Monday, October 06, 2014
Condemnation attributed to ‘utter nonsense’ BY HIROAKI SATO SEP 29, 2014 ARTICLE HISTORY PRINT SHARE In mid-July, in Sugar Loaf, an idyllic village northwest of Manhattan, during a group lunch, someone asked, “How about comfort women?” I started saying, “If the question is whether or not the Japanese government forced women to prostitution for the military, probably it didn’t.” But when I saw a thin smile on the questioner’s face, I gave up. Like “the Nanjing Massacre,” anything less than an outright admission by a Japanese — I am a Japanese-American — of the worst assessment of the wrongs that Japan committed during World War II merely raises eyebrows. Then, on Aug. 5, the Asahi Shimbun announced that it had “judged the Jeju Island testimony to be false.” In sum, the paper was finally rejecting the assertion by a man named Seiji Yoshida that, back in 1943, he had “hunted out 200 young Korean women on Jeju Island” to provide the Japanese armed forces with “comfort women.” By its own count, the Asahi had carried 16 articles on Yoshida’s words since Sept. 2, 1982, when it reported his speech in Osaka. The retraction raised a furor. (See “Asahi rivals pile on over sex slaves retraction,” Japan Times, Aug 8, 2014.) Why? For one thing, Yoshida’s “testimony” had been known to be false since at least the early 1990s. In fact, in 1989, when his book, “My War Crimes” (1983) detailing his claims, was translated into Korean, a Korean reviewer for The Jeju Newspaper had stated Yoshida’s stories were “utter nonsense.” The reviewer went to a small village on Korea’s largest island where Yoshida had written he rounded up 15 to 16 young women, brandishing a wood sword. But the villagers said that an abduction of so many girls in their village of 250 households would have been “a big event,” yet no one remembered anything of the sort. A local historian, who said he’d been checking the matter since Yoshida’s book came out, dismissed the matter as “a product of commercial intent that shows Japanese evil-mindedness.” The islanders had reasons to remember such an incident — if it had happened. Three years after Korea’s “liberation” from Japan in 1945, the residents of Korea’s largest island rebelled against the U.S. Occupation. As a result, 8,000 people were killed. Many islanders fled to Japan, mainly to Osaka. Yoshida nevertheless continued to play an outsize role in the “comfort women” question, with the Asahi’s help. On Jan. 11, 1992, the Asahi brought the matter front and center by splashing headlines suggesting, among other things, the government’s cover-up — that it had hidden documents on “comfort stations” (ianjo), when in fact the documents had been open to the public for three preceding decades. The Asahi’s efforts almost derailed Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa’s impending visit to South Korea and quickly worsened Japan’s relations with Koreans. But the matter went far beyond that. First, it led to U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Radhika Coomaraswamy’s 1996 report on “military sexual slavery in wartime.” Eleven years later, on July 30, 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that condemned “the ‘comfort women’ system of forced military prostitution by the Government of Japan” as “one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century.” Since then, statues to memorialize comfort women have been built in the United States. In the 1980s, Japan’s “mass media started to talk about the nation’s crimes during World War II,” as Daekyun Chung, the Korean-Japanese scholar on national identity questions, points out in “The Myth of Koreans Forcibly Brought to Japan” (2004). If Yoshida didn’t miss the bandwagon, you might say the Asahi was one of the chief musicians on it. Actually “comfort woman” (ianfu) is a case where a Japanese attempt for euphemism misfired — spectacularly, many years later. A comparable English euphemism may be “daughter of joy.” A closer, more accurate term is likely to be “camp follower.” Faubion Bowers probably had this in mind in 1995 when he pooh-poohed the “comfort women” furor that was growing by the day by simply saying: “When Manila fell, in less than a day, 100 ‘comfort women’ showed up near my barracks.” I had invited Bowers to my office to reminisce about his experience before, during and after the war to mark the 50th anniversary of Japan’s defeat. A Julliard graduate, he had taught in Japan before Japan’s Pearl Harbor attack, studied Japanese at the Military Intelligence Service Language School, and was a translator/interpreter during the war. The war over, he served Gen. Douglas MacArthur as an aide-de-camp. The existence of “comfort women” in wartime Japan was so utterly taken for granted that it remained a “nonissue” for several decades after the war until some people decided to turn it into a controversy. Was the Japanese government involved in “comfort women”? The answer will depend on how you define “involvement.”If the Army Ministry’s acceptance of the establishments of brothels for the military in war zones was “involvement,” the Japanese government must plead guilty. Yoshiaki Yoshimi, historian at Chuo University, who insists on the government’s culpability, cites in his 1995 book “Military Comfort Women” the notification issued to the chiefs of staff of the North China Area Army and Central China Expeditionary Force as “one of the most important documents showing the involvement of the Army Ministry.” Dated March 4, 1938, it has, among those who gave stamps of approval, Hitoshi Imamura, one of the few admired generals to come out of World War II. But the notification was a stern warning not to allow activities among recruiters or brokers that might “hurt the dignity of the military” and “create social problems.” It asked that the Kempeitai and the police authorities especially look out for anything “resembling kidnapping.” Again, if you say the Army Ministry’s acceptance of procurers of prostitutes proved “involvement,” the government was responsible. Were comfort women “sex slaves”? If you recognize that prostitution is largely a form of physical bondage, they were. But forcibly rounding up women for the work, as Yoshida said he did, would be a different matter. A 1944 U.S. report based on interviews with Korean-Japanese POWs quoted them as saying that “direct conscription” of Korean women for prostitution would have caused riots in Korea. Japanese police officers stationed in Korea made similar statements. They had to be careful in governing Korea.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Sunday, August 31, 2014
Asahi Shimbun must apologize for erroneous 'comfort women' reports An overwhelming number of people were surely disappointed in the Asahi Shimbun's articles on Aug. 5 and 6 "verifying" what led to its past coverage of so-called wartime comfort women. It was the company's attempt to deal head-on with the allegations of inaccurate reporting raised by various other media. However, the only errors the paper acknowledged were the credibility of the late Seiji Yoshida's testimony, and the confusion of "teishintai," or volunteer corps, with "comfort women." The remainder was, for the most part, evasive commentary. What was most surprising to readers was the lack of an apology throughout the paper. After the "verification articles" appeared in the Asahi, the Sankei Shimbun, which has been a critic of the Asahi over the issue, landed an exclusive interview with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with which it reinforced its attacks on the Asahi. There is, however, the chance that the Asahi's circuitous stance will draw fire from beyond those usually critical of the Asahi. SBI Holdings President and CEO Yoshitaka Kitao, whose great-grandfather was in charge of sales at the fledgling Asahi, announced on his blog that he'd cancelled his years-long subscription to the daily. The majority of people in the media with whom I've spoken about this are of the opinion that the Asahi needs to issue an apology. Despite some doubts that had been raised since the early 1990s regarding the Asahi's coverage, the paper neglected to correct its errors for at least 20 years. This failure to act caused inaccurate information about the "comfort women" issue to spread, resulting even in diplomatic tensions. It's ironic, also, that the problem has had a hand in expanding the power of the right. The verification articles placed women's human rights front and center, and argued that the Asahi's awareness and understanding of the problem were valid. While that may be true, it is beside the point. This is not the stance that should be taken by a news organization that neglected to correct its erroneous reporting. If it had been another news organization in the midst of the controversy, how would the Asahi have reported it? (By Ken Mori, special to the Mainichi Shimbun) Related stories: How Asahi Shimbun assessed its coverage of 'comfort women' issue http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20140830p2a00m0na013000c.html Asahi Shimbun claims essence of 'comfort women' issue remains same http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140830p2a00m0na012000c.html August 30, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
EDITORIAL / Asahi Shimbun makes long-overdue corrections over ‘comfort women’ Clip to Evernote inShare 7:45 pm, August 25, 2014 The Yomiuri Shimbun After a review of its reports on the so-called comfort women issue, which has become a huge thorn in the side of Japan-South Korea ties, The Asahi Shimbun has admitted its mistakes in the reports—albeit partially—and retracted some of the contents. The retractions allude to reports on remarks by Seiji Yoshida, who claimed to have forcibly taken away local women from Jeju Island, South Korea, to make them serve as comfort women. During World War II, Yoshida was said to be the former head of the mobilization department of the Shimonoseki Branch of Romu Hokoku-kai, an organization in charge of recruiting laborers. In September 1982, the newspaper reported—without verification—the remarks of Yoshida, who claimed to have “hunted up 200 young Korean women in Jeju Island.” Misperceptions about Japan The report added fuel to anti-Japan sentiment in South Korea, and also became a basis of misperception of Japan spreading through the world. In its Tuesday morning edition, the Asahi concluded—for the first time—that Yoshida’s remarks were baseless, and finally retracted the newspaper’s reports regarding the remarks. We cannot help but point out the correction should have been made at a much earlier stage. Doubts about Yoshida’s remarks have been raised as early as 1992. The newspaper’s negligence in allowing the issue to linger for more than 20 years is deplorable. The Asahi has, by its own account, reported about Yoshida on at least 16 occasions. Historian Ikuhiko Hata raised doubts over Yoshida’s remarks in 1992, but the newspaper has long refrained from making a correction. In March 1997, The Asahi Shimbun carried a special article on the reports about the comfort women issue. However, the newspaper only said it was unable to confirm the authenticity of Yoshida’s remarks. Yoshida’s remarks were cited by a 1996 U.N. Human Rights Commission report compiled by Radhika Coomaraswamy, helping propagate a misunderstanding in the international community that the forcible recruitment of comfort women took place. Another serious problem with the Asahi’s reports is the mix-up between comfort women and female volunteer corps. In a front-page article carried in January 1992, the Asahi stated that “South Korean women became the major target of forcible recruitment conducted in the name of the female volunteer corps. The estimated number [of victims] range from 80,000 to 200,000.” The report was issued just before then Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa’s visit to South Korea. It prompted the government to conduct an investigation into the comfort women issue, resulting in a statement issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, which expressed the government’s “sincere apologies and remorse” to former comfort women. In Tuesday morning’s edition, the Asahi admitted its mistake over the mix-up for the first time, saying that the female volunteer corps refers to groups of women mobilized for work in munitions factories and elsewhere during wartime and are “completely different” from comfort women. “We have been working not to confuse the two since 1993,” the newspaper said in the Tuesday edition. However, the Asahi’s reports have prompted the false understanding that even girls of primary school age were recruited as comfort women. The Asahi defended its coverage by saying in its two-page spread: “Little progress had been made in investigating the comfort women issue at that time. Some documents to which [Asahi] reporters referred contained statements in which the female volunteer corps was mixed up with the comfort women.” Then the special feature said that some other national dailies had also published articles containing a similar mix-up. In reporting on the female volunteer corps and Yoshida in initial stages, The Yomiuri Shimbun also ran some stories including factual errors. In the late 1990s and onward, however, we corrected such errors through our editorials and other articles. Assertions unchanged We question the Asahi’s assertions about how so-called comfort women were kept at facilities to provide sex for soldiers. Though the heart of the matter was whether they were recruited by force, the national daily argued that great importance must be attached to the fact that those women were caught in a situation marked by “a coercive nature” with which they had been “deprived of freedom.” In initial stages, the Asahi continued to insist the crux of the problem was that these women had been forcibly recruited, citing testimony from Yoshida and other sources. However, the testimony and data used by the paper as a basis for its reasoning were later disproved. Then the Asahi started to argue that the retention of those women in facilities had a coercive nature. The Asahi’s assertion has remained fundamentally unchanged in this respect, as illustrated by its latest feature, which stated that the essence of the problem lies in the fact that “women were deprived of freedom in brothels, and their dignity was violated.” There is no doubt that a large number of women, including those from the Philippines and Indonesia, had their honor and dignity injured during World War II. There may have been cases deemed inexcusable from a present-day human rights perspective, even if no coercive action was taken by the prewar government and the military. Still, it is necessary to discuss two issues related to the whole controversy as separate matters—that is, how to deal with sex-related issues facing soldiers and whether the Japanese wartime military was involved in forcibly recruiting women for the provision of sex. Questions can be asked as to the appropriateness of calling the Japanese government to task by insisting coerciveness was prevalent in the provision of sex by those women in a broad sense of the term. We believe focusing on such questions is an attempt to sidestep the real issue. Gaining a proper perception of history requires thorough efforts to uncover the whole truth behind any historical issue. Better Japan-ROK ties needed South Korean President Park Geun-hye strongly opposed a report issued by the Japanese government in June regarding the results of investigations into how the so-called Kono statement on comfort women was drafted and issued in 1993, using Coomaraswamy’s U.N. report and other data as a basis for her assertion. Her unbending hard-line stance on Japan is unlikely to change. The government should not easily compromise on the controversy. It must persist in urging South Koreans to gain a proper understanding of our government’s stance on the comfort women dispute. Relations between Japan and South Korea are strained today. There has been no summit meeting between the two nations for more than two years. We hope the media and the public in both nations will come to have an accurate grasp of all the facts, a task essential for their respective efforts to build a future-oriented relationship between the two neighbors. (From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 6, 2014)Speech
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Testimony about 'forcible taking away of women on Jeju Island': Judged to be fabrication because supporting evidence not found
Testimony about 'forcible taking away of women on Jeju Island': Judged to be fabrication because supporting evidence not found 2014年8月22日10時00分 印刷 メール Question: There was a man who testified in books and meetings that he had used violence to forcibly take away women on the Korean Peninsula, which was Japan's colony, to make them serve as comfort women during the war. The Asahi Shimbun ran articles about the man from the 1980s until the early 1990s. However, some people have pointed out that his testimony was a fabrication. * * * The man's name was Seiji Yoshida. In his books and on other occasions, he said that he headed the mobilization section at the Shimonoseki branch of the Yamaguchi Prefectural Romu Hokokukai labor organization that was in control of day laborers. The Asahi Shimbun has run, as far as it can confirm, at least 16 articles about Yoshida. The first appeared in the Sept. 2, 1982, morning edition in the city news page published by the Osaka head office. The article was about a speech that he gave in Osaka in which he said, "I 'hunted up' 200 young Korean women on Jeju Island." The reporter, 66, who wrote the article, was in the City News Section at the Osaka head office at that time. The reporter said, "I had absolutely no doubts about the contents of his talk because it was very specific and detailed." In the early 1990s, other newspapers also ran articles about what Yoshida said at meetings and on other occasions. In the April 30, 1992, morning edition of the Sankei Shimbun, an article raised doubts about Yoshida's testimony based on the results of an investigation conducted by Ikuhiko Hata on Jeju. Weekly magazines also began publishing articles pointing to "Suspicion of 'fabrication.'" A reporter, 53, in the City News Section at the Tokyo head office was instructed by his editor to meet with Yoshida immediately after the Sankei article ran. The reporter asked Yoshida to introduce relevant individuals and submit data to corroborate his testimony, but the reporter said Yoshida rejected the request. During news gathering to prepare for the March 31, 1997, special coverage, Yoshida refused to meet with a reporter, 57, in the City News Section at the Tokyo head office. When the reporter asked over the phone about reports that suspected the testimony was a fabrication, Yoshida responded, "I wrote about my experiences as they were." Although news gathering was also conducted on Jeju and no corroborating evidence could be obtained, the special coverage said "no confirmation has been made about the authenticity" because there was no conclusive proof that Yoshida's testimony was false. The Asahi has not written about Yoshida since. However, in November 2012, Shinzo Abe, who was then president of the Liberal Democratic Party, said at a debate among party leaders hosted by the Japan National Press Club, "The problem has become much bigger because false reporting by The Asahi Shimbun has led to the spreading of a book throughout Japan, which has been taken as fact, even though it was created by a man named Seiji Yoshida who is like a con man." Some newspapers and magazines have repeated criticism of The Asahi Shimbun. In April and May 2014, The Asahi Shimbun interviewed a total of about 40 people in their late 70s to 90s living on Jeju. However, no evidence was obtained that supported the writings by Yoshida about forcible taking away. In a town on the northwestern part of the island where Yoshida claimed to have taken away several dozens of women working at a plant making dried fish, there was only one factory in the village that handled fish. The son of the local man who was involved in factory management, now deceased, said, "Only canned products were made there. I never heard from my father about women workers being taken away." Yoshida wrote that the factory roof was "thatched." Video images that captured conditions at that time were obtained by Norifumi Kawahara, a professor of historical geography at Ritsumeikan University who has conducted research on the fishing industry in South Korea at that time. The images showed the roof to be made of tin and tile. In June 1993, Kang Jeong-suk, a former researcher at the Korean Research Institute for Chongshindae, conducted research on Jeju based on the writings of Yoshida. "I heard from several elderly people at each of the locations I visited, but I did not come across any testimony that matched the writings," Kang said. Yoshida wrote in his book he went to Jeju in May 1943 based on a mobilization order from the Western District Army. He also wrote that the contents of the order were left in the diary of his wife (now deceased). However, Yoshida's oldest son, 64, was interviewed for this special coverage, and it was learned that the wife never kept a diary. The son said Yoshida died in July 2000. When Yoshida met in May 1993 with Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a Chuo University professor, and others, Yoshida explained that "there were occasions when I changed the dates and locations (where he forcibly took the women)." Moreover, Yoshida refused to present the diary in which the contents of the mobilization order were contained. That led Yoshimi to point out, "I had no choice but to confirm that we could not use his testimony." (Note 1) Masaru Tonomura, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo who is knowledgeable about mobilization matters on the Korean Peninsula during the war, said the Romu Hokokukai that Yoshida claimed he worked for was created through instructions given by the Health and Welfare Ministry as well as the Home Ministry. "Given the chain of command, it is inconceivable for the military to issue the mobilization order, and for employees to go directly to the Korean Peninsula," Tonomura said. Yoshida also explained that in May 1943, when he claimed to have forcibly taken away the women, the "Army unit headquarters" "maintained military rule" on Jeju. Regarding that point, Kazu Nagai, a professor of modern and contemporary Japanese history at Kyoto University, pointed out that documents of the former Army showed that a large Army force only gathered on Jeju after April 1945. "The contents of his writing cannot be considered to be true," Nagai said. Note 1: Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Fumiko Kawata, compilers, " 'Jugun Ianfu' wo Meguru 30 no Uso to Shinjutsu" (30 lies and truths surrounding 'military comfort women') (Otsuki Shoten 1997) To our readers We have made the judgment that the testimony that Yoshida forcibly took away comfort women on Jeju was a fabrication. We retract our articles on him. We were unable to uncover the falseness of his testimony at the time the articles were published. Although additional research was conducted on Jeju, we were unable to obtain any information that corroborated his testimony. Interviews with researchers have also turned up a number of contradictions regarding the core elements of his testimony.
What is the 'comfort women' issue all about? 2014年8月22日10時00分 印刷 メール 写真・図版 Q: What are comfort women? A: Women who were forced to serve as sexual partners of military personnel at comfort stations created under the involvement of the Japanese military during a time of war. In the statement released by the government in August 1993 under the name of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono (the Kono statement), there was wording that said, "this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women." Q: What kind of people were forced to become comfort women? A: Besides Japanese who lived in Japan proper, women from the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan, which were under Japanese colonial rule, were also made to become comfort women. In line with invasions by Japan, comfort stations were also created in China, the Philippines, Burma (present-day Myanmar), Malaysia and other areas. Local women were sent to those comfort stations. In Indonesia, which was under Dutch colonial rule at that time, Indonesian women as well as Dutch women who were living there at the time were made to become comfort women. In 1938, the government issued a directive that said Japanese women who were to go to China to work as comfort women should be limited to "prostitutes who were 21 years or older." This was likely because of a treaty banning the sale of women and children which prohibited human trafficking or prostitution of women under 21 or children. However, when the government ratified the treaty in 1925, it exempted its colonies from coverage under the treaty. For that reason, girls who were still minors and not prostitutes in the colonies and occupied areas also became comfort women. There are records of girls as young as 17 in the Korean Peninsula and 14 in Taiwan who became comfort women. Q: How many comfort women were there? A: Because there are no official records for the total number, there are only various estimates made by researchers. Ikuhiko Hata, a historian of the contemporary period, made an estimate in 1993 of between 60,000 and 90,000. In 1999, he revised that estimate to about 20,000. Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a professor of modern and contemporary Japanese history at Chuo University, made an estimate in 1995 of between 50,000 and 200,000. Recently, he has revised that figure to more than 50,000. There are people in South Korea and China who have given much higher figures. Q: When and how were comfort stations created? A: In 1932, the year after the Manchurian Incident, rapes of Chinese women by Japanese soldiers occurred during the Shanghai Incident. According to some records, in order to prevent a heightening of anti-Japanese sentiment, groups of comfort women were invited from Kyushu exclusively for military personnel and civilian workers for the military. Subsequently, other reasons that were given for creating comfort stations were to prevent a decline in war capability due to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases as well as to prevent the leaking of military secrets and to provide comfort to military personnel. Q: How were the comfort women gathered? A: In many cases, agents who acted in line with the military's intentions, recruited women first in Japan and then in the colonial areas of the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan. It has also been known that there were many cases in which the women were fooled by being told, "There is good work available," or in which they were sold off by their parents. On the other hand, in such occupied areas as the Philippines and Indonesia, there are records of women being taken away through the direct use of violence by the Japanese military. According to a 2002 report by the Philippine government, there were cases of the Japanese military using violence to abduct and forcibly take away local women who were then kept at churches and hospitals used as barracks by the Japanese military and repeatedly gang-raped. Q: What was the life of comfort women like? A: On the Internet site of the Asian Women's Fund, there is wording that says "while it was certain soldiers directly or indirectly made payments (at the comfort stations), it is unclear how that money was given to the comfort women." It is believed that there were differences in how the women were treated depending on the location and the status of the war. In 1993, the government also released the results of its investigation along with the Kono statement. The report said the women "were forced to lead a life without freedom since they were made to act along with the military while always being under military supervision in the front lines of combat." Q: How did the comfort women issue become to be known in Japan? A: From shortly after the end of the war, accounts of their experiences given by military personnel made mention of such women. In June 1970, Kako Senda wrote in the Shukan Shincho weekly magazine about accounts given by women who said they were made to work as comfort women along with statements made by those who once had ties to the military. In 1973, he published a reportage titled "Jugun Ianfu" (Military comfort women). At that time, the women were considered as part of a secret history of the war. Q: How did the topic become an issue of interest between Japan and South Korea? A: In January 1990, Yun Chung-ok, a professor at Ewha Womans University, wrote a series of articles in The Hankyoreh newspaper in South Korea about the comfort women issue titled "A Report of Coverage of Footprints of Grudge of The Volunteer Corps." The visit in May 1990 by South Korean President Roh Tae-woo to Japan served as a catalyst for an increase in calls seeking an apology and compensation from Japan by South Koreans who were made to serve in the Japanese military or work as civilians for the military on the Korean Peninsula, which was under Japanese colonial rule. * * * Major events related to the comfort women issue (positions of individuals at that time) August 1991: Former comfort woman in South Korea comes forward about her past for the first time. December 1991: Former comfort women file lawsuit against Japanese government. Government begins investigation. January 1992: Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa apologizes in meeting with South Korean president. July 1992: Government announces results of investigation and acknowledges involvement of government. August 1993: Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issues a statement acknowledging the recruitment, transfer and control of women were conducted generally against their will and expressing "apologies and remorse." (Kono statement) August 1994: Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issues a statement expressing the intention to find "an appropriate way which enables a wide participation of people" to resolve the comfort women issue. July 1995: The private-sector Asian Women's Fund is established under the initiative of the government. The fund implements an "atonement project," including the giving of "atonement money" to former comfort women, based on donations from the Japanese people. March 2007: The fund is closed. July 2007: The U.S. House of Representatives passes a resolution seeking an apology from Japan regarding the comfort women issue. June 2014: The government releases results of a study into the process behind compilation of the Kono statement.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
HomeOpinion Barton J. Bernstein: American conservatives are the forgotten critics of the atomic bombing of Japan By Barton J. Bernstein Special to the Mercury News POSTED: 08/02/2014 08:00:00 PM PDT
"The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul," he wrote. "The only difference between this and the use of gas (which President Franklin D. Roosevelt had barred as a first-use weapon in World War II) is the fear of retaliation." Those harsh words, written three days after the Hiroshima bombing in August, 1945, were not by a man of the American left, but rather by a very prominent conservative -- former President Herbert Hoover, a foe of the New Deal and Fair Deal. In 1959, Medford Evans, a conservative writing in William Buckley's strongly nationalistic, energetically right-wing magazine, National Review, stated: "The indefensibility of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is becoming a part of the national conservative creed." Just the year before, the National Review had featured an angry, anti-atomic bomb article, "Hiroshima: Assault on a Beaten Foe." Like Hoover, that 1958 essay had decried the atomic bombing as wanton murder. National Review's editors, impressed by that article, had offered special reprints. Those two sets of events --Hoover in 1945 and National Review in 1968-69 -- were not anomalies in early post-Hiroshima U.S. conservatism. In fact, many noted American conservatives -- journalists, former diplomats and retired and occasionally on-duty military officers, and some right-wing historians and political scientists -- criticized the atomic bombing. They frequently contended it was unnecessary, and often maintained it was immoral and that softer surrender terms could have ended the war without such mass killing. They sometimes charged Truman and the atomic bombing with "criminality" and "slaughter." Yet today, this history of early anti-A-bomb dissent by conservatives is largely unknown. In about the past 20 years, various American conservatives have even assailed A-bomb dissent as typically leftist and anti-American, and as having begun in the tumultuous 1960s. Such a view of postwar American history is remarkably incorrect. Journalists In mid-August, 1945, in the conservative United States News (now U.S. News & World Report), with a circulation somewhat under 200,000, that magazine's founder and longtime editor, David Lawrence, condemned the atomic bombing in a spirited editorial, "What Hath Man Wrought!" America, he asserted, should be "ashamed" of the atomic bombing. During the next 27 years, on some A-bomb anniversaries, Lawrence, a well known conservative who died in 1973, proudly republished his 1945 editorial. Felix Morley, the former editor of the Washington Post and ex-president of Haverford College, felt similarly about the atomic bombing. A recognized conservative, he published in 1945 a strong anti-A-bomb editorial -- "The Return to Nothingness" -- in his small circulation, conservative newsletter, Human Events. He called Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor atrocities. the atomic bombing, he charged, was "an infamous act of atrocious revenge." The right-wing journalist Walter Trohan of the conservative Chicago Tribune periodically contended that the atomic bombing had been unnecessary and that an early Japanese surrender could have been otherwise achieved. Charging a coverup, he implied there had been a Roosevelt-Truman conspiracy to prolong the war. Beginning in August 1945, Trohan's anti-A-bomb articles received front-page attention, and the Tribune in 1947 termed the bombings "criminality." In 1948, the rightward-leaning Time-Life-Fortune publisher Henry Luce told an international Protestant meeting that "unconditional surrender" had violated St. Thomas' just-war doctrine, and that softer surrender terms in 1945 could have ended the war without the atomic bombing, which "so jarred the Christian conscience." Ex-U.S. Diplomats Truman's former 1945 Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew, who retired shortly after Japan's surrender, and two of his former State Department associates, Japan experts Eugene Dooman and Joseph Ballantine, later angrily castigated the atomic bombing. Recognized as conservatives, they sharply criticized the defense of the bombings by President Truman and the retired Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, who had presided over the wartime A-bomb project. Grew, Dooman and Ballantine all believed that the atomic bombing had been unnecessary, that softer surrender terms (mostly allowing a constitutional monarchy) would have ended the war, and that Truman had gravely erred. Dooman often charged that the bombing had been immoral. Similar harsh judgments came from William Castle, a close associate of Herbert Hoover who had served as Hoover's Under Secretary of State when Stimson was secretary. Castle complained that Stimson's postwar, widely publicized A-bomb defense "was consciously dishonest." Japan, Castle believed, had been near surrender before the atomic bomb was used. He even suspected that Stimson and others had prolonged the war in order to use the A-bomb on Japan. U.S. Military Leaders Perhaps surprisingly, after V-J day, the right-wing Gen. Curtis LeMay, whose Air Force had pummeled Japan in the last months of the Asian war, periodically criticized the atomic bombing. In mid-September 1945, for example, he publicly declared that it had been unnecessary and that Japan would have speedily surrendered without it. the bomb, he asserted, "had nothing to do with the end of the war." Public criticism of the atomic bombing also appeared in the postwar memoirs by two retired military leaders on the moderate right -- in 1949 by Gen. Henry H. Arnold, the wartime head of the Army Air Forces, and in 1952 by Admiral Ernest J. King, wartime chief of naval operations. Shortly after the end of the war, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, a fervent anti-New Dealer, had publicly contended that the atomic bombing was unnecessary. In 1960, in discussing that bombing with ex-President Hoover, MacArthur condemned it as unnecessary "slaughter." MacArthur's 1945 psychological-warfare chief, Gen. Bonner Fellers (later Colonel) after retiring from the Army, wrote a widely read article contending that Japan had been near surrender and that the nuclear bombing had been unnecessary. A proud conservative serving as public relations director for the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW), he published his rticle in the VFW's monthly, Foreign Service," with a circulation of over a half-million. That month, the conservative-leaning Reader's Digest, with a readership probably exceeding 10 million, reissued it in slightly compressed form. The strongest postwar criticism of the atomic bombing by a prominent American ex-military leader probably came from Admiral William Leahy, a conservative who had also been a top military adviser to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. In his 1950 memoir, the recently retired Leahy declared, "the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of not material assistance in our war against Japan. " That nation, he contended, was defeated an ready to surrender before the atomic bombing. He likened the use of the bomb to the morality of Genghis Khan. the crusty admiral wrote about the 1945 bombing, "I was not taught to make war in that fashion." The United States, he asserted, "had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages." Meanings Spirited contentions that the atomic bombing was unwise, unnecessary and immoral are not new, nor did they start in the 1960s. These charges appeared in much of the earlier post-Hiroshima criticism, which came substantially from conservative American publications and people. Such conservative support does not necessarily make those criticisms right or wrong, or good or bad history, but certainly an important part of an earlier postwar dissenting culture. That is an important but mostly forgotten part of the past, which Americans today -- whether young or old, Republicans or Democrats -- usually do not know. Mistakenly, many believe that the loose conservative-liberal/radical divide of recent years on attitudes toward the 1945 atomic bombings and that prominent American conservatives in contrast overwhelmingly endorsed those atomic bombings. That history is far more complex, and is important to understand to gain perspective on American attitudes and values on war-fighting, forms of killing, and uses of nuclear weapons on enemies. Barton J. Bernstein is a professor of history, emeritus, at Stanford University. He wrote this for this newspaper.