Thursday, July 05, 2012

Doolittle Raid

We went to an air show at Pease.  I had never been to one and found it moderately interesting.  I did learn something new about the Doolittle Raid which I thought I would pass on.

The Japanese have been a civilised people – they have a low crime rate now, they have a great sense of civic responsibility and all that.  So I was mostly unsurpised to read about their response to the attack, specifically designed to decrease their morale and increase ours.  They captured some of the crew members when they went down, and put them on trial for war crimes.  That’s a stretch, of course, to call regular acts of war a war crime, but the accusation was that our guys had strafed some civilians.  They convicted and executed three of the eight, gave life imprisonment to the others.  Heck, they even put some of their own officers on trial for not treating our prisoners well enough, and convicted them.  So, not quite top shelf treatment and response, but bad things happen in war, and the US has not been above trumping things up and skirting the edges ourselves at time.  So all the same, then.

One more thing: the Japanese also executed 250,000 Chinese people for assisting us by allowing the planes to land there.

Can we please remember stuff like that whenever we are getting all worked up about how awful the US is and how far beneath the standards of decent individuals we supposedly are?  Because teensy details like this seem to be left out of the discussion whenever we are discussing colonialism, imperialism, and our general bullying attitude in the world.  Compared to what? Should be the next thought, you see.


Sam L. said...

Minot details. Hardly worth mentioning. So, let's not. Saves ink.

Sam L. said...

Minor, dang it, minor.

Minot details are something completely different. My bad finger.

Why not Minot? Freezin's the reason.

David Foster said...

Check out the books on WWII in the children's section of your local chain bookstore. (You can probably assume that these correspond pretty well to required reading for school.) You'll find a focus on 2 things:

--the internment of the Nisei

European-war coverage is also pretty lame, but it least it includes some major battles (mainly D-Day) and quite a lot on the Holocaust.

There's also a lot on the Home Front and especially Rosie the Riveter.

David Foster said...

I meant to say "the books on WWII dealing with the Pacific Theater"

Gringo said...

According to Wiki, the Japanese killed 10-20 million Chinese civilians from 1930-1945. With ~250,000 killed in retaliation for the Doolittle raid, and ~250,000 killed in the Nanking massacre, the 10-20 million figure becomes very plausible.

Reminds me of the Everett Dirksen quote: "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."

From Louise Steinman's book, Souvenir: A Daughter Discusses her Father’s War , comes an appropriate passage.

“During my visit to Japan, I met Japanese who (unlike Soji) had lived through the war years. They shocked me when they offered me their opinion that the atomic bomb had been necessary to end the war, that the military government would have urged them to mass suicide if the conflagration of Hiroshima hadn’t happened.”

Doesn't exactly generate American guilt over what we did in WW2. Which is why it is not to be found in children's books.

Texan99 said...

Maybe because the U.S. hasn't been in a war since WWII that made the U.S. population feel genuinely at risk, we seem to have gotten less and less serious about what it means to wage war: what we're trying to prevent or accomplish, and what we're willing to do about it. The public treats it more like a game now, or like English bobbies with nightsticks instead of guns, imposing order without permanent injury to any rehabilitatable criminals.

It's dangerous, because the part of us that's willing to fight to the death is just hidden away, unregulated. If the time comes when we face an existential threat, we'll almost have forgotten any tools we used to have for drawing the line on our own behavior.

colagirl said...

There's a reason why my Taiwanese roommate in college refered to WWII as the Anti-Japanese War.

The stuff I've read about Japanese actions in China--"nightmarish" doesn't even begin to describe it.

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Anonymous said...

The Axis Powers in WWII? You're setting the bar for acceptable behavior sooo terribly high.

Declare our emperor a God. Reenact the Bataan Death March and the Rape of Nanking? Hell, Imperial Japan did it and they were 'civilized'. Remind me why I read this blog again.