Everyone who knows anything about WWII knows about Japanese Internment Camps. Everyone reading this post, I’m sure, has an opinion about this chapter in our history: some think it was the right thing to do (under the circumstance), others think it was the entirely wrong thing to do. I’m not writing this to fish for your feelings on the matter. The fact is – it happened and it doesn’t matter one iota whether we think it was right or wrong. That’s the thing about history. Stuff happened. Lots of stuff, over long periods of time. And stuff is repeated – over and over and over again.
So, the Japanese camps . . . Let’s go way back in the Way Back Machine (Sherman). Now, this is a long and very complicated story in our history, so I’m gonna condense the hell out of it. In Colonial New England, in 1675 to be exact, there were two groups of people: Natives and European settlers. The Europeans in New England were almost entirely from England – a trend that started 50 years earlier with the first Pilgrims. The Natives, while all being Algonquin speakers (from scores of tribes) could be broken down into two groups: Indians still living in the “traditional ways”, and Indians who were converted to Christianity, the so-called “Praying Indians.” Those missionized Indians were relocated to “Praying Villages” and were encouraged to “live like English.” The most notable village: Natick, Massachusetts.
Peaceful co-existence that glued colonists and Indians together from the time of Massasoit and the Pilgrims unraveled completely over 50 years, culminating in Massasoit’s own son “Philip” leading a devastating armed rebellion against the colonies. The Colonies were immediately rattled, and military and civilian leaders scrambled to do everything they could to give themselves an edge. One solution: they rounded up all the Praying Indians, fearing they would help or join the natives, and led them off to “containment camps” across southern New England, in the late fall of 1675. The most notorious was Deer Island in Boston Harbor, a treeless island onto which at least 500 Indian men, women and children were dumped without any food and very little shelter. Christian missionary John Eliot was perhaps, the only colonist to visit, and he was terribly horrified by what he saw. Lacking food, shelter, clothing and clean drinking water, most died within the first few months of “containment.”
Podcasts. I have mixed feelings about them. There’s a million of ’em out there, and I never really feel that I have time (patience?) to listen to podcasts. Over time, however, a few of them have slipped into my little orbit, and every time one does, I think/say: Damn. I should listen to more podcasts! Case in point: the Dan Carlin Hardcore History podcasts – especially about WWI and WWII. Like a war, however, listening to one of his podcasts is a bit like being “under siege.” You need a LOT OF TIME to devote to one of his podcasts; although they are most interesting and definitely worth it (if you have the time.)
A friend of mine recently texted me a Radiolab podcast (WNYCStudios) titled Fu-Go. It’s a mere 35 minutes long! I highly recommend it. It’s fascinating, and I promise you that you never learned this in history class.
On this day in 1945, hundreds of Task Force ships were milling around the general area of Tokyo harbor, hoping they would be among the ships present at the Signing of Documents of Surrender, scheduled to place place upon the deck of the battleship USS Missouri (a johnny-come-lately, along with the British task group, to the war in the Pacific).
In his fascinating book, “The End of the Imperial Japanese Navy,” Masanori Ito summarizes in his conclusions disastrous after disastrous missteps by the all-powerful Army, the Navy, and the “legislators” in the years leading up to the War that set the Nation of Japan in the crosshairs of history. Some excerpts:
At the same time the Army was fanning a fire whose sparks fell everywhere. The leadership of the Army was dominated by young trigger-happy officers. . . Maintaining that naval warfare was beyond the scope of Army judgement, the Army left the Navy to interdict the war with the United States. The Navy asked (among other things:) Who spread the fever among the people by mobilizing sycophant scholars, commentators, and writers to publicize the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (the rationale Japan used to invade China and French Indo-China), to agitate against Great Britain and the United States as Japan’s irreconcilable enemies? Who denounced peace efforts efforts through negotiation as “humiliation diplomacy”? In each case the Army had been responsible, and was now eager for the Navy to to assume the consequences.
And this: In the autumn of 1941, when the Naval General Staff advised the Navy Minister to state frankly that there was no chance of winning a war against the United States, Oikawa replied, ‘Having boasted of our Invincible Fleet, we cannot now insist on compromise and say we are unable to fight, We would lose face everywhere . . . Oikawa and the other leaders were unaware of their impaired judgment. They could not see that the nation was more important than the Navy.
History is written by the victors, and the U.S. clearly won the War against Japan. It was all pretty straight forward; a war of attrition won by the side with endless resources, good command and leadership, and a strong and determined bunch of young Americans holding the triggers. I am a believer that we must always take a moment to “walk a mile in their shoes.” There are many lessons for us in the paragraphs above, if we choose to think about it.
When the Boston left Pearl Harbor on January 19, 1944, she joined with hundreds of warships as a unit of newly-created Task Force 58. She was part of the aggressive push against Japanese “defensive ring of islands”, which ultimately led to the Surrender of Japan (8-15-45). First target: the Marshall Islands. The Marshalls are small islands and reefs scattered across 180, 000 square miles in the Pacific. There are several large atoll lagoons among the islands big enough to anchor large warships.
Throughout the war, Boston anchored in: Kwajalein (655 sq. miles), Majuro (114 sq. miles), Eniwetok (50 miles), and Ulithi ( [in the Carolines] 212 sq. miles).
In August 1944, The Boston was anchored in Eniwetok for the entire month. In case that sounds like “the easy life of a sailor”, during the previous 6 months, the guys attacked the Marshall Islands, several of the Carolines, participated in the Hollandia invasion, Truk, Wake and Marcus, and began the capture of the Mariana Islands. This action, generated the Japanese all-out defensive attack (June 19-20 Battle of the Philippine Sea) which lives on as “the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.” After that they tried to bomb Iwo Jima, but the weather was too bad. After a quick stop at Eniwetok lagoon, they went back to Iwo Jima, then back to the Marianas to support troop landings. With just five days left in July, they attacked the Carolines.
A month in Eniwetok. After six months of non-stop combat.
So, here we are, 70+ years later. The peoples of the Marshalls (The “first stop in the end of the Pacific War”) are faced with the spectre of having their islands disappear under the waves of the rising Pacific. If you are a “climate change” denier, then there’s no sense in reading any further. However, the fact of the matter is that the Marshalls and all other low-lying islands in the Pacific are under Mother Nature’s siege.
A busy month in 1945. While the task force moved up the coast of Honshu (8-4 through 8-9) so the heavy ships could bombard the industrial city of Kamaishi, a couple of bombs went off that changed the world. Little Boy (8-6) and Fat Man (8-9) were unleashed on two densely populated cities – the ultimate abandonment of U.S. policy at the beginning of the War banning attacks on civilian targets . . .
On 8-9, the Boston, along with cruisers Quincy, Chicago and St. Paul met up with battleships Massachusetts, South Dakota and Alabama for daylight bombardment of Kamaishi.
“When we bombarded Japan, we had the British battleship King George the Fifth. She was firing at targets and we had to fire on a bridge over a deep ravine. We knocked it out and went on to bombard where King George was bombarding with their 16″ guns. We fired our 8’s right over their heads. You should have seen that!” John Farkas
“As soon as we got back from San Pedro, we bombarded Japan twice. The ship actually bombarded three steel mills and the like. I never thought a thing about all that we were doing; being in the Navy – I just wanted to get out, get home, drop everything. That’s what you did. It wasn’t until I got home – and years later the light bulb went on and I realized I was making history out there.” George Pitts
August 15, 1945: This morning we returned to the Tokyo area and the carriers launched their planes for the first strike when we heard the final news of the Japanese surrender. So the war ended for the U.S.S. Boston, 21 months after we left home port. Frank Studenski