“Remembering our Greatest Mission” | History News Network

William Lambers marks the anniversary of the U.S. air drop of food to the Netherlands (May 1945) with a plea to help the civilians trapped at the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus: “As we mark the anniversary of the great World War II mission that saved the Netherlands, we must keep that spirit alive. They are starving people today that are days way from death unless food can be brought to them. We, the international community, need to summon every ounce of strength and determination to help save them. That is our mission.” Read the entire article here:

History News Network | Remembering our Greatest Mission.

air drop to the Netherlands May 1945

The Cost of Revenge: “The Horrific Unintended Consequence of Doolittle’s Courageous Raid on Tokyo” | History News Network

Today is the anniversary of the famous Doolittle raid on Japan. But before we celebrate we should remember the cost paid by innocent Chinese civilians for this act of revenge. James M. Scott explains that, “that success came at a horrible—and until now—largely unknown price paid by the Chinese, who were victims of a retaliatory campaign by the Japanese Army that claimed an estimated 250,000 lives and saw families drowned in wells, entire towns burned, and communities devastated by bacteriological warfare.” This story should remind us that revenge has caused more human suffering than any other human motivation and that it has done so with little or no benefit other than the joy some get from it.

Scott also raises the subject of Japanese attempts to deny their own history: “Unlike Germany, whose leaders have for decades attempted to atone for the Holocaust, the Japanese have increasingly tried to disavow their nation’s legacy of cruelty, from the use Korean comfort women to the Rape of Nanking.” So, in conclusion he implores us: “As we celebrate the rightful heroism of Jimmy Doolittle and the 79 volunteer airmen who flew with him on one of the most celebrated raids of the war, it is important that we take time to honor the sacrifice paid by a quarter million Chinese. It is equally imperative that we as a nation refuse to allow Japanese leaders to disown their nation’s role in this and other wartime horrors.” Read the entire article here:

History News Network | The Horrific Unintended Consequence of Doolittle’s Courageous Raid on Tokyo.

doolittle_raid

Was Hitler a Normal Leader? | History News Network

It is so tempting (and easy) to see the world in black and white terms. Things would be so much simpler if we lived in a world with a stark contrast between good and evil. Granted, many people act as if they live in this black and white world, but I think most of us realize that this is delusional. However, there have been some moments in history that seem so clearly to conform to this good vs. evil worldview. World War II is one of them. But if you look closely, this comforting perspective begins to break down. Gavriel D. Rosenfeld has made it his mission to preserve this “moralistic” version of WWII.
He is concerned about what he calls the “normalization” of Nazi Germany. He contrasts this with “the commitment to moralism.” To illustrate, he points to the “[r]evisionist works of scholarship by conservative and liberal Anglo-American journalists and historians, such as Nicholson Baker, Patrick Buchanan, Norman Davies, Niall Ferguson, and Michael Bess, among many others, have deliberately blurred the once clear moral lines between the wartime behavior of the Allies and Axis, in the process relativizing the exceptionality and universalizing the significance of the Nazi era.” It seems that what Rosenfeld means by “moralism” is a clear delineation between good and evil. It would be great if the world was so black and white, but it is not! And I would argue that it has been this kind of moral thinking that has led to so much human suffering.
Rosenfeld contrasts his black and white morality with what he calls “normalization.” By which he seems to mean the “blurr[ing] of once clear moral lines.” However, it is the more sophisticated moral analysis opposed by Rosenfeld that is more authentic and productive of the peace and harmony that he seems to value. We must honestly confront the past even if we don’t like parts of it if we want to make the world a better place. This is not to claim that the Allies (U.S., U.K, and the Soviet Union) were the same in moral terms as Nazi Germany. There is absolutely no moral equivalency between the crimes of the Allies in comparison to the crimes of the Nazis!!!!! It is only to recognize that we were not purely good and the Germans were not purely evil.

History News Network | Was Hitler a Normal Leader?

Hi Hitler! How the Nazi past is being normalized

Japan crown prince warns on ‘correct’ history – Yahoo News

In an interview Naruhito, the crown prince of Japan, said: “Today when memories of war are set to fade, I reckon it is important to look back our past with modesty and pass down correctly the miserable experience and the historic path Japan took from the generation who know the war to the generation who don’t.” You go Naruhito! Whether he intended it or not, it was a rebuke against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s nationalist history that denies Japanese war crimes during WWII, particularly the use of comfort women.

Japan crown prince warns on ‘correct’ history – Yahoo News.

Crown Prince Naruhito

Crown Prince Naruhito

Pressure in Japan to Forget Sins of War – NYTimes.com

“Coming to terms with its militarist past has never been easy for Japan, which tried to set aside the issues raised by the war as it rebuilt itself into the peaceful, prosperous nation it is today. But pressure to erase the darker episodes of its wartime history has intensified recently with the rise of a small, aggressive online movement seeking to intimidate those like Mr. Mizuguchi who believe the country must never forget,” Martin Fackler by a far right nationalist group of “cyberactivists” known as Net Right to halt the erection of a memorial in the tiny village of Sarufutsu, where “[a]t least 80 Korean laborers died of abuse and malnutrition here as they built an airfield at the behest of the Japanese military during World War II.”  This group is using intimidation to stop what it sees as blights on the image of the nation.  Unfortunately, in this case they succeeded and work on the memorial came to a halt.

These nationalists believe that they are restoring honor to the Japanese nation but what is more honorable: Admitting your sins and trying to make amends or covering them up?

Pressure in Japan to Forget Sins of War – NYTimes.com.

japanese memorial to korean laborers WWII

 

 

History News Network | Some in Japan want to deny “comfort women” were employed in WW II. They need to watch this.

History is the tool of nationalists everywhere. They believe that greatness is perfection. Therefore, they must whitewash the past. The result is the creation of a mythic past that must be protected at all costs. As a result, they lash out at anyone who would taint their beautiful picture. Those who dare to do so are seen as enemies of the nation and deserve only contempt and hatred. Unfortunately, nationalism has been on the rise recently. Pride in one’s nation is only natural but when it turns to arrogance it becomes a divisive force that can turn violent if it is not checked.

The Japanese (as well as others) have never really confronted their past but they had been heading in a more honest direction until the recent rise in nationalism. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has recently requested that the Education Ministry approve only patriotic textbooks (i.e. books that deny the crimes committed by the Japanese during WWII). (see The New York Times) The fact that “several members of Abe’s cabinet are gearing up for a demand that the [Kono] statement [that admits responsibility for the comfort women used by the Japanese soldiers during WWII] be withdrawn next year, the 70thanniversary of the end of World War II” (see article) is only the latest indication of a troubling trend. Unfortunately, this trend is not limited to Japan.

I believe that nationalists have it backwards. Whitewashing the past is not the path to greatness; confronting the past is. The real heroes in this story are those like Matsumoto Masayoshi (see video at link below) who are willing to speak out in order to bear witness to the atrocities that they witnessed. Japan can only be respected if it is willing to admit their mistakes. The nationalists are wrong to believe that erasing the past will restore honor to Japan.

History News Network | Some in Japan want to deny “comfort women” were employed in WW II. They need to watch this..

The Seventieth Anniversary of D-Day: A Few Comments and Recommendations

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy. It marks the turning point in World War II in favor of the Allies, but it has taken on so much more meaning since the end of the war. It has become a symbol of democratic ingenuity and determination in the face of evil. The democratic Allies (U.S., Canada, and Britain) pulled off an amazing feat. They were able to surprise attack the Nazis with a 7,000 ship armada. It took tremendous planning, coordination, and daring to pull off such a complex mission. It certainly deserves its place in history but it also has a darker side. The loss of life on this one day is astounding, especially on Omaha beach. It must have been terrifying for those men who were shuttled out of landing craft only to face unrelenting fire from the heavily fortified German defenses. These men in no uncertain terms deserve to be honored for their bravery and sacrifice. D-Day has so much to teach us about human ingenuity and courage. But in our desire to mythologized this event we shouldn’t be afraid to examine the many mistakes that were also a part of this awe-aspiring event. To do so is not to denigrate the event but to do honor to those who lost their lives as a result of those mistakes. And if we are willing to learn from these mistakes we will be the better for it. Let’s honor the men who sacrificed their lives on that day by trying to understand what really happened seventy years ago. Continue reading