Friday, December 22, 2006

War without Mercy

Some quotes from War Without Mercy by John W. Dower

There is a popular belief that men who have experienced combat and been fortunate enough to survive return home to regale their cronies with war stories. In fact, many have seen and done such terrible things that they choose not to recall them at all. They turn to the building of a new life and attempt to bury the past. It is only after the passage of years that the past resurfaces and demand to be re-encountered. ...Thus , J Glenn Gray, in his reflective 1959 study The Warriors, recalled how a few years earlier a veteran reminisced before a class of students about how his unit had unexpected "flushed" an isolated Japanese soldier on an island that had already secured, and amused themselves by shooting at him as he dashed frantically about the clearing in search of safety;....This solitary death is not identical to the execution of the Allied airman in New Guinea. It lacks the diarist. The Japanese soldier was technically not a prisoner, although he was helpless...(p62)

....The popular American writer William Manchester, in Goodbye, Darkness, his 1980 memoir of fighting in the Pacific, recalled a young American soldier on Okinawa, crazed by the death of a revered commander, who "snatched up a submachine gun and unforgivably massacred a line of unarmed Japanese soldiers who had just surrendered." The military historian Denis Warner, in a book about Japanese suicide units published in 1982, introduced in passing his own firsthand experience on Bougainville, where wounded Japanese attempting to surrender were ordered shot by the American commander.

But sir, they are wounded and want to surrender," a colonel protested to [a major general] at the edge of the cleared perimeter after a massive and unsuccessful Japanese attack.
"You heard me, Colonel." replied{the major general],who was only yards away from up-stretched Japanese hands. "I want no prisoner. Shoot them all."
They were shot.

In a thoughtful memoir published by Presidia Press in 1981, professor E.B. Sledge, an American biologist, painfully recalled .....:severing the hand of a dead Japanese as a battlefield trophy, "harvesting gold teeth" from the enemy dead, urinating in a corpse's upturned mouth, shooting a terrified old Okinawan woman and casually dismissing her as "just an old gook woman who wanted me to put her out of her misery".More terrifying still, Sledge found himself coming close to accepting such conduct as normal.(p63)

....... "What kind of war do civilians suppose we fought, anyway?" asked Edger L. , Jones, a former American war correspondent in the Pacific, in the February 1946 issue of Atlantic Monthly, "We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off for the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled the fulesh off enemy skull to make table ornaments for sweethearts or carved their bones into letter openers." Jones went on to speak of such practices as adjusting flamethrowers so that took care to attribute such behavior to the nature of modern war itself, and to emphasize that it was done by all sides ,but by no means condoned by all or even most fighting men.(p64)

Despite the attention given in Allied propaganda to Hideyoshi's three-and-a half century-old ear mound, in the current war in Asia it was Allied combatants who collected ears. Like collecting gold teeth, this practice was no secret......p65

...Of greater interest is what the reminiscences cited earlier reveal; that many men in the field participated in or at least witness the killing of helpless, wounded, or captured Japanese. Here again, behavior which was presented to Western audiences as revealing the unique and inherent savagery of the Japanese occurred on both sides.
Some massacres of Japanese, like that of the wounded soldiers attempting to surrender on Bougainvillea, were ordered to take place by Allied officers, or at least received tacit support from superior officers after the event. A U.S. submarine commander who sank a Japanese transport and then spent upwards of an hour killing the hundreds and possibly thousands of Japanese survivors with his deck guns, for example, was commended and publicly honored by his superiors even though he included an account of the slaughter in his official report.....p66

....An equally grim butchery took place on March 4, 1943, the day after the three day battle of the Bismarck Sea, when the U. S and Australian aircraft systematically searched the scars fro Japanese survivors and strafed every raft and lifeboat they found. "It was rather a sloppy job, ....and some the boys got sick. But that is something you have to learn. The enemy is out to kill you and you are out to kill the enemy . You can't be sporting in a war .p67
What is often overlooked, however, is that countless thousands of Japanese perished because they had no alternative. In a report dated June 1945, the U.S. Office of War information noted that 84% of one group of interrogated Japanese prisoners(many of them injured or unconscious when captured) stated that they had expected to be killed or tortured by the Allies if taken prisoner. .....
As the American analysts themselves acknowledged, these Japanese fears were not irrational, In many battle, neither Allied fighting men nor their commanders wanted many POWs. This was not official policy,,...over wide reaches of the Asian battleground it was everyday practice...An article published by a U.S. Army captain shortly after the war, for example, carried the proud title "The 41st Didn't Take Prisoners.,".....The reputation of not taking prisoners also became associated with Australian troops in general. In many instances, moreover, Japanese who did become prisonerss were killed on the spot or en route to the prisoner compounds.p69

On May 18, 1944, about two weeks after Lindbergh had tied in with a Marine unit, he recorded that the camps were full of reports of Japanese torture and beheading of captured American pilots. A month later, on June 21, he summarized the conversation of an American general who told an unsuspecting Japanese prisoner was given a cigarette and then seized from behind and has his throat "slit from ear to ear" as a
demonstration of how to kill Japanese. Lindbergh's objection were treated with tolerant scorn and pity. The journal entry for June 26 told of a massacre of Japanese prisoners and of Japanese airmen being shot in their parachutes. Of several thousand prisoners taken at a certain place, Lindbergh was informed, "only a hundred or two were turned in . ......The entry for June 28 spoke of kicking in the teeth of Japanese sometimes before and sometimes after executing them.
On July 13, Lindbergh wrote, "It was freely admitted that some of our soldiers tortured Jap prisoners and were as cruel and barbaric at times as the Japs themselves. Our men think nothing of shooting a Japanese prisoner of a soldier attempting to surrender.
On August 6, Lindbergh described the blackboard in the pilot's alert tent, with a naked girl choked in at the bottom and a Japanese skull hung on the top. A few days later, he wrote that when the word went out to take Japanese prisoners , and was accompanied by the material inducements, incentive for doing this. He reported the slaughter of all inmates of a Japanese hospital, and went on to mention that the Australians often threw Japanese out of airplanes on their way to prison compounds and then reported that they had committed hara-kiri.p69

Allied propagandists were not distorting the history of Japan when they pointed to much that was cruel in the Japanese past. They had to romanticize or simply forget their own history.....(p73)
When an army captain infromed him in January 1945 that U.S. troops in the field were routinely killing Japanese who were attempting to surrender, Fellers deplored this on rather techinical grounds. Since the Americans were dropping leaflets urging Japanese to surrender, he felt it "a matter of national honor that we make good our word, most of all with the enemy.....Where the U.S satuaration bombing of Japanese cities were concerned, however his condemnation was unqualified. In the internal memorandum dated June 17, 1945, Fellers described this as "one of the most ruthless and barbaric killing of non-combatants in all histroy. As the war in Asia drew to its terrible denouncement, he also forthrightly characterized it as a race war. "The war in Europ was both political and social, " he wrote one week before surrender, whereas "th war in the Pacific was racial."p285 Embracing Defeat

Churchihill told his commander in Malaya that Singapre had to be "defended to the dath" and that no surrender can be contemplated. The battle , he ordered in another directive, must be fought to the bitter end . Commanders and officers should die with their troops. General Archibald Wavell conveyed these orders in smilarly unequivocal terms. "Commanders and senior officers must lead their troops and if necessary die with them.

See also

American troops 'murdered Japanese PoWs'
By Ben Fenton
Last Updated: 1:16am BST 06/08/2005

American and Australian soldiers massacred Japanese prisoners of war, according to one of the most detailed studies of memoirs of the Second World War in the Pacific, published this week.

It also discloses that the soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army were far from the cruel, mindless troops of popular legend, and that Gen Douglas MacArthur wanted to launch nuclear strikes on the Soviet Union from an underground airstrip in Britain.
A US Navy lieutenant with a Japanese skull used as a mascot

In The Faraway War, published to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima atom bomb and of VJ Day, Prof Richard Aldrich of Nottingham University has gathered the diaries of men and women from across the Pacific war front, from the common soldier to the highest general.

He said: "We have this stereotypical idea that the Japanese were all cruel and robotic while the Allied forces were tough but fair in their treatment of the enemy.

"But I was very surprised by much of what I found and had to rethink all those stereotypes."

Prof Aldrich found several examples confirming what became an American policy in some parts of the Pacific theatre not to take prisoners of war.

He quotes the diaries of Charles Lindbergh, the American aviation pioneer, who toured the Far East visiting United States units. On one occasion he commented to a group of senior officers that very few Japanese seemed to be taken prisoner.

"Oh, we could take more if we wanted to," one of the officers replied. "But our boys don't like to take prisoners.

"It doesn't encourage the rest to surrender when they hear of their buddies being marched out on the flying field and machine-guns turned loose on them."

Although Lindbergh was sympathetic to the Nazis and was suspected of deliberately portraying his fellow countrymen in a very negative light, his allegations are supported by other American diarists, who report that the US marines, in particular, did not take many prisoners. Prof Aldrich also discovered new diaries showing that American generals worried about the abuse of human remains by their troops.

They were particularly concerned that the skulls of dead Japanese soldiers were often displayed as gruesome mascots by some units, while US marines made a speciality of collecting ears.

Australian troops are also shown not to like taking prisoners. Prof Aldrich quotes the 1943 diary of Eddie Stanton, an Australian posted to Goodenough Island off Papua New Guinea. "Japanese are still being shot all over the place," he wrote. "The necessity for capturing them has ceased to worry anyone. Nippo soldiers are just so much machine-gun practice. Too many of our soldiers are tied up guarding them."

The book also features the memoir of a New Zealand soldier working with a Fijian regiment who came across the bodies of two native women, pegged out on an earthen mound.

They had been "raped to death" by Japanese soldiers. Then they found a dead American soldier who had stakes driven through each shoulder and his hands cut off. "As we moved away again, one of my corporals said to me: "No more prisoners, turaga[sir]." I agreed with him.''

Prof Aldrich has found Japanese diaries that belie the common perceptions that soldiers or even low-ranking officers were automata devoted fanatically to their emperor and the codes of bushido, hara-kiri and kamikaze.

"One young officer praises America and its ideas of democracy and modernity, while on another occasion a Japanese soldier voices out loud his envy of some Germans who had set up a sort of peacenik camp on New Guinea to get away from the war," Prof Aldrich said. One of the most bizarre episodes recorded was when Field Marshal Lord Alanbrook, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, visited Gen MacArthur, the American who commanded allied occupation troops in Japan, in November 1945.

He recorded, with some approbation and agreement, MacArthur's view that "we should assemble at least 1,000 atomic bombs in England and in the States. We must then prepare a safe aerodrome by tunnelling into the side of a mountain so that we shall be able to go on operating from England even when attacked".

He also recorded Macarthur's view of the Soviet Union. "He felt certain they would also attempt to convert Japan into a subject county, so as to be able to use the Japanese manpower at a later date for operations in the Pacific.

"He considered them a greater menace than the Nazis had ever been, complete barbarians, as exemplified by one commander [in Manchuria] who had issued orders that every woman between the age of 16 and 60 was to be raped twice by Russian soldiery as an example of the superiority of the Russian race!

"Macarthur considers that they should be met by force if necessary and not by conciliatory methods which were only interpreted as weakness by the Russians."

• The Faraway War, Personal Diaries of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific, Doubleday, £20.telegraph

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