Final Public Oral Exam: Connor Mills

Final Public Oral Examination
Event date: 
May 12, 2020 - 10:00am
Seminar Series: 
Final Public Oral Exam

Base Towns: Everyday Life in and Around the Garrisons of Postwar Japan, 1945-1954


Sheldon Garon, Adviser
Margot Canaday
Federico Marcon
Lori Watt, Washington University in St. Louis


Despite a rich body of scholarship on the Allied Occupation of Japan (1945-1952), little research examines the Occupation as a project of military infrastructure building. As a result, many historians present the Occupation as a civilian reform project run from Tokyo, an image that obscures the experiences of the Japanese towns and cities that played host to dozens of military facilities and hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers during these years. This dissertation, by contrast, demonstrates that the Occupation was also a military project that moved bodies, transported commodities, and constructed bases across the Japanese archipelago. By examining how the U.S. military shaped local communities in fundamental ways—the military prosecution of Japanese citizens for offenses against the Occupation, the regular commission of crimes by U.S. soldiers, the employment of hundreds of thousands of Japanese workers, and the local procurement of vast quantities of Japanese supplies, among others—this study shows that many Japanese experienced the Occupation as a concrete project that directly impacted their everyday lives. In the process, it demonstrates that the Korean War represented an important turning point in the course of the Occupation. After the outbreak of war in 1950, military courts began to prosecute antiwar activists, front-line soldiers on leave contributed to surges in local crime rates, and the military drew many new Japanese employees and industries into its economic orbit. Using local newspapers and magazines, declassified military records, military court case files, and other sources, this dissertation shows that military power continued to shape everyday life in Japan’s base towns well after the end of World War II.

A copy of the dissertation will be available for review two weeks before the exam. Contact Lee Horinko for a copy of the dissertation and the Zoom meeting link and password.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.


Area of Interest: 
Cultural History
Public History
Social History
20th Century