America’s Comfort Women: Legacies of Military Prostitution in Cold War Asia and the Pacific


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project makes use of US military archives to contend that Americans built upon the existing infrastructure set by the Japanese Empire to maintain a centrally regulated system of military prostitution for their servicemen across the Asia/Pacific region during the Cold War era. Regulating military prostitution and managing the health of sex workers was central to keeping troop morale high and maintaining the effective strength of the US military across strategic Cold War battlegrounds. However, despite the massive scale of the US system and the fact that, in recent decades, the issue of Japanese “comfort women” has garnered much international scrutiny, most Americans remain woefully unaware of a parallel institution involving their own military during the Cold War era. America’s Comfort Women sheds light on this lesser-known historical event and reveals the important role of sex in fighting America’s Cold War. It explores the system’s transnational legacies, including the transplantation of military sex work from US occupations abroad to domestic soil, and how all this has shaped the racial and sexual formation of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander women.