Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton Jnr. (1922 – 1980). Adopted son of US Navy Lieutenant Benjamin Pinkerton and Kate Pinkerton (nee Roberts of Wilton, CT). Born in Nagasaki Prefecture,  and, aged one, placed in a city orphanage, it was later claimed, as a result of his mother’s illness. He was taken  to the US in 1925, aged three, and brought up in Virginia. His father, by now a Lieutenant Commander, had thence been posted specifically to the Norfolk Naval Base, to work on the Armaments Procurement Program (APP).

Documentation of Pinkerton Jnr’s original Japanese name was never fully verified, though later in life, in his correspondence and writings, he nearly always used the Kanji character 蛹 –  Sanagi – meaning ‘Chrysalis’.

He was educated in Norfolk, attending Granby High School and graduating summa cum laude in summer 1941. With the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Pinkerton, then aged 19, immediately sought to  enlist for his adopted country but was at first deemed unsuitable, being ‘half Japanese’. His father’s connections in the Department of Defence in Washington, however, reversed this decision and he trained at the US Navy Academy at Annapolis, MD where he also started to take part in inter-service boxing bouts. Though physically slight (a bantamweight) he was reputed to have an excellent technique that more than made up for his build.

On graduation from USNA he was assigned to PT Boats and served briefly under John F Kennedy, who was 5 years his senior. He saw action from 1942 to 1945 winning the Purple Heart, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal and Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal mainly in the Solomon Islands Campaign, Guadalcanal and, latterly, at Saipan, attaining the rank of Lieutenant.  (Picture: JF Kennedy – standing, right; Pinkerton back row, 2nd left.)

At the end of the war he remained in the Navy but in 1947 his adopted mother, to whom he was very close, died. This event impelled him to find his Japanese birth-mother and in early Spring 1948, speaking not a word of the language but with some translated documents that he had obtained, he returned to his native land to see if he could locate her.

It was at that point in his life that he discovered who his father was.

That same summer, he represented the United States at the London Olympics, but was eliminated in an early bout, sustaining a potentially highly damaging eye injury and was retired to the eventual silver-medallist, Italian Gianbattista Zuddas. Shortly after his unexpected early exit from the competition, he resigned his commission in the Navy and in 1949 decided to move to Japan.

He started to learn Japanese and worked in his birth-city of Nagasaki, volunteering at the Medical Centre, Omura which at that time was mainly treating radiation victims of the 1945 bombing. His father died in 1951 but they were no longer on speaking terms and he did not attend the funeral. In fact, Pinkerton never returned to the US.

In later years he principally taught English to Japanese undergraduates when the Medical Centre was incorporated into the new Nagasaki University. He also worked there with children with severe birth defects or whose parents had died from early onset cancers associated with the 1945 bombing.

Within five years of his arrival in Japan, he was fluent in his mother tongue, had began a deep study of Kegon Buddhism which continued all his life, and, in 1960, he wrote the monograph ‘Finding Butterfly’ (Shinchosha Publishing) which movingly tells of his 1948 search for his mother. He died in 1980, aged 58.

He never married and is buried in the Sakamoto Cemetery, Nagasaki.