Friday, July 15, 2011

Denier History

Rep. Honda, a former high school history teacher, has made the teaching of history an important element of H. Res. 333. Misconceptions of the past can be as dangerous as ignoring it.

In December 2010, this was made clear by a startlingly anti-American and anti-Semitic article about the Bataan Death March in one of Japan's popular national magazines, the Shukan Shincho.

The featured article questions if the March ever took place, doubts a POW memoir of the March and the tortures he received, and suggests that the memoir is merely Jewish prejudice. The author also makes matter-of-fact claims that the March was not difficult, that the POWs were transported, and that Japan does not know anything of torture. In truth, POWs were only transported by rail the last 17 miles of the March stuffed into vintage French boxcars with many dying of suffocation and heat stroke.

Bamboo Strings?

by Masayuki Takayama

"Henken Jizai" column in December 23, 2010 edition of Shukan Shincho
Translation coordinated by Dr. William Brooks, APP Senior Fellow

Some time back when I took a trip to Jerusalem, nearby the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, that is, the mount of Golgotha, a pink flower was blooming. When I asked its name, my guide, who was a former diplomat, replied it was the “Judas Tree.” He said that the face of Judas had turned red when Christ pointed out his betrayal during the Last Supper.

“And so that’s the color of this flower. Of course, that’s not the name the Jews call it,” he added, chuckling.

He said Jews have no interest in either the flower or the tree, but Japanese often like to ask about it, so guides hastily prepare for such questions, happy to be helpful with their knowledge.

Jewish people are assiduous and are never slack in their studies. Eli Cohen, Israel’s former ambassador to Japan, had this similar aura about him, and so formed our image of a Jew.

That is why I felt somewhat puzzled when I learned that Lester Tenney, author of My Hitch in Hell, is also Jewish.

His book talks about the so-called Bataan Death March. Needled on by the United States, Japan was eventually provoked into a war. Tenney’s story begins when his tank battalion was sent to the Philippines in preparation for this war.

Tenney arrived at the U.S. Army post at Clark Airfield on November 20, approximately two weeks before Pearl Harbor. It was obvious the U.S. had Japan in the palm of its hand.

And so as scheduled, war broke out. Yet on the very first day, Clark air base was completely destroyed, the result of the height of incompetence of its commanding officer, MacArthur. When the Japanese landed at Lingayen Gulf, he decided to retreat to Bataan Peninsula.

Tenney’s tank battalion also was aiming for the same peninsula, along the way firing on anything that moved, strafing and slaughtering whole villages. “We could not distinguish a Filipino from a Japanese,” Tenney wrote.

Records of a hearing by the U.S. Senate show that when Americans had made the Philippines into a colony forty years earlier, they massacred 200,000 people. We can imagine this was how it was being done once again.

Sequestering themselves in Bataan, the U.S. troops soon exhausted their food supplies. This was the only place where U.S. forces suffered from starvation during the war [WWII]."

Then they surrendered. Tenney was ordered to dispose of the dollar bills stored by the military, and so he hid them in the hole of a tree. Out of spite, all the trucks were destroyed so the “Japs” couldn’t use them.

What they didn’t destroy, they rode to the prison camps, without having to walk on the death march. Up to this point, the author’s tale does have some force of truth to it, but from then on, it becomes sheer nonsense.

The Death March was a total of 120 kilometers long, and half that distance they were transported by rail. The fact of the matter is, they walked the rest of the way in three days.

Since it was not known which part of the march was “death,” Tenney wrote, “An officer on horseback was cutting off the heads of the marching prisoners.” I’ve never heard of anything like that.

The appearance of the POWs loafing around camp would not do, so they were tortured.

First, a prisoner’s “feet were tied to a board raised up high and he was made to drink salt water.” This is that waterboarding for witch-hunt interrogations, which the U.S. military excels at – the Japanese do not know such methods.

Next, “I was strung up by my thumbs, which were tied together with a bamboo string.” In Souls at Sea, there is a scene with Gary Cooper being strung up by his thumbs with rope.

Then again, “They bound my testicles with bamboo string, and as the string shrunk in the sun, it became excruciating.” This, too, is a scene from an old Western movie in which rawhide is used for torture.

And again, bamboo was pushed under his fingernails and then set on fire. This also comes from a movie, Beau Geste, with Gary Cooper.

There is no material even to show Japanese cruelty. So what appears to be a collection of torture scenes from Hollywood movies was published, with even Japan-hater Clinton praising Tenney’s book and writing to him personally.

I do not know how much inhumaneness of the American forces it would take to make an impression on a president, but for Japanese diplomats, they could not ignore an American president’s “deep emotions.”

Last year, Japan’s ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki, apologized to Tenney, who was invited to Japan this last September where he received “a heartfelt apology on behalf of the Japanese government” from [Foreign Minister] Katsuya Okada.

Yet, there has never once been an investigation to see if the Bataan Death March is fact or not.

If there had been made any move to look into it on Japan’s side, pressure would immediately have been applied and the effort crushed.

Before Okada apologized, I would have liked him to ask [Tenney] at least about this “bamboo string” torture device, of which no Japanese has ever heard.

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