Tom Hanks believes the cause of the war in the Pacific was racism. Plus, we just hate people who are different. He started out saying very clearly the war was a war of racism and terror. Then, later, he backed down a bit and said racism and terror had something to do with the war. Of course, by this he means that both sides were equally at fault, or he would have said that the racism was on one side or the other.
The simple fact is that the outrage in the United States had almost nothing to do with racism at all. The outrage had to do with the way the Japanese behaved. The Japanese murdered 10-20 million people during the war, and their brutality was so extreme that people truly began hating them – for good reason. The barbarity shown by the Japanese was almost unthinkable. If the United States was brutal in some instances right back to them, it was only because they deserved it, because they started horrible wars of aggression, treated civilians brutally, and would not stop. It was because they started the war with the U.S. with a sneak attack. It was because they murdered POW’s. It was because they ate POW’s. It was because their soldiers surrendered, then attacked and murdered their captors when their guard was down. It was because they thought nothing of bayonetting a baby then laughing while they crushed the baby’s mother beneath the wheels of their truck.
Yes, there was a feeling that the Japanese were unfeeling, brutish creatures, something less than human. That’s because that’s the way they acted. It was not racism, it was reality.
Had the war been due to racism, would we have rescued their nation from poverty, installed a democracy, and made them our friends? No.
So. Here is the Tom Hanks fact of the day:
Fact of the Day: The Burma Railway (The Death Railway). In 1942, in order to build a railway through the Jungle in Thailand and Burma, the Japanese used 240,000 slave laborers. The force was composed of POW’s and native Asians. The Japanese made them labor deep in the disease infested jungles to build the new Railway. About 90,000 Asian laborers and 16,000 POW”s died as a result.
“The slimy track we had followed to Konyu Camp was the only way through the jungle and it linked thesixty or so labour camps dotted along the path of the railway… The track was littered with bits ofabandoned tracks, great broken branches covered in thorns… and, frequently, the abandoned corpses of unfortunate Tamils and Chinese “recruited” from Malaya, who had got no further than this on their way to the promised dream job. (The Japanese amassed the vast Asian labour force that was necessary for this railway work by offering the incentive of a six-month contract under ideal conditions: splendid food, lots of money – and bring your families. Many did bring them and it was sickening to see women and small children passing through with bewildered-looking groups of Tamils and Chinese, to amiserable death).
“The Japanese at the end of 1942 resorted to many ruses to recruit an additional labour pool of over 270,000 civilian labourers. They included Chinese, Burmese, Thais, Indians, Malays and Eurasians. As POWs began moving north the Japanese placed advertisements in Malayan newspapers seeking labourers for work periods of up to three months in Thailand. Free rail travel, housing, food and medical services were offered together with pay at a rate of one dollar a day. The response was negligible so the Japanese resorted to press-gang methods. Free picture shows were advertised at various theatres around Malaya and when full, the doors were locked and all males in the audiences put aboard trains and railed to Thailand. Later, as all civilians had to register to receive their rice rations the Japanese were able to assess the male population and began demanding 50 to 70 per cent of males in villages for their labour force… As pressure for the completion of the railway built up it became increasingly difficult for the Japanese to replace people dying in Thailand. Java was then exploited with even more attractive rates of pay promised, as well as advances of up to 100 dollars for the three-month-contract. Similar methods were used in Burma. Needless to say, three-month contracts proved valueless as no labourers returned to their homes during the first 18 months. Once they reached Thailand and Burma they found themselves herded into unhygenic, half-built camps with no medical facilities, inadequate rations and yoked to a relentless grind in which nothing mattered but completion of the railway.”(1)
Natives and POWs alike unable to control themselves, emitted vomit and excretia everywhere. Each day a number of POWs who could still walk were detailed to carry out those men and natives who had died during the night. The smell of death was everywhere, an almost sweet, sickly smell that defied description” while of a later camp transfer he continues, “In this new camp were many natives; Indians, Malays, Chinese etc., dying from dysentery. Our Jap guard told us that to help or feed them would be death to us (although by his gun or the disease he did not say). These poor wretches crawled to our feet when the Jap had gone begging for food and water. There are no cooks in this camp but a quantity of rice and a few vegetables. Two others in our party and myself set to work to make a crude meal. We made more than was needed for ourselves and then distributed the remainder to our native fellow sufferers. At night we slept alongside them, oblivious of any fear of contaminations, simply dead weary and exhausted. By morning many of our native companions were dead. That was the only time I ever cooked rice – I hoped it was my last.”