Michael Bosack Profile picture
Sep 1, 2018 10 tweets 7 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
(Thread) Earlier, I shared an old letter my grandpa wrote about the occupation of #Japan. The response was so overwhelming I searched for (& found) an interview with my grandma on the same subject.

Today, on the anniversary of the formal end of #WWII, I’ll share some excerpts:
(2/9) Some background on my grandmother first:
・Born/raised in Yokohama
・Before the war, family was well-to-do merchants, but the imperial gov’t took all their wealth for the war effort
・English speaker from young age
・Got a job as a switchboard operator for Occupation forces
(3/9) More background:
・”Met” my grandfather when he made a call through her switchboard
・Started their life together overcoming the legal & social taboos of their love
・She preferred to tell stories rather than write them down, so I transcribed our conversation 13 years ago
(4/9) One question was what she expected from the occupation.

Her answer surprised me because with the amount of Japanese gov’t propaganda there was about how terrible the occupation would be, I expected fear—instead, the answer showed her weariness of the war.
(5/9) I asked what she’d been told about the occupiers.

Here, she notes that the military trained everyone (women, children, young, old) to fight—which was in line with the policy of 玉砕 (death without surrender). To know how devastating that was, look at the Battle of Okinawa.
(6/9) I asked about the hardest part of the occupation.

Her reminiscences illustrate why providing food & improving quality of life are such critical components of postwar occupations.

As MacArthur once wrote in a cable to DC: “Give me bread or give me bullets.”
(7/9) Her remarks about occupation-reform gender equality stood out.

PM Abe criticizes the GHQ-drafted constitution written by 素人 (amateurs), but the Jpn proposal made no mention of women’s rights or most other features from the GHQ version that shaped postwar Japanese society
(8/9) I asked my grandmother why the occupation was successful from her perspective.

Her response reminds us that the human factor can never be ignored or discredited—after all, that component far outlives policy.
(9/9) I’ll end with my favorite part: I asked about her first interactions with Americans during the occupation. Instead, her mind went straight to this memory from the war.

Remember, food was scarce—even for Japanese—so compassion came with self-sacrifice.

A powerful example.
[Note: my grandma did not have a camera during or immediately after the war. So, most here are curated photos from Gaetano Faillace, GEN MacArthur’s personal photographer who captured postwar Tokyo & Yokohama. He was the one who took the iconic photo of Mac and Emperor Hirohito.]

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More from @MikeBosack

Aug 14, 2018
(Thread) Every year around August 15th I dust off one of my most prized possessions: an old letter my grandfather wrote me answering my questions about his experiences in the postwar occupation of Japan.

Today, on the 73rd anniversary of V-J day, I’d like to share some excerpts
(2/9) Some background on my grandpa first:
・Forged his birth certificate & enlisted at 16
・Spent his 1st year of service as an Army boxer (story for another day)
・Landed on D-Day
・Sent to PI for mop-up fighting before V-J day
・Among the 1st to arrive for the occupation
(3/9) More background:
・Was present for the occupation until heading off to the Korean War. Returned to Japan afterwards.
・”Met” my Japanese grandmother making a call—she was a switchboard operator. Loved her voice so he tracked her down (again, a story for another day)
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