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Japanese attacked, Japanese defended

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"Memoirs of a Navy Brat"

by Beverly A. Moglich
(Outskirts Press, $16.95)

One of the wonderful things about print-on-demand publishing is that families get hard copies of private memoirs, and occasionally the work is interesting enough to attract a wider audience.

Author Beverly Moglich has a phenomenal memory for texture and color, and on top of that, she was a young girl at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. She shared a glancing look with a marauding Zero pilot, which was, naturally, burned into her memory, and her father’s car was hit by bullets. OK, that’s three pages of this memoir.

Most of the book is taken up with the family’s travels here and there, and if you’re interested in the mundane details of military life in the 1930s, there are plenty of details here. This is a recounting, not a narrative, and much of it reads as if it were dictated. There’s a certain charm to that, as if she’s talking directly to the reader. However, it’s also repetitive and there are logic gaps.

One of the problems with print-on-demand publications is that editors are dispensed with, and editors are crucial far beyond simple typo fixing. They give a book shape and style, exactly what is missing here.

"Memoirs of a Navy Brat" is a rather thin addition to the catalog of published works concerning the Pearl Harbor attack.

 

"Defending the Enemy: Justice for the WWII Japanese War Criminals"

by Elaine B. Fischel
(Bascom Hill, $18.95)

Spring 1946. The shooting war is over, and the legal war has just begun. The showpiece Nazi war-crimes trials in Nuremberg are occupying most of the world’s attention, but on the other side of the world, Japanese war criminals are also being tried.

Fischel, a young military secretary interested in the law, volunteered to be a court reporter in Tokyo and found herself working for the defense team. Americans in occupied Japan are determined to bring fairness and democracy to the Japanese people, and that includes a vigorous defense of accused war criminals.

Fischel fell in love with Japan and made friends among the Japanese, even among the war criminals, and she had a crush on the lead defense attorney. Her rosy, naive view of the law began to change as she dealt with the inside of a trial noted more for its politics than its fairness. Even so, she earned her law degree upon returning home — the only woman in her class — and defended clients vigorously for the next half-century.

She also seems to have been a pack rat, as the book is liberally illustrated with photographs, notes and handwritten letters. Unlike most lawyers, however, Fischel writes with clarity and humor about her sojourn during a thoroughly nasty period in legal history.

This is one of the better memoirs of the Tokyo war crimes trials, precisely because Fischel doesn’t have an ax to grind or a dissertation theory to substantiate. This is what she saw, heard and felt from the inside, told with honesty and compassion — even for war criminals.

 

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