by Hanna Bobrowicz
The fortune cookie factory in San Francisco's Chinatown is often characterized as an emblem of the past-the last of its kind. Located in a crowded alleyway, tourists gather to see the meticulous folding of the tiny cookie, over and over again. The repetition, the machinery all provide an allure of the past. The fortune cookie factory continues to be a symbol of Chinatown, Chinese-American food and Chinese culture, despite decades-old research complicating the narrative of the fortune cookie by introducing its Japanese origins.
In the last ten years, a movement of cultural authenticity has persistently questioned America’s ‘melting pot’ ideology by unveiling the often uncomfortable history of the treatment of Asian immigrants in the United States. Fortune cookies carry such a history, with their origins connected to the Chinese exclusion act of 1882 and the internment of Japanese Americans in the Second World War. It is with a renewed cultural specificity, that the merging of Japanese-Chinese cultures within the fortune cookie must be reexamined. Is the fortune cookie an example of the melting pot in it’s best form?
The fortune cookie was first re-assessed with the 2008 publication of Jennifer Lee’s The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, a book that discusses the cultural and social impacts of American Chinese cuisine. In her analysis, Lee utilizes the research Yasuko Nakamachi published which situated the origins of the fortune cookie in Kyoto, Japan. These two publications encouraged a flurry of articles all of which analyzed the multicultural roots of the fortune cookie. Yet, when standing outside the Fortune Cookie factory or going to the Japanese tea garden, little has changed in explaining this fusion of cultures into one cookie.
The history of the fortune cookie is linked to the Asian immigrant experience in the United States. With the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act (the only law in US history to explicitly forbid a specific group of people to immigrate) those Chinese immigrants already living in San Francisco had to adapt to a non-threatening position in society. Lee explains that the act coordinates to the opening of Chinese laundries and restaurants, “cleaning and cooking were both women’s work, they were not threatening to white laborers.”
Similar behavior was adopted by Japanese immigrants when they arrived in San Francisco. They often worked in Chinese restaurants and somewhere along the way introduced the fortune cookie to Chinese-American cuisine. It was then that Japanese bakeries like Benkyodo and Fugetsue began to manufacture the cookie on a mass scale. Yet the Japanese influence on the fortune cookie deteriorated after President Roosevelt issued order 9066 and interned all citizens of Japanese descent 1942 following the Pearl Harbor attack. It was under these circumstances that many Chinese Americans began to incorporate and manufacture their own fortune cookies.
The cultural integration of Japanese-Chinese cultures in the creation of the fortune cookie was not a consenting collaboration of ideas, but rather due to the oppressive circumstances in which they lived. By facing discrimination and attempting to integrate into non-threating roles in American society both the fortune cookie and Chinese American cuisine flourished. But should the oppressive conditions or the multi-cultural persistence be remembered? Lee concluded that ‘the Japanese invented them, the Chinese popularized them, but the Americans ultimately consumed them.’ Whereas, Makoto Hagiwara’s great great grandson, Doug Dawkins, and owner of the Japanese Tea Garden, stated that ‘the fortune cookie wouldn’t have taken off if it hadn’t been popularized in such a wide venue.” In 2008 the consensus was to let this ugly history remain in the past and to instead celebrate the survival of the cookie.
Where does the fortune cookie fit in 2019? An age where history is being re-examined, hidden and uncomfortable truths are being spoken about on a national level-yet fortune cookie continue to be consumed, its history unquestioned. American culture is at a crossroads of transformation, the idealistic ‘melting pot’ is being problematized revealing an enlightened and socially conscious population. Therefore, Lee’s publication in 2008 was just the beginning of a larger and more extensive social discussion on race and cultural traditions in America.
It is this thought that Dawkins closing remarks remain relevant, ‘new cultures arise from old cultures in combinations.’ Despite the unfortunate history of this cultural merging, the fortune cookie represents America's past and future. Despite the cookie’s links to racial discrimination and exclusion, the Japanese and Chinese immigrants came to the United States and created an American hybrid. Therefore the fortune cookie represents a uniquely American evolution; by attempting to blend into American society, a new culture was created, unique to the Asian immigration experience. The fortune cookie continues to be served in both the Fortune Cookie Factory in Chinatown and the Japanese Tea Garden, representing the cookies story, complexities and all.
Lee, Jenny. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: an Adventure in the World of Chinese Food. Hachette Book Group, 2008.
Mao, Luming. Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie: The Making of Chinese American Rhetoric. University Press Colorado, 2006.
Racho, Suzie. Unwrapping the California Origins of the Fortune Cookie. The California Report, 2016.
Lee, Jennifer. Solving Wrapped in a Mystery Inside a Cookie. The New York Times, 2008.
by Nickii Wantakan Arcado
"Learning that the superstitious Japanese feared sharks, the ingenious Yanks painted the snout's of their P-40s to represent grinning heads of 'tiger sharks.' The A.V.G. pilots called themselves 'Tiger Sharks' but it was not long before the admiring Chinese troops changed it to 'Flying Tigers' the tiger being regarded as a minor deity in some sections of China."
-Source: WAR HEROES, No. 2| October-December 1942
On May 22, 1942, at his headquarters in Kunming China, General Claire L. Chennault called for a meeting with his American Volunteer Group known as the “Flying Tigers”. Chennault wanted to launch an attack against the Japanese Air Force in northern Thailand as at the time, due to its close proximity, the Japanese were using this strategic Thai base to attack Britain’s RAF (Royal Air Force) Base. Chennault proposed that the P-40s (the designated fighter planes of the flying tigers) would fly from Kunming to Loiwing, China, refuel, and continue to fly towards the airstrip at Nam Sang in Burma. From there, the planes would be within a close range of Chiang Mai, where they would stay overnight and strike early morning. General Chennault would not have predicted, however, that that would be the last time he saw one of his best pilots, William McGarry, for the next three years.
William “Black Mac” McGarry joined the Flying Tigers before the beginning of the U.S.’s involvement in the war in 1941. He first learned to pilot planes for the U.S. Army Air Forces at Selfridge Field (now known as Selfridge ANGB Airport), Michigan. With 10 victories under his belt, McGarry set off for the Chiang Mai mission on May 23, hoping to provide top cover for his other four military men. Check out more about the history behind the formation and operations of the Flying Tiger in another one of our articles here.
On March 24, 1942, while flying over Chiang Mai, Thailand to attack the Japanese Air Force, McGarry's plane was shot down by the anti-aircraft fire. Taking quick action after the attack, McGarry parachuted into a clearing over Chiang Mai jungle. After wandering the northern Thai jungles for three weeks, he was finally caught by the Thai police patrolling the area. McGarry was quickly turned over to the Japanese government, who imprisoned him under a compound in Thammasat University. What the Japanese didn’t know, however, that the compound was in the line of sight to the leader of the Free Thai Movement: Pridi Phanomyong.
Pridi Phanomyong and the Thai resistance movement was already well established in communications with Allied forces. They reported on Japanese movements, important logistical bases, weaponry stock, and in this situation, the names of people imprisoned by the Japanese. As the resistance movement was operating largely underground, maintaining cover was of utmost importance to Pridi. Thailand, on the surface, was to present itself in alliance to the Japanese, while the resistance movement worked to channel crucial information to its Western Allies. When Pridi became aware of McGarry’s imprisonment, he informed the Free Thai members that the coalition would do whatever they can to rescue him and bring him home.
Several years later, when Free Thai agents were fully established in Bangkok, Nicol Smith—the OSS officer who headed US-Thai operations—contacted Chennault to inform him of opportunities to have his soldiers infiltrate Thailand once again. Chennault asked Smith of the possibility of one of his pilots, McGarry, being alive. Within four days, Smith reported that McGarry was well and alive. McGarry was still kept inside the POW camp, but the guards were Thai police who were headed by General Adun Adundetcharat. Adundetchara, a resistance member himself, worked to keep POWs out of Japanese hands, all while coaching the captured soldiers how to respond while being interrogated by the Japanese. When asked if McGarry was well enough to attempt an escape, Thai resistance members quickly confirmed.
Left: Adun Adundetcharat, Source: Seripharb Magazine #2/2538
Right: Pridi Phanomyong, Source: Southeast Asia Global
Removing McGarry was a considerable risk, as the Japanese official regularly inspected the POW camps. After internally debating on multiple scenarios to fool Japanese officials, Adun and other resistance leaders came up with a risky scheme; report that McGarry died in captivity and smuggle his “lifeless” body out of the camp via a makeshift coffin. Adundetcharat assigned a Thai policeman to remove McGarry from his cell. Should the Japanese catch up with the policeman’s lies, Arun would disclaim that the order was forged and declare that he would take swift actions against the crime, further preserving his reputation with the Japanese while secretly working undercover for the Thai resistance movement. McGarry would then be taken to the Customs Department boat in the Gulf of Siam where he would board the OSS PBY Catalina to Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka).
McGarry was imprisoned for nearly three years before escaping with help from Free Thai Movement members. After the war, McGarry completed law school and, still holding on to his appreciation and honor, practiced law with U.S. military service. On April 13, 1990, he passed away from cancer at the Veterans Hospital in Loma Linda, California. McGarry’s release and exfiltration from Thailand is a great example of the operations of the Free Thai movement during World War II; creating a political and societal front of Japanese-Thai allyship while obscuring Free Thai and OSS activities underground. This strategy of duality would evidently allow both Thais and the Allies to win the war in Southeast Asia.
Ford, Daniel. Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and the American Volunteer Group in Burma and China, 1941-1942, www.warbirdforum.com/mcgarryx.htm.
Reynolds, E. Bruce. Thailand's secret war: OSS, SOE and the Free Thai underground during World War II. Cambridge university press, 2005.
Oliver, Myrna. “William McGarry, 74, of World War II Flying Tigers Fame.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 13 Apr. 1990, www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-04-13-mn-1245-story.html.
“OSS in Asia.” Central Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, 28 June 2008, www.cia.gov/library/publications/intelligence-history/oss/art09.htm.
Raschke, Phil, and Julie M. Collison. “76th Anniversary Salute to the Famous WWII 'Flying Tigers'.” The Suburban Times, 7 Oct. 2017, thesubtimes.com/2017/07/19/76th-anniversary-salute-to-the-famous-wwii-flying-tigers/.
Bigfella. “The Air Force Museum, Chiang Mai.” Ride Asia Motorcycle Forums, 8 Nov. 2015, www.rideasia.net/motorcycle-forum/threads/the-air-force-museum-chiang-mai.7486/.
by Kyle Catarata
As President Trump and First Lady Melania visited Japan last week as the first state guests in the Reiwa period, we decided to do a review of the history of the US-Japan relationship after WWII.
The San Francisco Peace Treaty (SFPT) was an agreement, made by 48 nations, that came into effect on April 28, 1952. This treaty was a bilateral decision that inevitably helped secure the enduring relationship between the United States and Japan. The treaty included the termination of the Imperial Japanese Empire, Allied occupation in Japan, and detailed territorial as well as postwar mandates Japan had to follow in order to conclude the nation’s gloomy past (citation). It was a way to create a form of international rules not through conflict and terror, but through peaceful dispute and deliberations.
After the conclusion of the Pacific Theater, America occupied Japan to rebuild the nation through assistance and instilling Democratic ideals. Though grateful for the latter economic miracle Japan gained thereafter, Japan was still disgruntled. Not because they lost the war, but due to the western occupation. Flashback to a half a century prior, even during the conclusion of the Edo period, when Tokugawa opened the ports to the west from the pressure coming from Matthew Perry. He did so conscientiously as he feared Japan’s occupation by Western imperialism like the other Asian countries. From the moment Japan opened its doors, the nation was in a hurry to demonstrate that Japan could become an equal power to the Western nations. He wanted to illustrate that Japan did not need coercion nor occupation, as seen in China by Britain, as Japan was well ahead of its neighboring countries. The SFPT helped to establish just that. It solidified and declared Japan’s sovereignty from America’s post-war quasi-occupation.
Out of the 51 participating countries that were included in the SFPT, only 48 signed and ratified the document, with a few countries creating their own bilateral agreements for reparations with Japan. These countries agreed with the SFPT included: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Syria, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam and Japan. Just by looking at the list, you may see a predominant Asian country that is missing from the signatory list – China, specifically the People’s Republic of China (China) and the Republic of China (known as Taiwan). Both Taiwan and China were excluded from the agreement as arguments arose regarding which nation is legitimate China. Thus, the Treaty of Taipei was created and signed into date hours before the SPFT. The Treaty of Taipei was later rescinded and by the Japan-China Joint Communique, signed in September 29, 1972.
However, China was never included in the peace treaty after the war. During the signing of the treaty, the Secretary of the United States at the time, John Foster Dulles expressed deep regret to not include the Chinese. “China suffered the longest and deepest from Japanese aggressions,” he stated.
In addition to the exclusion of the ROC and the PRC, Korea was not included in the creation of the SFPT. Likewise, North Korea was never included, South Korea was considered in the treaty, however John Dulles, former Secretary of State and co-author of the SFPT, decided that South Korea’s deep, rooted, history with Japan’s imperialistic history would greatly affect and disrupt the conference, moreover America’s plan in the Pacific.
From an educational stance, since the United States was going to war with the USSR, via Communist China and North Korea, the inclusion of both Koreas into the SFPT would simply make the war against Korea inconceivable as the country itself would be included into the peace treaty. Likewise, the inclusion of the PRC into the SFPT would be redundant as the United States would be fighting not only communist Russia and Korea, but China. By excluding China and Korea, as well as passing the SFPT, the United States was able to build an alliance with Japan, which would ultimately help them justify their involvement in the Korean War.
The San Francisco Peace Treaty was a way to not only recognize Japan’s sovereignty, rescind American occupation in Japan, terminate Japan’s imperialism, but also created a solid, long-lasting relationship that would assist both economies in future wars, such as the First Indochina War and the Korean War. The treaty was more than a sign of peace and rebuilding for Japan, but a step toward not only the military industrial complex for the U.S., as seen with the Korean and Vietnam War, thereafter, but also as a way to contain the sphere of Communism, prevalent in East Asian countries during the war.
For more information, please check out our latest project: sfpeacetreaty.org where we outlined the treaty.
“TOKYO HIGH COURT, JUNE 12, 1980.” Taiwan Basic, taiwanbasic.com/insular/tokyo-1980.htm.
“Treatment of Takeshima in the San Francisco Peace Treaty.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan , 30 July 2015, google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjS7s-vur_iAhUjMX0KHWBpCMcQjRx6BAgBEAU&url=https://www.mofa.go.jp/a_o/na/takeshima/page1we_000062.html&psig=AOvVaw1Ig36xeHAuX9doGnuVuJjA&ust=1559175194045673.
“Treaty of Peace with Japan.” WayBackMachine, WayBackMachine, web.archive.org/web/20010221045459/http://www.taiwandocuments.org/sanfrancisco01.htm.
“What Was the San Francisco Peace Treaty?” SF Peace Treaty, Pacific Atrocities Education, www.sfpeacetreaty.org
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by Yesenia Olmos
The euphemistic “comfort women” were a group of women and girls from 13 different Asian countries who were tricked into becoming sex slaves during WWII, conducted by the Japanese Imperial Army. These “comfort women” were used as tools by the Japanese army to raise the morale of the troops, maintaining discipline, preventing looting, rape, arson, and sexually transmitted diseases, which is what the “comfort stations” claimed they were doing. Ironically, the “comfort stations” were put in place to prevent the events that were concurrently happening. It is estimated that around 200,00 women were “comfort women”, however, 75% of them would die or mysteriously disappear after the war. Women were taken from China, Taiwan, Philippines, Burma, Indonesia (Dutch East Indies), and other neighboring countries. Many of the women would even “cut their hair short and dress like men” in order to combat being taken and forced to work as a “comfort woman”. In a way the Japanese were trying to emasculate men for different Asian countries, claiming they could not protect their women.
According to a letter written by Japanese-American US soldier Alex Yorichi, “A ‘comfort girl’ was nothing more than a prostitute or ‘professional camp follower”, this letter was stamped “SECRET”. It was also hard to communicate with the girls since many did not speak the same language and could not advocate for one another. The letter also revealed that the women “lived in luxury” which was not the case for many of the “comfort stations”. The Japanese military systematically imprisoned thousands of women in order to expand a utopian overseas empire.
Many of the women taken were from poor villages with promises of work and compensation. Unfortunately, little or no pay would be given to these women for their “service”. Each soldier was granted one ticket per day to enter the “comfort stations”. It was reported that “comfort women” were forced to have sex with as many as sixty men in a day, and were given little to no days off. Accordingly, it was considered dishonorable when a soldier had a sexually transmitted disease, therefore many tried to conceal it by allowing it to spread and infect many of the “comfort women”. By 1944, 12,487 men were infected. This shame would carry on over to the “comfort women”, who even after the war were afraid to speak up because of the shame and dishonor that surrounded being a “comfort women”. Many suffered ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’, unable to rehabilitate back into society. Many were also shamed by their families and for fear of revealing the truth they stayed quiet. Fortunately, the 21st century would be a time in which “comfort women” could begin to speak about the atrocities committed to them. The first “comfort women” to speak was in 1991, which initiated the ‘redress movement’. Korean activist and past “comfort woman,” Kim Hak-sun spoke out against the Japanese government, this then led to the hundreds of “comfort women” who later came forward testifying about the horrors of the “comfort stations”. The Japanese government however to this day does not acknowledge this ever happened, many Japanese students are not taught about this part of history, most of WWII is censored. However, since the “comfort women” have spoken out there have been many statues made around the world commemorating the “comfort women”. This just comes to show that history can be mended if there is will.
There are many issues of controversy surrounding the “comfort women”, the Japanese government to this day will not apologize for these atrocities committed almost a century ago. The Japanese government continues to deny this ever happened, and claim these women were “prostitutes”. There is so much controversy that the “comfort women” monument that was unveiled 2017, in Manila, Philippines was shamefully removed in 2018. A day after the removal Osaka mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura tweeted the following: “... I want the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan to put forth an effort to remove the Comfort Women Memorial Statue, which has been set up in one city of the United States with which Japan has an alliance.” The city which Yoshimura speaks of is San Francisco. In 1951, Japan signed the ‘San Francisco Peace Treaty’ along with forty-eight other countries including Canada. This would end the American- Allied occupation in Japan, however, topics of negligence have resurfaced and the Japanese government under Shinzo Abe refuse to cooperate. The statue of the “comfort women” in San Francisco right on California Street is very important, it symbolizes revolution and antiquity. Many are unaware of just how much history this statue holds, along with the problematic governmental issues surrounding its location.
Along with the “comfort women” statues a renowned statue that really caught my attention was ‘The Peace Girl’, it is a statue that sits next to an empty chair, which invites one to think “What if it was me?”. Like the one pictured above, I sat in the empty chair, and as I sat I thought about what it would be like if I was in one of the “comfort women's” shoes. I went home and thought of a poem that could most describe how I felt.
Poem by Yesenia Olmos
“What if it was me?”
As I sit in the empty chair, I think “what if it was me?”
What if it was me who at the age of eleven was taken from my country
What if it was me who had to forcefully sell my body, only to be recognized as a “prostitute”
What if it was me who was forgotten amidst the modernization of WWII
The girl next to the empty chair must be filled by you and me, woman or man
The girl represents peace, she represents solidarity, she represents atrocities
Those women were forgotten and denied an apology by the Japanese government
This girl is you and me, she represents humanity
We must remember solidarity
We must remember forgotten history
We must remember humility
We must remember hope
Hope for an apology
Hope for improved history lessons
Hope for the next seven generations
Hope for the majority to rise up from being the minority
History teaches us how to correct past wrongs, it teaches us how humanity is connected no matter race, gender, ethnicity, or stature. The “comfort women” are only one of the many atrocities committed in our world today. The continuation of human rights violations is still very present. The “comfort women” teach us that no matter what obstacles stand in your way, if you persevere history, it can begin to correct itself.
Sung Sohn. “ ‘Comfort Women’ History and Issues Teachers’ Resource Guide 2nd Edition,”
Education for Social Justice Foundation, 2018.
Yoshiaki Yoshim. “ ‘Comfort Women’ Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military during WWII,”
Columbia University Press, 1995.
ALPHA. “The Search for Global Citizenship: The Violation of Human Rights in Asia,
1931-1945,” Canada ALPHA, 2005.
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For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we will focus on 2 Chinese American women who served in the Women Airforce Service Pilots program during WW2.
Although the media depict women’s involvement in the war mostly in a sidekick role as homemakers, nurses, and factory workers, they were a lot more than that. They were spies, farmers, nurses, and pilots. This post will be focused on the two Chinese women who participated in the WW2 and their work and sacrifice for humanity.
Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) was formed as a civilian women pilots’ organization in order to free up the men for the war. The members of WASP were trained to become test pilots, ferriers, and trainers as women were not allowed to participate in combat at the time. WASP delivered a total of 12,650 aircraft of 77 types. They logged a total of 60 million air miles for the Air Force but wasn’t recognized until 1977.
The beginning of WASP:
The idea of having women participate in the war was first brought up in a letter to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt by American aviator Jacqueline (Jackie) Cochran once Warsaw fell to the Germans. Jackie also wrote a letter to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Olds, who was organizing the Air Corps Ferrying Command at the time. Jacqueline Cochran at the time was considered to be the best female pilot in the United States. She had caught people’s attention when she received a gold medal for her accomplishments as one of the 10 outstanding women of 1938 by American Women magazine. First Lady Roosevelt was the one to decorate her with a medal. By 1939, Cochran had already become the first woman to make a landing entirely by instrument and had set 17 records for national and international speed, distance, and altitude.
By 1941, British women pilots were already ferrying aircraft but the idea of a woman ferrying aircraft was still foreign to many. However, Cochran persisted. First, the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron WAFS was formed after Nancy Love’s suggestion. Nancy’s husband participated in the Army Air Corps Reserve. After Nancy’s proposed WAFS was accepted, Jackie was angry that she had been rejected. By the fall of 1942, Cochran’s proposal of forming Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD).
By the summer of 1943, WAFS and WFTD were consolidated to form WASP. 1,830 were accepted for training while 1,074 completed the training. Most of the accepted applicants were Caucasian women, but there were also other women of color who participated including Hazel Ying Lee and Maggie Gee.
Hazel Ying Lee was the first Chinese American woman to fly for the U.S. She was born and raised in Oregon. She was from an immigrant family raised at a time when anti-Chinese sentiment was prevalent. She persisted despite the discrimination she faced growing up. She worked as an elevator operator at Lieves Department Store in downtown Portland which allowed her to save up for private flying lessons. By the time she was 19, she was flying in a program sponsored by the Portland Chinese Benevolent Society.
Lee traveled to China during the Japanese occupation hoping to join the Chinese Air Force. However, she was rejected as they did not accept women pilots. She was assigned a desk job and only flew a commercial plane out of Nanjing before she returned to the United States in 1938.
Upon returning to America in 1942, she applied to join WFTD and was accepted to train in Texas to fly a variety of military planes. She was then stationed at the Air Transport Command’s 3rd Ferrying Squadron at Romulus Army Air Base in Michigan. Lee died on November 25th, 1944 as a result of injuries sustained on a collision on a runway in Great Falls, Montana.
Maggie Gee was another Chinese American who participated in WASP. Similar to Lee, she was the daughter of an immigrant family. Her parents owned a successful Chinese importing company and raised the family in Berkeley, California. Her father died of a heart attack on a San Francisco Street in 1929 when the stock market crashed leaving her mother and 5 other siblings around. Gee passed a drafting test and dropped out of college to work as a draftsman for the engineers at Mare Island Naval Shipyards in Vallejo, California. By 1943, Gee saved enough money to move to Minden, Nevada to learn how to fly. Then she applied for the WASP training program in Texas. She served throughout the war as a tow target pilot in Las Vegas Army Airfield, Nevada. After the war, she returned to Berkeley and pursued her degree in physics and lived as a researcher covering the fields of cancer, nuclear weapons design, fusion energy, and other related fields.
Although women worked alongside men, they did not receive their military status until the 1970s. Their service was mostly forgotten until President Obama signed a bill rewarding the WASP the Congressional Gold Model.
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by Nickii Wantakan Arcado
With the recent conclusion of the 2019 Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley, California, it was a given that we would want to suggest novels that are about or have been inspired by events during World War II. We hope the list below piques your interests just as it did ours.
All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A personal favorite of mine, All the Light You Cannot See is the story about a blind, female heroine named Marie-Laure and orphan, Werner Pfennig, and how their lives cross paths during the final days of the war. Uniquely written in two perspectives, the title of the novel is also a double entendre; the light that our female heroine cannot physically see as well as the motif of radio waves prominent throughout the novel.
Catch-22 by Joseph Keller
Known as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, Catch-22 is a satirical (somewhat black comedy) novel on Captain John Yossarian, an American bombardier whose growing paranoia causes him both the war as a personal attack against him. The novel is told from a non-chronological third-person omniscient narration, jumping back and forth between various timelines yet closely following John’s attempts at escaping from his military missions. The title has been memorialized as a logical paradox in which an individual, regardless of their choices, are unable to escape due to contradictory rules and/or limitations in their situation.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
Set during post World War II London, Juliet Ashton goes on an adventure to the island of Guernsey, where she finds the next subject of her new book-- a native man from the island along with the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. As the story progresses, Juliet not only begins learning about the impact the German occupation had on the island and its inhabitants but learns more about herself as a writer during the process.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
One of the weirdest books on the list if I do say so myself, Slaughterhouse-Five is packed with everything from bombings to aliens. The novel is centered around Billy Pilgrim, whose abduction by aliens plunges him through an odyssey of time to relive his past memories as a serviceman during the war. Chosen as one of the 100 best novels of all time by the Modern Library, the novel is undoubtedly anti-war, utilizing the infamous Dresden firebombing as its backdrop as well as serving as a metaphor for Vonnegut’s own experience as a prisoner of war.
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
September 8, 1943. 14-year-old Claudette Blum, her father, and thousands of other Jewish refugees march towards the Alps towards Italy hoping to find safety with the news that the Italians have broken with the Germans. But Claudette soon realized that while by day, the country offers the hope for solace, by night, Italy becomes battleground fought between Nazis, Allies, resistance fighters, and everyone in between fighting for survival.
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by Nickii Wantakan Arcado
The United States and Britain, through supported by the Free Thai movement’s espionage throughout the war, had staunch differences and perspectives when it came to post-war negotiations. The United States took a more forgive-and-forget stance as the country and its underground, independence movements had been one of the main reasons the allies were able to wine back Southeast Asia from the Japanese. The U.S. did not wish to dissolve Thailand’s military as it did Japan, but rather, find ways to liberate all areas of the country from Japanese control. The British were more skeptical and called upon potential repercussions and punishments against the nation.
One of these advocates was Sir Josiah Crosby, the British Minister at Bangkok. In an article that he published on October 1943, a few years before the end of the war, Crosby suggested the United Nations diminish the role of Thailand’s military power and framing it as a part of a post-war settlement. This, he argued, would allow democracy to flourish freely without militant constraints. In another article he published a year later, Crosby, perhaps holding a nationalistic grudge against the nation that declared war on the British on January 25, 1942, argued that the country was “liable to punishment” and that there needed to be “some form of tutelage” after the end of the war. On top of his previous idea of diminishing the role of the Royal Thai Military, Crosby further went on to recommend that the country retire the country’s old system of advisers and instead adopt an adviser under one of the United Nations member countries as a form of a 'quasi-tutelary authority’.
But Crosby’s view on Thai politics did not define the entire British model. Unlike Crosby, British post-war policy suggestions to Thailand was not to adopt an anti-military sentiment. To Britain, a framework build on imperialism, or as they framed it, a tutelary power to assist with administrative and political functions, was the best way to ensure peace in Asia. What the British model did agree with Crosby on, was pushing for punishments, justifying that by the end of the day, the country did still side with Axis powers and provided the Japanese Empire with opportunities for the detainment and torture of Allied POWs.
Despite Crosby’s arguments, the U.S. policy prevailed. Such failure could be attributed to two, related reasons; the First was the U.S.’s growing influence on a global scale. Out of every party involved, the U.S. was the only country to emerge from the war both economically and militarily stronger than when it first joined. As such, this put the country in the position to shape peace terms to their terms. Wanting to avoid another Great Depression—which occurred post-WWI—the U.S. developed a global financial system called the Bretton Woods system, whose ultimate goal it was to coordinate the global economy. On the political end, the United States also led the initiative to jump-start the creation of the United Nations.
The second was Britain’s sociopolitical decline. While the British presented strong ideas their unclear objectives in their post-war plan and their continuous fixation on imperialism despite clearly growing nationalist movements across Asia, failed to persuade the U.S. to back up their proposals for post-war Thailand.
Thailand and its government were well aware of the growing predominance of U.S. policy and the decline of the British model and utilized such situation to their advantage, structuring their laws, policies, and governmental system in response. Overall, British and U.S. attitude towards post-war Thailand has shaped aspects of how the country is being run today. Whether or not Britain's failure to dissolve the power of the Thai military has caused a ripple effect over the nation’s current political climate is up for debate, but what we can say, in the words of Nicolas Tarling, was that the attitude of 'atonement' before absolution and a pride for Western imperialism, no longer had a place in post-war negotiations.
Tarling, Nicholas. "Atonement Before Absolution: British Policy Towards Thailand During World War II." Journal of the Siam Society 66 (1978): 22-65.
Zakaria, Fareed. From wealth to power: The unusual origins of America's world role. Vol. 82. Princeton University Press, 1999.
F.C. Darling, Thailand and the United States, Washington, 1965, p. 41-43.
J. Crosby, "The failure of constitutional government in Siam", Asiatic Review, XXXIX (October 1943), 420. 3 J. Crosby, "Observations on a postwar settlement in South-East Asia", International Affairs, XX, 3 (July 1944), 362.
Voa, and Voa. “American History: The Rise of US Influence After World War Two.” VOA, VOA, 3 Aug. 2011, learningenglish.voanews.com/a/american-history-the-rise-of-us-influence-after-world-war-two-126735008/116180.html.
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by Nickii Wantakan Arcado
A summarized timeline of the Japanese Malayan Campaign, beginning from the Attack on Pearl Harbor to the Fall of Malaya.
December 7-8, 1941: The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Simultaneously, Japanese troops in Southeast Asia land in Patani (Thailand), Singora (now known as Songkla, Thailand), and Kota Bharu (Malaysia).
December 10, 1941: The Imperial Japanese Navy sunk Great Britain’s Royal Navy’s Renown-class battlecruiser, the HMS Repulse, as well as their King George V-class battleship, the HMS Prince of Wales. After hearing news of the naval bombing conducted by the Japanese in the U.S., Great Britain dispatches Force Z (the squadron of the two HMS battleships including accompanying destroyers) to attempt to intercept Japanese forces in the north.
The naval engagement occurred off the east coast of Malaya near the city of Kuantan. The demise of both ships made history as the first capital ships to have been sunk solely by the air force in the open sea, highlighting the United Kingdom’s failure to protect Force Z from air power and the country’s underestimation of Japan’s growing air power. With the northern territory free from Allied forces, this allowed the Japanese army to successfully land their troops along the beaches of northern Malaya. While they were met with Allied ground troops, Japan’s overwhelming numbers forced Allied groups to retreat.
December 12-13, 1941: The Jitra Line, the first line of resistance for Allied forces, falls. The importance of the Jitra Line that it held one of the major Allied air bases in Southeast Asia. Situated in the town of Alor Star, the base was essential in allowing the Allies to launch air strikes, fighters, and bombers against the stationed Japanese troops. However, after 15 hours of deadly combat, the defensive line is broken and Arthur Percival, the Lieutenant-General of the Malay Command, orders all aircraft in Malaya to retreat to British defense in Singapore.
The Malayan campaign was planned and lead by Masanobu Tsuji (辻 政信), the Colonel of the Malayan sector. Under his instruction, Japanese troops were trained how to fight in tropical climates by using Hainan Island in China as their main training ground. Reconnaissance or other administrative work were assigned to soldiers who would eventually take part in the Malayan campaign, familiarizing them with the Malan landscape prior to sending them off to battle.
To the Japanese, occupying Malaya was beneficial on three fronts; the first reason was straightforward—the need for raw materials to support the country’s war efforts and grow its war industrial complex. As economic sanctions were imposed on the country by the U.S. prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan was experiencing the financial hardships of frozen assets and funds as well as the ban on U.S. petroleum and other metal imports. Second, capturing Malaya was necessary in order to capture Singapore, which at the time, had been known as the last, strongest British defense within the Asia-Pacific region. Finally, capturing Malaya would allow Japan to become closer to their goal of creating a Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, with Japan as the God-Tiered leader.
December 19, 1941: Japanese forces capture the Malaysian state of Penang. After a heavy bombing in George Town, the capital city Penang, Japan successfully eliminated Britain’s Royal Air Force and Australia’s Royal Air Force previously stationed. An estimated 2,000 people were either injured or killed. The Island was Tojo-to, after the Japanese Prime Minister at the time, and was used as an Axis submarine base.
January 5-8, 1942: Battle of Slim River occurs, with Japanese military tanks wiping out both British and Indian forces. The battle begins with there occupation of the Japanese Army along with the railway bridge and the major road near the city of Trolak. An unusual attack launched at night under the direction of Major Shimada (島田豊作) utilized 7 Type 97 medium tanks and 3 Type 95 Ha-Go Light Tanks to completely breaking defensive forces meant to guard Slim River. This was unusual in the sense that tanks rarely attacked at night due to its extremely low visibility factor.
While Gurkha troops (Nepalese, Indian forces) held their own despite being outnumbered, they were eventually defeated by the Imperial power. Out of the 5,000 Indian Brigades, only 1,173 men survived. In addition, while Japanese forces casualties range between 17 killed and 60 wounded, British numbers are much hired with 500 killed. Over 3,000 POWs were captured after the conclusion of the battle. Losing Slim River meant that the Allied forces had lost Central Malaysia.
January 11, 1942: Kuala Lumpur is captured by Japanese forces. The advancement of the Imperial forces into the Kuala Lumpur was quick, as they traveled lightly and utilized bicycles to navigate around the jungle terrain. With Allied forces had retreated to the city of Johor, Japan easily captured the Malayan state of Selangor and took over the capital city.
January 16, 1942: The Battle of Muar occurs. Despite the Allied troops’ lack of both air and tank support, they were able to hold off the advancement of Japanese forces for a little over a week, destroying a company of tanks as well as a battalion of troops. By the time fighting took place near Parit Sulong, the Allies, a majority being Australian forces, were again overpowered by the Japanese Blitzkrieg. Troops rushed to retreat, halving behind wounded soldiers that would later be massacred by the Japanese.
January 31, 1942: The fall of Malaya. Last Allied troops cross the Causeway into Singapore, surrendering Malaya to Japanese forces. After observing years and months of battle between the combined Allied forces against the Imperial Army, General Percival realized the Allied power’s inability to hold onto Johor and approved the withdrawal of troops into Singapore.
Ho, Stephanie. “Malayan Campaign.” National Library Board Singapore, 19 July 2013, eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_2013-07-19_162143.html.
Wigmore, Lionel. The Japanese Thrust. Vol. 4. Australian War Memorial, 1957.
Tsuji, Masanobu. Japan's Greatest Victory/Britain's Greatest Defeat. Da Capo Press, 1997.
Tsuji, Masanobu, and H. V. Howe. Singapore, 1941-1942: the Japanese version of the Malayan campaign of World War II. Oxford University Press, 1988.
Chen, C. Peter. “Invasion of Malaya and Singapore.” WW2DB, World War II Database, ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=47.
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In contingent with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in the last month of 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army marched into Southern Thailand from Malaysia, calling for free passage into the country. Phibun Songkhram, both Commander and Chief of the Royal Thai Army and the Prime Minister at the time, allowed Japanese entry, vowing to maintain Thai independence in lieu of Japan's colonial activities enacted against neighboring Southeast Asian countries. As Japanese troops within the country and demands to utilize Thai facilities and resources increased, Thailand was now fully engulfed by the war. By January 1942, Bangkok declared war on Great Britain and the United States.
On the opposite side of the globe, Thai students studying in the United States were facing a predicament; their country had declared an alliance with an Axis power and they were studying within the confines of a now declared, Allied nation. Thailand’s Ambassador in Washington, M.R. Seni Pramoj, refused the Thai-Japanese alliance. While his colleague in Britain announced Thailand’s declaration of war, Seni Pramoj refused to deliver the declaration to the U.S. government. In response, the U.S. also refrained from declaring war against Thailand.
Through Seni Pramaoj’s leadership, a coalition of overseas Thai was built that would support the Allied war efforts. Thai university students studying in MIT, Harvard, and Cornell were recruited to work with Gen. William Donovan’s United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a wartime intelligence agency that was a predecessor to the CIA. The Free Thai Movement was thus born.
War Time Operatives:
Although the Seri Thai Movement’s activities were mostly done underground, over 50,000 Thai Volunteers underwent excruciating training and dangerous missions and treks to collect and report finding to supporters in China and other areas of Indochina. While some made it back to their designated bases to report on the Japanese Army’s location, others were either captured, killed, or disappeared. Ironically, Thai nationals were walking on thin ice in their own homeland.
The movement’s main base of operations was in Phrae Province, under the jurisdiction of Pridi Panomyong and Thong Kantatham. Pridi, the Regent of Thailand and founder of Thammasat University, was already well known in Thai politics for his involvement with the Siamese Revolution of 1932 which changed the system of government from that of an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. Both men led and launched Operation Hotfoot and Operation Numeral, parachuting operations that helped deploy weapons, supplies, and medicine to supporting troop members. The lives of Thai volunteers were constantly endangered, having to navigate around Allied bombing campaigns, rescuing fallen foreign soldiers, avoiding Japanese detection, all while broadcasting findings and weather reports to partners in the U.S.
Fnally, on October 5, 1944, the OSS Detachment in Szemao, China, received an important radio message from Free Thai agents in a safehouse based in Bangkok, allowing Allied forces to be dispatched in strategic locations within the country via submarine, airdrop, or seaplane. By 1945, the war was over in Thailand. Seri Thai not only became a crucial source of military intelligence for Allies hoping to win back the Southeast Asian region, but paved the way for the country’s post-war independence a few years to come.
Due to the contributions of the many volunteers within the Free Thai Movement, the U.S. refrained from prosecuting Thailand as an enemy country in post-war tribunals and peace negotiations. On September 2, 1945, many Seri Thai members received the Medal of Freedom from the U.S. government including: Air Chief Marshall Tavee Julasup, Major General Boonmark Tesabutr, Commander Vimol Viriyavidh, Mr. Piset Pattaphongs, M.C. Yuthisatien Sawadivatana, M.L. Ekachai Kumpoo, Mr. Anond Srivardhana, Dr. Sala Tsanond, Air Marshal Sith Savetsila, Mr. Umnuay Poonpipatana, Mr. Udomsak Pasavanij, Mr. Kusa Punyarchun, and Mr. Somjit Yos-sunthorn.
Various monuments and local attractions were installed to celebrate Seri Thai’s achievements throughout the war. The Free Thai Movement Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์เสรีไทย) is located on Yantarkitkosol Road, Phrae, Thailand, purposefully as a dedication to the town’s importance as the base of operations for the Seri Thai Movement. The museum highlights military maneuvers and covert operations conducted by both Thais and U.S. soldiers alike. The museum is privately financed by Puchong Kanthatham, son of Thong Kanthatham, the leader of the Free Thai movement in Phrae.
Another attraction includes the Seri Thai Cave located in the province of Sakhon Nakon. The attraction includes the statue of Tiang Sirikhanth, the founder of the Free Thai within the province. The cave is dedicated to the farmers and villagers that sacrificed their lives to swift undergo military training to combat Japanese forces.
More recently in 2017, the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand and his Thailand staff members visited Phrae to learn about growing vocational opportunities as well as to pay respects and celebrate U.S.-Thai relations during the war. While it has been about 74 years since the end of the war, undoubtedly, the continuous bond built between the two nations are growing stronger than ever.
The Thai Resistance Movement During The Second World War, John B. Haseman, Chalermnit Press, Bangkok.
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One of the greatest things about Donald Trump being the president is how the media put a microscope on his every move. He can spark controversy with everything, his actions in Asia had sparked a bit of media controversy. A couple of months ago, he tried to put pressure in North Korea by rallying the Americans’ allies in Asia: South Korea and Japan, but little did he realize the scars between the two countries.
The painful history between the two countries started in the early 20th century. Japan saw its chance to claim a slice of the pie of Asia as China was defeated in the first Sino-Japanese War. At the time, Korea under the Choson Dynasty started reforming its policies to strengthen defense. Then as Japan defeated Russia during the Russo-Japanese War, Japan was set to establish its occupation of Korea for its empire’s expansion by 1910. The occupation was brutal from the start as Japanese abolished the teaching of the Korean culture, language, and history. Most of the historical documents were burned. Businesses and buildings were occupied by the Japanese military. Farmers were either forced off their land or to fulfill quotas set by the military.
The brutality does not end there. By the beginning of the 1930s, Korean women were tricked into becoming “comfort women” or sex slaves for the Japanese soldiers. As the 2nd Sino Japanese War began, women were “recruited” from Japanese-occupied territories and Japan with the promise of a job or purchased by their parents to be “servants”. Once obtained by the Imperial Japanese Army, these girls got sent to different camps than what they expected. Most of them were sent to “comfort stations” where they were raped day and night by different soldiers. At the end of the war, there was mass murder as Japan tried to cover up its war crimes. Although not clear on the exact number, historians estimated that there were about 100,000 to 200,000 women who were rounded up as comfort women.
At the end of the war, Japan surrendered and Korea recovered its sovereignty. Most women stayed in silence since the topic in Korea is such a taboo topic. Not to mention, the west meddled with Korea and the country was split into two. However, the redress movement in South Korea was started in 1991 when Kim Hak-Sun testified in public about her experiences. Ever since then, more former comfort women stepped up to talk about their experience and a redress movement was ignited.
Since 1992, a demonstration organized by the Korean Council had been held in front of the Embassy of Japan in Seoul at noon happens every week. By the 1000th rally on December 14, 2011, A Statue of Peace, “Pyeonghwabi” was established outside the embassy. This is the statue explained:
In 2017, the Seoul Metropolitan Government installed 5 peace girls on buses and the buses featured audio excerpts of a South Korean film regarding the comfort women issue that played whenever the buses passed by the Japanese embassy in central Seoul. Many riders found it sobering to ride the bus with the comfort women statues.
The comfort women issue had since sparked discussions in the United Nations. However, Japan had still not moved on and demanded the statues be removed. After the establishment of the comfort women statue in San Francisco, Osaka ended its sister city relationship with San Francisco.
One of the peace girls installed in the Seoul busses will be at our upcoming event: Boba Making + Trivia! Come meet her as well as enjoy our community building event!
Miller, Linda Karen. The Japanese Occupation of Korea 1910–1945 (from Korea Lessons for High School Social Studies Teachers, New York: The Korea Society, 1999, http://caforumonline.net/CAFHandlerPDF.ashx?ID=403
Blakemore, Erin. “The Brutal History of Japan's 'Comfort Women'.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 20 Feb. 2018, www.history.com/news/comfort-women-japan-military-brothels-korea.
Information Service. “KOREA.NET.” Statue of Peace Boards Seoul Bus : Korea.net : The Official Website of the Republic of Korea, www.korea.net/NewsFocus/Society/view?articleId=148534.
“Voices of Survivors Must Be Heard, UN Chief Says after Meeting 'Comfort Women' Victim | UN News.” United Nations, United Nations, news.un.org/en/story/2016/03/524192-voices-survivors-must-be-heard-un-chief-says-after-meeting-comfort-women-victim.
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