Coff Letter


OCTOBER 12th, 1948

Number 640, S.C.
Ancient Free and Accepted Masons

12 October 1948


Recorded herein is as complete a story as can be obtained at this time of a Daughter Lodge under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and what transpired with the outbreak of war with Japan and was no doubt experienced by Masonic Lodges in Germany, Italy and other Axis controlled countries throughout the world.

In the late winter of 1947, our Wor. Bro. Harvey Colton, Past Master and present Treasurer, was sojourning in the United States and while there visited with our good friend Wor. Bro. McSparran in San Diego, California. Wor. Bro. McSparran was our R.W.M. at the time that hostilities were begun on 7 December 1941. Illustrious Bro. Michael Apcar, who had been interned with Wor. Bro. McSparran, tells us that when he (McSparran) was released from the internment camp by the Japanese, he could hardly walk and had to be literally carried and dragged by Japanese guards out of the prison, to be put on the exchange ship S.S. GRIPSHOLM. He was suffering from advanced stages of "Beri-Beri", the dreaded disease casused by malnutrition. Later when word reached the Japanese prison that Wor. Bro. McSparran had conducted an Emergency Meeting of the Lodge aboard the S.S. GRIPSHOLM and that he was saying derogatory things about the Japanese government in the United States, Illus. Bro. Apcar was told that he would not be given the same opportunity and would never leave the prison camp alive but would be shot to death. Illus. Bro. Apcar today carries with him a few of the scars and many memories of the beastly treatment afforded him while interned in a Japanese Prison Camp.

It was indeed a happy moment for Wor. Bros. Colton and McSparran to meet in the United States, especially after word had reached some of the Brethren that Wor. Bro. McSparran had died as a result of his condition upon reaching the United States. Wor. Bro. Colton found Wor. Bro. McSparran looking and feeling much better, and today, one year later, we hear that he is progressing very nicely. Wor. Bro. McSparran gave to Wor. Bro. Harvey Colton the actual Minutes Book for the year 1941, together with the official Lodge Star in the East Seal, which is used by the Secretary today in authenticating all official records.

The Minutes Book had been "blacked-out" and censored should it have inadvertently fallen into the hands of the Japanese and contains many interesting items. For instance, the Minutes of the Regular Meeting held on Wednesday, 22 October 1941, at No. 3 Bluff, Yokohama, Japan, contain the following: "The October regular meeting was held today instead of on the second Tuesday of October on account of the air raid maneuvers and light control regulations." The Minutes of the Regular Meeting held Tuesday, 11 November 1941, thought lost at one time, were found in this book also. This book also contains a Monthly Bulletin dated 1 December 1941, in which the Regular Meeting to be held on Tuesday, 9 December 1941 was announced. There appear no Minutes or record of such a meeting being held, since the Japanese government chose Sunday 7 December 1941 to attack Pearl Harbor thereby declaring a state of war existing with the United States of America. This valuable record is on file and will be maintained as an official part of the archives of Lodge Star in the East.

Reproduced herewith are the official and actual Minutes of an Emergency Meeting held by Officers and Brethren present aboard the Exchange Ship S.S. GRIPSHOLM, while enroute to the United States via Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where a Certificate was executed by the Lodge Officers and Brethren, sworn to before the American Vice Consul, in regard to confiscation of our Charter by Japanese Authorities at the time of the outbreak of the war between Japan and the British Empire. The Charter was later discovered among many Masonic Records found in what is now the Ensign Club, in Yokohama, Japan, shortly after VJ Day and now occupies its proper place in our Lodge Room. The remaining greater portion of our records, we have but recently learned, are being held by the Grand Secretary of the District of Columbia who is now being advised to forward same to us here in Japan. These records had been most carefully packed and placed aboard the Exchange Ship S.S. GRIPSHOLM as personal luggage, without being detected by Japanese authorities, and was addressed by Wor. Bro. McSparran to the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, upon reaching the United States.

We, the present members and future members of Lodge Star in the East, S.C. No. 640, are indeed grateful and wish to extend our warmest thanks and fraternal solicitations, on behalf of Masons all over the world, for what they had endured and must have suffered in those dark uncertain days. To Illustrious Bro. Carlos Rodriguez Jimenez, 33º, Past Master, Past Grand Master of Venezuelan Masonry and Secretary of Lodge Star in the East, for having recorded accurately and interestingly the proceedings which today mean so much to all of us who are trying to carry on the Masonic traditions and landmarks. Illust. Bro. Jimenez presently is a Member of the Venezuelan Delegation to the United Nations, with offices in New York City. He recently wrote to advise us that his is going to attend the General Assembly Meeting of the United Nations in September, to be held at Paris, France and expects to return to the United States by Christmas. While in Paris, he intends to attend an International Masonic Conference, and will not only represent Venezuelan Freemasonry but Lodge Star in the East, No. 640, under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, as a Life Member.

Reproduced herewith in proper chronological sequence are the Bulletin, dated 3 August 1942, announcing the Emergency Meeting to be held aboard the S.S. GRIPSHOLM in Cabin A-17 on Saturday, 8 August 1942, at 3:00 PM. Then follow the Minutes of the above Emergency Meeting dated 8 August 1942 and then follows the Certificate, executed by Officers and Brethren of Lodge Star in the East with the American Vice Consul in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in regard to the loss of the Charter.

This data has been herein reproduced and written down, in order that those who follow in carrying on the activities of Lodge Star in the East will have a better understanding and possibly additional information which they in turn may pass on to those that come after them.

May the bright lights of Freemasonry never grow dim and shine onward and upward for all those throughout the world who seek the same in the Craft.

Fraternally and sincerely yours,

Martin M. Coff


Martin M. Coff
Hq. Eighth U. S. Army
P. M. Section, APO 343, c/o PM
San Francisco, Cal.