View the H-War Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in H-War's March 2010 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in H-War's March 2010 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the H-War home page.
1st Reply From: Williams, Glenn F Mr CIV USA <email@example.com> Subject: RE: REPLY: The Pacific and Racism (3) Date: March 23, 2010 9:15:37 AM EDT To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Cc: Waitman Beorn <firstname.lastname@example.org> Mr. Beorn, You miss my point completely! Japan was not a signatory to the Geneva Convention, and repeatedly violated the Hague Conventions on the laws of land warfare since it began its aggression. Therefore, why do we only discuss the brutality of the Pacific War simply as the result of American racism, and not consider that American troops learned to expect nothing less from their opponents in return? Glenn F. Williams 2nd Reply From: Dylan Cyr <email@example.com> Subject: RE: REPLY: The Pacific and Racism (3) Date: March 23, 2010 3:53:21 PM EDT To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <firstname.lastname@example.org> Re: Waitman Beorn's comment on Mr. Williams' post. Williams was, I think, not implying that because the Japanese committed crimes the US side is unworthy of investigation. Williams was, instead, pointing to the discrepancy in the western literature on focusing on US war crimes more than others'. This relates to a historiographical trend: focused almost solely on the social-triad, revisionist historians broadened our understanding of social/cultural complexities while marginalizing competing modes of understanding; like the role of the physical environment or personalizing inter-service rivalry. War Without Mercy's source-base led to social answers and, not unrelated, the dominant historical trend of the time was to find social answers. There's two issues here: the holes in the cultural determinism of the social-triad and the benefits of newer alternatives. For the first, consider simply: do the lyrics in the music you listen to define yourself? When I listen to Cypress Hill does that mean I shoot members of the LAPD? No, that's ridiculous. So then why would we assume Robert Leckie personalizes all the (racist) music he hears? Remember, cultural indicators, like posters, lead to cultural answers, like race. There is a real danger in trying to extrapolate too much meaning from "paper sources", and that danger lies mostly in that immediate and tangible factors get ignored. For instance, at a recent tenure interview at UWO, the applicant argued that US infantry use of flamethrowers was derived from racism and biblical images. The reality is that fire was used to asphyxiate the Japanese enemy, not to literally burn them in redemptive fire. By Biak and Peleliu, the Japanese had largely converted to fukkaku defensive positions that required such a response. For the second issue, consider the extreme physical (and unique) conditions infantry toiled in in the Pacific. Take 1stMarDiv, for example, on Guadalcanal and New Britain: 1. full bodily exposure to the elements (save a finicky jungle hammock); 2. extreme weather, land, and biota in near-constant contact with the exposed Marines; 3. virtually no structures of accustomed civilization; 4. powerful diseases not within the regular repertoire of doctors; 5. a logistics nightmare beyond comparison in Western Europe; 6. scarcity of supplies in comparison to US Army units in Europe; and 7. an enemy fighting by their own rules. Now, none of this is meant as an apologia to those who neglected individual responsibility and committed war crimes. None of this is meant to belittle the significant--and still relevant--contributions done by social, cultural, or revisionist history. This is, however, meant to challenge the established discourse as outdated and myopic. Does one think that Immigration Laws in the 20s or Jim Crow has more impact on infantry thinking than the everyday realities of living and fighting in the world's most primordial lands against one of the worlds most determined soldiers? That the vast majority of US infantry in the Pacific stayed their hand from crime speaks to their integrity under extreme duress, and that is why some are perceiving "knee-jerk reactions" against the long, tired dominance of revisionist victimology. Dylan Cyr, London, Ontario -----Original Message----- From: Waitman Beorn <email@example.com> Subject: Re: REPLY: The Pacific and Racism (3) Date: March 20, 2010 11:38:27 AM EDT To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@h-net.msu.edu> I am curious (regarding Mr. Williams' post) as to what relevance the coverage of Japanese atrocities has to that of American racism in the Pacific. The nature of this comment seems to indicate that because the Japanese committed atrocities (sometimes in the name of racism) that any charge of similar racism or barbarity on the American side is unworthy of investigation. This seems unnecessarily defensive. No one (to include John Dower) is arguing that the war in the Pacific was a racist quest to annihilate the Japanese. However, it takes a particularly narrow perspective to not see that the way the war was carried out had clearly racial elements. U.S. (and British) soldiers in Europe (or North Africa) did not cut off ears, mount skulls on trucks, or cut out human teeth. This cannot all be explained by the nature of the fighting. I am perplexed by the frequently powerful knee-jerk reactions against any implication that the U.S. in World War II behaved badly or held racist motivations. After all, the "Greatest Generation" was also the generation of Jim Crow and segregation. This is not in any way to detract from the exploits and sacrifices of that cohort. If articles on Japanese racism do not frequently appear, certainly discussions of their atrocities do. I see no reason not to explore how racism becomes operationalized on the battlefield and affects how men and women fight. Waitman W.Beorn PhD Candidate Department of History University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill Hamilton Hall, CB #3195 Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3195 http://history.unc.edu/gradstudents/beorn.html http://history.unc.edu/ ----- For subscription help, go to: http://www.h-net.org/lists/help/ To change your subscription settings, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=h-war -----