By James McGrath Morris (Guest Contributor)
One of the pleasures of researching a book is coming across something you don’t anticipate, something surprising that is fascinating to both the reader and the writer.
In my case, in the course of working on Eye on the Struggle, I learned for the first time the story of mixed-race babies in Japan born from African American soldiers and Japanese women in the years shortly after World War II when American troops occupied Japan. White soldiers fathered children as well, but the offspring of black fathers were far more ostracized.
Being of such visible mixed race, the babies were unwanted by the Japanese, who abhorred what they viewed as the tainting of their blood. They were frequently abandoned upon birth. In one case, a train passenger unwrapped a cloth bundle she spotted on the luggage rack to discover the corpse of a black Japanese baby.
Ethel Payne, the subject of my book, was working as a hostess in a black service club in Tokyo when she learned about these children. A friend took her to Yokohama to an orphanage run by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. There Payne learned about the abandoned children and was horrified. “Here were 160 foundlings of all mixtures, about 50 of them ‘Spookinese,’ Negro and Japanese,” said Payne. “Some beds had three babies they are so crowded.”
To military officials the infants, known as “occupation babies,” were none of their concern. It was forbidden to collect data on the extent of the problem and the subject was not to be publicly discussed. A reporter for the Saturday Evening Post had been expelled from the country for writing about occupation babies. Simply put, the subject was taboo. If blame was to be assigned, the military said it lay with licentious Japanese women who “made good clean American boys go morally wrong.”
Military law freed U.S. soldiers “of all but moral responsibility” unless they formally admitted paternity. But if the authorities were to push soldiers, specifically African American ones, to claim paternity or to marry a Japanese woman, it would challenge American opposition to mixed-race relationships and, more to the point, contradict existing prevailing state anti-miscegenation laws. As a result, the children of these relationships were regarded as pariahs by both societies, even more so in the case of those with black fathers.
There is very little that one can find out about what happened to these occupation babies born in Japan. On the other hand, in Germany the Black German Cultural Society was created in 1991 for Mischlingskinder, the German term for “brown babies.”
For more information and images, see http://afrogermans.us/.