Reconsidering the US military presence in East Asia in the post-World War II period as a “violent embrace,” this article argues that soldiers' expectations of East Asia as an erotic paradise combined with US military policies to legitimate and normalize sexual access to Asian women, creating an unequal climate of gendered power relations that comprised dating, sex work, and frequent rape. This article considers how the violent embrace shaped historical narratives of US power in East Asia, obscuring both imperial power and systemic sexual violence in military archives and later historians' accounts. Through a close reading of soldiers' snapshot photographs from the Korean War, this essay illustrates how the violent embrace came to frame wartime as a kind of pleasure, fun, or benevolence, only hinting at the scale of coercion and violence that lay outside the photograph's borders.

You do not currently have access to this content.