Dan Crosson – “The Fabrication”: Japanese Denialism of the Nanking Massacre

For this week’s blog post I was tasked with exploring denialism of war crimes. After some general searching, I found that one of the most prevalent examples is denialism of Japanese war crimes during World War II. Despite the Japanese public becoming more informed over the decades, there remains a sizable group among the population that continue to downplay or outright deny the fact that Imperial Japan committed numerous atrocities during the war.

One of the most controversial figures is Masaaki Tanaka, the author of the book “What Really Happened in Nanking: The Refutation of a Common Myth“. A Japanese WWII veteran himself, Tanaka released the work in 1987, and it has since inspired a growing culture of denialism among Japan’s more conservative groups, including some members of the government.

In the book, Tanaka outlines various reasons why he believed the Japanese have been wrongly accused of the atrocities at Nanking. Most historians believe that some 300,000 Chinese civilians were massacred here in a whirlwind of murder, rape, and destruction . However, Tanaka strongly disputes this history.  He claims that many of the people killed were actually “unlawful combatants”, not civilians, and that the Chinese themselves actually murdered many of their own people. Tanaka also claims that many records were altered, such as burial records, in order to inflate the number of dead. According to Tanaka, the Japanese behaved in a legal and respectable manner, and were actually quite effective in restoring order and safety in Nanking. His list of claims are long, including the denial of eyewitness testimony and photographs depicting Japanese troops, in which he says there are discrepancies such as uniform items that indicate those pictured were not Japanese troops.

Tanaka’s main argument is that the Nanking Massacre was a fabrication of history constructed by the Chinese communists and the West, most notably the United States. He believes that this was done in order to villainize traditional Japanese history and culture, induce a sense of guilt on the nation in order to weaken it, and to exact revenge. Despite the overwhelming amounts of strongly verified evidence and scholarly research that speaks to the contrary, views similar to those of Masaaki Tanaka continue to endure.

 

 

Word Count: 340

Copy of Tanaka’s book – http://assets.cambridge.org/97811070/60388/excerpt/9781107060388_excerpt.pdf

“President Urgently Requests Congress to Back His Plans” – Dan Crosson

On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy delivered his famous “Moon Shot speech” to a joint session of Congress. The following day, the Los Angeles Times ran the story “President Urgently Requests Congress to Back His Plans” by Don Shannon. Shannon’s article immediately takes a serious tone, beginning with the title that explicitly labels the urgency of the president’s request.

Shannon goes on to describe the president’s “ominous plea” emphasizing the moon shot program, including estimated costs of $40 billion over the course of a decade for the entire defense program.  Shannon notes that Congress appear to be visibly cooler in its reception of the president when compared to his previous state of the union address in January. Nonetheless, Congress appeared to embrace the president’s call for taking on the challenge of space exploration.

Important to the context of the time, the moon shot was only a single, though attention dominating, piece of the president’s budget increase proposals. 1961 was a year full of challenges from the USSR, and President Kennedy wished to boost the security and military power of the United States as a whole. As Shannon reports, the president called for a number of other requests: $250 million for the Act for International Development (in specific response to the Vietnam situation),  $60 million to boost the size of the Marine Corps, $100 million for boosting modern Army vehicles, and $125 million for weather and communications equipment. This comes in conjunction with various other program requests, such as unconventional warfare units, new air wings, increases in reserve divisions, and other assets with undisclosed costs.

Attention towards President Kennedy’s moon shot speech naturally centers towards the space program, touted as an advancement in technology and for mankind as a whole. However, Don Shannon seems to recognize the emphasis for security that served as the general undertone of the speech.  The United States was increasing its challenge that USSR, and the moon shot was just one part of a truly massive effort.

 

 

 

Bibliography

SHANNON, DON. “President Urgently Requests Congress to Back His Plans: U.S. MOON SHOT.” Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File),1961.

Word count: 322

 

Franco Spain After the Sputnik – Dan Crosson

In 1957 the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite generated quite the stir around the world. Given the degree of political polarization at the time between West and East, it was only natural that reactions to the event varied. In the United States, there was a sense that the Soviets had beaten them to the punch in a major milestone in the “Space Race”.  Technological races aside, the launch of Sputnik also raised concerns surrounding the political and diplomatic fallout attached to the event. Richard Mowrer’s December article in the cultural and political magazine New Leader touched on some of these fears.

Titled “Franco Spain After the Sputnik”, Mowrer’s article focuses primarily on the reaction to Sputnik felt in Spain under General Francisco Franco, as well as in Yugoslavia under President Josip Broz, more commonly known as Tito.  Both Spain and Yugoslavia were friendly with the United States. Franco was an ardent anti-communist, and Tito’s Yugoslavia, while communist, had a history of tension with the USSR. As such, it was in the interest of the United States to remain in favor beyond the Soviets in both states.

General Francisco Franco

The launch of Sputnik raised questions about the future of US influence in both states.  Three days after the launch of Sputnik, Franco delivered a speech in which he praised the Russians for their achievement.  While no friend to communism, Mowrer writes that Franco acknowledged that the feat was possible due to the Soviet emphasis on order and unity, two traits of the “new Russia” that had emerged in direct challenge to the United States.  Franco is quoted as saying “We cannot ignore the political importance of the fact that a nation has succeeded in launching the first artificial satellite”, continuing with “what has effective value is political unity, continuity, authority and discipline.”

Front page of the Soviet Pravda newspaper on October 6, 1957. The image describes “the victory of Soviet Power.” Pravda articles were reprinted in the Spanish press in the days that followed the Sputnik launch.

Mowrer claims that this thinly veiled jab at U.S. prestige was only worsened by the follow on response in the Spanish press.  Spanish newspapers wrote that the United States had suffered a defeat in its own system of propaganda, releasing a series of articles laced with heavy criticism and even mockery of the US. Given that Franco’s regime tightly censored the media, these stories could not have been printed without formal consent.  In the following days, Soviet state media was reprinted in Spanish papers, and Soviet scientists and political figures were granted audience with Spanish representatives, a first in the era of Franco rule.

Mowrer’s article highlights the constant battle for influence that defined the Cold War period. While central ideologies between states could differ vastly, there were fears that alliances would form through means of sheer power, a measure of “diplomatic realism” as Mowrer called it. The situation in Spain following the Sputnik launch demonstrates that the Space Race was more than a simple technological contest of bragging rights; there was the very real fear that it could mean a tipping point in the Cold War itself.

 

Bibliography

Mowrer, Richard Scott. franco Spain After the Sputnik. Vol. 40. New York, N.Y: New Leader Publishing Association, 1957.

Franco image: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/12006647/Fury-in-Spain-over-tributes-on-anniversary-of-Francos-death.html

Pravda image: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41498083

 

Word count: 487

Between Cultures: Sioux Warriors and the Vietnam War – Dan Crosson

For our discussion on historiography and its forms and methods, I discovered an interesting article on the Sioux Native American perspective of the Vietnam War experience, both at home and on the front lines. John A. Little’s “Between Cultures: Sioux Warriors and the Vietnam War” focuses heavily on social and cultural aspects of the Sioux people during the war period, utilizing a great deal of oral history through interviews with a number of Sioux veterans.

Like many other racial minorities who served in Vietnam, many young Sioux men felt a great deal of patriotism and a sense of duty to their country. Yet culturally, the Sioux had another great motivator that drew them towards service. As a people, the Sioux have a proud warrior culture. Much of their history is structured around great battles and iconic warriors such as Crazy Horse. Sioux men carry the cultural expectation to embrace and honor this warrior legacy, so when the conflict in Vietnam intensified, many Sioux saw combat service as a necessary choice. Some of the Sioux mentioned in the article are quoted as hating military service, yet they felt the pressure and cultural importance of proving themselves as a true battle-tested warrior.

Legendary Sioux warrior and leader Crazy Horse

Once again in similar fashion to other minority service members,  the Sioux faced numerous racial stereotypes, particularly that Native Americans were inherently lazy and alcoholics. Many Sioux soldiers were given nicknames, especially “Chief”.  All of the men quoted in Little’s article recall a near constant battle with racism and prejudice. A point I found especially interesting was the impact of a racist belief the Sioux encountered that while meant to have a “positive” connotation, still had a negative and often deadly impact. Other soldiers, including GIs of other minorities like African Americans, held the belief that Native Americans were natural “super soldiers”, universally possessing advanced skills in combat, scouting, and tracking. As such, many Sioux soldiers were automatically assigned the position of point man in patrols, a role that is both extremely exhausting and carries a high risk of injury or death. Nearly all of the Sioux quoted in Little’s writing noted a near constant posting in the point man position, along with the somber question of how many may have died as a result of this prejudiced assignment.

U.S. Army LRRP, or Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. Many Native Americans found themselves in such specialized recon units due to the stereotypical belief that they were natural born scouts and trackers.

Homecoming for the Sioux warriors of Vietnam also carried its own unique cultural and social elements.  While soldiers of other races were often met with scorn and contempt upon returning home, in Sioux culture a warrior’s homecoming was a standard practice. Respect was given almost unanimously in all cases, with special ceremonies given to servicemen when they returned to their respective reservations. Despite this positive reception,  when the war was over, many Sioux were left struggling. Some recognized the problems of the reservation lifestyle and made careers out of military service. Others fell into vicious cycles of PTSD, problems related to the poverty of tribal lands, and alcohol/substance abuse.

Little’s article paints an intriguing portrait of Sioux culture, especially that of the warrior, during the Vietnam War period. It shows that while they shared many hardships with GIs of various races, the Sioux carried burdens unique to their culture and racial oppressions. Little’s writing shows that not every soldier in Vietnam shared the same experience. Cultural and social differences both at home and at war molded differing perspectives. The use of rich oral history from various Sioux veterans provides a very detailed view into the military life of these brave men, outlining a proud tradition of Sioux warriors that continues to this day.

 

Bibliography

John A. Little. “Between Cultures: Sioux Warriors and the Vietnam War.” Great Plains Quarterly 35, no. 4 (2015): 357-375. https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed October 9, 2017).

Crazy Horse image. http://www.rugusavay.com/crazy-horse-biography/#prettyPhoto/0/

LRRP image.  http://www.thehistoryreader.com/contemporary-history/portrait-ranger-young-lrrp-warrior-vietnam/

 

Word count: 646

Quick and Easy – Dan Crosson

For many of us, it would be difficult to imagine life without some of our most common home appliances. Dishwashers, laundry machines, refrigerators, and the college favorite microwave all make our lives easier by minimizing the time and effort required for daily household tasks.  However, such standard and now mundane amenities were once at the cutting edge of household technology, and likely not as long ago as one might think. “Quick and Easy”, a chapter of Susan Strasser’s book Never Done: A History of American Housework, outlines the role home appliances have played in the typical American home.

Throughout the Great Depression and active World War II years, many American households did the majority of their daily tasks in the home and by hand, with the wife of the household handling the majority of this work. Once the economy recovered in the post-war years, home appliances began to emerge. Among the first were laundry machines, both for the home as well as those found in commercial laundromats. Simultaneously, new gas fueled ovens and stoves took the labor out of fueling the cooking process with traditional wood burning.

In the decades that followed the end of the war, new industries emerged to coincide with the rise of new appliances. Freezers were initially slow to catch on with consumers, but as they rose in popularity, the frozen food industry began to take hold. Initially freezers allowed for families to stock up on large amounts of food for extended future use, but with the rise of the frozen food industry, now fully prepared ready to eat foods became available. Similarly, a market for new laundry detergents emerged as more homes purchased their own washers. Essentially, each emerging appliance ushered in various new products to create a rapidly expanding economy of household products.

This trend of “quick and easy” continued to expand into the 1960s through the 1980s. The easy frozen foods now had an easier method of preparing them in the microwave oven.  The majority of households now had dishwashers, modern washing machines, and now driers. As this technological evolution rose, it changed many of the traditional dynamics of the American household, especially as it pertained to women. Positively, new technology allowed women to pursue ambitions outside of the home. As household tasks took less time and effort, women were left increasingly free to pursue their own professional goals. The traditional role of being a housewife became an increasingly outdated notion.  Women could achieve a full day of work, and then return home and use technology to still keep their household in order.

Despite the benefits, there were some aspects of technology that had impacts one could consider somewhat negative, especially to older generations resistant to change. For example, many women valued the social time they spent with their neighbors outdoors hanging laundry to dry, or even at laundromats when household units were still relatively rare. Dish washing was once a task shared throughout the family, especially with children. It provided valuable family interaction as it was relatively time consuming. Modern dishwashers made this once lengthy task a simple matter of loading and unloading, and some missed the family activity this chore once provided.

As Strasser lays out this evolution in household technology, it is easy to see that that the trend of “quick and easy” was more than just a rise in convenience and ease of use. Technology sparked a change in the economy, general society, and even the most intimate aspects of family dynamics. While America was already immensely powerful following WWII, the growth in household technology spurred the population towards the individualistic style society we see today in the most developed countries. This of course has its advantages; after all, a collectivist family structure focused on shared household labor is usually found in states that struggle on many levels, with women bearing the brunt of everyday home tasks.  Still, Strasser’s writing leaves one to wonder what has been lost in the wake of technology. Is technology in the home paving the way to a brighter and stress free lifestyle in the home, or are we losing aspects of the traditional household once held dear? There certainly is no easy answer, leaving us to simply see where the “quick and easy” lifestyle continues to take us.

 

Strasser, Susan. Never Done: A History of American Housework. New York: Pantheon Books, 1982. https://canvas.vt.edu/courses/56760/files/folder/Women%20and%20Technology?preview=4499405.
Word Count: 729

David McNeill’s “Counterspinning Revisionist History” – Daniel Crosson

Members of Japan’s Unit 731, which conducted biological and chemical warfare experiments and committed various atrocities during WWII. McNeill cites that many of his Japanese students were unaware of the unit’s existence as it is generally erased from the nation’s historical narrative.

 

For our discussion on revisionist history, I came across an interesting article by Dr. David McNeill titled “Counterspinning Revisionist History”, recalling experiences he has had teaching courses at universities in Japan and China. Dr. McNeill discusses how he experienced and attempted to counter revisionist historical views among his students that had begun to cross into the realms of negationism and even denialism.

In the article, McNeill explains how both Japan and China have widely adopted revisionist narratives regarding their own history. In Japan, McNeill claims that many young Japanese still struggle to make an understanding of the devastation their country experienced during World War II. A recent rise in neoconservative thinking has led to many Japanese being quite unaware of the true nature of conflict, especially the role Japan took in certain atrocities. In China, the state closely controls all historical content provided to students, focusing on the pitfalls of its old enemies while ignoring its own.

McNeill’s writing places the idea of historical revisionism in a negative light, at least on the surface. As we have discussed in class, there is a difference between challenging the accepted narrative through the use of new evidence, and simply rewriting or ignoring history for other purposes such as political aims. The former can be considered responsible revisionist research in search of historical accuracy, with the latter being historical negationism and denialism.

While he does not specifically mention these differences, McNeill seems to still understand the importance of what true revisionist history can offer. He warns of the dangers presented by viewing history through the prism of nationalism and bypassing darker aspects of the past. While he painted the idea of revisionism too broadly and in a negative connotation, he actually encouraged his students to challenge the accepted state narrative with the very methods true revisionist historians use. He told his students to ask questions, presented them with new (even banned) sources of information, and stressed the importance of formulating their own thoughts instead of simply accepting whatever they were told.

McNeill’s views on revisionist history may have been flawed from a standpoint of definition, but I believe this article sheds light on some very important issues, especially the confusion that seems to surround the idea of revisionism itself. Our interpretation of history is something that must evolve as new sources are found, and past ideas should certainly be revisited to gain deeper understanding or even a new understanding altogether.

 

Source:

McNeill, David. “Counterspinning Revisionist History.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 56, no. 23 (2010). http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&u=viva_vpi&id=GALE|A220078196&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon&authCount=1

Unit 731 Image. https://dirkdeklein.net/category/japanese-war-crimes/page/2/

 

Word count: 464

The Decision to Use the Bomb: A Historiographical Update

James Walker’s article “The Decision to Use the Bomb: A Historiographical Update” revisits the historical event over four decades later. As a historiographical piece, Walker does not outline an argument of his own, but rather traces the evolution of scholarly opinion on the subject by comparing and contrasting the arguments made by some of the top historians in the field.

Walker discusses that debate over the use of the bomb came quickly, and central to this debate was the question of whether this use was truly necessary to end the war in a rapid manner. Early on, many writers were quick to denounce the necessity of the bombs, countering the claims made by policymakers and initially supported by many scholars. The first extensive research of the subject done by Herbet Feis evaluated and supported the notion that the bombs were not absolutely necessary, though he still argued that use of the bombs remained justified for military reasons.

In 1965, Gar Alperovitz’s Atomic Diplomacy reopened the debate by directly challenging Feis’s findings. Alperovitz agreed that while not necessary for victory, the bombings were the product of political motivations, not military. This revisionist approach generated a great deal of backlash from various scholars, yet it had a profound impact on the direction taken while researching the use of the atomic bombs. The central question being asked shifted away from whether or not the bombs were necessary to end the war. Instead, two new questions began to dominate the discussion: What factors drove the decision to use the bomb, and what made this use more appealing to policymakers instead of the available alternatives?

As new, previously unopened sources became available, scholars continued to debate, as well as include new points of research such as the impact the bombs had on U.S.-Soviet relations. Other subjects were revisited, such as the morality of the decision and how many lives were realistically saved, which according to Walker only helped to muddle the overall consensus among scholars. One of the few views to remain static was that of Alperovitz, who changed very little of his original analysis in a 1985 update of Atomic Diplomacy.

In the tail end of his writing, Walker touches on what he believes are areas that merit more attention from scholars. This includes the meaning of the Trinity shot, not in terms of its heavily explored scientific and symbolic implications, but rather what impact it had on policy. Walker also suggests that the moral and political obligations of scientists involved in the Manhattan Project should be further explored, as well as the role the Russian’s own bomb project had in U.S.-Soviet relations.

As discussed in the article, there has been a general consensus among scholars regarding some of the main aspects of the decision to use the atomic bomb, despite disagreements in more specific areas. Nonetheless, as more information has come to the surface, new questions continue to arise.  Given the complex and intriguing nature of the beginning of the atomic age, it is likely to remain a topic of perpetual study and debate.

 

 

 

Sources

 

WALKER, J. SAMUEL. “The Decision to Use the Bomb: A Historiographical Update.” Diplomatic History 14, no. 1 (1990): 97-114. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24912034.
Word count: 527