A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War Crimes Suspect, and an Unsolved Mystery from World War II – Eric Jaffe

a curious madnessOn May 3, 1946, at the close of World War II, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East convened. Twenty-eight Japanese had been indicted for war crimes, the most prominent being General Tojo Hideki.  Sitting behind Tojo was Okawa Shumei, the only civilian.  As the reading of the indictments droned on and on, Okawa became restless, squirmed in his chair.  Then he extended his arm forward and with an open palm, slapped Tojo’s bald head.  After the court reconvened following the disturbance, Okawa sat away from the other defendants and sobbed most of the afternoon.  The next morning the judge ordered Okawa to undergo a psychiatric examination.   Major Daniel S. Jaffe, a combat psychiatrist stationed in Tokyo was appointed to  conduct the examination.  Okawa was judged insane, and was ultimately released from prison.  But was he only faking madness?  Was Daniel Jaffe duped?  Eric Jaffe, a journalist, historian and the grandson of Daniel Jaffe, skillfully interweaves the biographies of these two very different men as he tries to uncover the truth.

Okawa Shumei was a very well-known author and activist who played a prominent role in the rise of imperialism in Japan.   Daniel Jaffe’s story is one of psychiatry, both in his personal life and in the military.  I found both interesting as they provided insight into lesser known aspects of the Second World War.

eGalley review         Publication date 1.14.14

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