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Back in the 1940s, every newspaper, every magazine, the movies, the radio, everything was geared that the Japanese were short, myopic, everyone wore glasses, they all had buck teeth, they were all int

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World War II veteran Don Mates, a survivor of the battle of Iwo Jima. Now 82, he says he wanted nothing to do with Japan until 2000, when the History Channel invited him to Iwo Jima for the 55th anniversary. Since then, he says his perspective on the Japanese and the war have changed. (Palm Beach Post)

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It's a shame it takes veterans like Mates 55 years to find closure, but I respect that they have to do it at their own pace. I don't know how I'd feel if that had been me.

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Where has this guy been since the war ended? Living under a cave I presume. White US service men promoted the notion in Europe to white women, that black service men had tails. We are talking about a segregated army in which black and white were presumably fighting fascism and racism when back home America was consumed by racism. This guy clearly has had his head firmly lodged up you know where for all these years. We take responsibility for our own attitudes particularly if they continue to persist in the face of mountain information that negates them. We can no longer say the government did not tell me, or I did not know.

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Everton2

You're assuming having your friends killed in front of you has nothing to do with finding closure. I'm assuming this guy, since he was on Iwo Jima, saw more than a few friends die at the hands of the Japanese. It may be this trauma rather than war-time cartoons of Japanese that kept him from wanting anything to do with Japan.

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I know some WWII veterans in my country who still hate the Japanese and can’t understand how I can live here in Japan. While I never comment on their experiences in WWII, it does bother me when they vent their feelings in front of my Japanese wife whenever we visit. It’s weird that they seem oblivious to the fact that there is a young Japanese woman sitting there politely listening while they ramble on about what happened in WWII.

I wonder how they can best find closure because they just seem to be recycling their old feelings again and again.

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Smartacus

I am no psychiatrist but I think that those old veterans who ramble on over and over again actually don't know how to give up that hate. It's become part of their life, their psychology. When something's been part of your thought processes for 65 years, it's near impossible to let go. Imagine the emptiness. Older people also have fewer people to talk to, and probably are not good at talking about current issues. I know my grandparents and older uncles and aunties talk mostly about "what it was like in their day."

Anyway, I'm sure you and your wife know not to take the ramblings of those veterans personally.

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For those JTers out there who still follow that quaint pastime known as "reading books" and this topic is of interest, check out War Without Mercy by John Dower. Excellent analysis of the Pacific War as a racial war, from both sides.

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And in the end he came to terms with his hate. I wish some others in other nations could do the same. It's never too late.

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A good book also on this subject is called "America's Geisha Ally..Reimagining the Japanese enemy by Naoko Shibusawa, it covers many of the sentiments made by the gentleman. To sum it up, the American press made sure those sterotype images of Japanese were ingrained in the American fighting man and to motivate the war effort. However, after the war, America saw that it needed Japan as a hedge against the USSR, and now those same images were softened to show how under our tutelage and guidance, Japan was a "good friend" now. Basically, we replaced the Japanese as the "good asian" from the Chinese who were now "bad asians" since they went communist.

So, this gentleman who had been to war, was a product of what he was seeing and reading. True, he should have had an epiphany much sooner rather than 55 years later, but that just goes to show how racial attitudes are in America, and the world over. Replace his comments with a Chinese vet from the era and see if he still has any hard feelings toward Japan.

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Not trying to say blacks were the better GIs, but just trying to point out that the racist comments by the gentleman go both ways. There were images of what they thought about the Japanese as well as their own soldiers. Times were different then, and I hope that we are better now.

<strong>Moderator: Back on topic please. References to black GIs are not relevant.</strong>

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It´s interesting that Japan Today chooses this particular comment. Looking up the article´s introduction (http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/content/news/MONdonaldmates0407.html), it turns out that this Donald Mates will take part in a Japanese documentary on Iwo Jima, the battlegrounds where he met them so long ago under such different circumstances. Regarding the motives, there´s more than a hint that he might have been crippled in that battle ("his thighs were decimated"). I would also like to refer to the comment made by Midori Yanagihara, the reporter making the documentary, on his motives for making it. As he says it: "We want to state that war is bad on both sides," she said. "War is ugly." I think that is the lesson in this comment. If either side, or both, sticks to the "they were the bad guys and we were the victims" attitude, that causes a problem. Also, as Mates and Yanagihara seem to agree, more important than laying blame is to talk about things in friendship and learn about the mistakes (like for instance the propaganda on both sides that the other people were somehow sub-human), so that we can avoid the same mistakes happening all over again.

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Well as a European I didn't know about these ridiculous newspapers but I have read a book called "Give us this day" written by Veteran Sidney Stewart about the Pacific war.It isn't full of hatred...

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I think that his comments are telling in one important way. He took 55 years to resolve his emotional issues with the enemy he faced on Iwo Jima. Even if he came from the racist part of America, you could still say that he was somewhat "enlightened" as compared to someone who has been brought up in the Middle East. Now look at the situation in Iraq. You have people (Shia/Sunni) that are still carrying a grudge that has been handed down for centuries. Same with Hamas and Israel. I am not saying who is right or wrong on all the Middle East issues, but if the people there can't come to a realization like this gentleman has (even thought it took him 55 years), I forsee the issues in that part of the world will be around for a long time.

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The old biases have not been wiped away. Some of the same old stereotypes can be found in films and tv today. I am encouraged, however, by the fact that even though both of my Grandfathers fought in the Pacific against Japan, they both love my Japanese wife. It gives me some comfort that within a few generations this animosity many have toward Americans -- and the animosity many Americans have toward others (Iranians, Arabs, etc.) -- can be wiped away.

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Soldiers just did their duties that were all. Wars happened everywhere in the world history. We can look into each country's history and understand what regional wars, WW, and civil wars. A survived soldier left his or her closure and memory. We know and interpret in our own fashion, because the insiders experienced the real battle, viewers just watched a documentary movie or entertainment movie in the modern time of peace.

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I didn't see any action in WWII, I was a tad to young. But I caught the tag end of Korea, and did several tours in Vietnam, and I have an insight, that while not pretty or kind (to either side) may help some of you understand what is done in time of war.

The enemy must be 'demonized' (by both sides) --the 'others are not 'you' they really are less then human, they are daemons and eat babies, or what ever --and to help this along derogatory terms are contrived to call the 'enemy', they are portrayed in every manner as sub-human and evil. You see for the average soldier to be trained and ready to kill it helps to make him believe that the other side isn't really human --it is a rare person that can simply kill other humans for esoteric reasons --they need a emotional reason they can use to justify the act.

And that is what government does, trains the troops (and uses the same propaganda, for the same reasons, on their civilian population) that it's not really people, just some sub-human animal that has gone berserk and needs to be killed for the good of everyone. Those movies from the period simply reflect this propaganda (or more accurately, they are/were propaganda films).

Some of us do not need that brain washing, we can kill because we understand the reasoning behind that need, at that time and place (war = the final act of diplomacy), but most can't deal with the reality of just killing other humans because the powers that be couldn't reach an understanding.

And no military would long survive (or even be an effective fighting force) if each soldier had to stop and mull over the merit of his actions. He must simply follow orders, react first, and either never question, or blank those questions out until a later date. This "I was following my orders" can reach the level of war crimes - when you dehumanize another human to that extent, you can become quite a lot less then human your self.

So finally it ends, and one side or the other 'won', and the killing can stop --but now how do you un-brainwash your troops (and civilians) into thinking the defeated enemy is now a real human again, just like you are, and more to the point, what government is going to even bother? Try to see it this way; The winners write the history, and the losers don't hold war crimes trials. So while much bad happened on and by both sides, the 'winners' must, to some degree, continue the farce, to purge themselves and there actions of any lingering taint.

If you never question, then you need never doubt what you did was all glory and for God and Country, pure of heart and soul. Some times this simply never quite expunges it's self from the collective psyche until virtually everyone from the period is dead. We don't worry much over the inhumanity's done in ancient battles ... or how the losers looked at, say for example; Alexander the Great.

War is never a good thing, and the things done during a war are, at best, questionable. But the portrayal of the enemy as something not quite human is just a part of that. If you look at those films as the propaganda they are/were, they may not be more palatable, but they may be more understandable. Deplorable now, but this is now, not 1940. In 1940 they were simply a part of the times, and they were the times of war.

As you can see from the above, I'm not an elegant writer, but please do try to see that blaming those films, and all the associated and demeaning acts, in the light of today's world, is like failing to understand that you do not blame a baby for soiling his diaper, when he has grown past that. The best way to view those things from the past, are as our dirty diapers from back then. Best not forgotten, lest we repeat old mistakes, but treated as what they are: a part of what happened that should not be part of who we are now.

Please notice I have not said "forgive and forget", I will never forget those that were dear that I lost, nor the things I experienced. And I'm unsure that 'forgiving' the situation that caused those things to happen is a good thing either. But we should try to not blame other humans forever, for the errors made by the 'leaders' of the time (on all sides). We should remember and try not to allow our leaders to repeat the same errors --they will find enough new ways to error all on their own, let us not use history to encourage the repetition, but rather use it to discourage such things from repeating.

Very probably a hopeless dream, but one worth striving for anyway. Failure to try insures only failure.

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In my opinion, WW II already ended for more than a half of a century, there were stories on both sides. When I look back to my own country's history - what I have found. If the outsiders had a little chance to witness what our people went through those bad days, Everyone will come to a conclusion why our people killed each other for nothing!!! It happened in the 20th century - more than 30 years ago (not too long), not in the medieval time!!!!

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I suggest watching both Clint Eastwood films : FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA. They are an important pair of films, honest and very well made and with deep messages.

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I noticed some posters here are asking others to look at this or that book to gain some more perspective on war. They are all the same, essential narratives on death and destruction told by the victors. They follow the same part, never acknowledging fully the innocent victims or the reluctant soldier that wanted no part of it all. The primacy of belligerence over reason a concept that the human condition is well schooled on.

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And we know the above because of JT telling us so in it's great stories that it tells on this site.

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