In the fall of 1949, and for several months thereafter, 540 large wooden crates containing 20 tons of Japanese books, magazines, newspapers, and other ephemera arrived at the University of Maryland. Now known as the Gordon W. Prange Collection, these materials represent the nearly complete publishing output of Japan for the early years of the occupation, 1945 to 1949. Originally file copies of the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) established by General MacArthur's General Headquarters, the collection contains everything from newsletters of farm cooperatives, labor unions, and stamp collecting clubs to children's comics and first editions of well-known authors such as Nobel Laureate Yasunari Kawabata and Junichiro Tanizaki. Many of these materials are unique and exist nowhere else, not even in Japan.
Japanese agencies and private individuals were required to submit their publications to the CCD, which then determined whether they contained violations of the Code for the Japanese Press. Censorship action, when it occurred, involved additions to or deletions from texts, suppressions of materials, disapprovals, publishing delays, and changes. The code included such directives as: news must adhere strictly to the truth; nothing should be printed that might, directly or indirectly, disturb the public tranquility; and there shall be no destructive criticism of the Allied Occupation and nothing that might invite mistrust or resentment of those troops. Approximately 600,000 censorship documents are contained in the Prange Collection.
The collection is vast—18,047 newspaper titles, 13,799 magazine titles, 71,000 books and pamphlets, 640 maps, 10,000 news agency photographs, and miscellaneous ephemera. Treasures have been unearthed by happenstance, such as a poem by Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe written at age 15 and a short story by Tanazaki suppressed by the CCD. Most recently, five missing works by Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy and the original Lion King, were discovered by a scholar compiling a database for the Prange magazine collection. Tezuka is known as the godfather of postwar manga (Japanese comics) and a pioneer in television animation in Japan. These five cartoon strips may fill the last remaining gaps in the Tezuka opus.
The UM Libraries have worked closely with the National Diet Library of Japan to process, preserve, and provide access to the collection. Six million pages of magazines and newspapers have been microfilmed. Currently, the 8,000-title children's book collection is being digitized.
Materials from the Prange Collection have been exhibited throughout Japan, from Sapporo to Okinawa. The 10th in a series of such exhibits took place at the Osaka Museum of History in summer 2006. Tens of thousands of people have viewed these exhibits, including the Empress of Japan.
The collection is named in honor of Gordon W. Prange, Professor of History at the University of Maryland and Chief Historian for General MacArthur during the occupation of Japan. He was responsible for the transfer of the CCD file copies to the University of Maryland. Prange is known today for major works on the war in the Pacific, particularly Tora! Tora! Tora!
Collection Profile and Overview: Amy Wasserstrom
Illustrations: Nichimy Corp., Thai Nguyen