Man Finds Birth Mother and Uncovers His Family’s Unbelievable Past

Air Force Col. Bruce Hollywood always knew he’d been adopted. His Asian features clearly didn’t come from his parents, who were of European descent, and, in fact, his parents had always been upfront with him about having adopted him back in 1960’s Japan.

But, despite encouragement from his adoptive mother, he had never felt the desire to meet his biological parents.

That all changed after one single event he experienced in his mid-forties; an event which would trigger a globe-crossing search and lead the way to discoveries he’d never dared to imagine.

This is Air Force Col. Bruce Hollywood’s story – and if it didn’t really happen, you would probably say it was unrealistic.

The Heart Attack

Our story has a frightening beginning.

One early morning in 2005, Air Force Col. Bruce Hollywood was getting out of his car in the Pentagon parking lot, like he did every morning, when suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in his chest. As he fell to the ground, he found himself thinking “this is where it ends.”

As he lay on the ambulance’s stretcher, its sirens blaring as it pushed its way through traffic towards the hospital, Bruce realized he only had two regrets in life.

The first was that he wouldn’t be able to help his son get into college. But the second was that he never made the effort to speak to – and thank – the Japanese woman who gave birth to him, and quickly thereafter give him away for adoption.

Never Gave It Much Thought

Col. Bruce Hollywood had been adopted as a baby by an American couple stationed in Japan in the early 1960s. The two believed they were able to offer him a better life than his mother would have been able to, and Bruce had grown up as their son without spending too much time thinking about his biological parents.

Before his heart attack, he said he had never felt like something was missing – his parents were amazing, and he never felt like he needed to reflect on his adoption.

A Long Path Ahead

“I always knew I was adopted because I had Asian features and [my father] was an Irishman and [my mother] was a Norwegian lady,” Bruce said in an interview for The Washington Post.

“They always told me, ‘…We picked you out special. So you’re even more special than everyone else,'” he reminisced.

Still, following his heart attack, he felt like he should get in touch with his birth mother. This, however, would prove to be more difficult than he had first thought.

Being Discreet

As soon as Bruce recovered from his heart attack, he set out to look for his birth mother.

He carefully planned how he would approach her, wanting to be discreet, thinking she may have never told anyone she had given birth to a son.

All he wanted to do was tell her how great his life had turned out, and to show her gratitude for bringing him into the world.

He wanted to write “I lived the best life ever. I’m a colonel in the United States Air Force. I’ve got beautiful children. Life is really good.”

But, as the saying goes, “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans,” and Bruce’s actual encounter with his mother was very different from how he’d planned it.

Coming Up Empty Handed

At first, Bruce turned to the Japanese Embassy, providing them with what little information he had about his birth mother – but they were unable to help him.

The United States Embassy in Tokyo was stumped, too, and after he hired a private detective who returned empty handed, Bruce was just about ready to give up.

“I thought, ‘You know what, I’ve tried. I’ve made all the effort that I can make. It’s just unfortunate,’” Bruce told The Washington Post.

But a chance encounter at an airport bar would soon change all that.

A Chance Encounter

A few months after the private eye told Bruce there’s nothing he could do, Bruce found himself at Dulles International Airport, on a flight to Germany for a military conference.

While he waited for his flight, he sat down at a bar at the terminal. Sitting across from him was another military man, going to the same conference… but their similarities didn’t end there. The man was Admiral Harry Harris – whose mother was also Japanese. The two started talking, and quickly realized they had a lot in common.

A Glimmer of Hope

The man was Adm. Harry Harris, whose mother was Japanese. (Today, he is commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific and has been nominated to be ambassador to South Korea.) They started sharing stories.

“I told him the story about having the heart attack and wishing I could find my mother. And he said, ‘Bruce, I can help you.’ And I said, ‘You know what, you’re an admiral and all, but you can’t. I’ve been to the embassy. I’ve tried this, and you just can’t help any.’ ” He said: “You know, Bruce, seriously, I can help.”

A Fateful Phone Call

Hollywood gave Admiral Harris what little information he had, and the two men went on their way.

Bruce didn’t foster any serious expectations, but ten days later, as he was sitting at his desk in the Pentagon, he received a phone call.

On the other end of the line was someone from the Japanese Embassy.

“Colonel Hollywood,” Bruce recalled the voice said. “We’re really pleased to tell you that we found your mother, Nobue Ouchi.”

“I said, ‘Oh my gosh, this is wonderful. You’ve got to help me start writing this letter. And I want it to be accurate, and I want it to be culturally sensitive. And you’ve got to help me.’ ”

But the Japanese Embassy employee had other plans.

Change of Plans

To Bruce’s surprise, the Embassy employee had other plans.

“There’s not going to be a letter,” he said.” She’s going to call you at this phone number in 10 minutes, and she doesn’t speak English. Good luck!”

Bruce was a military man, and was used to working under pressure, but he’d never felt so anxious in his life. He sent out a few frantic emails, and, thankfully, was able to find someone who could interpret for him on a conference call.

As soon as he’d made the required arrangements, the phone rang – and on the other end of the line was his mother, crying.

Bruce started telling her everything he wanted to say – how happy he was to hear from her, and how grateful he was – but then she she said “I’m sorry, I don’t speak English.”

What Are the Odds

Bruce Hollywood listened to his mother and the interpreter over the phone’s receiver. He couldn’t understand what they were saying in Japanese, but he could quite easily make out his mother’s sobs.

At some point, it all became too much for Hollywood.

“I said, ‘Stop, stop, stop. You’ve got to tell me what’s going on,’” he recalled. The interpreter explained.

“Well, tomorrow is your mother’s 65th birthday, and the birthday present that she dreamed of her whole life is that you would come back to her.”

Room Only for Him in Her Heart

The interpreter continued her simultaneous translation.

She explained that Bruce’s mother never married “because she said in her heart there was only room for one man. And it was you, and she knew you would be back.”

But the surprises didn’t end there.

The interpreter went on to explain that his mother owned and ran her own restaurant – and that she had named it Bruce.

“I thought, ‘This is either the most incredible story I’ve ever heard or this woman is crazy, and these things aren’t true,’” Bruce said.

Solidarity Between Mothers

So how did Nobue know her baby’s name was Bruce?

As it turns out, Bruce’s adoptive mother visited Nobue before their family returned to America, and gave her a photo of her biological son. She told her they had decided to name him Bruce, and promised Nobue they would give him the best life they could.

Based on this single photo and the name Bruce’s adoptive mother had given her, Nobue decided to name the restaurant she opened many years down the line after her son.

Nobue told Bruce she wanted to come visit him.

But Bruce wouldn’t hear of it.

“I said, ‘No, it’s my mother. I will go see her.’ ”

Nobue’s Story

Ten days after the first phone call between them, Bruce landed in Shizouka, Japan – his mother’s home town.

It turns out that his fears had been for naught; everything she had told him, down to the restaurant’s name, was true.

It was there that Nobue told Bruce the story of his birth – and adoption.

Nobue had gotten pregnant with Bruce after a romance with an American soldier from South Carolina. The two had planned on getting married, but the man had been shipped back to the States before their paperwork had gone through. He promised he would call right away, but didn’t – and when Nobue finally received a call from him, months later, she didn’t want anything to do with him, thinking he couldn’t be trusted. As a result, he never knew she was pregnant.

Giving Bruce Up for Adoption

While Nobue’s father, a fisherman, offered to support her and her newborn child, Nobue knew that a mixed-race child in Japan would find life quite difficult. Instead, she decided to give him up for adoption. Edward and Eleanor Hollywood, both in stationed by the United States Air Force in Japan, decided to adopt him.

As Nobue told her story, she showed Bruce the old photograph his adoptive mother, Eleanor, had given her all those years ago.

Not Letting Him Out of Her Sight

When Bruce arrived on his first visit, Nobue felt like she had to make up for all of those decades in which she didn’t have the chance to see him.

On his first evening there, he went out for a run – only to find his birth mother frantic with worry upon his return.

Instead of distressing her, he decided to get up for his run extra-early the next morning.

At 5 a.m., he quietly snuck downstairs – only to find Nobue waiting for him, wearing a track suit.

Bruce appreciated her enthusiasm, and told her that they’ll go for a walk together.

“No, you run,” she said. To keep up with him, she rode a bicycle behind him – a routine that quickly turned into their morning ritual during his visits.

Making Up for Lost Time

Over the next three years, Bruce visited Japan often – and Nobue also visited him in Washington.

He started studying Japanese, and his mother, in turn, began taking English lessons.

In the short time they’d known each other, Bruce and Nobue had become incredibly close.

Then, three years after they were reunited, in 2009, Nobue died of a heart attack.

Despite their short time together, however, their reunion had a lasting effect on Bruce.

It had changed something deep in his identity.

A New Identity

Finding his mother meant more than just personal closure for Bruce.

His connection with the woman who had given birth to him gave him an entirely new sense of identity, as a Japanese American.

While he was growing up, his Japanese roots didn’t mean much to him, but today, he is extremely active in the Japanese American community.

He serves on the boards of the Japanese American Veterans Association and the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in World War II – but his identity has become much more than this.

A Proud Heritage

“The last 12 years, I finally became a Japanese American,” Bruce said, looking back at his experience with his birth mother. “Before that I had no Japanese American identity. I just had Japanese American features. … But as I got integrated in this community, I ended up becoming incredibly proud of this heritage that I had.

I’ve got to tell you if I didn’t live it, I almost wouldn’t believe it.”

Bruce’s Father

While Bruce’s adoptive parents had documentation and some sort of memory regarding his birth mother, his American father was a completely different story.

Not only did Bruce have no way of tracking him down, he didn’t feel a need to track him down, either.

He was grateful for his relationship with Nobue Ouchi, his mother, and that was enough for him – especially considering how his biological father had disappeared, despite promising to remain faithful to her.

But that would all change due to a set of unlikely events.

The Last She Heard of Him

The last Nobue saw of Bruce’s father was when he was stationed in Japan in 1959.

The two had fallen in love and talked about getting married, but when he was ordered to return to the U.S., their relationship was cut short.

He had promised to call her as soon as he got back, but Nobue only received a call from him months later – and refused to take the call, saying she couldn’t trust him. It was only around this time that Nobue had discovered she was pregnant, and the American father of her child never knew he was about to become a father.

That was the last time Nobue had heard from him.

A Lead

After they were finally reunited, Nobue gave Bruce a small piece of paper with two words written on it in capital letters: LOIS BAZAL.

She said it was his father’s name, in case he ever wanted to find him.

Bruce took the note, but did not intend to contact a man who didn’t even know he existed, and who had, for all that he knew, abandoned his mother.

Still, out of curiosity, he checked the available military records, even going as far as looking for a Louis Bazal instead of Lois Bazal, but his searches didn’t bring up any results.

DNA Testing

A few years passed, and Bruce became curious about his Caucasian ancestry.

He decided to get his DNA profiled with the help of – and the result didn’t surprise him. One side of his genetic profile was East Asian, while the other originated in Western European countries like Ireland and Spain.

But as Bruce continued to read his results, a notification popped up in the site.

It said “There is a %100 chance this person is your cousin” – and that person’s last name was Bazar – merely one letter off from the name his mother had given him.

Rs and Ls

As Bruce clicked through the results, he suddenly understood.

The Japanese often confuse the letters R and L, and as a result, his mother had misspelled his biological father’s family name.

Despite his previous misgivings, Bruce decided to reach out to the person on the site – and asked if they had a relative who had served in Japan in the ’50s.

The woman who responded to him said that yes, there was. An uncle.

“I said, ‘Okay, I think that’s my father,’” Bruce recounted.

Not a Dead End

The woman paused for a second, and then informed Bruce that that uncle had passed away.

“But he has a son,” she continued.

It didn’t take long for the woman to give Bruce her uncle’s son’s number, and as soon as he got it, he called.

But there was no answer – and Bruce couldn’t leave a message.

But a few minutes later, Bruce’s phone rang – and the person on the other end of the line identified himself as Lois Bazar.

Lois Bazar Junior.

An Unbelievable Story

“Was your father named Louis Bazar?” Bruce asked as soon as he introduced himself.

“Yes,” the man replied. “He was Louis Sr., and I’m Louis Jr.”

“I have a story to tell you,” Bruce said, “and you might not believe it.”

But after Bruce told Louis Jr. about his life, Louis told him something that surprised him.

Louis Jr. was older than Bruce – born before Sr. had travelled to Japan.

Could the reason Bruce’s father hadn’t contacted his mother be because he was already married?

Louis and Nobue’s Story

Louis Jr. then went on to tell Bruce that his mother had died at childbirth.

By the time Louis Sr. was stationed in Japan, he was a widower – and not, as Bruce had feared, misleading his mother.

Bruce was both sad for Louis – but also relieved. His father had not been a cheat.

But then, if that was the case, why had it taken Louis Sr. so long to contact Nobue after he’d returned home?

The time it took him to get back to her was what convinced Bruce’s mother Louis couldn’t be trusted, after all.

An Explanation

Bruce seemed to have an explanation.

“I’m sure it was a couple of things. That he was trying to prepare this South Carolina family for bringing a Japanese national over. Then he also, I’m sure, was being reacquainted with his son.”

But after he was rejected by Nobue, Louis Sr. decided to give up on love. His first wife passed away, and he was rejected by the second woman he had allowed himself to open up to – especially considering his childhood, which, Louis Jr. informed Bruce, was not an easy one.

A Tough Life

Bruce Sr. had lost both his parents at a young age, and his sister, who had taken care of him, was murdered. After the death of his own wife, he had never remarried.

“I think he had this thing that every woman in his life that he cared about, he lost,” Louis Jr. said. “So he never got close to anyone. He never brought anyone home.”

Still, it seemed like Louis Sr. hadn’t grown cold.

As he was lying on his deathbed in 2005, he gave his son a photo album, containing pages upon pages of photos of a young Japanese woman.

Louis Sr. wouldn’t talk about her, but she was clearly important to him.

Putting the Pieces Together

After hearing Bruce’s story, Louis Jr. realized who the woman in the album was.

She was Nobue, who had, just like his father, never remarried.

It seemed that even though Louis Sr. and Nobue couldn’t be together, they couldn’t be with anyone else, either – and had decided to dedicate their lives to their children – each in their own way.

A Family, Reunited

Louis Bazar Jr. was not expecting a phone call from a long lost, unheard of half-brother.

Still, he and Bruce shared an undeniable connection – and when Bruce decided to ask him something, Louis had no doubt in his mind about his answer.

Over the phone, after they’ve put the pieces of their parents’ story together, Bruce paused for a moment, and then asked “How would you like to have a younger brother?”

Louis smiled, and without hesitation replied:

“I always wanted a sibling.”