An appreciable slice of Now the Hell Will Start takes place in the Ledo Stockade, an United States Army prison in North-East India. The place was known for the casual brutality of its guards, several of whom had worked as chain-gang supervisors back in Uncle Sugar. The stockade’s abysmal conditions play a key role in the tragedy at Now the Hell Will Start‘s heart.
What’s left unsaid in the book is the Ledo Stockade’s role in the history of “comfort women”—Korean ladies used as indentured sex servants by the Imperial Japanese Army. Much of what we know about the day-to-day lives of these women comes from interrogations done at the stockade; the involuntary prostitutes had been captured during the Battle of Myitkyina. The Army’s Psychological Warfare Team reported its findings here; the interrogators seemed oddly unsympathetic to the women, despite all the hardships they’d been forced to endure:
The interrogations show the average Korean “comfort girl” to be about twenty-five years old, uneducated, childish, and selfish. She is not pretty either by Japanese of Caucasian standards. She is inclined to be egotistical and likes to talk about herself. Her attitude in front of strangers is quiet and demure, but she “knows the wiles of a woman.” She claims to dislike her “profession” and would rather not talk either about it or her family. Because of the kind treatment she received as a prisoner from American soldiers at Myitkyina and Ledo, she feels that they are more emotional than Japanese soldiers. She is afraid of Chinese and Indian troops.
The comfort-women issue continues to echo in contemporary relations between Japan and South Korea. Check out this fascinating piece from last year, which examines the Korean survivors’ ongoing efforts to wrangle a formal apology out of Japan—as well as a growing vogue for revisionist history among Japanese scholars.