Altered States: The United States and Japan since the Occupation

By Michael Schaller | Go to book overview
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8
THE STRUGGLE TO REVISE THE SECURITY TREATY, 1957-60

IN 1957, Hollywood released a film version of Sayonara, James Michener best-selling novel about American military personnel in Japan during the Korean War. Starring Marlon Brando as air force pilot Lloyd Gruver, the story centered on the redemptive power of love between Japanese women and American soldiers. One of the protagonists, Joe Kelly, commits suicide along with his bride when his callous superior officer threatens to transfer him out of the country. In Gruver's case, a submissive "golden skinned" lover, along with a dose of Japanese culture, transform him from a coarse bigot to a champion of interracial harmony. 1

During the Occupation, American military authorities discouraged soldiers from marrying Japanese women, although about 6,000 did so anyway. It required a special act of Congress, the War Brides Act of 1945, to permit Asian wives and children of military personnel to enter the United States. Liaisons with American soldiers were as often a source of shame and resentment among Japanese as the "healing" process described by Michener. A notorious example of conflict caused by a soldier's treatment of a Japanese woman occurred on January 30, 1957, when Army Specialist 3/C William S. Girard shot to death a woman collecting brass scrap on an American firing range in central Japan.

Japanese and American witnesses confirmed the "facts" of the case. Girard had been participating in a small-unit firing exercise at Camp Weir. About two dozen Japanese scrap collectors had followed the American unit to gather expended brass shell casings. During a break, Girard and another soldier were told to guard a machine gun. While doing so, Girard tossed several shell casings in the direction of the scavengers and motioned

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