They fell in love after WWII and Japanese incarceration. At 98, he’s published tribute to his beloved

Louis Moore and his wife Nellie
Louis Moore met Nellie Hatsumi Maeda, a Japanese American chorus dancer, in 1946 in New York City after his return from World War II and her release from an Arizona prison camp. They were married for 74 years.
(Family photo)

Louis Moore couldn’t stop staring at the dancer, third from the right in the chorus line, at the China Doll nightclub in New York City.

It was spring 1946. World War II had recently ended. Moore was 23, newly discharged from the U.S. Army Air Corps after serving in Europe and enjoying a night out with his parents and sister at the just-opened Manhattan venue.

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 café, 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 U.S. government incarcerated her and her family at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona.

Louis Moore salutes during flag presentation
Louis Moore, a 98-year-old Chinese American World War II veteran, salutes the presentation of the flags by the Quartz Hill Young Marines before a book signing for his memoir, “Eternal Love,” at the American Legion Post 311 in Lancaster on April 25.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

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 Lancaster retirement community, just published a 78-page memoir about his and Nellie’s lives together. He titled it “Eternal Love.”

A slight man with a deep, commanding voice and a quick wit, Moore held court last weekend with dozens of people at American Legion Post 311 in Lancaster, where he did his first book signing and hoped “to teach men how to be a damn good husband.”

It was one of the first indoor events at the American Legion since the pandemic began. The hall was full.

World War II veterans “are dying out very quickly,” said Bonnie Navarro, founder of the Bombshell Betty’s nonprofit, which organized the event. “A lot of these stories are going unheard, and they’re going to disappear.”


How Moore wished Nellie were by his side as he signed copies of his book.

Louis Moore, left, shakes hand with Thomas Christner, right.
World War II veteran Louis Moore, 98, is thanked by Thomas Christner, a Vietnam War veteran from Lancaster, at Moore’s book signing at the American Legion Post 311 in Lancaster.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

“I say to every man standing: Respect your wife. Love your wife. Cherish your wife,” Moore told the crowd. “Because that’s the person who will stand by you through thick and thin, who will have tears for you when you’re sick ... and love you until her last days, as my dearest Nellie loved me.”

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 U.S. 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 said.

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.

Louis Moore, a 98-year-old Chinese American WWII veteran
Louis Moore just published “Eternal Love,” a 78-page memoir about the life he shared with his wife, Nellie. “She — loved me. And I loved her,” he said at his book signing.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

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 U.S. 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 U.S. Army Center of Military History.

“My friends and I were going to join the service and save the world,” he said.

Moore shipped out to Europe on the Queen Mary, where troops had “Spam for about every meal,” he said.

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 a hundred, 200 Caucasian men,” Moore said. “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 candy 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 said.

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.

Undated photo of Louis Moore and his wife, Nellie.
Louis Moore and his wife, Nellie, shown in an undated photo. “I had to write the ending after she passed,” he said of his memoir. Nellie died in October.
(Louis Moore)

“I didn’t kiss her until the second day,” he said. “I had to wait that long.”

His parents, viewing Japan as an enemy of the U.S., 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, 90 lbs., 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 neighbors signed a petition, trying to get them to leave because they were Asian. But they stayed.

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, of the nearby town of Quartz Hill, came to his apartment every few days to transcribe his stories.

“I was hesitant at first because of COVID, but I knew he was lonely because his wife was in a care center,” 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 said, “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 it to 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 said at the book signing. “I had to write an obituary. Which I hated. I truly hated.”

He hung his head, topped by a hat that said, “World War II Veteran.”

“Excuse me,” he said softly, his voice catching with emotion.

“She — loved me. And I loved her.”

Moore now reads the book alone each night.

Nellie was cremated, and he wants to be too. He wants their ashes to be mixed so they will be together again.