Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I Came To A Dark Valley

I should not be shocked at this story but I am. As a student of World War II and the Pacific Theatre I have already learned of Japanese atrocities. Unit 731 in China has been written about extensively. The murder, by the Japanese navy, of the crew of USS Edsall in 1942. After the resounding defeat of the First Air Fleet at Midway, the Imperial Japanese Navy killed and tossed overboard a captured aviator from USS Yorktown. The massacre of US civilian contractors on Wake Island was another atrocity. The herding of American prisoners into a bunker on Palawan and the bunker then being set afire was yet another.

Iris Cheng, in her book The Rape of Nanking, talks about the brutality Japanese soldiers were subjected to by their superiors and how this was transferred to those under these soldiers’ control – prisoners and civilian captives. She calls this “the transfer of oppression.”

“Using Orwellian language, the routine striking of Japanese soldiers , or bentatsu, was termed an ‘act of love’ by the officers, and the violent discipline of the Japanese navy through tekken seisai, or ‘the iron fist,’ was often called ai-no-muchi, or ‘whip of love.’ Pg 217”

In Prisoners of the Japanese we read “It was the same in the Philippines; it was eerie to set down at the Manila international airport and know it was on top of Nichols Field, where one of the unluckiest details on earth had to slave for The White Angel, a homicidal dandy who killed with his own hands. Pg 391”

The first real evidence of what the Japanese were doing to Allied military prisoners came when American submarines attacked a Japanese convoy, sinking several ships. These submarines then swept through the wreckage and found to their horror amidst the debris Allied POWs who were being transported to Japan to be used as slave labor. The rescue submarines were Barb, Sealion, Pampanito, and Queenfish. It was from the interrogation of these prisoners, both British and Australian, that the true story emerged. As in Return from the River Kwai relates, “Tufnell compiled a very long classified report to the Admiralty in London and to the Royal Australian Navy in Australia. His report landed like a bomb in both countries. … Civilian and military authorities who were cleared to read the report were outraged. Pg 278-279”

In Thailand where the mythical Bridge on the River Kwai exists the story is much the same, this time civilian locals impressed into the building project. Again from Prisoners of the Japanese we find this. “In 1990, a Thai who lived at Kanchanaburi started having bad dreams. He saw bodies in mass graves, and ghosts haunted him, begging him to help them. Near the railroad track bodies were found, close to the surface, hundreds of skeletons, some tied with wire, some in contortions as if they had been buried alive, one crouching with hands stretched up, trying to climb out. They were romusha. Pg 393”

So it takes a bit to shock me when reading about Japanese atrocities in World War II. Mindanao in the southern Philippines was a hotbed of guerilla activity against the Japanese. The man leading it was Army Lt. Col. Wendell Fertig who had refused to surrender when Gen. Wainwright formally surrendered all American and Filipino forces to the Japanese in early 1942. For the next three years Fertig’s forces harried and fought the Japanese. It is against this backdrop this story must be set. All of Mindanao was against the Japanese and Japanese actions further re-enforced that hostility, like the using of prisoners to test the quality of swords. Many of the samurai swords taken from bodies of dead Japanese officers in WWII were mass-produced ones, it was meant to be a symbol they were still following the samurai way of Bushido, hence Makino’s comment about them being rusty and not being able to cut. Which for a samurai should have been deeply disturbing since the katana represents the soul of a samurai. I am appalled at how Makino participated in the vivisection of civilian prisoners to learn about anatomy in case the doctor was killed. But when we look at the culture Makino was raised in and indoctrinated in, Makino became yet another instrument of torture and evil. While I am appalled at his actions, I am also heartened by what Makino did after the war. His attempts to make amends, to make restitution for all the evil he did. Now that he has admitted to these crimes and taken responsibility, it is like a weight has been lifted from his shoulders and now he must tell the world of what he did. Should he now be punished for events that occurred 60 years ago? At this point would it serve justice or vengeance to charge him? All I am sure of is this, the world needs to be reminded constantly of what evil men can do and why we should strive with all our might to prevent those crimes from happening again.


J_G said...

should he now be punished for events that occurred 60 years ago? At this point would it serve justice or vengeance to charge him?

My answer to this question is yes, this man should be charged and he should be tried by those that served at that time in the Pacific theater. The war crimes of the Japanese have to be brought to light. I’m aware of many of those deeds that have been publicized but there is always room to bring others to justice. I am a Navy veteran and so was my Father. My Father served aboard an amphibious assault ship and worked as a motorman on the landing boats. They landed troops at Guadalcanal and Leyte during the retake of the Philippines and his ship was hit by the “Devine wind” on two separate occasions. Even though the Japanese have turned from the aggression under arms there are individuals that must be brought to justice and be judged by those that suffered under Rising Sun.

Anna said...

Jennifer, thanks for the post. I deliberately posed that question for reaction. Makino must face the consequences of his actions even though he has tried to make amends already. Japan will probably not bring any charges because they still are trying to deny the horrors. The Hague is useless, the Yugoslavian war criminals are living a nice life while awaiting trial. And since it happened in the Phillipines, they should be the ones asking for Makino to be extradited to face these charges.

J_G said...

And since it happened in the Phillipines, they should be the ones asking for Makino to be extradited to face these charges.

I can't see the Philippines doing anything about anything. Ever since we closed Subic Bay and Clark AFB no one knows who is in charge. The Philippines are total chaos. The American, British and Dutch prisoners have standing but they are disappearing day by day. They may never be able to make Makino stand for before a jury and face justice.

After we landed our troops and pushed the Japs out of Leyte and they started bringing renforcements in. My Dad talked with some of the sailors that help evacuate some of the survivors of a liberated prison camp that held some of the survivors of the Bataan death march. Dad said he could see the anger and heartache that was in those men's eyes. They wanted their revenge for seeing what they saw. That was something for my Dad to say because he was a tough old bird that rarely expressed emotions.

I heard the stories about the swords and my Dad wouldn't have anything to do with them. Somehow though he did get an Arisaka 99 w/Chrysanthemum stamp on the reciever. I remember it well because he kept it in a closet next to my bedroom when I was growing up and it was partially responsible for my intense interest in firearms. Dad traded it though when I was about 14 or 15.

Before I lost my blog to blogger beta I did a post on the Rape of Nanking complete wiht bayonet practice on live Chinese prisoners because I was trying to demonstrate to a liberal apologist college professor the need for the US to finally drop the A-Bomb on Japan to end the war. I demostrated this example of brutality and fanatsism that was the Imperial Japanese Army and they would not surrender but fight to the last man and child. He still had no understanding after all I had demostrated but that is todays liberal mindset.

Anna said...

I know what you mean about the Phillipines, its pretty tenuous there. About 5 years ago, South Korea gave them F-5s because the Phillipines could not afford new aircraft. That is how far they had fallen.

Your story of the American prisoners reminds me of another story of those British POWs rescued by the US subs. When they reached the States they found out some Japanese POWs were sharing the post with them. The Americans had to use bayonets or there would have been fewer Japanese POWs.

Wow, an Arisaka with the 16 petal Chrysanthemum is pretty rare. If it was early war would be pretty valuable but I doubt very much you would ever sell it. Historical sidenote for those wondering why we are gushing over a stupid flower, once the Emperor ordered the surrender of the Japanese military forces all Arisakas were overstamped destroying the Chrysanthemum since that flower was the official symbol of Emperor Hirohito's reign.

Then there were the two Lieutenants who went on a katata weilding frenzy to see who could kill the most Chinese prisoners that happened at Nanking. Some will refuse to acknowledge such evil darkness can lurk in the human soul, even when the evidence is found in 300,000+ bodies in three months at Nanking. Just means we got to protect them from themselves.

Jim Nix said...

Where did you get your information about the USS Edsall? Most of the crew was left adrift in the Indian Ocean. Only eleven prisoners were taken. They were well treated by the Japanese Navy or at least by the crew of the "Chikuma" for two weeks while enroute to Kendarii. We are still digging into why they were executed and pretty much know it was for propaganda reasons to protect the reputation of the Imperial Japanese Navy. We know who ordered it and are looking for more info.

A really painful subject, this, I suspect that when we start holding more leaders, presidents, kings, generals etc. responsible for their actions we may stop seeing so much tragedy.

My grandfather commanded the Edsall in her last fight and according to the Assistant Navigator of the Chikuma he gave the order to abandon ship then returned to the bridge of the ship and in an age old Naval tradition went down with the ship.

We don't hold the Japanese responsible for his death, we hold that blundering idiot McArthur responsible. More to come in a soon to be published work by Don Kehn.


Jim Nix

Anna said...

Jim Nix, thank you for the update. I did not know that USS Edsall had faced off against Nagumo's First Air Fleet.

My information had come from Roscoe's Tin Cans which refers to the 1952 discovery of film shot by the Japanese cruiser Ashigara of USS Edsall's last moments. And the discovery on a remote island the bodies of five beheaded sailors.

I just pulled out Fuchida/Okumiyas book Midway that refers to Hiryu and Soryu planes using Kendari to attack an Allied force of cruisers and destroyers on 4 Feb 1942. But no reference to an encounter with USS Edsall.

Sounds like Kehn's book will be a blockbuster. What will the title be and publishing date?