electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies

Discussion Paper 5 in 2011
First published in ejcjs on 30 September 2011

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Hope and Peril in Equal Measure

Negotiating Traumatic War Memories within the Construction of Oral Histories


Gregory Hadley

Professor of English and American Cultural Studies
Niigata University of International and Information Studies

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About the Author



This paper considers the backstage issues involved with constructing an oral history on war memories within the restive dynamics of past trauma and the ideological agendas of both informants and the wider public represented through the popular media. The author reveals his own internal struggles and personal journey as he works with people in the next stage of his narrative to encounter a moment of peace, healing and reconciliation.


War Memories; Oral History; Peace Studies; Qualitative Methodological Challenges


During the final days of the Second World War, on the night of 19/20 July 1945, a B-29 crew under the command of Captain Gordon 'Porky' Jordan was shot down on a routine mining mission to the harbour of Niigata City in Japan. Most of the crewmen bailed out over rural communities on the outskirts of town, and sought to avoid detection by roving bands of air raid wardens, prison camp guards, soldiers from anti-aircraft battalions, local defence groups, and civilians armed with an array of farm implements. By the following morning, four crewmen were confirmed dead. The surviving seven were captured and sent to Tokyo. There they were imprisoned, tortured and eventually repatriated. The survivors of that mission, as well as many of the villagers and former military personnel who had a hand in their capture, all suffered from the trauma of the event, and struggled with painful memories over the course of their lives.

The details of this incident are chronicled in the book Field of Spears1 , an oral history of the event that draws heavily from the eyewitness accounts of the Jordan Crew and local villagers who watched their downing over Niigata. Cross-referenced to declassified military documents, wartime letters, diaries, and photos taken by Japanese during the time of the crew's capture, Field of Spears explores the disturbing transformations that ordinary people may undergo during times of war. It offers various theories concerning the mystery of how several of the crewmen may have perished on that grim July evening in 1945, and underscores the manner in which people deal with war memories once they become a source of almost unbearable personal suffering.

This paper will detail some of the background dynamics that I, as the author of the book, faced during research. Situated within the relatively recent discoveries concerning the nature of memory, I discuss how I sought clarity in the murky waters of informants' war recollections and reconciled instances of inconsistent evidence, from both the written record and times when I suspected testifiers were sanitizing their stories. I also highlight additional and unforeseen challenges that took place in the months following the book's publication and show how the problems facing oral history researchers do not end with the fieldwork process, but may begin in earnest after the publication of their results, especially with respect to how informants may react to the manner in which their stories have been retold. I close on a hopeful note by showing how positive experiences in the present can soothe traumatic memories of the past, and pave the way for future reconciliation.

Figure 1: Jordan Crew survivors being transported to Niigata for their first round of interrogations (Courtesy of George McGraw/Valery Burati)

The Plasticity of Memory: Dealing with Inconsistent Evidence

People are not living video cameras, nor are their memories kept as records in an organic filing cabinet. Current scientific research suggests that memories are encoded by proteins in the brain. These are broken down and resynthesised each time a memory is accessed. People literally 're-member' each time they bring memories to conscious thought. In addition, each and every time, the process of remembering is a renewed experience connected to the past and relived within the emotional, social or political context of the present. Memories are so influenced by the present that they are slightly altered and recontextualised each time they are resynthesised. Constant interaction with others who have had similar experiences can also create false memories, especially when strong emotions emanating from the amygdala are involved.2

This and related research may help to explain some challenges that I encountered in the field, which I described to colleagues as the plasticity of war memories. As I began investigating beneath the surface of the informant accounts, I soon learned that even though all had something valuable to share, some also had things that they wished to hide. How they sought to relate their experiences often depended upon the place where they chose to tell the story and who was present, since many informants spoke while accompanied by friends, community members, or family, all of whom acted as a quiet support community. In later opportunities when I spoke with some informants privately, accounts would often contain crucial details that had been omitted or which were framed quite differently from earlier, more public, interviews and meetings.

I could feel these dynamics as I tried to reconstruct the testimony about what actually happened on that night in July 1945, especially when it came to the inconsistent testimony surrounding the place and manner in which the four crewmen of the B-29 perished. Immediately following the war, the surviving B-29 crewmen were debriefed by US military investigators. In the notes of those debriefings, the crew reported that Japanese military police interrogators and guards were quite forthright about the fact that three of the four were killed on the ground, and that the fourth crewman had gone down with the plane. Captain Jordan was told during his interrogation in Niigata (through an English-speaking interpreter) that two of his crew had resisted capture and, as the military police interrogators put it, 'couldn't be taken alive.' Another had 'died gloriously' by going down with the plane.3 This confirmed for Jordan that interrogators had been speaking of the co-pilot, who had always stated to him and others in the crew that, if they were shot down, he would never bail out. Later when imprisoned in Tokyo, another guard who claimed to have been on rotation in Niigata approached the crew and spoke of how he and a group of soldiers were shot at by a member of their crew, and then how they chased him down and killed him in retaliation. The guard showed a pair of lieutenant's bars that he kept as a souvenir.4 The crew surmised this guard spoke of the bombardier, who vowed that he would never let himself be taken alive if shot down over Japan. Other crewmen, before they were captured, all attested to hearing the sound of gunfire and screams in the darkness. However, the crew members were all hiding in rice paddies and culverts under the narrow roads crisscrossing the paddies, so none of them visually witnessed the death of any of their comrades.

While the testimony of the crew was based on hearsay, the earliest testimony of the villagers was equally inconsistent. In the first report, the village headman stated that all four crewmen were found dead in the aft cabin of the B-29 after the fires had died down.5 He then reported later that two men were in the front cabin and two were in the rear, adding that a body was found hung over the gun spindle in the aft cabin of the plane.6 But other witnesses report two crewmen being thrown clear of the plane, while some speak of two being at the crash site, one in the plane and another being brought back later.7 The headman's widow, however, during a recorded interview with local Japanese historians many years later, stated that two of the crewmen were killed after using their weapons to hold off their captors.8

To understand from where such discrepancies might emerge, one must also account for the role of fear. During the final days of the war, there was little fear among villagers about relating what may have happened to the crewmen who had perished, especially since American flyers were on Imperial Japan's military version of death row for their role in the fire-bombings of Tokyo and other major cities. Jordan's crew had been a lead bomber at the forefront of the Allied air campaign, which had not only participated in the attack on Tokyo, they had been on many of the missions that had reduced significant areas of sixty-four major Japanese cities to ashes. Wartime propaganda and grief from the loss of family members turned to fierce anger among many villagers, especially as the remains of Jordan's bomber burned in an open field with ammunition exploding and sending ordinance off in the direction of homes and farmhouses. Couched within this panic, anger and fear, a race took place between the Japanese military and civilians as for who would find the crewmen first.

Conversely, fear of what local residents would interpret as retaliation from occupation forces certainly would color postwar testimony, especially if they felt that something needed to be withheld in regard to the mistreatment of the downed flyers. From the days of the Occupation, therefore, villagers maintained that all four crewmen died in the crash. Even today, speaking about the fate of the lost crewmen is something of a taboo subject in the area, but those who will speak about it often insist that all crewmen perished in the plane crash, even though some of the earliest evidence suggests otherwise.

Figure 2: The bodies of two members of the Jordan Crew recovered following the downing of their B-29 (Courtesy of George McGraw/Valery Burati)

One example of this was the discovery of a set of photographs taken when Japanese military police arrived at the scene. One photo showed the bound and battered bodies of the two enlisted crewmen outside the plane, with one of them tied to a small sled (Figure 2). This latter crewman had frequently told his fellow crewmen that if they had to bail out, he would rather go out in a blaze of glory than be taken alive. One of the surviving crewmen, who bailed out just before this same crewman, first reported to investigators that after touching down he listened to his friend screaming in pain as he was being captured and beaten, though later for personal reasons, he retracted this part of his testimony, stating that he would take the secret to the grave.9 Another account, written by a now deceased Japanese man who participated in the capture of another crewman, reported that, through his rudimentary English skills he learned that the crewman was 22 years old. During his escort to the Village Office, where captured crewmen were held at first, the informant writes about how the crewman was set upon by villagers wielding clubs, stones and farm implements. The crewman, though bleeding and injured, was delivered into military police custody.10 The only member of the Jordan Crew who was 22 years old at the time was the crewman whose broken body is in the foreground of the picture (Figure 2).

Discussing with one of the surviving B-29 crewmen where the bodies were found shed further light on this issue: it established the impossibility of one account of anyone being able to hang upon a machine gun spindle, either before or after a crash, since it is not possible to make physical contact with the spindle, due to its position within the firing mechanism in the gunnery position, which is inside the hull of the plane. Photographs in the Niigata Nippo newspaper and eyewitness sketches showed this part of the plane to be only barely intact at the crash site.

Figure 3: Japanese photo of B-29 crash site (Courtesy of George McGraw/Valery Burati)

However, because of the insistence of Japanese informants that all four crewmen had died in the crash, in Field of Spears I wrote that, despite inconsistencies in their narrative, the overall story could not be discounted outright, because the last time any of the four crewmen who died were seen alive was just before the crew had bailed out of the B-29. The final military investigative report also reaches the same conclusion, and I highlight this fact in the book. Based upon documents that accompanied the official investigative report, however, I also highlighted that it might have been possible that three of the four crewmen were killed by Japanese military personnel after bailing out.11 In the end, with contradictory evidence and an awareness of the sensitivities involved in challenging the long-held narratives of witnesses, I decided to report various theories as to what might have taken place and gave scope to readers to draw their own conclusions. The conclusions drawn by the villagers about what I had said, with the help of an error-strewn article in the Asahi Shimbun, were to jeopardize the hopes of reconciliation that I had hoped to initiate. I will return to this point later in the paper.

Counterbalancing Reconstructed Memories with the Written Record

Confusion is an inevitable consequence of battle. The first public document to come out in Japanese about the downing of the B-29 over Niigata (a Niigata Nippo newspaper article on 21 July 1945) reported that two B-29s had been shot down. This was in contrast to US military reports revealing that only one B-29 had been shot down in the missions of the Sixth Bombardment Group stationed on the South Pacific island of Tinian.12 Nevertheless, in the early days of the occupation, US war crimes investigators sought to find out how many B-29s were actually lost, and Japanese historians are still asking the same questions.13

Figure 4: Grainy photo from the front page of the Niigata Nippo, 21 July 1945. The white streak in the upper right corner is Jordan's plane as it burned in the night sky. The ghostly figures at the bottom are Niigata citizens in clothing designed to offer protection from flak.

My interviews helped to piece together what likely took place. After an exhaustive search, I tracked down both Japanese and American eyewitnesses, and compared their accounts to declassified military documents. There were several mining missions to Niigata from April 1945 up to the end of the war but, according to US records, up until 19/20 July, no B-29 was reported to have been hit by antiaircraft fire before this mission. There was a low risk of any other incident being confused with the Jordan crew mission. Another B-29 co-pilot on the same mission over Niigata on the night of 19/20 July confirmed that all of the other planes actually returned, but having sustained some damage.14 This was confirmed in part by the navigator of the Jordan Crew who reported, to a Japanese historian, seeing another B-29 burning,15 as well as by a replacement crewman on another B-29 who described the terror he felt when his crew dealt with an engine fire over Niigata.16 

Figure 5: Photo of B-29 wreckage (Niigata Nippo, 21 July 1945)

Japanese eyewitnesses closer to the crash site and returning crewmen both reported seeing one B-29 that broke up in the air before it finally crashed.17 The Niigata Nippo article showed pictures of the wing, which had broken off, and a burned-out engine which had come down in a different location. The engine of the B-29 was as large as some aircraft of the time. I deduced that while two B-29s had been hit, one made it back, and the eyewitnesses further from the crash site had misinterpreted the separate flaming light going down in the night sky as the first of two B-29s instead of what it really was – a detached fuel-rich B-29 engine burning brightly as it plummeted to the ground.

For local leaders at the time in Niigata however, two B-29s were better than one, and better for Niigata citizens' morale, which had nearly collapsed by the end of the war. This episode exemplifies the possible fallibilities in the documentary record and how oral testimony may sometimes actually help to correct documentary errors.

Misrepresentation and Misunderstanding: The Struggle for Memory Ownership

War memories, as stated earlier, often endure as the source of deep-seated trauma for witnesses, which in turn affect the manner in which memory is constructed. The discussion so far is only a sample of some of the dilemmas I faced in how to use informant testimony. There were many other incidents where I uncovered fatal errors and compromising behaviour, much of which affected the lives of others, especially family members who had often idealized the role of their parents during the war. It is difficult to find a balance between respecting the wishes of witnesses and the researcher's goals of verifiable conclusions. This may account, to a significant degree,  for why so much published testimony of war experiences in Japan by Japanese historians and journalists avoids the issue by instead reporting verbatim testimony with little or no accompanying commentary. Witnesses are satisfied because their personal reasons for testifying – whether therapeutic or ideological – are fulfilled. Testimony collectors do not need to go through the risky process of verifying, assessing or exposing errors in the participants' and witnesses' testimony.

Oral historians, however, use testimony to aid the construction of a narrative analysis about the past. Our interest in the pursuit of the 'truth' and verifiable conclusions may not necessarily be what our witnesses want. They want to be heard, to be understood, and to transmit their views of the past to a wider audience. They may not wish to have their memories challenged, or exposed as contradictory to other evidence. They feel their reconstructed memories in the present and relive them as they remember. To question them is to deny the passion and pain they are again experiencing at that very moment.

Therefore, while Field of Spears received a number of positive reviews in both scholarly history journals and in the Japanese and American media for its depth of research and message of reconciliation, problems arose with informants in the villages where I conducted my research, especially in the hamlet of Yakeyama in Niigata prefecture, which was closest to the B-29 crash site. Most notably, the book in some quarters was represented by a conclusion attributed to me but which I did not make: 'American soldiers were murdered by villagers in Yakeyama'.

How could such a situation arise? Part of the problem lies in the fact that Field of Spears has not been translated into Japanese, with the exception of the most sensational sections in Sekai magazine.18 I had initially contacted the publishers of Sekai for a translation of the entire book. Their decision, which mirrored that of others I have approached, was that a Japanese-language version of Field of Spears would be unprofitable. The editors wanted the focus of the articles to be upon trauma, and in an effort to meet this demand (and get published in a prestigious magazine) I made the error of cherry-picking sections of the book that I felt would relate to the interests of the editorial board. That mistake on my part was compounded by space limitations for magazine articles, which left me unable to go into the detail of the original book and thereby outline the complex nuances of the various hypotheses about what might have happened on the night the B-29 was shot down. Consequently, later on, news reporters, lacking the time or language ability to read the book in English, have often read only the Sekai articles, extrapolated from there, and related to testifiers what they thought was written in Field of Spears. Even putting aside for the moment the issue of language, having one's work traduced by the media is a risk that scholars may have to face. But in my situation, given my errors in trying to relate a complex story back into Japanese with limits on space and focus, in the minds of some Japanese readers, I had furthered the perception that a foreign writer could only be critical of the Japanese. They did not know that, at least in the English version, an honest attempt at a balanced and compassionate account had been written.

Additional problems with Japanese media sources can be seen in an article in the Asahi Shimbun on 14 August 2009, printed to the left of the main title '“Takeyari no mura”, shogen no hakkutsu' (Unearthing testimony from the 'Field of Spears') was the subtitle 'Beihei satsugai' ni jimoto hanpatsu (Locals React Against 'American Soldiers Murdered'). The inverted commas around the phrase beihei satsugai could have two nuances: first, that 'American soldiers murdered' was a quotation of my conclusion, and second, that the newspaper was distancing itself from that conclusion. The body of the article clearly stated that the book said some of the surviving airmen were murdered by villagers (sonmin), albeit this was contradicted a few sentences later by a sentence that more accurately, though not precisely, conveyed what I had said in the book: there was a 'possibility' that the airmen had been killed by villagers. What I had actually said in the interview was that there was a possibility the airmen were killed by military personnel, specifically members of a local anti-aircraft battery.19 The differences are extremely significant. Uniformed Japanese military personnel killing uniformed American aircrew who refused to surrender would be entirely legal within the laws of war. The word 'satsugai' in the Japanese article contains the nuance of criminality and suggests I had accused villagers of killing the soldiers. If this were true, I would have been accusing the villagers – and specifically, the informants who shared their version of events with me – of a war crime. Even giving the Asahi Shimbun the benefit of the doubt (and the reporter who wrote the article ignored all requests from myself to present my side of this story), the fact remained that villagers in Yakeyama and Japanese colleagues who worked anonymously with me on the project reacted angrily by cancelling subsequent meetings and cutting off contact. The message of reconciliation that I hoped would result from publication of the book had, for a time at least, been replaced with recriminations and misunderstanding.

In actuality, as mentioned above, issues of legality were less of an issue, given that some of the B-29 crewmen resorted to using their .45 automatic pistols to evade capture, but clearly there was controversy over whose viewpoints and interpretations were valid. As one military historian in Australia who read Field of Spears observed, regardless of having 'set out all the possibilities and evidence for what happened on that night  - which is what a historian has to do if he's going to be fair - …the trouble is that the reader (or Asahi journalist) then “makes up his mind” as to which is the stronger case, and then “remembers” that as the author's 'conclusion'!'20   The precise reasons for the misunderstandings regarding my conclusion of there being a 'possibility' (and not a firm conclusion) that the airmen were killed by military personnel (not villagers) on the ground are perhaps inconsequential. However, the fact that my account did not repeat verbatim the narrative passed down in the village as the definitive account of what happened that night in itself risked evoking the anger of witnesses. As a practitioner of oral history, being interviewed and seeing how my own words had ended up being misused in the writings of someone else allowed me to understand the pain of some informants. The whole experience, therefore, while painful for me also, became an instructive experience.

Transcending Trauma and Traducement

As a result of the above events I had found myself facing a situation where my local reputation had been tarnished and my relationship with local informants had been seriously damaged, if not lost altogether. This robbed me of any sense of satisfaction from the positive reviews coming from abroad. Feeling as if I had both failed and been deeply misunderstood, in the end I decided to put Field of Spears to rest. I was psychologically exhausted, and perhaps it was just best to move on.

The story would have finished there, were it not for two people: Fuyoko Nishisato, a journalist attached to the German media network ZDF in Tokyo, and Susan Kae Grant, daughter of Robert Grant of the Jordan Crew, a professor at Texas Women's College and an internationally acclaimed artist. Nishisato had for many years been involved with the Japan POW Research Network, which engages in the creation of oral histories, works to uncover hidden documents and refutes revisionist efforts to skew public perceptions of Japan's activities during the Second World War. Another part of this group's mission has been to invite former POWs back to Japan where they can meet their former captors, visit places of past trauma and in the process, and find a measure of healing and reconciliation. Grant, as the daughter of a former POW, was able to see firsthand the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on her father in the years after the war. Reading Field of Spears helped her to better understand what her father had gone through, she was moved by witnessing the positive changes in her father's demeanor once he had opened up and shared the traumatic details concerning his capture and imprisonment in Imperial Japan. She had her own issues to work through as well, since research suggests that secondary post-traumatic stress can affect the children of former POWs.21 Grant wanted to come to Japan, to retrace her father's footsteps, and if possible, to go the village where his plane had gone down. Nishisato was willing to help in all aspects of the logistics necessary for organising a visit for Grant and others who wished to travel with her. All that was needed was my participation in setting up a time when she could meet with the villagers who lived closest to the former crash site.

This invitation to help had arrived just as things had quietened down from the Asahi article. I did not relish the thought of trying to re-approach people who believed that I had somehow betrayed them. I also began to be conscious of my feelings of aversion to becoming involved, which upon further reflection, puzzled me. It was not until later that I learned that experienced oral historians warn that, in the process of listening to graphic accounts of torture, death and rage, and through empathizing with the pain and suffering of informants, the trauma of the informant can transfer to the researcher.22 It becomes a shared story, and a shared trauma.

I thought that I had been objective and had somehow avoided this, but I was mistaken: I realized that the years of working with informants, of delving deep into their stories and lives, and then of losing the trust of some, had all taken a toll on me. Anticipating the stress of having to re-member what had been shared with me by informants evoked waves of exhaustion, and I realized that I would rather avoid the pain. 'Perhaps,' I thought, 'this is how my informants felt when I first approached them to research Field of Spears.'

Such reflections then sparked within me feelings of shame: I had no right to feel traumatized. The informants had experienced deep fear, hunger, and in some cases, torture, but I had not. They were the ones who had truly suffered. I needed to rise above my feelings and reach out, just as my earlier informants had done. This was their story, not mine, and what was required was that I step up to help where I could, and then get out of the way.

Renewing Hope within New Memories

And so began the next stage of this story. During the time of preparation and of re-establishing contact with area informants, many of my fears about having verbal abuse and anger directed at me were realised.  But in the end, after I persevered through this, there was a quiet, guarded sense of forgiveness among the primary informants, and the door was open for Susan Grant to both retrace her father's footsteps and reach out to villagers in Yakeyama in what became, for all involved, a surprising moment of peace and reconciliation.

Figure 6: Photos of Yakeyama storytellers (left) and Susan Grant (right) at B-29 crash site on 20 July 2010

Pictures can better capture the spirit of that moment. Sixty-five years to the day later on, on 20 July 2010, village leaders and bearers of local memories met Susan Grant at the barren ground where her father's plane went down.

Throughout the afternoon, the villagers took Grant to other places of interest. At times, she would briefly reach out and touch the old storytellers. I observed how this had a disarming, softening and almost therapeutic power. Expressions lost their intensity and the tough farmers gradually became increasingly gentle and grandfatherly in their demeanour.

Figure 7: Photos of Susan Grant (left) and self-proclaimed Keeper of Village Memories Tadashi Saito (right)

Everyone was tense at first, and then the storytellers began to relate their memories to Grant through an interpreter. As she listened intently with a mixture of respect and wonderment, everyone began to relax. Things were working out. Grant's listening was having a positive effect.

Figure 8: Yakeyama villagers displaying wreckage of B-29

Near the end of the meeting, many more villagers came out to greet Grant. An interesting aspect of this hamlet is that most continue to keep pieces of the B-29 in hidden places, and produce them at special moments. To me, it was almost as if some wanted to say through the wreckage of that long-dead plane, 'This is where it all changed for me. No matter how hard I want to forget, I can't throw it away.' And yet, in the simplicity of the moment with Grant, new and healing memories were added to the old. From the genuine smiles and warmth expressed during that day, something good truly happened. Sometimes hope can spring forth after all. That, I believe, is a lesson worth remembering.

Concluding Thoughts

In this essay, I have reviewed some of the issues encountered during the writing of Field of Spears, an oral history reconstruction of the downing of a B-29 over Niigata. I considered challenges related to the proposition of recording traumatic memories, and recounted how the subsequent misrepresentation of my conclusions by the media risked unravelling the painstaking work of building trust and mutual understanding between witnesses and researcher, thereby risking the loss of a peace initiative. Were it not for the determination of others who had read the book and were equally invested in reconciliation, the project would have collapsed. It is hoped that my experiences as an oral history researcher will serve as a reference for others about not only the invaluable nature of testimony as evidence, but also some of the inherent risks in oral history or testimony-based historiography, especially when dealing with controversial topics.

If the research for Field of Spears has demonstrated anything, it is that testimony, even if flawed and inconsistent, may be of great value, either in shedding light on the complex processes by which individuals remember and reconstruct the past or in highlighting flaws in the documentary record. As demonstrated by the example given earlier about the Niigata Nippo newspaper article saying two B-29s were shot down, the use of testimony with careful cross-referencing to all other available evidence may reveal errors in documentary sources.

However, publications based on testimony risk affecting the memories and emotions of witnesses, perhaps even to the extent of causing complete breakdown in the researcher-witness relationship. While these risks can be minimized by solid communication during the article writing process, once the research is published there remains the possibility of a third party entering the researcher-witness relationship. The priorities of third parties are not necessarily in accordance with either researcher or witness. In the case of the newspaper reportage regarding Field of Spears, for example, it is not hard to see why the angle 'American researcher claims villagers killed downed flyers, villagers respond angrily' made a catchier headline than 'American researcher suggests various hypotheses about what happened, villagers reject one of those hypotheses.'

Behind these problems also lies the 'history issue', which at the state level merely obscures the myriad of individual cases in Japan and across Asia where history remains raw, unresolved and contested. My dream for a reconciliation process based on this specific oral history project came to a rude awakening as I faced the real world of my informants' private trauma, unresolved hatred, repressed regret and long-standing ideological issues. Thinking about the problems caused by my dealings with the Japanese media, and how this had compounded the pain of some informants remained a nagging source of regret until Susan Grant decided to come to Japan to meet villagers in a spirit of peace and acceptance. Even out of the scars of traumatic war memories, sometimes there emerges the surprising possibility of hope. My experiences illustrate that however much Japan and its former enemies can forge new relationships at the level of the state, in the end, it will be up to individuals to transcend their personal experiences and memories of war, and add to them new memories of peace. Despite the risks involved, as both an academic and oral historian, I feel this is something well worth striving for, both now and in the future.

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Endnotes and References

[1] Gregory Hadley (2007) Field of Spears: The Last Mission of the Jordan Crew (Sheffield, UK: Paulownia Press).

[2] Of particular interest in this area are works by Joseph LeDoux (1998) The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life (New York: Touchstone), Nobel Prize Winner Eric Kandel's (2006) research In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind (New York: W.W. Norton & Company) and studies by Karim Nader (2003) at McGill University in “Memory Traces Unbound” (Trends in Neuroscience Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 65-72).

[3] Edmund Steffler (Capt.), 'Missing Air Crew Report #14786' (College Park, Maryland: NARA, 23 July 1945, photocopied).

[4] Robert Burkle, 'Affidavit' (Judge Advocate General (Army), Record Group 153, War Crimes Branch Case Files, Case 33-130, 1944-1949, photocopied).

[5] 'Investigation Division Reports #226' (GHQ/SCAP Records. Record Group 331: National Archives and Records Service, March 1946 - April 1948. NARA, Washington DC, photocopied).

[6] John Reitze (2nd Lt.), 'Report of Recovery Team 1 (T1J27-141)' (HQ Eighth Army APO 343, Memorial Branch, Quartermaster General, 1946, photocopied).

[7] Miyo Meguro, interview by Toshihide Uemura, July 1, 1998, tape recording, The B-29 Downing Incident, Former Yokogoshi City History Department, Yokogoshi, Niigata. Valery Burati, 'Fragments of a Mission,' 1972, unpublished manuscript (typewritten), 3, George McGraw Private Papers, Gillett, Arkansas.

[8] Chozo Shimizu, Kyomi Shimizu, Choei Nagai, Miyo Meguro, Masao Saito, Rinbei Kuga, interview by Toshihide Uemura, 1 July 1998, tape recording.

[9] Edmund Steffler (Capt.), 'Missing Air Crew Report #14786' (College Park, Maryland: NARA, 23 July 1945, photocopied). Robert Grant, interview by author, 23 April 23 2004, MD Recording.

[10] Teitaro Sato, 'Digressions about the B-29 Downing', Gozu Hometown Culture, 7 December 1984, 60-61. Translated by Hiromi Hadley.

[11] 'Investigation Division Reports #226' (GHQ/SCAP Records. Record Group 331: National Archives and Records Service, March 1946 - April 1948. NARA, Washington DC, photocopied).

[12] Robert K. Hall, 'Report on Capt. (Now Major) Gordon P. Jordan and Crew, Missing in Action 19/20 July 1945' (San Francisco, California: Sixth Bombardment Group, Office of the Group Intelligence Officer, 15 August, 1945, photocopied), 1-2.

[13] Chozo Shimizu, Kyomi Shimizu, Choei Nagai, Miyo Meguro, Masao Saito, Rinbei Kuga, interview by Toshihide Uemura, July 1, 1998, tape recording.

[14] Harry George, interview by Gregory Hadley, 24 August 2003, notes.

[15] Paul Trump, Lititz, PA, to Hitoshi Fukuda, Questionnaires to B-29 Crewmen Lost over Yokogoshi, Yokogoshi Town Department of History, Yokogoshi, Niigata, Japan.

[16] Lawrence Smith, 9th Bombardment Group (VH) History (Princeton, NJ: 9th Bomb Group Association, 1995), 338.

[17] Yoshikazu Nakamura, interview by Toshihide Uemura, July 1, 1998, tape recording, The B-29 Downing Incident, Former Yokogoshi City History Department, Yokogoshi, Niigata. Robert K. Hall, 'Report on Capt. (Now Major) Gordon P. Jordan and Crew, Missing in Action 19/20 July 1945' (San Francisco, California: Sixth Bombardment Group, Office of the Group Intelligence Officer, 15 August, 1945, photocopied), 1-2.

[18] Gregory Hadley, Ishii Nobuhira (trans.) 'Takeyari no mura ni ochita B-29 (jo)' (The B-29 that fell in the Village of Spears - pt.1) April 2008 Sekai, 269-277. Gregory Hadley, Ishii Nobuhira (trans.) 'Takeyari no mura ni ochita B-29 (ge)' (The B-29 that fell in the Village of Spears - pt.2) May 2008 Sekai, 258-266.

[19] The exact wording of the sentence stating the airmen were murdered in Japanese is: 'Da ga, ikinokotta tojoin wo sonmin ga satsugai shita to suru naiyo wa, jimoto juuumin kara tsuyoi hanpatsu wo uketa.' The more accurate statement later in the article reads: '"Take no mura" wa, kono uchi san-nin ga sonmin ni satsugai sareta kanosei ga aru to shiteki suru.' My reasons for highlighting this 'possibility' stemmed from the following that I uncovered during the course of my research:

My interviews with the B-29 crewmen found that many in the crew were terrified about the possibility of being shot down over Japan, since they had participated in the horrible fire-bombings of Tokyo and other major cities. The crew discussed among themselves what they would do if they had to bail out. Most said they would surrender, but two of the crewmen stated they would fight to the death rather than be captured. The co-pilot stated he would rather go down with the airplane than bail out.

Documents in the preliminary investigation of the B-29 crash by Robert Groh, a war crimes investigator, show that they had received reports that soldiers from the 1993rd Regiment (the Haru Butai) had killed some of the B-29 crewmen and robbed their bodies of valuables. I contacted Groh, then in his early 90s, to ask why he did not follow this lead. Groh was somewhat evasive on this point, but stated that he simply did not want to believe the reports after seeing the well-kept gravesite that the villagers in Yakeyama had made for the dead crewmen. He also told me there were more important cases to deal with. He was a key investigator in the manhunt for Kato Tetsutaro, commandant of Niigata Camp 5B and later the author of 'Watashi wa Kai ni Naritai.'

Based on these findings, I wrote that it might have been possible for some of the crewmen to have been killed in a shootout with soldiers. However, I was careful to note that no eyewitnesses came forth during the investigation. There was little physical evidence, since the bodies of the crew were already badly decomposed when recovered by the US Military. Reports of shootouts with military personnel surfaced only after the bodies were en route by ship back to the United States. GHQ had decided that all war crimes investigations were to be finished by 1948, and this made any further attempts at investigating these questions extremely difficult.

[20] James Oglethorpe, personal communication, 15 May, 2010.

[21] Edna Hunter (1988) 'Long-Term Effects of Parental Wartime Captivity on Children: Children of POW and MIA Servicemen' (Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy Vol. 18, No. 4, pp. 312-328).

[22] Jo Stanley (1996) 'Including the Feelings: Personal Political Testimony and Self-Disclosure' (Oral History Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 60-67); Mark Klempner (2000) 'Navigating Life Review Interviews with Survivors of Trauma' (The Oral History Review Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 67-83).

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About the author

Gregory Hadley is Professor of English and American Cultural Studies at Niigata University of International and Information Studies. Even from an early age, he has had an enduring interest in different cultures. He has worked as a counsellor in a Cuban refugee centre, where he began to learn about the restive dynamics existing between people, cultures and organizations. Later, after relocating to Japan and having studied Japanese as a third language, he entered academia and progressively developed further skills for conducting sociological and cross-cultural research. This included using tools such as Personal Construct Repertory Grids and a Constructivist version of the Grounded Theory Methodology.

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Copyright: Gregory Hadley.
This page was first created on 30 September 2011.

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