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Iwo Jima vet, Okinawa survivor wrestle with WWII legacy

32 Comments
By ERIC TALMADGE

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Lest we forget.....stories like these and the thousands if not millions of others should stand as proof that there are no real winners in war. (Are you listening Mr. Abe?)

7 ( +14 / -7 )

"I can never forget their cruelty and inhumanity, not only to us the enemy, but also among themselves." (Norman Baker)

Poignant remark that really sums up the mindset at the time. Not only did Japan's enemies suffer at the hands of the IJA, and even those who were ostensibly allies in countries occupied by Japan and the Japanese themselves.

The irony here is that the "virulent propaganda" Baker "had been fed" about the fanatical mentality was spot on. Meanwhile. the propaganda fed to Shimabukuro about inevitable rape/torture if taken prisoner, and the IJA's telling people to "bite of their own tongues" as a means of ending their life to avoid capture, was largely untrue, and a reflection of that fanatical mentality.

While families sending U.S. soldiers off to the war were pleading with them to come back alive, in Japan they were told to sacrifice their lives for the country and that coming back home alive would bring shame on them and their families.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

People have painful memories, but the ghosts are being killed. Hate eats you up. Hate dissipates slowly, but we have to forgive.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

“They say they are here to protect Okinawa, to protect Japan. But we should instead be working together to create a world in which they aren’t needed.

great quote.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Lest we forget.....stories like these and the thousands if not millions of others should stand as proof that there are no real winners in war.

Well said.

(Are you listening Mr. Abe?)

Ruined by your cheap political shot that makes me wonder if you were really sincere about the first part.

-9 ( +7 / -16 )

MESSAGE: They learned. Why hasn't the rest of Japan learned? I see Japan going down that road again. We are in the midst of a military buildup. Governor Ishihara raised the stakes on his children's souls. Now the airstrips are being built, The carriers and naval fleets are getting sea ready. The law of paper is being tested by Russia.

It is only a matter of time before all these stories are forgotten and the stage is set. All the pieces are in place. Now we only need to dim the light and we will again.....scorch the Earth with our blood.

You are NOT ready but you have been warned.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

Reformed B - why would the sincerity of a person's an anti-war comment be brought into question because they disagree with Abe's push for increased military spending, increased military operations abroad and his govt's promotion of the weapons industry and global weapons marketing as good for business?

To me the two are inextricably linked - no argument.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

But her distrust remains, largely because of the continued U.S. military presence in Okinawa, home to several U.S. bases.

They had to get that in somewhere.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Japan Today, thank you for providing this article. The stories within provide valuable insight into the perpectives of each side during the war and how the two sides have come to trust each other and start anew. Reading this gives me hope that the future will see greater understanding in the world. These are stories that need to be told and heard.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Yubaru, as far as the bankers are concerned, they are the real winners. They create conflicts, rumors, and conditions for war so the countries force themselves to borrow money from the central banks they own, and put people into more servitude.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

"We called them the American beasts".

Right. Only beasts were able to bomb civilian population of Japan in exchange of Japanese attack on American naval harbour.

-17 ( +2 / -19 )

Really good story. Shows you how different the perspectives are. Ms. Shimabukuro still doesn't realize how lucky she is to have the U.S. around. Treated you like a human being when you were thinking of killing yourself and gave you your life back with no strings attached. Seventy years ago, with one of the best militaries in the world, Tokyo couldn't protect you. What makes you think they could now?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

A nice story.

“They say they are here to protect Okinawa, to protect Japan. But we should instead be working together to create a world in which they aren’t needed. “I don’t hate them,” she added, her voice fading as she carefully thought of what to say next. “I do still believe the Americans are a kind people.”

During the last Saturday and Sunday I joined Okinawans who sit in at the other side of the street opposite to the gate of Camp Schwab in Henoko. Those protesters are just ordinary Okinawa citizens who have exactly the same emotion and motivation as Ms. Shimabukuro states here. I didn’t see any professional activists as often talked about in the main land.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Reformedbasher: "Ruined by your cheap political shot that makes me wonder if you were really sincere about the first part."

How can you be sincere about "lest we forget" if not asking current politicians to NOT forget? There's nothing insincere about it, nor is it insincere, particularly when taking into light the suffering of the woman in the article and the virulent propaganda that led to it -- which is coming back into play by not only Abe but other leaders. Hence, "lest we forget", because we seem to be forgetting pretty willingly.

Very moving stories, and also very horrible. I'm glad they could move on to an extent and teach others about their experiences.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Sensato well put at 7:34!!!

Sadly Japan still has an awful long way to go to even admit the things that happened let alone come to terms with them!

And yes IJA & the govt of the time treated their own incredibly bad & they cant even atone for that!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Sorry, my first line should read, "How can you be INsincere about..."

And I also meant to add that Sensato did indeed hit it on the mark.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Ruined by your cheap political shot that makes me wonder if you were really sincere about the first part.

This comment makes me wonder if you know what is going on with Abe and the upcoming 70th Anniversary of the end of WWII?

It is not a cheap shot by any means, Abe should be listening, and from one point it's coming from one of his fellow Japanese citizens.

Dont question my "sincerity", I am straight forward when it comes to sarcasm when I post here.....if the posts last)

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

@yamashi It was the IJA that was handing out hand grenades to the civilian population on Okinawa, so as usual, you have no sense of proportion and ignore simple facts about Japan's past.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I agree with Baker for the past events, but not today anymore. Of course such men and women still exist here, like elsewhere, but a few. There're many kind and considerate people here like elsewhere. I agree with Yoshiko about the past and acknowledge the past extends into the present everywhere in the world's troubled spots. American imperialist looted Iraq and eliminated Kadafi and replaced both countries with ISIS. Sorry to say the truth!!

1 ( +5 / -4 )

@nyunt_shwe You are aware that China was the number one beneficiary from the Iraq war and the US obtained nothing in "loot" from Lybia? The only thing the US should apologize for is letting people like yourself remain in Okinawa.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The irony here is that the "virulent propaganda" Baker "had been fed" about the fanatical mentality was spot on.

And you were there to witness how all of it was spot on?

Meanwhile. the propaganda fed to Shimabukuro about inevitable rape/torture if taken prisoner, and the IJA's telling people to "bite of their own tongues" as a means of ending their life to avoid capture, was largely untrue, and a reflection of that fanatical mentality.

Right, again, we have the beautiful image of the American heroes here. Do not get me wrong. I do know that the IJA soldiers did terrible things but not all of them were the monsters people nowadays believe they were. Similarly, not all American soldiers were the noble guys they are thought to have been.

For this reason, comparisons like yours once again show who officially won the war despite the fact that, as somebody mentioned above, there are no reall winners at personal level in any war.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

These two survivors know the war ended and that their peoples are now living together in peace. They have had many years of peace to work on their healing, and are not in the same mindset that they were in during the war. The same cannot be said for the millions of people who died in the war. Their troubled spirits continue to haunt us into the present. Instead of glorifying soldiers in annual Remembrance ceremonies, we need to come together at the killing fields and show the spirits trapped in their horrible death scenes that the war is over, and we are now at peace. Doing this will free them to go to the Light, and free us to get on with living peaceful lives unburdened by the trauma of wars past.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Yubaru

If you were sincere about the last part, why enclose it in comments?

@JaneM

I think we are taught History at too young an age to properly comprehend it, and perhaps more importantly, question it.

Too much black and white, with no room for exceptions. Great for the simple-minded I guess. Hence the usual dogmatic drivel that pops up.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

My Japanese wife had a Grandfather and seven uncles...he was the only one of eight to return. Her family view the war with great sadness. My late Grandfathers also fought and could not bring themselves to talk of the utter devastation it caused. The world needs to move on from the evil that was.

We are a new generation and cannot be blamed for the atrocities of the war. Lest we forget so it never happens again. Those who still have the anger and hatred taught to them from birth need to travel and see that people are the same. Love and helping people for no reward is the answer.....

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Reformedbasher: "If you were sincere about the last part, why enclose it in comments?"

I think you mean 'brackets', but in any case how does that make it less sincere? Do I have to teach you about the various uses of brackets? You'd call it that regardless of whether there were brackets or not, simply because takes a very relevant poke at Abe.

"I think we are taught History at too young an age to properly comprehend it, and perhaps more importantly, question it."

Questioning it is very necessary, but you can't question something that's not there. Black and white it sometimes may be, and that is why it's necessary to learn about it at an early age and to look into it yourself as well. What age would you suggest it be good to teach history, RB? after they've become old enough to go off and die because they were never taught about what happened the last time they were told to?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

@Reformed Basher

Yes, that I believe is the case with most, if not all, countries, my native country included. Yet, adults gain experience through life and eventually are supposed to understand that life is not only black-and-white and nothing is only good or only bad. Governments in general do not maintain viewpoints and never teach perspectives on history which are potentially damaging to the reputation of their own country. Yet, in this age, there are still so many people who see things in two colors only, failing to recognize the fact that history is full of human mistakes which do not make any nation better than the others. I do hope I am mistaken but it seems that hypocrisy is the norm in politics and, inevitably, it is reflected in the opinions of ordinary people.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

War is Hell. ...

I recently read a letter to my father dated August 1945 from a friend, also actively serving in the US Military as was my father, who was about to arrive on the island of Okinawa. I will scan and upload it for posterity, as I have done to some other corresppndence from WWII that I inherited from my Dad, who passed away in 2011. He would be 98 years old this year. A few scans can be read, here: http://www.thebest-of.info/Q/jfqhonor-vmail-9-15-1944.htm

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@yamashi and all

It is a war crime to intentionally target innocent civilians but it is not a war crime to target civilians as they are engaged in war related activities. Legitimate military targets include the armed forces, military installations, military stores, munitions manufacturing facilities and the supply lines of the belligerent. If civilians are killed when these are targeted, it is not a war crime on the part of the attackers. The safety of civilians in the vicinity of legitimate targets is incumbent upon their government, not the attacking forces. Munitions factories should not be located nearby residential areas. Nor should military installations, stores or training facilities. If school aged children are roasted alive while working in a munitions plant, the responsibility for that belongs to the government that allowed school aged children to work in a munitions plant, not with the belligerent that bombed the munition plant. The government of Japan at that time placed quotas upon every household for the production of munitions, thereby turning every single home in Japan into a munitions factory and thus a legitimate military target. Even today in Tokyo we can find many examples of industrial/manufacturing sites intermingled with private residences. Along my commuter train route, leather hides can be seen drying atop a small apartment complex. During the war, these would have been for military equipment. Across the tracks a supplier of automobile fenders is found atop another apartment building. These would have been for military vehicles during the war. The grandmother of an acquaintance of mine sews together the precut parts of clothing for a popular domestic brand in her home. She would have been sewing together military uniforms in the 1940s. The first floor of a friend's home is his father-in-law's machine shop. It would have been turning out parts for military equipment during the war. All would have been legitimate targets and all of these are surrounded by private residences and other small factories as similar facilities were during the war. This same government turned all schools into military training camps and later munitions factories, thus turning these into legitimate military targets too. School boys and many school girls in Japan at the time drilled in military formations carrying training weapons at school. There schools thus became military training grounds. Later in the war, the following phrase appears repeatedly in the writings of girls of school age, "Today we put away our ink stones and brushes and picked up xxxxxxxxx.", whatever tools were required for the production of the war material they were ordered to supply. Schools were no longer schools but munitions factories and the once school girls attending them were then munition factory workers, legitimate military targets. The Japanese people are justified in their anger over the targeting of their civilian population. However, the blame is misplaced. The responsibility for this lies with their own government which put them in the line of fire.
-1 ( +2 / -3 )

MESSAGE: They learned. Why hasn't the rest of Japan learned? I see Japan going down that road again. We are in the midst of a military buildup. Governor Ishihara raised the stakes on his children's souls. Now the airstrips are being built, The carriers and naval fleets are getting sea ready. The law of paper is being tested by Russia.

The ones who've actually experienced the horrors of war are rapidly dying of old age, and the ones who've only known peace (Abe included) have nothing to counter their desire for a return to the glory that Japan once had. Thus you get more and more citizens asking "why should we be pacifist?" instead of citizens stating "here's why we became pacifist."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Forgive and forget philosophically, has a nice tone about it and most of us can do just that although forgiving can be easier than forgetting. It is our choice to learn to let go of a past wrong and it is our choice to learn to no longer allow ourselves to be hurt by it. By removing your ego from the equation the situation might look differently so when someone says I can forgive, but I can't forget, it is another way of saying, I will not forgive. In the end it's still difficult for people to forgive the atrocities of a war and darn impossible to forget.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Reminds me of a story written by a Japanese soldier after the war.

He was in the hot battlefield of the Philippines, starved, heavy sick, short of water. He lost consciousness. When he woke up, he found himself already captured by the Americans and stripped off all of his weapons and belongings except a canteena water battle in which he kept a sip of dirty water warmed by the heat, he had thought the last swallow of his life.

He was taken to the beach where he was ordered to get on board a US PT Boat. An American soldier on the boat demanded his water bottle, he thought that his life line was finally gone, handed the bottle to the American. The American dumped the remaining water to the sea from the bottle. The Japanese soldier thought that was the end of his life. He was ready to be killed.

The American went into the boat with the empty bottle and soon came back, and handed the bottle back to the Japanese soldier with his smile. The bottle was heavy, filled with clean water so cooled the Japanese soldier never experienced in the Philippines.

The Japanese soldier felt like he suddenly woke up from a nightmare, and came back to the world of human.

So...my respect to that American soldier on the PT Boat.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Right. Does anyone here really wish Imperial Japan had continued its domination of East and South East Asia? Does anyone here really think the US dominated world, Viet Nam and Iraq and all, is anything as bad as the king of world we would have had with a NAZI/Imperial japan dominated one. Or a Soviet Russia one?

If so, kindly speak up and own it: Write "The US is bad as Imperial Japan ever was."

If not, it is an inescapable conclusion that we are not dealing here with a moral equivalency between US anti-Japanese propaganda and Imperial Japan anti-US propaganda. And that articles such as this obscure this salient fact.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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