George H. Kerr

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

George H. Kerr (November 7, 1911 – August 27, 1992), also known in Taiwan as 葛超智 (or 柯喬治), was a United States diplomat during World War II, and in later years he was an author and an academic. In addition to his published works, his archived papers at the Hoover Institution provide information about economic and political affairs in Taiwan in the 1930s and 1940s, Taiwan's transition from Japanese rule before and during World War II to postwar Chinese rule, Taiwanese rebellion against Chinese rule in 1947, and U.S. foreign policy toward Taiwan. In addition, the archived papers include information about economic and political conditions in Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands after World War II.[1]

Early life[edit]

Kerr was born in Pennsylvania. He was a student in Japan during 1935 through 1937; and he was an English teacher in Taipei, Taiwan during 1937 through 1940.[2]

Military career[edit]

As a Lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve, Kerr worked for the U.S. Navy as a Taiwan expert and instructed future military government officers during the Pacific War. In 1942-1943, Kerr was an analyst and consultant on Formosa in the U.S. Department of War.[2] In 1944-1946, he was the Director of the Formosa Research Unit at the Naval School of Military Government and Administration for the U.S. Navy at Columbia University in New York.[2]

Diplomatic career[edit]

After the war, Kerr returned to Taiwan in 1945 as an Assistant Naval Attaché, escorting the newly appointed Chinese Governor-General Chen Yi to the Japanese surrender of Taiwan on 25 October 1945 (Retrocession Day). George Kerr was present in his official capacity as a civil affairs officer of the U.S. Navy Attache's Office to the Republic of China government in Chongqing. He ensured that the English version of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender did not exclude the official role of the U.S., unlike the Chinese translation. Later, he became a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in China. He was a Foreign Service Staff Officer and Vice-Consul in Taipei.[2] He has written about his eyewitness account of the 228 Incident in 1947. One critic has alleged Kerr actively participated in the Incident.[3][4]

It was not till the early 1950s that he realized his wish to visit Okinawa, and with it a military commission to write a history, the purpose of which was to revive an independent Ryūkyūan identity. An able team of researcher-translators scoured Japan for historical sources on Okinawa. Then Kerr synthesized the material into the book Okinawa: Kingdom and Province (1953), and then in Japanese as Ryūkyū no rekishi (1955). In the meantime, Kerr began a revision based on additional research as well as criticism of the first two books and published a 1958 volume, Okinawa: The History of an Island People.

Kerr was deeply concerned about the loss of Ryūkyūan history on the ground. So he pursued his Okinawan interests in a survey of the islands' cultural assets (1960–63). Experience in Yaeyama and Miyako told him that his perspective of Ryūkyūan history had been askew. He drafted, but never published, another book on Okinawa that placed far greater emphasis on the southern Ryūkyūs and their early economic interaction with China.

Academic career[edit]

Kerr was a lecturer at the University of Washington during 1947-1949; and he was a lecturer at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley in 1949-1950. For the next five years, he was a research associate at the Hoover Institution.[2]

The open sections of Kerr's papers are available at the Okinawa Prefectural Archives in Haebaru, others at the Stanford, Taipei and Ryudai libraries.

Later life[edit]

Kerr's books on Taiwan are numerous. He championed the cause of Taiwan independence from China, thereby making himself a high-profile enemy to both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong. (Chiang complained and Kerr lost his job at Stanford University.) While certainly an influential political writer and commentator, his reputation as a historian in Chinese history is questioned by many Sinologists due to his apparent stance against China. He also drafted a long book on 19th century Hawaii, thus making his life's work of a piece: the history of Pacific Ocean marine frontiers.

He is an author of many books and of numerous articles concerning Japan, Okinawa and Taiwan. Among them are the Formosa: Licensed Revolution and the Home Rule Movement, 1895-1945, Formosa Betrayed (1965), Descriptive Summary: George H. Kerr papers, 1943-1951, Okinawa: The History of an Island People (1958), and The Taiwan Confrontation Crisis (1986).

Formosa Betrayed was one of the most influential books about Taiwan's transition from Japanese colonial rule to the rule of the Kuomintang (KMT, Chinese Nationalist Party) administration. George Kerr was working for the American Foreign Service at the time of the transition and was present in Taiwan for the KMT occupation and resulting aftermath. Formosa Betrayed made a sharp rebuke of the Nationalist administration and made arguments in favor of Taiwanese independence. The book was republished in 1976 by Da Capo Press. In 1992 a second edition was published by Taiwan Publishing Co. The book is now legally available online (see link below).

Okinawa: The History of an Island People covers the legendary past to the Battle of Okinawa in 542 very read-able pages. Eleven years before he died, Kerr wrote that 13,000 copies had been sold. The book was out of print for a time, but Tuttle, the original publishers, reprinted it in 2000, adding a new introduction and an appendix by Okinawa history scholar Mitsugu Sakihara.[5]

He died at age of 81 on August 27, 1992 in Honolulu, Hawaii.[2]

Selected works[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Kerr, George H. Scope and Content Note, Register of George H. Kerr papers, Online archive of California. Hoover Institution.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Kerr, George H. Biographical Note, Register of George H. Kerr papers, Online archive of California. Hoover Institution.
  3. ^ 李敖. "美國及小日本也介入了二二八事件2005.01.04 (B)". 李敖有話説. 鳳凰衛視 ifeng.com (youtube video). Retrieved 2010-10-02. 
  4. ^ 李敖. "美國及小日本也介入了二二八事件2005.01.04 (C)". 李敖有話説. 鳳凰衛視 ifeng.com (youtube video). Retrieved 2010-10-02. 
  5. ^ Okinawa: History of an Island People. Tuttle Publishing. http://www.tuttlepublishing.com/book/?GCOI=48053100403940 . Accessed 8 Feb 2013.
  6. ^ The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, p. 137. Washington, D.C.: [Library of Congress], v. 22. (1965) -- Preliminary Checklist of Reference Materials (Washington, 1952) was issued in only about 50 mimeographed copies ....

References[edit]

  • Kerr, George H. Register of the George H. Kerr Papers, Online archive of California. Hoover Institution. Reports, notes, press summaries, clippings, and writings, relating to political and economic conditions in Formosa under Japanese rule, transfer of Formosa to China in 1945, Formosan rebellion against Chinese rule in 1947, American foreign policy regarding Formosa, and political and economic conditions in the Ryukyu Islands after World War II. [Stanford Socrates Catkey: 4086394]
  • A.P. Jenkins, 'G.H. Kerr's Okinawa: The History of an Island People and Beyond', The Ryukyuanist, No.52, Summer 2001, pp. 3–8 (on which significant parts of this article are based but without due acknowledgement)

External links[edit]