Commentary: A shameful misrepresentation! Apologize!

writer’s disgruntled attack on the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor memorializing the 2,400 men and women killed in the Japanese surprise attack on the U.S. Fleet is about what one can expect from revisionist historians: total ignorance of historical facts. He suggested that bad economic conditions in Japan provoked them to strike across the Pacific, hoping to destroy the U.S. Fleet at anchor to gain a military advantage and somehow this was the fault of the American “military-industrial complex.” Ridiculous! (as are Tome’s complaints about reminders to the public regarding civil behavior at the Memorial). 

The National Park Service’s reminders of civility are a result of the crass indifference displayed by much of the public while visiting the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, which is also the final resting place and mass grave of over 1000 American sailors and marines.

At the time of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan was ruled by a brutal military dictatorship with a feudal mindset. Japan had been subjected to severe economic and political sanctions for its outrageous criminal aggression in Asia against China and other areas under Japan’s military occupation and subjugation. Simultaneously, as Japan’s Imperial Navy approached Pearl Harbor, Japanese diplomats were in peace negotiations with the U.S. State Department, ostensibly to prevent the outbreak of a war which Japan had already plotted.

Japanese aggression did not start in 1941 but in 1931 with its illegal military conquest and occupation of Chinese territory in Manchuria, setting up the puppet state of “Manchukuo” to steal Chinese natural resources, especially iron ore. On July 7, 1937, the Japanese Army staged an incident at the Marco Polo Bridge, supposedly an attack on Japanese military forces and used that incident to declare war on all of China. Japanese military forces engaged in a campaign comparable to Genghis Khan (who slaughtered entire civilian populations) in the 14th century. In the city of Nanking, the Japanese 29th Division slaughtered 200,000 civilians and prisoners of war while engaging in mass rape of women and girls as young as five years old. Over 40,000 Chinese women were raped and butchered in an orgy of violence by Japanese troops. This was the “modus operandi” of Japan’s Imperial military throughout the war.

Also in 1937, in an unprovoked attack, Japanese aircraft bombed neutral American and British gunboats on the Yangtze River, killing dozens and sinking several vessels, including America’s U.S.S. Panay, yet America continued to seek peace through diplomacy.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 they also launched a major offensive throughout S.E. Asia, conquering U.S., British, French and Dutch territories, including oil-rich Indonesia. Women of all nations, including wives and daughters of POWs under Japanese subjugation were forced to “sexually service” Japanese soldiers in rape camps for months at a time. The Japanese also conducted medical experiments on Chinese civilians and Prisoners-of-War (POWs) of all nations, without anesthetic, inflicting horrible pain and suffering with indifference. Japan’s “Unit 731” used biological weapons against Chinese villages, killing over 200,000 civilians on the mainland. Japanese military culture was racist, believing that all non-Japanese peoples were inferior beings, thereby justifying the atrocities they committed. Throughout the war, Japan exhibited the most barbaric behavior possible right to the end, including burning-alive American POWs to prevent their liberation by advancing U.S. troops.

The reason Japan had been subjected to sanctions for which they attempted to negotiate an end were the aforementioned atrocities and military aggression in Asia. We cut off their oil supply and they only needed to withdraw from conquered territory and adhere to international norms of behavior to have sanctions lifted. Instead, Japan chose war, attacking American forces at Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines while engaging in peace negotiations in Washington.

Until the Pearl Harbor attack America was vehemently isolationist, demanding that American leaders keep us out of the war in Europe (in its third year) and negotiate peace with Japan. So strong was isolationist sentiment in America that the Selective Service (the draft) was preserved by just one vote in Congress in September, 1941. President Roosevelt had cautiously began rebuilding America’s military, since the WWI Armistice stripped our military to little more than a constabulary force of 250,000 men, without modern tanks or aircraft. The Army still used horses as late as 1939.

Fortunately, those corporations the writer villainized, especially in Britain, used technological ability to provide scientific advances such as the magnetron which led to the invention of radar, essential for Britain’s victory in the Battle of Britain against Hitler’s Nazis in Europe and much of our eventual success in the Pacific.

In the Pacific American forces were starved for resources and fought on a shoestring for two years until our industrial base provided sufficient resources for long-range offensive operations. We successfully broke Japan’s military codes, allowing us to ambush Japan’s Navy at Midway in June, 1942, sinking four of their aircraft carriers in a three-day battle. Afterwards began a long, bloody slog across the Pacific against an enemy that gave no quarter, fought to the death and violated every norm of the military “Laws of War.” Even the Nazis more closely adhered to international military law in treatment of prisoners and civilians than did Japan.

There are 242 names on the wall at the Atascadero Faces of Freedom Veterans Memorial at Atascadero Lake Park. Among those, filling two panels, are the names of 138 local men who gave their lives in WWII. After the irreverent opinion piece on Pearl Harbor, the writer owes an apology to every family with a name on those walls.


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