Unbroken

It’s been 73 years since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and it’s clear that the world still doesn’t understand the Japanese.

As a marine (no longer on active duty), and as a civilian, I have spent considerable time living in Japan (Tokyo) and working with the Japanese and other Asian cultures (Korean, Chinese, Okinawan, Filipino). In the course of my travels, I have done a fair amount of study, too. On the subject of the behavior of the Japanese military during World War II (actually going back to the Russo-Japanese War which started in 1904), the documentation is extensive, extremely descriptive, damning and undeniable.

Of course the Japanese Army treatment of Korean “comfort women,” and the infamous “rape” of Nanking leap to mind. That is, the treatment of civilians.

Having had several members of my family (mother, father, uncles on both sides) serve in World War II, and a familiarity with Hitler’s conduct thru books and documentary videos, it is surprising that statistics show that approximately 40% of American POWs died at the hands of the Japanese, but only about 1% died at the hands of the Germans. I just can’t wrap my head around the German brutality of the (“non-German”) civilian population, but the relatively humane treatment of enemy military personnel; and the Japanese brutality of everyone not Japanese. Apparently, the German warrior ethos included respect for fellow warriors; whereas the Japanese respected absolutely no one who is a “gaijin.” (Actually, being a Nihon-jin in Japan from about 1920 on was no picnic, either.)

Yes, the Japanese have erected several monuments in recognition of the war: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park (Mabuni/Hill 89), for example (both of which I have visited).

But, while Japan hides in denial, others have admitted to horrors, and sought forgiveness and have moved out of their past (e.g., South Africa Truth Reconciliation Commission – TRC). In Hungary, the Budapest House of Terror has been converted into a museum to remember the victims and present factual information. The fine monuments/museums to the Holocaust need no further comment.

It is against the backdrop of George Santayana’s “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” that I fear for the Japanese. I don’t think anyone would accuse the Millennial Generation in any country of being particularly interested in anything before the cell phone and internet. But, if the older generations don’t make the information available, how can we correct their myopia?

Frankly, learning that Louis forgave those that “guarded” him while incarcerated in the prisoner-of-war camps, especially “The Bird,” shocked me. Not so much that he did (unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet the man); but because my reaction to his treatment was exactly the opposite. I understand why he did, and I applaud him for it. I pray I am never put in a similar situation; but hope I can remember him if I am. (Might be the only way I’m going to get past the Pearly Gates.)

Thanks to Louis for the life-lesson he has taught so many. Thanks to Laura for writing his story. And, thanks to Angelina for telling such a beautiful story about such a beautiful life.

It’s been 73 years since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and it’s clear that the Japanese still don’t understand the world.

references:

http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2014/12/26/japan-conservatives-protest-angelina-jolie-film/
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/12/23/japan-unbroken/20803301/

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/12/13/national/jolies-war-movie-unbroken-strikes-a-nerve-in-japan/#.VJ8pg8_HAQ
http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/index_e2.html
http://www.jahitchcock.com/mabuni.html
http://www.terrorhaza.hu/en/museum/first_page.html
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing Executioners
Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking
Nien Cheng, Life and Death in Shanghai

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