They enjoyed it. No, really!

Japanese Air Self-Defense Force General Toshio Tamogami has made the unpardonable mistake of telling us all what he really thinks:

execution_of_pow_by_japanese_naval_officerIn the essay, titled “Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?” Tamogami said it was “certainly a false accusation” to say Japan was “an aggressor nation” during World War II.

“The current Chinese government obstinately insists that there was a ‘Japanese invasion,’ but Japan obtained its interests in the Chinese mainland legally under international law through the Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, and so on, and it placed its troops there based on treaties in order to protect those interests,” he wrote.

He also claimed life under Japanese occupation was “very moderate” and cited a rise in the population on the Korean peninsula during Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation as “proof that Korea under Japanese rule was also prosperous and safe.”

Tamogami also claimed that Japan was tricked into attacking Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

— Shino Yuasa, “Japan fires air force head for controversial essay“.  Associated Press, October 31st, 2008.

Lest one think the general is some kind of outlier, let it be noted that the essay won first prize in the contest.  The judges of said competition, at the very least, admire the way he formulated his argument.  My guess is that they also share his conclusions.  Among the more outrageous howlers:

“The Tokyo trials tried to push all the responsibility for the war onto Japan and that mind control is still misleading the Japanese people 63 years after the war,” he wrote…

“But we need to realize that many Asian countries take a positive view of the Greater East Asia War. It is certainly a false accusation to say that our country was an aggressor nation,” he said…

“Even now there are many people who think that our country’s aggression caused unbearable suffering to the countries of Asia during the Greater East Asia War,” Tamogami wrote in the essay.

“But we need to realize that many Asian countries take a positive view of the Greater East Asia War. It is certainly a false accusation to say that our country was an aggressor nation,” he said.

— CBC News, “Japanese general denies Japanese wartime aggression“, October 31st, 2008.

Many Asian countries take a positive view of the Greater East Asia War?  I believe there are a few million Chinese, Korean, Filipino, British and Commonwealth folk who disagreed, at the time.  And expressed their disagreement by force of arms.

Germans, for the most part, have come to terms with their war legacy; whereas the Japanese resolutely avoid it.  There are, doubtless, Nazi sympathizers and Holocaust deniers extant in Germany today, but they are fringe elements.   In Japan, however, the causes and actions of the war have been so whitewashed and watered down that General Tamogami’s view is not uncommon.

Japanese texts tend to portray the war as an economic power struggle, in which any excesses committed by the armed forces occurred in the heat of battle.  In this way they cleverly skirt any similarity and comparison to racially-motivated behaviour of the Nazis.   To further obscure the truth, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are viewed as atrocities on par with any act committed by the Axis powers; racism and a perverted scientific curiosity are among the motives attributed to America in its decision to irradiate those cities.

As our Second World War veterans pass on to their well-deserved rest, our collective memory will come under greater and greater assault from historical revanchists.  I expect that in the next fifty or sixty years, we will find ourselves once again at war with Japan.  One resentful of a relentless drumbeat to acknowledge wartime crimes its modern citizens have never been fully taught.

Image: Aitape, New Guinea. 24 October 1943. A photograph found on the body of a dead Japanese soldier showing NX143314 Sergeant (Sgt) Leonard G. Siffleet of “M” Special Unit, wearing a blindfold and with his arms tied, about to be beheaded with a sword by Yasuno Chikao. The execution was ordered by Vice Admiral Kamada, the commander of the Japanese Naval Forces at Aitape. Sgt Siffleet was captured with Private (Pte) Pattiwahl and Pte Reharin, Ambonese members of the Netherlands East Indies Forces, whilst engaged in reconnaissance behind the Japanese lines. Yasuno Chikao died before the end of the war.

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One Response
  1. “Remembering” Wars and War Crimes

    The wave of anger against Tamogami is predictable and in many ways justified. You can read the comments on blogs like Taylor & Company, Japanifik, The Impudent Observer, and many other blogs that my Google search found rapidly for me. Expect any opinio…