“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana
Some of the ways in which the U.S.’ A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are very one-sided.
They leave the WWII’s Japanese War Lords, and war criminals, like Hideki Tojo, off the hook for their horrific crimes against humanity. That’s not right.
In an editorial, on April 12, 2016, titled, “Haunted by Hiroshima,” The Baltimore Sun recalled the U.S. atom bomb attack, on August 6, 1945, which left 140,000 dead more than 70 years ago. Another U.S. atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, killing an estimated 40,000 people. On August 15, 1945, the Empire of Japan surrendered unconditionally.
The Sun added this line, with which I agree: “The horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should never be unleashed again – nor should its victims be forgotten.” The Sun chose also not to debate the merits of the nuclear bombings versus a cost-to-our-troops-land invasion of Japan. That’s fine, too. It is what else is left out on this subject that bothers me.
There wasn’t one single word about how Japanese fascists were responsible for launching WWII against the U.S. – nothing at all about the extensive evil deeds of the Empire of Japan. So, what are the readers to think? Probably, that the U.S. was the aggressor and that Japan was just an innocent victim! Can you image someone letting Adolf Hitler’s murderous Nazi gang get off that easily for its massive crimes against humanity during WWII?
I don’t think this kind of historical amnesia is intentional. But, it is surely misleading, irritating as hell and it can have serious ramifications. And, it hasn’t done one thing to stop countries from acquiring nuclear weapons since WWII. Nine nation-states now have such weapons of mass destruction.
I’m afraid the new generation growing up in this country isn’t being told the entire truth about WWII – nor are their counterparts in Japan. How then, are they ever to learn the lessons of the history of that critical period?
The fanatical Japanese War Lords, who were political cronies of the equally demented Nazis, are the ones who started the conflict with the U.S. by their preemptive attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The War Lords, with their Imperial Army, had also rampaged through China, Korea, Manchuria, Burma, Singapore, the Philippines, and other countries in the Asia/Pacific region, beginning in 1931, and right up until August, 1945. (1)
The Sino-Japanese war alone cost tens of millions of lives. In December, 1937, the Japanese occupied the city of Nanking, in China. Within a period of three months, it had slaughtered roughly 350,000 Chinese and raped an estimated 20,000 women. According to the author of “The Rape of Nanking,” the victims were “killed with bayonets, swords, even bamboo sticks. Their bodies [were] sexually mutilated.” (2)
More Japanese horrors: More than 200,000 women in the territories occupied by Japan – China, Korea and other Asian/Pacific states – were turned into sexual slaves (“comfort women”). They existed only to serve the predatory sexual appetites of the officers of the Japanese Imperial Army. (3)
Prime Minister Tojo, with others, was put on trial for his war crimes after WWII and executed for his evil deeds. However, his granddaughter, Yuko Tojo, an ultra-nationalist, recently insisted that he was a scapegoat and that “Japan did not fight a war of aggression.” (4) (I wonder where she got that idea from?)
Then, there is the matter of the Japanese’s criminal degradation of our POWs. Harry Agro, a US Navy Seaman 1st Class, and native of South Baltimore, spent three hellish years, 1942 to 1945, as a POW in a camp located in Hakodate, Japan. He was regularly beaten. Agro told me the only thing that kept him going was “I never wanted to be buried on that soil.” (5)
Biological warfare also was on the agenda of these scheming Japanese fascists. From 1932 to 1945, Imperial Japan was developing germ warfare for its military. This notorious project centered mostly in northern China, became known as “Unit 731.”
Thousands of Chinese, and others, were infested with strains of anthrax, bubonic plague, cholera and other diseases. In all, an estimated 580,000 victims died. The scientist, who ran the operation, Dr. Shiro Ishii, incredibly, escaped prosecution for his purported wrongdoings. (6)
Does anyone doubt that these dangerous biological chemicals would have, if possible, been used on American cities by these crazed War Lords?
Few Americans of my generation will ever forget the “Bataan Death March” of April 9-15, 1942. On those dates, surrendering American and Filipino POWs, 70,000 of them, were forced by their Japanese captors, to march 65 miles in searing heat to a prison camp, located at Camp O’Donnell. Ten thousand POWs perished along the way. Some were left out in the sun to die, others were beheaded for falling behind or killed for just no reason at all. No mercy was shown the desperate prisoners by their cruel Japanese guards.
After the war, the Japanese monster in charge of that ghastly operation, General Masaharu Homma, was convicted of War Crimes. He was executed on April 3, 1946, outside of Manila. (7)
One of the most glaring of the Japanese atrocities occurred late in the war. On Dec. 17, 1944, the Japanese guards at the Palawan camp (Philippines) herded 150 American POWs into three wooden shelters over top of trenches. They then doused them with gasoline and set them on fire. As the desperate POWs tried to escape the blaze, they were machine gunned down and slaughtered. Only 27 of the 150 POWs were able to survive that massacre. (8)
Can there be any doubt as the Japanese War Machine began to crumble that all of the American POWs would have met a Palawan-like fate? This would have included Agro, too, and his beleaguered comrades at Hakodate.
It is only right to remember the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It will also be healthier for all of humanity to recall, too, the many victims of the Japanese War Lords’ attack on Pearl Harbor; the Bataan Death March; its Rape of Nanking; the Sino-Japanese War; its Comfort Women; its lethal Germ Warfare Campaign; and, the Palawan Massacre.
Finally, the human toll of those two A-bombings should be attributed solely to the unbridled hubris of the fascist Japanese War Lords. They brought the world the evils of Japanese Imperialism. It all ended, karmically, in their own backyard. It won’t work to turn a blind eye to their serial crimes. That kind of chronicling of the past will only favor the re-emergence of an extremist Right Wing Movement in Japan. Do you really want history to repeat itself?
2. “The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust,” by Iris Chang, at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Rape-Nanking-Forgotten-Holocaust/dp/0465068367
5. “Harry Agro’s Odyssey” at: http://baltimorechronicle.com/080905Hughes.shtml
6. “A Plague Upon Humanity: The Secret Genocide of Axis Japan’s Germ Warfare Operation,” by Daniel Barenblatt. See: http://www.amazon.com/Plague-upon-Humanity-Genocide-Operation/dp/0060186259
Bill Hughes is an attorney, author, actor and photographer. His latest book is “Byline Baltimore.” It can be found at: https://www.amazon.com/William-Hughes/e/B00N7MGPXO/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1