Hai Sai! Welcome to my Blog.

Hello, my name is Tom Corrao and I am the blogger behind the Okinawaology Blog. I created this blog to share and discuss all things Okinawan. I’m also the Public Relations Officer and Minkan Taishi to the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai. My experience with Okinawa is derived from the time I spent there during the 1980's and 90's (10 years) when serving in the United States Air Force. I've also been married to an Okinawan woman for 30 years now and have been immersed in many things Okinawan through both friends and family. I do not claim to be all knowing about everything Okinawan but I try hard and study the history and culture. I welcome everyone that is interested in Okinawa and hope that I can provide useful information to those uchinanchu that may be curious about their culture and heritage. I also welcome those who are not of Okinawan heritage but have experienced, or are experiencing, the islands culture while stationed there with the United States Military. Comments are welcomed and will be published as long as they are in good taste and on track with the purpose of this blog. My hope with this blog is to bring Uchinanchu people around the world a little closer to their cultural roots by expressing information that has started to fade in light of a more modern world. We should never forget our culture or the people who came before us and through the Blog my intentions are to meld the old with the new and implant knowledge that will help maintain the traditions and culture of an island people.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rebuttal to the Article: The War in the Pacific was not about Racism

Today’s post is about an article that I read that was published a few days ago on several different news web sites around the country. I personally found it on the Columbus Daily Dispatch site but discovered that it had been published on many sites around the country as well. The article was written by Victor Davis Hanson who is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. The title of the article sparked my interest in reading the article but the content got my dander up. In the article Mr. Hanson States that racism had nothing to do with the war in the pacific. I beg to differ! Here is the article with my commentary inserted in blue. It amazes me sometimes how closed minded such learned people can be.

Taken from the Columbus Dispatch

The War in the Pacific was not about Racism
Friday, April 2, 2010

By Victor Davis Hanson

Sixty-five years ago, on April 1, 1945, the U.S. Marines, Army and Navy invaded Okinawa. The ensuing three months of combat resulted in the complete defeat and near destruction of imperial Japanese forces on the island just 340 miles from the mainland.

American forces wanted the island as a place to launch bombing attacks against the Japanese mainland.

The victory proved the most costly American campaign in the Pacific. Some 50,000 Americans were killed, missing or wounded. The incredible carnage would help persuade the American government to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in hopes of avoiding an even more horrific invasion of the mainland.

More than 100,000 civilians died as a result of the battle.

Okinawa and the war in the Pacific are back in the news these days with the airing of a 10-part HBO series, The Pacific, a companion story to the 2001 series Band of Brothers about the American advance from Normandy across the Rhine into Germany.

But recently in hyping The Pacific's upcoming airing, the actor Tom Hanks, co-producer of the fine new HBO series, made some unfortunate - and a historical - remarks.

"Back in World War II," Hanks said, "we viewed the Japanese as 'yellow, slant-eyed dogs' that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different."

Hanks' is right, he didn't say racism started the war. He said that we viewed the Japanese in a racist manner.

Yet the Pacific war was about far more than being "different."

Indeed, before and after the war, race was not a determining factor in American and Japanese relations. The two nations in World War I were partners against the Germans and Austrians. And during World War II itself, we joined Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos and other Asians to stop Japanese aggression - often fueled by its own particular notion of Japanese racial superiority. In the aftermath of World War II, the Americans helped rebuild Japan, and once more were allied with it against the communist Soviet Union.

The racism in regards to the Okinawan people was in them being seen as second class citizens that were Japanese in the eyes of the US Government at the time. Their exploitation for their land and labor was a primary concern of the occupying forces.

And despite the deplorable internment of Japanese nationals and American citizens of Japanese descent during the war, racial difference still does not in itself account for the horror in the Pacific - or why we were there in the first place.

Once again Hanks' didn't say racism started the war.

We entered the war because of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which angered Americans even more than Adolf Hitler's aggression in Europe. Nazi barbarity for over two years had still not provoked the United States to enter the war, given that none of our own territory had been attacked.

Conditions on the battlefield in the Pacific most certainly account for the horror of the war there.

For starters, Japanese militarists had updated the old samurai code of Bushido and grafted it to a modern industrial military dictatorship, brainwashing millions into thinking individual surrender on the battlefield was tantamount to national disgrace. Italian and even fanatical German forces might give up when surrounded. In contrast, campaigns in the Pacific ended only when the vast majority of Japanese soldiers were killed or severely wounded

Logistics for the American force also were strained, given the vast distances across the Pacific. Tropical diseases were like nothing encountered in Europe. While most Americans had heard of Sicily, Italy and France most did not know what - much less where - a distant Guadalcanal, Peleliu or Iwo Jima was.

The invasion fleet off Normandy Beach did not have to worry about airborne Nazi suicide bombers - in the manner that Kamikaze attacks off Okinawa killed thousands of American seamen.

American tactical bombing, massive artillery barrages and armor thrusts were often less successful in the Pacific than in Europe, given the dense jungle, rough terrain and nature of island fighting.

In Okinawa however most of the vegetation was wiped from the earth by the heavy indiscriminant bombardment to the island from thousands of ships anchored off its shores.

The result was often that combat was reduced to hand-to-hand and small-arms fighting between U.S. Marines and crack Japanese imperial troops, hardened from brutal service of a prior decade in China.

Or that in the combat required shooting flamethrowers into caves full of civilians because the occupants could not be identified as friend or foe.

Given all these obstacles, it now seems incredible that an America that was half-armed in 1941 defeated Japan and utterly destroyed the idea of Japanese militarism in less than four years - a feat attributable in large part to the amazing courage and expertise of American soldiers.

It's a good thing we had those atomic bombs that we could drop on the military bases of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as president Truman told the American people. After all we saved lives.

The war in the Pacific was not about racism or because Japanese "were different," much less because two nations had equally justifiable grievances against each other.

Instead, the brutal Pacific war was about ending an expansionary Japanese fascism that sought to destroy all democratic obstacles in its path. And we are indebted today to the relatively few Americans who stopped it in horrific places like Okinawa.

Okay, Mr. Hanson’s point is that the war was not driven by racism but rather that it came about as a result of an unprovoked attack on the United States. I will agree with this fact. I don't believe however that Hanks' comments were taken in context. He simply stated a fact that in the 40's america was racist. In the forties racism was prevalent throughout the United States whether speaking of Blacks, Asians, Italians, Irish, or a whole myriad of others. We hated each other at the time and American neighborhoods were segregated by ethnic background. Open minded people were hard to come by in those times and racist depictions helped people gel their hatred for the “Japs.” So, Racism did play a factor in the escalation of the war as it was used to build a hatred for a race of people that the American people were not familiar with at the time. Many films and cartoons were produced during the war portraying the Japanese in a manner that could be described as nothing less than racist. Here are some examples of what I am talking about.

I applaud Tom Hanks for being truthful in stating, "we viewed the Japanese as 'yellow, slant-eyed dogs' that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different." He spoke the truth because that is exactly what we did. While it is true the Japanese basically poked a hornet’s nest with a stick when the attacked the United States did it give us the right to eliminate anyone including civilian who got in the way of the mission? We pursued the Japanese back through the pacific eliminating them from the islands we past along the way as we moved towards the Japanese mainland. I find it difficult to believe that the United States at the time would have even considered the civilian population of the islands then occupied by the Japanese invaders. Civilians in the way often became casualties of war, because the American soldiers could not tell in many instances who was Japanese and who was an islander. Referred to as natives in many of the propaganda films I have seen the islanders were insignificant and expendable in the heat of battle on the battle front. In the end any Japanese person was also expendible if it meant victory. Men, women, and children, vaporized from the earth.

Racism effected the lives of many back then. Even African Americans who fought for their country in the pacific experienced the rasism of the times as many of them were lynched in the southern states simply for wearing their uniforms in public. Here is a example.

One of the saddest things in Okinawa in regards to the civilian population was that they were never considered the rightful owners of the island and remained second class citizens in the eyes of the Japanese and the Americans after the war. Sure the Americans helped to rebuild the island but they used the islanders as a labor force offering them jobs which they obviously took because of the need to survive. The exploitation of the Okinawan people continued until December of 1970 when the Okinawans had finally had it with discrimination and the normally obedient, mild mannered people rioted over the rules being imposed by the American occupation. This lead to talks which would change Okinawa forever as the US allowed Okinawa to revert back under Japanese control.

In Conclusion I would just like to say that yes, I believe racism was a factor during and after the war. Okinawa struggles even today with problems related to the military presence on the island and Japanese influence has been changing the feel of the islands. The Okinawans were an independent people and are now considered Japanese by default due to factors beyond their control. Please don't think that I do not believe things are getting better in regards to racism in Okinawa but because of assimilation Okinawa has lost her innocence. The Okinawan economy now has become dependent on tourism and the very military presence so many in Okinawa want to eliminate. Okinawans have realized the importance of preserving who they were prior to assimilation and have been sucessful in incorporating their heritage into the modern Okinawan lifestyle.


  1. I agree with you, there`s no way how to say that racism had nothing to do with the way americans used to see japanese during the war.
    by the way, i`ll leave you a question:
    do you think that the way american meainstream media (and american "common sense" as well) shows Iraq, Afghanistan and "terrorism" is too different from this racist manner on WW2?
    i guess war and racism are two things that likes to be sticked toghether very often, everywhere, all along the history.

  2. Tom: In general, I agree with you completely. However, I feel that to view the story completely, one must consider the arguments that Roosevelt was aware of the pending attack and allowed it to happen so as to enrage the American people to enter a war against a race that didn't look at all like most Americans. It proved to be quiet easy to get Congress to support such a war whereas they had shown great recalcitrance throughout Hitler's rise to enter a war against people who looked like them and who were ancestors to most Americans. Roosevlet got what he wanted: America's involvement in the European war.

    As to the invasion of Okinawa, the deaths of the civilians (which, as you pointed out, was greater than the American deaths), is on the hands of the Japanese. It was they who used the civilians as shields. It was they who wouldn't allow the civilians to exit the caves where the soldiers were hiding. I guess that maybe one has to be a Marine to understand that everyone in front of your rifle is the enemy; you cannot pick and choose. If you do, it is you who dies.

    As to the racisim of the war, as I noted above, it is what compelled us to finally declare war on the evils of the world, but it was the racisim of the Japanese. They were, and many in power remain as the worst elitist in the world. Particularly at the time frame we are considering. They thought that no race was as good as the lowest member of Japanese socitey. They distinguished themselves above all other Asians. They thought that the Okinawas were s***.

    Unfortunately, most Okinawas are such pacifists that they didn't even vote on the reversion issue. That issue was resolved by the activist of the communist unions for the teachers and the base workers. What the majority of the Okinawas didn't realize at the time was the economic power of the Japanese. Following reversion, the Japanese came into Okinawa offering multiples of the value of the then-Okinwan owned businesses. Who wouldn't sell? Heck, I would have too. Now the Okinawans own very little. Most business is Japanese controlled. The good news is that most Okinawans have not sold their land yet.

    Leading to the topic of Futenma. The only reason that the Japanese want to close it is that it sits on a ridge making it an ideal resort (Japanese owned, of course).

    Finally, please don't forget that similar to the warnings that we shouted into the caves prior to opening the flame throwers, we dropped leaflets on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki prior to the bombings, telling everyone to get the heck out of Dodge. They chose to ignore the warnings, sacrificing their own lives and, likely, saving as many as a million American lives. Their choice, not ours.

    PS: Thanks for the contribution of the great and historic film collections that you posted. Keep up the good work.