During World War II, Howard Munce was a Marine platoon sergeant. En route to Guadalcanal, he and his unit spent a couple of months in New Zealand.
On their first weekend in a new camp at Papatoetoe, outside of Auckland, they were invited home by a local family. It was a nice change: Howard sat by a fire as a man, his wife and their two young children served tea and scones.
Howard was invited back, and over the next weeks a friendship developed.
He soon left New Zealand for battle (and the rank of lieutenant). Back in the States on leave, his good friend and fellow illustrator Stevan Dohanos threw a party for Howard. He sent a photo — complete with Stevan’s “Long Time No See” poster to his friends the Smithermans, but that was the last contact they had.
Until a couple of weeks ago.
That’s when Howard received a letter from the Smitherman children. Now grown — in fact, now in their 70s — they sent greetings from New Zealand.
They enclosed plenty of photos. “As soon as I saw the pictures of their mother and father, I had total recall,” Howard says.
The Smithermans had sent a letter to the Westport Public Library, seeking Howard’s address. The staff there suggested Google — and voila! After nearly 70 years, the wartime Marine and his other-side-of-the-world hosts were reunited.
“It was absolutely wonderful to hear from them,” Howard said. “I still feel so much affection.”
So will he head Down Under, to visit the Smitherson “kids”?
“If I had the fare and the time, I’d be on my way,” Howard — now 94 years young — said.