Document proving WWII military sex slaves now at home in KU library
Translated and saved by longtime KU professor, ‘Research Report No. 120’ credited with prompting Japan’s apology to 'comfort women'
Grant Goodman, a longtime Kansas University history professor, naturally had many personal papers.
KU’s Spencer Research Library now houses 9 linear feet of them, divided among numerous boxes, gathered from Goodman’s home after his death in 2014.
But one particularly sensitive document was added to the library’s collection later, after being retrieved from Goodman’s safety deposit box: “Research Report No. 120: Amenities in the Japanese Armed Forces.”
The 1945 report proves Japan had government-controlled brothels — some featuring enslaved “comfort girls” from across Asia — specifically for its military men’s pleasure during World War II.
Goodman himself translated it as a 20-year-old second lieutenant in the Army’s Military Intelligence Service, and what he did with the document decades later is credited with contributing to Japan’s 1993 formal apology to former prostitutes now known as “comfort women.” Just last month, Japan for the first time pledged government money — $8.3 million — to a foundation supporting the few remaining sex slaves from Korea, now in their 80s and 90s.
Goodman wrote of translating the document and eventually sharing it with the world in the article, “My Own Gaiatsu: A Document from 1945 Provides Proof,” which was printed in the 2001 book, “Legacies of the Comfort Women of World War II.”
“I am, of course, proud of the crucial role that my own ‘Revelation’ of the contents of ATIS (Allied Translator and Interpreter Section) Research Report No. 120 played in bringing about the Japanese prime minister’s acceptance of responsibility for the so-called ‘comfort women,'” Goodman wrote. “However, as in so many analogous instances, that the Japanese government only made its admission and evidenced contrition after a foreigner provided incontrovertible evidence is truly tragic.”
Goodman’s interest in Asia started as a child in Cleveland, where he collected stamps from all over the world and read voraciously, according to his obituary. After high school graduation, he was eager to formally pursue Asian Studies and started college at Princeton University.
In 1943, at 18, Goodman enlisted in the Army after being accepted into a special training program for Military Intelligence Service Japanese Language Officers, according to “My Own Gaiatsu.” By spring 1945 he was in Manila, the Philippines, assigned to the headquarters of U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Goodman’s job was gathering and translating intelligence on, among other things, the morale of the Japanese military.
One contributing factor was their brothels.
Along with information about athletics, movies and canteen stores, what he learned about the brothels is outlined in detail in a bound document now archived at KU’s Spencer Research Library. Labeled “RESTRICTED,” the booklet is titled:
Allied Translator and Interpreter Section
Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers
Date. 15 Nov 45
AMENITIES IN THE JAPANESE ARMED FORCES
According to the report, a booklet outlining rules and regulations for brothels in Manila, issued by a Japanese lieutenant colonel, made clear that such “houses of relaxation” were strictly for soldiers and army civilian employees.
Permission from the army was required for everything from hiring new employees to setting prices, and prostitutes were forbidden to leave without army permission.
Employees got one holiday a month and had to pay their own expenses with one exception: “Medical expenses for illnesses arising from overwork will be met seventy percent by the managers and thirty percent by the hostesses. The diagnosis of an army physician will be the basis for determining whether any particular illness is due to overwork.”
Rules on hygiene were extensive.
Hostesses were required to be examined by an army physician once a week for venereal diseases and other illnesses, and forbidden from “entertaining” guests while sick.
Research Report No. 120 includes similar rules and other information about military brothels in Japan-occupied areas of the Philippines, Shanghai, Papua New Guinea, Burma and Indonesia.
There also are rate charts — indicating Korean prostitutes were more expensive than Chinese, and Japanese were more expensive than Korean — and various required forms for medical examinations and business operations.
A prisoner of war who had operated a military brothel in Burma said in the report that he and his wife purchased 22 Korean women from their families, with prices based on their looks, personalities and ages. Army authorities paid for the passage and medical treatment of the “comfort girls.”
“When a girl is able to repay the sum of money paid to her family, plus interest, she should be provided with a free return passage to Korea, and then considered free,” according to the report. “But owing to war conditions, no one of prisoner of war’s group had so far been allowed to leave.”
At the time he translated it, the material didn’t arouse any special interest since the U.S. military “knew well” the Japanese were operating brothels for their armed forces, Goodman wrote in “My Own Gaiatsu.”
“Speaking personally, however, at the then tender age of 20 and being a very innocent youth from a middle-class American family in Ohio, I found these data very informative,” he wrote. “Accordingly, after our report was published for circulation at GHQ, I managed to keep a copy and mailed it home with a request that my parents keep it for me until my return from overseas.”
Goodman didn’t dig it out again until 1992, when he read an Associated Press story about a Japanese university professor named Yoshimi Yoshiaki who’d found documents in Defense Agency archives showing the Japanese government’s direct involvement in the WWII brothels.
However, Goodman wrote, the Japanese government questioned the authenticity of Yoshimi’s documents.
Goodman found this surprising.
After all, he and other Americans had known about the brothels and comfort women, or ianfu in Japanese, nearly 50 years, and he still had his copy of Research Report No. 120.
“Its contents were extremely specific and left no doubt of Japanese government responsibility for the ianfu brothels,” he said. “The question became what my next move should be.”
Goodman FedEx’ed a copy of Research Report No. 120 to a Japanese journalist — one who’d interviewed him previously on another subject and called back to fact-check and verify quotes, Goodman wrote.
Miura Junji of the Kyodo News agency’s Washington Bureau ended up with the scoop of his career.
In February 1992, a story on the report’s contents broke on the front page of nearly every Japanese newspaper and TV news program.
“The report, made available to Kyodo News Service by Professor Grant Goodman, a former translator of Imperial Japanese Army documents and now a Japanese scholar at the University of Kansas, provides the most detailed account yet on the controversial brothel operation run and abetted by the Japanese military in occupied Asian territories,” the story said, according to an English translation on file at KU.
In response to the media reports, Goodman said he received appreciative calls and letters from friends and strangers alike. He also received a call from the consulate general of Japan in Kansas City and, after consulting with his attorney, agreed to meet a consulate representative and provide him a copy of the document, too.
Subsequent national and international pressure mounted on the Japanese government to admit its forceful recruitment of sex workers to service the Japanese military, Goodman wrote. In August 1993, the Japanese government issued a public admission and formal apology.
Historians say there were at least tens of thousands of Asian comfort women working in the Japanese military brothels.
The new comfort women settlement, announced in late December, has been called a landmark in the decades-long impasse on the issue between Japan and South Korea, where many women came from.
However, as recently as last year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies — pressured by the right wing to scrap the 1993 apology — agreed to again review the evidence that led to it, according to a New York Times article on the settlement.
In 2007 Abe also publicly denied there was evidence to indicate Japan coerced women to work in the brothels, after which the Journal-World interviewed Goodman for his reaction.
“I was disbelieving,” Goodman told the newspaper. “I thought, ‘This is cuckoo, why now? This issue has been buried for years.'”
“Gaiatsu” means “foreign pressure.”
In his article “My Own Gaiatsu,” Goodman bemoans that’s apparently what it took to spur the comfort women apology.
“Why no one could find the document that I had in my personal files for almost half a century is still a mystery to me,” Grant wrote, noting that all his unit’s reports are in the National Archives and published on microfiche as “Wartime Translations of Seized Japanese Documents.” “I can assume, however, that contemporary researchers had simply failed to look for ianfu data in a report entitled ‘Amenities in the Japanese Armed Forces.'”
He went on.
“Professor Yoshimi’s documentary proof was certainly as convincing, if not more so, as anything contained in the ATIS document. Yet his efforts were apparently not taken seriously by the highest levels of Japanese governance. And even after my data received worldwide publicity, it required another year and a half for the Japanese cabinet to make a full admission.”
After the war, Goodman completed his bachelor’s degree from Princeton in 1948 and went on to complete a master’s in Far Eastern studies and a doctorate in Japanese history from the University of Michigan, according to his obituary.
He joined the KU faculty in 1962, became a full professor in 1967 and co-directed KU’s Center for East Asian Studies. He retired in 1989.
Goodman died April 6, 2014, of lung cancer. He was 89.
Paul Stephen Lim, a KU English professor emeritus and friend and colleague of Goodman’s since 1962, was the executor of his estate.
Lim said Goodman’s attorney had advised him to keep Research Report No. 120 locked up. Lim indeed found it in Goodman’s safety deposit box after giving the majority of Goodman’s other papers to the Spencer Research Library.
Although Goodman had many stories from the war and his years researching and traveling overseas, he didn’t talk much about the comfort women until 1992, when he dug out that report, Lim said.
“Once this was made public he began to get a lot of phone calls from other scholars, from other publications,” Lim said. “There was a great deal of interest. And, of course, the Japanese were very, very upset.”