The Papa San Files

Dirty details on paddy daddies

By William Wetherall

First posted 5 May 2010
Last updated 16 May 2010


Henry Henn
The Papa San Files
New York: Manor Books, 1977
267 pages, paperback

Front cover blurb

A paperback original ". . . against a backdrop of internaional politics, blackmail and a crazy quilt of chases, love and intrigue . . ."

Back cover blurb


When Howard is sent to Japan to do a story on the children fathered and deserted by American GIs during the occupation he has no idea that he is participating in the greatest scam of all time. An off beat assignment turns into something more than a story of love on the run, children grown to vengeful adulthood, but of one man hiding from his own son, determined to seek out and exterminate his father.

This is more than a book about con artists and thieves: it is about the women who were left behind, the children desperately attempting to find their identities, about love and revenge, about people caught in passions beyond their control. Henn has the happy faculty of drawing you believably right into the off-beat locales, of taking the reader with him on his Hitchcock-like excursion into adventure and mystery.

"a quarter million Rice Paddy Daddies"

Howard Boggess -- nearing his fifties with memories of nights in Korean foxholes, Saigon back alleys, and stateside intercity bus terminals -- must work to supplement an Army pension that doesn't quite cover the alimony payments and other bills he is behind on, or the cash he needs for women, booze, laughs, and food. So money more than nostalgia, and a need to get away from his Telegraph Hill, San Francisco apartment, finds him boarding a flight for Tokyo, to see Fat Jack McKeller, who had sent him an airplane ticket and one-thousand dollars just to hear a job offer.

At the Sanno Hotel, drinking in the very room where the Imperial Army officers involved in the 26 February 1936 coup d'etat attempt waited to hear if their demands would be accepted (they weren't), McKeller begins telling Boggess what he has in mind (pages 20-21).

"The thousand bucks is your first month's pay. We're going to write a book. I already got an advance so we got to get going like right now. You write, I'll handle the business end." He sat back, folded his hammy hands across his wide belly and smiled.

"Drink up, Jack." I drained my glass. "I'm shoving off for San Francisco. You must think I'm an idiot. No publisher pays out advances to bullshit artists without some sample of the work. I'm no writer either. I know you're not."

"Cut the modesty crap, Slouch. I remember the junk you used to peddle to second-rate magazines. Your make-believe memoirs about the Occupation. You can write. You're just pissed because it's my idea. You got something against money?" He tossed his over-stuffed, sweat-stained wallet on the table to illustrate his point.

"Okay, Jack, I'll hear you out. I owe you that much but it sounds bad from the start. Everybody and his brother have written about the wonders of Japan. You can buy that crap on the bargain table in any store. You want us to add to the junk pile? But do go on. You bought a thousand bucks of my attention and the meter is running fast."

"There's an orphanage in Kanagawa," he said, ignoring my sarcasm. "They've been taking in the ainoko, the little half-half bastards the brave GIs have been leaving behind since the ninth month of the Occupation. All the pregnant mama had to do was give the name, rank and serial number and whatever of the guy who jammed the kid into her. The orphanage either took the kid in or gave out whatever assistance they could. They got all the dirty details on more than a quarter million Rice Paddy Daddies -- even last known addresses."

"Wow!" In talking with Fat Jack it pays to sound with it.

"You better believe, wow." He sneered his contempt for my satire. "Can you see the size of this thing or do you want a few days to think it over?["].

"And all you want Howie to do is sneak down to Kanagawa and steal the files for you. That it, Jack? Sorry, Buddy, no deal."

"You snide sonofabitch, I can get the files anytime I want. I promised the dame who runs the place half of everything we make off the book. After expenses, that is. All the GIs will buy the book and you can bet your ass their wives will."

For once in his life Fat Jack had come up with a winner. I hated to tell him it was too hot to handle. Publishing names, or even descriptions, would bring on a landslide of lawsuits. Anything that happened as a result of publication; divorce; paternity action, even harrassment [sic], would make the publisher liable. And, as co-authors, we would be shot at from every rooftop.

"Simmer down, slouch. Who's talking about names? We're just going to write about the great job the orphanage has done for the ainoko. You can interview some of the kids and get their stories. They're all grown up now. It shouldn't be hard to find them."

"Some statistical tables in the Kinsey format might be extremely interesting," I said, mining for possibilities. "Maybe Chicago might like to know that her draftees sired more bastards than those of any other city. I'm just guessing, of course. And could break down the fathers by education, rank or whatever.

"Or you write something like -- a Major General from a very exclusive suburb just south of Detroit has a bastard daughter earning her keep as a fashion model in Yokohama. You'll be a hero down at the orphanage, Howie. They'll erect a statue of you right out front."

"Statues are for the birds,["] I told him. I read that somewhere. "Just pay me regularly and I'll write the damned book." The prospects were staggering. But, having to work with Fat Jack was the problem; the roach in my cornflakes. but I have this awful, awful problem: I love Japan and I have a constant need for money. People do some crazy, stupid things for love and money.

"We'll make a bundle, slouch. Maybe you can hang around Tokyo ten years or more."

"Even a best-seller wouldn't do that much," I told him. "You must have blown most of the advance money getting me over here."

"Plenty more where that came from." Fat Jack was in orbit and not even I could shoot him down. "We can do the same thing in France, Germany, maybe even Vietnam."

"Let's get this one done first," I said.

The figure "a quarter million" reflects the 200,000 estimate most commonly cited in sensational resports in English and Japanese. From the time this figure came out of the mouth of Sawada Miki, founder and matron of the Elizabeth Saunders home in Kanagawa, it has been regarded by her critics as being inflated by a factor of at least ten.

More reasonable estimates of the number of racially-mixed children born between Allied (not just US) military personnel and civilians and Japanese during the Occupation of Japan range between 10,000 and 20,000. Government surveys counted around 5,000 such children living with their parents or others outside orphanages and other facilities, excluding those whose racial mixture was not conspicuous.

Biographical note

I am unable to determine who Henry Henn was or is. It may have been a house name, though, as Manor published two more thrillers under the by-line, one each year after The Papa San Files.

As far as I know, none of these titles were reprinted or appeared in other editions. But every dawn, my universe of unknowns seems to expand, and the more I realize that discoveries of things that are not thought to exist is what makes getting up each day so thrilling.

Henry Henn
The Papa San Files
New York: Manor Books, 1977
267 pages, paperback

Henry Henn
Atherwood Terminal
New York: Manor Books, 1978
pages, paperback

Henry Henn
Death Switch
New York: Manor Books, 1979
240 pages, paperback