Editor's note: This is a response to a letter printed in Vol. 12 No. 3 of the Challenge by the author of the original article that sparked the debate.
Dear Ms. Hanson:
It must have been quite an experience for your son, Rick, to have participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March this past April. You must certainly be proud of him and his group winning their division.
Your commentary on war history and the Japanese made interesting points; however, I feel that you misread and misinterpreted the intent behind my article. By no means did I intend to present a historical retrospective on war etiquette. What I wrote about was, very simply, a story reflecting my visit to Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park and the Peace Museum. It was not my intent to glorify Japan's military participation in WWII. I would not refute that the Japanese military has been historically recognized as a cunning and brutal enemy. They were a military that was born from an ancient warrior civilization. Neither did I intend to diminish the bravery of any of the U.S. military men serving during WWII.
On December 12, 2001, Congressman Faleomavega addressed the House of Representatives in support of a resolution for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and addressed the bravery of a particular division of the military in his speech. He directed a portion of his speech to thanking the 100th Battalion, 442nd infantry, an all volunteer unit, for their dedication and bravery during WW II, "during the height of tremendous bigotry and racism we had another fantastic legacy to be shared with every American in our country" through this battalion. That particular division remains the most highly decorated combat unit of its size in the history of the U.S. military. That unit suffered an unprecedented casualty rate for a division of its size and length of service and was awarded over 18,000 individual decorations for bravery. Of those decorations there were 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, 4,000 Bronze Stars, 9,480 Purple Hearts and 12 French Croix de Guerre. This battalion was the Japanese-American combat unit, which included the respected Senator Daniel Inouye. These were more than 25,000 Japanese-American citizens who chose to fight for their country against their ancestral homeland, while their families were interred in "relocation" camps for being of Japanese heritage. A large portion of the volunteers to the unit came from the relocation camps to offer their services to fight for America. President Truman was so moved by the devotion and bravery of this infantry unit as well as that demonstrated by the African-American infantry unit that he desegregated all the armed forces. In 1996 this same battalion was awarded an additional 20 Medals of Honor by President Clinton. At the awards ceremony, Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera commented, "I am pleased and proud to be a part of honoring these soldiers and setting the record straight about the magnitude of their courage ... with their selfless service, bravery and sacrifice they helped America realize that being American is not where you come from, but where your heart is."
War, by definition, is brutal. It brings out the best and the worst in every country involved. It would be inconceivable to think that any war could be fought minus death or brutality. The aggressor attacks and must be defended against. We cannot present ourselves as a completely blameless example. Unfortunately, we have had American soldiers in foreign prisons who have been tried in military courts and found guilty of rape. We placed all Japanese-Americans into relocation camps with substandard housing and medical care on the basis they were an assumed security risk. We did not imprison German or Italian Americans in the same manner. Our participation in Vietnam has been highly scrutinized and criticized over the years. Even today our treatment of the al Qaeda soldiers and the motive behind our war against terrorism are being questioned by European nations.
Although my article did not discuss the war itself, you have suggested that I have "taken one episode to define the realities of war." In considering that comment, it became quite evident that this event does clearly define the realties of an atomic war. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the only examples to date of atomic bombs used in warfare. The atomic bomb not only demolished most of the city and killed tens of thousands of people in an alarming matter of mere minutes, but it also caused genetic mutations and illnesses from radiation poisoning in generations in that city. You are absolutely correct that when a war is prolonged, a nation will do what they find necessary to bring about its end. If the United States did not realize the destructive capabilities of this weapon, I doubt they would be as concerned about protecting the knowledge to build another bomb as they are. We revisit the Holocaust constantly to remind us of the horrors and to prevent any such future inhumanities. We revisit Pearl Harbor and honor the bravery of the servicemen stationed there. It is hardly inconceivable that we should revisit Hiroshima to prevent the future use of atomic weapons.
I offer my sincerest apologies that a simple article about a museum obviously disturbed you.
Very truly yours;
Denise Lynn Kato
Paralegal, Laner Muchin, Dombrow, Becker, Levin & Tominberg, Ltd.