Lost and Found

After the War, Would They Be the Same?

By Karlene Bayok Edwards

Photos Courtesy of Karlene Bayok Edwards

About 240 of the 1,145 civilian construction workers building a military base on Wake Island for the Morrison-Knudsen Company in December 1941 were from Idaho. After almost four years as prisoners of the Japanese, 895 of them returned. Among them was Joe Bayok, the man who would become my father. His wife Marcella, my not-yet mother, was waiting.

She first learned the Japanese had attacked when her older brother, Gerald, arrived at the remote mine where she was visiting his family, to drive her back to their parents’ house in Homedale. He said, “They’re after them over there.” She knew immediately that “over there” meant Wake Island, the tiny coral atoll halfway between Midway Island and Japan. Marcella had begged Joe not to sign the contract without discussing it with her one last time, but when he walked out of the interview in Boise, she saw the papers in his hand. She reminded herself that, after all, they had come to this decision together. The two hundred dollars per month would give them a fresh start after the long depression, and would help Joe establish a work record with Morrison-Knudsen, the same company that had built Hoover Dam and other large-scale projects, the company for which Joe hoped to continue working after he returned home. Most important to them both, the money would pay for the surgery Marcella needed, after many miscarriages, to help her carry a child full-term.

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