Monday, August 29, 2011

The Road to Nagasaki

The Atlantic ran a photo series of the battle of Midway and for the Aleutian islands where the Japanese invaded the "US" during World War II. The article can be found HERE.

The photo below is my favorite. It portrays the chaos of battle brilliantly. Four Japanese airplanes are in the scene, two little more than dots in the distance. A fourth you can't really see, but you can observe the smoke arising from the ocean where it crashed. The airplane in the foreground has just dropped a torpedo aimed at an American warship.

I remember as a youngster watching the "Victory at Sea" series of black and white films about the Pacific naval battles. They were set to a classical music theme, and, of course, were intensely patriotic for the American cause.

Most Americans are familiar with the Bataan Death March, but not the battle for Manila. Many Filipinos are critical of the way America waged war: relentless power and destruction. The final battle in Manila was for the Intramuros, where the Japanese had tied Filipinos up on the outside of the buildings as human shields. They hoped to forestall the relentless bombardment they knew was coming.

But the US was in a hurry, so they rained artillery shells like, well . . . rain.

The two atom bombs dropped on Japan were simply an extension of the same war strategy that said the Japanese will never surrender, so we must defeat them with force. This was the lesson learned on island after island in the Pacific, and the Aleutian islands, where Japanese would fight to the end, then kill themselves rather than surrender. The Atlantic photo series has a gruesome rendition of this.

Many blame the US for dropping the two atom bombs.

They don't blame the Japanese.

Same regarding Manila.

I find that interesting.

Usually a battle is a reflection of a series of events that have much deeper meaning. It is a transaction, an event, isolated from the chain of meanings that lead to war, or the strategies for fighting that war. If you adopt the strategy of ending the war as quickly as possible to prevent massive loss of life, you rain artillery on Manila and drop A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The discussion should be about that strategy.

Not the specific battles that were its execution.

And, even deeper, one should probe the frictions that led to war in the first place. Where, exactly, was the first mistake made? And who made it?

I'm not a student of the war, but I suspect numerous mistakes were made by both the US and Japan leading up to the war. After that, the clash of cultures and hates could not stop anything but brutal submission, one to the other.

Manila was simply the largest city on the road to Nagasaki.


  1. Joe,

    I too am not a student of WWII however I have come across literature that quotes American political and military leaders like Ike and Le May saying the A-Bombs were not necessary because Japan was already defeated.

    In other words, the strategic goal of beating Japan was a done deal. And so this specific act of battle, dropping A-Bombs, was unnecessary.

    And so we are left to discuss specific battles or actions in relation to strategy: was the action warranted? Was it a case of excessive force over a defeated enemy? Were there other or new strategic goals involved like keeping Stalin out of the picture as far as Japan was concerned or demonstrating to potential enemies the awesome new weapon in the US arsenal? Were both Nagasaki and Hiroshima permissible military targets in the sense that either or both hosted major military installations or military-industrial production centers?

    I think there are deeper issues involved here that have to do with the conduct of warfare because, as ugly as war is, there are still some rules and conventions that must be observed if we are to call ourselves civilized as opposed to savages.

  2. I am in favor of obliteration of Nagasaki. It immediately stopped the war. It STOPPED, like, someone turned the switch to OFF. It saved plenty of lives, maybe more than Nagasaki's population.

    Bringing the war into Japan with a big bang caught Japanese attention no Media can cover-up. It was doomsday. The end is near. Wave your white flags or get nuked again.

    America was blamed for stopping the war by their very own citizens who did not want to go to war afraid of dying.

  3. Buencam, in civilized world, war don't exist. If they can agree on conduct of warfare, therefore, they can agree on not going to war in the first place.

  4. MB, I think the notion that we are a non-savage, thinking species is wrong. We are sorely limited in our ability to delineate principle and display the insight and discipline to stick to it.

    The two known facts: Japanese soldiers were ruthless. They would not stop fighting.

    Ike was merely speculating.

    If the war was won, Japan should have stopped fighting.

    It is a strange balance that excuses Japanese for murdering civilians but condemns the US. That is like consigning the US to fighting on one leg, and holding that is the honorable thing, even if you get the shit beat out of you.

  5. Joe,

    In effect your argument is "whatever it takes." But how does that hold up against the sort of wars that have been waged since WWII? I'm talking about undeclared wars, wars waged without a formal declaration of war. Most of those wars are asymetric with the weaker side resorting to terror bombings etc. "Whatever it takes" to defeat the terrorists? "Whatever it takes" for the terrorists to defeat the stronger enemy? Both sides justify their actions as self-defense but are there no rules, no limits, on how far one can go in defense of one's territory, ideals, religion, way of life etc.?

    Neither Japan nor the US is excused for murdering civilians. Both should be condemned for doing that.

    The problem is victors are not held accountable for their war crimes. That's probably one reason why combatants will do anything and everything to win. Maybe civilians would be safer if war tribunals were set up in neutral countries where all war criminals, victors and losers alike, are held accountable for their atrocities.

  6. There are strict rules in place for today's war against terrorism, of course they only apply to US forces and not the terrorists. The conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq has been dragging this long, because the US has not been doing "whatever is takes"

    The events behind the Marine that was recently awarded the Medal of Honor, demonstrates the lopsided US commitment for this civility you speak of.

  7. MB, I agree with the ideal you express, but the "actual" is somewhat different. But when the other side has God on its side and no compunction to abide by man-made rules of slaughter, then it gets a little atilt, as Anonymous says. The futility is in the knowing that, even if the US were to engage terrorists doing "whatever it takes", it cannot win. It might slow things down, or have a temporary lull. But long term, no win. Again, because God is on their side.

  8. Anonymous,

    Your statement is debunked by Abu Ghraib, videos released by Wikileaks, and investigative journalists. The fact is both sides are doing whatever it takes the only difference is that our side tries very hard to keep from the public what it does and the consequences of its deeds. The enemy on the other hand thrives on publicity which is the fuel of terrorism. But if we do a head count of all civilians who have been killed by our side in the war on Iraq and Afghanistan and all the civilians the enemy has killed in waging their global war against us, I think you will agree that our kills far outnumber theris.

  9. Joe,

    "...because God is on their side." hahaha

    But seriously, the real God is on the side of the Tea Party. At least we have San Miguel. Cold.

  10. MB, and a tip of the bottle to you, too . . .

  11. It is about time the civilized nations declare war on God.

    "Religious people, be understood, I kill you because you God told me so. I am the instrument of your God to punish you for your sins. So, perish and die"

    If war is against people of God, Human Rights should be rescinded. They are oil in water. They do not mix and they should be vanquished.

  12. Muslims is the last religious frontier that needed reformation. And the reformation wouldn't be easy. It's going to be messy and bloody.

    All Muslims of the world should be corralled sent back to Middle-East. As we all know, they fancy killing each other.

    I am comfortable with Satan. Satan is demonized. Hollywood has plenty of movies demonizing Satan. He is uglified. Very little followers. If Satan is followed they get arrested and stoned by Christians. Satan has no satanic book in National Book Store.

    Satan is blamed of all the bad things that all-powerful, ever-the-merciful God cannot control. It's like "Gloria did it" mantra.

    Satan is meek. And the Meek Shall Inherit the Earth.

  13. "It's like "Gloria did it" mantra."

    Cracked me up.

    Indeed, way too many people "of God" behave exactly the opposite of goodness.

  14. Manuel,

    The US had foolish soldiers who made fun of naked detainees(then later got convicted). The US forcefully interrogated detained terrorists for information (the same treatment US soldiers get during survival training). I don't think this can be compared to how captured US soldiers and Contractors had their heads chopped off.

    Wikileaks did not show that we were pulling toenails out with pliers, cutting body parts, electrocution, burning and impalement.

    I think your right about the body count. Although the US gets a whole lot more to its credit, when all a terrorist has to do is kill his own people.

  15. BUENCAM, I 'm lovin' enhanced interrogation, polite word for torture. It saves so many people. The mid-east failed PAL bomber started singing in ONE DAY under the custody of Filipino authorities faster than by 363 days if they were in Abu Ghraib.

    Informations extracted from the toenails and teeth from the suspected mid-east failed bomber saved your PAPA JOHN from Vatican. And your PAPA JOHN did not ever never mentioned that in his Homily after arriving in the Philippines. Because he was glad and even commended the "prompt, efficient and professional response of Filipino enhanced interrogators".

    Abu Ghraib is a walk in Disneyland. If you get caught by the muslims and you survived to tell about it, I'm sure you'd become an atheist like me.

  16. Okay Mariano. When it's our side they are isolated cases of foolish soldiers. When it's the enemy then it's all of them and not just some foolish soldiers.

    By the way you should do a little research on the effectivity of torture in eliciting information. Several top interrogators from the US military and spy agencies have written articles and granted interviews expressing serious doubts that torture works because they have discovered from actual experience that the subject will say anything just to get the torture to stop. But who am I to disabuse you of your Cheneyesque fantasies?

  17. Manuel,

    Ok so no matter what, to you we are acting like the same animals we fight. If we can't beat em, let's join em. Might as well commit actual torture.

    On the other hand, why are we even taking prisoners alive? Since were so like our enemies anyway, let's do what they do to prisoners.

  18. Torture is bad per se. Anyone would sing any tune the interrogators would want to hear.

    It is being practiced in the Philippines right now, all over, most of all by vehement Roman Catholic military authorities from top to bottom including National Bureau of Investigation and the Senate.

    Even the Rubber-Stamp-President-to-the-Oligarch, benign0-the-Turd practice a very subtle form of torture. benign0, the office of the president, no less was offering indulgences to accused massacrer and ballot switcher in exchange for witness account against benign0's personal nemesis, GLORIA, in absolution and redemption of yet to be proven sins. AND THAT IS COMING FROM THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, NO LESS. CANNOT EVER HAPPEN IN AMERICA WHERE THESE DING-DONGS GO TO STUDY IN THEIR IVY-SCHOOLS.

    The last time the GRAND TORTURER INQUISITOR GENERAL tried their hands on investigation on the ALABANG BOYS, they failed. And, they failed miserably.

    They also failed on News Anchor Ted Failon when this A-hole cleaned up the crime scene of his wife and conveniently put back the gun back where it was found. His houseslaves must be CIA cleaners trained in Langley because when NBI came, THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE OF CRIME. No skin tissues, no blood splatters, EVEN THE GUN WAS CONMPLETELY CLEANED OF PRINTS. And everyone in the household including wife of Failon were free of powder burns.

    Failon's housemaids must be topnotch cleaners or biohazard specialists and the idiot peryodistas are just totally MUM. No criticisms from Bulletin to Inquirer. SEMPER FI !

    I seem to have veered off course. I'd better stop.

  19. The Rape of Nanking, the human experiments, the Battle/sack of Manila, Battle of Okinawa where Japanese soldiers ordered Okinawans to kill themselves, ORDERED execution of POWs is conveniently removed from the memories of the people because removing these conveniently puts the blame to the US than to Japan.

    What these revisionists will NEVER mention is that the cruelty of Tokyo was at its highest point when they were losing the war.

    Often times, revisionists ponder that Nagasaki and Hiroshima casualties were not necessary and too great. But they will never ask how many lives of POWS, non-Japanese Asian CIVILIANS will be INTENTIONALLY brutalized and murdered by distraught Japanese military? Even more bothering is that a lot of the cruelties were not random but sanctioned by Tokyo. In one documentary I have watched, it mentioned that the Sack of Manila was an order from Tokyo -- that any civilian, except Japanese, were to be killed.

    If you ask me Nagasaki and Hiroshima were necessary evils.

    The worse thing? Japan isn't condemned for these as the Germans were for persecuting the Jews. Everybody knows that the 6 million Jews were persecuted. But hardly anyone will know what Japan did to its "fellow" Asians. In the Western world, Japan's role is limited to the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor

    Japan got away easily and they are not punished for their current revisionism where as the Germans do not even dare revisionism of the Holocaust

    Back in the days, Filipino families would tell their daughters to hide because the Japanese were coming. Now, Filipino families pimp their daughters once they hear a Japanese coming.

  20. Anon, your point that Germany and Japan have emerged differently, one "owning up" to its misdeeds and the other not is interesting. It is a key distinction between eastern and western values, I think. One is intellectually rational, the other intellectually emotional, where actions are oriented around loss of "face" or gaining of "face".

    "Face" seems important, too, to Filipinos. More so than to the introspective American, for example.