Aiding Former Enemies: Humanitarian Efforts of U.S. Quakers in Allied Occupied Japan, 1945–52

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 8:50 AM
Concourse E (New York Hilton)
Marlene Mayo, University of Maryland at College Park
As the Allied Occupation of Japan began in September 1945, Japan’s homefront and economy were shattered. Food and medical supplies were scarce, and there was fear of mass starvation. This presentation will examine food and relief policies in Occupied Japan with a focus on the humanitarian efforts of the American Society of Friends to bring aid to a former enemy in the Pacific War. Mainly to protect the health and welfare of U.S. troops, General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, requested an increase in food supplies and donated Army surplus to Japanese civilians.  The Truman administration expanded relief after a visit in May 1946 of the world-wide U.S. Food Mission headed by former president Herbert Hoover. But to fill the breach, private humanitarian aid came to the rescue, 1946-1952, much to the gratitude of Japanese schools, hospitals, orphanages and ordinary citizens—and the Japanese government.  Central to this presentation is the Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia, or LARA, in which a prominent role was played by U.S. Quakers with prewar ties to Japan.  LARA mobilized the Nikkei (Japanese heritage) population to donate food and clothing and encouraged Protestant and Catholic charities to make contributions.  A driving force was Esther Rhoads (1896-1979), an American Quaker who arrived in Tokyo in the 1920s as a teacher in the Friends Girls School and befriended interned Japanese Americans after her repatriation to wartime California. Following her return to Japan and relief work there, Rhoads became head of the Friends School and tutor to the Crown Prince.  Mayo argues that LARA played a significant role in US-Japan reconciliation and alliance formation in the early Cold War.  This presentation will draw upon multiarchival primary sources and visual images.