The Japanese Return To Pearl Harbor

The last time they came....

The last time they came….

One of the ongoing ironies from World War II that I have been familiar with for the last couple decades has been the realization that the major belligerent countries of those days , Japan and Germany, never truly lost the war.  Both recovered with American help to become the economic democratic powerhouses of today.  If I were some right wing American conservative I might dream up some grand and ultimate conspiracy theory suggesting that  Japan and Germany starting WW2 was intentional in order to lose, knowing full well the U.S. would fix up their collective countries, and they would become post-war golden childs.  The obvious advantage to the U.S. would be wealth beyond anyone’s expectations, likely lavished on those rich elitist liberals we are currently hearing about.

Elements of the Grand Fenwick military taking U.S. prisoners.

Elements of the Grand Fenwick military taking U.S. prisoners.

(This is not a foreign theory.  It was the theme for that Peter Sellers movie of 1959, “The Mouse That Roared”.  The country of Grand Fenwick, a fictional place the size of Lichtenstein, creates an international incident when they discover their nation’s wine is being copied by a California winery.  The U.S. ignores their diplomatic overtures and they thusly declare war on the U.S. with all intents of surrendering to get American foreign aid.  They send an “army” to invade the U.S…. about a half dozen of the palace guards dressed like Swiss guards with spears, to New York.  The U.S. State Department does not want to risk an international incident and looking stupid to the world against this little country.. so the U.S. chooses to surrender to Grand Fenwick.  Funny Sellars at his best.  See the movie.)  

Obama and Abe's visit at Hiroshima Memorial

Obama and Abe’s visit at Hiroshima Memorial

Anyway, the whole point of bringing any of this up is because of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s current visit to Hawaii with the intent of meeting with Obama at the USS Arizona Memorial Tuesday this week (likely today as I post this).  Both these boys met earlier this year at the Hiroshima Memorial In Japan.  Back then I was of the opinion that I thought President Obama’s presence there was going to be interpreted as some form of apology for dropping the bombs; something I in NO way wanted to see the President do.  Even though the White House was explicit that the visit was not an apology, the fact that Obama was the first sitting president to visit the place bugged me.  But, he gave his speech, and it was a theme about curbing nuclear proliferation, yada, yada.  At the time I did not know this was to be a quid pro quo arrangement with the Prime Minister.

The CNN story is here…

Japs who took part in Nanking

Japs who took part in Nanking

So now the Japanese Prime Minister will visit the Arizona.  Will HE apologize?  I highly suspect not. But as of this writing that’s yet to be realized.  Hell, Japan hasn’t even acknowledged the atrocities bestowed on the Chinese, especially the so-called event, “The Rape of Nanking” or “Nanking Massacre”, where Jap (yes, I said “Jap”, not Japanese) soldiers were allowed to rape and kill 50,000-300,000 civilians in their homes and on the streets of Nanking (now Nanjing) in a virtual racial mob rampage.

Back in August, 2014 I posted the following that you might wish to read for background…

Here’s a paragraph quoted from my post back then that still applies now….

Look, those that lived through those times are nearly all dead now so asking them how it was back then is not possible anymore.  The Japanese of that day were the enemy… a fierce enemy motivated by pure religious ideology and empirical worship.  They engaged in battlefield atrocity, insane medical experiments, genocide, ethnic cleansing, the ultimate racists in pure torture for the sake of torture, and authorized rape.  The average Japanese soldier was not fighting to preserve culture or defend the homeland, they were on a mission of conquest demanded by the military industrial/political complex of their times, with a fighting devotion to the Emperor, who they viewed not as a king but as a god… guided by ancient codes of valor for dying in battle.  Ask any G.I.’s who fought on Tarawa, Saipan, or Guadalcanal if the atomic bombs should have been dropped or not.  In fact, ask their mothers and fathers, or the parents of those killed in action, the same question.  I’m positive you’d not get some answer buried in moral contemplation.

Again I make the obvious mention… there would have never been a Hiroshima or Nagasaki had there not been a Pearl Harbor.

You might suggest, Germany was just as bad.  Well, yes they were and perhaps in many instances worse.. if that even could be during any war.  But we made the German civilians look at their atrocities, we held the trials that exposed the German people as accomplices, and since the war the German public does indeed have a strong sense of collective guilt for their role in WW2 and the exterminations… and I know for a fact subsequent generations of Germans who had no role at all have this stigma hanging over their heads to this day.  Over time, with each passing generation, the distance will make that go away.  But post-war Germany has apologized.  Japan has not.  Pearl Harbor is where this all started.  It would be important to a lot of folks if  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would apologize… but, sadly… even if this event happened 75 years ago, admitting responsibility for Japan’s part in WW2 does have certain political and financial ramifications today.

Another quoted paragraph from my previous post…

We call them The Greatest Generation because they were the last generation to fight to win; the enemies were defined, the strategic operations specific and were meant to defeat the enemy, fascism or Japanese imperialism.  You can blame the Allies of the day for being just as guilty in violating the Geneva Convention in blowing up civilians as well as military targets as Germany or Japan.  You can blame America for doing seemingly immoral acts of warfare.. like dropping atomic bombs.  But it doesn’t take the uncovering of secret wartime reports to use a measure of common sense that maybe indeed someone made a decision to “just kill Japs” as a matter of retribution rather than using some other altruistic concept.  It was war and we fought it to win.  It’s the brutality of war that is supposed to inspire future generations to avoid it with peaceful negotiation rather than entertaining the impulse to fight.

I was never in WW2 hence I do not know first hand the combat in either theater of operations.  But I think I am most incensed with the feeling that Japan got away with it.  Being a history nut and having listened to vets tell their stories from that time I find myself with a measure of resentment toward contemporary Japanese who were not even alive in those days.  I see those images of life in contemporary Japan.. the throngs of people walking the streets enjoying Western culture, or I see someone on the street.. I find myself wondering… what ancestor are you descended from who tortured some civilian or G.I. in the name of his emperor?   Japan’s part in WW2 is even smoothed over in school teachings.  In fact, it bugs me a bit that the Emperor Hirohito was allowed to remain in power until his death in 1989, although he got to live to see his country “win” the war.

Famous MacArthur/Hirohito photo where the general asked the Emperor to pay him a visit.

Famous MacArthur/Hirohito photo where the general asked the Emperor to pay him a visit to set the tone of who was in charge now.

On the other hand…. I think it was near genius the way MacArthur (and I am not overly fond of MacArthur) handled politically the occupation and subsequent governing and re-building  in post-war Japan.  His investigation revealed the Emperor was essentially a pawn of the military… a military who had grown in those times to be in administrative charge of the country.  The Allies had the Japanese version of the Nuremburg Trials and a lot of those ruthless military thugs were executed… and a lot were not.  But the average Jap soldier wasn’t following the orders of some fascist dictator for fear of being killed himself.  He was a spiritual lunatic hell-bent on dying for his emperor while killing and torturing any race deemed inferior.  But MacArthur’s efforts were responsible for setting the course of economic and political recovery for Japan.  He had a bigger picture than just retribution.

There’s also a growing interest in Japan “beefing” up its military lately, as if somehow this will lead them down the road to wanting to conquer the world again.  This Japan Defense Force thing should be a thing of the past.  Japan is a sovereign country and as such is more than capable of having an unrestricted  capable military in which to protect its economic and political interests as well as contribute to international security efforts.  To presume in any way that there is a risk that Japan will resume its WW2 ways is absurd.  One reason Japan got away with as much as it did in preparation for WW2 is that there was no organized intelligence gathering to detect anything going on.  The world was sleeping back then.  Our two countries are way too connected culturally and economically.  If Japan could pull their own military weight we might be able to save a few bucks by closing our bases there.

(Here’s an honest truth for comparison and thought… if we assume that our “friendship” with Japan essentially began with the end of the war in 1945, and Israel was formed in 1948, which of the two has become our most political and economic friend and a world economic power?  Yeah, I know.  Two different parts of the world… and geographic sizes.  Given current news I just wanted to compare priorities.  Israel is a whole other post.)

I wonder how those Navy guys, kids themselves from The Great Depression, entombed in the Arizona, would feel with a Jap leader above them meeting with the first black President?

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor





3 thoughts on “The Japanese Return To Pearl Harbor

  1. My uncle was a POW of the Japanese during WW2. I am generally considered to be a ‘liberal’ here, but I have a darker side. If I had the option, and the finger on the button in 1945, I would have completely obliterated japan. Every major city, any port of use, and all the history too. Their crimes in China alone would have justified that, in addition to everything else they did after 1941. If the Japanese had the atom bomb back then (or the Germans) do you think they would have hesitated? You know the answer to that.
    The only downside is that I wouldn’t have had all those Kurosawa films that I enjoy watching so much…
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. I can only imagine the horrors your uncle witnessed and likely felt himself. Which is my whole point. As each generation passes the memories fade just a bit more. Did you happen to see The Railroad Man, Pete? I dunno if I could be all that forgiving to my torturer. I recall reading something about John McCain here in the States.. when he was a POW for seven years in Vietnam. There was one particular torturer he never forgave… in spite of the passage of time.

  3. No way is an American apology for dropping the bomb justified. Period! We did the right thing at exactly the right time and if times were the same now as they were then I would be among the first to support dropping it again.

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