This post is the eighth in a series featuring interviews from the Marlene J. Mayo Oral Histories. Currently, 29 of the oral history transcripts are available online. The remainder are available onsite in the Prange Collection. For other featured oral histories, see this page.
Today, August 31, is William Kenneth Bunce‘s birthday!
William Kenneth Bunce (August 31,1907 – July 23, 2008) was interviewed by Marlene Mayo, then Professor of History at the University of Maryland, on March 18, 1980. He was the individual primarily responsible for the formulation of the Shinto Directive, which was issued by the Japanese government in December 1945. According to Bunce, his experience teaching in a Japanese high school from 1936 to 1939 informed his work as Chief of the Religious and Cultural Resources Division during the Occupation. He saw first-hand how, “…Japanese emperor worship was inculcated into students in the Japanese education system and the degree of reverence extended to the Emperor and to all things pertaining to the Emperor, most notably the Imperial Rescript on Education and the Emperor’s portrait, formed a reasonably good background for my approach to these problems when I served in the Occupation.” (p.3 of the transcript)
Bunce was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Navy in 1943 and for nine months studied at the Navy School of Military Government at Columbia University. He arrived in Japan in mid-September 1945 and was assigned to the Civil Information and Education Section/Education, Religion, and Arts & Monuments Division. His work involved demilitarizing Japan’s cultural, religious, social, and academic institutions. After the Occupation, Bunce worked in the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. When he returned to the U.S., he continued to work in government until he retired in 1971.
The transcript of the interview with Bunce is available here.