Documentation of an Occupation
New Libraries Exhibit Showcases Publications in Post-WWII JapanBy Colleen Crowley M.Jour. ’19 | Image courtesy of the Gordon W. Prange Collection
On the pages of children’s books, heroic American GIs play catch with smiling Japanese children. Lifestyle magazines show the latest fashions from the West, and newspapers make no mention of war or the atomic bombs dropped just a short time earlier.
Neatly shelved, boxed and stacked on the climate-controlled fourth floor of Hornbake Library are hundreds of thousands of such documents published during the United States’ occupation of Japan after World War II.
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Gordon W. Prange Collection, a new exhibit, “Crossing the Divide: An American Dream Made in Occupied Japan, 1945–1952,” showcases approximately 60 examples of materials revealing the everyday of that extraordinary period. The exhibit also features personal photographs from former U.S. commanders who worked and raised their families in Japan until the end of the occupation in 1952.
Under Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) government, the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) monitored all Japanese civilian correspondence, including personal letters, phone calls, radio and printed publications from 1945 to 1949. All Japanese publishers were required to submit their pre-publication copies to the CCD for review.
The collection has a central irony, says Yukako Tatsumi, East Asian studies librarian and curator for the Prange collection, because censoring publications requires a wide net of historical record keeping.
“You have to collect materials to hide,” she says. “But that means making a whole comprehensive collection like this.”
Prange, a history professor at UMD prior to and following the war, served as chief historian for MacArthur during the occupation and recognized the historical value of the censored materials, which consisted of thousands of books, newspapers, magazines, photographs and posters.
When the CCD was dismantled in 1949, Prange requested ownership of these documents, plus the many CCD-approved materials, and spent two years shipping them to the university, where they sat in the basement of McKeldin Library for over a decade, until the university saw their potential. The Prange Collection is now the world’s most comprehensive archive of print publications from the Allied occupation of Japan.
The exhibit is on display through July in the Maryland Room at Hornbake Library, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
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