Saturday, March 13, 2010
I hate to be reductionist about this, but Tom Hanks is a moron. His defense, on the small chance he found it necessary to mount one, is that he is the product of a school system that devotes a lot of time to the lives of average people in days gone by and almost none to geopolitical or military history. Sorry, but it is a lot more important for students to know how cataclysmic wars start than how soap was made on a Kansas farm 130 years ago.
Yeah, that was a doltish concept. there certainly was an element of racial distrust with Japan, but Hanks should have known that the motherload of race-baiting was a product of the cartoons, feature films and media...aka...Hollywood.
I can still remember the old war films that routinely had the Japanese soldiers shooting Americans in the back and the war cartoons portraying Japanese as slant-eyed creeping evil-doers.
Look no further than your own backyard, Mr. Hanks.
Hanks is just wrong -- how more a-historically wrong can you get.
But give him credit for HBO's The Pacific, which I'm looking forward to. I heard on Imus earlier this week that one of its themes is that the Japanese refusal to surrender made the fighting nasty and brutish even by the standards of war. As WWII wound down, things got easier for the US soldier in Europe -- not so in the Pacific.
The Germans of today and the Japanese of today are different than those of two generations ago -- there's hope for mankind yet. We have a Hollywood created-image of sadistic WWII German soldiers in our heads -- a little truth in every jest, I suppose -- but the typical German was an angel compared to the typical WWII Japanese soldier. If you start to google "Nanking" you get an immediate prompt for "Nanking massacre." The sick details of what rank and file Japanese soldiers unleashed on locals is still unfathomable to me.
Jersey Boy Marine Private John Basilone is supposed to be a key figure in The Pacific. He was literally a one man regiment. He won the Medal of Honor for Guadalcanal and later won the Navy Cross for Iwo Jima, posthumously.
Speaking of Hollywood getting history wrong -- and Japan in particular -- Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai is on my personal list of top ten worst of all time.
If you look at the history of Japanese-American relations since the time of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904, you would probably find that we have had better relations with the Japanese than most of our other so-called Allies (I'm looking at you, France) over that period EXCEPT for the interval 1928 - 1945.
There was a lot of Japanese "xenophobia" in California since the beginning of the 20th century (which was clear in reading biographies of Teddy Roosevelt by HW Brands and Edmund Morris), but as for the rest of the country, meh. If we hated the Japanese, we have had a funny way of showing it, judging by a lot of post WWII things that have happened.
The war in the Pacific was my father's war. It was really ugly for a lot of reasons. But all war is usually pretty ugly up close. That's what makes it something to be avoided.
You would think that Hank's would have realized that from making "Band of Brothers".
My father-in-law served with the 3rd Marine Division and occupied Japan after the war. He was humbled by the Japanese respect for their conquerors and the men of his unit invariably returned that respect. His brother married a Japanese woman and told him years later that they was amazed at how quickly the American people moved from wartime hostility to friendship. Tom Hanks needs to spend some time outside the bubble of liberal activism, or whatever is clouding his judgment.