Tom Hanks Made Some Very Foolish Comments.

I knew Victor Davis Hanson would have something to say on Tom Hanks’ outrageously ignorant comments. He is intimately familiar with the Pacific war.  

Hollywood seems to like to say that we were just as bad as the Japanese. This is just plain stupidity, and shows something has gone greatly wrong in their souls. It may be that their films now gross large amounts from the overseas markets, and they don’t want to upset their customers. In that case, making money now rules them. They are too cowardly to tell the truth anymore.

Victor Davis Hanson:

Hanks may not have been quoted correctly; and his remarks may have been impromptu and poorly expressed; and we should give due consideration to the tremendous support Hanks has given in the past both to veterans and to commemoration of World War II; and his new HBO series could well be a fine bookend to Band of Brothers.  All that said, Hanks’ comments were sadly infantile pop philosophizing offered by, well,  an ignoramus.

Hansen made the point that if we hated the Japanese so much because of their race, why were we on the side of the Chinese in their fight against Japan? Why did we come to the aid of the Filipinos? Hanks has no idea what he is talking about.

Indeed, the most disturbing phrase of all was Hanks’ suggestion that the Japanese wished to “kill” us, while we in turn wanted to “annihilate” them. Had they developed the bomb or other such weapons of mass destruction (and they had all sorts of plans of creating WMDs), and won the war, I can guarantee Hanks that he would probably not be here today, and that his Los Angeles would look nothing like a prosperous and modern Tokyo.

The whole idea that it was just a misunderstanding among racist idiots is just insulting.

Hanks confuses things and misses the point:

In other words, the United States, despite horrific battles in places like Iwo Jima and Okinawa, harbored little official postwar racial animosity in its foreign policy, helped to foster Japanese democracy, provided aid, and predicated its postwar alliances — in the manner of its prewar alliances — on the basis of ideology, not race. Hanks apparently has confused the furor of combat — in which racial hatred often becomes a multiplier of emotion for the soldier in extremis — with some sort of grand collective national racial  policy that led to and guided our conduct.


In short Hanks’s comments are as ahistorical as they are unhinged. One wonders — were they supposed to entice us into watching the upcoming HBO series on the Pacific theater? But if anyone is interested in the role of race on the battlefield, one could probably do far better in skipping Hanks, and reading instead E.B. Sledge’s brilliant memoir, With the Old Breed, which has a far more sophisticated analysis of race and combat on Peleliu and Okinawa, and was apparently (and I hope fairly ) drawn upon in the HBO series. (Sledge speaks of atrocities on both sides in the horrific close-quarter fighting on the islands, but he makes critical distinctions about accepted and non-accepted behaviors, the differences between Japanese and American attitudes, and in brilliant fashion appreciates the role of these campaigns in the larger war. One should memorize the last lines of his book.)

It would be easy to say that Hanks knows about as much about history as historians do about acting, but that would be too charitable. Anyone with a high school education, or an innate curiosity to read (and Hanks in the interview references works on the Pacific theater), can easily learn the truth on these broad subjects. In Hanks’ case, he is either ignorant and has done little real research, or in politically-correct fashion has taken a truth about combat in the Pacific (perceptions of cultural and racial difference often did intensify the savagery of combat) and turned it into The Truth about the origins and conduct of an entire war — apparently in smug expectation that such doctrinaire revisionism wins applause these days in the right places (though I doubt among the general public that he expects to watch the series.)

All in all, such moral equivalence (the Japanese and the U.S. were supposedly about the same in their hatreds) is quite sad, and yet another commentary on our postmodern society that is as ignorant about its own past as it is confused in its troubled present.

Hanks has said dumb things about history before. As a result of his participation in the Da Vinci code movies, he seems to have picked up a very bizarre, very warped view of Christian history as well.

Comments are closed.