The Allied Translator and Interpreter Section(ATIS) Research Report no. 120

Posts Hwang Byoung-jooResearcher of the National Institute for Korean History

  • Created at2019.07.30
  • Updated at2020.12.14


Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATISP)

Research Report No. 120


The data that exists on the Japanese Military ‘Comfort Women’ is classified into several categories. First of all, we have the data produced by the Japanese military, which acted as the principal for the organization and operation of the comfort stations. It is the most accurate data as it was created by the directly involved parties. A considerable amount of data has been unearthed that describes the installation and operation of the comfort stations, allowing us to fully grasp the harsh reality and identify the complete responsibility of the Japanese military. However, a large amount of the data created by the Japanese military have since vanished due to the organized destruction of the pertinent materials, which has made it intrinsically difficult to bring the remaining data to light owing to various circumstances.

Following on from that, we have the verbal data of the ‘comfort women’ victims. There is no doubt that this data demonstrates the torrid experience of the elderly victims and the indisputable facts beyond compare. However, in many cases, unfortunately their memories have been eroded over the years and several limitations stand in the way of fully understanding the overall situation as they are based on individual experiences. Some have also taken issue with the subjectivity of the verbal statement.

Next, we have documents created by the Allied Forces, which fought against the Japanese military. The Allied Forces thoroughly interrogated the Japanese prisoners of war due to military needs, and during this process, a significant amount of information related to the ‘comfort women’ was created. In addition, any details related to the comfort stations were discovered in the documents seized from the Japanese military. Every single member country of the Allied Forces which engaged in battles against the Japanese military, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, and China as well as the United States created documents related to the ‘comfort women’. Even the Thai and French military, which did not fight against the Japanese military, created data associated with the comfort stations. This serves as inexorable evidence indicating that the comfort stations were widely set up and operated.

The data created by the Allied Forces are largely classified into the prisoner of war interrogation reports, the wartime translations of seized Japanese documents, intelligence reports, and special reports. Among them, this report highlights the Research Report No. 120 created by the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section.

It is the most detailed and extensive document ever discovered among the ‘comfort women’ related data created by the United States and other Allied Forces. The research report was the most important document produced by the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section at that time as it was reported all the way up to the supreme commander, General MacArthur, and therefore, its accuracy and extensive description by far overwhelms any other data.

In particular, the report provides a number of interesting examples in that it was created twice in February and November 1945. These two editions differ primarily in terms of the comfort stations, where the Japanese military was defeated in August 1945 and the post-war readjustment and thus serve as important variables. In other words, the state of affairs regarding the wartime and the post-war period was the decisive factor that made the difference between the two editions. To sum up, this report demonstrates the perception of the Allied Forces towards the issue of ‘comfort women’ during and after the war.


Cover of the ATIS SWPA Research Report No.120 Cover (Source: National Institute of Korean History)

The image of the original copy of the ATIS SWPA Research Report No.120 is available in the Archives of Korean History of the National Institute of Korean History (link directory).


1. How data was discovered and collected

This data was first made public in 1992. The background to the data release relates to the growing social concerns over Japan's war responsibility, which began with the death of Hirohito in 1989. A wide variety of disputes arose in Korea over dispatching condolence delegations, and the issue relating war responsibilities during the so-called “Showa Era” also began to be raised in Japan. In the midst of these controversies, in 1990, the Japanese government announced that the 'comfort women’ of the Japanese military were under the control of a private business operator and that it was impossible to conduct an investigation at the government level. The attitude of the Japanese government denying any involvement of the Japanese military whatsoever provoked considerable outrage among many people, and it led to the organization of the Council for Countermeasures against Mental Problems the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan in 1990, and the testimony of one of the victims, Kim Hak-sun in 1991. 

In Japan, data was discovered by Yoshimi Yoshiaki, a Professor at Chuo University. Nevertheless, the stance of the Japanese government remained unchanged. In response, Professor Grant K. Goodman of the University of Kansas released a report that he had secured during his military career. Report No. 120, released in February 1992, through the Washington branch of Japan's Kyodo News, came as a shock to Japanese society. Afterwards, it was contained in the 『Comfort Women』 ( 『從軍慰安婦資料集』, 大月書店) published in 1992 by Professor Yoshimi, gaining significant recognition from the public. However, in this collection, only the parts related to comfort stations were selected and translated into Japanese without attempting to describe the entire report.

Nonetheless, there was one other person who first discovered the Report No. 120. This report is included in data on the Japanese military ‘comfort women’ obtained by the National Institute of Korean History on January 28, 1992. The person who discovered this data and provided it to the National Institute of Korean History was none other than Dr. Bang Seon-joo, a Korean historian based in the United States. Dr. Bang Seon-joo recalled that during his research on data related to Korea, he came across the records related to the 'comfort women’ of the Japanese military. 

As confirmed by the National Institute of Korean History, the reports dated November 15, 1945 (hereinafter referred to as the “November Edition”) in the report No. 120 is available in four record groups (hereinafter, RG) of the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). These locations include RG 165, 331, 407, and 554, and they are also housed at the MacArthur Memorial RG 3. The report dated February 16, 1945 (hereinafter, the “February Edition”) is only available at RG 554.


ATIS SWPA Research Report No.120 (Source: National Institute of Korean History)


2. Data Production Process

The research report was the data with the highest priority reported to the Supreme Commander of the South West Pacific Area and the Allied Powers. The research report was originally published under the title of 'Information Bulletin’ and was renamed as a research report from June 30, 1944. These records attempted to investigate and analyze the specific topics necessary for the war based on the information acquired through the prisoners of war and other means. Therefore, the majority of the reports covered the military-related details.

One of the reports worth noting is Report No. 72 on the violation of the law of war by the Japanese military. Under the theme of "Japan's Violation of the Law of War," the report was first published on April 29, 1944 and two supplementary versions were later released on March 19, 1945 and June 23, 1945. The report, which deals with illegal murders, cruelty towards the allied prisoners of war, and sexual violence, is considered to be the closest match to the report No. 120. By all means, this report does not contain any details on the Japanese military 'comfort women' or comfort stations, but it is related in the context of the war crimes of the Japanese military.

One issue to be considered here is that the issue concerning comfort stations and 'comfort women' was included in the Report No. 120 under the title of the “Amenities in the Japanese Armed Forces”, and not in the Report No. 72, which covered the violations of the law of war by the Japanese military. This demonstrates that the issue of 'comfort women’ was not understood as a war crime until 1945 within the Allied forces. However, it is noteworthy that in early 1945, the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section recognized the Japanese military comfort stations and 'comfort women' as important information and included them in the report in a relatively detailed manner.

As mentioned earlier, there are two editions of these records. In the November Edition, the description of the comfort stations became significantly more complete and encompassing, and in particular, the documents captured from the Japanese military, including the regulations on the installation and operation of the comfort stations, were attached as annexes. As a result, there is a significant difference in the volume of the two editions, as the February Edition is only 22 pages long, while the November Edition contains 42 pages. 

Another important difference is that the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section, which created the two documents, becomes affiliated to a different organization. The February Edition was created under the South West Pacific Area (SQPA HQ.), whereas the November Edition was from the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP). Although the continuity was secured as General MacArthur served as the commander for both supreme commands, the former was fighting a war, whereas the latter was responsible for the post-war adjustment and the occupation of Japan, and thus they were under completely different circumstances.

The February Edition was created under the circumstances where collecting various information about the Japanese military was crucial in the midst of fierce battles. However, the November Edition is distinct from the February Edition in that it was written after the war ended. Then, why did the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers publish the November Edition when the war was already over? As mentioned earlier, the most important difference between the February Edition and the November Edition was the part related to the comfort stations. In this context, it is reasonable to assume that the primary reason for the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section to publish the November Edition was to prepare data related to the war crimes tribunal. The war crimes tribunal was an important part of the US post-war policies. The United States, which led the post-war adjustment of the Second World War, wished to implement its foreign policy while bringing universal values and norms such as democracy, human rights, and humanism to the fore.

The Allied Forces had already organized the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC) in October 1943 to deal with the war crimes of the Axis powers. However, the UNWCC was engaged in activities primarily targeting Nazi war crimes in Germany. Nevertheless, in August 1944, the War Crime Board (hereinafter, WCB) was launched under the South West Pacific Area as information on the atrocities towards the US and Allied prisoners of war by the Japanese military was confirmed along with strong demand from China. It was Willoughby, General MacArthur's chief of intelligence, who led the organization of the WCB. 

In this context, the November Edition is considered to be one of the most important tasks for the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, which is in charge of the war crimes tribunal. The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, whose official name was the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, began on May 3, 1946 and continued until November 12, 1948. Around the end of 1945, it was imperative to make various preparations for the war crimes tribunal. As a result, Report No. 120 was not submitted for the war crimes tribunal. This is believed to describe that the November Edition was created in relation to the historical event of the war crimes tribunal, regardless of its actual use. 



Section I Canteen Stores
Section II Amusements
Section III News
Section IV Mail
Section V Conclusions

The table of contents and structure of the report is available onDatabase on Korean History, National Institute of Korean History (link directory)



3. Details of the Data

The Report No. 120 was created with five sections: canteen stores, amusements, news, mail, and conclusions. The comfort stations are illustrated in subsection 9 of section 2 for amusements. Athletics, movies, geishas and entertainment troupes, leave, etc. make up the rest of section 2. The arrangement of these chapters and subsections is identical in both the February and November Editions. First, it is necessary to determine any differences between the two documents.

The differences between the two documents may be largely divided into two parts. One is related to comfort stations and the other is a difference in the description other than comfort stations. The differences arising from the former is very large, and in fact, it would be the real reason to issue the November Edition. Let us take a look at the differences in the parts related to the comfort stations. In both documents, a description of the ownership circumstances for the comfort stations appears in the general subsection, corresponding to the introduction of Section 2 Amusements, and the February Edition describes the statements of the prisoners of war as conflicting. In other words, there were prisoners of war who stated that the government owned and controlled the comfort stations, while others claimed them to be privately owned. The document authors did not proceed with further analysis and provided a statement that the two opinions were at odds with each other.

On the other hand, the November Edition added a description that the statement of a prisoner of war, who was a comfort station owner in Burma, and several lists of comfort station regulations, which have been captured in the South West Pacific Area, indicate that the comfort stations were privately owned but under military supervision, on the premise that there was a difference of opinion among the prisoners of war as to who owned and controlled the comfort stations. As more information became available, it appears that they were able to make more specific judgments on the ownership and the operation of the comfort stations. In other words, this part demonstrates that, while both military-owned and privately-owned comfort stations coexisted, even private stations were under military supervision.

Next, let’s take a look at the differences in subsection 9 on the comfort stations in Section 2. First, the composition of the sub-items of subjection 9 on the comfort stations becomes slightly modified as the February Edition provided three items of a. Burma, b. Sumatra, and c. South West Pacific Area, while the November Edition had four items of a. Regulations, b. Burma, c. Sumatra, and d. South West Pacific Area. The differences in subsection 9 between the two editions are focused on the two items of a. Regulations and b. Burma. Another difference was that the November Edition added the statement of a prisoner of war in d. South West Pacific Area. In short, the differences between the two documents were based on the captured regulations on the comfort stations and the statement of a comfort station owner in the region of Burma.

Another part that highlights the differences between the two documents is their conclusions. In the February Edition, the conclusions stated that the 'comfort stations approved by the military authorities have been installed', while the November Edition provided that 'the establishment of the comfort stations under strict regulation is sanctioned by military authorities’. In other words, it was a statement reflecting the change in perception after obtaining the documented regulations on the comfort stations.

Lastly, another important difference between the two documents is that the annexes that were not in the February Edition appear in the November Edition. There are two annexes, A and B, and A contains documents related to the installation and operation of the comfort stations in Manila, and B is a police report on the Manila comfort stations. The two annexes are the translations of the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section for the documents directly created by the Japanese military and police.


the ATIS SWPA Research Report No.120 (Source: National Institute of Korean History)


Next, let us turn to the specific details of the documents. First, the descriptions of the comfort stations in the February Edition were entirely based on the statements of the prisoners of war. On the contrary, the November Edition added the captured regulatory documents for the comfort stations and the statement of an operator who ran the comfort station, containing quite specific and substantial details. 

Next, let us look into the details of the part describing the comfort stations in the Report No. 120, primarily in the November edition. First a. Regulations are a collection of five regulations, including the South Sector Area, which is presumed to be in Shanghai, Tacloban, Burauen, and Rabaul. The November Edition appears to be the only data that provides a collection of five regulations in this manner, and its value is unquestionable as a data that offers an overview of the comfort stations of the Japanese military. 

Out of the five regulations, the lengthiest and most detailed one is the Manila regulations. As these rules contain almost all details related to the establishment and operation of the comfort stations, they are one of the most representative rules related to the comfort stations discovered so far. A close examination of this booklet of rules alone appears to give rise to no major difficulties in identifying the operational outline of the comfort stations by the Japanese military.

These rules are the translation of the printed booklet entitled the "Rules for Authorized Restaurants and the Houses of Prostitution in MANILA'', issued on February 1943, by Lieutenant Colonel Onishi, MANILA District Line of the Communication Squad. It consists of a total of six parts, including Part One. General Regulations, Part Two. Business Operation, Part Three. Management, Part Four. Hygiene, Part Five. Discipline, and Part Six. Regulations for Special Clubs. From the general regulations to discipline, there are 37 detailed articles, and Part Six has 15 separate articles, with a total of 52 articles.

The general regulations provide that the authorization, suspension, closure, and any resultant compensation are entirely at the responsibility of the Japanese military, clearly demonstrating that the comfort station was an auxiliary facility of the Japanese military. The business operation category stipulates that the four types of documents, including an application for permission to open a business, must be submitted and that even a change in personnel must secure permission. Furthermore, any repairs contemplated for army-controlled houses had to require permission, and the regulations and price charts in the waiting-rooms as well as even the facilitation of cuspidors were prescribed.

In terms of management, the rules stipulate that the hours of operation and prices as well as the distribution ratio of profits between the business operators and the comfort women, the medical expenses for illnesses met by each party, and savings, clearly indicating that the comfort stations could not be independent private facilities. Furthermore, it requires the operators to make daily reports and submit a report on the business conditions on the last day of each month. The hygiene part also highly emphasized the cleanliness, washing, and disinfection, and did not forget to provide detailed regulations on the prohibition of sexual intercourse during menstrual periods, daily bathing, cleaning of bedding, and the like.

The discipline part also consists of detailed regulations that must be followed during the operation and use of the comfort stations. The ban on the movement of 'comfort women', the ban on bringing in any liquor, the obligation to use condoms, etc. were stipulated, and even a ban on kissing was inserted. It is believed that the comfort station had a structure in which all the people related to the comfort station, including its operator and 'comfort women' as well as the soldiers who were users, had no choice but to be under the direct control of the military authorities. 

The details under the second item, Burma, were primarily based on the interrogation of a captured comfort station owner. These records clearly demonstrate that the establishment and operation of the comfort stations was a process involving the entire state of Japan, including the Japanese military as well as the Governor-General of Korea. In other terms, from the recruitment of 703 Korean ‘comfort women’ from colonial Joseon and their departure, and the process during which they are escorted by 7 naval convoys with a free passage ticket provided by the military headquarters to arrive at Burma via Taiwan and Singapore, the entire Empire of Japan, which was occupying Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Burma, was mobilized.

Finally, let us examine the appendixes. As mentioned earlier, Appendix A contains documents required by the Manila comfort stations. Starting with the application for permission to open business, all documents related to the establishment and operation of the comfort station are precisely provided, including an affidavit, list of employees, a request for the authorization of ‘comfort women’ and a request for permission for the ‘comfort women’ to leave the establishments, daily total earnings chart, daily reports and monthly reports, and a health chart. A total of 14 types of document forms require very detailed information. For example, the daily total earnings chart classified patrons by rank and the time, the number of hours, and the fees were required to calculate the total.

These forms demonstrate that the comfort stations were both a product of barbarism and a 'logical' plan of the modern state. The comfort station symbolizes the barbarism of imperial Japan as it was established mainly by mobilizing colonial women, one of the weakest classes in society, against the backdrop of a war that integrates the barbaric phenomenon of the 20th century. However, it was also clear that barbarism was based on the rational bureaucracy of the modern state. These forms clearly show that the entire process of planning, recruiting, transporting, and operating comfort stations was the result of the “logical’ exercise of the rationality of Japan as a state.

Appendix B contains a police report on the Manila comfort stations. As you may well be aware, imperial Japan adopted the hygiene police system, which also demonstrates the attitude of the hygiene police towards comfort stations. According to the report, there were a total of 17 military comfort stations in Manila, and there were 1,064 'comfort women' at the comfort stations for privates and non-commissioned officers. The number of 'comfort women' for officers and high-ranking civilian officials was 119 people, with a total of 1,183. The general opinion of the comfort stations pointed out that "many managers are interested in nothing beyond their own profit," and accused them of exhibiting no concern at all for the welfare and hygiene of the ‘comfort women’. The police conclusion was that " The selfish conduct of managers requires restraint.”

The research report No. 120 is the most extensive, comprehensive, and detailed records among the documents created in English so far. It was issued on two occasions, indicating that the Allied Forces were showing considerable interest in the issue of 'comfort women'. Otherwise stated, it appears to have been reissued by supplementing the data already published for the war crimes tribunal. In particular, it is worth noting that although these records are documents created by the Allied Forces, they also include documents created by the Japanese military. In short, they are rare documents demonstrating both the view of the Allied forces towards the issue of 'comfort women’ and the operational status of comfort stations by the Japanese military.


ATIS SWPA Research Report No.120 (Source: National Institute of Korean History)

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Writer Hwang Byoung-joo

The author's interest lies in the modern transformation of Korea and he conducts relevant studies. He is currently involved in the project related to the war crimes of the Japanese military against ‘comfort women’ at the National Institute of Korean History.  

[email protected] 

[email protected]