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

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From an “illuminating and entertaining” (The New York Times) young writer, the story that explores the fateful intersection of two men at the Tokyo war crimes trial that followed World War II: a Japanese nationalist charged with war crimes and the American doctor assigned to determine his sanity—and thus his fate.

In the wake of World War II, the Allied forces charged twenty-eight Japanese men with crimes against humanity. Correspondents at the Tokyo trial thought the evidence fell most heavily on ten of the accused. In December 1948, five of these defendants were hanged while four received sentences of life in prison. The tenth was a brilliant philosopher-patriot named Okawa Shumei. His story proved strangest of all.

Among all the political and military leaders on trial, Okawa was the lone civilian. In the years leading up to World War II, he had outlined a divine mission for Japan to lead Asia against the West, prophesized a great clash with the United States, planned coups d’etat with military rebels, and financed the assassination of Japan’s prime minister. Beyond “all vestiges of doubt,” concluded a classified American intelligence report, “Okawa moved in the best circles of nationalist intrigue.”

Okawa’s guilt as a conspirator appeared straightforward. But on the first day of the Tokyo trial, he made headlines around the world by slapping star defendant and wartime prime minister Tojo Hideki on the head. Had Okawa lost his sanity? Or was he faking madness to avoid a grim punishment? A U.S. Army psychiatrist stationed in occupied Japan, Major Daniel Jaffe—the author’s grandfather—was assigned to determine Okawa’s ability to stand trial, and thus his fate.

Jaffe was no stranger to madness. He had seen it his whole life: in his mother, as a boy in Brooklyn; in soldiers, on the battlefields of Europe. Now his seasoned eye faced the ultimate test. If Jaffe deemed Okawa sane, the war crimes suspect might be hanged. But if Jaffe found Okawa insane, the philosopher patriot might escape justice for his role in promoting Japan’s wartime aggression.

Meticulously researched, A Curious Madness is both expansive in scope and vivid in detail. As the story pushes both Jaffe and Okawa toward their postwar confrontation, it explores such diverse topics as the roots of belligerent Japanese nationalism, the development of combat psychiatry during World War II, and the complex nature of postwar justice. Eric Jaffe is at his best in this suspenseful and engrossing historical narrative of the fateful intertwining of two men on different sides of the war and the world and the question of insanity.
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About the author

Eric Jaffe is the author of The King’s Best Highway: The Lost History of the Boston Post Road, the Route That Made America, which won the U.S. Postal Service’s 2012 Moroney Award for Scholarship in Postal History. He’s a former web editor of Smithsonian magazine and now writes for The Atlantic Cities, a site devoted to urban life run by The Atlantic magazine.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Jan 14, 2014
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781451612127
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Asia / Japan
History / Military / World War II
Psychology / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In 1945, after his capture at the end of the Second World War, Hermann Göring arrived at an American-run detention center in war-torn Luxembourg, accompanied by sixteen suitcases and a red hatbox. The suitcases contained all manner of paraphernalia: medals, gems, two cigar cutters, silk underwear, a hot water bottle, and the equivalent of 1 million in cash. Hidden in a coffee can, a set of brass vials housed glass capsules containing a clear liquid and a white precipitate: potassium cyanide. Joining Göring in the detention center were the elite of the captured Nazi regime—Grand Admiral Dönitz; armed forces commander Wilhelm Keitel and his deputy Alfred Jodl; the mentally unstable Robert Ley; the suicidal Hans Frank; the pornographic propagandist Julius Streicher—fifty-two senior Nazis in all, of whom the dominant figure was Göring.

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Kelley's was a hazardous quest, dangerous because against all his expectations he began to appreciate and understand some of the Nazi captives, none more so than the former Reichsmarshall, Hermann Göring. Evil had its charms.
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The services rendered by the hospital were of benefit not merely to the afflicted individual but to the community. Such an institution embodied a series of moral imperatives by providing humane and scientific treatment of disabled individuals, many of whose families were unable to care for them at home or to pay the high costs of private institutional care. Yet the mental hospital has always been more than simply an institution that offered care and treatment for the sick and disabled. Its structure and functions have usually been linked with a variety of external economic, political, social, and intellectual forces, if only because the way in which a society handled problems of disease and dependency was partly governed by its social structure and values.

The definition of disease, the criteria for institutionalization, the financial and administrative structures governing hospitals, the nature of the decision-making process, differential care and treatment of various socio-economic groups were issues that transcended strictly medical and scientific considerations. Mental Institutions in America attempts to interpret the mental hospital as a social as well as a medical institution and to illuminate the evolution of policy toward dependent groups such as the mentally ill. This classic text brilliantly studies the past in depth and on its own terms.

The forced migration of neuroscientists, both during and after the Second World War, is of growing interest to international scholars. Of particular interest is how the long-term migration of scientists and physicians has affected both the academic migrants and their receiving environments. As well as the clash between two different traditions and systems, this migration forced scientists and physicians to confront foreign institutional, political, and cultural frameworks when trying to establish their own ways of knowledge generation, systems of logic, and cultural mentalities.

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A VIVID AND FASCINATING LOOK AT AMERICAN HISTORY THROUGH THE PRISM OF THE COUNTRY’S MOST STORIED HIGHWAY, THE BOSTON POST ROAD



During its evolution from Indian trails to modern interstates, the Boston Post Road, a system of over-land routes between New York City and Boston, has carried not just travelers and mail but the march of American history itself. Eric Jaffe captures the progress of people and culture along the road through four centuries, from its earliest days as the king of England’s “best highway” to the current era.



Centuries before the telephone, radio, or Internet, the Boston Post Road was the primary conduit of America’s prosperity and growth. News, rumor, political intrigue, financial transactions, and personal missives traveled with increasing rapidity, as did people from every walk of life.

From post riders bearing the alarms of revolution, to coaches carrying George Washington on his first presidential tour, to railroads transporting soldiers to the Civil War, the Boston Post Road has been essential to the political, economic, and social development of the United States.



Continuously raised, improved, rerouted, and widened for faster and heavier traffic, the road played a key role in the advent of newspapers, stagecoach travel, textiles, mass-produced bicycles and guns, commuter railroads, automobiles—even Manhattan’s modern grid. Many famous Americans traveled the highway, and it drew the keen attention of such diverse personages as Benjamin Franklin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, P. T. Barnum, J. P. Morgan, and Robert Moses.



Eric Jaffe weaves this entertaining narrative with a historian’s eye for detail and a journalist’s flair for storytelling. A cast of historical figures, celebrated and unknown alike, tells the lost tale of this road.
Revolutionary printer William Goddard created a postal network that united the colonies against the throne. General Washington struggled to hold the highway during the battle for Manhattan. Levi Pease convinced Americans to travel by stagecoach until, half a century later, Nathan Hale convinced them to go by train. Abe Lincoln, still a dark-horse candidate in early 1860, embarked on a railroad speaking tour along the route that clinched the presidency. Bomb builder Lester Barlow, inspired by the Post Road’s notorious traffic, nearly sold Congress on a national system of expressways twenty-five years before the Interstate Highway Act of 1956.



Based on extensive travels of the highway, interviews with people living up and down the road, and primary sources unearthed from the great libraries between New York City and Boston—including letters, maps, contemporaneous newspapers, and long-forgotten government documents—The King’s Best Highway is a delightful read for American history buffs and lovers of narrative everywhere.

A New York Times bestseller

Winner of the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction

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