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A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War Crimes Suspect, and an Unsolved Mystery from World War IIBy Eric Jaffe

A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War Crimes Suspect, and an Unsolved Mystery from World War IIBy Eric Jaffe

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Published by Simon and Schuster
From an “illuminating and entertaining” (The New York Times) historian comes the World War II story of two men whose remarkable lives improbably converged at the Tokyo war crimes trials of 1946.

In the wake of World War II, the Allied forces charged twenty-eight Japanese men with crimes against humanity. Correspondents at the Tokyo trial thought the evidence fell most heavily on ten of the accused. In December 1948, five of these defendants were hanged while four received sentences of life in prison. The tenth was a brilliant philosopher-patriot named Okawa Shumei. His story proved strangest of all.

Among all the political and military leaders on trial, Okawa was the lone civilian. In the years leading up to World War II, he had outlined a divine mission for Japan to lead Asia against the West, prophesized a great clash with the United States, planned coups d’etat with military rebels, and financed the assassination of Japan’s prime minister. Beyond “all vestiges of doubt,” concluded a classified American intelligence report, “Okawa moved in the best circles of nationalist intrigue.”

Okawa’s guilt as a conspirator appeared straightforward. But on the first day of the Tokyo trial, he made headlines around the world by slapping star defendant and wartime prime minister Tojo Hideki on the head. Had Okawa lost his sanity? Or was he faking madness to avoid a grim punishment? A U.S. Army psychiatrist stationed in occupied Japan, Major Daniel Jaffe—the author’s grandfather—was assigned to determine Okawa’s ability to stand trial, and thus his fate.

Jaffe was no stranger to madness. He had seen it his whole life: in his mother, as a boy in Brooklyn; in soldiers, on the battlefields of Europe. Now his seasoned eye faced the ultimate test. If Jaffe deemed Okawa sane, the war crimes suspect might be hanged. But if Jaffe found Okawa insane, the philosopher patriot might escape justice for his role in promoting Japan’s wartime aggression.

Meticulously researched, A Curious Madness is both expansive in scope and vivid in detail. As the story pushes both Jaffe and Okawa toward their postwar confrontation, it explores such diverse topics as the roots of belligerent Japanese nationalism, the development of combat psychiatry during World War II, and the complex nature of postwar justice. Eric Jaffe is at his best in this suspenseful and engrossing historical narrative of the fateful intertwining of two men on different sides of the war and the world and the question of insanity.
From an “illuminating and entertaining” (The New York Times) historian comes the World War II story of two men whose remarkable lives improbably converged at the Tokyo war crimes trials of 1946.

In the wake of World War II, the Allied forces charged twenty-eight Japanese men with crimes against humanity. Correspondents at the Tokyo trial thought the evidence fell most heavily on ten of the accused. In December 1948, five of these defendants were hanged while four received sentences of life in prison. The tenth was a brilliant philosopher-patriot named Okawa Shumei. His story proved strangest of all.

Among all the political and military leaders on trial, Okawa was the lone civilian. In the years leading up to World War II, he had outlined a divine mission for Japan to lead Asia against the West, prophesized a great clash with the United States, planned coups d’etat with military rebels, and financed the assassination of Japan’s prime minister. Beyond “all vestiges of doubt,” concluded a classified American intelligence report, “Okawa moved in the best circles of nationalist intrigue.”

Okawa’s guilt as a conspirator appeared straightforward. But on the first day of the Tokyo trial, he made headlines around the world by slapping star defendant and wartime prime minister Tojo Hideki on the head. Had Okawa lost his sanity? Or was he faking madness to avoid a grim punishment? A U.S. Army psychiatrist stationed in occupied Japan, Major Daniel Jaffe—the author’s grandfather—was assigned to determine Okawa’s ability to stand trial, and thus his fate.

Jaffe was no stranger to madness. He had seen it his whole life: in his mother, as a boy in Brooklyn; in soldiers, on the battlefields of Europe. Now his seasoned eye faced the ultimate test. If Jaffe deemed Okawa sane, the war crimes suspect might be hanged. But if Jaffe found Okawa insane, the philosopher patriot might escape justice for his role in promoting Japan’s wartime aggression.

Meticulously researched, A Curious Madness is both expansive in scope and vivid in detail. As the story pushes both Jaffe and Okawa toward their postwar confrontation, it explores such diverse topics as the roots of belligerent Japanese nationalism, the development of combat psychiatry during World War II, and the complex nature of postwar justice. Eric Jaffe is at his best in this suspenseful and engrossing historical narrative of the fateful intertwining of two men on different sides of the war and the world and the question of insanity.

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Published by: Simon and Schuster on Feb 12, 2014
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/22/2014

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1
Chapter 1
 The Slap Heard Round the World
Class-A war criminal—Adjudged insane—Suspected insanity was feigned.
—Personality file on Okawa Shumei, Records of the CIA, July 25, 1958
O
KAWA 
 S
HUMEI
 
 ARRIVED
 
at the arraignment looking every bit the madman. It was May 3, 1946. The bus from Sugamo Prison dropped off the defendants at half past eight in the morning. Okawa entered the courtroom wearing traditional Jap-anese geta, or wooden clogs, and a wrinkled light blue shirt that looked like a pajama top. He took his place at the center-back of the two-row prisoner dock that faced the international panel of judges. In front of him was Tojo Hideki, the former general recognized the world over for his flat bald head and round spectacles, who wore a bush jacket and the sober expression of a man resigned to his execution. Of all the defen-dants, only Okawa lacked the sharp formality the occasion demanded. The goofy sight of him in that loose pajama top gave the impression of a sleepwalker having wandered into a funeral, or a clown into a church.Most people knew the International Military Tribunal for the Far  East as the “Tokyo trial.” Some called it “Japan’s Nuremberg.” By any name, its purpose was to draw a legal and moral curtain on Imperial
 
2
 /
 A CURIOUS MADNESS
 Japan the way Nuremberg was, at that very moment, drawing one on Nazi Germany. To that end, the Allies had indicted twenty-eight  Japanese considered most responsible for their country’s aggression during World War II. Tojo, who’d been prime minister when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, was the star defendant.  Joining him was a collection of leaders that included three more for-mer premiers, a number of generals and admirals and war and navy ministers, an assortment of other cabinet members, a pair of ambassa-dors, and a chief advisor to the emperor. The indictment for the Tokyo trial referred to this alleged crowd of agitators as a “criminal militaristic clique.”Pajamas aside, Okawa Shumei seemed a bit out of place inside this circle of influence. (His name is pronounced Oh-ka-wa Shoe-meh, with
meh
 taking a small verbal step toward
may
.) He was the lone civilian on trial; he’d neither held political office nor been in the military. At the same time, certain members of the Allied prosecution team considered him the stitching that held together the entire pat-tern of Japanese imperialism they were trying to prove. One attorney for the prosecution described Okawa as “the sparkplug that kept the  whole conspiracy alive and going over the whole period covered in the indictment.” Shortly before the Tokyo trial began, an intelligence offi-cer who’d been stationed in Japan said he’d rather see Okawa indicted than even Tojo himself. “He was really the heart of it,” the officer said. Okawa was viewed as the brain trust of Japanese militarism—the mind that directed the country’s might.The courthouse was in the neighborhood of Ichigaya, a high point overlooking the bombed-out ruins of Tokyo. During the war the three-story building had been a headquarters for the Japanese Army; it even had the slight look of a pillbox. Workers had toiled for months to prepare the venue for the trial. They’d lined the main hall with wood paneling and installed bright lighting. They’d built a booth for inter-preters, perched on a balcony, and enclosed it in glass. They’d set down a thousand seats and wired each one into a three-channel translation system so the audience could follow in English, Japanese, or Russian as their ears preferred. At about a quarter past eleven on May 3, 1946,

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