This post is the twelfth 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 Maryland Room, the reading room for Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Maryland. For other featured oral histories, see this page.
Happy Birthday, John Maki!
John M. Maki (April 19, 1909 – December 7, 2006) was interviewed by Marlene Mayo, Professor of Japanese History at the University of Maryland, on November 3, 1979. Maki was born in Tacoma, Washington to Japanese parents who had immigrated to the U.S. He was raised, and eventually adopted by, an American family, the McGilvreys. He received his B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from the University of Washington in 1932 and 1936, respectively. In 1936, he was awarded a fellowship to study in Japan sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he stayed until 1939. From 1939-1942, he taught at the University of Washington.
One of few Americans with knowledge of Japanese or Japanese culture at the time, he was invited to serve with the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service of the Federal Communications Commission. From there, he worked in the Office of War Information (OWI) on psychological warfare planning. In the interview, Maki spends considerable time reflecting on the activities at OWI, including how to talk about the Emperor in broadcasts. In 1945, Maki was recruited to work as a civilian in the Government Section in GHQ/SCAP during the Occupation to assist with writing the postwar Japanese Constitution. When he arrived in Japan, the first draft of the new constitution had already been completed. He was still able to make comments, but quickly moved on to reviewing appeal applications from Japanese who were targeted to be purged, and reviewing and making recommendations for changes to the Japanese government ministries.
After his stint in Japan from February to August 1946, he went on to receive his Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard. He taught at the University of Washington from 1948 to 1966 and at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst from 1966 to 1980. He authored and translated many books about Japanese government and politics, and in 1983, Maki was awarded the Third Class Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Emperor of Japan for his contributions.