The Prange Collection is currently processing the Marlene J. Mayo Oral Histories. Undergraduate student interns assist with this effort. As part of the internship, the students are required to write a research paper. Though the paper does not have to be related to the Occupation period, often the students are inspired by the Mayo Oral Histories and choose to write about this time period. In Spring Semester 2016, two interns, Michelle Glazer and Amina Manguera, worked in the Prange Collection. Below, they reflect on their experience and discuss their research papers.
Arriving at the Gordon W. Prange Collection, I am sad to say I knew little about the Allied Occupation of Japan. However, once I began reading the transcripts and listening to the audio of the Mayo Oral Histories, I started to become intrigued by the personal experience of those associated with the occupation. For the internship, I was tasked to write the biographies for the interviewees with the last names J through Z. When I got to W, something stood out to me.
I read and listened to the Carrington Williams interview. Williams was a defense lawyer during the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. As I listened to him talk about his experience, I realized he was discussing defending Japanese war criminals. I was intrigued. What prompted Americans to defend Japanese war criminals when Japan was considered the “enemy” during World War Two? And not only defend them, but defend them with passion, truly believing many of the men to be innocent of the charges against them?
I told Dr. Marlene Mayo about my interest and she suggested I read the book Defending the Enemy: Justice for the WWII Japanese War Criminals. The book is a memoir written by Elaine Fischel, the defense secretary for William Logan and John Brannon. Fischel’s memoir led me to John Brannon’s papers available online through Georgetown University. Looking at her memoir, his letters, and the oral histories, I began to try and understand Americans working for the defense side during the trial.
Heavily based off research from primary source material, my paper argues that many of the American defense lawyers felt that working on the defense team was part of their role in democratizing Japan and helping the occupation efforts. The lawyers employed the Anglo-Saxon judicial way in order to uphold American ideals and showcase the functionality of the democratic system. By doing do, they approached the defense using the concepts of “justice is blind” and “innocent until proven guilty.” Approaching the trials with this mentality led Americans to work passionately and diligently for the defense team, allowing them to view the defendants no longer as the “enemy” but instead as the “client”, and thus as individual humans worthy of justice.
For my internship research paper, I evaluated the roles of women’s rights activists, Ichikawa Fusae and Beate Sirota, and General Douglas MacArthur in the movement to secure the right to vote and, more generally, to secure equal rights for women in Japan during the Occupation. I chose this topic because I was originally interested in Sirota’s influence on the Constitution and from there I expanded my research on women’s equality and the right to vote. My primary sources included the articles that Sirota wrote for the Constitution and her oral history, the Postdam Declaration, microfilm of the Nippon Times from 1945, and the Meiji Constitution. When I first started looking at the documents, I thought General MacArthur had the largest role in the push for gender equality because many secondary sources connected him and the Constitution with names like “MacArthur’s Constitution”. As I continued my research, my views changed and I started to lean toward the women who advocated for the vote and the important role Sirota played on the drafting subcommittee. MacArthur played a crucial role, as well, because of the opportunity he created for Japan to draft their own Constitution and then taking over the drafting process when they failed to meet his expectations. While all roles were significant, my paper focuses on which role was the determining factor for the vote and equality and I believe it’s the women, Fusae and Sirota.