Another History Lesson

Wow, major blogosphere hubhub about Tom Hank's comments about the war in the Pacific.  Many conservative bloggers are taking humbrage at  Tom's assertions about the nature of the war against Japan.   

"He is pleased that The Pacific has fulfilled an obligation to our World War II vets. He doesn’t see the series as simply eye-opening history. He hopes it offers Americans a chance to ponder the sacrifices of our current soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. 'From the outset, we wanted to make people wonder how our troops can re-enter society in the first place,'Hanks says. 'How could they just pick up their lives and get on with the rest of us? Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as ‘yellow, slant-eyed dogs’ that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s going on today?'"

Here's a few reactions and some more.  They believe Mr. Hank's assertions somehow make our troops seem racist.  Well, big news story- THEY WERE.   And that's okay, because the Japanese were just as racist about our troops.  The entire Pacific War was literally a race and culture war-- Japanese imperial aggression to throw out the "white imperialist oppressors" to establish a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere".  There was none of this nonsense about "poor misunderstood peasants"  or "why do they hate us, can't we all just talk this out over a latte and scone?"  Unfortunately, our politically correct, morally bankrupt schools have not taught proper history, because it can be ugly...but that is why it needs to be taught properly.  Shown above is one of the many propaganda cartoons from the war depicting the Japanese as monkeys...a very common theme of many editorial cartoonists during the war.

Let me explain a little further.  Militarily, the war in Pacific was VERY different than the war in Europe and the Japanese were very different enemies than the Germans.  One simple example- we took over 1,000,000 Germans prisoners by the end of the war- mass surrenders in North Africa, France and the Ruhr Pocket.  By contrast we took very, very few Japanese prisoners in the was quite literally a war of annihilation.  As our Marines and soldiers learned, the Japanese fought to the death and after the mass surrenders in the Philippines and Singapore in early 1942, took no surrenders of Allied troops either.  Ever hear of any Nazi kamikazes?  No, because there weren't any...that was a particular invention of the Japanese-- the first suicide bombers.  The Japanese Bushido code did not allow for surrender-it was considered shameful and hundreds of Japanese soldiers committed suicide rather than surrender.   Sheer logic dictated that as soon as the U.S. got a foothold on an island in the Pacific, the Japanese garrison should have put up a heavy defense for honor and then surrendered.  However, this NEVER happened.  Every island the U.S. invaded had to be completely and totally conquered until the last Japanese soldier was dead or incapacitated.  EVERY SINGLE ISLAND.  In fact, this became the Japanese strategy toward the end of the war--kill enough Americans and they will sue for peace....and our guys knew it.

So, if you don't believe is where I actually learned most of this...John Dower's outstanding book

Dower does an outstanding job of showing, using multiple propaganda cartoons and posters from both the Allies and the Japanese, how racism dominated the Pacific War much more than the war in Europe.  Pearl Harbor played a huge part in how Americans viewed Japan, as did the brutality of the Bataan Death March.

My issue with all this is modern Americans have unfortunately been inculcated with the idea that war is some sterile undertaking where we blow up bad guys with missiles from drones.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  War is ugly, emotional and involves killing people and breaking things.  The GIs in World War II understood this and I think most GIs in Iraq and Afghanistan do today.  We try to "civilize" war to the point that Americans don't understand that war is all about hating and killing your enemies...if they look and act and think differently than you, that just makes it easier to do because they are "foreigners".

Maybe Mr. Hanks stretches the analogy a bit to compare our fight today to those bitter island fights 60+ years ago...but not by much...ask any jarhead or trooper who fought in Fallujah, Iraq and they would tell you that very few jihadists surrendered and many fought to the death.  Most Americans don't understand the concept of fighting for a cause, belief or god to the death.  However, many of our enemies are perfectly willing to do so, and we'd better understand that.  Hate is a very strong motivator...and our enemies understand that.  Should we hate our enemies?  Should we try to "understand" or "reason" with them?

Ask a World War II Marine, soldier, or sailor how well that worked with the Japanese.....