Seventy-one years ago today, in the midst of what were, quite literally, active and ongoing negations in Washington, D.C. to prevent a war, Japan’s Emperor authorized a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor thus propelling the world into even deeper war than the conflict in Europe and North Africa.
[For my earlier insights into the attack and especially Winston Churchill’s role and speech to the U.S. Congress, see, http://wp.me/p28uli-n1]
When early on a quiet Sunday morning 7th December 1941 Japanese fighter planes attacked Pearl Harbor, 96 U.S. ships were anchored in that port.
During the attack, 18 ships were sunk or seriously damaged, including eight battleships.
2,402 American men were killed. 1,280 were injured or maimed.
350 aircraft were destroyed or damaged.
Not so curiously, immediately after the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt searched for a bulletproof car.
However, because government regulations prohibited spending more than $750 (in 1941 Dollars or, say, $11,800 in today’s money) to buy a car, the only one they could find was Al Capone’s limousine, a 1928 Cadillac V8 Town Sedan (below) which had been seized by the Treasury Department after Capone was arrested for tax evasion.
FDR said: “I hope Mr. Capone won’t mind”.
Well prior to and through the attack, deception and vile tactics became Tokyo’s calling cards.
During WWII, the Japanese launched 9,000 “wind ship weapons” of paper and rubberized-silk balloons that carried incendiary and anti-personnel bombs to the U.S. mainland.
More than 1,000 balloons hit their targets. They reached as far east as Michigan.
The only deaths resulting from a balloon bomb were six decidedly non-combatant Americans; five children and a pregnant woman enjoying a picnic in Oregon.
Although Pearl Harbor was huge, the greatest loss of life ever sustained by the U.S. Navy occurred on 30 July 1945.
The USS Indianapolis was shot by Japanese submarine I-58. Captain Charles McVay, commanding officer of the cruiser, was the only U.S. Navy officer ever to be court-martialed for losing a ship in war.
Though all wartime powers had chemical weapons, only two ever used them during World War II: Japan (in China) and Italy (in Ethiopia).
From the English historian Sir Max Hasting’s superb volume Nemesis – the Battle for Japan, 1944-45:
“During Japan’s war in China, the practices of conducting bayonet training on live prisoners, and of beheading them, became institutionalized.
“Such experiences were designed to harden men’s hearts, and they achieved their purpose. A South African prisoner of the Japanese on Java wrote:
“I saw innumerable ways of killing people, but, most significantly, never just by shooting them. I say ‘significantly’ because for me this was the most striking evidence of the remote and archaic nature of the forces which had invaded the Japanese spirit, blocking out completely the light of the twentieth-century day”.
“On the Bataan death march, Captain Mel Rosen watched Japanese soldiers kick ailing Americans into latrine pits. ‘You don’t know what the meaning of frustration until you’ve had to stand by and take that’ said Rosen.”
A much more recent, literally ghostly story which makes Bataan even more tragic, if that be possible, leads to a challenge to both mind and spirit.
[Map of Bataan Peninsula The Philippines]
[Map of Death March on Bataan Peninsula]
Does this image show the ghosts of WWII prisoners on their death march? – Former Army Officer takes haunting image along route they took
– Images of ghostly skeletons on Borneo jungle track caught on film
– 2,400 Australian and British PoWs marched 160 mile by Japanese, but only six survived
– Men died of exhaustion, starvation, beatings or bayoneted
When Major John Tulloch retraced the steps of Allied prisoners of war and their infamous ‘death march’ from 1945, he thought his photographs would bare only a vague resemblance to the tortuous route PoWs took 70 years ago.
The retired army officer had revisited the muddy track in Borneo where thousands of World War Two PoWs trudged to their deaths, only to be given a shocking surprise when he looked back at his images.
Maj Tulloch studied his pictures and found what appeared to be hunched, skeletal ghostly figures marching across his photograph, almost exactly in line with the path they took seven decades ago.
[Apparition: Has Major captured the spirits of long dead PoWs on a notorious death march 67 years ago?]
The haunting image evokes strong memories of the desperate ‘death march’ made by Allied prisoners of war.
Some 2,400 World War II PoWs died in the horrific Sandakan Death Marches in 1945 to avoid them being liberated as Japan was forced on the retreat.
Severely malnourished and barefoot, they were forced by brutal Japanese captors to walk 160 miles in sweltering heat for a month.
Maj Tulloch took the picture from the window of a 4×4 vehicle while driving along the ‘death march’ route in 2010.
It is thought the astonishing photographic illusion was caused by a the reflection of a patterned towel which was on the dashboard of the vehicle as he took the image.
[Surrendered: 67,000 PoWs also forced into notorious Bataan Death March in the Philippines, April 1942]
[Cruelty: Over 11,000 Allied prisoners died or were killed on the way by guards]
Maj Tulloch said he took the picture in 2010 when he did a recce (reconnaissance) of the route ahead of a March of Remembrance and the unveiling of a memorial to the 400 members of the Royal Artillery who died.
Men who collapsed through exhaustion were left to die or were killed by being shot, bayoneted or beheaded.
Conditions were so appalling that some of the servicemen are said to have resorted to cannibalism to stay alive.
Only six men survived the three marches from Sandakan to Ranau and that was because they managed to escape.
It was the single greatest atrocity against Australian troops.
[Prisoners resting on Bataan march, guards close at hand]
[At Bayonet point: Japanese troops guard American and Filipino prisoners in Bataan in the Philippines after their capture on 9th April 1942. ]
Maj Tulloch, 66, said: ‘We were driving along the same track as that taken by the death march and I was clicking away on my camera, I took about 200-odd digital photographs.
‘I went through the pictures on a computer screen later and didn’t see it the first time round. I went back over them again and I just suddenly thought “what the hell…?”
‘I looked at the photo again and went very cold indeed. What I saw were the shapes of 17 or 18 ghostly figures coming out of the jungle and walking down the track going to Ranau which you can see in the far distance.
‘It took me a few moments to work out how it had occurred but it was too weird for words. I showed it to several people and they said it is quite extraordinary, some even refused to look at it because it was so haunting.
‘While my guide drove along he put a towel on the dashboard. The towel had a pattern on it and that reflected through the windscreen. I have called it reflections of a death march.’
Maj Tulloch is now an instructor in jungle warfare for the Royal Artillery.
In 1942, Frank Hewlett wrote “The Battling Bastards of Bataan””
“We’re the battling bastards of Bataan; No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam. No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces, No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces. And nobody gives a damn. Nobody gives a damn.”
Forced ‘death marches’ of captured soldiers, interned civilians or persecuted ethnic groups were a common sight during the War.
The brutal demonstrations, in which hundreds of thousands died from exhaustion, disease or beatings from their captors in Nazi Germany or the Japanese Imperial Army, took place to stop prisoners being liberated.
One of the most high-profile marches saw an estimated 80,000 Allied POWs forced to march across Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany in harsh winter conditions in early 1945.
But as the tide of war began to turn in the same year, Hitler’s forces began to evacuate captured POWs and other prisoners westwards.
During the marches, Allied POWs were divided into groups of up to 300 men and marched off under guard.
But lack of supplies meant they had to scavenge for food and shelter and the weak were left behind to die. Others were murdered by some of their guards.
Official figures said 3,500 US and British and Commonwealth men lost their lives but others estimate around 8,348 died.
But the most notorious death marches were the SS-led evacuation of concentration camps.
Those too weak were killed outright and the rest were mercilessly driven on to other camps suffering beatings and mass murder.
For example, nine days before the liberation of Auschwitz 60,000 inmates were taken on a 35 mile death march to waiting trains. 15,000 died on the way.
In the Far East the Japanese Imperial Army was also responsible for carrying out numerous death marches.
One of the most notorious was the Bataan Death March of 60,000 Filipino and 15,000 US POWs after a three month battle in 1942.
They were forced on a 128km (79.5 miles) march in which over 11,000 were beaten, bayoneted, mistreated and died from heat and exhaustion.
In 2010, Karla Dorman penned a powerful poem about Bataan which sums things up:
I cannot imagine what it was like to be
Marched until you couldn’t take. One.
More. Step. What were your last
Thoughts as you stared into the gun
Pointed at your head? Was it fear?
Or resignation? Did you pray?
And if you weren’t shot where you fell:
You kept on. One foot in front of the
Other on the road to Hell. Held captive
For one thousand, two hundred twenty
Four days before you were liberated just
In time for your Mother’s birthday.
You were one of the lucky ones. Will never
Know what you endured. You kept it deep
Inside, in a secret place, that none should
Touch, all the way to your grave. I weep,
For your story wasn’t told. How many
More paid a terrible price and the words
Remain silent? Mark mine: I will never forget
What you did for my freedom —- can’t ignore
Your sacrifice. I honor you this Veteran’s Day
And always. A ‘thank you’ is not enough for
Righting the wrongs done to those who
Served. I’ll make sure your voices are heard …
(c) 2010, Karla Dorman
Today at the Yakasuni Shrine Museum in Tokyo, the World War II era exhibit is both puzzling and also quite provocative to serious historians.
According to the museum, World War II (which in Japan is called the ‘Asia Co-prosperity War’) was where the Japanese single-handedly liberated one Asian country after another from foreign colonial occupation, and where the Asian people were all happy to be liberated.
No mention is made of the atrocities committed by the invading Japanese troops.
Additionally, the Yakasuni Shrine museum blames the U.S. for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Since the U.S. implemented a trade embargo on the Japanese, the militarists felt that an attack by the Americans against Japan would only naturally come next.
The museum goes so far as to allege that the United States had a plan in the works to attack Japan and which would have been executed if Japan had not pre-empted the American attack by conducting the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The museum declares that President Franklin Roosevelt was committed to an attack on Japan as a way for the U.S. to escape the Great Depression.
Apparently the theme is that, or per the museum, every attack the Japanese conducted was only executed because of foreign colonizers threatening Japan and its neighbors. Japan never wanted to colonize any country, they just wanted to liberate Asians from foreigners.
All this is, of course, utter nonsense. The Imperial Japanese government at the time felt the modernization of Japan and the colonization of nearby countries were the best way to expand Japanese power and to compete against western rivals that were busy colonizing large parts of Asia to add to their respective empires.
The Japanese had no altruistic reasons of freeing oppressed Asians from European colonizers; it was simply about building Japanese power and influence. The attack on Pearl Harbor was where they overreached in spreading their power and influence that led to disastrous consequences for the country.
The Japanese Imperial Army lost 1,140,429 dead between Pearl Harbor and August 1945, while the Navy lost 414,879. At least 97,031 civilian dead were listed in Tokyo and a further 86,336 in other cities. Many more bombing casualties were unrecorded.
For those brave men lost at both Pearl Harbor and Bataan and indeed elsewhere and for the thousands of men who served with them, Godspeed to their Eternal Souls.
We shall remember them.
[Pearl Harbor survivor Houston James of Dallas is overcome with emotion as he embraces Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Graunke Jr. during the Dallas Veterans Day Commemoration at Dallas City Hall in 2005. Sgt Graunke, who was a member of a Marine ordnance-disposal team, lost a hand, leg, and eye while defusing a bomb in Iraq in July of 2004. [Image by Jim Mahoney/Dallas Morning News/AP]
Should we ever forget them, assuredly, it will be at the peril of the world.
Tragically, it is very true that all gave some, but some gave all.
If this fails to play, my apologies. Please click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL_K8G6jdHA&feature=related
Sir Max Hastings’ Nemesis – the Battle for Japan, 1944-45 (also known as Retribution in the United States) is widely available in all formats all around the world.
Tony Whitfield, the Daily Mail (London) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2209468/Does-image-ghosts-WWII-prisoners-death-march-Former-Army-Officer-takes-haunting-image-route-took.html#ixzz27hgAOviQ
Kentucky-born Billy Ray Cyrus, Mr. Cyrus’ website Twitter: @billyraycyrus