Tom Hanks shows stunning ignorance when he claims Americans were engaged in racial genocide against the Japanese during WWII

“Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as ‘yellow, slant-eyed dogs’ that believed in different gods,” he told the magazine. “They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s going on today?” — Tom Hanks.

“‘The Pacific’ is coming out now, where it represents a war that was of racism and terror. And where it seemed as though the only way to complete one of these battles on one of these small specks of rock in the middle of nowhere was to – I’m sorry – kill them all. And, um, does that sound familiar to what we might be going through today? So it’s– is there anything new under the sun? It seems as if history keeps repeating itself.” — Tom Hanks.

We’ve long since grown accustomed to the fact that Hollywood’s actors periodically feel compelled to comment upon the world political scene, despite their manifest and abysmal ignorance.  One could say that Tom Hanks is simply following an honored tradition when he makes appalling ignorant remarks about Japanese-American history in 1930s and 1940s.  Or perhaps he’s more cynical, and he’s simply trying to drum up publicity (a la “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”).

I shouldn’t take Hanks’ remarks personally, but I do.  You see, my mother was interned in a Japanese concentration camp in Indonesia from the time she was 17 until she was 21.  I grew up with her stories, and I can tell you that the Japanese were indeed “different” — and that America, England, the British Commonwealth, and Holland were engaged in war with Japan, not because they were racist Western nations anxious to destroy “yellow, slant-eyed dogs,” but because they were faced with an unusually brutal and rapacious enemy.  It was kill or be killed.

I am indebted to Victor Davis Hanson for his brief rundown of the historical ignorance that characterizes Hank’s (and other liberals’) beliefs about America’s relationship with Japan before Pearl Harbor:

In earlier times, we had good relations with Japan (an ally during World War I, that played an important naval role in defeating imperial Germany at sea) and had stayed neutral in its disputes with Russia (Teddy Roosevelt won a 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for his intermediary role). The crisis that led to Pearl Harbor was not innately with the Japanese people per se (tens of thousands of whom had emigrated to the United States on word of mouth reports of opportunity for Japanese immigrants), but with Japanese militarism and its creed of Bushido that had hijacked, violently so in many cases, the government and put an entire society on a fascistic footing. We no more wished to annihilate Japanese because of racial hatred than we wished to ally with their Chinese enemies because of racial affinity. In terms of geo-strategy, race was not the real catalyst for war other than its role among Japanese militarists in energizing expansive Japanese militarism.

In other words, while there’s no doubt that individual Americans may have expressed racial opinions about Japanese (something commonly done by all races about all other races in that pre-politically correct time), America did not have an inherently racist enmity towards the Japanese nation.  Japan was simply a nation among nations:  one with which America traded, made and broke convenient alliances, and observed from afar with a certain naive wonderment.

Japan, however, was not a nation like any other nations.  As Hanson points out, the Bushido creed that Japan slavishly followed at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries had created a nation characterized by exceptional arrogance, and a disdain for “others” so profound that those “others” were reduced to the status of vermin who not only needed to be destroyed, but deserved to be destroyed.  Nothing more clearly exemplifies this Bushido creed in action than the Rape of Nanking, a six week long bloodbath that occurred in 1937, when the Japanese invaded the Chinese city of Nanking. Steel yourself for the following description of Japanese atrocities (hyperlinks and footnotes omitted):


The International Military Tribunal for the Far East estimated that 20,000 women were raped, including infants and the elderly.  A large portion of these rapes were systematized in a process where soldiers would search door-to-door for young girls, with many women taken captive and gang raped.  The women were often killed immediately after the rape, often through explicit mutilation or by stabbing a bayonet, long stick of bamboo, or other objects into the vagina.

On 19 December 1937, Reverend James M. McCallum wrote in his diary :

I know not where to end. Never I have heard or read such brutality. Rape! Rape! Rape! We estimate at least 1,000 cases a night, and many by day. In case of resistance or anything that seems like disapproval, there is a bayonet stab or a bullet … People are hysterical … Women are being carried off every morning, afternoon and evening. The whole Japanese army seems to be free to go and come as it pleases, and to do whatever it pleases.

On March 7, 1938, Robert O. Wilson, a surgeon at the American-administered University Hospital in the Safety Zone, wrote in a letter to his family, “a conservative estimate of people slaughtered in cold blood is somewhere about 100,000, including of course thousands of soldiers that had thrown down their arms”.

Here are two excerpts from his letters of 15 and 18 December 1937 to his family :

The slaughter of civilians is appalling. I could go on for pages telling of cases of rape and brutality almost beyond belief. Two bayoneted corpses are the only survivors of seven street cleaners who were sitting in their headquarters when Japanese soldiers came in without warning or reason and killed five of their number and wounded the two that found their way to the hospital.

Let me recount some instances occurring in the last two days. Last night the house of one of the Chinese staff members of the university was broken into and two of the women, his relatives, were raped. Two girls, about 16, were raped to death in one of the refugee camps. In the University Middle School where there are 8,000 people the Japs came in ten times last night, over the wall, stole food, clothing, and raped until they were satisfied. They bayoneted one little boy of eight who have [sic] five bayonet wounds including one that penetrated his stomach, a portion of omentum was outside the abdomen. I think he will live.

In his diary kept during the aggression to the city and its occupation by the Imperial Japanese Army, the leader of the Safety Zone, John Rabe, wrote many comments about Japanese atrocities. For the 17th December:

Two Japanese soldiers have climbed over the garden wall and are about to break into our house. When I appear they give the excuse that they saw two Chinese soldiers climb over the wall. When I show them my party badge, they return the same way. In one of the houses in the narrow street behind my garden wall, a woman was raped, and then wounded in the neck with a bayonet. I managed to get an ambulance so we can take her to Kulou Hospital … Last night up to 1,000 women and girls are said to have been raped, about 100 girls at Ginling College Girls alone. You hear nothing but rape. If husbands or brothers intervene, they’re shot. What you hear and see on all sides is the brutality and bestiality of the Japanese soldiers.

There are also accounts of Japanese troops forcing families to commit acts of incest. Sons were forced to rape their mothers, fathers were forced to rape daughters. One pregnant woman who was gang-raped by Japanese soldiers gave birth only a few hours later; although the baby appeared to be physically unharmed (Robert B. Edgerton, Warriors of the Rising Sun). Monks who had declared a life of celibacy were also forced to rape women.

Murder of civilians

On 13 December 1937, John Rabe wrote in his diary :

It is not until we tour the city that we learn the extent of destruction. We come across corpses every 100 to 200 yards. The bodies of civilians that I examined had bullet holes in their backs. These people had presumably been fleeing and were shot from behind. The Japanese march through the city in groups of ten to twenty soldiers and loot the shops (…) I watched with my own eyes as they looted the café of our German baker Herr Kiessling. Hempel’s hotel was broken into as well, as almost every shop on Chung Shang and Taiping Road.

On 10 February 1938, Legation Secretary of the German Embassy, Rosen, wrote to his Foreign Ministry about a film made in December by Reverend John Magee to recommend its purchase. Here is an excerpt from his letter and a description of some of its shots, kept in the Political Archives of the Foreign Ministry in Berlin.

During the Japanese reign of terror in Nanking – which, by the way, continues to this day to a considerable degree – the Reverend John Magee, a member of the American Episcopal Church Mission who has been here for almost a quarter of a centuty, took motion pictures that eloquently bear witness to the atrocities committed by the Japanese …. One will have to wait and see whether the highest officers in the Japanese army succeed, as they have indicated, in stopping the activities of their troops, which continue even today.

On December 13, about 30 soldiers came to a Chinese house at #5 Hsing Lu Koo in the southeastern part of Nanking, and demanded entrance. The door was open by the landlord, a Mohammedan named Ha. They killed him immediately with a revolver and also Mrs. Ha, who knelt before them after Ha’s death, begging them not to kill anyone else. Mrs. Ha asked them why they killed her husband and they shot her dead. Mrs. Hsia was dragged out from under a table in the guest hall where she had tried to hide with her 1 year old baby. After being stripped and raped by one or more men, she was bayoneted in the chest, and then had a bottle thrust into her vagina. The baby was killed with a bayonet. Some soldiers then went to the next room, where Mrs. Hsia’s parents, aged 76 and 74, and her two daughters aged 16 and 14. They were about to rape the girls when the grandmother tried to protect them. The soldiers killed her with a revolver. The grandfather grasped the body of his wife and was killed. The two girls were then stripped, the elder being raped by 2–3 men, and the younger by 3. The older girl was stabbed afterwards and a cane was rammed in her vagina. The younger girl was bayoneted also but was spared the horrible treatment that had been meted out to her sister and mother. The soldiers then bayoneted another sister of between 7–8, who was also in the room. The last murders in the house were of Ha’s two children, aged 4 and 2 respectively. The older was bayoneted and the younger split down through the head with a sword.

Pregnant women were a target of murder, as they would often be bayoneted in the stomach, sometimes after rape. Tang Junshan, survivor and witness to one of the Japanese army’s systematic mass killings, testified:

The seventh and last person in the first row was a pregnant woman. The soldier thought he might as well rape her before killing her, so he pulled her out of the group to a spot about ten meters away. As he was trying to rape her, the woman resisted fiercely … The soldier abruptly stabbed her in the belly with a bayonet. She gave a final scream as her intestines spilled out. Then the soldier stabbed the fetus, with its umbilical cord clearly visible, and tossed it aside.

Thousands were led away and mass-executed in an excavation known as the “Ten-Thousand-Corpse Ditch”, a trench measuring about 300m long and 5m wide. Since records were not kept, estimates regarding the number of victims buried in the ditch range from 4,000 to 20,000. However, most scholars and historians consider the number to be more than 12,000 victims.

The Japanese officers turned the act of murder into sport. They would set out to kill a certain number of Chinese before the other. Young men would also be used for bayonet training. Their limbs would be restrained or they would be tied to a post while the Japanese soldiers took turns plunging their bayonets into the victims’ bodies.[citation needed]

Although revisionists are trying to rewrite this bit of history, I incline to the traditional history, both because contemporary eyewitness accounts and photographs tend to be a giveaway, and because the Japanese exhibited similar behavior (although with less rape) half a decade later during World War II.

The Bataan death march serves as a perfect example of the Japanese capacity for almost unparalleled brutality — brutality made worse in this instance by the fact that, under the Bushido doctrine, surrendering soldiers were objects of special contempt (again, footnotes and hyperlinks omitted):

At dawn on 9 April, and against the orders of Generals Douglas MacArthur and Jonathan Wainwright[citation needed], Major General Edward P. King, Jr., commanding Luzon Force, Bataan, Philippine Islands, surrendered more than 75,000 (67,000 Filipinos, 1,000 Chinese Filipinos, and 11,796 Americans) starving and disease-ridden men. He inquired of Colonel Motoo Nakayama, the Japanese colonel to whom he tendered his pistol in lieu of his lost sword, whether the Americans and Filipinos would be well treated. The Japanese aide-de-camp replied: “We are not barbarians.” The majority of the prisoners of war were immediately robbed of their keepsakes and belongings and subsequently forced to endure a 61-mile (98 km) march in deep dust, over vehicle-broken macadam roads, and crammed into rail cars to captivity at Camp O’Donnell. Thousands died en route from disease, starvation, dehydration, heat prostration, untreated wounds, and wanton execution.

Those few who were lucky enough to travel to San Fernando on trucks still had to endure more than 25 miles of marching. Prisoners were beaten randomly, and were often denied food and water. Those who fell behind were usually executed or left to die. Witnesses say those who broke rank for a drink of water were executed, some even decapitated. Subsequently, the sides of the roads became littered with dead bodies and those begging for help.

On the Bataan Death March, approximately 54,000 of the 75,000 prisoners reached their destination. The death toll of the march is difficult to assess as thousands of captives were able to escape from their guards. All told, approximately 5,000–10,000 Filipino and 600–650 American prisoners of war died before they could reach Camp O’Donnell.

I don’t need to look to history books and websites, though, to understand that the Japanese were indeed different from the Americans.  I just have to turn inwards and resurrect the stories my mom told me as I was growing up.

In 1941, my mother was a 17 year old Dutch girl living in Java.  Life was good than.  Although the war was raging in Europe, and Holland had long been under Nazi occupation, the colonies were still outside the theater of war.  The colonial Dutch therefore were able to enjoy the traditional perks of the Empire, with lovely homes, tended by cheap Indonesian labor.  All that changed with the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Most Americans think of Pearl Harbor as a uniquely American event, not realizing that it was simply the opening salvo the Japanese fired in their generalized war to gain total ascendancy in the Pacific.  While Pearl Harbor devastated the American navy, the Japanese did not conquer American soil.  Residents in the Philippines (American territory), Indonesia (Dutch territory), Malaya (British territory), and Singapore (also British) were not so lucky.  Each of those islands fell completely to the Japanese, and the civilians on those islands found themselves prisoners of war.

In the beginning, things didn’t look so bad.  The Japanese immediately set about concentrating the civilian population by moving people into group housing, but that was tolerable.  The next step, however, was to remove all the men, and any boys who weren’t actually small children.  (Wait, I misspoke.  The next step was the slaughter of household pets — dogs and cats — which was accomplished by picking them up by their hind legs and smashing their heads against walls and trees.)

Once separated, the men and women remained completely segregated for the remainder of the war.  The men were subjected to brutal slave labor, and had an attrition rate much higher than the women did.  Also, with the typical Bushido disrespect for men who didn’t have the decency to kill themselves, rather than to surrender, the men were tortured at a rather consistent rate.

One of my mother’s friends discovered, at war’s end, that her husband had been decapitated.  This is what it looked like when the Japanese decapitated a prisoner (the prisoner in this case being an Australian airman):

Japanese execution0001

The women were not decapitated, but they were subjected to terrible tortures.  After the men were taken away, the women and children were loaded in trucks and taken to various camps.  The truck rides were torturous.  The women and children were packed into the trucks, with no food, no water, no toilet, facilities, and no shade, and traveled for hours in the steamy equatorial heat.

Once in camp, the women were given small shelves to sleep on (about 24 inches across), row after row, like sardines.  They were periodically subjected to group punishments.  The one that lives in my mother’s memory more than sixty years after the fact was the requirement that they stand in the camp compound, in the sun, for 24 hours.  No food, no water, no shade, no sitting down, no restroom breaks (and many of the women were liquid with dysentery and other intestinal diseases and parasitical problems).  For 24 hours, they’d just stand there, in the humid, 90+ degree temperature, under the blazing tropical sun.  The older women, the children and the sick died where they stood.

There were other indignities.  One of the camp commandants believed himself to have “moon madness.”  Whenever there was a full moon, he gave himself license to seek out the prisoners and torture those who took his fancy.  He liked to use knives.  He was the only Japanese camp commandant in Java who was executed after the war for war crimes.

Of course, the main problem with camp was the deprivation and disease.  Rations that started out slender were practically nonexistent by war’s end.  Eventually, the women in the camp were competing with the pigs for food.  If the women couldn’t supplement their rations with pig slop, all they got was a thin fish broth with a single bite sized piece of meat and some rice floating in it. The women were also given the equivalent of a spoonful of sugar per week.  My mother always tried to ration hers but couldn’t do it.  Instead, she’d gobble it instantly, and live with the guilt of her lack of self-control.

By war’s end, my mother, who was then 5’2″, weighed 65 pounds.  What frightened her at the beginning of August 1945 wasn’t the hunger, but the fact that she no longer felt hungry.  She knew that when a women stopped wanting to eat, she had started to die.  Had the atomic bomb not dropped when it did, my mother would have starved to death.

Starvation wasn’t the only problem.  Due to malnourishment and lack of proper protection, my mother had beriberi, two different types of malaria (so as one fever ebbed, the other flowed), tuberculosis, and dysentery.  At the beginning of the internment, the Japanese were providing some primitive medical care for some of these ailments.  By war’s end, of course, there was no medicine for any of these maladies.  She survived because she was young and strong.  Others didn’t.

So yes, the Japanese were different.  They approached war — and especially civilian populations — with a brutality equaled only by the Germans. War is brutal, and individual soldiers can do terrible things, but the fact remains that American troops and the American government, even when they made mistakes (and the Japanese internment in American was one of those mistakes) never engaged in the kind of systematic torture and murder that characterized Bushido Japanese interactions with those they deemed their enemies.  It is a tribute to America’s humane post-WWII influence and the Japanese willingness to abandon its past that the Bushido culture is dead and gone, and that the Japanese no longer feel compelled by culture to create enemies and then to engage in the systematic torture and murder of those enemies.

For Tom Hanks to try to create parallelism between the Japanese and Americans at any time between 1941 and 1945 is simply an obscene perversion of history that should be challenged at every level.  It wouldn’t matter so much, of course, if Tom Hanks was just a garden-variety ignoramus.  The problem is that he’s got a platform, a big platform, and he’s going to use it for all he’s worth to pervert the past in order to control the present and alter the future.

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  • Lulu11

    I would strongly encourage you to send this as a letter to Mr. Hanks, an actor I’ve always liked,btw. I loved his  Band of Brothers. Didn’t realize Hanks was such a stupid. It’s so galling how he is hinting that our war with Moslem terrorists is racist. Don’t these dummies ever look at the unbelievable racism of the other side? -You don’t need to answer, it’s rhetorical.

  • 11B40

    My father was drafted into World World II in February 1942, at the age of 35.  He trained on the West Coast and spent time in Ventura, Calif. before shipping out into the Pacific Theater of Operations.  He was a Browning Automatic Rifleman and fought on Saipan and Peleliu Islands.  He never talked to me much about his a service in spite of my continuing interest in things military.  My mother, they were married shortly after his return in March 1946, alluded to some difficulties he had with bad dreams and jungle foot immediately after his return but, fortunately for me (I first showed up in 1948) there were no longer term problems.
    When it came time for me to do my military service, my father, whose idea of an “Atta boy” was “You earned your keep today”, surprised me greatly by telling just as he was dropping me off at the Whitehall Street Induction Center, “If after all your training, and I know you’ll do a good job in your training, you don’t think you can kill our enemies, you’re welcome to come home and we’ll get the situation sorted out one way or another.”
    After I completed my military service, my father began to share stories of his time in the Pacific.  I guess that he then felt that I had the perspective necessary to make what sense there was to be made of his experiences.  But, I’ll never forget my Irish-born father’s almost Shakespearean bottom line. “No quarter was asked for and none was granted.”

  • David Foster

    I linked this at Photon Courier.

  • Oldflyer

    I hope I don’t shock you Book, or your readers, but I believe Hanks was accurate in some,  I emphasize some, of his comments.
    It is true that the Japanese were portrayed as subhuman in war propaganda. As an 8 year old I hated the Japanese race, and thirsted for their blood.   But, the same was generally true of the Germans.  (I had a cousin flying B 17s over Germany, and the boy across the street was shot down by Germans, so there was a personal vendetta there as well.)  We were not treated any better by their propaganda machines.  That is what happens in war.
    But, like many of his ilk,  Hanks goes too far. Other than the atomic bomb, the devastation visited on the Japanese nation was no different from that accorded the Germans.  The final effect was no better nor any worse. It was decided early on that WWII would be total war, with little regard for civilian populations.  The treatment of Japanese soldiers varied greatly of course, because their code did not permit surrender.  Every fight was to the death. Hanks should also know as a person interested in the conduct of WWII that we were in a race with Germany to develop the Atomic bomb.  It is not so well publicized, but nevertheless true, that Japan was also working to develop such a weapon.  Could anyone question whether either would have used it?
    Many years ago I read an exposition that attempted to explain the behavior of Japanese troops; particularly in China.  One explanation was that their society was so regimented, and hierarchical that  they simply went beserk when the cultural restraints were loosened.  I have no idea of the validity of the thesis.  It is well documented that there was deep-seated hatred, with ancient roots, between the Chinese and Japanese races.  As to their overall behavior, I have read a bit of Japanese history (beyond Shogun) and I know that their value systems bore no relationship to ours.  There is little basis for understanding between us and those who practiced Bushido.
    It is interesting that you do not mention rape of the European women.

  • Indigo Red

    Hanks says “We … wanted to annihilate them [Japanese] because they were different.” Not likely. Given bushido, emperor worship, the repressive treatment of the native Ainu of Japan,  complete distain for foreigners, and ideas of cultural superiority it’s more likely the Japanese wanted to annihilate us because we were different. In an unquoted portion of his remarks here, Hanks referenced the atomic bombs dropped on Japan by Americans as proof of American racism. Granting that racism was a normal part of life the world over at the time, racism was not a reason for using the A-bombs which were intended for use against Nazi Germany. They were used against Japan because (1) Germany surrendered before the Manhattan Project was finished, (2)  US military planners guessed that 1million Americans would be killed in an invasion of the islands, and more important for this occassion (3) Swiss Embasy sources warned that Japan was preparing the civilian population as auxillary  homeland defense forces to fight to the death of the last Japanese. The propect of 1mill American deaths was unacceptable as a first choice, but even more unacceptable was the killing of millions more Japanese, mostly civilians. Such a concern argues against racial motivations making Hanks’ assertion of “kill them all” simply false . I take exception to only one point, Book, when you write that Japanese barbarism was matched only by the Germans. John Rabe is quoted as showing his party badge when Japanese soldiers climbed the wall. The Party Badge was a Nazi Party Badge as John Rabe was not only a German businessman in Nanjing, but also a Nazi. Though his letters to Berlin, even the Nazi hierarchy were appalled and horrified by Japanese brutality. There was indeed a difference in the way the Japanese and Nazis approached barbarity. For the Japanese, brutality was an integral part of military life and a normal practice in war  –  the more brutal the behavior, the higher rank and respect achieved. Nazi/German soldiers were allowed to excuse themselves from killing actions with which they  could not emotionally cope. For Germans, no dishonor ensued. Quite the opposite for the Japanese soldier for whom honor was all important and disggrace was cause for execution or sepuku. The Japanese were different, even in reference to Nazi Germany. An excellent post and if the full extent of Japanese wartime atrocities were completely known by the public, no one would say anything as stupid as Hanks did.

  • Wolf Howling

    What is it with the Hollywood elite.  My guess is that they live in such a pampered world and in such a small echo chamber where the few syncophants they talk to agree with them completely that their uneducated opinion matters.  I say undeducated because I have yet to hear more than a bare handful of such people able to speak on their topic du juor with anything more than the most superficial of factual underpinnings.  Hanks is just the latest.   As to the Japanese in WWII, they truly were the most brutal of regimes.  There’s was a step back to medieval times, when soldiers were allowed to pillage, rape and torture as part of capturing enemy towns.  And what happened in Nanking was indeed a horror story with no parallel in modern times.  There are two good videos on Youtube that do a good job of documentating the history.  If you have a strong enough stomach – these are long and detailed: Part 1: Part 2: If Hanks can draw moral relevance between the West and WWII Japan, he is simply either too stupid to breathe without regular reminders or too intelectually lazy to actually study up on a topic.  Many of the commentors above make the salient points about historical reality that Hanks ignores.  This is not simply a matter of everyone being entitled to their own opinion.      Oh well, as much as I like Hanks, he now joins the ever increasing list of Hollywood actors and actresses about whom I will direct my displeasure with my wallet at the box office.  Maybe Hanks should ask Matt Damon how that works. Last note, it is amazing how fate seems to work – how at critical moments when life hangs in the balance, fate takes a hand and history is changed.  You are here because your mother survived.  I know of a similar story.  I had the honor to serve under a Fillipino-American officer while I was in the service.  He was quite literally the best battalion commander I served under as a company grade infantry officer.  He had the uncommon ability to motivate private to Majors to do their danmdest on his behalf because he actually liked and cared for the soldiers under his command on a personal level.  I never knew another officer able to pull that off in the manner in which he did.  At any rate, his father had worked for the U.S. Army in the Phillipines and ended up captured by the Japanese.  He too was on the Bataan death march and barely survived.  He was honored for his service with American citizenship.  His son rose to the rank of Lietenant General, became the military’s first general officer of Phillipino descent.      

  • Bookworm

    Oldflyer (#5):  You’re right, of course, but (fortunately) only up to a point.  Once war started, I know that America chose to define the enemy as a real enemy, not as some misguided peacekeeping nation that had accidentally stumbled into war.  I always understood that.  During the First Gulf War, my parents (both veterans/survivors of WWII and the Israeli War of Independence) were bewildered by the way the Americans kept trying to say that the Iraqis weren’t our enemies, even as we were bombing them:  “You can’t wage war against someone you haven’t defined as an enemy.”

    Nevertheless, two things about WWII in the Pacific are true:  First, before the war, America didn’t define Japan as “the enemy.”  Sure, there was racism against the Japanese, but it was not the kind of racism that urged Americans to enslave or destroy the Japanese or their nation.  (BTW, someone well-informed told me that, once war started, it was a liberal political contingent in California, including future Supreme Court justice Earl Warren, that pushed for internment, not out of any genocidal desire, but as part of a massive land grab.)

    Second, even though America demonized the Japanese as part of the war effort, that demonization never led to a systematic, institutionalized program (or pogrom, I guess), of murder, rape, torture and pillage.  We were different from the Japanese.  We were better.  Even if there were individual atrocities (as there always are in war), we Americans did not do what the Japanese did.

  • Deana

    Bookworm –
    I so, so appreciate this piece.
    I’ve had it up to “here” with all of the people who insist that America is this unforgivable nation who did the worst thing ever by dropping the atomic bomb.
    My family is small – there are only 8 descendants of my grandfather, who was a captain of a B-17 over Europe.  Had those atomic bombs not been dropped, he would have finished the war in Europe and had to go fight in Japan.  The likelihood of his survival of that cannot be calculated.  I very much attribute most of my family’s existence to the fact that those bombs were used.
    YOUR existence is due to those bombs being dropped.  How many Americans would not be here today had we had to go over and fight Japan the long, drawn-out way?
    On another point, if we were as rascist as Hanks and others claim, then why did we care about what happened in Japan AFTER WWII????
    There are days when many of my fellow Americans make me sick at heart.

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  • Al

    I am with Deana. Both my father and my father-in-law would have wound up flying over and parachuting into the home islands it not for the atom bomb. This entire post should be sent to Hanks and his ilk. The falacy of moral relativizm is just one of the corupting perspectives which the libs use to hobble our though and our lives. It is time to not just tell them they are irrelavant. It is time to ignore their childish behavior and their sophmoric productions. They provide entertainment of a sort. We work for life.

  • Jose

    Great Post. 
    I had the pleasure of knowing a former British paratrooper who served in a number of various roles during WWII.  I don’t know many details of his service in the Pacific, but I know that as an NCO, he accepted the surrender of a Japanese officer and his subordinates. 
    I remember he said the standard Japanese practice was to secure the hands of prisoners behind their backs with wire, which quickly cut through skin to the bone. 
    In Hanks’ parallel between the Japanese of WWII and today’s Muslim insurgents, he fails to recognize that both belief systems consider opponents as sub-human.

  • FunkyPhD

    From Paul Fussell’s book Thank God for the Atom Bomb: 

    During the time between the dropping of the Nagasaki bomb on August 9 and the actual surrender on the fifteenth, the war pursued its accustomed course:  on the twelfth of August, eight captured American fliers were executed (heads chopped off); the fifty-first United States submarine, Bonefish, was sunk (all aboard drowned); the destroyer Callaghan went down, the seventieth to be sunk, and the destroyer escort Underhill was lost.
    The Dutchman Laurens van der Post had been a prisoner of the Japanese for three and a half years.  He and thousands of his fellows, enfeebled by beriberi and pellagra, were being systematically starved to death, the Japanese rationalizing this treatment not just because the prisoners were white men, but because they had allowed themselves to be captured at all and were therefore moral garbage.  In the summer of 1945 Field Marshall Terauchi issued a significant order:  at the moment the allies invaded the main islands, all prisoners were to be killed by the prison-camp commanders.

  • David Foster

    Per Oldflyer’s comment, there were certainly individual acts of racism by Americans in the Pacific War…Paul Fussell, himself a former infantryman, discusses these in the same book FunkyPhd cites above.  But the claim that American entry into the war was motivated by race hate is ridiculous.
    Indeed, the prewar perception that Japan was a potential enemy…and the embargos and other actions which did so much to infuriate Japan’s leadership against the US…were motivated in substantial part by American popular anger at the Japanese atrocities committed against another Asias people, the Chinese.

  • pst314

    “Many years ago I read an exposition that attempted to explain the behavior of Japanese troops; particularly in China.  One explanation was that their society was so regimented, and hierarchical that  they simply went beserk when the cultural restraints were loosened.”
    That may have been a factor, but it was not the primary one. Japan was simply an extremely racist society in which mistreatment of non-Japanese was perfectly acceptable. (Note that it was not just the Chinese that the Japanese treated barbarously; it was  every other nation that they invaded, including Korea, the Phillipines, and the nations of SE Asia.) In fact, the racism persists today, albeit in less virulent form: If you are a tourist in Japan you will be treated as an honored guest, but if you are a guest worker then you will be treated with callousness.

  • Ymarsakar

    Obama likes Russia drilling for oil in the Gulf, and forbids his american slaves and whores from doing the same.
    How’s that for moral equivalence.

  • Ymarsakar

    To an extent, FDR was a racist and he was in charge of foreign policy for the US. But his racism was inbred Democrat based upon skin color, notably blacks. He had to keep the support of Democrats in the south for his, what was it, Four Consecutive Terms For Life Long President.
    And all signs showed that while his wife disagreed with the basic injustice of his social policies, FDR didn’t really particularly have any inhibitions on backing Democrat racism against blacks in return for political power. When the Japanese came on the horizon, imprisoning them, executing German spies that had willingly defected to warn us of attacks, just seemed like the thing to do, presumably.
    If Hollywood had tried to learn from these mistakes, by repeating historical failures, that would be one thing. But to cast the blame at Americans while voting for the same Democrat party that harbored and instigated and maintained Jim Crow and racist attitudes, is a bit too much. It is deserving of treasonous charges ending in execution, not higher ratings and bigger bank accounts.

  • Ymarsakar

    Also, Obama and the Left doesn’t care about how many of your family members need to die horribly. So long as their Utopia and political goals are met, all of you and your descendants can suffer for thousands of years. It would be worth the price in the end.

  • Ymarsakar

    Tom is in a very weak position personally pertaining to his self-knowledge. He wasn’t interested in the public education version of history and thus was led to the path of apathy by the Leftist engineered failure called ‘public education’. Hanks needs entertainment to become interested in history. His ability to grasp the micro scale decisions of the war is limited to the personal stories he has taught himself to see and hear. That isn’t a bad thing, considering his profound ignorance originally. But it is also not enough.

    Hanks never taught himself to make the decisions necessary in war. He neither experienced war nor wanted to learn how to win it. He cared about the individual humans involved but without understanding how to win war, what the consequences of micro and macro scale decisions are in war, Hanks has no idea how to analyze and process historical data. What he knows, all he knows, comes from the personal stories of others. While that is enough to spark an emotional investment in American tradition and ancestry, it is not enough to ascertain the truth.

    When you give Hanks data about a war, like a strategic island, he doesn’t get interested. He will only be interested if he learns some human story connected to the island. That is a normal reaction of human beings and a major reason why Hanks has been able to tap into modern popular American stream of consciousness with things like Private Ryan. Hanks purposefully chooses the perspective of the individual soldier, not the commander at the top making the strategic calculations knowing the cost in life. Hanks isn’t interested in winning. His moral equivalence is the excuse for why victory is meaningless, except for the human factor. While some of the emotions of patriotism or humanity is shared between me and Hanks, one vital difference between him and me is in our epistemology and metaphysics. This affects our judgment on whether actions, like Hiroshima or Nagasaka, were ethical. It also affects our political judgments of people like Nixon and FDR.

    In this realm of modern human behavior, education alone isn’t enough. No matter how many things you think you know, your state of ignorance will maintain itself if true understanding is absent. Viewing war only through the individuals at the bottom fighting it isn’t enough. It was never enough. But to understand command decisions at the top, you must assume the mantle and responsibility of a leader of men. Following orders is an excuse. There are few strictly regimented orders for higher echelon leaders. Leaders give orders to subordinates more than they receive orders from superiors, but they learned to become leaders by obeying them originally. Hanks should have graduated to a higher echelon, but his ethical construct is hampered by his false epistemology and metaphysics to the point where he is unable to visualize or understand command decisions.

    Most of the things that go on between commanders are ephemeral. Issues more of honor, perception, and internal mental states than external suffering, death, or privation. You can show the beaches of Normandy, especially Omaha, to communicate through emotion  but Hollywood has never been adept at demonstrating ethical decision making or what goes on in the heads of real leaders. For that, you obviously need real leaders, combat or otherwise. Hollywood neither understands leadership nor proper command relationships. Hollywood, after all, treats their technical people like serfs and servants. Hollywood can understand human things, in a limited fashion, because whatever Hanks is, he is still human. But Hanks is not the leader of men he portrays on screen. And therein lies a vital difference. A crucial difference.

    “war started, it was a liberal political contingent in California, including future Supreme Court justice Earl Warren, that pushed for internment, not out of any genocidal desire, but as part of a massive land grab”

    That does sound like modern American parasites that need to be put up against the wall and shot, now doesn’t it. We see the former in DC all the time now a days. Not nearly enough of the latter.

    “Second, even though America demonized the Japanese as part of the war effort”

    FDR can be thanked for that. Hollywood too. Along with internment camps. And ignored faulty torpedo warheads in the Pacific. And Presidente for Life ‘bonus’ from the Dems.

    Concerning racism, Hanks perspective is inevitably colored by the individual accounts he views. Obviously if he looks at it from that level, the personal motivations of soldiers and the ground force fighters, not particularly interested in cosmopolitan understanding or diplomacy, would be geared towards differences not mutual understanding. Mutual understanding is something leaders are responsible for, as it’s required to lead a disparate force of men or women. Leaders that Hanks has inevitably ignored in favor of the action at the bottom, the infantry and the grunts, with the requisite glorification. Glorification has a purpose, and sometimes it is positive, but not at the expense of the complete truth. Hollywood has a bad habit of fing up the truth, in case people hadn’t noticed by now.

    Hanks or anyone else, only knows what they are ‘told’. If you never learn the basic fundamental truth of reality for yourself and decide for yourself what it is, via metaphysics and epistemology, then all you really “know” is what you are told. That’s not enough. That’s not enough for a commander risking his entire army. That’s not enough for a political leader risking the fate of his entire nation. You can’t just believe whatever the hell you are told, no matter how much truth is in it. You have to make your own decisions, because you are the one that is going to be responsible for it in the end.

    But, it’s hard for ignoramuses to know the truth from heatstroke when they don’t know a damn thing in the first place. That’s Tom’s crucial weakness. Because he is ignorant and he knows this, he can’t detect inconsistencies in BS. And he can’t judge the truth based upon its own virtue. He can only accept truth because it is ‘hyper entertaining’ or ’emotional’ or human orientated. That’s a vulnerable way to discover knowledge.

    FDR brought out the stupid in America. If racism there was, racism was promoted in order to bolster political and war morale from FDR’s perch. It’s not that I’m second guessing the man, now dead. It’s that I have seen far better examples of leaders than FDR, that I don’t hold him or Obama as my ‘God’. And when one isn’t divine, all that remains is mortal flaw. For whatever personal strength FDR had, he had because he ran right over the weak and crippled those that could have become healthy with his national socialism, plus his pack with Stalin. Those are not things that can be forgiven because Americans won the war for him. The same can be said for Churchill, not repealing the NHS and other crapstatic ‘reforms’ made by the Labour party in 4 years after WWII. It’s pointless sacrificing millions in a war and then letting the Left rape your country slowly afterwards. Makes a mockery of human sacrifice and dignity, not to mention courage and valor.

    Obama can probably bring out the stupid in America too. Maybe that’s a bit self-evidential though.

    P.S. I do recommend people read all 4 pages of Book’s article on TH. It provides valuable context not present if you skim over.

  • Ymarsakar

    “On another point, if we were as racist as Hanks and others claim, then why did we care about what happened in Japan AFTER WWII????”
    Obviously because the racist Left and other wannabe traitors weren’t in charge. Visionaries like Hirohito and MacArthur were in charge. The military was in charge. The civilian non traitors were helping, not leaking.
    People didn’t like MacArthur, but he got results. He also lived in Japan as part of a naval attache program, same as many other officers of US Army or Navy branches in the early 20th century. The military, if anything, had the greatest understanding and respect of Japanese culture. The politicians, media F heads, and so called American ‘intellectuals‘ and socialites? Not so much.

  • Classfactotum

    Wikipedia is not the best source, but one way to compare the Japanese, the Germans and the US in WWII is to look at the death rates of the POWs. A point about POWs that the US took: many of them later immigrated to the United States.  The book “Nazi Prisoners of War in America” is fascinating.
    <i>According to the findings of the Tokyo tribunal, the death rate of Western prisoners was 27.1% (American POWs died at a rate of 37%),[22] seven times that of POWs under the Germans and Italians.[23] The death rate of Chinese was much larger. Thus, while 37,583 prisoners from the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and Dominions, 28,500 from Netherlands and 14,473 from USA were released after the surrender of Japan, the number for the Chinese was only 56.[24]</i>

  • Classfactotum

    Ooops. Sorry about the formatting, or lack thereof.

  • suek

    Anecdotal unsubstantiated stuff:
    Japan occupied Korea in the early 1900s.  The Koreans still hate anything Japanese.
    America conquered and occupied Japan in the 1940s.  They are now our trade partners and our primary ally in the Pacific.
    By the way… my father did _not_ fight in the Pacific.  However, as some point after the surrender, he was one of a group sent to Tokyo to help rebuild the Japanese economy.  For whatever reason – because he didn’t talk about his experiences any more than other fathers – I still have the embroidered silk family “good luck” piece that was given to him by the Mayor of Tokyo when he left.  It was supposed to be something that every Japanese family had hanging over their entry way.  At least, that is what I was told.   I don’t read Japanese, so it could be anything.
    There remained some connection with the Japanese he encountered.   I have my hope “chest”, except it isn’t exactly a hope chest.  Apparently my Dad wanted to build me a set of campaign chests – the type that used to be carried by Generals when they moved from place to place on a campaign.  He described what he was trying to do, because he wanted the brass corner pieces that protect them from damage to be made in Japan.  Language communication problem ensued, and the set was built entirely including the brass.  Or so I was told.  It seems also that it was illegal to send currency from Japan at that time, so when someone’s son wanted to come to the US for college, my father paid his tuition.  I’m sure accommodation had been reached somehow…I also inherited some pearls – and a set of Noritake china.    Pre-war Noritake.   My Mom made sure I knew that detail – though I don’t know why.    I never wear the pearls, and rarely use the Noritake, but who knows…someday it may come in handy.  Especially if the economy tanks.
    Doesn’t exactly sound like a relationship filled with racial animosity, does it?

  • Ymarsakar

    Good stories suek

  • Ymarsakar

    A socialist, of course, would have shook down the locals in return for the ‘favors’ overseas. Just think of Obunga, PillowC, and Weed.

  • Charles

    Book; Great post!

    And some really good comments to which I would like to add the following: Yes, the Japanese culture was (and to some extent still is) racist, as many homogenous cultures tend to be. But there is still an even greater explanation for the brutal treatment of other Asians at the hands of the Japanese military.

    One, Japan had never been conquered; never, that is until the U.S. occupation at the end of WWII. So this made the Japanese people (and even more so their soldiers) believe that they really were superior to others since all other Asian nations (except Thailand) had been subjugated to European/Western rule somehow or other.

    Two, the Japanese, also believed that they were “saving Asia for Asians.” And, in the eyes of your ordinary Japanese soldier the situation was something along the lines of “how dare these other Asians be so damn ungrateful as we try to save them! They act like dogs, so, we will treat them like dogs!” (I am not agreeing, just trying to explain their mindset) Add the concept of Bushido to this and history has shown us the results

    Three, As for the Rape of Nanking it is important to remember that the ordinary Japanese soldiers were expecting a “cakewalk” into China’s largest city, Shanghai, and instead got a bloodbath in house-to-house fighting as they tried to take that port city. (again, the mindset was “those damn Chinese, don’t they know we are trying to save them from Europeans!”) It has been estimated that every Japanese soldier in that battle lost not just one or two comrades, but several. So, as the Japanese army then went up the Yangtze River they were “thirsty for blood; thirsty for revenge” Add that to the fact that the Japanese army then captured the Capital of China, Nanking, (NanJing in Mandarin means “Southern Capital” and the Republic of China had moved the capital from Peking to the more “cultural-center” of China – Nanking) and all hell broke loose.

    I’m not trying to “justify” any of the behaviour – just explain it.

    Finally, I think it interesting to note that both Japanese and Soviet soldiers acted so brutally towards the enemy, especially the woman, when they captured the capital city. (The Japanese took Nanking, while the Soviets took Berlin) Yet, Western allies (British, American, Canadian, Aussies, etc.) did not act this way when they captured (or liberated) Rome , Paris, etc. Maybe there is something to be said for the Anglosphere cultures?

    P.S. Suek, interesting stories. FYI, Pre-war Noritake was of a much better quality when compared to the post-war stuff which was much inferior until a few decades later. I believe that the pre-war Noritake can fetch a higher price at auction!

  • suek

    >>I believe that the pre-war Noritake can fetch a higher price at auction!>>
    I may need it the way things are going…so let’s hope so!
    My parents seemed to have a thing about china.  I have an inordinate amount which I mostly don’t use…

  • Caped Crusader


  • Ymarsakar

    “Maybe there is something to be said for the Anglosphere cultures?”
    Book has actually covered this subject. The Russians lost a lot of pride given their failure to defend the Rodina, but instead of blaming Stalin (which was fatal), they had to find somebody else. The same was true of Imperial Japan.
    Whenever there is an internal lockout for societal taboos, the human emotions tend to burst. The Islamics are a notable example.

    Militarily, it is much harder to prevent the sack of a city that has resisted well and for a long time rather than a bloodless entrance. It takes intense discipline, which includes impalement, crucifixion, and mass executions to prevent sacks of conquered cities from occupation armies. Belisarius was noted for his hard line discipline on this matter. An army that is looting and rapine, is no longer an army. And even afterwards, it’s still no longer an army once that kind of rampant lack of discipline has reinforced itself. Many nations don’t have the capability or the hardline integrity to enforce discipline so they either give official authorization or just ignore it. The Germans had an evil propaganda target, the Jews, already set up. So protocol and German efficiency allowed methodical killing, but hot blooded massacre could often be avoided.
    The Americans were not only better individuals in that they were psychologically better balanced but they also had far better discipline. Better individuals don’t allow themselves to be taken by revenge or hatred, even with loss of friends and loved ones. They may want revenge but they also know that self-control is necessary for real peace. The broken ‘men’ of other armies could go wild once they won because they felt so afraid that crushing somebody that is weak feels real good. It’s a normal human reaction for beta males.
    Weaklings and cowards, which includes Mohammedans, tend to abuse those weaker than they because they know they’d be annihilated by the stronger enemies. So they go and pick out a civilian settlement for torture and fun.
    The fix is pretty simple. Humans like to step on people weaker than they, in order to bolster their confidence that they won’t be crushed by somebody higher up. But when that higher up comes down on them, cuts their heads off, and drags those heads alongside the army as a ‘lesson on what happens to looters and rapists’ then they realize that to keep their head and balls intact, they had better follow my instructions on this matter. And then there’s no problem. Even if people wanted to do so, they’d just be sealing their death warrants. And if an entire unit thinks they can get away with it because I won’t put down a significant portion of my combat power, there’s always Roman decimation. Can do that a few times before the combat power of a unit is entirely obliterated.

  • Ymarsakar

    The US Marines are killers. These elite troops, that constitute 1% of historical human forces, pride themselves on their ability as warriors. And warriors exist to get stronger by fighting strong enemies. They aren’t warriors because they blow up defenseless civilians or take advantage of military power for sexual gratification. They’re here to kill terrorists and mass murderers.
    The United States is a superpower often primarily because their forces consist almost entirely of elite forces. Or what other nations would consider ‘elite’. In America, it’s just ‘average’.

  • Oldflyer

    Bookworm, I was rather late seeing your response to my post; and you are correct of  course.  You put Hanke’s comments in clearer context if he intended to state that racism motivated us to go to war with Japan. I did focus entirely on attitudes that developed after the war was underway.  Interestingly, our air war against the Japanese homeland was fairly short; and American forces had a good preview of the Japanese character before the decisions about the home islands were made.
    A personal reflection.  When my cousin, amazingly, survived his alloted missions as a B17 tail gunner over Europe and Germany, he went to pilot school.  He finished too late to return to combat, but was in the early occupation forces in Japan. As a junior Air Force Officer, he and his wife were treated as near royalty by the Japanese.  It should be an  interesting  project for Anthropologists to study pre-war Japanese society and  how quickly it morphed into something entirely different once the war was lost.

  • Ari Tai

    Where does Mr. Hanks live?   Billboard rates are way down.   I’ll contribute something to a month’s worth of signage.  Is there a 501c3 that does this sort of education?
    What should it say, show?
    Perhaps just “Shame on you, Mr. Hanks.” w/ a url.

  • suek

    Ari Tai…
    How about…
    “If WWII was about racial genocide, what stopped us from finishing the job?”

  • Ymarsakar

    Suek, the enlightened rule of Demon Rats obviously.

  • trac222222

    I served in Iraq during the surge as a 51 (yes I was that old and proud of it) year old reserve retire recall ( I volunteered). I take great offense to Hanks and his ilk.  I witnessed first hand the generosity and kindness to the Iraqis (not the ones who were tiring to kill us and believe me there is a difference). I wish I was a better writer so I can explain my views better but let me say that Hanks should go overseas and see for himself

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  • OBloodyHell

    > ….were engaged in war with Japan, not because they were racist Western nations anxious to destroy “yellow, slant-eyed dogs,” but because they were faced with an unusually brutal and rapacious enemy.  It was kill or be killed.
    Indeed.  Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s actually going on today?
    The Japanese, for all their flaws, did have a code of honor and propriety when it came to war — not always one in agreement with that of the West, it was a warrior code nonetheless. They failed, all too often (much as the US and Euros have failed sometimes) to adequately follow that code (especially against the Chinese), but it was there, and they did endeavor to follow it with all their failings.
    I don’t believe the current enemy has any concept of honor, decency, or propriety which matches up with that of The West in any particular. They are, if anything, an even more unusually brutal and rapacious enemy”

  • OBloodyHell

    (something commonly done by all races about all other races in that pre-politically correct time)
    As opposed to the current politically correct time, when it can be done by all races EXCEPT whites…

  • OBloodyHell

    I was once given endless grief in a chat room for referring to third person Japanese (i.e., none present) as “Japs”. Not in any pejorative sense, just a contraction for the overly long “Japanese”. And the context had nothing accusatory or negative in it, either. It was only a contraction of a long and clumsy word I didn’t feel like typing out, nothing else.
    The key thing about political correctness is that it’s solely derived from “white guilt”, and has no counterpart among the “other races” — black people are free to use insulting racist terms, as are orientals (sorry, NOT calling them “asians” as though they constituted the whole of Asia despite the Arabs, Indians, Persians, Siberians, etc.,etc.).
    The fact is, oriental cultures are some of the most xenophobic on the planet. There is mainly “us”(the oriental grouping) and “them” — anyone else not of that national group. This is reflected in their terminology built into their languages. The Japanese word for “foreigner” is “gaijin”… which also just happens to translate to “barbarian”. While, in English, one can certainly say “foreigner” in a context or with a tone than is condescending, there is no “secondary meaning” for the word which is insulting in itself.
    Chinese, as I understand it, works much the same way, with the insult in this case being that the Chinese word for “foreigner” also translates to “devil”.

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