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2008-06-07

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Only a few interrogation reports on comfort women have so far been found at the US National Archives. One of there is Japanese Prisoners of War Interrogation Report No. 49 prepared by the Psychological Warfare Team attached US Army forces in India-Burma theater*1. The POWs interrogated in this case were 20 Korean women "employed" by a Japanese couple, who had been serving the 114th Infantry Regiment of the Japanese Imperial forces stationed in Burma. The women were captured by the US forces in August 1944.


Another document is Psychological Warfare: Interrogation Bulletin No.2 published by the South East Asia Translation and Interrogation Centre*2. This bulletin contains a section entitled "A Japanese Army Brothel in the Forward Area," which is also a summary of the interrogation conducted with the same Korean comfort women captured in Burma.


Why did a Psychological Warfare Team interrogate these comfort women? US Psychological Warfare Teams were formed for the purpose of gathering as much information as possible concerning the psychological conditions of Japanese soldiers in the battlefield. A particular function was to conduct thorough interrogations of Japanese POWs, to find out how they perceived the ongoing war and under what conditions they would decide to surrender. Such information was forwarded to the Foreign Moral Analysis Division in the Office of War Information, to be analyzed by such prominent psychologists and anthropologists as Ruth Benedict, Clyde Kluckhohn, and John Embree. These specialist opinions were taken into account in producing various propaganda leaflets designed to persuade Japanese soldiers and civilians to surrender rather than fight to the death. Tens of thousands of these leaflets were printed and scattered from the air throughout the Pacific region, in particular during the fiercest battle of World War II in the Okinawa islands.


It is presumed, therefore, that the interrogation of comfort women was not regarded as an important task for the US Psychological Warfare Teams. Such interrogation could provide only secondary information on the psychology of members of Japanese military forces. A few years ago I interviewed Grant Hirabayashi, one of the former nisei interpreters attached to the Psychological Warfare Team mentioned that only a brief interrogation was conducted, simply because these women had unexpectedly fallen into the hands of US forces. According to Hirabayashi, only a summary memorandum was recorded in this case, in contrast to normal POW interrogation procedures in which every question and answer was precisely recorded*3. In other words, information obtained from these women was not highly valued by the Americans.


(emphasis added)

Yuki Tanaka, "Japan's Comfort Women", Routledge, New York, 2002, pp. 84-85

*1:USNA Collection, RG 208, Entry 378m Box 446, "United States Office of War Information, Psychological Warfare Team Attached to US Army Forces India-Burma Theater, Japanese Prisoners of War Interrogation Report, No. 49." Three photos of these Korean women being interrogated by the Nissei members of the Psychological Warfare Team are also held at the US National Archives: their reference numbers are RG111, SC 267578, 267579, and 267580.

*2:USNA Collection, RG208, Entry 378, Box 446, "South-East Asia Translation and Interrogation Centre, Psychological Warfare, Interrogation Bulletin No. 2."

*3:This information was obtained during my interview with Grant Hirabayashi on March 21, 1996, in McLean, Virginia, USA.

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