The Fall of Bataan

These brutal reprisals upon helpless victims evidence the shallow advance from savagery which the Japanese people have made. We serve notice upon the Japanese military and political leaders as well as the Japanese people that the future of the Japanese race itself, depends entirely and irrevocably upon their capacity to progress beyond their aboriginal barbaric instincts.

General George Marshall, Statement on Japanese atrocities, particularly the Bataan Death March (1944)

 

Eighty years ago American and Filipino troops, on starvation rations and wracked with malaria, had finished a heroic stand for months against the Japanese Imperial Army.

Believing themselves deserted by the US, the troops sang this bit of bitter doggerel:

We’re the battling bastards of Bataan,

No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam.

No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces,

No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces.

And nobody gives a damn.

General Douglas MacArthur, in command of all American and Filipino troops in the Philippines, continually pleaded with Washington for a relief force to Bataan.  Shamefully, some of the messages from Washington indicated that a relief force was being put together.   These were lies.   After Pearl Harbor the US simply lacked the naval assets to successfully reinforce Bataan.  Any attempt to do so would almost certainly have led to a military disaster for America.

On Corregidor, MacArthur exposed himself to frequent enemy bombing to the point of recklessness.  He visited his troops on Bataan only once, however, who gave him the lasting nickname of Dugout Doug.  Why?

The reason was not lack of physical courage but rather his inability to lie to his troops to their face.  Washington kept telling MacArthur that a relief force was on the way.  MacArthur relayed this news to his troops, but I doubt if he believed it in his heart.  A master strategist, MacArthur knew that neither the forces nor the logistics were there for a successful rescue of Bataan, and he could not bring himself to face his doomed men and lie about this to their faces.

When directly ordered by FDR to leave the Philippines, he came close to disobeying, something almost impossible to even contemplate for a career American officer, saying he would resign and join the troops on Bataan to fight as a volunteer.  He was convinced to obey only with great difficulty.  He refused to go out by submarine, taking a dangerous trip by a PT boat instead on March 11, 1942, to demonstrate that the Japanese blockade could be penetrated.  For the rest of the War his goal was to liberate the Philippines and to rescue the men who had fought under him on Bataan.

The men on Bataan fought on for another month after MacArthur left, until they could fight no more, lacking food, ammunition and medical supplies.  Twenty thousand of them paid with their lives for their gallant stand.  After their surrender they found that their ordeal had only begun. Awaiting them was the Bataan Death March, a 60 mile trek straight out of Dante’s inferno, organized by the Japanese Imperial Army after the fall of Bataan.  Given virtually no food and no water, subject to random beatings and casual murder by their guards, out of a force of 75,000 troops, some 5000-10000 Filipinos died and some 600-650 Americans.  Walt Straka, the last American survivor of the Death March passed away, fittingly enough, on July 4, 2021 at age 101.

 

 

Published in: on April 13, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Fall of Bataan  
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December 1, 1941: Hirohito Gives Approval for War Against US and Great Britain

 

In the wake of World War II a useful fiction was promulgated by the Japanese government, with the active connivance of the US Occupation under General Douglas MacArthur, that Hirohito had been anti-war and helpless to stop the militarists who controlled Japan.  It is astounding how many people, against all historical evidence, bought into this rubbish, and still buy into it.  Seventy-six years ago Hirohito gave his approval for war against the US and the British Empire, not grudgingly, but as part of a very long term plan to make Japan the undisputed dominant power in East Asia.

MacArthur had little doubt of Hirohito’s war guilt, but he also had little doubt that Hirohito’s cooperation was necessary for a peaceful occupation of Japan.  Hirohito thus served as a figure head while MacArthur, the Yankee Shogun, remade Japan.  This picture tells us all we need to know about the relationship between the two men:

Macarthur_hirohito

MacArthur encountered considerable resistance to his decision not to prosecute Hirohito.  Belief in Hirohito’s war guilt was an article of faith in America and in the other nations that had fought Japan.  MacArthur played along with the fable promoted by the Japanese government that Hirohito had always been a man of peace, who was powerless in the face of the militarists who ran Japan.  This myth, well bald-faced lie would be a more accurate description, was surprisingly successful.  The first major scholarly attack on it was by David Bergamini’s 1200 page Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy, published in 1971.  Read a review of it here. (more…)

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September 14, 1945: Statement by MacArthur

Boss

 

The task confronting MacArthur seventy-six years ago in Japan was absolutely staggering.  As Supreme Commander Allied Powers, he found himself in charge of a devastated Japan. Most of its major cities were collections of rubble.   The Japanese rail system was in shambles from Allied bombing.   Most of the Japanese merchant fleet was now sailing the bottom of the Pacific. An immense famine was manifestly waiting in the wings.  The Japanese shattered medical system was unable to cope with rampant disease.   Finally, the Japanese economy was at a virtual standstill, awaiting the repatriation of millions of Japanese troops stationed overseas to add to the ranks of the unemployed.  To top this off, MacArthur also had to fend off loud demands from politicians and ordinary American citizens that Japan be punished, anger at the unprovoked war still being raw in the United States.  MacArthur, ever sensitive to public opinion, on September 14, 1945 released a statement to give some inkling to his fellow countrymen of the situation in Japan:

 

STATEMENT BY GENERAL MACARTHUR ON THE OCCUPATION OF JAPAN

September 14, 1945

New York Times.

I have noticed some impatience in the press, based upon the assumption of a so-called soft policy in Japan. This can only arise from an erroneous concept of what is occurring.

The first phase of the occupation must of necessity be based on military considerations which involved the deployment forward of our troops and the disarming and demobilization of the enemy. This is coupled with the paramount consideration of withdrawing our former prisoners of war and war internees from internment camps and evacuating them to their homes.

Safety and security require that all of the steps shall proceed with precision and completeness, lest calamity may be precipitated.

The military phase is proceeding in an entirely satisfactory way.

Over half of the enemy’s force in Japan proper is now demobilized and the entire program will be practically complete by the middle of October. During this interval of time, safety and complete security must be assured.

When the first phase is completed, other phases as provided in the surrender terms will infallibly follow. No one need have any doubt about the prompt, complete, entire fulfillment of the terms of surrender. The process, however, takes time. It is well understandable that in the face of atrocities committed by the enemy there should be impatience. This natural impulse, however, should be tempered by the fact that security and military expediency still require an exercise of some restraint. The surrender terms aren’t soft and they won’t be applied in kid-glove fashion.

Economically and industrially as well as militarily, Japan is completely exhausted and depleted. She is in a condition of utter collapse. Her governmental structure is controlled completely by occupation forces and is operating only to the extent necessary to insure such an orderly and controlled procedure as will prevent social chaos, disease and starvation. (more…)

Published in: on September 14, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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Hirohito: War Criminal

(Originally published at The American Catholic.  I assume that the History mavens of Almost Chosen People will find it interesting.)

A strange fascination for World War II in the Pacific overtakes many Catholic blogs in early August each year, so in line with that I throw out this question:  should Hirohito have been tried as a war criminal?  The video clip above is from the movie Emperor (2012) which depicts a fictional account of an American attempt to determine the extent of Hirohito’s involvement in the launching of Japan’s war of conquest which would claim over thirty million lives.

MacArthur had little doubt of Hirohito’s war guilt, but he also had little doubt that Hirohito’s cooperation was necessary for a peaceful occupation of Japan.  Hirohito thus served as a figure head while MacArthur, the Yankee Shogun, remade Japan.  This picture tells us all we need to know about the relationship between the two men:

Macarthur_hirohito

MacArthur encountered considerable resistance to his decision not to prosecute Hirohito.  Belief in Hirohito’s war guilt was an article of faith in America and in the other nations that had fought Japan.  MacArthur played along with the fable promoted by the Japanese government that Hirohito had always been a man of peace, who was powerless in the face of the militarists who ran Japan.  This myth, well bald-faced lie would be a more accurate description, was surprisingly successful.  The first major scholarly attack on it was by David Bergamini’s 1200 page Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy, published in 1971.  Read a review of it here. (more…)

MacArthur Takes Charge

 

MacArthur who was going to be responsible for ruling post war Japan during the occupation, lost no time in telling the Japanese precisely what they must do as he entered Japan to stage manage the formal surrender and take up his role as, in effect, the Yankee Shogun:

 

August 23, 1945

New York Times.

(1) Weather permitting, air-borne forces accompanying the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers will land at Atsugi Airdrome, in the vicinity of Tokyo, and naval and marine forces will land in the vicinity of Yokosuka Naval Base on Aug. 28, 1945. The instrument of surrender will be signed in the Tokyo area on Aug. 31.

(2) Requirements of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers presented to Japanese representatives at Manila, Philippine Islands, Aug. 20, 1945:

Requirements for entry of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers and his accompanying forces.

(1) The Japanese Imperial Government and Japanese Imperial General Headquarters will require execution of the following requirements effective 1800 hours [6 P.M.] Aug. 24, 1945:

(a) Japanese armed forces and civilian aviation authorities will insure that all Japanese military, naval and civil aircraft in Japan remain on ground, on water or aboard ship until further notification of disposition to be made of them.

(b) Japanese or Japanese-controlled military, naval or merchant vessels of all types in Japanese waters will be maintained without damage and will undertake no movement beyond voyages in progress pending instructions of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. Vessels at sea will immediately render harmless and throw overboard explosives of all types. Vessels not at sea will immediately remove explosives of all types to safe storage ashore.

(c) Merchant vessels under 100 gross tons engaged in civilian supply activities in Japanese waters are excepted from foregoing instructions. Vessels in Tokyo Bay engaged in evacuation of personnel from Yokosuka Naval Base are also excepted. (more…)

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Near Civil War in Wisconsin

Arthur_macarthur_sr

 

The election of 1856 was hotly contested throughout the North, with state after state switching from Democratic control to that of the new found Republican party.  The Democrat incumbent Governor of Wisconsin, William A Barstow was initially declared the winner of the contest by a mere 157 votes.  The Republicans cried fraud.  Democrats and Republicans formed rival militia units and began to converge on Madison, determined to fight if the “wrong” candidate were sworn in as governor.  Both Barstow, and his Republican rival, Coles Bashford, were sworn in as governor in dueling inauguration ceremonies on January 7, 1857.  Civil War seemed all but certain.

The Wisconsin Attorney General now filed a writ of Quo Warranto seeking the removal of Barstow from office on the grounds that he was fraudulently elected.  The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on the matter, and, sure enough, evidence was produced that Barstow owed his margin of victory from “returns” from non-existent precincts in the sparsely settled northern part of the young state.  Barstow, who had initially said that he would not give up the governorship alive, ultimately decided that public opinion was running against him and resigned on March 21, 1857.  His Lieutenant Governor now was sworn in and stated that he would be the Governor come what may.  On March 25, the Supreme Court ruled that Bashford had won the election with a vote total of 1009.  The Lieutenant Governor/Governor decamped from Madison with his supporters and Bashford was recognized by the Wisconsin legislature as Governor. (more…)

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In re Yamashita

 

As I said in the Manila Supreme Court that I have done with my all capacity, so I don’t ashame in front of the gods for what I have done when I have died. But if you say to me ‘you do not have any ability to command the Japanese Army’ I should say nothing for it, because it is my own nature. Now, our war criminal trial going under your kindness and right. I know that all your American and American military affairs always has tolerant and rightful judgment. When I have been investigated in Manila court I have had a good treatment, kindful attitude from your good natured officers who protected me all the time. I never forget for what they have done for me even if I had died. I don’t blame my executioner. I’ll pray the gods bless them. Please send my thankful word to Col. Clarke and Lt. Col. Feldhaus, Lt. Col. Hendrix, Maj. Guy, Capt. Sandburg, Capt. Reel, at Manila court, and Col. Arnard. I thank you.

Yamashita’ s last statement, through a translator, on the gallows.  February 23, 1946

General Tomoyuki Yamashita won early fame in World War II by leading the conquest of Malaya.  With inferior forces he decisively defeated the British and earned the popular title of Tiger of Malaya.  Troops under his command did engage in massacres and looting, but Yamashita, unlike most Japanese commanders, severely punished the troops involved, up to and including execution of the guilty.  His humane attitude towards prisoners placed him at odds with the Japanese government, and he spent much of the war in virtual exile in Manchukuo commanding the First Area Army.  Worsening Japanese military fortunes caused him to be placed in command of the Philippines, ten days before MacArthur and his army returned.  Yamashita conducted a skillful defense of the Philippines, marred by massive atrocities against civilians in Manila.  It must be noted that Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi commanded the forces defending in Manila.  Yamashita had ordered the evacuation of Manila which Iwabuchi disobeyed, just as his men disobeyed Yamashita’s standing orders against ill treatment of civilians.

Yamashita was put on trial for war crimes in Manila from October 29, 1945-December 7, 1945 by an American military tribunal.  The principal accusation was that he had failed to keep his troops in the Philippines under control and that as a result he was responsible for their crimes.  This was a novel theory of criminal responsibility either under American military or civilian jurisprudence as his military defense counsel pointed out time and again.  Yamashita was impressed by the dedication and zeal of his defense counsel and stated several times that his respect for the United States had been reaffirmed by their efforts.

Behind the scenes MacArthur expressed impatience at the length of the trial, clearly wanting a quick guilty verdict.  When Yamashita was found guilty and sentenced to death, he swiftly affirmed the verdict and sentence when it was appealed to him.  Yamashita’s defense team then appealed to the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, In re Yamashita, 327 US 1, rejected the petitions for habeas corpus and writ of prohibition ruling:

It thus appears that the order convening the commission was a lawful order, that the commission was lawfully constituted, that petitioner was charged with violation of the law of war, and that the commission had authority to proceed with the trial, and, in doing so, did not violate any military, statutory, or constitutional command. We have considered, but find it unnecessary to discuss, other contentions which we find to be without merit. We therefore conclude that the detention of petitioner for trial and his detention upon his conviction, subject to the prescribed review by the military authorities, were lawful, and that the petition for certiorari, and leave to file in this Court petitions for writs of habeas corpus and prohibition should be, and they are

Denied.

Justices Murphy and Rutledge wrote memorable dissents: (more…)

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September 2, 1945: Japan Surrenders

A fascinating newsreel of the surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.  Note that MacArthur hands pens after he signs to General Wainwright and General Percival.  Both men had been prisoners of Japan for most of the War, and their gaunt skeletal presence at the surrender ceremony was a tribute to the Allied POWs who had been treated with a brutality scarcely believable.  The Japanese representatives were impressed that they were not mocked but treated with courtesy, and they thought that perhaps this signaled that the occupation was not going to be as bad as they expected.  MacArthur’s closing remarks deserve to be remembered: (more…)

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January 1, 1946: Hirohito States That He Is Not a God

untitled

 

1946 began with a bang in Japan with the release of an Imperial Rescript by Hirohito in which he stated that he was not a god:

In greeting the New Year, We recall to mind that Emperor Meiji proclaims as the basis of our national policy, the Five Clauses of the Charter-Oath at the beginning of the Meiji Era. The Charter-Oath signified: 

  1. Deliberative assemblies shall be established and all measures of government decided in accordance with public opinion.
  2. All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the affairs of State.
  3. All common people, no less than the civil and military officials, shall be allowed to fulfill their just desires so that there may not be any discontent among them.
  4. All the absurd usages of old shall be broken through, and equality and justice to be found in the workings of nature shall serve as the basis of action.
  5. Wisdom and knowledge shall be sought throughout the world for the purpose of promoting the welfare of the Empire.

     The proclamation is evident in significance and high in its ideals. We wish to make this oath anew and restore the country to stand on its own feet again.

     We have to reaffirm the principles embodied in the Charter, and proceed unflinchingly towards elimination of misguided practices of the past, and keeping in close touch with the desires of the people, we will construct a new Japan through thoroughly being pacific, the officials and the people alike, attaining rich culture, and advancing the standard of living of the people.

     The devastation of war inflicted upon our cities, the miseries of the destitute, the stagnation of trade, shortage of food, and great and growing number of the unemployed are indeed heart-rending.

     But if the nation is firmly united in its resolve to face the present ordeal and to seek civilization consistently in peace, a bright future will undoubtedly be ours, not only for our country, but for the whole humanity.

     Love of the family and love of the country are especially strong in this country. With more of this devotion should we now work towards love of mankind.

     We feel deeply concerned to note that consequent upon the protracted war ending in our defeat, our people are liable to grow restless and to fall into the Slough of Despond.

     Radical tendencies in excess are gradually spreading and the sense of morality tends to lose its hold on the people, with the result that there are signs of confusion of thoughts.

     We stand by the people and We wish always to share with them in their moments of joys and sorrows.

The ties between Us and Our people have always stood mutual trust and affection. They do not depend upon mere legends and myths.

     They are not predicated on the false conception that the Emperor is divine, and that the Japanese people are superior to other races and fated to rule the world.

     Our Government should make every effort to alleviate their trials and tribulations.

     At the same time, We trust that the people will rise to the occasion, and will strive courageously for the solution of their outstanding difficulties, and for the development of industry and culture.

     Acting upon a consciousness of solidarity and of mutual aid and broad tolerance in their civic life, they will prove themselves worthy of their best tradition.

     By their supreme endeavours in that direction, they will be able to render their substantial contribution to the welfare and advancement of mankind.

     The resolution for the year should be made at the beginning of the year. We expect Our people to join Us in all exertions looking to accomplishment of this great undertaking with an indomitable spirit. (more…)

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October 4, 1945: Birth of Japanese Civil Liberties

M003-001l

 

General MacArthur wasted no time in letting the Japanese government know precisely the direction that the new Japan would take. By his directive of October 4, 1945,  (SCAPIN-93) he ordered the Japanese government to remove restrictions on the civil, political and religious rights of Japanese citizens.

Five days after the directive, the Japanese prime minister resigned, unwilling to carry out this sweeping change.  His successor released all political prisoners, repealed or abrogated fifteen laws restricting the rights of the Japanese people and began a far sweeping purge of government officials wedded to the old regime.  (more…)

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