Occupation of Joe, The

Occupation of Joe, The

Tokyo, 1945. As post-war pressures mount, an American officer becomes entangled in the lives of a Japanese boy, his infant sister and his beautiful mother.


Tokyo, 1945. A Japanese boy too old for his years, a survivor of the American firebombing, dares to cross the wasteland where he saw thousands burn to death, and approach the occupying forces to get food for his family. A young Navy lieutenant, proud of the Allied victory but appalled by the devastation he sees across the city, cares enough to help. As post-war pressures mount between the two cultures, he becomes entangled in the lives of the boy, his infant sister and his beautiful mother.

The Occupation of Joe is an emotionally powerful, gripping post-war tragedy from Top Hat Books, publisher of quality historical fiction.


The genius of this book is in the representation of the best and worst in human beings. Joe and his fellow Navy shipmates offer the antidote to the pure, unadulterated hatred and evil of the defeated, hungry and homeless Japanese. Author Baynes describes well the full breadth of human emotion, formed in large part by living conditions and the possibility of a better life. This book should be turned into what would be a great film, with the theme that HOPE is that which gives our lives meaning. ~ Dutch Vance, Amazon

in the rubble of post war Tokyo, a young Navy lieutenant befriends a hungry young boy scavenging food for his mother and young sister. The last thing Joe expects is an emotional involvement with the child's family. Despite the language barrier, a love story delicately develops. Handled with sensitivity and skill, Baynes describes a tender, forbidden affair. This novella is a page turner that leads to a surprising, cinematic conclusion. A wonderful read! ~ Al Brito, Amazon

If you like books that show you a multi-dimensional world that sticks with you for days - this one is for you. I can’t tell you about the story without taking away from the book’s impact. And, I can’t tell you exactly how the writer does this. Perhaps the power comes from novella as an art form combined with the writer’s skill. What I can tell is this is a book worth reading and one that’s best read all the way through in one sitting. A word of warning: don’t let the first couple pages fool you into thinking you’re venturing into feel good territory. ~ Joe Gurkoff, Amazon

To view the victor and the vanquished in the aftermath of WW II, The Occupation of Joe takes us to the intimate level of individuals caught in the turmoil. Through Joe and Isamu, the book explores the tragic consequences of war. Interplaying chapters tell the story of the pair, their relationship and their misunderstandings, the need for survival and the desire to help, and the eventual outcome. The book is not long but it is thoughtfully written, leaving the reader contemplating her own humanity. ~ MJ Morrow, Amazon

The Occupation of Joe not only describes the terrible aftermath of war but tells an absorbing and complex story about human relations. The author shows us the problems inherent in vastly different cultures overcoming not only language difficulties but societal norms. It is a time about which very little has been written but which is relevant today as we deal with immigration and racial problems. A very good read. ~ Panama P, Amazon

I loved the power of the prose. It reminded me of Hemingway's style. The story flowed so smoothly that it was impossible to put down. Although the story centers around a young Japanese boy, it's definitely not a children's story. Can't wait for the next book from this author! ~ Carol McKee, Amazon

I didn’t know what to expect when I obtained a copy of Bill Baynes’ latest. Then I started reading and, to shamelessly use the cliche, I couldn’t put this one down. The Occupation of Joe takes place just as Japan has surrendered to the Allies in WWII. No longer needed to repair battleships, the U.S.S. Chourre, drops anchor in Tokyo Bay. When Joe, the communications officer, and his mates disembark, they encounter a city in utter ruin. Guided by 12-year-old Isamu (“Sam”) whom he meets on the dock, Joe walks the city’s ruined streets where he witnesses the massive destruction, poverty, and hunger of a city ravaged by aerial bombardment. Sam is drawn in as a fatherless 12-year-old boy facing a the demands of manhood early and realizing he must be the provider for his mother and baby sister. Joe is painted as an exceptionally sensitive young man who faces the plight of innocent women and children with a humanitarian’s empathy. And then there’s the language barrier. Left only to gesture, Sam and Joe must find a way to communicate. When Joe meets Sam’s beautiful widowed mother Aiko nursing her new infant, Joe is drawn ever more deeply into trying to save at least this one precious family while filling an emptiness in his own heart as well. Both are up against the impersonal mega-force of Occupation, where conqueror meets conquered. Occupation looms over all, almost its own character pressing down on these innocent characters, determining their fates. If Joe can only help Sam before the Chourre ships out for home, he will feel he has done something to help. Baynes, erstwhile AP reporter and filmmaker, writes with the urgency of a dramatist and the clean, no-nonsense prose of a beat reporter. I found myself caring deeply about these three people. I highly recommend The Occupation of Joe. ~ Tim Flood, Amazon

Sometimes less is more. That's the case with Bill Baynes' "The Occupation of Joe." The story is set in post-war Tokyo. It is a slice-of-life story of a US Navy lieutenant and a young Japanese boy who who connect under the most unlikely of circumstances. It is written in such a way that the reader can easily see this as an amazing movie. This simple, yet powerful story is told through both perspectives, chapter by chapter, reminding us that even in war, there are always two sides to the story, and that on both sides, there is common humanity that supersedes all. It is his sense of moral imperative that makes Joe help this young boy, his widowed mother, and infant sister survive. The book is skillfully written in direct, simple, yet highly descriptive and often poetic language. Baynes slowly builds the full impact of the story, bringing it to a heart-breaking close. Again, less is more. The reader doesn't need to be hit over the head with excessive detail, flowery or high-brow language. The sometimes understated story tells itself, and is emotionally-charged and has a humanistic, anti-war point of view. A must-read for lovers of historical fiction set during the World War II era. ~ Eve Visconti, Amazon

In 111 succinct pages, Bill Baynes tells the compelling story of a young, naive man who underestimates the power of love; he denies his own well-being and that of others in his quest to fill a hungry heart. In a war ravaged setting, Baynes’ altruistic character, "Joe", valiantly attempts to overcome the adversity he encounters, leading us to the universal question of "Why me?" ~ Margaret Marshall, M.Ed., Editor, Amazonb

Artfully crafted, this historical novel pulls the reader right into the depths of the aftermath of WWII 1945 bombings of Japan. The characters—a young Japanese boy who is a survivor of the firebombings, his lovely mother and a young U.S. Navy lieutenant—flow into your mind, your heart and through your blood. And whether you like it or not, they remain there. Told in short declarative sentences, the dialogue mirrors the difficulty or inability of the young naval officer’s attempts to make himself understood—by the young boy and his mother—in a land and language unknown to him. And to his naval buddies who question his every move. His determination to ‘save’ just this one small family in a wasteland of despair and unspeakable poverty, reveals the small glimmer of hope that can rise out of the massive destruction of war. Heart-wrenching, real and memorable. ~ Carole Bumpus, Amazon

Erik Mcmanus Aug 31, 2018 Erik Mcmanus rated it really liked it I actually read this book in one sitting. The story was very fluent and would switch between the two main characters, Joe and Isamu. Isamu is a young boy of 12 and he is trying to help his family survive after the Americans firebombed his village by foraging for food and materials to trade. He uses his skills as an actor to fool Joe into giving him some money in exchange for his expertise with the locals in the area. Joe is the Communication Officer on his ship and his job is to decode messages in Morse code. He takes a liking to the boy and brings him sandwiches to eat each day when he visits inland. The characters are well rounded and the author makes it very easy to understand the language barrier between the Joe and the boy. They use a lot of hand signals and motions to try and make sense of each other and the author gives a detailed description of what the hand motions are. This really helps the reader picture how they surpass their differences to work together. It was easy to read and the author kept me entertained enough to finish it on the same day I started it. If you wish to see the spoiler, check out the blog post at https://breakevenbooks.com/2018/08/30.... I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the Wars or historical fiction. The author definitely did their research on the subject before writing a story about it ~ Erik McManus, Breakeven Books

Written with spare eloquence and lyrical perfection, The Occupation of Joe is a story of the coming of age of a Japanese youth in post-war occupied Japan and of the American GI who befriends him. The world is a place of deprivation and chaos as young Isamu navigates the shoals of desperation to find food for his family. Fatherless and on the edge of starvation, he has seen too much, suffered too much, and is confronted by the aftershock of firebombing at every turn. He now tasks himself with the daunting mission of finding food, any food, for his mother and infant sister. He meets Joe, a Naval communications officer, whose compassion and kindness helps the family survive. The Occupation of Joe is a love story told with alternating points of view and descriptive passages that haunt me still. I could not put the novella down and read it in one sitting. The story filled my heart with admiration for its fast-paced yet gentle style and filled my eyes with love for each well-drawn character. Do yourself a favor. Do not miss this remarkable book. ~ Anne Mino Robinson, Amazon

This relatively short and deceptively simple novel unfolds in alternating point-of-view chapters. We begin with Isamu, a young Japanese boy struggling to survive in the immediate aftermath of the American firebombing of his city. Joe, a young American Navy lieutenant, sees the city from a very different vantage point. The tension rises as their stories converge, bringing in Isamu’s mother and baby sister and Joe’s shipmates. In unadorned language that puts the reader right there on the cold and devastated Toyko streets, Baynes explores the nuances of the relationship between occupied and occupier in a tale that resonates beyond its time. I continued to think about the characters and their complex connections long after I finished reading. ~ Audrey Kalman, Amazon

This slim, but not slight, novella is the kind of book that haunts you long after you shut it. Baynes evokes time and place with finely researched and telling details that pull the reader into the story. With effective and affecting storytelling, we are reminded that - long after the battles are over and the armistice signed - war's horrors remain for both "winners" and "losers". It also reminds us, with a still timely underlying message, that the young - who had no part in the making of war - are often the ones who suffer its depredations the most. ~ Sherry Gage, Amazon

The Occupation of Joe, with its historical perspective, is a really good read. Not my usual type of reading subject matter, I was surprised to discover just how much I enjoyed it. Sharp, and to the point, it’s written mainly in the present tense which gives a feeling of immediacy and takes the reader right into the action. I was surprised by the ending, as I had expected the story line to go on for longer. I can definitely recommend this book. Anyone who enjoys a fast-paced and interesting reading experience will thoroughly enjoy it. ~ Carol Jordan, Amazon

Lyrical and poignant, THE OCCUPATION OF JOE is a lovely novella set in Tokyo immediately after the Allied victory. It explores the aftermath of war from the perspective of both a Japanese youth and a young Navy lieutenant. Baynes handles the complexities of emotions and relationships with a deft and spare hand. His prose is beautiful, his characters real, and his storytelling transcendent. Highly recommend! ~ FayeReads, Amazon

Very moving. Suspenseful and gripping, erotic and romantic. Examines a historical era from multiple points of view. Explores moral quandaries in concrete terms. Polished prose. Believable and finely drawn characters. ~ Richard Waldinger, Goodreads

The Occupation of Joe I loved it~! 5 stars and two thumbs up. An outstanding piece of historical fiction. Poignant. Riveting. A real page turner: picked up the book and read non-stop til the end. Could not put it down. Grab a copy and read it. Wonderful and heartwarming portrayal of an American Navy man in post-war Japan on the outskirts of Tokyo and his encounter with a 10-year old Japanese boy, his mother and his sister. Best-seller material! Story would make a wonderful screenplay. ~ Frank Anzalone, Goodreads

The poignancy of this book stayed with me long after reading the final word. It offers a fresh, dual perspective of World War II occupied Japan; from both the American naval officer who feels compelled to help a young, fatherless family and the young Japanese boy and his family, who desperately need his help. The struggle is starkly but sensitively portrayed, revealing the prejudices and social mores of the time that are far greater forces than their own personal desires. With a writing style that draws you in and keeps you turning the page, this is a wonderful, thoughtful book. ~ Korie Pelka, Goodreads

Most of the WWII and post-WWII books I’ve read have centered on Europe, so I was intrigued to read one about Japan. Bill Baynes used a photograph as his inspiration for this story—three happy and laughing American GIs all bundled up against the cold, and a small Japanese boy wearing rags that don’t quite cover his limbs. The background is bombed-out Tokyo. Baynes uses this incongruity to weave a story about these people—first from the boy’s perspective and then from one of the soldiers. Harsh winters and no food create a dangerous situation for the boy (Isamu/Sam) and he goes to where the American sailors are docked and offers his services as a tour guide. One of the sailors, Joe, is charmed by the boy and the next day brings him a much-needed sandwich. Through a form of sign language and Joe’s efforts to help the boy and the rest of his family, we see the terrible ravages of war. Unfortunately, Joe’s efforts to help result in a sort of in-town version of “Lord of the Flies.” I enjoyed the switch of POVs from the boy, who’s just old enough to understand what’s going on around him and the ramifications of various actions, to the sailor, who bumbles through life in typical American oblivion, thinking he’s helping but blinded by his own preconceptions and needs. Baynes has a lively voice and a knack for description. I enjoyed this quick read very much and look forward to more from him. I read an ARC: This book is scheduled to release in August of 2018. ~ Melanie Spiller, Goodreads

Reading The Occupation of Joe is a moving experience. Set during the occupation of Japan following the end of World War II, the story is told through the eyes of Joe Bienkunski, an American naval officer, and Isamu (“Sam,”) a young Japanese boy who, with his mother and infant sister, is struggling to survive brutal conditions in Tokyo after all the destruction. Food is scarce, protection from the cold is hard to find, and thieves and gangs of teens roam the ruins, adding to the danger for the twelve-year-old Sam. The Americans are the hated victors in the war, and the Japanese regard them as crude monsters. The barrier of language also stands between the two sides. But over time, Joe and Sam find ways to communicate using improvised sign language. Joe and his American companions meet Isamu on their first shore leave to Tokyo’s ruins, and the boy offers to guide them around what’s left of the city. Joe returns whenever he can, and brings sandwiches for the boy, who shares them with his mother. A sort of wary friendship begins. Joe wishes he could do more. Eventually he convinces Sam to bring him to meet his mother and baby sister. Joe is married and has a young son of his own, but he is drawn to Aiko. A romance somehow arises despite the unpromising circumstances. The complexity, the good and the bad of wartime relations between the victorious Americans and the conquered Japan is illuminated by the specifics of the relations between Joe and Sam and Aiko. This is a beautifully written and heartfelt exploration of this and related themes. Highly recommended. ~ David Wolf, Goodreads

Bill Baynes
Bill Baynes Bill Baynes is a writer, producer and director. A specialist in public interest marketing, he has worked in many media formats. He was a rep...
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