The Reischauer Memo

Mr. Moto, Hirohito, and Japanese American Soldiers

Author: T. Fujitani


This article offers a critical reading of a recently discovered memorandum authored by Edwin O. Reischauer in September 1942. Already at this early date in the war, Reischauer proposed retention of the Japanese emperor as head of a postwar "puppet regime" that would serve U.S. interests in East Asia. He also argued that Japanese Americans had until then been a "sheer liability" and that the United States could turn them into an "asset" by enlisting them in the U.S. military. He reasoned that Japanese American soldiers would be useful for propaganda purposes that is, to demonstrate to the world and particularly the "yellow and brown peoples" that the United States was not a racist nation. The article interrogates the racial thinking behind such utilitarian proposals for the Japanese emperor and Japanese Americans and considers the memorandum within the broader context of the wartime foundations of the postwar U.S.-Japan relationship, the characteristics of postwar Japanese studies, the decision to mobilize Japanese Americans as soldiers, and the shifting place of Japanese Americans in the management of U.S. race relations during and after the war.
Regions: East Asia
Countries: Japan

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September 2001
© E.D. Starin