Daily Archives: 27 June 2022

Rehabilitating Japanese War Veterans

From Faces Along the Way, by Ferdinand Micklautz (Miko Oriental Art and Publishing, 2010), pp. 243-244:

The war had ended in 1945, and this was 1948. Japan had surrendered and we were rebuilding it to be an anti-war, pacifist nation. (It was no accident that the American lady chosen to tutor Crown Prince Akihito was a Quaker.) The victors didn’t mind feeding women and children and the aged. But the idea of turning around and helping the very men they’d been trying to kill, and who had been trying to kill them, was utter anathema. It was so much so, that no one dared to make a public case for the Japanese war veterans.

The fact was, however, that of all Japanese in need of rehabilitation and assistance, the war veterans made up by far the largest group. There were multitudes of them, nationwide, from one end of Japan to the other, and … the luckier ones were buried in remote and inadequate hospitals. The rest of them were on the streets, begging and getting along as best they could.

I may have been the first person in Japan to address this issue publicly. In the course of setting up our rehabilitation program, I held several press conferences, and at one of them, a courageous Japanese reporter asked me if the services being developed nationally would also be available to the war wounded who had been in the military. The MacArthur/SCAP attitude towards Japan’s war veterans was too well known, and so the reporter didn’t dare use the term “veterans”; instead, he danced around it very carefully.

Not me. “Veterans,” I stated, and all over the room eyes went wide, “will be treated just the same as civilians or anybody in need. There will be no discrimination at all.” There was a ripple of surprise, mostly silent but I could see it in their faces. Then the shock of hearing the word “veterans” used in public passed, and in its place was relief and approval.

Back at [Public Health & Welfare] there was a bit of discussion about what I had said, but none of it was outright criticism and I wasn’t slapped down for having broken the unofficial ban and speaking as I had. The word traveled through Japan that veterans, too, would be eligible for rehabilitation, and that barrier came down.

Available by print-on-demand from Lulu.com. Newly available in Japanese translation.

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Filed under economics, Japan, labor, military, nationalism, U.S., war