Document proving WWII military sex slaves now at KU library
Lawrence A longtime University of Kansas professor’s report that played a role in Japan acknowledging the government-controlled brothels that operated during World War II has been added to a campus research library.
Grant Goodman, who died in 2014, was a 20-year-old second lieutenant in the Army’s Military Intelligence Service when he translated the report about the brothels — some featuring enslaved “comfort girls” from across Asia.
Decades later, Goodman shared the document with a reporter and contributed a chapter to the book “Legacies of the Comfort Women of World War II” about his wartime translation work. His actions are credited with contributing to Japan’s 1993 formal apology to former prostitutes now known as “comfort women.” Just last month, Japan for the first time pledged government money — $8.3 million — to a foundation supporting the few remaining sex slaves from Korea, now in their 80s and 90s.
According to the report, now archived at the Spencer Research Library, a booklet outlining rules and regulations for brothels in Manila, issued by a Japanese lieutenant colonel, made clear that such “houses of relaxation” were strictly for soldiers and army civilian employees. Permission from the army was required for everything from hiring new employees to setting prices, and prostitutes were forbidden to leave without army permission.
At the time he translated it, the material didn’t arouse any special interest since the U.S. military “knew well” the Japanese were operating brothels for their armed forces, Goodman wrote.
“Speaking personally, however, at the then tender age of 20 and being a very innocent youth from a middle-class American family in Ohio, I found these data very informative,” he wrote. “Accordingly, after our report was published for circulation at GHQ, I managed to keep a copy and mailed it home with a request that my parents keep it for me until my return from overseas.”
Goodman didn’t dig it out again until 1992, when he read a story from The Associated Press about a Japanese university professor who had found documents in Defense Agency archives showing the Japanese government’s direct involvement in the wartime brothels. However, Goodman wrote, the Japanese government questioned the authenticity of the documents.
Goodman sent a copy of his report to a Japanese journalist. In February 1992, a story on the report’s contents broke on the front page of nearly every Japanese newspaper and TV news program.
Goodman wrote that he was “proud” of his role in “bringing about the Japanese prime minister’s acceptance of responsibility for the so-called ‘comfort women.’”