Monday, September 12, 2011

Two Women

In the years following the August, 1945 surrender of Japan, hundreds of government officials, academics, judges, lawyers and assorted experts began to arrive in Tokyo to join the military’s effort  to pacify and reform Japan’s people and institutions. 

Eleanor Hadley
Seattle PI
 They brought with them their old politics, their emerging perceptions of the new world order and their dreams of doing the right thing by their country and the people and cities who lay before them in ruins. Like our time, the pursuit of those things created conflict and polarity of purpose.  However, unlike our times, they survived these problems and produced a remarkable result though, for some, at great personal cost.
The occupiers needed people who could speak Japanese and knew Japan’s institutions and had experience with Japanese people.  Two young women who had graduated from Mill’s College fit that bill, 31 year old Eleanor Hadley and 22 year old Beate Sirota. 
Hadley grew up in an accomplished Washington state family.  Her father, Homer Hadley, was influential in the design of the first floating bridge across Lake Washington.  In fact, the north span of today’s I-90 is named after him.  Her mother was an educator who worked on educational reform in the state.
Hadley studied economics and and went to Japan in 1936 to study there and was again in the country 1938-40.  She was a witness to the devastation the Japanese brought to Nanking. 

Hadley was fascinated by the Zaibatsu, the economic backbone of prewar Japan.  Four companies, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Sumitomo and Yasuda were the major players, but the concept of interlocking, family controlled business expressed itself through many Japanese companies.  These companies had business holdings that utterly dominated all the key industries of the Japanese economy and they colluded among one another to freeze out competitors and fix prices.  They represented a kind of economic nobility within the country that worked against needed reform.

Beate Sirota
Mills College
 During the war, Hadley worked in the Department of State as an economic analyst focused on Japan and was called to the occupation at the beginning of 1946.
Sirota grew up in pre-war Japan where her father, a Ukrainian Jew, taught music at the Imperial College of Music.  She was completely fluent in Japanese and went to study at Mills College, eight years after Hadley graduated.  During the war, she put her language skills to work for the U.S. government and for Time magazine.
Now working as a translator for MacArthur’s staff, she was perhaps the first civilian women to enter Japan after the surrender and found her parents in a detention camp. 

General Charles Willoughby
US Army
 Both of them ultimately found their way to the Government Affairs Division, whose job it became to draft the Japanese constitution.
There is a triangle at the heart of this story, the points composed of the two young women and Major General Charles Willoughby whose role in the occupation was to command the Intelligence Group.  Willoughby was a hard and imperious man, who hated the New Deal and New Dealers and felt that General Francisco Franco was the second greatest general in the world.  General MacArthur liked to call him “my little fascist.”
German born, he came to America at age 18 in 1910, enlisted in the Army, served three years and then taught languages in the Midwest.  He reenlisted in 1916 and served as a Second Lieutenant in Mexico and France.  He was with MacArthur in the Philippines and was in the PT Boat that delivered MacArthur to Australia when the Japanese overran the US defenses. 
Not unusual for an intelligence professional, Willoughby wanted control over information.  The two young women represented a lack of control.  Hadley and Sirota were sought out by journalists because they knew the country and its language and Sirota had actually worked as a journalist during the war.  Willoughby despised journalists.
Also, the Japanese resisted the campaign against the Zaibatsu and found an ally in the conservative, autocratic Willoughby.  He saw the dissolution of the Zaibatsu through the lens of the New Deal and the people carrying out the policy as na├»ve and politically motivated.  The effort was not insubstantial.  The anti-trust team, led by Hadley, originally targeted more than 16 Zaibatsu for dissolution and more than 20 more for reorganization.  Their assets were seized, holding companies eliminated, inter-locking directorships outlawed. 
The goals of the occupation changed over time, from a reform of a society and its institutions to the reconstruction of Japan as a tool in the Cold War.  Many of the reforms instituted by Hadley were reversed or muted by the cold warriors within the occupation or, by subsequent administrations in the years after.

Beate Sirota is at the end of the table in this photo taken in 1946.
We're not completely sure, but are fairly settled that Eleanor Hadley
is the woman seated front left.
 They worked in a chaotic environment.  There was little food and people were starving.  More than 15 million Japanese had no homes. Repatriation of Japanese soldiers scattered across the world peaked in 1946 when 200,000 a week were returning. 
Growing up in Japan, Sirota observed the position of women in the society and did not like it.  Incredibly, she had an opportunity to change it all.
The formation of the new Japanese constitution has many roots, the decisions agreed to at Potsdam, the pre-surrender planning that was taking place in 1944 and 1945, and the changes made on the ground by MacArthur as his intellect and ego read the situation.
The Japanese began work on a new constitution in 1945 and had prepared a draft by the end of the year.  However, it retained much of the old 1868 Meiji constitution.  The State Department and the occupation leadership were becoming anxious about the lack of progress and what they saw as the conservative nature of the Japanese written version.
In February of 1946, fearful that the Japanese would propose an unacceptable version and force the US to publicly reject it, MacArthur ordered that General Courtney Whitney, who headed the government section of the occupation, to create a constitution – and right now. 
Pulling together a steering committee and a number of sub-committees, the staff put a version together in nine days.  Sirota and Hadley were the only women assigned to the project who had substantive roles.
Hadley presented a framework of principles that would guide Japanese business. Sirota’s work came down to two articles of the constitution that reached deeply into the Japanese family and fundamentally changed it forever.
“Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.”
“With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.”
The constitution was approved by the Japanese people six months later and become the fundamental law of the country.
The two women moved on to their careers.  Beate studied music, modern, ethnic and folk dance and married Jack Gordon, also working at the allied headquarters and they moved to New York.  Eleanor got ready to take on her new assignment, a job offered in the new Central Intelligence Agency, once she had finished her doctorate at Radcliffe.  But things started going wrong.  The post was delayed, not funded and finally the offer was pulled back.  Other efforts to work for her government and build on her experiences in Japan fell apart. 
The fact is, General Willoughby had both the women as communists, but it didn’t affect the career choice of the arts Sirota made.  But it blew up what Hadley wanted with the rest of her life. 
Willoughby had placed this in her security file:
“Although no positive derogatory information is on record in Miss Hadley’s files, in view of her close association with this extremely leftist element in the Tokyo Correspondents’ Club, she is being made subject of continued investigation.  Moreover, her position in the Government section, where she enjoys close personal association with known leftist personnel, such as Thomas A.  Bisson, further suggests that she is being exploited by, in and outside GHQ.  It is believed that Miss Hadley’s relative immaturity and her lack of sufficient experience for a position of such responsibility would make her easily susceptible to such exploitation.”
The lefties at the Correspondent’s Club included Joseph Fromm, a reporter for the publication that became US News and World Report.  Bisson, a GHQ expert on the Far East wrote a book called “The Limits of Reform in Occupied Japan,” a point of view that did not play well with Willoughby.  Willoughby hung that book and the ideas of its author around the neck of Eleanor Hadley and broke her government future into pieces.
Still trying to get back into government service, Hadley sought out General Courtney Whitney, who headed the constitution process in 1946.  Twenty years later, he wrote to Senator Henry Jackson as part of an ongoing effort to help restore her security status.  An excellent lawyer, Whitney wrapped Hadley in the mantle of MacArthur. 

“To me, it is the height of absurdity that a person of Miss Hadley’s integrity, loyalty, and devotion to her country could be under a cloud.  However, being intimately familiar with the vicious attacks launched against General MacArthur in connection with the dissolution of the Zaibatsu and the economic purge, in both of which programs Miss Hadley participated, it occurs to me that such attacks may be at the root of her difficulties.  A great public figure is not damaged by slander; an unknown staff person may be.”
Charles Willoughby remained the intelligence officer for MacArthur and is widely blamed for not warning the general of massing troops on the Chinese border as the American forces moved north during the early days of the Korean War.  The Americans were overwhelmed as China did what it said it would do -- entering the war if the Americans crossed the Yalu River.
As a military officer and a civilian, Willoughby worked for General Franco and lobbied the US government to site bases in Spain to fight communism.  He worked for H.L.  Hunt, the Texas oilman, and helped him create The International Committee for the Defense of Christian Culture.  He died in 1972.
Eleanor Hadley worked as a teacher, wrote several books and finished her career at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.  She died in Normandy Park, Washington in 1997.
Beate Sirota Gordon will be 89 years old in October and will speak about her life, women’s rights and peace on September 22 at Seattle University.

Details of Sirota-Gordon's Appearance at Seattle U

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