Japan's Continuing Obsession with Militarism

News Abroad
tags: World War II, Japan, Pearl Harbor, militarism

Mr. Shenkman is the publisher of HNN. 


Editor: This piece was published in 2003.

Visiting the Japanese War Museum in Tokyo this spring brought to mind a line from Schopenhauer: "Clio, the muse of history, is as thoroughly infected with lies as a street whore with syphilis."

The museum's exhibits, which went on display last year, tell the story of the military history of modern Japan. I was looking forward to seeing how the museum handles the controversial subjects like the Rape of Nanking that Japanese textbooks infamously ignore. But I was unprepared for the wholesale fabrication of history I found on display in room after room. Every few minutes as I strolled along I let out an audible gasp as I came upon yet another example of bias, omission or outright fraud.

Entering the museum visitors step into a cavernous white room, two stories high. The impression of sterility is overwhelming. It didn't help that on the day I arrived there were only four visitors in the entire museum, counting myself. It was raining. Perhaps that accounted for the light turnout.

Strangely, the tour begins on the second floor, which one reaches by a long, broad staircase. The first room predictably features old military uniforms, some quite extravagant. One suit of armor includes tasseled ear flaps on a helmet with a flying V-shaped turned-up metal mustache that reaches a foot high. It looked to me like the antenna coming out of the head of My Favorite Martian.

In the second room the museum features a series of placards, printed in both Japanese and English, that purportedly take one through the milestones of Japan's military history. The placards are ubiquitous; this is a museum where one reads a lot of text.

One of the first placards I came across deals with Commodore Matthew C. Perry's often-celebrated visit. The placard relates that Perry first arrived in 1853 demanding that Japan sign a treaty of peace and friendship with the United States. Turned down, he returned a year later and finally succeeded in winning a treaty after threatening to turn his guns on his hosts. As an American I felt taken aback. I hadn't remembered Perry's visit quite the same way as it was presented. Sure enough when I got home and consulted my high school textbook--Thomas Bailey's old American Pageant--I found that Perry's visit is more gingerly dealt with in the United States (or was at least 30 years ago when I was in school). "By a judicious display of force and tact," Bailey wrote, "Perry persuaded the Japanese in 1854 to sign a memorable treaty." The treaty was memorable all right, but on their side of the Pacific it was remembered differently.

I moved on thinking that it is always refreshing to see how our actions are viewed by foreigners. As my trip to Japan took place just after the Iraq War, I couldn't help but think how a future "Iraq War Museum" would memorialize our invasion in 2003. If the Japanese, whom we consider friends, see our efforts at engagement so differently than we do, how might the Iraqis feel down the road? The Japanese exhibit suggested that even if the occupation of Iraq goes well, Iraqis will not regard us as liberators in quite the same way as the Bush administration hopes.

Continuing on my way I came upon a vast screen depicting film clips from the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05. Nothing unusual here, except that there was the strong aroma of triumphalism in the air. In American textbooks the war is remembered for the way it ended, in a peace treaty arranged by President Theodore Roosevelt, who won the Nobel Prize for his efforts. The Japanese regard the war as a proud success, though it actually marked the ominous beginning of a half century of regional aggression. This is only to be expected, but again it was a startlingly different view than the one to which I was accustomed. For a country believed to be at peace with its policy of pacifism, the Russo-Japanese exhibit gave me pause. Perhaps, I wondered, the Japanese are not quite as reconciled to the policy as we or even they assume. What pacifist would celebrate the beginning of a reign of aggression? (Memo to Paul Wolfowitz. Maybe you should think twice before encouraging the Japanese to beef up their military forces.)

The next few rooms left me aghast. Here were lies after lies. The Rape of Nanking, which left 300,000 Chinese dead and included the rape of 20,000 women, is depicted as a glorious battle in which heroic Japanese soldiers helped the suffering residents of Nanking "once again" "live their lives in peace."

The panels relating events leading up to Pearl Harbor indicate that Franklin Roosevelt was to blame for the outbreak of war. Predictably, the exhibit includes the complaint that the U.S. cut off exports to Japan in August 1941, strangling the Empire's economy. As one very large placard featuring a giant graph indicates, the Japanese relied on the United States for the import of 80 percent of its oil and depended even more on the U.S. for a long list of other important resources. But the museum fails to mention that FDR acted only after Japan invaded southern Indochina in July. In the view of the museum, the invasion of Indochina--of course the word "invasion" isn't used--was merely the "excuse" FDR employed when he decided to go to war, a decision he reportedly reached in the summer of '41, more than four months before Pearl Harbor.

From the warped Japanese viewpoint--or at least the warped viewpoint on display in the Japanese War Museum--FDR is to blame for the war, conveniently getting them off the hook for the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. In their view Pearl Harbor becomes a defensive move designed to save the Empire from a humanitarian catastrophe brought on by the dastardly-moves of the Americans. Why the Americans would want to make war on Japan is left out. Of course, the case can be made that FDR knew that by imposing an embargo he was likely triggering a series of events that would end in war. But that is different from blaming him for the war as the museum implies.

After I caught my breath--and by this time I was flabbergasted at what I was reading in a museum officially sponsored by the Japanese government--I realized that the exhibit never acknowledges Japan's history of 20th century aggression. Nowhere is there a hint that Japan started the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 in order to obtain control of Korea, which was annexed in 1910. Nor is there any acknowledgment that Japan invaded Manchuria, using the Mukden Incident in 1931--pardon me, but I can't resist--as an excuse for the attack. According to the official pamphlet distributed in conjunction with the exhibit, the invasion just sort of happened: "1931. September Bombing of Manchurian train near Lake Liutiao; Manchurian Incident erupts." And of course nowhere does the museum admit that Japan invaded China in 1937.

By now disillusioned, I wondered how Pearl Harbor would be handled. About Pearl Harbor surely the Japanese would have to be honest. But here again the museum embraces a strictly nationalistic perspective. Instead of admitting that Pearl Harbor was a mistake, the Japanese celebrate the attack as a great victory, bragging that their forces sank most of the United States Pacific fleet.

Americans to be sure do not acknowledge the complicated history that led up to war with Japan, barely acknowledging the psychological impact of FDR's ban on oil imports, which did indeed lead to the outbreak of war four months later. In the American view the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came out of the blue. It did not, though there were very good reasons for FDR to impose the ban on oil imports. Japan was an aggressor power and after Germany invaded the Soviet Union in the spring of 1941 Roosevelt rightly worried that Hitler would triumph over Stalin, allowing the Japanese to become the unchallenged masters of East Asia, which in turn would leave the United States alone to face fascist hegemons in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

But Americans get the basic story line correct. It was Japanese behavior over half a century that created the circumstances that made war likely. Americans did not want war and tried to avoid it until events forced their hand.

What is most scary about the museum is not the spirit of militarism that permeates the place, though the spirit is evident in every nook and cranny. It is rather the attempt to humanize Japan's soldiers, as if it were possible to distinguish what they did from who they were. In one corner there's a television screen celebrating the virtuousness of Kamikaze pilots. On another screen soldiers can be seen feeding down-and-out refugees; there's even a friendly dog prancing in the foreground. Down the hall is a room lined with wall-to-wall pictures of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Japanese soldiers, featured in a way as to leave the impression that they were heroes. Given the awful history which they helped make, the displays are disconcerting.

One cannot help but think how differently Germany has handled the history of its rampaging armies. The conclusion is inescapable that Germany has more successfully come to terms with its past than Japan. A museum such as this in Berlin is inconceivable.

It should be inconceivable in Tokyo, too.

As I neared the end of the exhibit I could not help returning once again to the question that crossed my mind at the beginning about the purported parallels between our occupation of Japan and our occupation of Iraq presently. We expect the Iraqis to embrace us and salute us and leave their future uncomplainingly up to Paul Bremer. But not even the Japanese, whose occupation was an unqualified success, are willing even now to admit that our occupation and suzerainty was as wholesome as we like to think.

On the single wall related to postwar occupation Douglas MacArthur receives no credit for remaking Japanese society, although it is acknowledged that during the occupation religious freedom was established and land ownership was reformed. Indeed, he is reprimanded for imposing censorship when criticisms of the United States began surfacing. Obviously, MacArthur means a lot more to the Japanese than the brief reference to his 7 year stewardship suggests. On another panel, indeed, there's a MacArthur quotation praising the Japanese people's spirit of self-sacrifice, an indication that he is held in high regard even if his contribution can only be alluded to in a virtual whisper. But that the Japanese continue to struggle with the legacy of occupation is evident. That they are is a warning from history that we should probably not expect the Iraqis to view our rule benignly even if we perform our duty well, which up to now we have not.

The occupation of Japan came to a conclusion in 1951. The museum says the occupation came to an end when the United States, mired in the Korean War, suddenly woke up to the importance of a sovereign Japan in maintaining Asian stability.

Cynical? So it is. On this side of the Pacific our good intentions are apparently less easy to glean.

And we think the Iraqi people are going to thank us for democracy?



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Maurice Edwin Higginbotham - 7/19/2004

My name is Maurice Higginbotham and live in Elkhart, Texas. I noticed the article "Japanese War Museum" was written by someone of the same name. Since Higginbotham is not a very common name, especially someone else with also the same first name is quite a coincidence. I find this article very interesting. I would like to exchange an e-mail or two with him, if possible. I love history myself. Thanks

Maurice Edwin Higginbotham - 6/21/2004

I regret that this response to John Greenland has been delayed so long. The reason is, that I just noticed it today. I am not a “neo-confederate” nor is my writing propaganda. It is the truth, which has not been taught in public schools since the war. The truth is in most libraries, but you have to search for it. It will not be taught in public schools.

A civil war is a conflict between two or more factions trying to take over a government. In 1861, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was no more interested in taking over Washington than George Washington was interested in taking over England in 1776. If Confederate President Jefferson Davis was a traitor, so also was George Washington.

Abraham Lincoln himself owned slaves, and kept them for over a year after he started the War Between the States. He finally freed his own slaves in August of 1862, after deciding to make the issue of slavery a union war policy. In President Lincoln’s first inaugural address, he said, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so." During the war, in an 1862 letter to the New York Daily Tribune editor Horace Greeley, Lincoln said, "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery."

If the war was fought over slavery, why were Union Generals Grant, Sherman, and others allowed to keep their slaves until the war was over, and why did Lincoln only attack the states that seceded from the Union, and not the other northern states that were also slave states? Confederate General Robert E. Lee didn’t believe in slavery and freed the slaves that he had inherited.

Shortly after Lincoln’s election, Congress passed the highly protectionist Morrill tariffs that is when the South seceded, setting up a new government. Their constitution was nearly identical to the U.S. Constitution except that it outlawed protectionist tariffs, business handouts and mandated a two-thirds majority vote for all spending measures.

Lincoln knew that it was important for his cause to provoke the South into firing the first shot at Fort Sumpter. Lincoln's supposed purpose was that only “provisions” were being sent to a hungry garrison. Along with the provisions went reinforcements consisting of warships, troops, guns and ammunition. It was a foregone conclusion that this would bring an attack on the Fort. Thus began a war that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of young men.The Confederacy fell into his trap.

The truth of the matter is, that from the time of the original 13 colonies, the United states itself was a loose confederation of states, or a confederacy in itself, until Lincoln and a faction of the federal government wanted more power granted to the federal government. This is the time our beloved Constitution began to unravel. This war for all practical purposes nullified the 10th Amendment to our Constitution. Today, the Constitution is almost completely ignored or the "Supreme Court" interprets and twists it’s true meaning to suit the agenda of the liberal faction of government.

In Springfield, Ill., on July 17, 1858, Lincoln said, "What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races." On Sept. 18, 1858, in Charleston, Ill., he said: "I will to the very last stand by the law of this state, which forbids the marrying of white people with Negroes."

Lincoln supported the Illinois Constitution, which prohibited the emigration of black people into the state, and he also supported the Illinois Black Codes, which deprived the small number of free blacks in the state any semblance of citizenship. He strongly supported the Fugitive Slave Act, which compelled Northern states to capture runaway slaves and return them to their owners. In his First Inaugural he pledged his support of a proposed constitutional amendment that had just passed the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives that would have prohibited the federal government from ever having the power "to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State." In his First Inaugural Lincoln advocated making this amendment "express and irrevocable."

Lincoln was also a lifelong advocate of "colonization" or shipping all black people to Africa, Central America, Haiti--anywhere but here. "I cannot make it better known than it already is," he stated in a Dec. 1, 1862, Message to Congress, "that I strongly favor colonization." To Lincoln, blacks could be "equal," but not in the United States.

Lincoln declared the Emancipation Proclamation as a wartime measure hoping to stir up a slave rebellion in the South (Northern slaves and those in Confederate territory under Union control were not freed),
Lincoln, "well into his presidency," wanted to solve the "Negro problem" by sending all blacks back to Africa.

European colonists brought slaves to the South prior to the existence of the United States. Slaves were brought there not because the Confederacy (which did not exist at that time) wished to mistreat blacks, but because there was no labor force to work the fertile agricultural lands.

The black slaves brought to North America were captured and sold into slavery by other blacks. Blacks operated the African slave market in Dahomey. The Southern states emerged from colonies in which slavery was an established institution. As economic historians have noted, slavery was on the way out as a growing population provided a free labor market.

It was not just Southern generals who owned slaves - northern generals owned them as well. A good example is General Ulysses Grant; his slaves had to wait until the Thirteenth Amendment for freedom. When asked why he didn't free his slaves earlier, Grant snidely relied, "Good help is so hard to come by these days." Grant served under the U.S. flag.

History tells us that Abe Lincoln and his federal army fought to free the slaves. If slaves were toiling for the federal government in December 1863, why didn't Lincoln and his army liberate them before they turned to the South?

The fact that Lincoln and the federal government used SLAVE LABOR to build the capitol building in Washington D.C. should be taught in every history class for the next 135 years to offset the lie that Lincoln was a foe
of slavery.

Who imported the slaves from Africa? Many Southerners owned slaves; so, our section deserves its share of the blame. But, how did the slaves get here? That’s a question, which, even though your histories are strangely silent, you would like to have answered.

British and Dutch vessels engaged in the slave trade, and by slave trade is meant bringing them over from Africa. But, there were also American ships in the ugly business; and, though the historians have carefully steered clear of the fact, practically every one of them was owned and operated by Northerners.

The Puritans of Massachusetts not only captured their Pequot Indian neighbors and sold them into slavery in the West Indies; they also carried on a large trade in Negroes imported from over seas.

In 1787, Rhode Island held first place in the traffic. Later, New York City forged to the front in the trade. Philadelphia soon found the slave-business attractive. The traders could buy a slave in Africa for a few gallons of rum and sell him in his country at a fantastic profit. So it is no mystery how they made fabulous fortunes.

And what did the Northern traders do with their slaves? Although many were sold and used in the north, many were sold to Southern Planters.

When the Constitution was adopted, it was fully understood that each state had the right to leave the Union.

JOHN TICKNOR - 6/13/2003


Josh Greenland - 6/13/2003

All the recent neo-Confederate propaganda notwithstanding, the US Civil War _was_ fought in part over slavery. That was a primary CONFEDERATE motivation. And wasn't the Confederate shelling of Ft. Sumter the first aggressive act in it? So much for the "War of Northern Aggression."

I'm told the US military's official name for it is The War of the Rebellion. That's a good name, but Civil War is as truly descriptive.

dan - 6/10/2003

MacArthur was not the superman his PR machine proposed (neither was Patton), but was far from incompetent.

Every war is fought for the first time - no plan survives first contact. The European ground war was a meatgrinder. From my comfy chair, I sure could have fought it better...


dan - 6/10/2003

None of the actions are strange in the light of the fact that most military, and thus Roosevelt, knew that war was imminent.

Nimitz turned down the CINCPAC job, knowing that the poor rube who took it would be a scapegoat. Or are you implying Nimitz was in on the scheme?

And exactly what do you think 3 U. S. carriers would have done, one at a time, against the largest armada in existence (no one had EVER tried putting 4 carriers in one group before - it was beyond the imagiation of all but the most creative mind)?

Tom Mathews - 6/10/2003

In today’s day and age, it is hard to believe that ethnic prejudice and bias exist in so many facets of our lives. Authors should avoid language that may intentionally or unintentionally reflect ethnic bias. Biased language involves problems of designation and problems of explicit or implicit evaluation.

In this article, the author repeatly demonstrates an ethnic bias. He seems to condemn all japanese like they are some homogenous mass.

1. This museum is probably owned by someone or some group. It is not the museum of the Japanese people. It does not represent the viewpoint of all people of Japanese heritage.
2. War crimes are committed by individuals and are generally individual acts. Of course, you could have a particular leader responsible for ordering crimes. But,everyone of Japanese heritage is not guilty of war crimes. Japan was not put on trial at the end of the war, individuals were.
3. What is exactly "Japanese behaviour"?
4. Just as not all of the citizens of the US support the present neocon war, not all of the citizens of Japan are proponents of war.

Suggest the author follow the following guidelines:

And the author should also read:
James Lowen's "Lies My Teacher Told Me."

David M. Golden - 6/9/2003

First, there has been a Japanese military museum hidden away in Kyoto for many years (I visited there in 1989). It's called the Arashiyama (or something similar) "art museum" but my tour book tipped me off that it really is a war museum. I was not disappointed. It has a miniature sub, only Zero (pieces of it) left in Japan, war movies, lots of stuff. It was very strange to see movies with everything flying in the "wrong direction."

To the main point, a most fascinating element of WW II military history is the American spin vis-a-vis dropping of the Atomic bomb. It wasn't until I visited the Nagasaki Peace Museum (1989) that I discovered that the US had dropped warning messages, via small capsules lowered by parachutes. The capsules contained a message written by American's leading atomic scientists warning the people of Japan that America had created a weapon of mass destruction and they should call on their government to end the war. I read it -- the message was in English -- and I recall seeing signatures of Einstein et al. My memory is fuzzy, but something like a dozen or two of these capsules were dropped. According to the exhibit, all were picked up by the internal police. I do not know if the Japanese government was fully aware of the contents, but the Japanese public certainly were not. More amazing to me, the US public and most educated people and possibly most historians are unaware that the US provided this warning. I have to wonder if our failure to educate the American public on this attempted warning is not in itself a major spin on America's military history.

Steve Seater - 6/9/2003

The Bush Administration has broken with the past and put the US on a permanent war footing. The invasion of Iraq was an immoral unjustified act and the Iraqi people, no matter how relieved they may be to have Saddam gone, know this in their hearts. And so does most of the rest of the world.

Under George Bush, the United States has:
1) Pursued an unprecedented peacetime military buildup, most of it unrelated to terrorism, and embraced new policies of preemptive war and regime change, which allow us to make war on any nation that we feel is not cooperating with us;
2) Refused to ratify the treaty banning all nuclear test explosions worldwide that even Russia has ratified;
3)Withrawn, without explanation, from negotiations to strengthen the 1972 treaty banning biological weapons, so that the only conclusion to be drawn from this action is that the US plans to build new bioweapons;
4) Abandonned the 1972 ABM Treaty and declared its intention to build and immediately deploy an unbelievebly costly $1.2 trillion ballistic missile shield which has so far not been tested in battle conditions and which many eminent scientists say is far from ready for deployment;
5) Declined to work with other nations to explore ways to strengthen the 1993 convention against chemical weapons;
6) Begun development of a new generation of nuclear weapons, including the nuclear-bunker buster, and issued new policy directives outlining new uses of nuclear weapons, including first use against non nuclear countries. The most recent nuclear posture review completed by the Administration talks about using nuclear weapons, not only in response to a nuclear attack, but also in case of biological or chemical attack "or in the event of surprising military developments," whatever that catch all phrase means.

These developments should make it obvious that the US is in the process of transitioning from a peaceful nation to an agressor nation bent on world domination and empire. And who can really stand up to American armed might? A nation that spends $400 billion a year, more than all of its allies and potential enemies spend put together., really has no serious competitors in the arena of military might.

Maurice Higginbotham - 6/9/2003

This article is reminicent of the spin by northern "historians" on the history of The War Between The States. The so-called "Civil War" was not a civil war, and was not fought over the slavery issue. It was fought because Lincoln and his ilk wanted a more centralized form of government, with more power to them.

k hudson - 6/9/2003

Okay, now lets see if you can write an article about the history of the the usa, especially about the latest lies and stories being told to the american people about terrorism and the invasion of afghanistan and also iraq. I'm sure if you look in your own backyard you you can find much to write about.


joel - 6/9/2003

Being a history nut, I recall engaging an older couple at a restaurant about the USA immediately before Pearl Harbor.

They told me that the USA population was in absolute turmoil and had Pearl Harbor NOT happened, the USA probably would not have entered WWII. He did notice and thought it was "funny" that no aircraft carriers were in Pearl Harbor although the rest of the Pacific Fleet was in when the Japanese attacked.

Tom Mathews - 6/9/2003

The author seems to accept that what he was taught in a US High School is a factual description of history. It can be more accurately described as victors history. Perhaps the truth is somewhere between the content in his high school textbook and what's at this museum. The US has a long history of militarism (ie California stolen from Mexico?, Philippines stolen from Spain, and on and on). If you were standing before your almighty for judgement, would you want to be responsible for either the atomic bomb blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki or the rape of Nanking?

As to the several misleading comments regarding Macarthur, it has previously been established that he was an incompetent, with a highly greased PR machine. Read "The Far Eastern General" by Michael Schaller or "MacArthur's War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero" by Stanley Weintraub and you will have no further doubts. Macarthur should have been court martialed.

Steve McKamey - 6/9/2003

It not only wasn't "out of the blue" but it was expected by and planned for in Washington. How else can you explain the order from Washington to clear the North Pacific of all shipping commercial or military.

Admiral Kimmel had his carriers positioned to find the Japanese fleet but was ordered back to port by Roosevelt himself.

Read "Day of Deceit" for the details.

Pearl Harbor may have been a shock to ordinary Americans, but it was certainly no surprise at all to the Roosevelt administration.

Rick - 6/7/2003

I visited the Japanese War Museum last Fall and left with much the same reaction - there is a blindness to history and truth there that is appalling. An American equivalent would be a KKK museum in DC celebrating the good ole days of slavery.

mark safranski - 6/6/2003

While I would agree with Dr. Dresner that the Kuomintang cause was hopeless in any event I'm not so sure that China would have lasted long in Korea had the united States chosen to mount an all-out effort ( to say nothing of making free with atomic bombs). China's " volunteers " represented Mao's crack divisions and the quality level of the PLA went down from there. China settled for an armistice in 1953 not out of sweet reasonableness but from economic and military necessity. To even contemplate an all-out WWII magnitude war with the United States, Mao would have to have had the commitment of the full power of the USSR's industrial base and that was something Stalin was not about to give.

Sue C. Patrick - 6/6/2003

I don't believe that the author is correct when he says, "In the American view the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came out of the blue." A survey of the archives of the New York Times or other newspapers shows quite clearly that Japanese actions and Roosevelt's reactions (including the oil embargo) were well known. While Americans probably paid more attention to the war news from Europe, few would not have known about Japanese aggression in Asia or about American efforts to curb that aggression. Besides, my father, who is now 86 years old, told me that Americans expected war to come to the U.S. by late 1941. It is true that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise, since there had been no declaration of war, but "out of the blue" is probably a bit strong.

Steven Uanna - 6/5/2003

Strong evidence exists that the Japanese had an Atomic bomb at the time the United States dropped the A-Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. They had developed it at a plant in Japanese occupied North Korea. The plant, the bomb and the Japanese scientists fell into the hands of the Russians. The book JAPAN'S SECRET WAR by Robert K. Wilcox makes a strong case for this. It also reveals that in the mind set of the Japanese military, what the Allies called "World War II" the Japanese military called the "Pacific war" and "this present war", and they were planning for "the next war"! I can only speculate that this would have been between the victorious Axis alliance! It reveals to me a war mongering mentality that is hard to fathom. But is apparently still alive in Japan.

By tracing my father's career in the Manhattan Project and in the U.S. Government during the Cold War I have come to the conclusion that most of the "OFFICIAL" history we have been taught is at the least slanted if not an outright lie.

My web site http://www.securitysuperchief.com details the amazing career of my father William Lewis Uanna. On it you will see among other things that General Leslie Groves was really only a figure head on the Manhattan Project by the end of the war and the real driving force behind the Project was Major William Uanna. Also, William Uanna was a member of the Atomic Bomb Mission that investigated and found information relating to the Japanese Atomic Project. Also, learn about the allegation made by Paul Tibbets (the pilot of the Enola Gay) that Major Uanna was murdered in Africa and all records of his death have disappeared. This was made at the end of the movie ENOLA GAY. William "Bud" Uanna would later become the Chief of the Division of Physical Security at the U.S. State Department and would be the bodyguard of John Foster Dulles. The State Department says Bud Uanna died of a heart attack at his post at the American Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where he was the First Secretary and Administrative Officer.

Visit http://www.securitysuperchief.com and see new information on the assassination of President Kennedy relating to people Bud Uanna worked with at the National Security Council's "Special Committee", (where the most secret covert plans were made) before Bud was exiled to Addis Ababa. Please visit the site, if you are a history student I am sure there is something that will interest you.

Robert Entenmann - 6/4/2003

On the whole, this is a good description of the museum. I would say though, that its account of the Perry expedition is at least as accurate as Shenkman's high school textbook. (See Perry's own journal for corroboration.) Another minor point: this museum is privately run, and not "a museum officially sponsored by the Japanese government." It is located, however, next to the Yasukuni Shrine, which is a Shinto shrine to Japan's war dead and a place of pilgrimage for Japan's ultranationalist fringe. The view of Japanese history presented there is not the mainstream Japanese view.

Jonathan Dresner - 6/3/2003

Thomas Gunn wrote "Care to speculate the outcome had Truman taken MacArthur's advice?"

I'm not a big military what-if buff, myself, though it's a popular pastime for many. But, just for fun, I'll give it a shot:

I think using nuclear weapons again would have created intense fear and loathing of the US long-term: it's hard to imagine the Cold War being worse than it was, but it could have been much warmer, and we could have had fewer allies. I think MacArthur was mostly wrong when he argued that China could be defeated with relative ease: the Communist Chinese government was institutionally weak, but mobilizing forces for an anti-foreign campaign would have been easy. Basically, it would have been Vietnam, no matter what level of force we threw at it.

And, to take a contrarian view, even if we had succeeded in destabilizing the Communist government, the Nationlists could not have established control over the mainland without massive political supression, and China would have continued the disorder, chaos and devastation of the Civil War period. Which would have meant higher US investments in regional security, continuing US involvement in China's wars (to balance USSR involvement, of course; you think they'd have stayed on the sidelines?) and, again, disastrous human and political and economic consequences.

Thomas Gunn - 6/2/2003

05-02-03 ~2140

Mr. Dresner,

I don't disagree with you.

Care to speculate the outcome had Truman taken MacArthurs advice?

For the record I enjoy reading HNN, though I don't read it all. What interests me I read and find that whatever HNN's mission it succeeds in ways not envisioned.


Jonathan Dresner - 6/2/2003

Mr. Gunn,

Sure, MacArthur was a hawk, a conservative Republican, and a general whose war record was bloody and long. But he is remembered in Japan not for any of these things, but for presiding over the demilitarization, reconstruction and reform of post-war Japan.

He is remembered for preventing famine, for instituting a democratized constitution with advanced guarantees of citizen rights and rejecting military might as a tool of policy, for economic redevelopment, for education reform, for freeing political prisoners and trying war criminals.

I'm not sure most Japanese today would even remember that MacArthur spearheaded the island-hopping campaign that devastated Japanese shipping and enabled the bombing of the home islands. They know he was a general, sure, but his greatest legacy was in peacetime.

Thomas Gunn - 6/2/2003

05-02-03 ~1150

[Disclosure: As a student way back when, I hated History, now I suffer for it]


[d. One of the most popular figures in 20th century Japanese history remains Douglas MacArthur.]

Wasn't MacArthur a 'Hawk'?


mark safranski - 6/2/2003

Very interesting article.

I yield to Mr. Dresner's expertise on contemporary public opinion in Japan and would just like to offer the comment that Japan's designs on Korea came with the Sino-Japanese War circa 1895 after which the European powers denied the Japanese the fruits of their victory and further legitimized the expansion of Imperial Russian influence. Around this time, the late Meiji period, you have the genesis of the ultranationalist movement in Japan - The Black Dragon/Amur River/Dark Ocean societies situated around Toyama and his followers.

Thomas Gunn - 6/2/2003

05-02-03 ~1140


Cynical, was the last line of a pretty good travel essay, but especially this line: "That they are is a warning from history that we should probably not expect the Iraqis to view our rule benignly even if we perform our duty well, which up to now we have not."

Do you really believe it is appropriate to judge historically the activities in Iraq, before they are history?

Judging HNN, is it all you hoped it would be?


Jonathan Dresner - 6/2/2003

As disturbing as the Japanese War Museum is, it is not the only piece of the puzzle. I will offer here four other pieces:

a. The new wing of the museum at Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Park. The old wing describes in brutal and simple detail the effects of the atomic bomb. The new wing explores the history of Hiroshima as a command-and-control hub of Japan's modern Asian campaigns, its industrial capacity, and the process of target selection, effectively and suprisingly making the case that Hiroshima *was* a valid military target, though perhaps not for atomic weapons.

b. A survey done about a decade ago which found roughly 80% of Japan's population opposed to changing Article IX of the 1947 Constitution, which repudiates military force as a tool of international conflict resolution. The same survey found roughly 80% of Japan's then-ruling LDP in favor of changing the article, primarily to allow Japan to participate in UN-missions and thus qualify for a permanent UN Security Council Seat. My understanding is that the numbers have softened somewhat, but an overwhelming majority of Japanese still wholeheartedly oppose war.

c. The Japanese Self Defense Forces have been struggling for years now to maintain their recruitment and retention: military service is seen as low-status, low-value work and is very unpopular with young Japanese. JSDF has been raising living standards and salaries, but has not yet reached full strength.

d. One of the most popular figures in 20th century Japanese history remains Douglas MacArthur.