November 21

Midway – Extra Credit

The recent movie, Midway, focuses on the most pivotal naval battle in the war in the Pacific in World War 2.  As you might know, there were two phases of World War 2 that America fought in – the war in Africa then Europe, and then the war in the Pacific Ocean.  Our primary enemy in the Pacific was the Japanese navy, and they had struck a huge blow to the American Pacific fleet by bombing Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.  That event got America finally into the war, and that’s where the movie starts off.  The attack on the fleet at Pearl Harbor represented the greatest intelligence failure in American history at that time (only to be exceeded by the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks), and so the movie spends some time following the exploits of intelligence chief, Edwin Layton (played by Patrick Wilson) and how he tries to figure out with his team where the Japanese navy is headed next.

The movie also spends time showing how real people – American Admirals Halsey, Nimitz, and Spruance and Japanese Admirals Yamamoto and Nagumo – along with the pilots – Dick Best, Wade McCluskey, and Jimmy Doolittle – fought and led in the battle.  I like that the film decided not to invent fictional characters to add extra drama or tragedy into the story, because the real people were colorful enough.

I also found the portrayal of the Japanese army and navy interesting and at times, inconsistent.  In the credits at the end, the movie was dedicated to both the American and Japanese soldiers who fought in the Battle of Midway.  The Japanese admirals are shown to be thoughtful (like Yamamoto’s warning to Layton in 1937 about America backing Japan into a corner) and strategic and honorable.  Even when one of the admirals decides to go down with his carrier, his sacrifice is treated with dignity.   But the Japanese army was shown to be arrogant and also amazingly cruel and sadistic with the way that they treated the Chinese civilians during their invasion of China beginning in 1931 (it’s estimated that the Japanese army killed 6 million Chinese during their occupation and war with China 1931-1945).  The Japanese have never taken responsibility for these deaths nor apologized officially to the Chinese, so this might be a sore spot.  We also see a captured American pilot killed mercilessly after he wouldn’t tell what aircraft carrier he took off from.

The movie doesn’t break any new ground, however, and doesn’t really develop its real-life heroes into fully developed characters.  They just seem to be cardboard cut-outs, two

Image result for anti japanese propaganda in world war 2

dimensional characters who are focused on honor and duty and destroying as many Japanese carriers but without the racism of the time period.  There is a lot of American war propaganda that dehumanized the Japanese (see example to the right) that reflected a lot of anti – Asian racism that had been endemic since the mid 1800s when the Chinese arrived on our shores because of the California gold rush.  Some historians argue that racism was a motivating factor in the use of the atomic bombs on Japan (though not the only reason).  But I think the movie doesn’t want to get bogged down in realism and instead tells an idealized story about the battle of Midway.

One of the really cool things that I enjoyed seeing was the inclusion of film director John Ford who was working for the U.S. Army and had luckily arrived in Midway unknowingly before the attack.  His job was to make a film that Americans would see at home to rally support for the war.  Ford luckily was there to actually capture the battle in real time and was able to make a documentary about the battle.  He also was filming soldiers at the D-Day invasion.  Recently on Netflix, there is a 3 part film called Five Came Back that examines five Hollywood directors who made films about World War 2 and how the war affected them.  I highly recommend it.

Questions to answer: 

  1. Why do you think there is inconsistent portrayal of the Japanese military?  Might it have something to do with the Chinese production company who helped produce the movie?  By honoring the Japanese military, do you think this signifies that American – Japanese relations are improving?  Why or why not?
  2. How is this movie realistic?  Also how is this movie a reflection of modern movie making (think CGI and other digital effects)?
  3. Do you think the movie should have just focused on the battle of Midway or do you think that the earlier scenes of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Doolittle’s raid over Japan, and the Solomon and Marshall Islands battles help set up the context for the battle of Midway?  Why?
  4. What are the strengths of the film?  Explain.  What are the weaknesses of the film?  Explain.

Pick three of the four questions to complete and finish by December 1.  350 words minimum for your total answer.  

September 28

Blog #112 – Apologize for Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

We spent a day last week discussing whether we should have dropped the atomic bombs on Japan.  The author of the essay, “The Biggest Decision: Why We Had to Drop the Atomic Bomb”, Robert James Maddox said that there were a variety of reasons why we had to drop the bomb.  You discussed the reasons, and I’m sure you came to your own conclusions.  However, it’s a done deal.  There is no time machine.  Truman ordered two bombs dropped, and they were dropped.  The war ended, the Japanese surrendered, and a horrific invasion of the Japanese mainland was avoided.  But the question remains: where do go from here w/ our relationship with Japan?

“I will never apologize for the United States – I don’t care what the facts are.”
George H.W. Bush

President Obama went to Hiroshima back in 2016, and some people were clamoring for an apology to the city or the Japanese people for the dropping of the atomic bomb(s) in August 1945. An individual quoted in the New York Times written before the visit was quoted as saying that “an apology by the president ‘would set the tone of reconciliation that all nations can respond to.’”

In the same article, another person said that Obama could “lament the damage caused by the atomic bombs without apologizing for their use.” A third person said that the president shouldn’t apologize for the bombs because the bombs “saved lives by avoiding a [total war] military invasion of Japan.”

A fourth opinion suggested that Obama use his speech to get the Japanese to confront their troubled legacy from World War 2 and their atrocities in Korea and China. A fifth person suggested that since Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for advocating the reduction of nuclear weapons, he should announce his veto of a previously approved plan to spend $1 trillion on improving our nuclear arsenal.

When Obama gave his speech at Hiroshima, he said about the victims:

“Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become… How often does material advancement or social innovation blind us to the [truth that science allows us to bend nature to our will]? How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause… Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well… Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering [as at Hiroshima]. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.”

Please read the whole speech here:  Click here. 

Some things to think about:
– Does America have a moral obligation to lead the way with nuclear weapons since we were the only country to use them on a population?
– Would an apology open up the door to Japan asking for reparations for the bombing?
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for his country’s treatment of Native Canadians in the past. An apology “doesn’t cost anything… Has no effect on policy. It was just the nice thing to do.”
– America has apologized to Japanese Americans for their internment, to Rwanda for not getting involved in their genocide, for slavery, and for the treatment of Native Americans. But there are many, many things that America (the president, Congress) has NOT apologized for.
– Americans have been worshipping our war heroes, but the nuclear bombs makes it seem like they might have done something wrong.
– Japan hasn’t apologized for Pearl Harbor, but are the two acts comparable?
– It seems that liberals want to be transparent, self-critical, and ask “are we living up to our values?” Conservatives stress national strength and unity, they want to instill pride, and remember the great things that we have done as a country.

My questions:
1. Read over Obama’s speech. Do you think he apologized for the atomic bombings? Why or why not?
2. Using the “things to think about” section, which of these comments resonates with you the most? Explain.
3. Which of the five opinions from the New York Times article fits best with your own views on this issue? Why?

300 words total minimum.  Due Wednesday, Oct. 3 by class. 

October 11

Blog #102 – FDR’s 2nd Bill of Rights

As part of his State of the Union address on January 11, 1944, President Roosevelt presented the nation with a 2nd Bill of Rights – economic rights that the government would have to guarantee for all Americans once the laws were passed.  Take a look at the following video:

Some of the key passages are as follows:
“It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence…People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation (since only 2-3% of the nation are farmers and less than 20% are in industry, this would have to change if this BoR / laws were implemented);
 
2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
 
3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living (since so few of us are farmers now, this might change);
 
4. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
 
5. The right of every family to a decent home;
 
6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health (did we just achieve this in 2010 with the passage of ObamaCare?);
 
7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
 
8. The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.  For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”
Image result for fdr 2nd bill of rights

He listed 8 things that would bring economic security to our nation and hopefully, by extension, to the rest of the world.  At the point that he gave this address in history, America was NOT planning on a Cold War with the Soviet Union or stockpiling tens of thousands of nuclear missiles or spending billions on a military budget every year.  None of the 46 years of futility vs. the Soviet Union was set in stone, nor the explosion and entrenchment of the military-industrial complex in our national economy like it is today.

However, America was coming out of the war w/ its biggest national debt in its history (having borrowed $200 billion from the American people in war bonds – $170 billion held by U.S. taxpayers – and from American banks + $100 billion in income taxes).  Congressmen were wary of spending huge amounts of money on peace time programs, especially for FDR, because his New Deal programs had had such a mixed track record of success and failure.

The reason I bring this issue up is b/c I think that the country has spent the next 73 years (and may continue) to try to achieve his goals.  As we progress through the school year, we’ll return to these eight core principles and examine how we have failed and / or succeeded.

Your questions to answer: 
1. Out of the 8 new rights listed above, which of them do you believe have been addressed in some way or another since 1944?  Try to pick at least 2 and explain our country has tried to address them (if you choose #6, please try to do some research and not repeat misinformation that you might have heard on talk shows, i.e., it’s going to save billions, death panels, it forces everyone to buy insurance, etc.)

2. Which of these 8 rights should be the one that is immediately addressed or fixed by our Congress and President?  Why?

3. Which one of these seems the least likely to be enforceable / possible to make an economic right (please don’t pick the farming right – it doesn’t affect too many people)?  Why?

350 words minimum total for all three answers.  Due Monday, October 16th by class.    

Here’s Glenn Beck’s take on FDR’s 2nd Bill of Rights.  Here.

Further reading:
To read a book review entitled: “FDR’s 2nd Bill of Rights: A New New Deal” click here.
A response to this book from Forbes magazine who say that only one Bill of Rights is quite enough. click here.
Here’s an analysis of how the 2nd Bill is going so far: Click here.
An article about how the 2nd BoR violates the Constitution, click here.

September 27

Blog #101 – Using atomic bombs on Japan

So, we talked about the use of the atomic bombs on Japan to end the war.  In the notes on Okinawa’s influence on the decision to use the bomb taken from the book, Ripples of Battle by Victor David Hanson, he listed several reasons why he thought the bombs should have been used.  One of the most persuasive points that he stated was the “Manchurian bloodbath” that could have been expected between the 1.6 million Soviet troops vs. 1 million Japanese troops if Japan did not surrender.

However, a lot of second guessing has gone into America’s use of atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945, even starting with former general and future president Dwight Eisenhower in 1948 who did not want America to be the first to use nuclear weapons.

According to the article in Portrait of America“The Biggest Decision: Why We Had to Drop the Atomic Bomb” by Robert J. Maddox, the author worked on dispelling some of the myths that have popped up since 1945.  The generals may have overestimated the Allied casualties, but the June 8 meeting with Truman stated that General George Marshall estimated that only 31,000 casualties would be inflicted during the invasion of Kyushu (Operation Olympic).  What intelligence sources had discovered in the days before Hiroshima, the Japanese Imperial Command had correctly guessed what the Allies were planning and had reinforced Kyushu with over 500,000 (actually over 900,000 but the Allies didn’t know that at the time).

So, logic follows that Truman made the decision to drop the bomb in order to spare more lives, mainly American lives, from a costly invasion.

But did Truman drop the bombs to intimidate the Soviets?  The war in Europe was over, and critics have claimed that the U.S. was trying to get the Soviets to either withdraw from Eastern Europe or at least be more open to agreeing with U.S. demands.  However, Stalin was given the info about the success of the Trinity test (from spies) and therefore knew about the atomic bomb while at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945.   Whether or not he felt intimidated was not recorded, therefore is not known.

Another sticking point was whether Japan was ready to surrender.  According to the Maddox article, Japan had sent peace feelers out through the Soviets but some members of the Japanese government (those with the power) wanted to continue fighting to protect Emperor Hirohito from prosecution of war crimes (because German leaders were going to be tried for the Holocaust).  What role Hirohito played has been (and still is) debated, but the military could see the writing on the wall with the prosecutions beginning in Germany after the discovery of the concentration camps.  Would the emperor be retained as part of the Allies sticking to unconditional surrender terms?  Or, as Truman had mentioned, would they soften on this one sticking point in order to end the war earlier to save hundreds of thousands of lives?   The problem with interpreting the signals sent by the Japanese government at this time is that it sent mixed signals depending upon who was being asked.  If it was a military officer, he was willing to fight to the end.  If it was a politician, some kind of compromise was possible by the summer of 1945.

Furthermore, what would have happened to the Allied prisoners of war captured by the Japanese scattered throughout Asia if the Allies had invaded Japan in November 1945?  Chances are, they might have been killed or tortured so they wouldn’t be of any use to an invading Allied army.

Is it possible to judge an historical era from 70 yrs later, especially one so fraught with controversy since the 1994 Smithsonian exhibit?   See links below:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-mitchell/for-64th-anniversary-the_b_252752.html

http://www.nytimes.com/1994/08/30/us/smithsonian-alters-plans-for-its-exhibit-on-hiroshima-bomb.html

Your job: examine at least 2 of the issues discussed in the blog (things Truman probably had on his mind when weighing the decision to drop the bomb), and use/reference at least two of the documents (the notes on Okinawa, “The Final Act” article, and the Portrait).

What would you have advised President Truman do under these circumstances especially if you didn’t know what the outcome would be?  Why?  (You can pretend you don’t know the results of the bombing or not – I leave it up to you).

350 words minimum answer. 

Due Monday, October 2 by class.  

June 3

Blog 87- Obama + Hiroshima = Apology?

“I will never apologize for the United States – I don’t care what the facts are.”
George H.W. Bush

President Obama went to Hiroshima recently and some people were clamoring for an apology to the city or the Japanese people for the dropping of the atomic bomb(s) in August 1945. An individual quoted in the New York Times was quoted as saying that “an apology by the president ‘would set the tone of reconciliation that all nations can respond to.'”

In the same article, another person said that Obama could “lament the damage caused by the atomic bombs without apologizing for their use.” A third person said that the president shouldn’t apologize for the bombs because the bombs “saved lives by avoiding a [total war] military invasion of Japan.”

A fourth opinion suggested that Obama use his speech to get the Japanese to confront their troubled legacy from World War 2 and their atrocities in Korea and China. A fifth person suggested that since Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for advocating the reduction of nuclear weapons, he should announce his veto of a previously approved plan to spend $1 trillion on improving our nuclear arsenal.

When Obama gave his speech at Hiroshima, he said about the victims:

“Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become… How often does material advancement or social innovation blind us to the [truth that science allows us to bend nature to our will]? How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause… Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well… Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering [as at Hiroshima]. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.”

Please read the whole speech here:  Click here. 

Some things to think about:
– Does America have a moral obligation to lead the way with nuclear weapons since we were the only country to use them on a population?
– Would an apology open up the door to Japan asking for reparations for the bombing?
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for his country’s treatment of Native Canadians in the past. An apology “doesn’t cost anything… Has no effect on policy. It was just the nice thing to do.”
– America has apologized to Japanese Americans for their internment, to Rwanda for not getting involved in their genocide. But there are many, many things that America (the president, Congress) has NOT apologized for.
– Americans have been worshipping our war heroes, but the nuclear bombs makes it seem like they might have done something wrong.
– Japan hasn’t apologized for Pearl Harbor, but are the two acts comparable?
– It seems that liberals want to be transparent, self-critical, and ask “are we living up to our values?” Conservatives stress national strength and unity, they want to instill pride, and remember the great things that we have done as a country.

My questions:
1. Read over Obama’s speech. Do you think he apologized for the atomic bombings? Why or why not?
2. Using the “things to think about” section, which of these comments resonates with you the most? Explain.
3. Which of the five opinions from the New York Times article fits best with your own views on this issue? Why?

300 words minimum. Due by Thursday, June 9 by class.

April 8

Pearl Harbor Interactive Map and more

http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/multimedia/interactive/pearl-harbor/?ar_a=1

Check it out.

Also, a link to the wesbite for the film on the Zoot Suit Riots.  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/zoot/index.html 

A link about the Detroit riot in 1943 – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/eleanor-riots/ 

Articles on Japanese internment – http://www.pbs.org/childofcamp/history/

 http://www.ushistory.org/us/51e.asp

A few pages about working women during WW2 – http://www.nps.gov/pwro/collection/website/rosie.htm

        

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May 11

Blog #18 – Rethinking the Atomic Bombs

A lot of second guessing has gone into America’s use of atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945, even starting with former general and future president Dwight Eisenhower in 1948 who did not want America to be the first to use nuclear weapons.

According to the previous article in Portrait of America, “The Biggest Decision: Why We Had to Drop the Atomic Bomb” by Robert J. Maddox, the author worked on disspelling some of the myths that have popped up since 1945.  The generals may have overestimated the Allied casualties, but the June 8 meeting with Truman stated that General George Marshall estimated that only 31,000 casualties would be inflicted during the invasion of Kyushu (Operation Olympic).  What intelligence sources had discovered in the days before Hiroshima, the Japanese Imperial Command had correctly guessed what the Allies were planning and had reinforced Kyushu with over 500,000 (actually over 900,000 but the Allies didn’t know that at the time). 

So, logic follows that Truman made the decision to drop the bomb in order to spare more lives, mainly American lives, from a costly invasion. 

But did Truman drop the bombs to intimidate the Soviets?  The war in Europe was over, and critics have claimed that the U.S. was trying to get the Soviets to either withdraw from Eastern Europe or at least be more open to agreeing with U.S. demands.  However, Stalin was given the info about the success of the Trinity test (from spies) and therefore knew about the atomic bomb.   Whether or not he felt intimidated was not recorded. 

Another sticking point was whether Japan was ready to surrender.  According to the Maddox article, Japan had sent peace feelers out through the Soviets but some members of the Japanese government (those with the power) wanted to continue fighting to protect Emperor Hirohito from prosecution of war crimes.  What role he played has been (and still is) debated, but the military could see the writing on the wall with the prosecutions beginning in Germany after the discovery of the concentration camps.  Would the emperor be retained as part of the Allies sticking to unconditional surrender terms?  Or, as Truman had mentioned, would they soften on this one sticking point in order to end the war earlier to save hundreds of thousands of lives?   The problem with interpreting the signals sent by the Japanese government at this time is that it sent mixed signals depending upon who was being asked.  If it was a military officer, he was willing to fight to the end.  If it was a politician, some kind of compromise was possible by the summer of 1945. 

Furthermore, what would have happened to the Allied prisoners of war captured by the Japanese scattered throughout Asia if the Allies had invaded Japan in November 1945?  Chances are, they might have been killed or tortured so they wouldn’t be of any use to an invading Allied army. 

Is it possible to judge an historical era from 70 yrs later, especially one so fraught with controversy since the 1994 Smithsonian exhibit?   See links below:

http://www.afa.org/media/enolagay/chrono.asp

http://www.nytimes.com/1994/08/30/us/smithsonian-alters-plans-for-its-exhibit-on-hiroshima-bomb.html

Your job: examine at least 2 of the issues discussed in the blog (things Truman probably had on his mind when weighing the decision to drop the bomb), and use/reference at least two of the documents in the handout I gave you today (Wed. May 11).  What would you have advised President Truman do under these circumstances?  Why? 

Due Thursday, May 12.  250 words.