China / Society

A black-and-white war fought in full color

By Randy Wright (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-14 08:02

I once mused aloud to my father, a World War II veteran, that his war appeared to have been fought in black and white. I was joking about the newsreels from the days before the rise of color film. He stopped me with a quiet, sobering reply: "Yes it was black and white-good and evil."

He believed then, and still does at age 90, that mankind hung in the balance, and that his duty was to resist both the Germans and the Japanese.

I've followed with disgust the news over the past 18 months about Japan's attempts to whitewash its war record. I wanted my dad's perspective, and so I called him the other day.

Warming up after a few minutes, his memories began to flow. Among other things, he recalled headlines from the newspapers he delivered as a boy in the 1930s-the occupation of the former Manchuria, and the murderous rampage in Nanjing, then called Nanking. "The Japanese were a warlike people then," he said.

That conversation prompted me to dig further, and the Internet did not disappoint: I found news dispatches three-quarters of a century old that are as damning today as when they were written. I read the eyewitness accounts of Western observers in Nanjing describing outrages against civilians-old men, women, young girls, children-and against unarmed prisoners. Newsreels, in black and white, showed a city of death.

So much for denials. This cannot be whitewashed. The truth cannot be suppressed by changing the words of schoolbooks from "massacre" to "incident" or by other acts of false patriotism. Sadly, years after Japan betrayed humanity, its leaders are willing to betray their own children by teaching what amounts to lies.

It only adds to the stench of the corpses the Imperial Japanese Army stacked waist deep in the streets of China's former capital, a stench of guilt that stings one's nostrils even today. It is Japan's eternal shame.

In the summer of 1945, my father was in California with a battle-hardened army division that had been redirected from Europe after the defeat of Germany. They were training for an amphibious assault on Japan's home island. Dad was a radioman, scheduled to hit the beach in the third wave. His survival prospects were dubious, but he was willing to go.

And then the atom bomb silenced the guns, and he and the others went home.

A black-and-white war fought in full color

Of course, the roughly 365,000 US dead, missing and wounded in the Pacific theater pales by comparison to the tens of millions of combined military and civilian losses in China, the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere. Japan was responsible for an Asian holocaust on par with the Nazis in Europe. And it drew first blood, both in Asia and at Pearl Harbor.

Through the recent controversy, it's good to remember that there are plenty of US veterans and their sons and daughters who do not approve of Japan's official attitude-ally or not. It's an insult to US citizens, not only to Chinese and Koreans. Many people in Japan also object.

So I was wrong. My father's war was not fought in black and white. As he told me, "Blood is all the same color."

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(China Daily 04/14/2015 page2)

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