Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blog Q&A with Elaine B. Fischel

Here are a few questions I had for Elaine B. Fischel, author of Defending the Enemy:

1. Your return to the U.S. was postponed many times. When it was time for you to return it was before the verdicts and sentencing. If given the chance, would you have wanted to stay for the verdicts and sentencing?   I would not have wanted to stay for the verdicts at the war crimes trial. When the actual work for which I was hired to do ended and the halls of Ichigay were empty, I knew I had to return to the real world. My glorious adventure had ended when I was no longer being helpful. With Bill Logan already gone and John Brannon not needing my help, as he waited for the verdicts, I knew there was to be no more changing my mind...it was time to go.

2. When you became ill with TB after returning, a drug to treat it was available to you in the U.S. While in Japan the son of a friend of yours also became stricken with TB, but you were not allowed to get the drug for him. In the book you mention the irony of this. He eventually died, were there any feelings of guilt or sorrow?   There were tremendous feelings of sorrow when Mr. Enomotor's son died of tuberculosis. This happened after my efforts to obtain streptomycin for him failed, I felt a huge sense of shame that I could not come to the rescue. When I was diagnosed with advanced active tuberculosis just six weeks after I had started law school, that newly discovered drug saved my life. I contrasted my good fortune with my failure in the Enomoto mission. I felt the sorrow of the Enomoto family all over again. MY feelings were more of sadness and despair about life's inequities than guilt, as I knew I had tried every way I knew to obtain streptomycin when it first came to the American military forces in Japan

3. In the aftermath, many felt the trials were more about politics than justice. Did the outcome change how you looked at the law? Change your faith in the law?  The verdicts in Japan did indeed lessen my faith in the law. It was a realization that the law is not sacred. It is interpreted by humans. Eleven nations sat in judgment of these former war leaders. Different conclusions were reached by many as to the guilt of the individual defendants. I could not help but think that there was no evidence that could have been presented to a particular judge that would have persuaded him to be l00% impartial in his ruling. But it was so much better than taking out an accused person and shooting him. I thought of the irony in the old joke: "Give 'em a fair trial and then hang 'em" I do have faith in the law to this day but it is tempered with the belief that you also have to have a bit of luck on your side.

4. I know the times were different, but how come there was so much socializing?  The occupation of Japan was a peaceful one. Americans for the most part were kind to the Japanese and sincere in their mission to bring democracy to that country whether they wanted it or not. And I do think they wanted it. I was fortunate that my two bosses always sang my praises so that the Japanese felt I was helping them in more meaningful ways than just typing documents. Japanese respect hard work and thus respected me as an individual and included me in the many events that were planned for those higher up in the Occupation echelon than a mere secretary.

The amount of fun things I did surprised even, me. I had always considered myself somewhat of a wallflower but my athletic skills at tennis and ping pong changed my image when I was any place surrounded by men. They never thought a female to be that skilled in sports. And of course, there was certainly a shortage of females to provide social contacts for the huge army of service and civilian people in Occupied Japan.

I was fortunate to meet wonderful men in the service and outside the service. And developing a friendship with Emperor Hirohito's brother, Prince Takamatsu, was the cherry on the sundae. That plus a good deal of luck in meeting the nicest of human beings--both Japanese and American.

5. In 1960, you went back to Japan with your mother. Have you gone back since?  I went back to Japan in l982 and 2005. The l982 trip was memorable for my visits with Hiroko Kawano, Admiral Shimada's daughter. My friend, Daphne, a former court reporter at the trials, who had stayed in Japan as a permanent residence, had invited me and the changes since l960 amazed me. I touched Japan in 2005 on a cruise vacation, which did not give me enough time to do what I wanted to do. And that was just to wander and absorb the scenery in the places I remembered the most. But it was not to be.

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