Remembering Hiroshima and Nagazaki–and Manila and Nanjing.

Richard Fernandez writes:

As the New York Times remembers Hiroshima, try this quiz. Name the two greatest losses of civilian life in the Pacific war. Hint. In both cases the civilian casualties were greater than Hiroshima’s. In one case the event took place on American soil.

Hiroshima 70,000–80,000
Battle of Manila 100,000
Nanjing 300,000



Donald Sensing links to this in his post, “Hiroshima Day”–World Council of Churches Gets It Wrong Again. He links to a recommended prayer service.

Let me be clear. I certainly have no problems with prayers for peace and justice. I pray them myself. But the order of remembrance (at the link) promulgated by the WCC is not one that I can in good conscience lead. One reason why is the inclusion of a, “Reading of an eye witness account from Hiroshima,” adapted from an account by Murakami Toshio. It is a compelling account, and what he endured was dreadful beyond description. I gainsay that not. But the reading’s conclusion is unacceptably incomplete:

We, the people of Hiroshima, crushed by nightmares, exasperation, resignation and hardships, have come to hate war, more than any other people, and above everything else. We have eagerly sought for peace, being so urged from the bottom of our hearts, from our very innermost core. …

I would like to know whether Mr. Toshio hates that war equally from its beginning as from its end. Does he hate what his country did to Nanking as much as what America did to Hiroshima? After all,

When Japanese forces conquered Nanking, for example, they killed at least 200,000 civilians and probably as many as 300,000 over a six-week period (or so) beginning in mid-December 1937.

Japanese atrocities in Nanking were so terrible that Nazi Germany’s Consul to the city personally intervened to save hundred of Chinese, especially women, tens of thousands of whom Japanese soldiers gang-raped and then, usually, murdered.

The list of Japanese atrocities during the war – which it started many years before it attacked Pearl Harbor – is literally too long to list here. For example, During America’s campaign to liberate the Philippines, the Japanese command declared Manila to be an open city, a term in international law with the specific meaning that it would not be defended and American forces could occupy it unopposed. This was treachery and deceit: the Japanese defended the city fiercely, resulting in the deaths of 100,000 Filipino civilians. The city itself was devastated just as completely as either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

During 1945, a half million civilians under Japanese occupation were being killed or dying every month because of the occupation.

Japan has never come to grips with its actions and has deliberately refused to face them. Germany, at least, went through such self examination after World War II, and indeed, repentance, that its Nazi past, though not erased, no longer strongly stains the nation of today. Indeed, Germans today have understood their special, historical obligation to face their past honestly and to stand for better angels of human nature today.

Japan, murderer of at least as many people as the Nazis, has never done this and will not do this. Its many years of atrocities: concentration camps, its biowar experiments on Chinese civilians, its deliberate programs of starvation and murder of prisoners, the rapacious pillaging of conquered cities and their peoples, its impressment of foreign women as sex slaves for soldiers – this and more all swept under the Japanese rug with even the barest pretense of acknowledgement that they ever occurred. …

I refuse on principle to pollute God’s ears with prayers dedicated only to Hiroshima Day and the dead of those cities while ignoring the tens of millions of Japanese-murdered souls who cry for remembrance, but do not get it, certainly not from the World Council of Churches and its allies who have no loathing but for their own civilization. If the prayers of the WCC’s service are to be offered, let them be uttered on Aug. 14, the day Japan announced its surrender, or on Sept. 2, the day the surrender instruments were signed aboard USS  Missouri. Let our churches no longer be accessories to Japan’s blood-soaked silence but instead be voices for the  millions of murdered victims of its bloodlust, imperialist militarism.

9 thoughts on “Remembering Hiroshima and Nagazaki–and Manila and Nanjing.

  1. I have often thought likewise.

    Have you been out to Fredericksburg to visit the newly renovated Admiral Nimitz National Museum for the Pacific War? They’ve done a great job with the lead up to WWII, including video from Nanking. They also have artifacts and stories from POWs. It’s a HUGE museum…Annie and I took two 3-hour sessions on consecutive days to go through it all, and we didn’t stop at everything.

  2. No, I haven’t. I’ve never been to Fredericksburg. Found the link, though:

    My great uncle was a Seabee, and has lots of stories to tell. He built the runway on Tinian that the Enola Gay took off from. Also spent a lot of time on Okinawa (and a few days on Iwo Jima). Needless to say, he has some very strong opinions on the subject.

    • Take your uncle when you go . . . they have oral historian interviewers on staff who will record his story for the archives.

  3. Let’s just remember that Pearl Harbor was not what caused America’s entry into World War Two. They already had an embargo on Japanese Ports enforced by their military before this action.

    As a Japanese Adventist Young Person. I am offended at your callousness towards the victims at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    • They are Sensing’s comments, not mine. But worth paying attention to.

      Why was there an embargo? Because of Japan’s imperialistic conquests throughout Asia–specifically, Japan’s invasion of Vietnam (then French Indochina).

      Japan was a brutal regime. It murdered and raped with impunity–particularly in Nanking/Nanjing. It treated our prisoners horrifically. The roll call of its victims is long … and Japan has yet to own up to its past.

      • Hiroshima and Nagasaki were both horrific crimes against humanity. Irregardless of what might have done during other times in the war, the people in those cities did nothing to deserve the sudden destruction from the sky. Taking the focus off of their suffering on the anniversary of that infamous bombing belittles them, and should be offensive to all of humanity.

      • Why? Why is this different than any other bombing? What else would have stopped this maniacal regime from its fanaticism? What about the innocent Chinese and Vietnamese and Filipinos and Koreans that were raped and murdered by Japan?

        I think you need to go back and read some history. Talk to some folks who lived then.

        You cannot separate this from the war crimes that Japan had been consistently committing for the previous 15 years. That’s Sensing’s point–and it’s one that you need to seriously consider. Who should be blamed for Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Perhaps Hirohito, Tojo, the military commanders, the military officers, the individual soldiers, et al.

  4. The Japanese government teaches false history to their own people, even saying that the USA started the war against Japan. Kind of hard to trust a government like that.

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