In 1942, my father, a 32nd degree Mason and a graduate of Harvard Law School, resigned his position as mayor of a small town to join the United States Navy, becoming one of the several species of lieutenant. The Navy taught him Japanese and lent him to the Army. It was his job, on Okinawa, to attempt to induce Japanese soldiers and civilians – most of them hidden in caves – to surrender instead of committing suicide.
He was not successful. Having provoked the war and fire-bombed their civilians in violations of all international law, we were unable to understand why they refused to believe us when we told them how kind-hearted we were! Japanese determination not to survive the destruction of their ideals was considered simply proof of their fanaticism.
We were not belligerent nationalists or anti-Japanese racists; on the contrary: we considered ourselves friends of the Japanese. We had the greatest admiration for all things Japanese. My grandmother studied Japanese calligraphy, owned Japanese art objects, and wrote haikus, a Japanese poetical form. We had many Japanese friends, some of whom we had known for 40 years.
Of course, they were ‘good Japanese.’ That they could feel any resentment or conflict of loyalties was inconceivable to us. That we might have done anything wrong would have been incomprehensible to us. We considered our Japanese friends to be mentally indistinguishable from ourselves.
The only indication I had that this was not so, was when I ‘played guns’ with a Nisei whose parents worked for us. “Let’s fight the Japs!” I said. “No,” he replied, “let’s fight the Chinese.” I thought this was rather odd – I had never heard of anyone fighting the Chinese – but I thought, oh well, what’s the difference? So I said, “OK, let’s fight the Chinese.”
There is something to be learned from everyone.
Carlos Porter wrote Not Guilty at Nuremberg: The German Defence Case and translated and wrote the Foreword for Soviet Evidence at Katyn: Document USSR-54 at Nuremberg, both published by the Heretical Press. He has written a number of other books. The above appears in Japs Ate My Gall Bladder: Phony Atrocity Tales of WWII, published in 1994 by Remarks Books, PO Box 234, Aurora, NY 13026-0234, USA.