Eminently readable, deeply moving, and very revealing...
--Mary Edwards Wertsch, Author, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress
Japan Brats: The Youth Who
Bridged Opposite Worlds
by Michael Weddington
In 1946, the U.S. Military inadvertently conducted one of the most fascinating social science experiments of the 20th century: They began sending thousands of American children from all over the U.S. to live in lands of recent bitter enemies for years at a time, with their parents. One prominent destination was Japan (including Okinawa), a culture as mysterious to America as any on Earth. Whatever happened to those American children in Japan, and the waves of dependents that followed them?
This project answers that question with hundreds of heartfelt stories, photographs, historical & cultural context, and copious research while providing hope for our currently polarized society: That regardless of our differences, we can come together with common cause no matter how daunting the circumstances.
* Japanese & Okinawan History
* The Allied Occupation
*'Brat Heaven' Feature
* Cultural Comparisons
* Blended Cultures: Stories
* Family Formation Stories
* The Story of Kazuko & Bill
* Journeys to Japan: Stories
(495 pp, plus 500+
Japan Brats: The Youth Who Bridged Opposite Worlds, is a monumental labor of love that I—as a former military kid who spent part of my youth in Japan—read with tears in my eyes and a new understanding of the power of representation. Through a kaleidoscopic accretion of experiences and perspectives, Weddington miraculously creates a tribute that will make those of us “born into the military” (who are too often invisible to the culture at large) feel truly seen. Perhaps, for the first time.
—Sarah Bird, author, The Yokota Officers Club and Above the East China Sea. Dublin International Literary Award Finalist; 10-time winner of Austin’s Best Fiction Writer.
* Arrival & First Experiences
* On Base Stories
* Off Base Stories
* School Stories
* Social & Family Dynamics
(476 pp, plus 500+ photos/images, and over 100 stories/vignettes/profiles)
Transitions & Reflections
* Culture Shock Stories
* Stateside Return Stories
* Those Who Remained
* Impact Upon Adulthood
* Research Findings
* DoD Schools: Extraordinary American Success Story
* Lessons for Our Polarized Times
(460 pp, plus 500+ photos/images, and over 100 stories/vignettes/profiles)
Within the pages of Weddington's sweeping work, you will read the stories (including my own) of over 100 former military youth who had front row seats to the aftermath of a devastating war and ongoing collision of cultures. I like how Weddington adds images to each historical narrative, creating a rich mosaic of life in post-WWII-era Japan, and how those personal experiences shaped the world views and imaginations of the 'military brats' featured in Weddington's book. A compelling read.
—Dorothy Thompson, University of Wisconsin-Richland Director of Marketing and Communication emerita.
With tears in my heart, thank you, Michael Weddington, for Japan Brats: The Youth Who Bridged Opposite Worlds. Read the stories of those of us who lived in post-war Japan, attended schools in converted barracks, sometimes lived in Quonset huts, with odd colored furniture provided for us, and were the forgotten leg of military support around the world. Our clothes were usually ordered weeks before needed from one of the various retail catalogues of the day. We followed our dads for many weeks after we were left behind to move to countries that had recently been our enemy.
We helped our moms sort what would be left in storage for possibly more than three years, what would be sent ahead VIA ship, and what we kept with us for the long weeks as we awaited dependent travel. Our arms were swollen from many shots to face diseases we could not pronounce. In the late 1950s, most of us traveled to our new homes on converted troop carriers. For my mom, brother, and I, it was 21 days aboard the USS Gaffey. That was an experience of itself.
I wouldn't have missed being a military brat for anything in the world. Thank you, United States of America, for the journey of a lifetime. I'm proud of my dad's service to his country from 1940 to 1966, From Normandy to Okinawa and Japan, to various locations in the United States. And now, at last, Michael Weddington has written the story of the Japan military brat.
—Pamela G. Blaxton-Dowd, Advocate: Anoxic brain injury awareness. Author of Condemned to die: Ask me how. Tell me why and A Mother's afterthoughts; Time for change. Volunteer: Oconee County SC Military Museum, specializing in research for SSgt. Lewis G. Watkins, Medal of Honor recipient who lost his life in Korea. Volunteer: Antiques and uniques researcher Habitat for Humanities of Oconee County. Associate Member: Marine Corps League.
Exceptionally captivating, personal, and raw accounts of Third Culture Kids growing up in post-war and mostly pre-internet/social media Japan.
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of American Graffiti, a wildly popular movie about fictional high school kids from a small American town. In his own TCK version, Michael dissects the childhoods of real people from small, military-centric post-war communities within various areas in Japan through intimate, revealing, first-person accounts.
Of course, there are so many more layers to unpack as we try to understand a time and place in history -- one that can never truly be duplicated in the modern world -- and the impact it had on the lives of the subjects. This is deeply personal for me as some are my friends and classmates, and I share many of their experiences. However, the significance of Michael’s body of research extends far beyond our microcosmic society. A must read!
—Margaret Johnson, Co-Chair, Appellate and Complex Litigation Partner; Bob Hope USO Board Member; Chair of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Armed Forces Committee.
Extraordinarily charming, fascinating, and personal narratives of stories of living in Japan in post-WWII. This book explores the “Lost in Translation” episodes of youth’s reckoning in a foreign culture at a pivotal time of post-nationalism Japan.
As a product of bi-cultural, bi-racial, and military experiences, I can fully appreciate Michael’s wonderful foray into the examination and research of post-war adolescence in Japan. His escapade into the topsy-turvy lives of military and civilian experiences juxtaposes the challenges of military-brats’ assimilation into a foreign culture while navigating and struggling through pubescent transformation. His assembly and collection of anecdotal narratives of finding oneself in an unfamiliar and yet exotic and exciting settings, portends the benefits of personal growth derived from those experiences.
Whether it is the dismemberment of racial biases or acceptance of living in an integrative microcosm of a post-civil rights community, the bottom line is sometimes it takes an excursion into uncharted experiences and territory to expunge prejudice and prejudgment. A must read for people who grew up abroad in a military family.
—GJ Moore, Naval Academy graduate, former Naval aviator, strategy management consultant, Harvard MBA, Tech entrepreneur, and author of Delicate Balance: A Nanotechnology Thriller.
A great, important, and captivating read. Japan Brats: The Youth Who Bridged Opposite Worlds, occupies a unique place in the world of Third Culture Kid (TCK) writings. It is perhaps the most longitudinal study done to document long term outcomes of those who were raised among many different cultural worlds—not only geographically, but within the culture of the military system itself.
Although it is based on extensive research in a particular cohort, I found the charm of Michael Weddington’s writing to be how he writes the results of that research in storybook form rather than a manual. Yet, within each story is embedded various recountings of common characteristics David C. Pollock later identified as part of his classic ‘TCK Profile.’ Most adult TCKs will surely nod their heads (as I did!) in empathetic understanding when reading of the struggle to return to their passport country or the delight in finding their past and present worlds come together in a particular cuisine.
But there is a sober reminder in these set of books as well. Certainly, every person’s life is lived within the context of their time in history and the surrounding culture in which they were raised. Many TCKs however, live in the places where the events they see first-hand will one day be in their children or their grandchildren’s history books. Reading this work made clear again that real people just like me are always involved in the horrors of war and its aftermath. Seeing it through the eyes of children makes it even more poignant.
It is also a story of resilience and hope—that this is not where people are stuck. The amazing ways that Japan Brats have knit together the many pieces of their multi-cultured upbringing for their personal good, for the good of others, and for the good of international understanding despite initially seeing those they went to and being seen by them as the ‘enemy,’ gives hope. With their example before us, we can dare to believe the struggles each of us face daily in our current world can become the foundation for growth and healing for us as it was for them.
Thank you, Michael and all who participated in this work.
–Ruth E. Van Reken, Co-author, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, 3rd ed.; Co-founder, Families in Global Transition; Vice-Chair, Safe Passage Across Network (SPAN) Governing Board.
Eminently readable, deeply moving, and very revealing, Japan Brats: The Youth Who Bridged Opposite Worlds is an important contribution to the literature concerning military families, with applicability also to studies of adolescence, cultural transition, military occupation, family dynamics, and the development of self in relation to society. This remarkable project holds a mirror to a previously missing piece of history.
The testimonies gathered here are precious. Not only that, but the author has done exhaustive work to put these stories into historical and social context--an effort which greatly rewards anyone seeking to understand the period covered, or gain insight into military brat cultural identity. Thank you, Michael Weddington, for shining a light on this extraordinary part of the brat experience. Well done!
—Mary Edwards Wertsch, author, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress.
As the founder of a museum dedicated to military family history, I am delighted that Michael Weddington has created such a comprehensive and thoughtful look into the culture, history, and stories of military children who grew up in Japan from 1946 to the present. Japan Brats: The Youth Who Bridged Opposite Worlds examines military brats’ experiences by presenting a range of perspectives grouped by theme and topic. Part history lesson, part memoir, part anthropological dig, the wealth of information in this 3-part series of books are viewed through a long lens, providing a big picture of historical and cultural context, as well as a macro lens, revealing the minute details in an individual life, creating a thought-provoking and rich read.
Based on four years of intensive research and hundreds of lifetimes of experience, Japan Brats is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to know more about America’s unseen Ambassadors—the military children—or relive their own brathood vicariously. Hundreds of military-connected historians, educators, veterans, and family members have contributed data, photos, and stories to these books. To get a complete picture of history, it should be presented from all viewpoints. This work is the brat’s perspective.
—Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, Founder, Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center.
Why This Project
What does it mean to belong to others in this increasingly disconnected time? When simply clicking a "like" button on your phone or keyboard counts as a connection? What do the concepts of "home" and "hometown" mean when our homes, towns, regions, and nation are as divided as they've been since at least the late 1960s, if not the Civil War era? As a father and counselor of youth, these questions have had personal relevance. Then in 2019, it began to occur to me that perhaps some answers that could address our polarized age today might be found in my "military brat" past, when my peers and I bonded across lines of geography, class, race, ethnicity, and religion. Thus began this project, and the results (with a great deal of support and cooperation) are now available for your consideration. Enjoy. MW
Some military brats settle down and establish roots of the kind they never knew growing up. Myself, I remained the peripatetic military dependent during my working life as well, moving from teaching to outdoor community entrepreneurial endeavors. Then, on to the financial world, before returning to school and teaching & advising students and adults in various settings. Most significantly, I launched a family with my lovely wife, resulting in our beautiful daughter. In looking back at my life in recent years, I've realized the common theme threading its way through my many positions and projects: The desire to bring people together to make a positive difference, borne of a sense of purpose instilled in me as a military kid. MW