Saturday, August 19, 2023

August 15th and Beyond

On August 15, 78 years ago, Japan's Emperor Hirohito broadcast to his subjects "that our empire accepts the provisions of their [the Allies] Joint Declaration [of the Powers, Potsdam Declaration]." The fighting was to stop. Whether he believed this was a surrender or not, is still subject to debate. What the Japanese people heard that day was a recording of his statement made the night before. The Emperor's voice maintained its divine distance from his subjects as he explained "the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest." He concluded by asking the nation "to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable."

Memories have faded and most Americans are surprised to learn that Japan was an enemy during WWII. One result of this fugue is that governments East and West find little opposition to their rewriting of WWII history and its aftermath. Generally, this has not been for the better and always for personal political gain. Worse, Washington counts many of these countries as allies and remains silent.

These revisionist histories have undermined the values that have shaped the postwar "liberal democratic order."  Authoritarian regimes now erode individual freedoms, human rights, and humanitarian cooperation. Glorifying strongmen, dismissing war atrocities, identifying perpetrators now as victims, and co-opting the victor's history as one's own is upending the legacy and lessons of WWII. A new "glorious history" is being promulgated in Poland, Hungary, China, Japan and other places. Unashamedly, the Polish government claims that Poles were uninvolved with the persecution of Jews and a Japanese diplomat praises the "Bushido Spirit" of the famed Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team to their sons.

Thus, it is welcome that this fall there are a number of seminars and conferences examining the immediate postwar period

In Japan, the revisionist, denialist history has become normalized by two decades of conservative nationalist governments. Western Alliance Managers consequently do not recognize that nationalist populism has consumed the body politic and they have concluded incorrectly that Japan is "stable" and "unscathed from the populist wave" around the world. Little attention is given to how Japan's official war apology has been diminished, voting districts are unconstitutional, or to Japan's well-funded history disinformation campaign. 

Prime Minister Kishida's 
address at the Seventy-Eighth National Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead yesterday repeated his predecessor Abe's 2015 statement that makes no mention of apology or remorse to Japan's victims. He, like Abe and Suga before him, promises only: "We will not forget, even for a moment, that the peace and prosperity that Japan enjoys today was built atop the precious lives and the history of suffering of the war dead." Ceremony photos and documentsKishida marks 78th anniversary of World War II end without mentioning Japan's wartime aggression, Associated Press, Aug. 15, 2023.

As a new book by a Brookings scholar supports this celebratory view of contemporary Japan, The author sees the Japanese government as having reinvented itself to encourage more political engagement with the world and a greater military presence in the region. This is a new self-confidence that will award Tokyo with credibility and global leadership. To be sure, I have not read the book (then again neither have the folks who recommend it on the dust jacket). I have, however, heard this argument repeatedly over the decades that Japan has changed and it is in our image. Someone once observed that Western efforts to "fix" Japan always result in the tutor being broken-hearted.
See: Japan’s Quiet Leadership Reshaping the Indo-Pacific by Mireya Solis, (release August 24, 2023).

Or watch the book talk: Japan's Quiet Leadership: Reshaping the Pacific, Wednesday, September 6, 89:30-10:30am EDT, Washington, DC, Hybrid. Sponsor: Brookings Institution. Speakers: Mireya Solís, Director - Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Philip Knight Chair in Japan Studies; Kurt W. Tong, Managing Partner - The Asia Group (grandson of Philippine internee Rev Walter Curtis Tong); Yuichi Hosoya, Director of Research, API & Professor, Keio University; Demetri Sevastopulo, U.S.-China Correspondent, Financial Times.

But not everyone forgets: Memorial service for POWs in Yokohama passed down to next generation, August 12, 2023, Mainichi Shimbun

Here are a number of talks and conferences this fall that examine Japan's Pacific War and its aftermath. I hope you can attend in person or virtually. 

A. Friday September 8
MJHA Distinguished Annual Lecture
Tessa Morris-Suzuki on Writing War: History in Occupied Japan and its Echoes for Today

Hosted by The Modern Japan History Association
Speaker: Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Professor Emerita of Japanese History, Australian National University . 

Date/time and registration information:
Online, free.
Saturday, September 9, 2023 | 9:00-10:30 AM Australian Eastern Standard Time
Friday, September 8, 2023 | 7:00-8:30 PM (EST) 

As the world edges into a new Cold War, rising political tensions in East Asia are reflected in growing conflict over memories of history, and particularly of the history of the Asia-Pacific War. Increasing nationalism in all the countries of the region finds expression in rewritings of that history. In Japan, a central feature of recent waves of historical revisionism has been a focus on the shaping of historiography in the post war occupation period. The period from August 1945 to May 1952 was the era when historians first struggled to give meaning to the disastrous events of the war which had ravaged East Asia during the previous decade or more. The diverse ways in which they did this has had an enduring effect on the way in which the war is remembered to the present day. In the context of contemporary controversies over history, it is important to return to that occupation era and to reassess the possibilities and limitations of the way in which the history of the war was written by those who had just experienced it in their own lives.

B. Saturday September 16
Annual Symposium
Occupation: The Legacy of the Asiatic Pacific War 

Hosted by The Admiral Nimitz Foundation.  
 Richard B. Frank, internationally recognized leading authority on the Asia-Pacific War; Dr. Xiaobing Li, professor of the Department of History and Geography and the Don Betz Endowed Chair in International Studies at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO); Ricardo Trota Jose, professor of history at the University of the Philippines, Diliman; Mindy L. Kotler is founder and director of Asia Policy Point. Special guest, Marie Vallejo, author of Dauntless, a book about the First and Second Filipino Regiments.

Date/time and registration information:

In person and online. Fee.
Saturday, September 16, 2023, 9:00am-5:00pm (CDT)

The Admiral Nimitz Foundation is excited to welcome you back to this year’s Annual Symposium. The focus this year will be on Japan's occupation of Asia. Titled, “Occupation: The Legacy of the Asiatic Pacific War,” the symposium will explore the nuanced ramifications of the Japanese occupation.

C. Saturday September 23
6th Annual Conference on WWII in the Philippines
War Crimes - From WWII Until Today

Hosted by: Bataan Legacy Historical Society in partnership with the University of San Francisco's Philippine Studies Program, Memorare Manila 1945 and USF Kasamahan
Speakers: James Zarsadiaz, Director, Philippine Studies Program, University of San Francisco; Prof. Mark Hull, Professor of War Crimes, U.S. Army Command & General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth; Philippine Consul General in San Francisco Neil F. Ferrer; Father Paul Fitzgerald, S.J., President, University of San Francisco; Benjamin Hall, Fox News State Department Correspondent, Eyewitness to War Crimes Today (Via Zoom); Jose Custodio, Fellow, Consortium of Indo Pacific Researchers; Christopher Capozzola, Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Richard Frank, Pacific War historian, author, Tower of Skulls; Marie Vallejo, author of Dauntless, a book about the First and Second Filipino Regiments; Kate LaFerriere, daughter of Frank Innis, former civilian POW in Los Banos; Cynthia Bonta, survivor of the Los Baños massacre, mother of California Attorney General Rob Bonta; and Richard Foye, author of Foye And The Filipinos Bailout, Escape, And Rescue Of A Navy Fighter Pilot In World War Two Luzon, is the son of Ensign William Foye, an F6F Hellcat Pilot and a member of the Air Group Twenty assigned to the USS Enterprise (CV6).

Date/time and registration information:
In person, Facebook LiveTaped, fee
Saturday, September 23, 2023 | 10:00am - 4:00pm (PDT)

The conference aims to present the war crimes the invading Japanese perpetrated upon soldiers and civilians in the Philippines. A compelling discussion on war crimes in the Philippines and its effects on subsequent generations as well as similarities in today's world.

D. Thursday December 7 to Saturday December 9
16th International Conference on World War II
Finding Hope In A World Destroyed: WWII Liberations & Legacies

Speakers: [there are no affiliations listed on the website and your editor simply did not have the energy to track everyone down]: Jason Dawsey  ; Francine Hirsch  ; Robert Hutchinson  ; Günter Bischof  ; John Curatola, Military Historian at the Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy; Rana Mitter, University of Oxford; Yuma Totani, University of Hawaii; Yoshikuni Igarashi, Vanderbilt University; William Hitchcock  ;Blanche Wiesen Cook  ;Jeremi Suri  ;Lizabeth Cohen   ; Krewasky Salter, Pritzker Military Museum & Library; Marcus Cox  : Kara Dixon Vuic  ; David Davis  ;Jeremy Black   ; Robert Citino, National WWII Museum; Richard B. Frank, Pacific War historian, author, Tower of Skulls;  Craig Symonds, Distinguished Visiting Ernest J. King Professor of Maritime History for the academic years 2017–2020 at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island; Trent Hone, a Vice President with ICF and an award-winning naval historian, author of Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898–1945; Allan R. Millett   ;Keith Lowe   ;Ronald Spector, professor emeritus, George Washington University; John McManus  : Conrad Crane  ; Steph Hinnershitz  ; Catherine Musemeche  ;Dave Gutierrez  ; Jim McNaughton  ; Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD,   ;William Hitchcock  ;Jeremi Suri  ;Major General Peter Gravett  ;Cameron McCoy  ;Robert Edsel  ;Alexandra Richie  ;Wendy Lower  ; Paul Hilliard  ; Kirk Saduski   ;Donald L. Miller  ; John Orloff

Panel of particular interest (December 7):
Aftermath in Asia
Chair: John Curatola, Military Historian at the Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy
“The War That Never Really Ended: WWII’s Long Legacy”: Rana Mitter, University of Oxford
“Justice in Asia and the Pacific Region, 1945-1952: Allied War Crimes Prosecutions”: Yuma Totani, University of Hawaii
“Japan’s Decade After Defeat: Occupation and Democratization”: Yoshikuni Igarashi, Vanderbilt University

Date/time and registration information:
In person only in New Orleans, LA, fee

The International Conference on World War II is the premier adult educational event bringing together the best and brightest scholars, authors, historians, and witnesses to history from around the globe to discuss key battles, personalities, strategies, issues, and controversies of the war that changed the world. The agenda, speakers, and times are not yet set.

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