Archive for Thursday, February 20, 1992


February 20, 1992


A U.S. military intelligence report rediscovered by a retired Kansas University history professor provides evidence that the Japanese Army operated an extensive brothel network during World War II.

"I somehow recalled that I still had this report after half a century. I just pulled it out," Grant Goodman, a Japanese scholar and translator of Japanese Army documents during the war, said Tuesday in an interview.

Goodman's memory was jogged by a string of news stories in which Japan apologized for the army's role in procuring tens of thousands of Asian prostitutes for battlefront brothels.

The government had long claimed private Japanese entities were responsible for a wartime prostitution operation that brought so-called "comfort girls" from Japan, Korea, China and Southeast Asia to "houses of relaxation" to provide sexual service for Japanese soldiers and the army's civilian employees.

When Goodman found the report, "Amenities in the Japanese Armed Forces," dated Nov. 15, 1945, he called a friend with a Japanese news service in Washington, D.C. The story caused a sensation this month when reported in Japan. Goodman made newspaper headlines and the morning news shows there.

"THE RESULT has been that I've received all sorts of telephone calls and faxes," he said. "I had calls from people asking, `Do you have other documents? Can you get us more documents? Can you write a book about this?'"

The intelligence report, originally classified as "restricted," details the business operation, discipline, hygiene, management and regulations of the brothels operated in Asian territory that was occupied by Japan during the war.

"Upon rereading this report, what particularly impressed me was the remarkable organizational skills which the Japanese devoted to these facilities," he said. "These are skills which seem very much in evidence today in Japan's economic success."

Goodman said he kept a copy of the report as a momento of the type of work he did as a translator. Remarkably, he said, the report appears to be one of a kind.

"IT SEEMS underline that word that I'm the only one in the world who has that document. I don't believe that. It must exist somewhere," Goodman said.

"It's an American document, but nobody can find it in the National Archives. As far as the Japanese in Japan are concerned, they say they can't find it in Japan."

He said the Allies interviewed POWs about the brothels as part of a broad study of morale among the enemy's troops. The report touched on the availability of entertainment, newspapers, movies and the quality of mail service. "Brothels were simply one part of that," he said.

Goodman said recent accounts of the wartime brothels surprised some Japanese. He said the were shocked because Japanese have been extremely reluctant to examine Japan's role in World War II.

"There are these post-war generations that know nothing about World War II and the activities of the Japanese armed forces," he said. "It's not taught in the schools, and only a small number of Japanese scholars are working on anything that relates unfavorably on Japanese wartime or pre-war history."

GOODMAN SAID Japanese government officials are concerned about the impact of publicity about the brothels.

Part of the reason is the tremendous economic success Japan has had throughout Asia the same region from which prostitutes were recruited, he said.

"They are very nervous about bringing back into public view wartime activities that . . . could theoretically create some problems for their economic activities," he said. "Secondly, they are worried about . . . women filing suit in Japanese courts to try to get some kind of compensation for the enforced service."

Although most of the women likely volunteered to serve as prostitutes, Goodman said, others were certainly brought to the war zone through force or under false pretenses.

"The story that all these people were forced to do this I think is questionable," he said. "The girls didn't know what they were getting into in many cases. And once you're shipped off to New Guinea and you're in a jungle somewhere in a brothel, what do you do?"

GOODMAN SAID the intelligence report and other documents confiscated by the Allies after Japan's defeat in 1945 indicated the Japanese government's official involvement dated to 1938.

Between 100,000 to 200,000 women might have been involved in the Japanese military's prostitution operation during that eight-year period, Goodman said.

Goodman said he had mixed feelings about what the Japanese did.

"In one sense, it was a very realistic attempt to meet the needs of the Japanese armed forces," he said. "As far as the women involved are concerned, of couse it's very demeaning and very unfortunate for them."

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