Today marks the seventieth anniversary of the American firebombing of Tokyo, World War II’s deadliest day. More people died that night from napalm bombs than in the atomic strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But few in the United States are aware that the attack even took place. The lack of ceremonies or official state apologies for the firebombing is unsurprising considering that many Americans see World War II as the “just war” fought by the “greatest generation.” These labels leave the war and the atrocities Americans committed during it largely untouched by critique. The little that is available to study on the firebombing, at least here in the US, is told from the perspective of American crewmen and brass, through usually biased American military historians. Those seeking better understanding of the March 9 tragedy must wade through reams of history primarily devoted to strategy; the heroics of American soldiers; the awesome power behind the bombs unleashed that day; and a cult-like devotion to the B-29 Superfortress, the plane that dropped the napalm over Tokyo and the atomic bombs, and was the inspiration for George Lucas’s Millennium Falcon. The overriding narrative surrounding the events of March 9, 1945 is that the American pilots and military strategists such as Gen. Curtis LeMay, the architect of the firebombing, had no other option but to carry out the mission. The Americans had “no choice” but to burn to death nearly one hundred thousand Japanese civilians. . World War II was carried out with brutality on all fronts. The Japanese military murdered nearly six million Chinese, Korean, and Filipino civilians by the end of it. However, to argue that Japanese civilians deserved to die — that children deserved to die — at the hands of the US military because their government killed civilians in other Asian countries is an indefensible position, in any moral or ethical framework. LeMay claimed that the Japanese government relied on residential “cottage” war production, thus making the civilians living in Tokyo a legitimate military target. However, by 1944 the Japanese had essentially terminated its home war production. A full 97 percent of the country’s military supplies were protected underground in facilities not vulnerable to air attack the day of the bombing. The Americans knew this. The United States had broken Japan’s Red and Purple cipher machines well before 1945, allowing them access to the most classified enemy intelligence. American generals understood the war would soon be materially impossible for the Japanese. The US Naval blockade had also prevented oil, metal, and other essential goods from entering Japan long before March 9. Japan was so cut off from basic supplies that it was constructing its planes partially out of wood. The Japanese population at this point in the war was most concerned with starvation. The 1945 rice harvest was the worst since 1909. Surveys commissioned by Japan’s government in April 1945 reported the population was “too preoccupied with the problems of food” to worry about fighting a war. Victory for the Allies was guaranteed by the start of the year. The most damning evidence against the firebombing can be traced to August 19, 1945, when Walter Trohan of the Chicago Tribune finally published a piece gracefully titled “Roosevelt Ignored M’Arthur Report on Nip Proposals” that he had been sitting on for seven months. Trohan wrote:Release of all censorship restrictions in the United States makes it possible to report that the first Japanese peace bid was relayed to the White House seven months ago…. The Jap offer, based on five separate overtures, was relayed to the White House by Gen. MacArthur in a 40-page communication, [who] urged negotiations on the basis of the Jap overtures…. The offer, as relayed by MacArthur, contemplated abject surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor. President Roosevelt dismissed the general’s communication, which was studded with solemn references to the deity, after a casual reading with the remark, “MacArthur is our greatest general and our poorest politician.”The MacArthur report was not even taken to Yalta. In January 1945 — two days before Franklin Roosevelt was to meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in Yalta — the Japanese were offering surrender terms almost identical to what was accepted by the Americans on the USS Missouri in the Japan Bay on September 2, 1945. The Japanese population was famished, the country’s war machine was out of gas, and the government had capitulated. The Americans were unmoved. The firebombing and the nuclear attacks were heartlessly carried out. If anyone is guilty of disregarding the “context” of the firebombing of Tokyo, it’s the sycophantic and biased American historians who deride these critical facts. So why did the Americans continue to raid and terrorize the Japanese civilian population knowing the war could have been over? Many argue that the Americans were flexing their muscles for Russia in anticipation of the ensuing Cold War. Countless pages have been written about this. But what is too often overlooked is the racism of the day. It is America’s racism that best explains the extent of the firebombing and the nuclear attacks. The racist mindset that all too many Americans were comfortable with in the Jim Crow era easily bled onto the Japanese. The horror stories of the almost two hundred thousand Japanese Americans who lost their livelihoods as a result of Roosevelt’s internment camps are just one example of how Americans saw not only the Japanese but Japanese-Americans. The firebombing of Japan was about testing new technologies on a civilian population. Significant funds had gone into the development of American military technology — 36 billion in 2015 dollars funded the creation of the atomic bomb. Napalm was new as well. The firebombing of Tokyo marked the first time it was used on a dense civilian population. The Americans wanted to assay their new inventions on a group of people who they thought were less than human. LeMay famously remarked, “Killing Japanese didn’t bother me very much at that time… I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal.” LeMay later leveraged his war credentials and racism to earn a spot on segregationist Gov. George Wallace’s 1968 presidential ticket. Terms like “greatest generation” betray Americans by keeping them willfully disconnected from their past. These labels flatten complex legacies, and prevent a thorough questioning of power. Why did no one from the greatest generation stop these needless bombings? How can a country whose leaders constantly invoke its “exceptionalism” regularly fall back on the platitude “All sides were committing atrocities so why focus on the Americans?” These are the questions our high school textbooks need to be asking. .
Monday, March 09, 2015
The Firebombing of Tokyo
The Firebombing of Tokyo Seventy years ago today, the United States needlessly killed almost 100,000 people in a single air raid over Tokyo. by Rory Fanning
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Tuesday, March 03, 2015
Allied soldiers 'raped one million Germans after the end of Second World War'
New book alleges Allied soldiers 'raped one million Germans after the end of Second World War' 'When The Soldiers Came' claims Allied troops raped one million women Children, men and young boys were also abused by soldiers, it claims Until now it was thought only the Stalin's Red Army raped German women But author insists she has spoken to some who can attest to the abuse There was a misconception all women traded sex for coveted goods But western soldiers took advantage of power to rape, says the author By ALLAN HALL IN BERLIN FOR THE DAILY MAIL PUBLISHED: 01:23 GMT, 2 March 2015 | UPDATED: 15:06 GMT, 2 March 2015 Postwar Rape: Were Americans As Bad as the Soviets? By Klaus Wiegrefe March 02, 2015 – 06:36 PM
The soldiers didn't give up easily though. They began searching all the houses in the area and ultimately found the two women in a neighbor's closet shortly before midnight. The men pulled them out and threw them onto two beds. The crime the six soldiers ultimately committed took place in March, 1945, shortly before the end of World War II. The girl cried for help: "Mama. Mama." But none arrived. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of German women experienced a similar fate at the time. Often, such gang rapes were blamed on Soviet troops in Germany's east. But this case was different. The rapists were soldiers from the United States of America and the crime took place in Sprendlingen, a village near the Rhine River in the west. By the end of the war, some 1.6 million American troops had advanced deep into Germany, ultimately meeting the advancing Soviets at the Elbe River. In the US, those who freed Europe from the plague of the Nazis came to be known as the "Greatest Generation." And Germans too developed a positive image of their occupiers: cool soldiers who handed out chewing gum to the children and wowed the German fräuleins with jazz and nylons. But is that image consistent with reality? German historian Miriam Gebhardt, well known in Germany for her book about leading feminist Alice Schwarzer and the feminist movement, has now published a new volume casting doubt on the accepted version of America's role in German postwar history. Reports from the Catholic Archive The work, which came out in German on Monday, takes a closer look at the rape of German women by all four victorious powers at the end of World War II. In particular, though, her views on the behavior of American GIs are likely to raise eyebrows. Gebhardt believes that members of the US military raped as many as 190,000 German women by the time West Germany regained sovereignty in 1955, with most of the assaults taking place in the months immediately following the US invasion of Nazi Germany. The author bases her claims in large part on reports kept by Bavarian priests in the summer of 1945. The Archbishop of Munich and Freising had asked Catholic clergy to keep records on the allied advance and the Archdiocese published excerpts from its archive a few years ago. Michael Merxmüller, a priest in the village of Ramsau near Berchtesgaden, wrote on July 20, 1945, for example: "Eight girls and women raped, some of them in front of their parents." Father Andreas Weingand, from Haag an der Amper, a tiny village located just north of where the Munich airport is today, wrote on July 25, 1945: "The saddest event during the advance were three rapes, one on a married woman, one on a single woman and one on a spotless girl of 16-and-a-half. They were committed by heavily drunken Americans." Father Alois Schiml from Moosburg wrote on Aug. 1, 1945: "By order of the military government, a list of all residents and their ages must be nailed to the door of each house. The results of this decree are not difficult to imagine. ... Seventeen girls or women ... were brought to the hospital, having been sexually abused once or several times." The youngest victim mentioned in the reports is a seven-year-old child. The oldest, a woman of 69. Macho Fantasies The reports led book author Gebhardt to compare the behavior of the US army with the violent excesses perpetrated by the Red Army in the eastern half of the country, where brutality, gang rapes and incidents of looting have dominated the public perception of the Soviet occupation. Gebhardt, however, says that the rapes committed in Upper Bavaria show that things weren't much different in postwar Germany's south and west. The historian also believes that similar motives were at work. Just like their Red Army counterparts, the US soldiers, she believes, were horrified by the crimes committed by the Germans, embittered by their pointless and deadly efforts to defend the country to the very end, and furious at the relatively high degree of prosperity in the country. Furthermore, propaganda at the time conveyed the idea that German women were attracted to American GIs, further fueling macho fantasies. Gebhardt's ideas are firmly rooted in the current academic mainstream. In the wake of the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib and other war crimes committed by US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, many historians are taking a more critical look at the behavior of the American military during the days immediately preceding and following the end of World War II in Germany. Studies in recent years have shed light on incidents involving GIs plundering churches, murdering Italian civilians, killing German prisoners of war and raping women, even as they advanced across France. Despite such findings, the Americans are still considered to have been relatively disciplined compared to the Red Army and the French military -- conventional wisdom that Gebhardt is hoping to challenge. Still, all of the reports compiled by the Catholic Church in Bavaria only add up to a few hundred cases. Furthermore, the clergymen often praised the "very correct and respectable" behavior of the US troops. Their reports make it seem as though sexual abuse committed by the Americans was more the exception than the rule. How, then, did the historian arrive at her shocking figure of 190,000 rapes? Sufficient Evidence? The total is not the result of deep research in archives across the country. Rather, it is an extrapolation. Gebhardt makes the assumption that 5 percent of the "war children" born to unmarried women in West Germany and West Berlin by the mid-1950s were the product of rape. That makes for a total of 1,900 children of American fathers. Gebhardt further assumes that on average, there are 100 incidents of rape for each birth. The result she arrives at is thus 190,000 victims. Such a total, though, hardly seems plausible. Were the number really that high, it is almost certain that there would be more reports on rape in the files of hospitals or health authorities, or that there would be more eyewitness reports. Gebhardt is unable to present such evidence in sufficient quantity. Another estimate, stemming from US criminology professor Robert Lilly, who examined rape cases prosecuted by American military courts, arrived at a number of 11,000 serious sexual assaults committed by November, 1945 -- a disgusting number in its own right. But Gebhardt is certainly correct on one point: For far too long, historical research has been dominated by the idea that rapes committed by GIs were implausible because German women wanted to jump into bed with them anyway. How, though, is one to interpret the complaint filed by a hotelier in Munich on May 31, 1945? She reports that US soldiers had commandeered a few rooms and that four women were "running around completely naked" and were "exchanged several times." Was it really voluntary? Even if it isn't likely that the Americans committed 190,000 sexual crimes, it remains true that for postwar victims of rape -- which was undeniably a mass phenomenon at the end of World War II, there is "no culture of memory, no public recognition, much less an apology" from the perpetrators, Gebhardt notes. And today, 70 years after the end of the war, it unfortunately doesn't look as though that situation will soon change.
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