The Pennino Collection

The Center for Japanese Studies, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, presents an online collection of photos of everyday life in Japan during the Occupation Period, taken by US Army Lieutenant Colonel Walter A. Pennino (1915-1998). His daughter, Ms. Donna Howard (former President of the UH Foundation), donated the photos on black and white negative film, and generously gave permission for them to be made available through online. We hope that the collection will provide those interested in Japanese culture and history with a valuable and interesting insight immediate postwar Japan.


Lt. Col. Walter A. Pennino

Lt. Col. Walter A. Pennino (1915-1998) was born in Massachusetts and served the first half of his career in the US Army. At age 44 he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and went on to work for the Commerce Department as Coordinator of Information for the Bureau of International Commerce and for NASA as head of its public information program. Following his retirement from NASA, Pennino worked in the corporate world with Donald K. “Deke” Slayton, one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, to develop the Conestoga, a privately developed rocket. Throughout his several careers, Pennino continued to work as a freelance author, contributing to the Boston Globe and the Washington Post.

While serving in Europe during WWII, Pennino earned two Bronze Stars, one for valor; two Army Commendation medals; the Purple Heart; the Combat Infantryman’s Badge; the European Theater of Operations ribbon with five campaign stars; and the Belgium Fouraguerre. He was wounded in Holland as a staff officer for the 48 th Armored Infantry Battalion of the 7 th Armored Division, but returned to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. Following his service in Europe, Pennino joined the occupation in Japan as a press attaché to General MacArthur. Along with his military duties for the occupation, Pennino published articles in the Boston Daily Globe on such topics as women, marriage, and shopping in Japan. Furthermore, in 1948, as News Chief for MacArthur, he wrote the eyewitness accounts of Tōjō Hideki’s execution. It was at this time that Pennino took the photos in this collection.

During the Korean War Pennino worked for the Boston Globe, but represented the Secretary of the Army in the war correspondent’s running feud with the military over censorship, which he ultimately endorsed. Pennino also went to Korea during the war to cover the Marine landing at Inchon and to set straight the conflicting reports over the fighting on the Pusan perimeter early in the war. His magazine article on the fighting, “Delaying Action,” was adapted for television’s Hollywood Opening Night. (His article covering the same material, “7 Bloody Hours that Saved Korea,” originally published in Real can be found at On his return to the US, his reports on the low morale of the troops and weak leadership of the US military led to an assignment in Kansas City, MO where he organized the Army Home Town News Service as a means to improve the image of soldiers fighting in Korea. He also served as the unit’s first commanding officer. Later, Pennino worked in Washington D.C. as the Director of Information for the Army Reserve and ROTC Affairs Bureau. For his efforts to increase ROTC and reserve enrollment he was awarded the Silver Anvil Award, the highest honor the American Public Relations Society offers.

After his retirement from the military in 1959, NASA recruited him to head up its public information program. As Deputy Director and then Director, Pennino led NASA’s worldwide press operations, as well as its operational programs for both manned and unmanned space flights. Pennino was also the advance man on the Presidential goodwill tours made by the Apollo 11 crew, and helped to bring the Apollo 13 crew safely home after a malfunction forced NASA to abort the mission. During the energy crisis of the 1970’s, Pennino established a nationwide public relations campaign for the Alliance to Save Energy (Washington, D.C.), as well as published the bimonthly newsletter for the American Public Gas Association. After retiring from NASA, Pennino worked in private industry, helping to open up commercial opportunities in space to the private sector through the development of the aforementioned Conestoga rocket.

In 1998 Ret. Lt. Co Walter Pennino passed away and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.


Walter Pennino took these eighty photographs of Occupied Japan while serving as a press attaché for General MacArthur in Tokyo. During this time Pennino also published several articles for the Boston Daily Globe on such topics as women, marriage, and shopping in Japan. Furthermore, he covered the hanging of Tōjō Hideki. Together these three reports of the time period add to the University of Hawaii’s catalogue of post-war Japan in both words and pictures, and add to the overall record of occupied Japan.

The eighty photos in the Pennino collection cover a range of topics from fishermen on the coast to beggars in downtown Tokyo. But the common theme running throughout the collection is people. Pennino centered children as the subject of many of his photos, some playing in school, others standing in the doorways of the shacks that sprung up throughout the ruined city. Yet craftsmen, Sumo wrestlers, and farmers are also prevalent. Some of the subjects of Pennino’s photographs are obviously aware of the camera, striking poses and smiling, but others are not, giving us both staged and candid views of life in occupied Japan. Only a few of the photos focus on subject matter other than people, such as the Diet building and a structure apparently used by the occupation. Although there seem to be several themes that run throughout the photo collection, we do not know if the pictures were taken for purely personal reasons, or if Pennino took the pictures for his articles and military duties.

Although it is difficult to tell exactly where and when most of the photographs were shot, Penino probably took most in and around Tokyo during the late 40s. There is some discrepancy over the exact timing, however. The date listed on the photo collection that we received from the Penninos was 1947, but closer inspection of several photographs revealed movie posters and book advertisements that date the photos to 1948 or 1949. Furthermore, as Pennino had covered the hanging of Tojo Hideki, but not the trial, it is possible that a 1948 date for the photos is the most accurate. Also, by 1950 Pennino was in Korea, so the photos were definitely taken before that date. It is possible that he may have taken some of the photos while on leave, or during a stop over trip to Japan on his way to Korea. The photos may have been taken over several years, but the back numbering of the photos suggests that most of the pictures belong to two or three roles of film. Although the numbering could mean that they were just developed together, the content of the photos suggests that they were taken around the same time.

As far as location is concerned, the majority of the photos seem to have been taken in or around Tokyo. Again, photos of well known buildings, such as the Diet building or the Asahi Shimbun building, clearly establish certain locations as being in Tokyo. While the photos of rural Japan could have been taken almost anywhere, even on the outskirts of Tokyo, the ocean scenes were certainly shot somewhere outside the city. On the other hand, one pair of photos, those of the hot springs, may have been taken in Beppu, Kyushu or Hakone, a few miles South of Tokyo. Thus it is possible that the photos of the countryside and seaside could have been taken almost anywhere between Tokyo and Kyushu.

Regardless of the lack of background information on each individual photo, the collection as a whole creates a valuable image of life in occupied Japan. The collection shows a range of lifestyles, depicting both the harsh reality of life during the early post-war years and the recovery that was clearly taking place. The contrast between a little boy in rags in front of his shanty home and suited office workers having their shoes shined is striking. Though Walter Pennino’s career only touched on Japan for a few years, the photographs he took during that time, we hope, will aid researchers in their attempts to better understand life during the occupation.

Mr. Shunichi Takekawa and Mr. Gabriel Banks, staff of the Center for Japanese Studies, have organized the collection, written the text for the collection, and conducted research on individual photos. CJS congratulates them on their fine work. We fully understand that there is still much to be discovered about the scenes in each photograph. We hope that those with an interest and knowledge of the occupation period will continue to add to the information about these photos and use these photos to contribute to their own work.


No permission is necessary if photos are used for non-commercial educational purposes such as use of the photos in class lectures, students’ presentations, and academic conference presentations. Please credit the photos with the sentence:  “From the Walter A. Pennino Postwar Japan Photo Collection, courtesy of the Center for Japanese Studies, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.”

However if the photos are planned to be used in books, newspapers, documentaries, films, or other forms of media and print, the users must fill out this REQUEST FORM and submit it to the Center for Japanese Studies to request permission.

Send inquiries or requests to:

Pennino Photo Collection

Center for Japanese Studies, Moore 216

University of Hawaii

Honolulu, HI  96822

tel. 808-956-2664

fax 808-956-2666



Eighty photos in the collection are categorized into ten groups. The categories are set up as general references. For example, ‘Children’ contains photos that feature a child or children. “Ceremonies & Festivals’ includes photos of a local festival (matsuri), an annual fire-brigade review (dezomeshiki), and others. Each photo is cataloged under its main theme only although many pictures may have several items of interest. For example, the four photos of a local festival feature children, but these photos appear only in ‘Festivals & Ceremonies’ category. Ten categories are:

English Commentary Photo IDs No. of photos
Children ID 1 – 11 11 photos
Ceremonies & Festivals ID 12 – 21 10 photos
Daily Life ID 22 – 27 6 photos
On the Street ID 28 – 35 8 photos
Entertainment ID 36 – 42 7 photos
Buildings ID 43 – 51 9 photos
Women in Kimono ID 52 – 55 4 photos
Women at Work ID 56 – 63 8 photos
Men at Work ID 64 – 75 12 photos
Repatriated Soldiers ID 76 – 80 5 photos


日本語バージョン 写真番号 写真総数
子ども ID 1 – 11 11 photos
祭り ID 12 – 21 10 photos
日常生活 ID 22 – 27 6 photos
路上 ID 28 – 35 8 photos
エンターテインメント ID 36 – 42 7 photos
建物 ID 43 – 51 9 photos
着物姿の女性 ID 52 – 55 4 photos
働く女子 ID 56 – 63 8 photos
働く男子 ID 64 – 75 12 photos
復員兵 ID 76 – 80 5 photos