Louis Moore couldn’t stop staring at the dancer at the China Doll nightclub in New York. It was spring 1946. The second world war had recently ended. Moore was 23, newly discharged from the US Army Air Corps after serving in Europe, and enjoying a night out with his parents and sister at the just-opened Manhattan venue. Third from the right in the chorus line, she had the sweetest eyes he had ever seen. He returned night after night, hoping to catch her attention. Weeks later, he spotted her in the window of a nearby cafe, drinking coffee. She smiled when he asked to sit with her. They went for a walk in Central Park and talked and talked. He was a Chinese-American soldier from New York, whose ship was cheered when he returned from overseas. Nellie Hatsumi Maeda was a Japanese-American woman from California trying to rebuild her life after the US government incarcerated her and her family at the Gila River War Relocation Centre in Arizona. They wed 10 days later. It was a union that lasted 74 years. His parents, dismayed at Nellie’s Japanese ancestry, didn’t speak to them for the first seven years. Moore, 98, is now sharing his love story as widely as he can at a time when the country is grappling with a rise in anti-Asian racism during the Covid-19 pandemic. If there is anything this world needs, he said, it is love. Moore, who lives in a retirement community in California, has just published a 78-page memoir about his and Nellie’s lives together. He titled it Eternal Love . Europe’s liberation route: eight second world war destinations Second world war veterans “are dying out very quickly”, says Bonnie Navarro, founder of a charity for veterans, Bombshell Betty’s. “A lot of these stories are going unheard, and they’re going to disappear.” The daughter of Japanese immigrants, Nellie was born in Fresno in 1922 and raised in Visalia, where her parents were farmers. During the war, the US government imprisoned 120,000 people of Japanese descent – two-thirds of whom were American citizens – and forced them into desolate prison camps. Nellie’s family was taken to Arizona. Nellie didn’t talk much about the camp, Moore says. When her family was released, the farm was gone. Nellie’s parents told her to go to New York and find a job because there was so much resentment of Japanese-Americans on the west coast. She found work as a nanny, then at the China Doll. Moore was born in San Francisco in October 1922, a third-generation Chinese-American whose grandfather was given the name Moore by an immigration officer who couldn’t pronounce his last name. Moore joined the US Army Air Corps, which preceded the Air Force. He was one of more than 13,000 Chinese Americans who served during the war, according to the US Army Centre of Military History. “My friends and I were going to join the service and save the world,” he recalls. Moore shipped out to Europe on the Queen Mary, where troops had “Spam for about every meal”, he says. He was stationed in France, near the border with Germany. It wasn’t easy being Chinese-American in the service. “Every outfit that I was put in, I was the only Oriental with 100, 200 Caucasian men,” Moore says. “I was afraid that one of them would take me for the enemy and shoot me … and that scared the hell out of me.” Moore doesn’t talk much about the war. One of the few stories he likes telling is that of a furlough, at home in Brooklyn. He wanted to get some chocolate, which was rationed, for his mother. He went to a confectionery store and got in a line that stretched down the street. A man pulled him inside, to the front of the line, and said a soldier shouldn’t have to wait for chocolate. When he came out, everyone was clapping and saluting. “They treated me like royalty,” he says. I wanted to finish that book, because I wanted she and I to sit on our couch, put our feet up on the coffee table, sit arm in arm holding the book, reading to it each other. But that didn’t happen Louis Moore, whose wife Nellie died last October Moore was discharged in April 1946. But his life didn’t really begin, he says, until he met Nellie in that coffee shop on June 1. “I didn’t kiss her until the second day,” he says. “I had to wait that long.” His parents, viewing Japan as an enemy of the US, were furious that he married a Japanese-American woman. After they kicked him out of their home, he moved with Nellie to southern California, where her family lived. He worried her parents would shun them too. “Suddenly, in walked a woman 4’10, 90lbs (147cm, 40kg), storming in, walking like a battle chief,” he wrote in his book, describing meeting his mother-in-law. She “stared at me for the longest time … Finally, her lips cracked open with a smile”, and they hugged. She was crying tears of joy. For years, Moore and his wife were poor but happy. They worked hard at restaurants and at a manufacturing plant that made television tuners. By the late 1950s, they had saved enough money to buy a home. They found a place Nellie loved in a new housing development in the San Fernando Valley but worried they wouldn’t get it because people often would not sell property to Asians, Moore wrote. So a customer Nellie had befriended at a Chinese restaurant where she worked as a hostess – a white man – bought the home and sold it to them. Their neighbours signed a petition, trying to get them to leave because they were Asian. But they stayed. World War II grenades, mortar found on Hong Kong hillside; hiking trail closed The couple lived, for a time, in Washington, where they opened a Chinese restaurant, then returned to Los Angeles to be near her family. Nellie worked as director of human resources at an engineering company; he was a management consultant. They liked to say they had no wrinkles on their faces because they never argued. He told her he loved her daily, and when he signed their names, he always wrote Nellie’s first. Nellie moved into a nursing home about six years ago, as dementia took hold. He visited her every day, until the pandemic closed care facilities to visitors. He came about once a month to sit outside her window and see her face. He called her every day to say he missed her. He started the book last summer. His hands are weakened by age, so a friend, Stacy Alvey, from the nearby town of Quartz Hill, came to his flat every few days to transcribe his stories. “I was hesitant at first because of Covid-19, but I knew he was lonely because his wife was in a care centre,” Alvey said. “We would mask up, and we would sit far apart.” Moore wanted, more than anything, for Nellie to come home. “I wanted to finish that book,” he says, “because I wanted she and I to sit on our couch, put our feet up on the coffee table, sit arm in arm holding the book, reading to it each other. But that didn’t happen.” Nellie died in October. She was 98. He rushed to the nursing home to see her one last time. When he leaned over her body, he saw tears in her eyes and screamed that she was still alive. But they were his tears. They had fallen on her face. “I had to write the ending after she passed,” he says. “I had to write an obituary. Which I hated. I truly hated.” Nellie was cremated, and he wants to be too. He wants their ashes to be mixed so they will be together again.