Saturday, January 11, 2014

Revisiting Japan’s Conduct During the Pacific War

This morning’s Washington Post contained an editorial entitled Dangerous Tribute by Chu Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States and former ambassador to Japan.  Mr. Tiankai logically argues that the recent visit by Japan’s Prime Minister to the Yasukuni Shrine symbolizes support for the view that Japan was not an aggressor and committed no atrocities in World War II.

Several passages in the editorial caught my attention. Here are a few:

“Established in the 19th century to honor Japan’s war dead, the shrine imparted a spiritual dimension to Japanese militarism and colonial rule…”

“Fourteen Class A War criminals who were tried by the International Military Tribunal are honored at Yasukuni.”

“The shrine includes s…a deliberately revisionist narrative of World War II (that) lauds Japan’s salvage of Asian countries from colonial rule and detains ‘crimes committed by the United States.”

“His (the Prime Minister’s) assertions, when talking about World War II, that the term, ‘aggression’ has yet to be defined and that no evidence exists proving that “comfort women” were forced into sexual servitude…”

I have visited the Yasukuni Shrine, and I can confirm that Mr. Tiankai’s assertions about it are correct. The earlier exhibits, which detail modern Japan’s wars prior to their invasion of China in the 1930s, are all both in English and Japanese. From that point forward, only Japanese texts are presented. But, being a World War II buff, I had no problems identifying the portraits of the deified General Tojo and Admirals Yamamoto and Nagumo, who conceived and executed the Pearl Harbor attack. You read that right. In the Shinto religion, these criminals have become war gods.  The Prime Minister’s visit can be construed as worshiping them.

One of the reasons that Japanese soldiers readily obeyed orders to slaughter prisoners and innocent civilians was the provision of their Senjinkun (Field Service Code) that equated an order from a superior as a direct order from the emperor. Hence, an order became a pronouncement from God. Coupled with the Samurai principle that death was better than surrender and that anyone who surrendered had forfeited all honor, the opportunities for abuse became infinite.

A review on Amazon of my novel, Hold Back the Sun, suggested that I was too hard on my Japanese characters. I believe that I may not have been hard enough.  The atrocities I portrayed in my story are all based on actual events of which I learned through exhaustive research. For anyone who remains doubtful, I suggest they read all or some of my following references.  Also look on Google.

1) The Rising Sun by Arthur Zich, Time Life Books, Chapter 3, Under the Conquerors’ Rule. Describes the actual massacres at Balikpapan (in Borneo) and Tjepu(in Java) upon which I based the story of the fall ofZwarte Gouden.

2) The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang, Basic Books-Publisher. Describes the fall and systematic terrorizing of Nanking in graphic detail. The last word on the subject. Over 300,000 civilians were massacred and countless women raped.

3) But Not in Shame by John Toland. Random House. Relates the rape and murder of British nurses at Hong Kong (mentioned in Hold Back the Sun) and extensive massacres of Chinese immigrants following the fall of Singapore.

4) Hidden Horrors by Yuki Tanaka, Westview Press. A general compendium of Japanese atrocities during World War II.

5) Kempei Tai by Richard Deacon, Charles Tuttle Company. An extensive description of the deeds of Japans infamous military police, who committednumerious atrocities.

6) Prisoners of the Japanese by Gavan Daws, William Morrow and Company. A detailed account of the inhumane treatment received by Allied POWs at the hands of the Japanese.

7) War Without Mercy by John W. Dower, Pantheon Books. A no-holds-barred description of how racism shaped the Pacific War on both sides. Many Japanese atrocities are detailed.

8) The Comfort Women by George Hicks, W.W. Norton & Company. A well-researched and detailed history of sex slavery in the Japanese Army.

9) True Stories of the Korean Comfort Women Edited by Keith Howard, Casswell. A compendium of memoirs by Korean women forced into sexual slavery

10) 50 Years of Silence by Jan Ruff-O’Herne, Toppan Company (s) PTE Ltd. A compelling memoir of a young Dutchwoman who was kidnapped from an internment camp in Java and enslaved as a prostitute for Japanese officers.

In my view, the Japanese government’s continued denial of the savage conduct by her armed forces in China and the Pacific War remains an affront to humankind.

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