View Full Version : Historical bad taste, or important cultural heritage??

Steve Williams
22nd December 2000, 23:11
Now I am all for being up front about atrocities (no matter who comitted them), but is this in bad taste, or is it important to share this information??
Will it be too upsetting for some? Or will it help to finally "put to rest" the ghosts of the past?

Jody Holeton
23rd December 2000, 00:23
Dear Mr. Williams,

Would you really call the Japanese internment an "atrocity"?

I do think it was rascist but was really just a sign of the times especially with the American social Darwinism attitude.

The internment should be remembered just as Auschwitz, Nanking, the Burmese death march and countless other travesties. They should be remembered and put into the right perspective.

What worries me is when people just read into history what they want to see.

America just nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The history behind Israel.
China owning Tibet.
etc. etc.

Just my opinion and history is written by the victors..

What do you all think?

Neil Hawkins
23rd December 2000, 08:33
Sorry, I thought to myself, this is Joe Svinth's area of speciality, he's still having Internet problems, send him the post and see if he wants to join in.

Well he did! At least you've got a week or so to think about what he says, he's going away for the holidays.

1. Regarding history, it is also written by the losers. Think the Confederate Lost Cause, Nazi stab in the back, the Japanese version of the Rape of Nanking and Pearl Harbor. The Holocaust is also written from one perspective, that of the Jews. (I have only seen a couple books and TV documentaries about the Gypsies, who in relation to their population lost as many people as the Jews, and continue to suffer enormous persecution to this day throughout most of Europe. Nobody went after the people who killed them, either. Why? Because the Gypsies weren't killed with the pesticide Zyklon-B, but were instead killed during tests of military nerve agents. Since nobody but the Germans had nerve agents, after the war the Allies forgave the researchers a multitude of sins in return for research data, and the result was the improved VX-series first developed in Britain in the late 1950s.)

2. As for the Japanese American relocation, hey, if the Army and the President (the RCMP and the Prime Minister in Canada) unilaterally revoking the Bill of Rights for 120,000 citizens and resident aliens doesn't bother you, no problem; the US government didn't revoke the clause allowing the president to send anyone he wanted to a camp without probable cause until 1971. (Internment of German, Italian, and Japanese American aliens is different from locking up their American-born grandkids, you know? Yet that was part of the deal. Non-JA mothers didn't have to go to camp with their children, and some of the white ones didn't, which unsurprisingly led to divorces. And hey, I bet you wouldn't mind relocating your property into two suitcases in 48 hours, now would you? After all, you're a good citizen, and whatever the government tells you is good. And when they send you your draft notice, assigning you to a suicide battalion, you don't object, as it's quite right that you serve in a unit that collects Purple Hearts while your mother lives in Army barracks at Tule Lake, California and your dad goes bankrupt.

Still, if you don't think Japanese Americans have rights, then I can't for the life of me understand why fascists at Ruby Ridge and Waco are any different. The cattlemen during Wyoming's Johnson County war had the right idea -- buy the judges, lawyers, and papers, and then shoot anybody who objects to what the rich cabal wants.

3. FWIW, Hiroshima was Japan's main chemical weapon manufacturing area, and the bombing ruined Japan's production of mustard, though of course it did nothing to reduce the existing stock. And during an invasion, the Japanese almost surely would have deployed chemical weapons, as they Army had already tried biological weapons at Okinawa. (The ships carrying the biotoxins were sunk en route.) And that would have led to the US responding with those nifty German nerve agents so recently captured. Yikes.

Still, even in its day the matter was debated. Admiral Leahy, for example, said that there there was no need for an invasion or an atomic bombing. His stated reasoning was that given another year, starvation would do the trick, but I think his real motivation was the hope of letting the Navy sink that last million tons of Japanese shipping.

In the meantime the Royal Air Force was shifting its incendiaries to Okinawa, along with Bomber Command. Just think -- Bomber Harris and Curtis LeMay having a competition to see how many Dresdens they could produce per night. Ford was shipping V-1s to Okinawa; the first arrived in September, and by October they were planning on hitting Tokyo with a thousand a month. (That's about as many as hit London in the entire war.) The goal was to start fire-storming the Japanese cities of 100-250,000 people in the fall of 1945. By spring, probably they'd have gotten enough of those to start working thousand-plane raids on towns of 50-100,000. Napalm was to be deployed too; first fielded in Okinawa, it killed by suffocation as often as burns. It has since been declared too terrible to use in war, but we'd have been hitting small towns like they were Vietnam. We killed a couple million Vietnamese by bombing rice paddies, so I'd guess we'd have killed a lot more Japanese. by bombing towns.

US casualties would have dragged on, too, and after the war, when it became public knowledge that a few tens of thousands of US sailors died (think kamikazes) along with about a hundred thousand Allied POWs (orders were in place to start the mass execution in order to save their rations), all because Harry Truman refused to use a wonder weapon, well, all I can say is that the next president, who would NOT have been Truman, would have let Doug MacArthur use nukes against the Chinese in 1950. (Doug's insistence was one reason Harry fired him.) But the Chinese and Russians weren't a beaten enemy looking for an excuse, and the result of that would have been World War III. (The Indians and Pakistanis today view atomic bombs as just bigger bombs, and I'd guess that in a full-scale war with the Russians and Chinese in 1951, we would have come to the same conclusion.)

War is the obscenity: it takes us to the dark side of the human psyche and invites us to jump in.


23rd December 2000, 09:07
It is an atrocity, alright. It is similar to locking up every German in the world because there may still be a few nazis around, or because (some) Americans live their lives bowing to photos of Hitler, or "relocating" all Israeli Arabs because everyone knows what Arabs think of Jews.

This can go much further, but the point was made.

Humanity indeed.


Gary Dolce
23rd December 2000, 18:56
Wow, this thread drifted very quickly, without ever really addressing Steve's original question, which I will paraphrase as: is making Manzanar into a National Historic Site (and encouraging tourism there) the right way to remember the relocation and internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII?

Personally, I think it is an excellant way to remember it, because I suspect that going there is one of the few ways that people can appreciate the hardships that resulted. It is important that people remember "bad history" as well as "good history" (maybe even more important), so I see the designation as a National Historic Site to be a very positive thing.

But, in order to get an opinion closer the the actual event, I asked my wife, who is Japanese-American (sansei) and whose mother was interned at Poston (her father was in the Army at the same time). She agreed that preserving Manzanar was a good idea and that she would like to visit it someday. She acknowledged that there might be some in the Japanese-American community who might feel otherwise, but it seems likely that more would be upset about efforts to forget about the internment.

I believe we would both visit it in the same spirit we would visit any other infamous site - in the spirit of remembrance for the suffering that occurred there and with the goal of not letting it happen again.

Steve Williams
23rd December 2000, 20:48
Thanks Gary, you paraphrased it a lot better than I did (maybe atrocity was too strong a word :D )

I believe that all war memorabilia should be shared and be talked about (the only exception may be that which is EXTREMELY disturbing).
On this note, I was in Osaka a few years ago and stumbled (almost literally) upon the Peace Museum near to the Osaka castle, it was truely eye opening, everything was talked about, nothing was hidden or disguised, if you get a chance then it is a thought provoking and informative place to visit.

BTW Jody, please call me Steve. (Mr Williams is way too formal for this forum, we are all friends here after all ;) )

John Lindsey
24th December 2000, 02:27
How many Japanese were murdered in these camps by the USA? My point being that as bad as it was, it was nothing compared to the "other" camps.

Jody Holeton
24th December 2000, 03:48
Thanks Steve and Happy Hollidays all!

Thank-you Mr.Lindsey!

SHould the internment camps be remembered? Of course but the times, the propaganda and the culture of the period should also be taken in consideration.

I think instead of more landmarks maybe people should read more accurate history books, talk to a survivor, listen to a veteran's story etc. etc.?

When Pearl Harbor was attacked my grandfather was there, one of my Kendo instructors was one of the first Japanese officers in Nanking during Japan's China "excursion" and another one was a bomber pilot over Manchuria.

History should be remembered but all of its details are relevant. The who, the why and the whatfor.

America has made reparations to interned American-Japanese citizens (a weak one but it was still a step in the right direction), what has Japan done? What has Germany done? What has China done or Vietnam for that matter?

Begs questions...

Gary Dolce
26th December 2000, 16:00
Yes, the "propaganda and culture of the times" should be taken into consideration, but that excuse only goes so far. The fact is that we in the US pride ourselves on our focus and attention to individual rights and on the protections afforded to those rights by the Constitution. And, for the most part, I think we do a pretty good job of protecting those rights. But sometimes we fail in that area, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was a particularly egregious example. Without evidence, without due process, based solely on racial bias, 120,000 Americans had their rights taken away from them by the Federal government. To excuse it completely based on the culture of the times is to accept that the next time we have a crisis, it would be OK for it to happen again to some other group.

Even with the propaganda and culture of the times, there were some people outside the Japanese-American community who opposed the relocation and internment on the grounds that it was illegal, unfair, and unnecessary. Unfortunately, there were also many whose motivations in supporting the relocation and internment had less to do with national security and more to do with racial predjudice and personal gain (getting property at cut-rate prices, putting competitiors out of business, etc.). Of those two groups, who were the heroes? Who was really working to support the ideals of this country? And of course among the greatest heroes of that time were the Japanese-Americans who fought and died for the US even while their families were being held in camps.

Yes, compared to the "other" camps, run by our enemies during World War II, the internment doesn't seem so bad. But relative comparisons don't excuse bad behavior. Take some time to read about the relocation and internment, talk to someone who was affected by it, visit one of the camps, and think about how this would have affected you if you had been a Japanese-American living on the West Coast at that time. And think about the fact that while we were fighting for "democracy and the American Way" in other places, we were denying it at home.

26th December 2000, 17:21
For a good firsthand account of the experience of a Japanese American prisoner of an internment camp, try reading "Beyond Loyalty, the story of a Kibei" by Professor
Minoru Kiyota. It is a good book, and it will give you a good deal to think about.

Joseph Svinth
27th December 2000, 09:06
There were only a handful of Japanese, mostly elderly Issei, who were actually shot by the US Army during WWII. The official reports said that the Japanese brought the shootings on themselves by straying too close to the wire.

The camps themselves were modeled after Indian reservations, and after the war the director of the War Relocation Authority went on to become the director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A good book is Jeffrey F. Burton, Mary M. Farrell, Florence B. Lord, and Richard W. Lord, "Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites." You can buy copies by writing the Western Archaeological and Conservation Center, National Park Service, 1415 North Sixth Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85705. (The book is free, but they do ask for donations.)

FWIW, the phrase "Concentration Camp" was invented by the British in 1900, and referred to the places that Kitchener sent Afrikaner women and children and their African servants during the Second South African War. About a third died, mostly of medical neglect.

Gary Dolce
27th December 2000, 14:35
The book Joe mentions ("Confinement and Ethnicity....") can be read online. Go to the URL given in Steve's original message and click on the link labeled "Japanese American Camps". Unfortunately, while the link worked fine yesterday, it seems to be down today. When I can get into it again I will post the URL.

27th December 2000, 15:09
I don't think we should lay any of these things to rest on any side. We have a resposibility to relate them to future generations in the hope that they will not be repeated.

Please read my web pages at


Hyakutake Colin

Joseph Svinth
28th December 2000, 07:09
The URL to the book is http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/anthropolgy74/

For links to sites about comparable Canadian camps try http://www.najc.ca/nexus