WWII, POW and the memoir of a fallen hero

  • 2014.12.08 Monday
  • 00:03

I cringe whenever I hear American, British and Australian people refer to Japan before 1945 as "a brutal aggressor". Virulently anti-Japan movie "Unbroken" will be released this month, and I expect anti-Japanese sentiment will raise its head yet again even among friends of our country.

I haven't read "Unbroken" yet, originally authored by Laura Hillenbrand who wrote the book without even meeting with Mr. Zamperini, the main character, in person. From the review of the book, however, one can understand that the purpose of the book is to vilify the Japan's war-time military and its treatment of Allied POW.

Attacking Japan's treatment of POW has always been a common theme. Were we more brutal, heinous and inhumane than others? The truth is we were not more brutal, heinous and inhumane than others. The situation was brutal, heinous and inhumane. All the people who participated in the war, struggled for survival.

To humbly counter this common theme of vilification, I decided to post materials that could help people to balance out the viewpoints. The following are the excerpts from the book "The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh". Charles Lindbergh was a controversial figure. He was one time "a hero" and later on "a fallen hero".

I cringed when I found out Lindbergh was a Nazi Sympathizer. As a staunch Israel supporter and a hater of all kinds of totalitarianism including Communism, Fascism and Nazism, the revelation was mind-boggling. As Henry Ford, known as a great industrialist who transformed automobile industry and so the lives of millions of people worldwide had flaws (he was an anti-Semite), Lindbergh, the American hero, obviously was also a flawed man.

The purpose of the posting is to exhibit the material before the eyes of the viewers to evaluate. I have nothing to vouch for his remarks. There is just the fact that Charles Lindbergh who participated in the Pacific War as a private individual saw what he saw, heard what he heard and thought what he thought during the warfare against Japan.

Again, the purpose is not to incite hatred, but to give people perspective and context;

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Wednesday, June 21, 1944
General (Paul B. Wurtsmith)'s account of killing a Japanese soldier: A technical sergeant in an advanced area some weeks ago complained that he had been with combat forces in the Pacific for over two years and never had a chance to do any fighting himself-that he would like the chance to kill at least one Jap before he went home. He was invited to go out on a patrol into enemy territory. 

The sergeant saw no Jap to shoot, but members of the patrol took a prisoner. The Jap prisoner was brought to the sergeant with the statement that here was his opportunity to kill a Jap. 

"But I can't kill that man! He's a prisoner. He's defenseless." 
"Hell, this is war. We'll show you how to kill the son of a bitch." 

One of the patrol members offered the Jap a cigarette and 
as he started to smoke an arm was thrown around his head and his throat "slit from ear to ear." 


The entire procedure was thoroughly approved by the general giving the account. I was regarded with an attitude of tolerant scorn and pity when I objected to the method and said that if we had to kill a prisoner I thought we ought to do it in a decent and civilized way. The sons of bitches do it to us. It's the only way to handle them."


Monday, June 26, 1944
There were three silk Japanese flags hanging on one wall of the hut we were in, taken from the bodies of Japanese soldiers. The souvenir value of one of these flags was about ₤10, one of the officers told me ($33.00 American). Someone who has a Japanese officer's sword is asking ₤250 for it. The talk drifted to prisoners of war and the small percentage of Japanese soldiers taken prisoner. "Oh, we could take more if we wanted to,"one of the officers replied. "But our boys don't like to take prisoners." 

"We had a couple of thousand down at ----, but only a hundred or two were turned in. They had an accident with the rest. It doesn't encourage the rest to surrender when they hear of their buddies being marched out on the flying field and machine guns turned loose on them." 

"Or after a couple of them get shot with their hands up in the air." another officer chimed in." 

"Well, take the ----- th. They found one of their men pretty badly mutilated. After that, you can bet they didn't capture very many Japs." 

The talk drifted to air combats and parachute jumps. All of the pilots insisted it was proper to shoot enemy airmen coming down in their parachutes. However, several said that they themselves would not do it."The Japs started it. If they want to play that way, we can, too."Accounts were given of American airmen shot down hanging from their parachutes by the Japanese. 


Wednesday, June 28, 1944
Supper and evening with 475th officers. Talk again turned to war, prisoners, and souvenirs. I am shocked at the attitude of our American troops. They have no respect for death, the courage of an enemy soldier, or many of the ordinary decencies of life. They think nothing whatever of robbing the body of a dead Jap and call him a "son of a bitch" while they do so. I said during a discussion that regardless of what the Japs did, I did not see how we could gain anything or claim that we represented a civilized state if we killed them by torture. "Well, some of our boys do kick their teeth in, but they usually kill them first," one of the officer said in half apology.

Later in the evening, as I was getting ready for bed, another officer showed me his souvenirs. Several Japanese soldiers had walked into the camp at about two hours after midnight.) There was argument among the officers as to whether the Japs had come to steal food or to surrender.) The officer who was showing me the souvenirs woke, saw the Japanese, grabbed his. 45, and shot two of them. Another officer accounted for a third. I don't blame them for what they did. After all, one can hardly to ask questions when he sees Japanese soldiers in camp during the darkest hours of morning. What I do blame them for is the attitude with which they kill and their complete lack of respect for the dignity of death. The souvenirs consisted of a silk Japanese flag containing the usual characters, a number of Japanese bills, including invasion money, a name stamp, a postal savings book, a number of postal cards already written and addressed, several other articles, and a photograph of several Japanese soldiers, including the one from whose body the "souvenirs" were taken-a young boy of about fifteen to seventeen years of age. 


Thursday, July 13, 1944
Supper with Phil La Follette. Phil cooked supper. We discussed the war, old times, and the political situation back home. At one point, the conversation turned to the atrocities committed by the Japanese and by our own men. It was freely admitted that some of our soldiers tortured Jap prisoners and were as cruel and barbaric at times as the Japs themselves. Our men think nothing of shooting a Japanese prisoner or a soldier attempting to surrender. They treat the Jap with less respect than they would give to an animal, and these acts are condoned by almost everyone. We claim to be fighting for civilization, but the more I see of this war in the Pacific the less right I think we have to claim to be civilized. In fact, I am not sure that our record in this respect stands so very much higher than the Japs'. 


Friday, July 21, 1944
The Japanese stronghold on the cliffs on Biak is to be attacked again in the morning. Several hundred Japs are still holding out in caves and they have thrown back all of our attacks, and inflicted nearly one hundred casualties on our infantrymen. They have as perfect a natural defensive position as could be devised - sharp coral ridges overlooking and paralleling the coast, filled with deep and interlocking caves and screened from our artillery fire by coral ledges. This area is clearly visible from the top of the coral cliff, ten feet from the back door of the officers quarters where I am staying - a brown ridge surrounded by green jungle on the coast of Biak about three miles across the water from Owi island. 

The intense artillery fire has stripped the trees of leaves and branches so that the outline of the coral ridge itself can be seen silhouetted against the sky. Since I have been on Owi Island, at irregular intervals through the night and day, the sound of our artillery bombarding this Japanese stronghold has floated in across the water. This afternoon, I stood on the cliff outside our quarters (not daring to sit on the ground because of the danger of typhus) and watched the shells bursting on the ridge. For weeks that handful of Japanese soldiers, variously estimated at between 250 and 700 men, has been holding out against overwhelming odds and the heaviest bombardment our well-supplied guns can give them. 

If positions were reversed and our troops held out so courageously and well, their defense would be recorded as one of the most glorious our nation. But, sitting in the security and relative luxury of our quarters, I listen to American Army officers refer to these Japanese soldiers as "yellow sons of bitches." Their desire is to exterminate the Jap ruthlessly, even cruelly. I have not heard a word of respect or compassion spoken of enemy since I came here. 

It is not the willingness to kill on the part of our soldiers which most concerns me. That is an inherent part of war. It is our lack of respect for even the admirable characteristics of our enemy - for courage, for suffering, for death, for his willingness to die for his beliefs, for his companies and squadrons which go forth, one after another, to annihilation against superior training and equipment. What is courage for us is fanaticism for him. We hold his examples of atrocity screamingly to the heavens while we cover up our own and condone them as just retribution for his acts. 

A Japanese soldier who cuts off an American soldier's head is an Oriental barbarian,"lower than a rat." An American soldier who slits a Japanese throat "did it only because he knew the Japs had done it to his buddies." I do not question that Oriental atrocities are often worse than ours. But, after all, we are constantly telling ourselves, and everyone else who will listen to us, that we are the upholders of all that is "good" and "right" and civilized. 

I stand looking at the patch of scorched jungle, at the dark spots in the cliffs which mark the caves where the Japanese troops have taken cover. In that burned area, hidden under the surface of the ground, is the utmost suffering - hunger, despair, men dead and dying of wounds, carrying on for a country they love and for a cause in which they believe, not daring to surrender even if they wished to, because they know only too well that our soldiers would shoot them on sight even if they came out with their hands above their heads

We must bomb them out, those Jap soldiers, because this is war, and if we do not kill them, they will kill us now that we have removed the possibility of surrender. But I would have more respect for the character of our people if we could give them a decent burial instead of kicking in the teeth of their corpses, and pushing their bodies into hollows in the ground, scooped out and covered up by bulldozers. After that, we will leave their graves unmarked and say, "That's the only way to handle the yellow sons of bitches." 


Saturday, July 22, 1944
Stood out on the cliff at 9:00 to watch the heavies strike the Jap positions. The B-24s-eight planes in all - hit on the minute ; first two bombers, then two more flights of three ships each - spread at sufficient intervals to allow the smoke from one flight to drift aside before the next was in position to release its bombs. Since there was no enemy antiaircraft opposition, the bombers came over at the ideal altitude of about 6,000 feet. The bombs were perfectly placed, covering the entire length of the ridge. I could see them released with my naked eye - specks curving gracefully through the air - irretrievable death in flight. Then the flashing concussion waves as they hit, and the great column of smoke shooting skyward. In six minutes it was all over, the smoke drifting slowly away to show the torn trees and battered coral ridge. Then the ground artillery began its bombardment, covering the ridge with smaller puffs. This afternoon, our infantry will attack. 

A report came in on the area bombed this morning. The infantry moved in following the artillery bombardment after the bombing. They occupied the area "without firing a shot" - found about forty dead Japs in one cave and "parts of quite a few more" scattered about. The few who were living were sitting and lying around in a dazed condition and made no move as they saw our soldiers. One prisoner was taken, according to the first report ; but an infantry colonel told me later that no prisoners were taken at all. "Our boys just don't take prisoners.


Monday, July 24, 1944
Going down the hill, we came to a pass with the bodies of a Japanese officer and ten or twelve soldiers lying sprawled about in the gruesome positions which only mangled bodies can take. They had gone down fighting in defense of the pass and been left lying there unburied. Since the battle took place several weeks ago, the heat and ants of the tropics had done their work, and little flesh was left to cover the skeletons. In some places there would be a body with two heads lying together. In others there would be a body with no head at all. Some of the bodies had been so badly tom apart that there were only fragments left. And as one of the officers with me said, "I see that the infantry have been up to their favorite occupation," i. e., knocking out all the teeth that contain gold fillings for souvenirs

We had to cross a road and climb another hill to get to the caves themselves. At the side of the road we passed the edge of a bomb crater. In its bottom were lying the bodies of five or six Jap soldiers, partly covered with a truckload of garbage our troops had dumped on top of them. I have never felt more ashamed of my people. To kill, I understand; that is an essential part of war. Whatever method of killing your enemy is most effective is, I believe, justified.  But for our people to kill by torture and to descend to throwing the bodies of our enemies into a bomb crater and dumping garbage on top of them nauseates me

---------- 

The cave at the other end of the pit was larger and a little deeper. A path ran steeply down into it over boulders and debris. Charred skulls 
and bodies marked the work of the flame throwers. The inside of the cave was a mire of mud and filth, with the bodies of Japanese soldiers scattered everywhere. On the higher and somewhat less wet positions were stacked boxes of ammunition and food. At the center and far end of the cave the Japs had set up huts similar to those in the first cave we entered, but in better condition, since they were far enough in to escape the flame thrower. One of them had apparently been used for a hospital. One of the bodies on the floor was still lying, partially covered, on a stretcher. This is the cave where the Japs reportedly tried to surrender and were told by our troops to "get the hell back in and light it out."  The far end of the cave opened into a second pit, also littered with dead bodies. We could stand it no  longer and turned back to our jeep. Drove to the shore and bathed in the cool and clear water of a small spring, which the Japs in those caves had probably used only a few weeks previously.


Friday, August 11, 1944
Sitting on boxes and the edge of bunks in the rather poorly lighted tent, we discuss the question of Japanese prisoners. I said I felt it was a mistake not to accept surrender whenever it could be obtained ; that by doing so, our advance would be more rapid and many American lives would be saved. If the Japanese think they will be killed anyway when they surrender, they, naturally, are going to hold on and fight to the last - and kill American troops they capture whenever they get the chance. Most of the officers agree (not very enthusiastically) but say that our inf infantry (doesn't) look on it that way. 

"Take the 41st, for example ; they just don't take prisoners. The men boast about it."

"The officers wanted some prisoners to question but couldn't get any until they offered two weeks' leave in Sydney for each one turned in. Then they got more than they could handle." 

"But when they cut out giving leave, the prisoners stopped coming in. The boys just said they couldn't catch any." 

"The Aussies are still worse. You remember the time they had to take those prisoners south by plane? One of the pilots told me they just pushed them out over the mountains and reported that the Japs committed hara-kiri on the way."
 
"Well, you remernber when our troops captured that Jap hospital? There wasn't anyone alive in it when they got through." 


"The Nips did it to us, though."

"You can't blame the Aussies too much. They found some of their men castrated; and they found some with steaks cut out of them."

"They captured one place where the Japs were actually cooking the meat." (Only yesterday a notice was posted on the squadron bulletin board telling where several Japs had been captured on Biak while they were cooking the flesh of one of their own people.) 

The fact is fairly well established that little mercy is shown and nu- merous atrocities committed by our troops during the early stages of a campaign. Later, as positions are well established, some Japanese troops find it possible to surrender without being killed in the act. But barbaric as our men are at times, the Orientals appear to be worse. 


Wednesday, August 30, 1944
The officer I was with, who came in soon after the first landing, told on me that our Marines seldom accepted surrender of the Japanese troops the island. It had been a bitter fight; our men had lost heavily; The general desire was to kill and not take prisoners. Even when prisoners were taken, the naval officer said, they were lined up and asked which ones could speak English. Those who were able to speak English were taken for questioning. The others "simply weren't taken.

Spent most of the evening writing. Hour's walk along beach and through destroyed Japanese gun emplacements at end of island. Half-sunken American landing barges, the long barrels of Japanese naval guns, and bomb-broken blocks of reinforced concrete were silhouetted in the moonlight. 


Sunday, September 3, 1944
Supper and evening with Colonel Freeman and staff officers. They told me some of the incidents surrounding the capture of this island. We started with a terrific sea and air bombardment. The Japanese, as usual, fought stubbornly. The Marines, as usual, seldom accepted surrender


Monday, June 11, 1945
We had planned on exploring the opposite end of the underground factory this morning, but decided to drive through Camp Dora first. Some of the barracks - long, low wooden buildings-were occupied by Poles, some by Russians, some by Czechs, some by nationalities we could not place. 

On the mountainside above the camp we saw a low, small, factory-like building with a brick smokestack of very large diameter for its height. We could find no road leading to it, so threw the jeep into four-wheel drive and climbed directly up the steep hillside, weaving in and out between the tree trunks. At one end of the building were stacked probably two dozen stretchers, dirty and stained with blood - one of them showing the dark red outline of a human body which had lain upon it. 

The doors of the building were open. We stepped in. On our left, through another open doorway, lay a black, peasant-type coffin, a white cross painted on top. Beside it on the concrete floor, covered carelessly with canvas, lay what was undoubtedly a human body; and beside that, another coffin. we moved on into the main room of the building. It contained two large cremating furnaces, side by side, the steel stretchers for holding the bodies sticking out through the open doors. The fact that two furnaces were required added to the depressing mass-production horror of the place.

The statement that arms and legs had to be cut off to get the bodies in was, of course, a myth, for the doors were large and the stretchers long. But what difference did it make? Here was a place where men and life and death had reached the lowest form of degradation. How could any reward in national progress even faintly justify the establishment and operation of such a place? When the value of life and the dignity of death are removed, what is left for man?

A figure steps in through the door-a man in prison costume. No. a boy; he is hardly old enough to call a man. The prison suit bags around him, oversize, pulled in at waist and hanging loosely over shoulders. He moves out of the brighter light so that 1 can see his face more clearly. He is like a walking skeleton; starved; hardly any flesh covering the bones; arms so thin that it seems only the skin is left to cover them. 

He speaks in German to Lieutenant Uellendahl, pointing toward the furnaces. "Twenty-five thousand in a year and a half." He is Polish, he says in answer to our questioning, seventeen years old. He motions us to follow him and walks into the room we first saw. Stooping, he lifts the canvas from the form lying beside the coffins. It covered an ex-prisoner like himself, only thinner, lying, also in prison dress, half curled up on an Army stretcher. 

It is hard to realize that the one is dead, the other living, they look so much alike. A few days' growth of dark hair bristling from the head, hunger-chiseled features, burning dark eyes, for the eyes of the dead man are open. The most striking contrast between them lay in the expression on the dead man's face. Never, I think, have I seen such tranquility; as though at last, after living through hell on earth, peace had been found. Looking at that face, I realized that in death the spirit had triumphed over the man-built inferno we were in, that even a Nazi prison camp could not remove all the dignity from life and death. 

"It was terrible. Three years of it." The face of the young Pole is screwed up in grief and anguish of his memories. He points to the body  - "he was my friend, and he is fat!" - and re-covers it with the canvas. 

We walk outside. I do not notice where the boy is taking us. We have stopped near one corner of the building. I am staring off into the distance, my mind still dwelling on those furnaces, on that body, on the people and the system which let such things arise. Suddenly I realize that Lieutenant Uellendahl is translating."Twenty-five thousand in a year and a half. And from each one there is only so much." The boy has cupped his hands to demonstrate the measure. He is looking down. I follow Ms glance. We are standing in front of what was once a large oblong pit, probably eight feet long and six feet wide and, one might guess, six feet deep. It is filled to overflowing with ashes from the furnaces - small chips of human bones-nothing else. 

A trail of these ashes runs over the side of the filled-up pit where we are standing. They were dumped in carelessly, as we would dump the ashes from coal into a pit at home. And the pit was dug as a man would dig a pit for coal ashes if he cared nothing for the appearance of the grounds around his home-not very far from the furnaces and where the ground appeared easy to dig. Nearby were two oblong mounds which may have marked other pits. The boy picks up a knee joint which had not been left in the furnace long enough and holds it out to us. 

Of course, I knew these things were going on; but it is one thing to have the intellectual knowledge, even to look at photographs someone else has taken, and quite another to stand on the scene yourself, seeing, hearing, feeling with your own senses. A strange sort of disturbance entered my mind. Where was it I had felt like that before? The South Pacific? Yes: those rotting Japanese bodies in the Biak caves; the load of garbage dumped on dead soldiers in a bomb crater; the green skulls set up to decorate ready room and tents.

It seemed impossible that men-civilized men-could degenerate to such a level. Yet they had. Here at Camp Dora in Germany; there in the coral caves of Biak. But there, it was we, Americans, who had done things, we who claimed to stand for something different. We, who claimed that the German was defiling humanity in his treatment of the Jew, were doing the same thing in our treatment of the Jap. "They really are lower than beasts. every one of 'em ought to be exterminated.
" How many times had I heard that statement made by American officers in the Pacific! "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" 

I looked at the young Pole. Where had I seen starvation like that before? It was on Biak Island, too. The picture of a native war canoe came up in memory - paddling slowly toward the shore near our camp, the Japanese prisoners escorted from it by armed, half-naked natives, at the end of the line several so starved that they could not stand to walk, thinner even than this Pole. Oh, we had not starved them in a prison camp like the Germans. We had been too "civilized, "too clever for that. We had let them starve themselves in the jungle (their own fault) by simply not accepting their surrender. It was simple, and one was not bothered by burning eyes of famine or danger of disease. A few miles of jungle hid and smothered all of that. It was only necessary to shoot a few men advancing to surrender with their hands in the air. ("You can't trust a Jap to surrender. He'll throw a grenade at you. The only way is to kill him right now.") Or one could be more blunt about it and shout to an enemy emissary, as our infantry officers boasted of doing at the west caves, "Get back in there and fight it out, you sons of bitches.

A long line of such incidents parades before my mind : the story of our Marines firing on unarmed Japanese survivors who swam ashore on the beach at Midway; the accounts of our machine-gunning prisoners on a Hollandia airstrip; of the Australians pushing captured Japanese soldiers out of the transport planes which were taking them south over the New Guinea mountains ("the Aussies reported them as committing hara-kiri or 'resisting"': ; of the shinbones cut, for letter openers and pen trays, from newly killed Japanese bodies on Noemfoor; of the young pilot who was"going to cream that Jap hospital one of these days"; of American soldiers poking through the mouths of Japanese corpses for gold-filled teeth ("the infantry's favorite occupation") ; of Jap heads buried in anthills "to get them clean for souvenirs"; of bodies bulldozed to the roadside and dumped by the hundreds into shallow, unmarked graves ("where they're so close we can't stand 'em, we have to bury'em") ; of pictures of Mussolini and his mistress hung by the feet in an Italian city, to the approval of thousands of Americans who claim to stand for high, civilized ideals. As far back as one can go in history, these atrocities have been going on, not only in Germany with its Dachaus and its Buchenwalds and its Camp Doras, but in Russia, in the Pacific, in the riotings and lynchings at home, in the less-publicized uprisings in Central and South America, the cruelties of China, a few years ago in Spain, in pogroms of the past, the burning of witches in New England, tearing people apart on the English racks, burnings at the stake for the benefit of Christ and God. 

I look down at the pit of ashes ("twenty-live thousand in a year and a half"). This, I realize, is not a thing confined to any nation or to any people. What the German has done to the Jew in Europe, we are doing to the Jap in the Pacific. As Germans have defiled themselves by dumping the ashes of human beings into this pit, we have defiled ourselves by bulldozing bodies into shallow, unmarked tropical graves. What is barbaric on one side of the earth is still barbaric on the other."Judge not that ye be not judged."It is not the Germans alone, or the Japs, but the men of all nations to whom this war has brought shame and degradation. 


Special thanks to;
http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/furainngutaigaasu/MYBLOG/yblog.html

コメント
Thank you for this article.

It looks to me, that certain Aussies and Americans would threat the Japanese, as certain Germans would threat the Jews. I can only say, this is how many Europeans are.

My father was a man described just like that, but my grandfather was not. Looking different can be a reason to threat other people bad. Amongst white people children can get bullied for having red hair, for wearing glasses, for being fat. These are weaknesses of a peoples, but there is also a political agenda at work.

Off course, the political agenda becomes very hard to beat, if the majority of a people believe lies. Like, why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor? It was not for a strategic purpose, what was the purpose? There have been some leaks about infiltration and spying into governments, and both Americans and Japanese where being deceived.

I am from Holland, people over here are deceived also. The deceiving would become successful at the end of the 18th century, over 200 years ago. A majority of the people would start to believe lies about politics, where convinced to commit treason, that is how the Dutch Republic was destroyed. Germany was deceived in the period described in the article to go and invade Russia, where a complete army was slaughtered in Stalingrad, and created a strategic situation where Germany had to fight on two fronts. Being deceived is not in favor of the people in the nation, contrary.

British politics is different from German. The British are also deceived, and from there Australia is deceived. Australia is part of the British common wealth. 17th century history describes the battles very well there, I doubt that after 1700 Britain will not have been deceived. There are always two agenda's working since than, and the way populations from former protestant countries are kept in line is often done by bribery. A mix of diplomacy needed for the part that can not be deceived, and for a part deceived.

Good communication between countrie
  • Geus
  • 2015/03/21 11:10 AM
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