Alexis: In response to the previous article, I received a number of messages from a reader positing the claim that “court history is mostly correct, with omissions, following Perry/Tokyo in 1856 were Rothschild, silk for arms traders, selling outdated British ships and artillery to Japan to start east war to distract Balkin war.”
I simply could not hold my laughter precisely because “court history” has been largely wrong, particularly when it comes to examining World War II. I sent that reader just a number of scholarly sources to peruse in order to contextualize what was happening in Asia at the dawn of the twentieth century, but I doubt that he will check them out.
There is no doubt that some people take these issues on an emotional level. But emotion is not part of our thinking cap. While emotion can be a good virtue, if used properly, when it comes to truth, facts, historical evidence, and ultimate destiny, emotion should take a back seat.
Some people do not know that you are not just a historian. Your father was a United States Marine during the Pacific War, 1941-1945. For people who want to learn more about what the Allied forces did after the war, unpack the story for us here. Show us what “court historians” have failed to meticulously document.
Goodrich: Just as the Allied air forces were targeting cities and civilians in Germany, so too was the US air force incinerating the women and children of Japan. As was the case with his peers in Europe, cigar-chewing, Jap-hating Gen. Curtis Lemay had no qualms whatsoever of targeting non-combatants.
Once his air armada moved with striking distance of the Japanese home islands, the American air commander sent his B-29 bombers to attack Japan with high explosives and phosphorous bombs. Virtually all Japanese urban centers suffered utter destruction but it was the larger cities that were forced to endure the hell of “fire bombing.”
In one raid on Tokyo alone, in one night, an estimated 75,000 to 200,000 people, mostly women and children, were burned to death. Only the incineration of Dresden, Germany, with an estimated death toll of between 200,000-400,000, was greater.
In January, 1945, Gen. Douglas MacArthur forwarded to President Roosevelt a Japanese offer to surrender that he had just received. Roosevelt spurned the request. Seven months later, the new American president, Harry Truman, received virtually the same offer from the Japanese. This time, the Americans accepted.
Had the Japanese surrender been accepted when first offered, well over one million people, American and Japanese, would not have died needlessly. Had peace been made in January, 1945, there would have been no battle blood-bathes as occurred at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. There would have been no firebombing murder of hundreds of thousands of women and children in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and every other major Japanese city.
And, perhaps most important of all, had the Japanese peace offer been accepted earlier there would have been no horrific use of atomic weapons against the women and children of Japan and no stigma or shame attached to we Americans forever for the use of such hideous and hellish weapons.
The fiery deaths of civilians in Tokyo and other cities and the vaporization of 200,000 mostly women and children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki remains an evil black smear on the human soul for all time to come; they provide a clear and terrible testament to man’s inhumanity to man.
The unbridled assaults against the helpless civilians of Japan were also a graphic comment on the powerful price of propaganda. From beginning to end, American political and military leaders hoped to punish the Japanese like no other people in history had been punished.
Hence, the refusal to accept Japan’s surrender in January, 1945, and the refusal to accept the surrender several times later on. The argument made by President Truman and his apologists that the atomic bombs were used to “end the war sooner” and thereby save both American and Japanese lives, was a lie; it was a lie then and it is a lie to this very day.
In fact, Truman deliberately prolonged the war until the bombs were tested, assembled, delivered, and ready for use against Japan. When the first device exploded as planned at Hiroshima and vaporized an estimated 80,000-100,000 civilians, Truman was eager to use another such bomb against another civilian target, Nagasaki.
Had Truman a hundred nuclear weapons in his arsenal—rather than the mere two that he used—it seems clear he would have happily dropped them all on the women and children of Japan.
“The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them,” argued the American president. “When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him like a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless necessary.”
Another argument for the use of the atomic bombs when Japan was willing, even eager, to surrender, was an attempt to impress the Soviet Union with American might. If such a line of reasoning was indeed true, as many later pointed out, then the weapons could have just as easily been used against isolated military targets, and not urban areas filled with women and children.
Certainly, one strong reason for using the weapon, though never mentioned then, and seldom mentioned even now, was hate. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were merely a more dramatic and devastating continuation of the no-quarter policy that had been in effect since December 7, 1941.
The bombs were used against a much-hated enemy simply because the Americans wanted to use them. Weapons that would kill tens of thousands in a flash, then kill tens of thousands more in the most hideous and painful ways imaginable made perfectly good sense at the time; it certainly made sense to Truman and millions of Americans then, and sadly, it still makes perfectly good sense to millions of Americans even now, seventy years later.
“The Dirty Japs began the war,” as the reasoning ran then, and still runs now, “the Dirty Japs fought the war in the most inhumane way possible, and so it is thus fitting that these dirty yellow rats should suffer like no other people ever suffered;” or, as one American historian phrased it more delicately:
“[T]he widespread image of the Japanese as sub-human constituted an emotional context which provided another justification for decisions which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands.”
Nevertheless, with the war clearly won, and with pangs of conscience beginning to reassert themselves among some, a few voices felt that the dropping of the terrible new weapon was a display of sadistic savagery, pure and simple.
“The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul,” former US president, Herbert Hoover, wrote shortly after the news reached him. Added the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William Leahy:
“It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were almost defeated and ready to surrender. . . . [I]n being the first to use it, we . . . adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages.”
And even Dwight David Eisenhower—a man who himself knew more than a little about the mass murder of a helpless enemy—suddenly found a mote of pity when he registered his complaint against the use of the hideous new weapon. “The Japanese were ready to surrender. . . ,” the general wrote. “It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”
Mercifully, for everyone concerned, the Allied powers soon accepted the Japanese surrender seven months after it was originally offered and World War Two, the most savage and evil conflict in history, was over.
And while this was in progress, the “world’s worst peace” was claiming its European victims in their millions. None suffered more in war, none suffered more in “peace”, than German females. Of all the numerous war crimes committed by the Allies during World War Two, the massive rapes committed against the helpless women and children was perhaps the most monstrous.
Of course, an untold number of German women and children did not survive the violent, nonstop assaults. One million? Two million? Ten million? Since no one in power cared, no one in power was counting.
And while this monstrous crime was enveloping the women of Europe, a similar spiritual slaughter was transpiring in Asia.
Because the great bulk of fighting in the war against Japan was fought on the water, in the air or across islands either uninhabited or sparsely populated, rape is a word seldom mentioned in American war diaries or official reports during the years 1941-1944.
When US forces invaded the Japanese island of Okinawa, however, this changed. Almost immediately, and in spite of the bloody fighting, US soldiers began the sexual assault on the females of the island. In one prefecture alone, during a ten-day period, over one thousand women reported being raped.
Since most victims would never come forward and voluntarily suffer such shame in a society where modesty and chastity were prized above all else, the number of rapes was undoubtedly much greater than reported.
Incidents like the following became common:
Marching south, men of the 4th Marines passed a group of some 10 American soldiers bunched together in a tight circle next to the road. They were “quite animated,” noted a corporal who assumed they were playing a game of craps. “Then as we passed them,” said the shocked marine, “I could see they were taking turns raping an oriental woman. I was furious, but our outfit kept marching by as though nothing unusual was going on.”
So pervasive was the crime, and so frightened were the people, that hundreds of Okinawa women committed suicide by swallowing poison or by leaping from the steep cliffs of the island.
With their nation’s surrender in August, 1945, Japanese officials were so concerned about the mass rape of their…