Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “japan”

What was it like to be a member of the Filipino Resistance under Japanese occupation?

In my entry for Coast Guard Oral Histories (World War II section) I claim you can answer “What was it like to be a member of the Filipino Resistance under Japanese occupation?” with this resource. Here’s how:

  1. Visit the resource and scroll down to either the “Women” or “World War II” sections
  2. Locate the oral history of Florence Finch was the only SPAR decorated for combat during World War II.

Here you’ll find this statement of SPAR Finch’s activities:

14. A Filipino man asked for my help in falsifying documents to enable guerillas to obtain fuel to operate their trucks and then wrote names on coupons to enable them to pick up their fuel supplies. Col. Engelhart wrote about this inthe recommendation for me to receive the Medal of Freedom. [See Medal of Freedom citation]. I also brought food and did laundry for the American internees in Santo Tomas until the gates were closed in October 1944, after General MacArthur had begun his efforts to liberate the Phillippines in Leyte Gulf. Then the Japanese put the internees on starvation diets. As I have written elsewhere, the Filipinos – all of us outside – were very loyal to the Americans; we shared with them our own meager foods. All ships had stopped coming from the US, also food was very scarce, many foods being sold on the black market, especially cigarettes.

While her Medal of Freedom Citation is not reproduced in this document, a search on her name brings up another Coast Guard biography page on Florence Finch which quotes from the citation:

For meritorious service which had aided the United States in the prosecution of the war against the enemy in the Philippine Islands, from June 1942 to February 1945.  Upon the Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands, Mrs. Finch (then Mrs. Florence Ebersole Smith) believing she could be of more assistance outside the prison camp, refused to disclose her United States citizenship.  She displayed outstanding courage and marked resourcefulness in providing vitally needed food, medicine, and supplies for American Prisoners of War and internees, and in sabotaging Japanese stocks of critical items. . .She constantly risked her life in secretly furnishing money and clothing to American Prisoners of War, and in carrying communications for them.  In consequence she was apprehended by the Japanese, tortured, and imprisoned until rescued by American troops.  Thought her inspiring bravery, resourcefulness, and devotion to the cause of freedom, Mrs. Finch made a distinct contribution to the welfare and morale of American Prisoners of War on Luzon.

These oral histories are just one of the Coast Guard related resources in my Writer’s Guide to Government Information.

What did Tokyo look like after its 1923 earthquake?

Throughout the Writer’s Guide to Government Information, I list “representative questions” that can be answered by a given resource. I thought it might be interesting from time to time to show you how I’d answer one of these questions with its given resource.

In the entry for the US Geological Survey Photographic Library, I assert it can answer the question “What did Tokyo look like after its 1923 earthquake?” Here’s how you’d find out:

In the left hand column, click on “Earthquakes.” On the page that follows, click on “Tokyo Earthquake 1923.” This yields six photos, including:

Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan, Earthquake September 1, 1923. “I enclose also a photo of the ruins of the Grand Hotel at Yokohama where I stopped last year.” J.H. Messervey, letter dated March 5, 1924. USGS Photographic Library

Each photograph in the result set has multiple resolution options:

  • 100 dots per inch (dpi) thumbnail-resolution GIF file
  • 700 dpi medium-resolution JPG file
  • 1400 dpi high-resolution JPG file
  • 1600+ dpi full-resolution JPG file

The entry for the US Geological Survey Photographic Library is just one resource from the Physical Settings chapter of the Writer’s Guide to Government Information.

Interrogation World War II, Vietnam and Iraq [Interrogator Role Models]

Interrogation World War II, Vietnam and Iraq – http://www.ni-u.edu/ni_press/pdf/12010.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What interrogation techniques have historically produced the best results?
  • Why is a knowledge of language and culture helpful in interrogations?
  • What are a few techniques you might use to get information from from someone without making them aware they’re giving something away?


This National Intelligence University Press publication is well documented with over 450 footnotes. The sources consulted by the three authors included military files from the National Archives, other government documents, memoirs of former interrogators, newspapers and academic journals, and interviews with military officials, former interrogators and Special Forces officers.

Based on a review of documentation concerning fanatical Japanese and VC soldiers, the authors conclude that the most important factors in gaining useful intelligence were deep knowledge of the language and culture of the adversary. Torture and other harsh methods used by the Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese tended to elicit false confessions and information.

For writers, it would be very interesting to read the accounts of German interrogator Hanns Scharf and US interrogator Sergeant Grant Hirabayashi. By all accounts they got great results with similar methods. Here’s how Sgt Hirabayshi got his intelligence:

Throughout the campaign, Hirabayashi interrogated dozens of enemy prisoners. His approach was simple; he always treated POWs with kindness and dignity. First, he made sure prisoners received proper medical care. He frequently offered them cigarettes and asked if they had heard from their families and been able to communicate with them. Many wept because of this unexpected treatment. Hirabayashi explained that prisoners truly believed that U.S. soldiers were going to kill them and noted that the POWs were completely unaware of the rights afforded to them under the rules of international law, codified in the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 27 July 1929 (the Geneva Convention of 1929).

If you want create an interrogator who is both sympathetic and effective, study this book.

Securing the Surrender: Marines in the Occupation of Japan

Securing the Surrender: Marines in the Occupation of Japan. Charles R. Smith. 1997. 44 pp.
(Paper: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/38745461)
(Online: https://archive.org/details/SecuringTheSurrender)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find pictures of surrendering Japanese troops?
  • How were Marines housed during the early occupation?
  • What duties did Marines have during the occupation?


A well illustrated account without table of contents or index about the Marines role in the occupation of Japan. Sidebars show interesting stories such as the oldest Marine in the occupation. Work also shows a number of photographs.

Coast Guard Oral Histories (World War II section)

Coast Guard Oral Histories (World War II section) – http://www.uscg.mil/history/oralhistoryindex.asp

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What was it like to be a member of the Filipino Resistance under Japanese occupation?
  • What was it like to be on Coast Guard Picket Duty during World War II?
  • How would a Coast Guardsman react to finding Nazi saboteurs on American soil?
  • How were bed-wetters treated on some Coast Guard vessels?


This page links to histories from a number of eras. Scroll down to World War II to find over four dozen oral histories from the men and women who served in the Coast Guard in a number of different capacities during World War II. Some of the histories are illustrated with photographs and/or drawings.

Search Tip:

To search for an oral history that matches topics that you are interested in, visit your favorite search engine and do a search in the form of:
[your search terms] inurl:history/weboralhistory
If you use [”bed wetters” inurl:history/weboralhistory], you will retrieve the one oral history that deals with this topic. Note that searching will bring up any oral history that matches your terms, not just oral histories from World War II.

The above search on retrieved items from the Coast Guard Oral history site as of December 2013. If results from other sites appear in your search, do the search again and add site:uscg.mil to the end of it.

U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey: The Effects of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, June 19, 1946.

U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey: The Effects of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, June 19, 1946. President’s Secretary’s File, Truman Papers – http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/bomb/large/documents/index.php?documentdate=1946-06-19&documentid=65&studycollectionid=abomb&pagenumber=1

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are the effects of a nuclear attack?
  • What is a flash burn like?
  • How would an average US city be affected by a nuclear blast?


The purpose of the this 51 page report was to document the effects of atomic attack. The general outline of the report was:

  • Introduction
  • Effects of the Atomic Bombings
  • The attacks and damage
  • General Effects
  • Casualties (flash burns, other injuries and radiation disease)
  • How the Atomic Bomb Works
  • Signposts
  • The Danger
  • What We Can Do About It

Page 42 of this report has a table comparing the effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs with the Tokyo firebombing on 3/9/1945 and against an average derived from 93 attacks on Japanese urban targets.
Section IV of this report, which begins on page 44 and concludes the survey speculates on possible nuclear damage to US cities and what defenses might exist to atomic attack.

Aside from documenting the effects of a nuclear attack on buildings and people, this document is useful in showing American attitudes of the time.

Navy Photos From the Initial Occupation of Japan

Navy photos from the initial occupation of Japan – https://web.archive.org/web/20130703130844/http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/wwii-pac/japansur/js-6.htm

UPDATE 1/19/2015 – The Naval History and Heritage Command recently reorganized their website and I could not find the Japan surrender photos there. So I’m linking to the Internet Archive version. I used the methods described in Appendix D, What to Do When URLs/Websites Break to recover this resource. If you do find a live link to these pictures, please let me know.

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What do scenes of surrender look like?
  • How do liberated prisoners look?


This page from the Naval Historical Center provides access to a few dozen photographs taken by Navy personnel during the first month of the occupation of Japan. They include photos of the surrender of Japan, the takeover of various Japanese bases by American forces and a number of pictures of liberated Allied prisoners. Each photograph is captioned and each page of this site has additional commentary. The photographs on this site are divided into the following areas:

  • Amphibious Landings around Tokyo Bay, 28 August – 2 September 1945;
  • Liberation of Allied Prisoners of War in the Tokyo Bay Area, Part I;
  • Liberation of Allied Prisoners of War in the Tokyo Bay Area, Part II;
  • General MacArthur Arrives at Atsugi, 30 August 1945;
  • Takeover of Yokosuka Naval Base, 30 August 1945;
  • Miscellaneous Occupation Activities in the Tokyo Bay Area, 28 August – 2 September 1945.

Chronology of Japan (Occupation)

Chronology of Japan (Occupation) – http://www.history.army.mil/documents/8-5/8-5.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What types of events take place in the stages of a military occupation?


As the title implies, this US Army publication is a simple list of dates and events from 8/15/1945, the former date of the Japanese surrender though 3/31/1946, the 97th Infantry Division was inactivated at Kumagaya. I’ve included this resource for the mundaneness of tasks involved in winding down a war and setting up a military government. On interesting item here was the January 1, 1946 “Imperial Rescript” from the Emperor which renounced his personal claim to divinity and the Japanese people’s claim of racial superiority.

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