Japan


“The Mata Hari of the Far East”: Uncovering the Incredible Story of Yoshiko Kawashima in Open Source Intelligence Reports

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The story reads like a tale from a 1930s pulp fiction magazine: A cross-dressing Manchu princess makes a daring a nighttime escape by horseback across the steppes, becomes a spy for the Japanese, poses as a prostitute in opium dens around China and Siberia, is arrested and is executed—all set against the backdrop of the Chinese Revolution of 1912, the Japanese invasion of China, and World War II.

It may sound like fiction, but the true story of the Manchu princess, Yoshiko Kawashima, was of such interest to the United States government in the 1940s that a branch of the Central Intelligence Agency known as the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) avidly gathered information about Kawashima. Among the articles selected and transcribed by the FBIS were three dispatches filed to Reuters from Chungking, China, on April 12, 13, and 14, 1945. They were reported in English Morse by “Correspondent Shen.” Shen opened his first dispatch this way:

“The Mata Hari of the Far East”: Uncovering the Incredible Story of Yoshiko Kawashima in Open Source Intelligence Reports

From War to Wilderness: Alaska’s Near Islands

The Near Islands’ name seems like a misnomer. At the westernmost point of the Aleutian Islands, they’re not really near much of anything except each other and Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. But their place in history is assured as the site of the only land battle during World War II to take place on U.S. soil.

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On June 7, 1942, a Japanese force occupied Attu Island, capturing 45 Aleut natives and two non-indigenous citizens. The prisoners were relocated to Hokkaido, Japan. The Japanese would remain on Attu and nearby Kiska Island for about a year, until they were defeated by U.S. and Allied forces in late May of 1943.

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Despite their remote location, Attu and Kiska were strategic in relation to Pacific shipping lanes and as bases for air attacks against the West Coast of the United States. The battle for Attu was by no means an insignificant engagement, as thousands of soldiers were killed and injured on both sides.

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From War to Wilderness: Alaska’s Near Islands

Lifting the Bamboo Curtain: The Rise and Fall of “Guided Democracy” and the Indonesian Communist Party

Consider for a moment the plight of Indonesia’s leaders in 1945: how to establish a national identity in a country spread across more than 13,000 islands, featuring hundreds of languages and ethnic groups, all in a precarious balance between the military, Muslims, and communists?

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During Indonesia’s struggle to break free from over 300 years of Dutch colonial rule, and then from Japanese military occupation following World War II, early attempts to govern through parliamentary democracy became synonymous with corruption and bureaucratic paralysis. Between 1950 and 1959 there were seven attempts to build coalition governments, the last culminating in a period of martial law. Clearly a new approach was needed.

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That approach came to be known as “Guided Democracy” (Demokrasi Terpimpin). Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president and the leader of the 1945 revolution that finally established Indonesia as a sovereign state, exercised an increasingly prominent role in the nation’s politics until his downfall in 1967. His administration’s managed or “Guided” democracy became more than an empty slogan or a euphemism for one-man rule; we shall see that there was indeed a unique Indonesian variant of the socialist experiment.

Lifting the Bamboo Curtain: The Rise and Fall of “Guided Democracy” and the Indonesian Communist Party

The Brief, Wondrous Life of Lafcadio Hearn: Tracking the Author, Journalist and 19th-Century World Traveler through Historical Newspapers

Lafcadio_hearn.jpgAn American author and literary figure in the last quarter of the 19th century, Lafcadio Hearn was known for his fiction and his reportage from the Caribbean and Japan. His own life, however, was as fascinating as fiction itself, and his biography reads like a Charles Dickens novel that morphs into a Hemingway memoir.

Born to a Greek mother and an Irish father, Hearn was brought up in Greece, Ireland, England and France. After moving to Dublin when he was five, his parents divorced. His mother remarried and returned to Greece, while his soldier father was sent to India with his new wife. Hearn was left in Ireland with his aunt, Sarah Brenane, who sent him to a Catholic school in France on the advice of her financial advisor, Henry Molyneux.

495px-Lafcadio_Hearn.jpgFrom there, Hearn went to yet another school in England, but was forced to leave when Molyneux suffers some financial setbacks. His aunt died and Molyneux became her heir. When Hearn turned nineteen, Molyneux gave him a ticket to New York City. From there, he went to Cincinnati, Ohio, where a relative of Molyneux’s was supposed to help him, but didn’t. Hearn lived in abject poverty. But thanks to his multinational upbringing, he was literate and knew several languages.

The Brief, Wondrous Life of Lafcadio Hearn: Tracking the Author, Journalist and 19th-Century World Traveler through Historical Newspapers

Foreign Broadcast Information Service: A Brief Overview of Its Daily Reports and Their Value for International Studies

From 1941 to 1996 the U.S. government published the Daily Report of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS). FBIS was begun in 1941 as a means of letting the government know what propaganda was being broadcast into the U.S. by the shortwave radio services of the foreign governments involved in the European war.

Broadcasts deemed of potential interest to U.S. government officials were selected for translation into English. Political, economic and war news dominated the first years of FBIS. Broadcasts were either transcribed in their entirety, in part, or were briefly summarized. Every day a Daily Report was published and delivered. After World War II the number of FBIS sources grew, and the size of the Daily Report ballooned. In the early 1970s FBIS Daily Reports began to be delivered in Regional Reports whose names changed over time. Sources now included newspapers and television news shows as well as radio broadcasts.

Graham E. Fuller, a former C.I.A. official, wrote about FBIS Reports in a Consortium News piece entitled, “Value in Reading Others’ Propaganda,” which was published online on September 29, 2015. In this piece Fuller writes:

Indeed there was an entire branch of CIA which monitored and published on a daily basis a thick booklet of selected broadcast items from around the world—available by subscription. The Foreign Broadcast Information Service provided an invaluable service. It is now sadly defunct, the victim of short-sighted budget cutting—an operation which probably cost less annually than one fighter aircraft and offered much more.

Foreign Broadcast Information Service: A Brief Overview of Its Daily Reports and Their Value for International Studies

Pearl Harbor: As Reported the Day After

Today is the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Here's how four American newspapers reported it the next day on their front pages.    
Pearl Harbor: As Reported the Day After

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