The Bookworm Beat 12/22/14 — Sneaking away from my family edition, and Open Thread

Woman writingThis is my fifth attempt just today to write something for my blog. The family’s needs are comprehensive, to say the least. Since I have a small window of time here, let me get right to it:

Best sentence of 2014

NRO’s Kevin Williamson wasn’t too much on my radar in 2013 and before. Fortunately, though, I discovered him in 2014, and am consistently delighted with his insights and his writing. Yesterday, he reached a new peak when, in a comprehensive round-up detailing the debasement of America’s higher education, he wrote a wonderful paragraph, capped with, quite possibly, the best sentence of 2014 (emphasis mine):

James Franco and Seth Rogen and the Sony brass might be man-shaped objects carved out of cotton candy, but they are iron men compared with the American college student. Students at the University of California at Irvine felt the need to avail themselves of the services of grief therapists after the grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for a shooting in Ferguson, Mo., some 1,800 miles away. It’s not like the UCI Anteaters don’t have legitimate reasons for grief – starting with the fact that they are called “Anteaters” — but a no-bill from a grand jury five states away isn’t one of them. Meanwhile at Occidental, students who were receiving class credit to work on Democratic political campaigns were reduced to shambolic mounds of blubbering distress by Republican victories.

Oh, the humanities.

Yes, we should blame Sharpton and DeBlasio for the New York shootings

I’ve seen conservatives saying that, if we blame Al Sharpton and Mayor DeBlasio for the murder of two police officers in New York, we are no better than the Leftist MSM that instantly blamed Sarah Palin for the shooting of Gabby Giffords, an attack that killed several people and severely wounded Giffords herself. (See, e.g, Jonathan Tobin’s post.)

I disagree. It was obvious to the meanest intelligence that Sarah Palin’s rhetoric was aimed solely at the ballot box.  She was speaking in the time-honored democratic tradition of seeking victory through votes. The same cannot be said for the marchers whom Sharpton and DeBlasio inspired and coddled. When they marched through the streets after Michael Brown’s and Eric Garner’s deaths, they were extremely explicit in their demands:

“What do we want?” drones the blood chant.

“Dead cops!” comes the reply.

Done.

Thus does rhetoric have consequences.

There were no “dog whistles” here (i.e., carefully elusive phrases that only true believers could interpret). Instead, the Progressive elites cheered on a rank-and-file that was explicitly out for blood . . . real blood. This was the precise equivalent of shouting “Murder the cops” in a crowded theater. It was incitement to violence and ought to be understood and treated as such.

See also Ira Straus and Robert Avrech on this point.

Your trend is my cherry-picking

I went with a couple of liberals to the Exploratorium.  In one section, there’s a little graph on the wall charting rising waters in San Francisco Bay over the last 100 years. In my presence, one liberal turned to the other and said, “That’s what’s wrong with these climate deniers. They cherry-pick just the last 18 years, when they should be looking at long-term trends like this.”

Long-term trends? I can do that.

Today, I sent to that liberal an article explaining that a 2,000 year long-term trend shows that the earth has been cooling consistently. Sure, there’ve been upticks in temperatures, but the basic trajectory is downwards.

I thought to myself as I sent it “There. No one can accuse me of cherry-picking. That’s not just 100 years of data; it’s 2,000 years of data!”

Silly me. The liberal immediately emailed back to tell me that this was “cherry-picked” data and was junk science that did nothing to disprove global warming.  He provided no data to support his contention.

Progressives and conservatives live on a different planet

Molly Ball, an Atlantic writer, has been forced to admit that the age of Obama is over. Even while conceding that reality, though, she makes several “factual” statements that left me reeling. Herewith, a mini-fisking (hyperlinks omitted):

In other words, what we witnessed in 2014 wasn’t just a swing of the ol’ pendulum; it was the end of the Obama era in American politics.

One major hallmark of the Obama era was the rise of the Tea Party, a far-right faction driven to conspiratorial derangement by literally anything Obama proposed.

[One wonders about the cognitive dissonance that drives people who applauded, and often participated in, the Occupy movement and the recent Ferguson/Garner protests, to say that the Tea Party, which embraces constitutional limitations and freedoms, is a "far-right faction" driven to "derangement" by a president who sought to force all Americans to buy a product they didn't need, through a complicated wealth redistribution scheme. Just think about the protests: Occupy sought to upend America, and involved a lot of sex, drug use, and defecation on American streets, while the recent protests anti-cop have revolved around mass die-ins, freeway blockage, and (successfully met) demands that police officers get murdered. The Tea Party protests, on the other hand, had people waving American flags, asking for lower taxes, and cleaning up after themselves.  And it's the Tea Party that's "deranged."  Honestly, how in the world do Progressives live in their own heads?]

[snip]

Most of all, of course, the midterms were a backlash against Obama’s leadership and policies. Some of this was deserved—the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, for example, seemed to trigger an irrevocable loss of trust in the White House’s competence. The fact that health-care reform went on to be implemented pretty smoothly after that did little to rescue the policy’s, or the president’s, reputation for effectiveness.

[Is it just me or have people been complaining non-stop about losing their insurance and being forced to buy insurance they don't want at prices they can't afford? Meanwhile, is it just me or have the uninsured remained largely uninsured, with the only increase showing up in Medicare? And is it just me or did the Obama administration avoid even greater opprobrium by pushing out until after the 2016 election the worst effects of Obamacare? Just sayin'.]

Critics also argued that crises on the border and in the Middle East could be traced back to Obama’s policies.

[Yeah, funny about that. Obama makes it clear that he's not going to stop border crossings any more and -- voila! -- there's a crisis on the border. It takes a writer for the Atlantic to pretend that there's no connection between Obama's policies and pronouncements, and the mayhem, sliding close to anarchy, along America's southern border.]

[snip]

And some [of Obama's decline] was Republicans’ fault, as their systematic obstruction first contributed to the president’s reputation for not being able to get anything done—and then, when he began taking unilateral action to go around the reluctant Congress, helped paint him as a power-mad executive tyrant.

[Here's what you need to remember:  When it's a Republican president, dissent and obstruction are patriotic. When it's a Democrat president, dissent and obstruction are racist and irrational. This holds true even when the president's own party admits that he's a cold fish who refuses to work with Congress and won't compromise on anything.]

John Adams famously said “facts are stubborn things.” Little did he know that Leftists are even more stubborn.

Deranged Leftists take on Christ’s birth

Sometimes, of course, Leftists go beyond stubborn and wander into insanity. Take, for example, Valerie Tarico, who argues in all seriousness, that Christ’s birth came about because God raped Mary. I don’t need to say anything about this, because Ed Morrissey says it all.

More mysterious mass murders in France

Police remain baffled by the motives of two French residents who, on two different occasions, drove their cars into Christmas crowds while hollering “Alahu Akbar.” These multiplying, yet still isolated, murder outbreaks, committed by men using hammers, cars, guns, or knives, all the while screaming “Alahu Akbar,” will apparently continue to vex police around the world.

The reason behind Obama’s mush-mouth explanations for opening relations with Cuba

Daniel Greenfield thinks he knows why Obama suddenly rushed into open relations with Cuba: call it the greenback dollar.

WWII: When American delighted in defeating her enemies

Life Magazine profiled the Flying Tigers in the early months of World War II.

What’s so utterly bizarre about the article is that the men are lauded for, and feel no obligation to apologize about, fighting vigorously against an enemy that had just a few months before appeared out of the blue and slaughtered more than two thousand American service men. It’s that lack of apology that is so unreal in a time when our own President refers to America’s troops as baby killers.

Gathering together a small sampling of the good stuff

Victorian posy of pansiesA rising San Francisco tech yuppie said what all the hard-working young San Franciscans think about the homeless and derelicts who swarm San Francisco’s streets but that none dare to say aloud.  (I remember well the quiet grumbling about the homeless back in my young days as a downtown yuppie, before political correctness permanently disabled saying such things.)  Needless to say, he’s in big trouble.

I’m not the only one who gets confused about the day on which Pearl Harbor falls.

Sometimes, people who are obsessive compulsive can harness that compulsive energy to create the most amazing beauty.

Despite the Left’s relentless, shrill, well-funded efforts, Americans did not buy into gun control in the year since a crazy man attacked an elementary school.

David Gerstman points out that al Qaeda is indeed on the run — but, contrary to our president’s past boasts, that’s not a good thing.  Gerstman shows definitively that al Qaeda is running to a variety of countries that haven’t previously hosted this anti-American jihadist organization, and then making itself at home there.

A small town police chief reads Kanye West the riot act.  It’s wonderful.

This might be the best paragraph written today:  “Okay, let’s give President Obama some credit. He promised openness, not honesty. You get to see the village. If it’s a Potemkin Village, that’s your problem.”

“Let’s remember Pearl Harbor!”

Burning ships at Pearl Harbor

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because of the 2,402 Americans killed there.

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because it catapulted us into an incredibly bloody war for dominance over the Pacific.

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because, within a few days, Hitler also declared war on America, so that America found herself a combatant in the biggest war in the world’s history.

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because America’s participation in the European theater was the main thing that beat back Hitler’s genocidal bid for world domination (Britain had done her best, but couldn’t do it alone).

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because America’s participation in the Pacific theater was the  main thing that beat back Japan’s genocidal bid for domination over the Pacific.

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because America, after utterly destroying Germany, Japan, and Italy in World War II, stuck around to build them up again as peaceful, economically successful republican democracies that have been our allies, not our enemies.

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because, pretty much until Obama quit doing the job, it marked the beginning of America’s role as the world’s policeman, protecting as many people as possible from the “peaceful graveyard” that is communism as well has our efforts to protect as many people as possible from sharia’s murderous hands.

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor

The generation that experienced the attack on Pearl Harbor is fading away, which makes it all the more important that we remember Pearl Harbor.  Regular readers know that we’ve always taken the attack on Pearl Harbor very seriously in my family, because it marked the beginning of Japan’s assault against the entire Pacific region.  My Mom was living in the Dutch East Indies at the time (aka Java), and ended up interned by the Japanese for the rest of the war.

I will always remember Pearl Harbor, and I will always be thankful for the tens of thousands of brave Allied fighters who liberated the Pacific at such great cost to themselves.  (This may explain my partiality for the Marines and the Navy.)

Hollywood once again shows its callous disregard for America’s military *UPDATED*

Back in 2004, entirely coincidentally, I ended up at the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., on the same morning that veterans of the Battle of the Bulge had gathered for a reunion. Some got there under their own steam. Many, though, were on walkers or in wheelchairs. They were so frail. And so many were weeping. It was that weeping that did me in. I seldom cry on my own behalf, but I’m a sympathy weeper. Watching these old, fragile warriors break down under the weight of their memories got my tear ducts working overtime.  I still get watery thinking of those men who not only fought one of the most important battles of the war, but who then came home and honored the dead by living.  They had families, held jobs, and generally gave meaning to the freedom for which they fought.

I mention this little story because there are people out there, especially in the entertainment world, and more specifically on the set of Hawaii Five-O, who do not share my reverence for these aged warriors (free registration required):

Last week, a special group of Americans made a trip to Hawaii. This was not their first trip to Hawaii. In fact, the first time all of these men were together in Hawaii was on December 7th, 1941.

Last week, these men and some of their families were back in Hawaii again for the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. Today, less than ten percent of those who served during World War II are still alive.

For the men who made this trip, there was also another tacit acknowledgement. This would be their last trip. The average age of a Pearl Harbor [veteran] is in the early nineties. In fact, there are now so few Pearl Harbor survivors left that the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association is disbanding at the end of the month.

On December 9th, 24 Pacific veterans, including 23 Pearl Harbor survivors were taken to the National Cemetery of the Pacific for a memorial ceremony honoring those who fell during the attack on Pearl Harbor and those who fell during the Pacific campaign.

While the men were at the cemetery, the TV show Hawaii Five-O was filming at the cemetery. As the National Anthem was played and the ceremony went on, the CBS production crew was filming. At first they told the veterans and their families to hush, then repeatedly pushed them back and finally told them to hurry up. As the veterans were laying roses on the graves of their fallen comrades, a production employee walked through the middle of the ceremony telling them to hurry up.

Perhaps the ultimate insult came at the end, when someone with the veterans group asked if one of the cast members of Hawaii Five-O could come over and say hello to the group. The production crew refused.

These World War II vets are a tough bunch. They went through the first depression and then the Second World War. I can guarantee you they did not let this incident ruin their trip, though some of their family members might feel differently.

[snip]

CBS has issued a carefully nuanced statement claiming they would look into the incident and throwing out some boilerplate language about how they respect the veterans of World War II.

Stefffan Tubbs, who was there, provides more details about the Hollywood thought process on display:

I decided to take a closer look at the production area from the public thoroughfare and walked closer to see catering trucks, grips, associate directors, production assistants, lighting workers, countless minions and the lead director – a Hollywood-looking middle-aged man wearing a black “AD/HD” t-shirt, a play off the rock band “AC/DC.” I stopped well behind the cameras and out of view when a local production assistant politely told me to keep moving. I was not happy and told her we had WWII vets who would likely be in the area. I was told, “Sorry, sir. We rented this part of the cemetery today.” My blood started to boil, but I remained calm and moved on. As I stood behind the tent, the director yelled at everyone to: “Get out of the line of sight! If you don’t belong here, clear out!”

I made sure to go where I was basically invisible, 40 yards from the nearest camera when the director heatedly walked to me. He was not happy.

“Can you please move?” he said sternly.

“OK,” I said. “Where would you like me to go? I have Pearl survivors who are here visiting their fallen comrades at a public cemetery.”

He couldn’t have cared less and told me that if we stood behind a tent, that would be fine. He walked away completely frustrated and yelled at a local assistant: “I am doing YOUR job! You wanna come back here again? Do your job!” I felt sorry for her. It wasn’t her fault a group of vets actually came back for a realreason to this cemetery. Having been around a few movie sets, I knew this was how they were especially if the scene was behind schedule, etc. Keep in mind at this point I was alone. It wasn’t as if our entire entourage was milling about. There was only one veteran anywhere near me and was walking toward me from up the road.

Walter Maciejowski, 90, from Massachusetts soon caught up and I quickly tried to run interference so he wouldn’t get yelled at as he stood there in his cream-colored Pearl Harbor Survivors cap. Walter was clueless and was just amazed at the technology. He whispered in my ear as the scene was about to begin 75 yards away. We both stood exactly where the director had told me to stand.

[snip]

I told Walter we had to go, and we started to walk away as lead actor Alex O’Laughlin and Terry O’Quinn from Lost did their scene. As we moved out, yet another woman came up to us and with a fake smile told us Walter couldn’t take any pictures.

“Our actors get very skiddish [sic] around still cameras, sir.”

“Funny, and yet they act in front of them,” I said, ticked off because we were already leaving.

I wish he hadn’t done it, but Walter asked if they by chance had a hat for him. To his face, she said, “I doubt it but I will try.” She never did.

You can read the rest of this eyewitness narrative here.

This whole thing falls into the category of I see it, but I don’t believe it.  It’s impossible for me to understand the mindset of louts who are either so callously self-involved or so Progressively propagandized (or both) that they are unable to support old men on a last pilgrimage to a defining moment in their youth — a defining moment, moreover, that was not only one of the more savage acts in a savage century, but that also paved the way for a freedom that blessed Europe (until it squandered that gift) and was the making of a very successful modern Japan (which then decided to stop having babies).

Pearl Harbor Survivor David Shoup at the 70th anniversary commemoration at Pearl Harbor (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Logico)

UPDATE: In the first comment to this post, Don Quixote points out that Hawaii Five-O is fairly military-friendly in content, something that I respect and appreciate.  I can’t figure out if that fact makes the cast’s and crew’s behavior at Pearl Harbor more or less unpleasant.  It’s like discovering the worms under a rock (with all due respect to bookworms, of course).  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Back in Hollywood’s golden days, the studios employed vast numbers of publicity people to make sure that people didn’t learn that the stars of wholesome, family friendly movies lived somewhat debauched lifestyles.

UPDATE II:  JJ offered so much good information, I’m copying his comment here:

A little information from the world of TV.  Whether it mitigates or not is up to you, but here’s what happened.

1) Whoever – in Hawaii – it is who schedules events at the cemetery is a retard.  (Dear Editor: I don’t actually care about the political incorrectness of using that word, it’s apposite, it stays.)  Or, perhaps it was a screw-up on the part of the scheduler for the vets.  Either way, some dingbat somewhere dropped the ball and allowed the two groups to be occupying the same space at the same time.  This unfortunate confluence was the fault of neither group – blame whoever has the appointment books.

2) CBS has no idea what the complaints they’re suddenly receiving are about, so idiot boilerplate is their best – maybe only – response.  They don’t actually have a production company in Hawaii – or much of anywhere else these days.  I would be astounded if it was an actual CBS production company.  The people who own, produce, and deliver that show to CBS for air do not work for CBS.  They are an outside, independent production company that exists as an entity for the purpose of making episodes of the show – most of them have never been within a thousand miles of Black Rock.  That production company hired that director – and everybody else on set – to make that episode.  The director is a production company employee – for that episode – and he may make all the episodes, (a probability rare to the point of vanishing), many of them, some, few – or this may be his only one.  He’s a jobber.  When you complain to CBS about him, they’re going to say, “huh?  Wha…?”  They didn’t hire him, probably don’t know him, may never have heard of him, and he ain’t their problem.  (The network doesn’t know or care about the labor, they only want to see the baby – in time for it to go out when it’s scheduled to.)

3) The production company got seriously shafted on the cost to film in the cemetery that day.  How do I know?  All production companies always get shafted on fees for the use of locations, because everybody in the world – including people who should know better – begin having visions beyond the dreams of avarice when they see Hollywood coming.  And the biggest shafting is the make-it-up-on-the-spot insurance premiums for filming on location.  If there’s a blade of grass out of place, or a broken twig on a tree after the production company wraps and leaves, you cannot fathom the megillah this is.  (Which is why they film in studios and on lots, and in Canada.  It’s why studios and back lots came into being in the first place: to avoid the never-ending problems of locations.)  The PAs all knew that if anything remotely definable as “damage” happened to any part of the cemetery or its grounds – even if committed by a Pearl Harbor veteran or somebody else – they would be the ones turning on a spit over a hot fire,

None of which excuses the shitty attitude of these overpaid, well-tanned, tower of ignorance trolls, but it may make it a bit – a microscopic bit – understandable, or maybe explicable.  The fact is most of them, being products of American education, never heard of Pearl Harbor.  Factor in the self-centeredness engendered by hanging around Hollywood, and you have a group that’s only rarely in touch with where they are.  The director, probably the senior guy present (at least on the on-the-spot management ladder, could have been gracious and understanding.  The actors as well – neither of whom I know – could also have brought matters to a halt for a respectful pause.  (Tom Selleck or John Hillerman, speaking of people who filmed in Hawaii for CBS, would have.  [Selleck would have stopped the scene, and worked out a way to get the Pearl Harbor vets into it, as objects of deep respect and honor.]   I wouldn’t know either of the two clowns mentioned above if I fell over them.

Hat tip:  America’s First Sergeant

Spending Pearl Harbor Day in the company of sailors

Last night, I went to the Annual Pearl Harbor Memorial Dinner hosted by the San Francisco Commandery of the Naval Order of the United States.  It was, as I knew it would be, a significantly smaller event than the annual Midway Commemoration dinner.  That’s reasonable, because the latter celebrates a stunning victory, while the former is a solemn commemoration of the loss of too many innocent lives.  While it may have been small, though, it was a lovely evening.  I likened the Pearl Harbor commemoration to a perfect little pearl, while the Midway evening is a big, glowing diamond.

Three Pearl Harbor survivors attending the evening.  That is an impressive number when you think that the youngest of them was 87.  Of the three, two spoke, although one spoke only to introduce the other.  I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t have their names.  I didn’t think to write them down, and my memory is so bad, I’ve already forgotten.  Still, even though I can’t name these men, I can describe them.  The first of the two speakers couldn’t have been a day younger than 87, but he looked around 75.  More than that, he had a joie de vivre, a buoyancy, that is hard to describe.   He radiated light and life.  Whatever his secret is, I want to know it.  I suspect, from the great pleasure he showed in introducing his friend, that one of the secrets is that he likes people.

The second Pearl Harbor survivor, the one who actually gave a little talk about that day, was not in the line of fire on December 7, 1941, but nevertheless had an utterly horrible experience both on December 7 and in the days after.  When the attack happened, he was a 17-year-old Navy medic.  He spent the first day tending hundreds of wounded, more than half of whom died from burns.  The second day, he was moved to the morgue and tasked with identifying the corpses, a nightmarish experience that involved injecting saline into burned fingers in an effort to recover fingerprints, or slicing away at the dead men’s cheeks, in order to reveal teeth for dental record matches.

The burden of his service in those days still weighs heavily on the speaker.  He said, and I believe him wholeheartedly, that the things he saw that day are things that he will never forget.  He saw some more unforgettable sights during the war.  He continued to serve after Pearl Harbor, and ended up getting seriously wounded while performing as a medic at Guadalcanal.  It is a testament to his strength, mental and physical, that he stood before us yesterday and spoke so movingly about the events from seventy years ago.

The main speaker was Rear Admiral Tom Brown III (Ret.).  Adm. Brown has an impressive resume:  nearly 5,000 flight hours, 1,017 carrier arrested landings and, during three deployments in Vietnam, 343 combat missions. But wait!  There’s more!

His decorations include the Silver Star, Defense Superior Service Medal, five Legions of Merit (one with Combat “V”), four Distinguished Flying Crosses, 36 Air Medals, and the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V”.  [From the evening's program.]

Not a bad record for a 7th grade math teacher!  Yes, after the war, he taught 7th grade math, which he jokingly refers to as one of the hardest jobs he had.  I wonder if his students appreciated the caliber of man who stood before him.

Adm. Brown’s speech focused on just a few of the reasons the Navy got caught flat-footed at Pearl Harbor.  His conclusions did not reflect well on civilian leadership in Washington, D.C. at the beginning of the 1940s.  I hope I’m summarizing Adm. Brown correctly when I say that the three points he made during his speech were as follows:  (1) The military knew something was coming from Japan, and tried its darndest to arouse interest in Washington, D.C.  The capitol, however, had an isolationist Congress that was resolutely impervious to the threat from Japan and it refused to provide Pearl Harbor with the resources it needed.  (2)  Washington, D.C., had access to pivotal communications about Japanese plans and failed to make them available to the Pearl Harbor command.  I knew this, already, but it shocks me all over again every time I hear it.  (3) The Japanese, despite the superficial success of their attack, made five fatal errors.

Because I have a pathetic memory, sitting here today, I can only remember three Japanese errors, instead of five, but I’ll pass those three along to you anyway:

  1. Attacking showy targets, when they should have attacked the oil storage or other infrastructure;
  2. Destroying only three ships, since the rest of the ships at Pearl Harbor were repaired (with some fighting at Midway); and
  3. Destroying old weapons, which catapulted the U.S. into fighting a war with modern weapons, rather than decrepit WWI remnants.

As for the other two mistakes, if I remember them, I’ll pass them on to you.

I’ll add one mistake that Adm. Brown didn’t mention, which is underestimating the American people in the middle of the 20th century.  The isolationism that characterized D.C. worked only because the world was so far away.  When Japan brought the world to America’s doorstep, her isolationism ended with a roar.

The evening was — as these NOUS evenings always are — moving and enjoyable.  If you live in a community with a NOUS Commandery, you might want to get to know that organization.

My mother’s war, courtesy of Pearl Harbor

My mother’s heading to the hospital again today.  She’s not aging gracefully, in large part because of the damage done to her body and soul during WWII.  I thought that this would be a good day for me to reprint what I once wrote about her war (originally part of this longer post about Japanese atrocities).

In 1941, my mother was a 17 year old Dutch girl living in Java. Life was good then. 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.)

After this separation, 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. As the war ground on, 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.

Remembering a day that will live in infamy *UPDATED*

One of the most emotionally charged experiences I’ve ever had was standing in the Hawaiian sunlight, watching drop after drop of oil rise up from the USS Arizona. The past was not past — it was there, in front of me, in the water, still moving.

Let’s remember today those who died on December 7, 1941, and those who lived and fought and bled and died in the ensuing years, all to make the world safe for democracy.

UPDATE:  Read about the last survivor Pearl Harbor Medal of Honor winner here.  I was about to say that they don’t make them like that anymore, and then I stopped myself.  They do, and they’re still in America’s military.  Fortunately, not all are called to serve under such overwhelming circumstances.

UPDATE II:  No surprise that some of my favorite bloggers haven’t forgotten what today is either:

Kim Priestap

Don Surber

Terresa at The Noisy Room

Radio Patriot