cecelia McKie, 1903-1982, was a longtime resident of Sacramento, and worked as a secretary for the state of California during WWII. In February 1943, while at home listening to her shortwave radio, she picked up a Radio Tokyo broadcast airing messages sent from prisoners of war held by the Japanese. McKie began relaying the messages to their family members. McKie would listen to the broadcast messages, copy them in shorthand, then transcribe the messages and send them out in a letter. By the end of the war she had forwarded more than 8,500 messages. For her work, McKie was made an honorary member of the American Ex-Prisoners of War; she was awarded a national citation from the organization in 1976.

 

The Cecelia McKie Scrapbook contains letters from a scrapbook maintained by Cecelia McKie during and after World War II. The messages in this collection, transcribed by McKie, were heard on Radio Tokyo from prisoners primarily held at Santo Tomas Internment Camp, Manila, Philippines. The scrapbook contains letters to 62 families of civilian internees and P.O.W.s, many of whom sent thank you letters in response. The majority of the messages in this collection are from civilians, only a few are from members of the military, whose P.O.W. camp locations are typically not listed. The scrapbook’s content consists principally of thank you letters, envelopes, postcards, and copies of the letters McKie sent to family members. The scrapbook also contains two photographs of McKie. All of the broadcast messages are dated May 1943. The bulk of the letters in the collection are dated from May to July 1943. Two letters from the American Ex-Prisoners of War sent to McKie are part of this collection, dated 1976 and 1978.

 

The contents of the scrapbook were arranged chronologically by McKie. As she sent out a letter to a family member, it was copied for the scrapbook. If a family member responded, that letter, postcard, or envelope was attached to the copy of McKie’s letter. The contents of the scrapbook have been disassembled and are presented in alphabetical order, by last name of the internee. The corresponding scrapbook page numbers are documented in the object’s description.

 

Occasionally, in the letters sent from McKie, the spelling of a prisoner or family member name is incorrect. In the object descriptions, misspellings of names are noted in quotes (as they appeared in the correspondence) along with corrected names (if available). Sometimes a family member other than the addressee responded to McKie, so there are occasionally differences in the name of the addressee in the letter McKie sent, and the responder’s name. Letters that were returned without delivery are often noted by McKie.

 

Cecelia McKie is also addressed as Mrs. W. L. McKie or Mrs. William L. McKie. Occasionally family members sent thank you letters addressed to Dr. William L. McKie, Cecelia McKie's husband. This is noted in the object descriptions.

 

Tokyo may be referred to as Tokio, an older spelling of Tokyo.

 

Though McKie’s letters use the term "prisoner of war" for both civilians and members of the military, in the collection's object descriptions prisoner of war is used to refer to an interned member of the Armed Forces, while internee is used to refer to an interned civilian.

 

The Cecelia McKie Scrapbook was generously donated to the museum by the American Ex-Prisoners of War, of which McKie was an honorary member. 

 

 

Sources:

 

 

Cecelia McKie Scrapbook (2016.189), Nimitz Education and Research Center, National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredericksburg, TX.

 

Loewen, W. (n.d.). Capital woman ‘Angel of Air Waves’ to POWs. The Sacramento Bee.

 

 
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