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War Memory and Reconciliation / Japan’s Emperor System


Dr. Jennifer Lind (2010) does a fine job of laying out her theoretical framework for when and how (or even if) contrition––i.e., the “apologetic remembrance” of crimes committed in the heat of war––can foster a period of reconciliation among nations with bad blood between them. Drawing on two case studies to advance her thesis––which is that “the [preponderant] view that international reconciliation requires apologies and other contrite gestures” (Lind, 2010, p. 3) is right-minded but quite full of hyperbole in its singular faith in the moral authority of a sincere expression of regret––Dr. Lind (2010) argues for a “middle ground between whitewashing and contrition.” (p. 190) Read the rest of this entry

A Surrender by Atomic Means?


At dawn on August 5, 1945, after “General [Curtis] LeMay finalized the take-off time [of three B-29 bombers], final assembly of the [atomic] bomb proceeded[,] and take-off [from Tinian] . . . occurred on schedule,”[1] setting in motion a portentous chain of events that have since received an inordinate amount of scrutiny. At approximately a quarter past eight in the morning on August 6, the Enola Gay released its load––a single, gun-type atomic bomb––over Hiroshima, Japan, an industrial and military centre. The ten-foot long weapon, christened “Little Boy,” detonated some two thousand feet in the air, leveling a sizable percentage of the city and killing between 70,000 and 80,000 soldiers and civilians––a further 100,000 are said to have perished from acute radiation sickness in the subsequent weeks, months, and years. Three days after the attack on Hiroshima, a second atomic bomb, larger and more powerful than the first, was loosed over the Japanese port city Nagasaki. Fortunately, due to Nagasaki’s uneven terrain, “Fat Man” inflicted fewer casualties (40,000-75,000). In any case, Japan’s Supreme War Council, having convened hours before the Nagasaki bombing at Emperor Hirohito’s bidding, announced on August 14 the country’s surrender as per the terms outlined in the Potsdam Declaration (though only upon receiving a guarantee of immunity for the kokutai, Japan’s monarchy). Given the timing of the surrender––less than a week after Nagasaki––and Emperor Hirohito’s suggestion that the enemy’s possession of “a new and terrible weapon with the power to destroy many innocent lives” rendered useless any further resistance, that the world readily accepted America’s use of atomic weapons as the sole reason for Japan’s swift and orderly capitulation is understandable. And yet, one would be remiss to dismiss from this equation the Soviet Union, whose presence grew increasingly ominous as spring turned to summer in 1945. A close reading of the circumstances surrounding Japan’s surrender suggests that the ever-looming threat of communism, rather than U.S. President Harry Truman’s decision to use atomic weapons, dictated Japan’s actions in this final, terrible chapter of mankind’s bloodiest war. Read the rest of this entry

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