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December seven, 1941, its history, a date which will live in infamy upon all.
Mark, biathlete, the events that you just wrote. But I'm not quite to the point where you don't have a from this time and place.
I take pride in the words the figure is being delivered. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. The global high tech. I would tell you that what appears to be a complete collapse, the walk on this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their president should go. Well, I'm not a crook. If we dig deep in our history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. It's hard core history.
1944. When the Second World War is raging, especially in the Pacific, especially around the Philippines. A young Japanese soldier, a guy in his early 20s. Is dropped off on one of the innumerable heavily jangled Philippine islands. And is told to do what he can to hamper allied activities in the area. And to continue fighting until he hears orders to the contrary by the commanding officer who sent him on the mission. This soldier hero, Onoda Asian Convention would switch that around and he'd be honored, a hero will follow his orders until his commanding officer tells him he can lay down his weapons.
And he will eventually come out of the jungle into a clearing. Hand over his sword. Stand at attention while the guy who ordered him into that jungle in the first place formally dismisses him with honor. And this happened on the 9th of March 1974. 1974. 29 years after the Second World War ended. This guy had been fighting, shooting at being shot at, killing and injuring the locals for 30 years. Twenty nine, to be exact. When he came out of the jungle, he came out with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a well maintained working rifle and hand grenades.
The guy who dismissed him, his commanding officer from 29 years, previously had to be flown in by the Japanese government, he was apparently a bookseller or something in civilian life. Now, imagine his surprise when a government official shows up at his offices and says, yeah, you know, one of those soldiers you ordered into the Philippines 29 years ago? Yeah, he's still in there. And he won't come out unless you come and tell him it's OK.
He was found officially by like a kid, a hippie kid is what the soldier called him. Anota called him a hippie kid who said he was looking for. I read somewhere he said he was looking for wild pandas, meaning the existence of pandas in the wild, the Abominable Snowman and Lieutenant Onoda. Now, lest you think that this is a once in a lifetime Robinson Crusoe shipwreck kind of anomaly.
Hiro Onoda is not the only Japanese World War Two soldier that surrenders in 1974.
There's another one. In 1972, there was one, there were two in the 1960s, there were a bunch in the 1950s and in the 1940s after the war ended, sometimes whole units were still fighting.
I believe it was almost three years after the war ended, a unit of a couple of hundred of these Japanese soldiers with their heavy weapons finally surrendered.
What the hell is that? What accounts for that, and it's not just the Philippines, I mean, it was happening on places like Guam, for example, Sipan, I mean, there were people still running around the caves after the war in Iwo Jima. They were I mean, it was fascinating that what you saw here didn't happen in the other theaters of war because the other theaters of war did not include the Japanese.
One of the most fascinating, interesting cultures on the planet and what Japanese expert are Tagget Murphy calls unquestionably the most distinctive of all modern industrial societies culture wise. And it is a fascinating example of how we human beings can be molded and stretched and trimmed and shaved like a bonsai tree by the cultural influences into many different diverse versions of ourselves. Anyone who's a fan of National Geographic, for example, sees the many different colorful cultures and subcultures all over the world right.
The extreme differences of humankind and how wonderfully pliable we are to the cultural influences that, you know, determine how we like to dress, what we think is attractive, little marks of status, all kinds of things. Now, magnify that by all the errors humankind's ever been around, right, so not just the diversity of exotic, different places all over the world, but all of those places all throughout history. And you can see that we've, well, probably tried just about everything as a species, wouldn't you think?
And and we've seen all kinds of different extreme versions of what we can become. I mean, take the physical version. I'm a fan of the people of the Eurasian step and those tribes, as many of you know, some of those tribes from time to time used to like to practice something known as head binding. It's sort of the counterpoint to foot binding in China, which was popular in some circles at some times to keep the feet small and to have them develop a certain way.
Well, same thing with heads.
You see this in other parts of the world, too, and sometimes cradles. For example, certain Native American tribes had cradles that would shape the head a certain way to. The point is, is that when the skull is pliable, when the person is young, you can shape that head sort of like a bonsai tree, if you will. And the Romans used to complain that the Huns looked monstrous to them.
And I remember growing up thinking, wow, these Romans are really sensitive to seeing some people who maybe have slightly Asian features thinking that that's monstrous. Well, now we have skulls that have come out of the ground. Some of these tombs, some of these Kirkenes where they buried some of these Huns and some of these Huns have skulls that looked like they're taken right out of an alien movie, big elongated skulls that go way far to the back. You wonder what they must have looked like with hair and skin.
The point is, is if you were a Roman looking at them, you might have thought that they looked monstrous. However, if you were a young Komla Hunwick noblewoman, you might have thought that guy looked hot. So it's all a question, right, of of the cultural carrots and sticks and whatnot. And sometimes it's not things that are so visible on the outside. I mean, I think we all recognize that the vast majority of our makeup in terms of our attitudes and the way we think in the way we organize reality is probably going to be culturally determined.
Now, I am a fan of extreme situations in history and the country that produced guys like Hiroo Onoda were extreme and the cultural carrots and sticks were designed to take many of the, you know, civic attitudes that most societies consider to be positives. And turn them up to such a high level on the dial of intensity that they took a bunch of things that might be considered good in another context and made them dangerous. And how can your culture impact things like Dudi?
And honor. And patriotism and a willingness to sacrifice and lay down one's life for the greater good. I mean, these are all things that most societies, you know, would figure out all sorts of cultural ways to encourage. I mean, how about just recognizing it? I mean, take, for example, a medal ceremony that might happen in the United States or an award, a citation, somebody was extra brave or extra heroic or did something out of the ordinary.
And maybe you get a medal and when you get the medal, the person giving the award will say something like, you know, for heroism or bravery or sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty, above and beyond the call of duty.
That right there is a recognition, right, that there are limits to what normal people can be asked to do in normal times. Right. And if you exceed those expectations, go above and beyond the call of duty, you get a medal. But what are the cultural carrots and sticks in a given society have evolved in such a way? So that there's almost nothing that is above and beyond the call of duty. Where the culture expects, encourages and only approves of a level of sacrifice on the part of every man, woman and child in that society that most other cultures reserve for their most elite military units.
Welcome to the world that famed Japanese hold out hero Onoda was raised in. When Onoda got back to Japan in 1974, a ghost written book of his remembrances was created, it's called No Surrender My 30 Year War, and in it he describes the Japan he was raised in. He says, quote. At that time, if a soldier who had been taken prisoner later managed to return to Japan, he was subject to a court martial and a possible death penalty, even if the penalty was not carried out.
He was so thoroughly ostracized by others that he might as well have been dead. Soldiers were supposed to give their lives for the cause, not groveled an enemy. Prison camps General Hideki Tojo's instructions for the military said explicitly. He's now quoting the instructions, quote. He who would not disgrace himself must be strong, he must remember always the honor of his family and his community, and he must strive fervently to live up to their trust in him, do not live in shame as a prisoner, die and leave no ignominious crime behind you.
And to quote. When he leaves to go off to war, one of the things he takes with him is a family dagger that his mother says if your capture, use this to kill yourself with. And I tried to think of any other mother sending her son off to war in any other major power in the Second World War with that kind of advice.
It's interesting, isn't it? A very distinctive, different culture. Now, some might have a counterargument to this point that the reason these Japanese holdouts were continuing to hold out was for duty, honor, country, the emperor, that sort of thing, by pointing out that a bunch of these people said they didn't know the war was over. So maybe it's more of a sense of being isolated and not getting the news. But the counterargument to that has to do with the fact that these people were often told explicitly in many different ways that the war was over and they chose not to believe it and they chose not to believe it because it clashed with their, you know, mental indoctrination into all this.
I mean, for example, Hyrule Noda, he had family members flown in at high expense to the Japanese government because he were not it was still killing people in the Philippines after the war. But he's not just sitting up there in the mountains by himself, not bothering anybody. He killed 20 to 30 Filipinos.
So that makes you want to tell this person in no uncertain terms and spend a little money to make it happen. Hey, you're killing people in the war is over. But Ainata didn't believe it. They left him newspapers. Here's how he puts it in the book written with him.
Quote, The search party left behind newspapers and magazines. Most of them were recent and a lot of them contained articles about the crown prince's marriage. The newspapers, which covered a period of about four months, made a stack nearly two feet high. We meaning the two other holdouts with him, we thought they were reprints of real Japanese newspapers doctored up by the American Secret Service in such a way as to eliminate any news that the Americans did not want us to see.
This was all we could think so long as we believed that the greater East Asia war was still going on. And in a way, he writes, the newspapers confirmed that the war was still going on because they told a lot about life in Japan. If Japan had really lost the war, there should not be any life in Japan. Everybody should be dead. When I arrived in the Philippines in 1944, the war was going badly for Japan, he writes.
And in the homeland, the phrase 100 million souls dying for honor was on everybody's lips. This phrase meant, literally, that the population of Japan would die to a man before surrendering. I took this at face value and I am sure many other young Japanese men my age did, he says. I sincerely believe that Japan would not surrender so long as any one Japanese remained alive. Conversely, if one Japanese were left alive, Japan could not have surrendered.
He continues, After all, this is what we Japanese had all vowed to each other, we had sworn that we would resist the American and English devils until the last single one of us was dead. If necessary, the women and children would resist with bamboo sticks, trying to kill as many enemy troops as they could before being killed themselves. The wartime newspapers all played this idea up in the strongest possible language. Now, quoting some of the slogans, one was struggle to the end.
Another was The empire must be protected at any cost. Another one was 100 million dying for the cause. He says, quote, I was virtually brought up on this kind of talk, end quote.
When Anota got back to Japan, some of the things that I read and some of his later actions indicate that he was less than happy with what had become of Japan after the war was over in terms of their national values, their intensity level and whatnot.
Now, I can speak from experience that in the 1970s, the rest of the world thought that Japan was still a very distinctive culture and very committed to, shall we call it, the above and beyond the call of duty ethic? They seemed very intense about that. Always. It was something that they took very seriously. They were known for. In fact, other people really liked things like Japanese products, because you knew that they were going to be intense about, you know, getting it done right.
But to a guy raised by the standards of Onoda era, this was not because they lost something. And let me tell you what they probably lost and the rest of the world would consider this to be a good thing. And I think modern Japanese would for the most part, too. They weren't all prepared, every man, woman and child, to sacrifice themselves anymore to the level of, you know, the world's greatest military units. Right. Act like Spartan Hoplites, die on command of the emperor like Spartan Hoplites.
These people in the modern Japanese were much more sensible. But in hero NoDoz world, there's a level of insanity that's starting to happen. And it's it's really complicated. But it kind of explains why the Japanese are this very distinctive, different major power in the Second World War and why there certain unique elements to the Pacific War against Japan that just wasn't present in the other theaters because, as we said, the Japanese weren't quick. Little rundown might explain some important things.
And by the way, Japanese culture is much debated, as you would expect, extremely complicated and definitely a place to be left to experts. But let's just say there were some pretty obvious things that we should take note of that might help explain how you get such a distinctive people. And let me use a word here that I like. I like the word intense. I will point out my stepfather's generation. And he fought in the Second World War.
He believed that this regime and this government and the society that turned out a guy like herea Onoda was turning out fanatics. And that's a word that was much used amongst allied troops, fanatics. They are automatons, they're robots, and I should point out that wartime propaganda played into this, but Americans kind of had this image of both the German opponent in the Second World War and the Japanese opponent as robots, but different kind of robots. The German robot was like the vision in The Avengers, cold, robotic, mathematical, efficient, precise and deadly because of it.
All right. But there's a coldness and a logical nature there, the Japanese is the other side of the robot spectrum, they're like foaming at the mouth, crazy robots, they don't stop. You have to their little finger will come after you if you leave that alone. I mean, they're ready to die for the emperor, excited to die for the emperor. They're they're a cartoon character that's extremely dangerous. And the word fanatic is a wonderful way to avoid having to look beneath the surface at any of the human motivations that might be involved.
Fanatic is just an AI to be sort of knee jerk in terms of, you know, the depth that they need to be examined. But real people that might be extremely motivated or feel extreme pressure and societal and cultural coercion to do something, for example, fly an aircraft piloted by them suicidally into an enemy ship. Well, those people might have some really interesting motivations to some interesting points of view. What do they think they're doing? What sort of a range of options and choices do they think they have, this becomes a much more human story when we realize two things.
One, any of us could have been born. There is a certain randomness. Even if you believe in, you know, a deed selecting everything about you, they could have selected that you end up in Japan in the 1920s. And go to school with hero ANADA. Besides that. There's a certain understanding that what happened in Japan can happen again, it will happen differently, never looks the same. But look at the elements involved and wonder if you can't imagine them being filtered instead of through a Japanese cultural filter, the cultural filter of your society, but used the same way and turned to the same kind of uses and may be turning out the same kind of.
Intensity that the Japanese really seem to exude all throughout this story. Now let me point out, there's a wonderful phrase that was used by a rabbi to describe the Jewish people once. But I love it because I think it's a wonderful shorthand phrase that applies to a bunch of different, very distinctive people on the planet. And the Japanese are certainly one of those. So I'm going to substitute the word Jews with Japanese for this. But the rabbi said the Japanese are like anyone else, only more so don't know if I got the exact wording correct.
But the line is perfect because it denotes a level of intensity. Right. They have all the same human qualities as you do. They just have them at a higher intensity level. Right. Do you think you're a good gardener and your garden looks done when you're done? You know, raking it and taking care of it? We'll go look at a Japanese garden. You'll feel like you didn't do anything right there. The intensity with which they they pay attention even to the little lines in the dirt.
I mean. What happens if you take this intensity too far? Dial it up too high, even if what we're talking about being intense about are things that you normally considered to be positives in a, you know, less intense level. I mean, you got patriotism, you got duty, you got love, a country sacrificed for the state. I mean, all these things that so many people today would consider positives.
How high do you have to turn the dial up on the intensity level, though, before they backfire on you?
And then we already have one superhero reference in this conversation because it just happened in it, but I got another one only because the Japanese hold outs to me. Isn't that sort of like a Japanese version of the Captain America back story? Right. He goes he's a Second World War person from the 40s, gets put to sleep, essentially gets awakened in the modern world and is continually contrasting. You know, the last thing he sort of remembered in his mind, it was like last week he was in the 40s with the world he finds now in the values and all these modern different things.
Well, aren't all these holdouts who are like gone for decades, aren't they all like Captain Japan's in that sense? I mean, the Japan of the 1970s, despite the rock music, the blue jeans and the longer hair that would have been on display for this Japanese war veteran, but the Japanese of the 1970s were still like everyone else, only more so. But in the eyes of someone like Onoda, it seems his attitude was not more so enough.
Now, let's acknowledge a few things right away, the first thing is it's one of the oldest tropes in history that people look back and pining away for a golden age that they missed, that really never existed. And old people do this anyway.
So you probably got some of that going on. Let me also say that I know from personal experience, because it's the era I grew up in, that in 1974 there were a lot of World War two veterans from the United States of America that didn't look too fondly on the direction American culture was going, or think that the intensity level of devotion to ideas like duty and honor and patriotism and self-sacrifice was strong enough in the American culture of those days. So in a funny way, these bitter opponents in the Second World War, the Japanese Imperial Army and the U.S., you know, military would have had something in common if they were reminiscing about the kids today, you know, in the early to mid 1970s.
And yet on the surface, there does seem to be a little something different, doesn't there? From the Japanese to the allied perspective, if you're pining away for the golden age on the allied side, you're pining away for the things that brought you victory right at the kids today, you know, had more honor, patriotism, love of country. You know, we could do great things. Remember what we did in the war.
We won the war, but the Japanese didn't win the war.
The war was a tragedy for them on so many levels, so why would you look back on the values that kind of made you the kind of country you were that you could fight a war like that? Fondly. If that's what it led to. Well, perhaps the devil's advocate counterargument here is that, yes, while these specific values and the intensity of the era, you know, on a scale of one to 10, 10 being most intense, the Japanese during the era, not as growing up in 9/11.
And yes, that got them into trouble eventually and led to, you know, Japan's downfall as a great power. But the counterargument that could be made is Japan never would have been a great power had it not been for the very specific, distinctive nature of the Japanese.
And let's understand, this is a people not quite unique, but darn near unique in the period of colonial domination by the colonial powers of the Western world that managed to avoid that. They did not avoid it because anybody was going soft on anyone else or because Japan wasn't a tempting target to snap up. They avoided it because they created the kind of society and military that made it impossible for somebody to snap them up. And they did this while coming from way behind in the technological race in almost miracle like fashion that I think.
And remember, you are getting my little take on this whole thing for for good or ill.
But the intensity of the Japanese character is in large part, I think, a factor in this.
And when you start talking about, like national characteristics, it gets very easily, bleeds very easily into weird territory, you know, racism type stuff, but it's not. A Japanese racial thing that accounts for the way they are, it's a cultural one, it's carrots and sticks. But by the way, full disclaimer here, there's going to be a lot of race talk in this program, not because it matters to me or because I think it's important, but because it matters to the people in this story and they think it's important.
The late 19th, early 20th century is one of the high water marks of, let's call it global racism and the pseudoscience of it. And it will impact this story to give you just one example without going too deeply. There will be cases where and we'll just take white Western society and we'll use the terms that are popular with the time period because that's going to keep us grounded. Right. We use the terms they used contemporaneously, but there will be white military powers that will get badly hurt from misjudging the capabilities of a non-white power simply because in racial terms, they considered them kind of subhuman.
We don't have to worry about those people because, I mean, listen, we're white and they're I think the word they used were monkeys. And the payback for that karmically is to get your rear end handed to you by a bunch of people. You know, that you underrated because of some weird construct of racial superiority that warped your perception of reality. And of course, you know what perception of reality eventually meets the real reality. And, well, there were some payback there.
More on that in a little bit. My point is we'll get to the racism thing and we'll talk about race because it matters in a story that's very multiracial in an era that's very racist. In this case, though, how do you figure out, you know, who the Japanese are and why they are the way they are? Well, first of all, this is a subject for experts. Obviously, Japanese culture has been much debated even in the United States.
I remember as a kid when they started out selling us so much on cars, a fascination with this Japanese corporate culture in the way they did things. So this is a much talked about thing. For a person like yours truly, I can only hit the big points, there are some obvious things that you can look at and go, wow, that must have affected the story. I don't know how I don't know to what degree. I don't know how it mixes with the other factors.
But, boy, you can't ignore that. There's a couple of those I want to get into here because it helps explain how we get to where we are. Every society in the world, right, is a blend of old and new.
In the case of Japan, the proportion of old to new includes a lot more old than most places. This is by design, and their history kind of consciously shows not just how they preserve this distinctive way of life, but how trying to preserve their distinctive culture can get them in trouble, where they then need those qualities of intensity and everything we were talking about before to dig them out of a hole of their own creation. There's this interesting dynamic between, you know, the Japanese wanting to remain distinctive, that that causes problems, that their distinctiveness requires them to help them get out of without going through deeply into that.
Let me explain a little of the background here. These big events that, you know, even reading Japan for Dummies will help you understand. First of all, we all get the idea that, geographically speaking, Japan has the opportunity to be different just because they're an island nation or in a series of islands. Having that little bit of water that cut you off from the mainland allows you at times, sometimes depending on the situation, you know, long times to keep the ebbs and flows and tides and sometimes storms raging on the big continent away from your shores.
Now, the fact that you are an island does not determine in any way, shape and form how you develop, there's lots of different ways you could go for lots of different reasons.
I mean, take a look at something on a map that theoretically should be pretty similar. Take a look at Japan on a map and then take a look at the British Isles.
Theoretically, these places should be somewhat analogous, shouldn't they? And yet the Japanese will have periods in their history where they, as much as possible, try to limit contact with the outside world. That's just the way they wanted to go, for reasons that are understandable once we get into them. And the English and British, you know, in a larger sense, are just the opposite, the very outgoing country might be a good way to put it.
So outgoing that by the time, you know, we're setting up this story we're getting into now, they directly or indirectly control a huge chunk of the globe. The Japanese culture is, of course, ancient dates back to really early times. And the relationship that probably has meant the most in Japanese history to the development of that island nation is the one that they've had long term with China.
The Jupiter of East Asia, if you ask a Chinese person, they might say it's the sun, not a necessarily impossible to justify point of view either. If you think about, you know, China basically being the superpower of East Asia throughout most of human history, except for certain periods of time when it reaches certain low points in power, when there's the civilizational stock market dips for the Chinese stock. But most of the time, the China of the world is at least as powerful as today's modern day China is, and it helps keep things sort of stable.
I had a Chinese history professor that said that if you wanted to make an argument, you could perhaps say that the entire Second World War and the Second World War in Asia is a result of China's historic weakness during that time period. And it's interesting because if you think about modern day China plugged into that era, you can't imagine any of that happening at all. Instead, the normal powerhouse of the region, the Jupiter, is eclipsed in the time period leading up to the Second World War, which creates a vacuum that, like my professor said, if you wanted to, you could probably get a B plus on a paper where you tried to tie that together with the reason everything was happening.
Right. You have a vacuum in China and a very wealthy territory that seems to be available in an era where the great powers of the world probably could be compared to a bunch of ravenous sharks looking to snap up an increasingly small and dwindling supply of yummy territories.
That, of course, later on in our story, in the case of the Japanese. And the relationship to China, I had a buddy that compared it once to a big brother little brother relationship, which I thought was kind of compelling, and here was his thinking. He said that China, of course, is Big Brother and that for most of their early relationship, little brother tags along.
Learning from Big Brother, pretending to be brother, emulating Big Brother, but at a certain point along the way, as they both, you know, mature, there comes a time in their relationship where little brother can reliably kick Big Brother's ass.
And that changes the nature of the relationship somewhat. If you're looking at this, though, through the Wide-angle long view lens, I think you'd have to say that the relationship, despite the occasional sibling spats and pirate activity, has been peaceful and mutually beneficial, especially beneficial. If you're looking at this from the Japanese point of view, because like all of China's neighbors, they will benefit, you know, continually and in an ongoing fashion over the centuries from Chinese innovations.
You know, off the top of my head, I mean, think about writing that the Japanese taking convert to a Japanese style, but it's from China originally of philosophical ideas, an entire governmental organisational sort of template, religious concepts till the cows come home.
My goodness. How about the most Japanese? As I think about an institution of all, the emperor itself might be an innovation taken from China, maybe as far back as like, you know, the seventh century A.D..
What's funny, though, is like all foreign innovations, the Japanese managed to take these things and turn them Japanese somehow in a way that instead of changing Japan's distinctive culture, somehow is just woven into it. Now, there have been opportunities in history. We shall call them historical close calls, when Japan could have fallen victim to the same outcome that many wonderful distinctive cultures all over Eurasia fell to at one time or another. You know, occasionally you get these great historical blending opportunities, sometimes that occur against the will of the people being blended.
And this will take those wonderful distinctive cultures and sort of homogenize them. You're talking about whiskey. It's a blended sort of thing, whereas a place like Japan is a wonderful, distinctive single malt.
Most of the time, the the little bit of water separating Japan, as we said earlier, from being a part of these great blending opportunities. But in the late 100 hundreds, you have a couple of close calls.
The Mongol conquests are going on and they're blending cultures all over Eurasia with each other, you know, against their will. They will run out of room to conquer any more in East Asia, they run up against water eventually. But, you know, the Mongol manifest destiny being what it is, by the time Genghis Khan's grandson, the great Kublai Khan, is on the throne of China, he'll launch two amphibious assaults over the waves on Japanese islands. First of all, imagine that for a minute.
I mean, late 12 hundreds, tens of thousands of troops over the waves. And you don't just have to get him there. You have to supply them the whole time they are there. And for a significant amount of time, I mean, we're talking many weeks, the Japanese will fight these armies to a standstill with an absolutely ferocious defense. Now, in the defense of Mongol admirers everywhere, this is not a Mongol army, as you would normally think of it.
Most of it is a bunch of Korean and Chinese auxiliaries who are conscripts and don't want to be there because after all, their countries have been conquered by these same Mongols. Nonetheless, a ferocious defense that provides time for Mother Nature to intervene twice. Now, let me tell you, as a military history, not looking at this battle shaping up, I'm like a boxing fan who's bought the pay per view and is very excited about this conflict, only to have it end in a Japanese victory by disqualification due to kamikaze twice the kamikaze, of course, the famous divine wind, the wind of the gods, this wind that comes up and so badly damages this Mongol Chinese fleet twice that it has to call off the invasion and go back home.
When you think about what would have happened to this distinctive Japanese culture and how it would have been strangled in the cradle had the Mongols conquered Japan and homogenized it and governed it with officials, that might be from 45 different peoples, I mean, bring in a good old Russian governor to control Japan for a while and see what happens to that distinctive Japanese single malt whiskey, you know, when you start adding all these other elements. So that's why it's an important historical event.
This kamikaze is, of course, the deciding factor. But if the Japanese military can't hold off these Mongol forces as long as they did, they never have time for the weather to intervene. So the key to the whole thing at Ground Zero was the Japanese organization and military system. It was a cultural system, one might call it an organic system that was similar and is often compared to the broad contemporary system in Europe, the Japanese during the Mongol Chinese invasions were in a feudal stage.
It's often said at the same time when Europe was in a feudal stage. It's a really dicey subject, I mean, a lot of people complain about trying to fit the square peg of Japanese culture into the round hole of the European historical template. I mean, the context of things like knights and feudalism is a European context. The problem is, is it's the best analogy for Europeans to understand the situation in shorthand, even with all the problems attached to it.
Maybe you could say both Europe and Japan are starting to explore the early ideas of statehood in that kind of thing, both cultures with a hereditary warrior class that made up an aristocracy that had a bunch of fighters who as individuals compete for the title of most dangerous warrior of all time. Right. If you were a military historian, buff, where would you place Samurai, the core of the Japanese army for hundreds of years, the cutting edge the same way that knights were in Europe.
Hard to not play samurai in the top 10. A lot of people make an argument for the top five. I think you have to put Samarai on the top 10 list based on morale alone. I don't think there's ever been an army that's had higher morale than what Samarai bring to the table.
I mean, even knights who I love and who will fight to the death, I mean, happens all the time, but not usually. Usually when you kill enough knights, they root. That's an unusual thing to happen to samurai. They are more willing to die than perhaps any other troop type you can think of, and if you find troops that are as willing to die, usually it's a small group of special elite or unusual or fanatical people.
You know, the mazurkas over in the old Scandinavian armies or what have you. This is a huge chunk of any Japanese army. Now, one of the best comparisons, I think that does sort of fit when you start saying, OK, what's similar about knights and samurai? Is that the real thing when it comes to these kind of warriors? The real deal, as they were in history, is different than the way they were romanticized later. And we all get this.
I mean, think about King Arthur for a minute and courtly love and jousting and the Holy Grail.
I mean, think of that kind of the sword in the stone. Think of the romanticizing of what was certainly I mean, if you're comparing the Knights of the Roundtable, you know, in the late 19th century, works to something like Real Knights, we'll think about how much the reality differs from the. Romantic version, well, the samurai had the same situation going in the 400 and 500, for example, this is the golden age of samurai warfare, not the golden age of samurai, the golden age of the real thing.
The warfare, the gritty, bloody, grimy. Horrible. And let's be honest, venal, sometimes warfare, that is the real thing. I mean, you have samurai who fight all the time during this period because there's a lot of war. Sometimes you're fighting the Chinese, like we said. But most of the wars are with other Japanese armies and with other samurai.
There were hundreds of thousands of these guys and they fought a lot. In the late 1400's, there will be a lot of fighting, Japan is in the process of some very big wars that will lead up to a big battle, famous the second Kihara battle. In six hundred, I think there was like 170000 people supposed to be there, and when one side beat the other, it was the big push over Capsis moment when Japan kind of gets unified.
That's a very quick sounding process, the way I said it, but that battle tip things over to a point where you get a new government that sort of unites Japan. The government is called the Tokugawa Shogunate, sometimes referred to as the boku fu, I hope I mispronounced that name properly. I believe I did. No, as the name implies, the country is nominally run by something called a Shogun, translated often as like generalissimo military dictator, a hereditary usually, by the way, military dictator.
Japan's history. Look at a timeline. I mean, it's littered with these Shogo Knights. And when the Shogun is running the show, the emperor is a figurehead. Now, a dictionary may say that the Shogun runs things, but in reality he's dealing with a bunch of local lords.
These people called DeMaio's Japan during this time period split up into about roughly 200 separate little areas. And each one of these areas has its local lord. And they raise their own taxes. They raise their own military forces. They owe allegiance to the central government, but they have broad ranges of powers to deal with everything in their own domain, their own way. You can see why maybe people can be forgiven for applying the feudalism tag to that, because on a surface level, it kind of looks that way, doesn't it?
The entire period is sometimes known as the Edo period, Edo being the old name for Tokyo and that area from the early 1950s, like 1868, has some 250 years that's going to leave a mark, culturally speaking, wouldn't you think? And the fact that it's going to go on until the time of Hirono does parents or grandparents means that it's going to leave a mark that persists even on the soldiers fighting for Japan in the Second World War. It's an immensely influential period.
And part of the reason it's so influential is it's a time where the cultural head binding is particularly tight. And the Edo period is known as, I would suggest, a double edged sword of good and bad kind of thing on the good side in the early 60s, hundreds, I'm not sure there's a cleaner place to live than Edo Japan. And for a mild germophobia like myself, probably the only place I could go back to in the time machine if I had to run away from the present and take refuge in the past where I wouldn't be totally freaked out.
Pretty safe, very safe compared to most other cities of its size around the world at that time period. Pretty darn literate. Very artistic population flourishing. But it also has a level of cultural repression that it would be difficult for modern people living in the free world anyway to put up with. I mean, one historian I was reading, you know, said that, you know, Japan has most of the features in the embryo of a totalitarian type state.
You know, in the early 60s, hundreds, including things like thought police.
One of the things they crack down on is people who aren't particularly happy staying in their place, they will lock in a system that keeps people in their place. They're all about the status quo. And if you violate that, the repression can be particularly harsh, they will, in a sense, weed out malcontents and people that cause trouble and particularly nonconformist types. I should point out that if we are comparing early Tokugawa Japan to other countries, you know, for example, go to the West and see what they're doing, they're totally upping your intellectual business there, too, aren't they, in the early 60s?
I mean, they got Haraszti trials. They're burning people at the stake. And you don't have freedom of speech. You don't have freedom of thought. So not that different in the early 60s, hundreds, but over the entire course of the Tokugawa shogan, right, things are going to change on the other side of the world. And ByDesign, they're not going to change anywhere near as much in Japan.
Now, the reason that this period is particularly harsh on internal dissent and free thought and all that has to do with the priorities of the Barcoo Phu because they're less concerned about some foreign invasion coming from Eurasia, like a bunch of Mongols or something than they are about somebody domestically overthrowing them. They're kind of afraid of the common people, you know, getting weird foreign ideas in their head that make them uppity.
They're also afraid of people like themselves, other samurai, because history shows that they are the most dangerous class to fear. If you are the ruling elite, you know, your own people are the most likely to kill you. So in a peaceful society with no outside threat. The Tokugawa ones are worried about something happening domestically. The Japanese are worried about dangerous foreign ideas undermining their society and corrupting their population, leading them astray might be the way they would put it.
And their answer to this is to close Japan to the rest of the world. That's what the Tokugawa are famous for, and, of course, that's not really what they did, but when I was growing up, that's the way the history books put it in. Historian Mary Johnson points out that it's a sign of the, you know, ethno centricity of that era, that you would think that closing trade with the West is the equivalent of cutting yourself off from the entire world, because the Japanese still most of the time traded with China and Korea and places like that.
But in an attempt to, you know, keep Japanese society from being polluted with these outside intellectual contagions, they will shut down trade with most of the rest of Europe over time, it should be pointed out. But nonetheless, that's how they're going to try to address some of their worry about the population getting uppity and agitated. The other thing the Tokugawa have to get a handle on and that they're known for is solving the samurai problem that they inherit.
After all, if you're famous as the Tokugawa are for bringing peace to Japan, maybe for the first time in a sustained way in hundreds of years, what do you do with all those professional warriors that are part of a hereditary, aristocratic warrior class whose entire role in society is to be the fighters, you know, in a time of widespread, sustained peace?
It's actually a big problem and there's a lot of economic points that are brought into this discussion, so you bring out a history book and it'll say something like, well, this is an economic class now that has nothing to do, but they suck up an enormous amount of resources, blah, blah, blah, blah. Tagget Murphy had the best thing I ever saw, though, when he was discussing, let's call it the human side of this. And you think about it, you go, Oh, I can totally see that.
It's the problem of having a bunch of people who grow up emulating the great warrior deeds of their samurai ancestors who trained for war all the time, whose whole point in this society is as a warrior and who never get to use their skills. Anybody who spent five minutes in a martial art knows the feeling of wondering as you sit there and practice even the most basic rudimentary moves. I wonder what this would be like in a real situation. So imagine what these young Murphey doesn't use the term, but it's implied testosterone fueled, ambitious young Japanese people who only want to achieve what their ancestors have achieved.
But their ancestors lived in a wartime environment and they live in a peacetime environment.
Imagine how well the idea of idle hands are. The Devil's Tools works for them. So they had to have, in one of my histories, had a great way of putting it. They had to have their energies redirected into another part of society. What were you going to do with all these samurai? How are you going to justify the cost to society? Give them another job and the Tokugawa Gowans Take this warrior class and they put them in the bureaucracy and they start having them do management jobs.
They become the CEO of the organs of the state. And the part that's kind of interesting to our story is they kind of do it in a way that implies or mandates, I don't know what the right term is that they take their samurai values with them into their new jobs. It's even weirder than that, though, because it's during this period now that the samurai don't fight anymore, that they actually kind of double down on the ethical standards. They get more conservative, more unyielding, more militaristic.
Part of it is because they're romanticizing the earlier past now, so they actually think that these Samarai they admire from the Warrior period had higher ethical standards than they really did, and they're going to try to live up to those.
Here's what our target, Murphy, says about both that paradox and the fact that, hey, listen, the warrior ethics that worked well on the battlefield will work well in the bureaucracy. He writes in his book, Japan and the Shackles of the Past, quote. There was, in fact, hardly any occasion for Samarai to put their martial training into practice as the actual experience of battle receded into the mists of history, the ethos of the samurai became, paradoxically, ever more rigid and militaristic, with stress on absolute loyalty to the superior preparedness to carry out any order, even at the risk of death and a disdain for softness and physical comfort and quote.
He continues a little bit later, quote, But it was not just the austerity, the whole samurai ethic, the disciplined, unquestioning response to any order, the personal rectitude and contempt for moral or physical laxity served just as well to shape a compliant bureaucracy as it had originally done to form a vigorous military and quote.
Now, obviously, there's an incongruity here, though, over the stakes involved in different environments, if you're adopting an intensity level that seemed apropos to a battlefield environment, you know, a situation where people could die, there's a life or death here if you don't follow, your honor, duty, loyal tradition, all this kind of stuff, and now expect those same kinds of standards of intensity to apply to a situation that is not life or death.
You kind of create a little incongruity there, don't you? And if those were never even really the standards in the days that you're admiring anyway. Well, that makes it even more unrealistic, doesn't it? Earlier, we said that the fourteen, hundreds and hundreds were the golden age of samurai fighting, but the 16th and the 17th are the golden age of creating the fleshed out samurai of mythology, where he's not just a warrior, he's a Confucian scholar.
He's a literate, ethical judge of the rest of the common people. He's a poet, a flower arranger, a calligrapher and many other things. If you want to look at this from a class perspective, Mary Jensen had an interesting line suggesting that some of the non samurai people living in Japan might have seen them more like an occupying army that stayed generation after generation. Interesting counter where to look at it. It is worth pointing out, though, that this Samori had many different grades and ranks and at the top ranks, these are the guys who like running the country, the big, powerful samurai who are never going to have to worry about their place in society.
But at the bottom rung of samurai, those people can be practically poor, just keeping their head above water. Now, you put them into the Japanese version of the DMV job. And, you know, life is tough for these people and it's squeezing them and it doesn't feel so special to some of them to be samurai anymore. They certainly often don't remember too much how to fight. I read a quote from somebody writing in the 1800 to the Samurai are as weak as women now.
They just sit around and do nothing. There's no martial training at all. But the expectation level of conduct could be life or death, and I mean, one of the things that we maybe should deal with real quickly here is the Japanese propensity and you'll see it on display in the Second World War all the time for suicide. This also can probably be traced back in large part, especially the military version of this, to the samurai, where a battlefield ethic might require you to do something that extreme.
In some situations, it gets looking a little fanatical when it's applied to situations that are nowhere near that extreme. But what started as a ritual sounds to me more like an alternative. If you happen to be a samurai, to having a much more terrible, you know, execution carried out on you because you broke some big rule so you could kill yourself. Instead, what started out like that over time blended into more and more the society, especially the military, but even civilian society.
How intense is that? You know, as we said, hero or not, his mother, when he takes a dagger from his house, says, kill yourself with this if you get captured. How extreme is that? How does that factor into the society? Well, our attacker, Murphy, points out that for a lot of the history of Japan, the average Japanese farmers were thought that was nuts, just a samurai thing, weird nuts. Somehow it goes from that place where it's only samurai who do this to a place in the Second World War where you see it quite a bit.
Seppuku is the official, I think, name of the ritual itself, Kiri, which is vulgar. It means stomach slitting. That's what the allied press would often use. But you'll see this in the Second World War commonly enough that it once again reminds you of this Japanese great power enemy in the Second World War is different from all the other, you know, combatants. Who else does this regularly? Now, in terms of what the Tokugawa twins were afraid of from other countries, because they, as I said, will be known for closing Japan, they don't really close that.
They begin to choke off trade with the West and eventually they will get to the point where they're down to trading with one Western power, the Dutch, and they've got the Dutch isolated in one port, Nagasaki. And eventually they build a little manmade island right off the coast and they connect it to the mainland with a little ramp and they have samurai guarding the ramp. And it's basically you have to show your papers if you even want to interact with Japanese on the mainland.
And they're worried about all kinds of things. But like the number one intellectual contagion the Tokugawa and rulers are worried about is Christianity.
And there will be a big purge of Japanese Christians really bloody that will go on early on in the Tokugawa era. The problem that the Japanese had with Christianity is the same problem that a lot of other places have had with it.
I mean, look at how the problem that Rome had with it, for example, before Rome went Christian, it says just like Judaism does, by the way, that there is a law that is supreme over the, you know, earthly authorities and certain kinds of emperors have problems with that.
Right. In Japan, the problem that the Tokugawa saw is, listen, your loyalty is to your Daimyo, your lord or to the Shogun or your parents or I mean, there's a whole Confucian hierarchy here of people that are going to be part of the list of people you owe your allegiance to and your loyalty to and your devotion to.
And there's no place for some Christian God at the top of the food chain here. So it's a threat. It's hardly the only one, but it's the most visibly obvious one, and it's something that bothers the Shogun and his compatriots about the Europeans entirely, you know, they would get confused, too. They would ask a lot of questions about Protestants and Catholics and try to understand that eventually they were so confused. They just basically said a pox on both your houses, you're all out.
But think of all the stuff Japan misses because it's not engaging fully with the rest of the world and the European powers, I mean, just off the top of my head, they're missing the Enlightenment, the French and American revolutions, the industrial revolution, Napoleon, the revolutions of 1848, Marx, all this stuff.
And remember, these things are tsunamis in places like Europe, social revolutions, upheavals, big wars. And the only thing you can say for the way the people experience them at the time that they happened is that at least they got them one at a time usually, and in the right order.
So sometimes you have time to recover from one tsunami before the next one hits you, time to sort of incorporate and absorb the lessons or what have you from that era. But when Japan eventually will have to join the rest of the world, they're going to get all that stuff at once out of order. And they're not going to have built up any intellectual immunity or resistance. They're going to be like the people in the Americas at first contact were with actual contagion's, but with intellectual ones.
At least that's how the Tokugawa Bakersville would see it. This is a theoretical problem, the Japanese writers and whatnot are actually talking about in the 1980s as the Khufu and the Shogunate gets a little rickety, it's getting to be a kind of an old system of government. It's not really doing the greatest job a lot of people maybe think.
But then in the middle of 1858, would have been theoretical, happens in a Western fleet, shows up in Japan's harbors and basically says you don't get to stay closed anymore. Historians, by the way, like to call this the policy of seclusion because it doesn't really mean closed. But basically to the people who showed up in Japan in the 50s. This is an American fleet, by the way, under Commodore Matthew Perry. And as far as he's concerned, they're closed and that's going to stop.
So there will be two visits by Matthew Perry over like a year or two. And during this time, Japan will be opened as a so-called so they were never really close, so they can never really be opened.
But those are the terms many of us grew up with. And this is a an act that is sometimes thrown into the gunboat diplomacy category, by the way, because Japan didn't necessarily want to do this.
Just as an aside, one of my favorite historical Twilight Zone moments is the one that military historian Gwynne Dyer paints when he talks about, you know, Matthew Perry's fleet from, what is it, just a few years before the U.S. civil war, showing up and finding a completely medieval kind of people and military awaiting him sort of on the shoreline. Dyer says there were no guns, but Mary Jensen says there were guns, but makes it sound like they were, you know, taken out of a museum.
And so when Perry shows up, he sees a society where they all have like swords and spears and body armor and that kind of thing. That's a pretty cool contrast right there, unless, of course, you're looking at it from the Japanese side, because when the rest of the world, the West shows up and forcibly opens, Japan opens in air quotes, Japan finds out how outgunned it is, so outgunned that it can't stop these. I mean, if you're Japanese, these foreign barbarians from imposing their will on Japan.
And they will quickly, and it won't just be the United States, everybody kind of comes in and I didn't realize Japan was open for business. Let's throw some unequal treaties, their way of the same kind that were recently foisted on China. And I think it's safe to say that by 1860, you see a Japan that is potentially on the road to being a colonial victim. This inability to resist one of the great powers in the United States was really not even a great power during this time to Kalima a higher second tier power in this time period.
The inability of Japan to resist that was almost like the straw that breaks the camel's back for this Shogunate. They were already kind of rickety, certainly finding it tough to evolve. It's a 250 year old regime, basically.
It's like a an old human being. And so not being able to defend Japan's interests was sort of over a period of years, the end of the line for them. The next government in Japanese history is never going to forget that job one is make sure you could defend Japan's territory and interest and culture. What happens after the Tokugawa Shogunate era in Japanese history is known as the Meiji Restoration Magie, by the way, the name of the Emperor during this time period, restoration refers to the way this whole thing is going to be build.
It's a, you know, story that is akin to tokens, the return of the king. But this is the return of the emperor.
In effect, acknowledging the fact that under this military dictatorship, the emperor really hasn't been in charge. This explains why everything's gone to hell in a handbasket. So we will return things to the way that they're supposed to be in harmony with the universe. Back to the golden age where the emperor runs things again, which the emperor may not have ever done. And certainly during the periods where the emperor did do this, they were unusual and in the distant past.
But nonetheless, sounds good to everybody. Right. Put the emperor in charge. How much the emperor is actually running things versus how much these new mostly samurai class oligarchs are running things is unclear. But there are powerful, dynamic individuals who are part of this new wave of Japanese reformers who take over the government and try to do a crash course in modernization in order to survive. And this is part of the miracle side of things, I mean, if you went to Hiroo Onoda and said, why would you want to bring back the values and intensity level from a time period that led to such a disastrous end result as the end of the Second World War?
You know, he might come back with the line that said, sure, but if we don't have those values in that intensity, we never get a Meiji restoration.
One of the really great, clear eyed, long range visions of these people who will take control of Japan in the Meiji restoration is the fact that they clearly understand this adapt or die dilemma that Japan is in. I would make the case that it's the same dilemma most victims of colonialization have faced at one time or another, because what ends up happening is when the potential colonizers show up and meet you. There's a clock ticking now and at some point you have to be able to resist encroachment or you will get taken over in this time period.
And the Japanese, by the way, when they wake up to the rest of the world, this is how they view it, that this is a total dog eat dog world. There are predators and there are prey. And they desperately need to move from the prey situation that they find themselves in to the Predator one quickly. And you don't know how long you have.
Most of these countries that turned out to be colonial victims and aren't Tagget Murphy said there were only three places that avoided this. That sounds like a pretty low estimate to me. But even if I added a few to the list, it's instructive, he said. The only three places that avoided direct or indirect Western or European colonialism. Were Ethiopia, Siam, which is Thailand now, and Japan. And the reason why is because this adapt or die dilemma is almost impossible to overcome.
Most of these countries that fell to colonial powers could have overcome them given time, but you don't have time because the amount of stuff you have to do to ramp yourself up to a level so that you could compete and resist these kinds of great powers takes too long.
Because, you know, and it's easy to forget this in the later part of the 19th century in order to maintain a first class military by the great power standards of the time, your entire society has to be devoted and organized in a way to gird it as a foundation. I mean, it doesn't seem like that, but that's the way it is. And so when you find out way we got to catch up real fast or somebody's going to eat us, we got to be able to resist anybody that would land on our shores or fight us.
That takes longer than most places have. The Meiji restoration rulers clearly see that they've got this clock ticking and so they need a mammoth amount of change and they needed as quickly as possible. That's what makes this whole thing a miracle. The Meiji government, which is usually called the Magie oligarchs, later, they'll be called a cabal working in conjunction with the emperor, by the way, and we've not spoken much about the emperor, but we will in a minute.
They're trying to ride the tiger here in terms of a balance. You know, they understand, as I said, the adapt or die situation, but they only want to adapt as much as they have to to not die.
They still want to preserve Japanese culture as much as they can. Right. So they're not the Tokugawa ones with the cultural head binding to that level, but they still are the oligarchy. And even though they want to promote more men of merit and they feel like that's necessary, they don't want to get crazy here. And they're a little afraid of the masses if you look at their writing. And so they want to go as far as they have to to compete, but no farther.
But what happens when you have a society now that's modernizing with you, the Meiji restoration rulers will accomplish so much that are basically governmental decisions that are hard enough to imagine?
I mean, I can't imagine my country doing any of the top five considering the amount of resistance there would have been to the ideas. But forget that it's one thing to with the stroke of a pen or a calligraphy brush, say we're going to start doing this now. It's another thing to have a culture and not just a culture, a traditional culture, and not just a traditional culture.
A culture that the government has encouraged an even more unnaturally traditional element to it and saying, OK, guess what, we're modernizing now and we're doing it quickly for our own survival. There's an account from a British observer that lived in Japan during the period where this transformation happened, the Meiji restoration, because in addition to all the governmental changes and all the major things they do on that level, he talks about what it's like to just see how Japan changed in terms of its culture in like a decade.
And he talks about the samurai guy who taught him the Japanese language and he says the guy had a sword and a ponytail. And I mean, that's what Japan was like when he when he first got there. He says, I distinctly remember this is his words, the Middle Ages. His name was Basil Chamberlain. I think there's a whole Chamberlain. And he says, I distinctly remember the Middle Ages. And then he says, you know, less than 10 years later, he says now they all look like Europeans.
They speak with pretty fluent English and all the talk, you know, and it's all modern stuff in the late 19th centuries of bicycles, bacilli and spheres of influence. Think about what that does to a culture. Because you can transform a society, you know, with new constitutions, which the Magi provide with a parliament, which the Magi provide with new courts and banks and finance systems, I mean, this is amazing stuff, right? They will they will intentionally launch an industrial revolution.
But all that stuff is hard on any society, think about how hard it was on the ones that got to have all these historical moments happen to them, one at a time in the right order. The Japanese extra traditional culture gets to have all this stuff happen in like 10 years.
Now, this isn't a story about the Meiji restoration, which is good because I'd be over my head already, but we should point out that it's such an amazing time period that there are very sober historians that compare some of these Magi oligarchs, some of these really dynamic people to figures like George Washington or the role that the Young Turks played in the Ottoman state that laid the foundation for the modern Turkish state. So this is a big deal. And these people are August figures that are formidable and some of them will live on as advisers.
There's an advisory group that will be built into this new government. Some of these guys will still be advising Japan on the course of action it should take into the 1930s, which puts it squarely on course, you know, to go right into our story. Think about how they would handle their task, though, if it were your task, so if I said to you, listen, you're in an adapt or die situation, you have to modernize your society as fast as possible.
What's job one? What do you do first? What the Japanese did and it's smart when you think about it, is they looked around and they sent out observers, people to go.
All, you know, the Tokugawa regime had been very insular. This is like 180 degree turn because they have to the new government sends out observers and students all over the world and they have them come back and report on what all the different countries do. Well, right. This country does industrial production well. This other one does agriculture well. This other one does military stuff well, whatever it might be. And the Japanese copy them. As I said, smart, right?
They'll do the same thing with their government, I mean, in the way the Japanese are looking at this, Murphy makes this clear, but so do other writers. There's a predator or prey law of the jungle thing going on in the later 19th century. And the job the Japanese see for themselves is to convert themselves from something that's seen as potential prey to something that's seen as obvious predator. And so the Japanese want to be taken seriously by the other great powers, so they have to also copy, you know, some form of government that the great powers have.
What is the template that they're going to build this new modern Japanese government on? It's a conscious effort to create a modern state.
And you have lots of choices if you're looking at, say, European examples, don't you? And they they sort of run the gamut, the entire spectrum. You can go all the way over to one side and you have like a British or French system, God forbid, an American system.
But, you know, the rights of man, a parliament representative to some degree government, all these kinds of things, or in the case of the Japanese who were in the process, can we say that the Meiji restoration rulers were were giving Japan sort of a soft landing from feudalism, if you will? That's one of the things they're known for.
Probably a little too new to maybe go all France and Britain. So maybe you go to something with a little bit more military muscle built into the constitutional design. This is the period where Prussia is active but will soon become united Germany. So this is a transition period for them. But either way, it's a more muscular military involvement in terms of the way the state is organized. Right. The Kaiser will be called the supreme warlord. That's the kind of thing autocrats and emperors like a lot.
Or you could just go, you know, turn the dial all the way to the other side and go full zah on things if you want to, the tsar of Russia, of course, during this period, an autocrat, he's an old fashioned throwback to the divine right of kings. His position is divinely ordained in the social hierarchy. By God, this is not a person who was fearful of Christianity like the Japanese were in the Tokugawa regime. This is a person who is wrapped up in a Christian bow and presented to his people as one step below a deity.
Desires regime is also notably hostile to all this talk of democracy and all this social agitation that bothers the Japanese oligarchs as much as it bothers the Russian ones.
So the Japanese will form a system that actually takes the whole idea of the czar wrapped up as the chosen man of God one step farther and creates an emperor that is a god.
Creates is a weird word, how about warps? We're going to use the word warp a lot here, I read a historian talking about how this new government will take the Shinto sect, one of the Japanese religions, and warp it for state purposes. But they're going to do this with a lot of things. They're going to warp Bushido, they're going to warp the samurai past. They're going to warp Shintoism. They're going to warp. By the way, just like everyone else, only more so.
Go, go look at the late 19th century, early 20th century. Textbooks for kids. You know, maybe something along the lines of an 11 year old or 12 year old, what they would read in school, and it doesn't matter what great power in air quotes country you go to, the books could all be entitled, you know, have your flag on it and the title could say something. Here's what's so great about us, because that's what they kind of sound like.
And if you open them up, I want to remind Americans, because I grew up with just the fumes of this left, that if you open up those those books and look at, for example, how they portray George Washington, you would not call him a deity. But he was portrayed and I mean, people believe this at this time as a guy who never lied. As this archetype figure, I mean, well, I guess we can all understand this very romanticized.
There were no warts and he was portrayed as almost superhuman. He's a pretty interesting guy. I'm not saying. But you know what I mean. It's this is part of this is part of your national mythology that was so important during this era. And Japan took this and turned it up to 11. First of all, they outdid the tsar who's only chosen by God, and they wrapped the emperor into a warped version of Shintoism that got more warped over time and turned him into a god.
Full disclaimer here, had you done a public sampling of Japanese opinion 100 years ago and asked the people on the street whether or not the emperor was a God, I'm going to guess here that she gets somewhere in the 85 percent range that says yes. Anyway, I don't know that that's true at all, though.
But but the point is, is that this was an existing thing, that the government, for its own state purposes, like most governments anywhere, took and used. And they used it by wrapping the entire organization of this modern state around the emperor figure. Now, in terms of the power of the emperor figure, all I can say about that is good luck in determining that.
And it's such a key point in the story, too, because at so many points, you want to know who's responsible for this or that decision that has deadly, horrible consequences. You want to be able to say, where does the buck stop in this system? And you're not going to be able to put your finger on it. And there seem to be several, you know, layers of veil that cover up the way the Japanese government works, some of it put in there deliberately at the time it was formed.
Some of it to insulate the royal court from the muddiness of traditional, you know, day to day politics and say the parliament. When I was a kid, the history's taught that the emperor during the Second World War was like a figurehead sort of to a military dictatorship, not unlike a 20th century version of the Shogun. But nowadays there are Pulitzer Prize winning histories by historians like Herbert Bicks that suggest that that's not true. And it may be what was a conspiracy theory when I was growing up isn't such a conspiracy theory.
The idea that the emperor had his reputation laundered the way engineers and scientists who had to work for the Nazis did in Operation Paperclip.
So maybe the way you make the Emperor and OK, figure it to be a post-war figure on the global geopolitical Cold War chessboard is to launder his past by saying, hey, listen, he was a tool of the military dictatorship. He didn't have any power, but maybe he did.
Now, the way this system is designed, this Meiji restoration system, the emperor supposed to be like the top of the apex in the Japanese social hierarchy, and theoretically, he controls everything and he has the power to reach down through layers of the bureaucracy and create justice and solve problems and cut through red tape.
And but what's the likelihood a single figure is going to be able to do all that, as they say, when one person is in charge of everything? Nobody's really in charge of anything.
And you can see how this gets the entire nation state into trouble, for example, when you look at the relationship in this system, the Meiji restoration constitutional system of the emperor to the armed forces, the Army and the Navy of Japan don't owe their allegiance to the nation state of Japan. They owe their allegiance to the emperor personally. In fact, they're kind of taken out of the realm of politics altogether and put into, you know, his hands for his uses as he sees fit, but what if he doesn't ever get involved in the situation or what that really means is that the political leaders have no control over the military.
The military can say, hey, we're answerable only to the emperor and the emperor stays in his room. Doesn't bother anyone.
It's a little like that. When I look at the difference, though, between the potential power of the emperor versus the reality of the situation, I can't help but see him as a figure like, you know, the Incredible Hulk.
Is that a third superhero reference? My apologies to those who hate that kind of stuff. But it just seems so perfect in this situation, because when the guy wants to and this seems to be almost like the role of the emperor going way back into ancient times, they have all this latent power, but they don't use it very often. So it's the Hulk, but they don't turn into the Hulk very often. And they're almost maddeningly inconsistent when they do.
But when they do, they can move mountains. I mean, one of the things that the war crime investigations after the war historian Herbert Pedic says that they wanted to know from the Japanese emperor is they were trying to figure out if the guy had the power to stop the war. You know, all he has to do is turn into the Incredible Hulk, say the war will end now in the war ends. Why didn't he ended at the beginning before millions of people had died?
Right. It's very frustrating for the people in the West to look at this society and try to figure out where the lines of power are. We're very comfortable with a couple of different things, right, that we're used to. I mean, if you say you have a ruler and you have like a Magna Carta or a constitution that dictates what they could do, we totally get that right. Bring in the magnifying glass and the lawyers, you know, you can then read the text and say, well, you can't do this, you can do that.
And this other stuff that's murky in the middle, we can argue about, we get that.
We have a lot of that. Unfortunately, we also have a lot of the other extreme when we get that to, you know, that one that's the feral God, Julius Caesar, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan thing. We have nothing written down because there's nothing you can't do.
Total power. The Japanese emperor is neither one of those things. But seems to be bound by what historian Herbert P. Biggs called, you know, an ethos of restraint in the use of his power, write something that's bound by things that are not written, things that are very difficult for outsiders to perceive, because for a bunch of this stuff, you have to have, you know, your cultural antenna set to the Japanese setting. You can really only get that most of the time through amazing decades of study or being Japanese.
But so the outsiders difficult for us to understand, but maybe to the Japanese emperor, you know, this court protocol, the tradition and a bunch of other considerations may be as binding to him as a Magna Carta or a constitution would be to some other ruler. You know, trying to figure out how the emperor interacts with the military, how they all interact with the prime minister, the parliament, the Privy Council, the general and all these other elements in that society will drive you crazy.
You know, it looks like the people at the time understood it. But I couldn't even figure out a shorthand way to describe it. So one of the rare times I went to look for somebody else is shorthand way to describe it. And I ended up on Wikipedia, which may be the first time we're using something from there, but it was perfect. They described this government, remember, with adaptations and evolutions. This is going to be the government that goes into the Second World War.
So where are the lines of power? Well, the Wikipedia piece described it as a, quote, form of mixed constitutional hyphen, absolute monarchy, a form of mixed constitutional, absolute monarchy.
Wouldn't you think that the term absolute monarchy sort of makes the rest of that phrase moot? But here's the wild part. That is what it is kind of that's a good description of it. But that's not a description that really makes any sense or helps you figure out who's in charge of the place.
One thing you can say, though, is that by injecting a deity or a religious level of fervor and belief into this state and this culture at this time, very deliberately, as for state purposes, these rulers ratchet up the intensity level yet again. Because, I mean, after all, when do you normally inject religion and deities into things and people don't get more serious and passionate about it? Probably never. And in this case, that was not a bug.
That was a feature. And I don't mean to say because I think most of these Magie Oligarch's were true believers. I think they, for example, most of them probably believed in the divinity of the emperor. But let's imagine for a minute that instead of them being true believers, they were much more cynical power mongers who were just looking at the tools they could use to keep the people under their boot. What an amazing tool. This idea that the emperor is divine is look at how if you buy into the state, we would call it state propaganda.
Look at how it completely changes your logical calculations. If you buy the parameters, it turns your your mind against you, your rational mind. For example, if you buy the two pillars in this system, that's going to be drilled into the heads increasingly of Japanese students as they grow up, that the emperor is responsible for all the decisions that are made in terms of charting the course of the nation and the policies, and also that the emperor is basically superhuman.
What is the logical choice to make in terms of accepting the government's point of view on things or the course of the nation or anything else? I mean, doesn't it become illogical if you buy those parameters to think that you have any business even questioning the authority? I mean, this is basically a god. They see things from a higher perspective. You're an idiot to say that from your position you should be questioning that level of authority if you buy that level of authority.
Well, you could have been a classmate of Coronado who I believe was born in 1922, so when he's in, you know, when he's in the early education levels in his Japan, that's the most intense it got.
Japan, of course, started a public school system copying the great powers they thought it might have been some of the secret sauce that made those great powers dominant, but they also needed a literate population to man all those industries and all those other things that were going to support their modern military. So it was a no brainer. But, you know, there's an old saying, I think, that nobody ever really objects to children learning to read the question that always comes to the fore is what are they reading?
And in this case, as in every country, it's pretty propagandised state stuff. And in the Japanese case, more intense than most. And in the same way that, you know, people in the United States may have had a little bit of a hero worship over George Washington. In Japan, they had a little bit of a worship worship over the Japanese emperor. And if you think about how this can. Well, I'm just thinking about differences in how long a country has to inject the national mythology into a population and these Japanese schoolchildren, increasingly, if you boil it down to the subject matter, they're all learning things that we would think are good things to teach.
We said patriotism, love of country, sacrifice, honor your parents, respect authority. I mean, these are all values that all the school systems the Japanese were imitating were teaching and the Japanese parents at the time probably would have approved of. But there's no doubt it'll brainwash you if you're buying what they're selling. And if you're going to walk a mile in a guy like Hero or know those moccasins, let's understand that his logical calculations said that simply doing what the emperor told him to do is the smart choice to make.
And if you are a cynical wielder of the levers of power, if you're if you're a true realpolitik dictator type, you give your right arm to have that kind of belief system on the part of your population. Now, let's remember the number one goal of this new government, though, that, you know, they have to deal with, I mean, all this other stuff is kind of a means to an end. If you can't defend yourself from an outside power, who wants to take you over?
None of this other stuff matters, right? Meiji restoration has to build a modern army, and they do and they do at the same general way they've been doing all these other things, they look at who's doing it well and they copy them and they get their help and they buy stuff from them.
Once again, this is smart, isn't it, on land right around 1870 or whatnot. They're they're dealing initially with the French military. They will eventually, though, ditch them for the Germans. And in a move that many countries do, I mean, the United States and the Soviet Union did it all the time in the Cold War. The Germans will send advisers over there who will bring, you know, equipment, uniforms, tactics, doctrine, training, leadership, bring some of their key officers back to learn things in Germany, then send them back to teach everyone else.
This relationship's pretty classic, but it sort of creates a a forever German stamp in the early DNA of the modern imperial Japanese army.
Might be a good way to put it. Now, as I think we all know, history has been a pretty good demonstrator, that just because you give a whole bunch of the best stuff to some other military doesn't mean they're going to fight well. Because there are two sides to the equation and one side sort of easy to fill, the other side's a lot harder. I mean, one side's quantifiable, right? You can spend a certain amount of money to get this job done.
We can provide this many rifle's we could provide this many uniforms, this many hours of training, this much support. I mean, all that stuff can sort of be figured out to the end decimal. But the other side of what's going to make a successful military is something as bedrock in terms of values, as whether or not your people are going to be willing to die and whether they will fight on the battlefield long enough to make that investment in the stuff that they carry worth it.
If you get two armies and they line up on a battlefield across from each other and one has the best, neatest, coolest, most devastating news stuff and the others armed with sticks. But the side with the devastating stuff doesn't want to fight or they're afraid or they don't have any interest and they just leave, you know, fat lot of good. All that investment. Did you. But how do you inject or create or artificially stimulate a warrior ethos in a brand new military?
But what if you had a shortcut available to you? What if you already had an indigenous long standing warrior ethos and tradition of your own, just sitting there not doing anything?
Could you reanimated, repurpose it, clone it? Could you customize it so that it meets the needs of a late 19th century, early 20th century regime? I mean, if I told you that a state was pushing these values, what would you think values like? Courage, benevolence, politeness, selflessness, sincerity, honor, loyalty, self-control and a strong sense of justice. That's Oleg Benish inventing the way of the samurai, describing the various virtues that have sometimes been ascribed to Bushido the ethical way of the samurai.
If your kids were learning those kinds of things in school, you'd probably think that that was a good thing. What the government of Japan will do during this time period is they will pick and choose and we had said earlier that they warp all these things that were pre-existing in Japan. What Bushido goes way, way back, although the term itself may only date from the late 19th century. But this will be another traditional Japanese thing that the modern state will take and warp for its own purposes.
And according to Benish, if I understand correctly, he's basically saying that amongst the wide ranging intelligentsia, debating, you know, the various aspects of Bushido, you could find almost every opinion out there you want. But the state would pick the ones that most, you know, corresponded with things that would help it. For example, finally settling on one of the most influential they're called Bushido theorists out there who has boiled Bushido down to just simply really two things.
And you can see why the state would like a guy like this and validate his viewpoint on Bushido because he boils down to love of the emperor and patriotism. Well, that's not a bad thing from a state's point of view to infuse into your public schools and your children and then to continue doing so at a much more intense level when the male children from that public school grow up and become part of the military. The father of the Second World War, Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, told a gathering of educators in the 1990s that they should totally familiarize themselves with how the army does everything because the army is the real finishing school and all these educators are doing in the public school is preparing the kids to join the army.
So get used to how we do things and teach the kids that way.
Now, we should add that in addition to this wonderful high minded philosophical warrior ethos thing, there's much more grounded, understandable reasons why Japanese soldiers might be reluctant to surrender or flee, you know, things like the commands by Japanese generals sometimes that said that we will execute anyone who does this. So real world concerns, too. But we should point out, lots of other armies in history have killed deserters and, well, people still root. So there's some combination of elements going on here that ends up creating a Japanese military that from the very beginning, the Imperial Japanese Army will have morale that's probably equal to the other best armies out there, and it will only get higher as time goes on.
Remember, this military only exists from like the late 70s and 80s. It really is built. And of course, in 1945, it all comes to a halt. But in that time period, you will go from instantly higher than should be expected morale to unbelievable, fanatical levels of morale.
For comparison purposes, because we all know that the German army in the Second World War is a very good army, but in the book, Implacable Foes, historians Walter Henrik's and Mark Ilikeyou compare the two in this moral regard. They pointed out that the Japanese situation was often just going to be a question of victory or death, they write, quote. Surrender was unthinkable in Tunisia when the German Afrika Corps surrendered in 1943, the British captured more than 120000 German soldiers, including a colonel, general and his staff, 12 generals and all the allied liberation of France in the summer of 1944.
They write netted another 200000 Germans as the war progressed. The allies captured so many German officers that the British set up a special residence for them in the English countryside during the final weeks of the war in Europe, more than one million 500000 Germans surrendered to the Western allies. In contrast, they write, no organized unit of the Imperial Japanese Army surrendered during the entire Pacific War until they were ordered to do so by the emperor after Japan had formally agreed to capitulate.
This that right was a record unprecedented in the annals of modern warfare, end quote. And as we've already pointed out, there were a bunch of Japanese soldiers that just because the war ended didn't see, you know, fit reason to surrender. So this is a pretty high level of morale. You can't say that this whole Bushido injection, which some people compare to an ideology, others to more like a religion. You can't say that this is the reason why, but you can say that the state was definitely using the idea for those purposes.
The morale of the imperial Japanese navy will also be really high in some of these Bushido ideas will be injected into that as well. Now, they may have flirted with another adviser for a minute on land, but in terms of who to look to as your mentor for building a great navy in the 19th century, late 19th century, there's only one choice. If you want the best, the best is the Royal Navy. The sun never sets on the British Empire, it was said, and it's the Royal Navy that protects that.
So the Japanese begin a long standing connection with the British Navy. Same thing is on land tactics, doctrine, strategy, leadership. A long term serving of Japanese officers on Royal Navy ships. And then going back, I mean, the traditions of the imperial Japanese Navy start with Britain. The Japanese will even buy some of their bigger ticket items from the British until they can build their own, so the relationship is designed to make up for lost time and quickly.
Assab right, create an adaptation of a Japan that, as our Tiger Murphy points out, is at least a reasonable imitation of an imperialist power.
Of course, if you are trying to present yourself as a reasonable imitation of an imperialist nation state, that's probably going to require a little imperialism when you think. And the problem with a little imperialism is it's one of those things that when a political state, you know, starts down that road, it's tough to stop sometimes. I mean, it's like that potato chip commercial. You can't just eat one. It's a little like that with other countries and territories, too.
Once you get one of them under your belt, it starts to feel kind of good. And well, it's funny because if you and again, I'm less qualified to talk about anything addiction specialist related than I am to talk about history. But doesn't it sort of look, if you look at nation states and imagine them as people, doesn't it look like Japan's about to get hooked to something here and that their rise and fall is going to parallel something like, you know, your classic drug addict cycle of addiction?
I think you can make a case and it's a wonderful hinge moment in Japanese history or maybe horrible hinge moment, because they go from simply trying to make sure they don't get eaten in these, you know, shark infested colonial waters to look at around themselves for people to eat. And well. Like the potato chip commercial. Sometimes you can develop an appetite for those things once you start, it looks like Japan in this era gets dangerously hooked on imperialism. And it's not hard to see how it happened.
I mean, after all, all the countries Japan wanted to be like and emulate the club that they wanted to join, the great powers, all those guys are OK to it already. Even little Belgium's got a problem. Won't shake it for a long time. Even the holier than thou United States, which denounces other people's imperialist adventures while swearing that violent transfers of territory with Mexico, seizures of Hawaii and whatnot are not indicative of a growing problem will begin having a larger, more public problem in the Spanish American war when Guam, the Philippines, Cuba and other places will just sort of, you know, fall into its lap, I guess.
William McKinley, the president of the Tangoing, shouldn't I or should I and then, you know, Teddy Roosevelt violently feeding on imperialism, he was a junkie of some kind, might have been adrenaline, might have been something else. Now, Teddy Roosevelt does not strike me as the intoxicating substances, the mind altering substances kind of guy, but if he told me he had an addiction or might be likely to develop one, you know, to muscle growth, steroids, well, shoot, I wouldn't be too surprised about that.
And in fact, as I look at, you know, in all analogies, have a little bit of a silly side, but that's kind of what we enjoy sometimes, right. If you look at this analogy of these countries and imperialism, it kind of looks like steroids to me. I mean, take Japan, for example. Here's a country that, in their mind should be stacked up with all the great powers. We can hang with anybody.
But then they take a 250 year seclusion break from the gym when they next encounter all these other great powers.
They're huge. I mean, look at how they must have seen Britain on a map. A lot of comparisons can be made.
A couple of island nations, you know, interesting, distinctive people, all these kind of stuff. But that's where the comparison ends, because, you know, when Japan comes out of seclusion, Britain controls a huge chunk of the world. They're obviously juicing on something.
India, maybe. But Japan goes on a crash course to catch up. Now, let's understand when we say getting addicted to imperialism, when we're using those phrases for countries, I mean, what do you get addicted to as a country? Well, let's just really go over this quickly, because I think we all get it.
But how about raw materials? How long have people been invading and conquering places to get somebody else's stuff in this modern era?
You also have these unequal trade agreements which can lock a colony into, you know, turning over large chunks of their raw materials and wealth at reduced or nonexistent rates of exchange. Prestige in this era is huge. You will have a bunch of countries that are latecomers to the colonial party who will take the few left over places just so that they have another place, you know, another notch on their belt. The reason those places weren't taken by great powers, they had nothing anybody wanted.
The last thing they have is that they add to your prestige. You know, I now have six colonies. The last time you saw me, Britain, I only had five.
I'm moving up in the world. Now, those are the things that attracts you to these countries in the first place, right? What's the first reason you start using the steroids? Well, I was just dabbling. I wanted to get a little bigger. I was recovering from an injury. I needed the raw materials, the trade position and a little prestige. I wanted to be big like the other guys. It's all understandable. But when you get involved in it, then you kind of committed and you get sucked into something deeper.
This is why I like this analogy. And the thing that sucks countries into the colonial lifestyle are things like the capital investments that you begin to make as a country or your companies do, or your companies in conjunction with a country do putting in railroads.
Mining development and all these local places, you begin to have a stake, a stake that if people start saying, listen, they change in foreign affairs, dictates it would be best for us to leave this area now and turn it back over to the locals. You're going to have a lot of powerful, rich people who are going to say, wait a minute, what about our investment? And that's, of course, just money. What about lives, the lives it takes to conquer these places and the lives it takes to keep them conquered?
I mean, for example, the Japanese will get their hands on Taiwan at a certain point by some sort of treaty deal. But the people in Taiwan weren't asked and the Japanese will lose quite a few people trying to pacify that area that supposedly on a piece of paper they were just handed over. I mean, this becomes not just a cost you have to pay to play this game or an entry fee into the colonial games. It's a cost you have to keep paying to stay in the game, and it provides another investment that keeps you from having the flexibility.
If the times dictate that it'd be better to give up this policy of colonialism or steroid use, somebody's going to say, well, wait a minute, my son died conquering that territory. Are you going to make his sacrifices meaningless? Are you going to undo everything his life bought? I mean, do you see how that you see how that sucks you in as a country? I mean, remember, too, that the Japanese are seeing these European powers sort of at the height of the good times while they're riding high in the addiction and they're lifting weights and they're taking steroids and they're going to the tanning salon and they're covering themselves with baby oil and they're getting their hair bleached and they look great.
Right. They're not seeing these countries down the road. You know, on the downside of this addiction, when they're in the, you know, old folks home prematurely with all the health care problems and the steroids are gone and the muscles are shriveled and they look and feel awful.
When the Japanese look at the French in what's called Indochina, for example, modern day Vietnam, they see the French sitting there having the Vietnamese serve them food in restaurants and a wonderful colonial existence, while, of course, the French pay them back by giving them French culture and everything. It's a traditional colonial trade off.
The Japanese will not see the French 90 years from this time period when in the 1950s they're fighting a vicious insurgency by the Viet men trying to kick the French out of Vietnam. Go talk to them then.
But of course, by that time in the 1950s, the Japanese are in full recovery mode after a global intervention put an end to its steroid addiction, its half century long steroid addiction, that if it wanted to go back and trace the roots of how it began, that initial taste that seems so consequence free that got you hooked and led you down, you know, that terrible path, the rise and fall of Japan's, you know, imperialism, addiction.
It starts with Korea, which was just sitting there, wasn't it? Like a dagger aimed at the heart of Japan, as the German advisor from Bismarck told the Japanese government. The Japanese had already treated Korea very shortly after it was opened up against its will by the Western powers to that exact same treatment and then foisted the same sort of unequal treaties on Korea that the West had foisted on Japan. So Japan learns quickly. They were ripe for trying out what the Western powers were, you know, building their muscles upwith and the first hit free happened in Korea.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Japanese involve themselves more and more in internal Korean politics and dynamics. Korea is generally in the sphere of influence of the great Jupiter of the region, China. But increasingly, as the Russians have advanced all the way to the Pacific, they have more of an impact, too, in that area. But to the Japanese, this is a key. I mean, if this were a game of risk or something where there were no morals or ethics or anything involved.
Right. Because the Korean people will suffer terribly, you know, into this time period we're getting into. But let's imagine people don't matter in a risk game. If you're playing Japan, you want to take Korea. During this time period, the Chinese and the Russians are in a much better position than you are. So what do you do? Well, in 1894, somehow Japan ends up in a war over the sphere of influence, control of Korea with China 1094.
It's called the first Sino Japanese war. And it is really the first time that this new army of Japan since they opened up leaves Japan to fight somebody else, not counting, you know, island insurrections and whatnot off Japan's coast. Have throw these little disclaimers because someone will say, well, you forgot that little teeny thing here.
OK, first major one. By the way, outside observers, for the most part, believe that China will crush Japan, both China and Japan had been undergoing military modernization for kind of the same reason. Both of them finding themselves dangerously vulnerable to Western technologies, are working to catch up. The stated opinion out there by most people was that China had done a better job, including having a fleet. I love the way again, this is the time period where race and all that stuff is on.
But they had the the most powerful Asian fleet in Asia, it was thought. And in a stunning, absolutely stunning campaign, the Japanese just roll the Chinese. On land and at sea, and it's much more shocking, probably if you read the observers at sea where they destroy the Chinese fleet so terribly that historian Arizpe Jensen says China won't have another blue water navy for 100 years. The Chinese admiral commits suicide. On land, it's interesting, the Japanese are so dominant, they're dishing out casualties at 10 to one ratios, 15 to one ratios, and you can't label any single advantage as being dominant because, you know, if you sort of delve into it a little bit, the Japanese seem dominant sort of across the board.
Both Chinese and Japanese militaries had modernized, but the Japanese had done it in a lot better, a way they made better choices. The Chinese had gone with a banner system. It just it didn't work.
It's a coming out party on the world stage, and it is shocking to Westerners who don't have a lot of respect for Oriental's to begin with, but if they have respect for any of them, it's China, even though they're biting off pieces of China and and whatnot. To them, China still represents sort of the wisdom of the East and Confucian ideas in this great culture. Theoretically, these Japanese are nothing but upstarts, and these Japanese go into this war with China and end up winning it while losing less.
Usually the numbers you see are less than 1500 men killed in combat. Less than fifteen hundred men killed in combat. That's astounding, Chinese numbers are, you know, 10 times that or something. The idea that you could win a war with China and lose less than 1500 men killed. Well, with the downside of imperialism seemingly that small, anybody could get hooked, couldn't they? The first thing that the Japanese got out of this war, which they clearly wanted from the emperor down to the, you know, average Japanese person on the street was respect and prestige on the international world stage.
The other great powers sat up and took notice. In 1895, the year the war ended, Lord Charles Berrisford was quoted in the Times of London as saying, quote. Japan has within 40 years gone through the various administrative phases that occupied England about 800 years and Rome about 600, and I am loathe to say that anything is impossible with her, end quote.
There was a lot of admiration, but it was still tempered by this idea that, yes, they're pretty amazing for Oriental folk. I mean, it was it was an almost racialist view of things. While they have moved themselves up to the the top of the food chain amongst their people in that part of the world. I mean, and that was the progressive way of looking at things. There were people around the Russian czar. And again, pardon, this is going to sound like racism, folks, but we're talking about one of the most racist periods in world history and it impacts decision making.
I mean, the people around the Russian czar thought of the Japanese. There was one quote, their just yellow monkeys.
OK, well, what happens to you if it's your job to deal with Yellow Monkeys and you're trying to figure out, OK, how many troops do we need on the border with those people? I mean, when you're trying to make conscious decisions about how you should behave, but your view of reality is so tainted by your racism that you can't possibly imagine these people doing anything that would hurt you. And that's what a lot of the other people said.
The Japanese were able to do this to the Chinese because obviously the Chinese are weak as heck. They'd never be able to do it to a white nation.
Will the end of Japan's war with China here opens up the door to them having a problem with their first European nation because Japan gets a peace treaty extracted from China, that is like hitting the jackpot in Las Vegas for the Japanese. First of all, the terms are that they get a ton of money.
It's like the equivalent of four years of Japan's total budget handed over to them. They also get the island of Taiwan, which is huge, and the surrounding smaller islands. Right. So here's Japan's first colony. They also get an agreement that they will sort of have the sphere of influence, control of Korea, and in order to make that work, they have to get this peninsula, which is strategically very important. So it's all part of the deal.
Japan has sort of had this coming out party there in the great powers now and then all of a sudden, I love the way our Tagget Murphy describes it. He says it's the equivalent of having three old seasoned lions come in and steal the first kill of a young leopard who's just learned how to hunt and just, you know, thinks he's hit the jackpot. No, no, no, no, no. We're going to alter the terms of the deal, said the three lions metaphorically named France, Germany and Russia.
In a move known as the triple intervention, those three powers come in and tell Japan that they can't extract the treaty from China, that they want to for the sake of the peace of Asia, they said. But in reality, Japan figured that all three of those countries had their own ideas about things in China that they wanted. And so they told the Japanese in no uncertain terms, giving them no choice. By the way, we'll have China pay you more money than the original deal called for.
But you don't get to have that important strategic peninsula that has that port named Port Arthur on it.
Now, I should point out something about Port Arthur before we go any farther, because it's germane to the story, Port Arthur was the site of a terrible massacre in the Sino Japanese war that just ended. In it, the Japanese army went in and killed men, women and children, between a thousand is the low end number you see, and the high end possible number is 20000. That's a huge gap, obviously, but there are other people that take that number much, much, much, much higher than that.
But there really aren't that many people in that region. So they're not really that credible. But just know that that the incredible numbers go much higher than 20000. The reason it's important, though, is because you will see on display things that both look medieval to modern people in the late 19th century and things that are going to be reminiscent of incidents we will see over and over in the Second World War. The Japanese go into Port Arthur and the three rationales, just so you know, that you'll get for this, you'll get for the other basically situations like it in the Second World War.
You've got them at the time. You will get them today from ultranationalists. There's three. One is that these incidents happened when atrocities were committed against Japanese troops. And so the soldiers kind of lose their minds for a while. You know, the suggestion is that this is understandable for troops in combat and that it's not something that the army itself condones. But it's understandable. Right. So you have the atrocity thing. The second thing you'll often hear is that the press is reporting that these are civilians, but they're really enemy soldiers who are trying to hide from our troops and live to snipe at them and everything from behind buildings dressed as civilians.
So all these people that look like civilians are really enemy soldiers. And the last thing you will hear reliably is that the numbers are inflated. Now, there is some potential truth to the numbers are inflated thing, because in the same way, you have ultranationalists all around the planet now trying to revamp the way the world views, perhaps we'll call them negative chapters in the history of their military that they're rightfully proud of. But every nation has them. I mean, the Chinese, for example, have an interest in magnifying Japanese crimes against Chinese citizens.
And the Japanese, if you're patriotic, have interest in seeing the numbers in the best possible light. It's all understandable, but I'm going to let historians argue that sort of stuff. I'm just going to try to stick to the facts and I'm going to try to give multiple sides. But here's what an eyewitness and there were several Westerners in Port Arthur when the massacre happened. Here's how he described it. And just so you know, you could take this description out of this time period and this event substituted it for a number of incidents that happened in the Second World War.
And you wouldn't know that it wasn't written then because they have a tragically familiar ring to them.
This author who witnessed the events at the massacre at Port Arthur in the first Sino Japanese war described it this way, quote. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday were spent by the soldiery in murder and pillage from dawn to dark, in mutilation in every conceivable kind of nameless atrocity until the town became a ghastly inferno to be remembered with a fearsome shudder until one's dying day. I saw corpses of women and children, three or four in the streets, more in the water.
Bodies of men strewed the streets in hundreds, perhaps thousands, for we could not count some with not a limb on severed, some with their heads hacked cross-cut and split lengthwise, some ripped open not by chance, but with careful precision. Down and across, disemboweled and dismembered, with occasionally a dagger bayonet thrust in the private parts. I saw groups of prisoners tied together in a bunch with their hands behind their backs, riddled with bullets for five minutes and then hune to pieces.
I saw a junk stranded on the beach, filled with fugitives of either sex and of all ages, struck by volley after volley until I can say no more.
End quote. That's worth going through a few thoughts for a minute here, the first one is that there's nothing unusual about an event like this, is there? Your history books are littered with this stuff going back to the beginning of time, practically. Go read the Assyrian Annells Sometimes it seems like it's nothing but that start to finish. But things are starting to change in this period we're coming into, right early 20th century, and you can't necessarily get away with things that people got away with forever.
Nation states, for example, armies, powers, kingdoms, warlords, whatever you want to say.
I mean, if you're if you know, what's that old philosophical experiment? If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, did it really make a sound? Well, if some terrible massacre occurs of some out of the way people in a remote region and no one ever hears about it outside the little locality, does it really matter?
Well, in this time period, you know, when you're coming into the 20th century here now and we have telegraphs and communication on that level.
Well, it's starting to really matter, first of all, good luck trying to keep it a secret. That account we just read to you slipped out, didn't it? It wasn't the only one. Would that have happened 500 years before this time? The second important point is when it slips out and people in other countries hear of it, they have the ability, if there's enough of them and they're angry enough to make you feel their anger.
And this will be a key part in the story to win public opinion in other countries begins to try to make you conform to their standards, standards that, by the way, are changing radically in the 20th century. Another standard that's changing is the outright idea of, you know, the right of one country to conquer another and take it over. I mean, this has been pretty well established and understood in the 20th century. It starts becoming uncool.
Especially amongst the more cool powers, I mean, the old fashioned ones, like, you know, the Germans and the Russians and of course now the Japanese may still think you can go in there and take other people over, but we more sophisticated powers understand that that's just it's morally wrong.
Meanwhile, they'll go and establish a protectorate over someone else, you know, which is a treaty bound agreement we have with them to safeguard their needs and help them. I mean I mean, you see what I'm saying?
I mean, it will require many more layers of diplomatic cover to conquer or control areas in the 20th century. In the old days, you could just take them over while there are still powers that live by the old rules and there will be a public opinion price for doing that. I should also point out that the training of the Japanese military was unlike the training of any other great power military, in fact, it's hard for me to find any organized military in the late 19th or 20th century that trained their soldiers the way the Japanese were trained.
I mean, here in the U.S., for example, for a long time, I don't know if they do this anymore. But Marines, for example, used to have combat with each other in boot camp and basically they use weapons that are sticks with padded end. So you're fighting, you know, in hand-to-hand combat like that, the Japanese in the Second World War and before. I don't know if it comes into this period. I have to be very honest with you.
I tried to find research.
I don't know if it goes back into this period, but in the Second World War and in the 1930s, Japanese troops will often be trained on live people. There are photos and they're horrible that you can go and see online of Japanese soldiers bayoneting, you know, in training exercises with the with the other recruits whose turn is not now watching, bayoneting Chinese prisoners whose hands are tied. There's multiple photos of Japanese captives or whatnot tied to stakes and had bayonet practice and sword.
I mean, there's an account by a Japanese officer who talks about his training involving having to slice the head off somebody. And if you look at. Paintings of the Sino Japanese were made by Japanese artist, there's some that show the mass beheadings of Chinese captives with samurai swords. Now, Japan's victory over China had big ramifications because it was the equivalent of throwing blood and chum into the, you know, shark infested colonial waters and and telling the rest of the world that the recent victories by Britain in the Opium Wars and whatnot wasn't a sign of temporary Chinese inability to deal with Western military technology.
It was the beginning of the end of maybe this Chinese imperial dynasty. There was obviously some sort of a rotting house apparent after the Japanese kicked the door down. And that led to something called the Boxer Rebellion, where Western territories ended up bringing in troops, eight powers, only one of them Asian. One guess who it was? Yes, the Japanese. And they sent as many troops as everyone else put together. Basically, you know, throwing their lot in with the club, we belong in the club we're here, you know, and looking at a map, they probably had more of a right to be there than anyone else.
Now, the next big foreign policy milestone on the way to our story here involves a war that the Japanese get involved with in 1994 against the Russians.
The Russians, who were one of the three lions that said for the peace of Asia, you can't have this Port Arthur area just not right and forced the Japanese to give in, the Japanese always thought that Russia really wanted it for themselves. Within three years, the Russians had taken it, confirming the Japanese suspicions, and then they started fortifying Port Arthur and the whole thing. So in 1994, when the Japanese had decided, you know, for all sorts of reasons that they still needed to control this area, they launched, let's just call it a pre aircraft version of a Pearl Harbor on the Russian far eastern fleet, having torpedo boats go in there and attack Russian ships about three hours before war was officially declared.
In short order, the Japanese will destroy the Russian far eastern fleet. The Russian leaders around the tsar who are so caught off guard by this, they didn't think the Japanese would attack them or didn't have it in them, take a white power, send the fleet that they have in the Baltic the Baltic fleet from up near Finland all the way to Japan to teach these Oriental people a lesson, takes months to get there.
And when they get there, the Japanese beat that, too. In stunning fashion, it's not like a close fight at all. Boom. On land, it's more of a harder slog for simple reasons, I mean, we're like a decade away from the First World War and all of those lessons they're going to learn in the first year of the First World War, like, you know, you can't charge machine guns frontally the impact of know defense. I mean, all the stuff you're going to learn, the Japanese get to learn against the Russians on land.
And there are horrible photos showing just I mean, like walls of Japanese soldiers dead in front of these fortified positions because, you know, often led by an officer with a samurai sword, they blindly and fanatically charged.
Now, you don't have to think of yourselves as Samarai to do that, because we all know the European powers will do that in less than 10 years.
Nonetheless, what you see here is the Japanese finding out that the cost of this path on which they have embarked to emulate the colonial powers is not going to come as easy as, you know, that war in China. You're not going to lose 1500 or less dead, you know, down the road here. It's a commitment. And against the Russians in the Rousso Japanese war, the Japanese lose something more like 40000 dead.
The Russians, too, by the way, it's nasty. It's World War One fighting before World War One. And it's all the early war stuff when everybody, you know, has to learn the terrible lessons, you know, about charging into artillery. I mean, it's nasty and horrible. And then there's disease, too, as all these wars during this time period have a terrible problem with.
It also and this is another lesson of modern war, the other great powers will learn very soon, it takes a horrible toll. Modern war does on your economy and the Russian economy and the Japanese economy will instantly start to feel the pinch and then the stretch. And it gets to the point where the Japanese secretly go to American President Teddy Roosevelt and ask if he can get both countries out of this mess and broker some kind of a deal, which he does, and wins the Nobel Peace Prize for, by the way.
But a decent number of people in Japan think that the American president, in his peace deal, ripped the Japanese off, that they essentially won this war, but they didn't come out of it with a treaty that, you know, looked anything like hitting the jackpot did in the first Sino Japanese war does look more like a treaty, you know, for countries that had a tie rather than one, at least, where the Japanese people reading a biased press that magnified their victories think that they had dominated lose all these lives, all this money beat the Russians in all these battles and not get significant territory or a big financial indemnity.
When the terms of the agreement ending the Rousso Japanese war are made public, there will be violent riots in Japan and people will die. The population there, I mean, pretty much every history book you want to point out, the people there take it as another grievance. The Japanese are holding on to grievances like the Rain Man character did in the movie of the same name. And they remember vividly, shall we call it the triple intervention screw job that ended the Sino Japanese war, where a bunch of Western powers who never would have settled for someone else doing that to them treated the Japanese in a way that the Japanese took personally.
They saw it as changing the rules of the game when the Japanese start winning. And they often saw it in racial terms and maybe not incorrectly. Well, now it was happening again. And not only was it happening again, but it was happening despite the fact that the Japanese had taken proactive measures to see that it didn't again. In 1982, they signed an alliance with Britain.
And part of the reason they did it was they were hoping that if you have a great power on your side, a bunch of other great powers won't come in like they did last time and try to steal your kill. And yet here with the agreement ending the roots of Japanese war, it looks like it made no difference. And Yorkhill got stolen again. Goes on the list of grievances. But it's very possible that the Japanese citizenry had unrealistic expectations. This is the way our Tagget Murphy describes what Japan had won for itself in a decade, including two wars here.
And it is far from insignificant.
He writes, quote, Japan's victory in the Rousso Japanese war was, if anything, even more striking than its triumph 10 years earlier over the Chinese. For the first time since the fall of Constantinople, a non Christian non Western power defeated the forces of a Christian nation. Both the Japanese navy and Army acquitted themselves brilliantly, with the Navy sinking much of the Russian fleet off the coast of Korea. While the Army's battles on the Korean Peninsula, culminating in the siege of Port Arthur, led to Japanese mastery on land, some of the consequences of the two wars were similar, he writes.
Like the Ch'ing, the czarist regime never recovered its prestige. Its defeat set the stage for the 1979 revolution. Meanwhile, just as Tokyo had picked up Taiwan as a spoil of the earlier war, so the 1945 settlement finally put Korea into its orbit. Tokyo had to use an ugly trick, he says, to force the abdication of Korea's king called Jeung in order to legally convert Korea into an outright colony. But the Tricky says was probably no worse than what the United States had done in 1893 to overthrow Queen Lenore Koney and incorporate Hawaii into the American empire.
Japan, he says, was behaving pretty much according to the standards of the time. More to the point, in fewer than 40 years, he writes, the country had transformed itself from a weak, tottering polity into the preeminent nation state of Asia and the first non western country in centuries that the great powers had to admit into their ranks. But the bill for that transformation had not yet been paid in full.
It turned out to be far higher than anyone at the time could have imagined and quote.
The reaction to Japan's victory over the Russians, as historian Andrew Gordon says, runs the gamut from outrage to admiration. You got guys like the emperor of Germany, the Kaiser, who's a believer in something he calls the yellow peril, that all these innumerable Asian people, like ants, will join together someday and swamp Christendom.
If you believe that, you know, to a guy like that, it looks like the Japanese have emerged as the tip of the spear that will lead, you know, the Asians to swamp Christendom.
But you have a lot of other European states that all of a sudden have become admirers, some of them had turned, you know, become fans of the Japanese after the victory over China. But after the victory over Russia, a bunch more people show up. And and Japan, you know, when the historians say that they kind of joined the great power club, it's more official than you think. They actually change, you know, the level of the ambassadors that are sent to your country.
All of a sudden, you know, when people are debating things like in the United States, there'll be a debate over is it good that the Japanese are taking over Korea or not? And they'll be people who write back, even experts and diplomats are going, absolutely, you know, what they're doing over there is the same thing we're doing in the Philippines. In other words, you really do get special consideration as a member of the, you know, Predator Club as opposed to the prey club.
Now, another viewpoint, though, you can look at is from the colonial victim viewpoint of people like the Koreans. This would be an awful period in their history. They will suffer terribly. So from their viewpoint, this isn't a, you know, good thing. This is a tragedy. And once again, you know, keeps them from ruling themselves. They will be seen by the Japanese government the same way that colonial victims were often seen by the mother country.
Sometimes, especially if the colonial victims are of a different skin color, they will be seen as less than human or certainly less than Japanese. Second class citizens from the get go. But finally, there's another interesting group of people whose reaction here is important, the other non-white victims of colonialism who have just seen something that inspires them, they've seen a non-white power punch the great powers in the nose in a way they could only dream of. And it gives them an opportunity to dream of the potential of maybe even with Japanese help doing that down the road.
This idea maybe that the Japanese emergence in Asia is the beginning of the reality of a bunch of ideas that are sometimes called Pan Asian ism. The idea of, well, it's basically the Kaisers worst nightmare come true in a way that helps a bunch of people that would love to gain their freedom from non Asian powers. Historian Andrew Gordon writes, quote. In places as distant as Turkey, Iran and India over the several years following the war, Japan's victory over Russia was invoked by modernizers and anti imperialist activists as an inspiring harbinger of their own possibilities for nation building and independence from the West, end quote.
Now, the reason this is going to get weird, though, is this is a real thing, the idea of how this might be a useful in a way, for colonial victims to throw off the yoke of their oppressors with the help of powerful people in their region, maybe even with the same skin color. Let's look at it from a racial standpoint. An opportunity to be seized may be right, and there are Japanese intellectuals in an entire political history in Japan of people arguing that this should be what Japan does, free the region, lead the region, become the economic powerhouse, the diplomatic superpower.
I mean, all these things, it's a way Japan could have gone.
It's a missed opportunity to tragedy if you're looking at it from people like Scarboro Ironmongers Viewpoint, he wrote a book called The Pacific War. I may have said this in the late 1960s. And the point of the book is to try to figure out whether the Japanese public could have avoided, you know, the terrible descent into war. Well, this is the time period where that opportunity presents itself. And one of the ways, because the Japanese probably just so you know, they're almost entirely, if not entirely, almost entirely supportive of the idea of Japan having this real huge superpower role in the region.
But how that role manifests peaceful leadership versus, you know, some sort of military colonial domination. Well, that's what's being discussed. SABERA Iwanaga seems to lament the lost opportunity when he writes, quote, If Japan had been a champion of Asian nationalism and really desired independence and progress for its neighbor and had joined with China to liberate Asia from Western imperialism, the subsequent history of the region would have been vastly different. Japan would have identified with Chinese nationalism, help to end foreign domination, and made a real effort to create enduring good relations with the new China.
Unfortunately, he writes, Japanese leaders chose the opposite course of action. They competed with the West for a place at the imperialist table and a slice of the Chinese Melen, end quote. Now, I have to say, penname pianism is intoxicating as an idea, even to me, just for the alternative history possibilities. I mean, can you imagine with all of the, you know, independence movements and underground rebel things that were going on and all these different, you know, colonial victims in Asia during this time period, if somebody had in, you know, in a single swoop come in and formed an organization, an alliance system, a framework and just said everyone can join right now.
What's more, the missing ingredient for all of those, you know, peoples that were under the colonial thumb is some sort of military that could, you know, fight off a military from the great powers. Well, all of a sudden, that's what you have in Japan. So the possibilities, if it took off, could make the fall of the Soviet Union look like a blip on the historical map. But there were a lot of things sort of, you know, working against that, maybe the number one thing being that the Japanese were not about, you know, a lot of historians point this, that the Japanese were not about to submerge themself in some sort of grand Asian United Nations where they were just one of a bunch of different powers.
The Japanese were in a place where they were thinking of themselves, as is, one intellectual had said, the head and shoulders of the world. But the Japanese are starting to get some of the other, I would say, byproducts. Maybe you look at it that way and you have a right to others might say necessary precursors of colonialism, you know, in for a penny, in for a pound. But the Japanese are exhibiting the same sorts of racial superiority tendencies that all the other colonial powers that are colonizing Asia due to.
Like we said about Shintoism and Bushido and concepts like that, the Japanese state will warp this idea of Pan Asian ism for its own purposes. In the Second World War, there will be something called a concept called the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Yes, it's a mouthful, but that's the official name. This is one of my history professors back in college called it, this is the marketing front that Japan uses to disguise their war aims, but that's a very simplistic, allied way of looking at it, because, truthfully, a lot of people bought into this idea whether or not the government did and some of the people in the government certainly did.
The problem with the idea of creating a giant Asia for Asians in a hemisphere freed by the sacrifice of Japanese soldiers willingly giving up their lives for the greater good, right. That's something every mother and father can get behind when they send their son off to the Imperial Japanese Army. You have to kind of live up to that on the ground, right? You can't cloak yourself in the robe of Asian liberation and then treat the people that you liberated worse than the people that you liberated them from.
In 1910, Japan officially annexes Korea. They had acquired this sphere of influence rights officially in a treaty when the Japanese war with Russia ended five years later, boom, they just take it out, right? It's the first real colony of Japan. Of course, they've had Taiwan for a while now, too. So Japan goes from a country writing about joining the colonial great powers to one of them. And they don't act a whole lot differently than the countries that they wanted to be like.
The Korean economy becomes a subsidiary of the Japanese economy for the purposes of the Japanese economy, and the people in Korea are treated like second class citizens and sometimes they're treated like chattel.
The brutalities sometimes are horrible, the Koreans would sometimes have the gall to get out and demand their rights and they would be shot down at protests. I mean, this is not the kind of thing that goes on the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere marketing brochure, you know, when those come out. Author Sobre Onaga discusses this period in Japanese history and mentions something else that won't be in the marketing materials, he says, quote, The wars for control of Korea exceeded their objective and escalated into a general advance into China.
Policies towards Taiwan and Korea became more ruthless as pressure increased on China. Resistance to annexation in both areas was mercilessly crushed. I discovered he writes a vivid example of that cruelty among the papers of a military man assigned to Taiwan immediately after the island was ceded to Japan.
It was a photograph, he writes, of Japanese troops beheading two pigtailed Taiwanese rebels who apparently had been captured in a skirmish. The horrible scene foreshadowed the atrocities committed in every area touched by Japanese forces during the Pacific War, end quote. Now, the Japanese certainly committed atrocities on a wide scale, but we should make some cultural allowances, I think, shouldn't we, for differences? I mean, for example, let's take something that bothered the allied soldiers an awful lot, and it would have bothered me to the idea of cutting people's heads off.
I find this particularly hard myself, but let me tell you what I mean.
In 1944, there was a photo that I believe was taken off of a body of a dead Japanese soldier. And the photo was forwarded to a couple of different press outlets, I think, in the United States. Life published it and life was huge. There's no way to describe how big Life magazine was and that society at that time. And they published this photo. I think you could call this photo arguably top three most upsetting photos for the allied populations in terms of stirring them to a white hot anger.
The photo depicted an Australian commando, I believe, who had been captured on the island of New Guinea by natives, I think, and sent to the Japanese on the island. The Japanese interrogated him, took him to a beach, put him on the sand. The photo shows a blindfold on. And I think it's like a sticky blindfold. I don't think it's actually wrapped around his head. So it looks kind of particularly modern. For some reason.
He's got his arms pinioned with a rope. There is a semicircle of Japanese soldiers around watching and the know Australian is in the process of having his head cut off. There's a Japanese officer standing above him and he's swinging the samurai sword down and the photographer caught it in mid stroke. Now, let me point out that there is going to be some cultural elements that I have to deal with, and you might, too, when you look at this, it's the same sort of cultural elements that the allied populations had to deal with at the allied soldiers, had to deal with cutting people's heads off, looks medieval, straight up, looks barbaric.
It looks sadistic. It looks like something that European countries, for example, haven't done since the sixteen hundreds when Japan, you know, was last opened before the recent period, it's like they froze their development, maybe some might think. But let's remember, this is a cultural difference and that in places like China, they were still pretty comfortable cutting people's heads off to.
And if we're getting into this on a, you know, let's have a debate about cutting people's heads off in the rightness or wrongness of that, theoretically. I mean, if they had just taken this poor Australian commando and did what most countries would have done to spies and let's be honest, one man's commando can easily be another man's spy, especially since everyone always wants to make you a spy when they're prosecuting you. If they can if they had just shot this poor guy, you wouldn't have heard much about it.
It was the cutting off of his head that freaked everybody out. But, you know, the other side might not have seen it, anything like this. And in fact, you know, people from other countries where beheading was still something, you know, it wasn't thought of demonically, might not have had as much of a problem with it either. It's a weird thing, though, because theoretically, all we should care about is the suffering, right?
I mean, if you shoot somebody or if you cut their heads off, it's probably pretty close. If they hang them, we should probably feel more sympathy. But people got hung all the time and you didn't see any particularly, you know, top 10 photos from the Second World War that depicted that. Here's the part, though, that might be more interesting, that photo exists apparently, if my research is correct, because the guy who was doing the execution, the Japanese officer swinging that sword down on that, you know, tied up captive, asked somebody to take the photo of him because he wanted the photo.
I mean, let me ask you this. If you had to kill somebody in your life, you know, sometimes people have to do that. How'd you like to have a photo of you in the process of doing it to save for later? In the West, we would think of that as something a serial killer, some weirdo you write a book about and psychologists analyze do.
So it's not the beheading shows a particularly cruel nature by the method itself. But wanting to be photographed doing it well, by the time the 20th century rolls around for a great power, that looks a little bit weird.
And maybe a sign of something now, we could suggest that, you know, everything we've talked about so far, all these cultural elements layered on top of each other and working together in these human beings in some unquantifiable way would help explain all this.
Of course, at the same time, we can suggest that the man cutting off the Australian commandos head in the photograph is a, you know, run of the mill routine, general purpose sadist. You get those everywhere, don't you? And in wartime, they tend to come out of the woodwork for understandable reasons.
But it's stuff like this that will make allied armies think differently about the Japanese in terms of their level of hatred and intensity that even the Germans who, you know, the allied powers do not like the Germans, they really did not like the Nazis.
But it's different. And things like this played into it. And yet, you know, if you look at this story in 1905, 1986, at the end of the Rousso Japanese war and realized that the allied armies fighting the Japanese is only like 35 years away, you try to figure out what the heck is going to happen. What are they even have to disagree about?
Well, this is where our little steroid analogy kind of comes back into play, because if if Japan's taking of Taiwan and Korea is like taking sort of soft core steroids, the ones that will make you bigger, but they're not going to turn you into a Great Britain or anything mammoth like that.
But on the upside, they're not going to kill you either. You can absorb both of them and still be OK.
The Japanese are going to get like a little sample free little taste, a little tiny piece of something that has the potential, were they to expand and go deeper into it to make them as big a country as they want to be in terms of resources and wealth and territory and whatnot. The downside, of course, like any sort of more hardcore, more effective steroids, is they also have the potential to kill you. Japan's empire's cause of death is now visible in the story as part of the settlement that ends the Rousso Japanese war to little teeny railroad, something that will be called the South Manchurian Railway, a little teeny mining concession, just, you know, in a little area that at the time will be called Manchuria.
It's a controversial name, actually, now, because some will say that this is part of Japanese propaganda to legitimize their view of things in the region. But we'll call it Manchuria without understanding a lot of history books. Use quotes now around the term. It's named supposedly for the Manchu people who are one of the many northern Chinese sort of step ish people who take over China from time to time.
Traditionally, though, the area falls into sort of the general Chinese sphere of influence, but the Russians had sort of supplanted them in the last 20 or 30 years as part of this general disillusion of China or its inability to, you know, keep great powers from biting off chunks of it. The area is huge, by the way, I read it's the size of like Texas, Louisiana and Alabama, put together lots of coal, lots of iron, potentially huge amounts of wheat like I mean, we're talking United States breadbasket type amounts of wheat.
The entire area of which the Japanese only have a little tiny little piece of South Manchuria at this point, but the entire area borders several different countries and several different cultures. And if you're looking at it in the terms, the period would use several different ethnic groups or races. It's mostly Chinese, by the way. But this Manchurian area touches Korea. It touches China. It touches Siberia. It touches Mongolia.
It's a huge area. Big enough to give you. You know, whatever you wanted in terms of raw materials or food or space or customers in an emerging market. But also large enough if it sucks you in. To kill you. And the potential to draw you deeper into the affair is ever present and there are people working on, you know, making sure that happens in several different places in this story. At the same time, it's like a Wild West with spies.
It's like Berlin used to be when I was a kid where all the spies in the world supposedly hung out, you know, in that one little area. That's what this area around the South Manchurian Railway that Japan is developing. It becomes a little like that. And there's people in there who work for the corporations who are developing things. There's people who work for, you know, some shadowy groups and they're just trying to see what the opportunities are, you know, to expand a little bit.
Nonetheless, initially, it's not much of a problem because it's just that little area and the Japanese apparently have the right to develop along the railway line, you know, in a narrow sort of way, we can develop hotels along the whistle stops and then eventually that becomes, you know, an infrastructure to support the hotels and eventually that becomes homes for the people that work at the hotels and at schools, for the people who work at the hotels, kids.
And slowly but surely, these Japanese companies, in conjunction with the Japanese government, by the way, in a way that does remind one a little bit of the way the British sort of colonized India was a corporate affair initially, eventually transferring to a government sort of thing. Similar pattern in Japan, but the development in this region is phenomenal.
It happens at a time when China starts to fall apart, I mean, we've talked about pieces of it being ripped off in various areas earlier in the story. This is the era where it just fragments.
And the country is in pieces and warlords are running the show, and some parts of it at times can be almost a little Wild West ish, you know, where a government is in power than two weeks later, another other in power.
And then every now and then, you know, the old government comes back. It's wild, but the Japanese have every right to think that it might be worth having someone to defend Japanese citizens and Japanese investments and all that stuff in the area. So they send a division, I think, of a group that will eventually be called the Guandong Army.
These people are going to play a key role in this story and they're going to be part of the unveiling of a giant hidden trap in the Japanese governmental system that provides the, you know, the opening of the door to the disaster here in this story. But no one knows this right now. We have a couple more landmarks to hit on the way to our destination, though. One of them happens in 1912. In 1912, the emperor that the Meiji restoration is named after DYS.
He's replaced by his son. The emperor will be known as the tie show emperor. His name is Yoshihito, I believe, though, and the tie show Emperor period is really important in Japanese history. And part of the reason why is because there's something wrong with him.
Now, exactly what was wrong with him is not something that the, you know, royal court was really publicizing. Remember, this is an era where they're trying to publicize the emperor as sort of a god. The idea that you would have all these human imperfections is not exactly something that matches with the marketing material. I've read accounts that suggest maybe the emperor had cerebral meningitis, maybe when he was a little boy and never fully recovered. But some people just say he just wasn't up to the task.
Here's what Herbert PBX historian Herbert writes about it in his book, Hirohito. Hirohito, of course, was the World War two emperor. And this is his father, Yoshihito Bicks writes, quote. Hirohito's father, Crown Prince Yoshihito made emperor at 33, was unable to continue his legacy physically weak, indolent and incapable of making political decisions. He was utterly lacking in knowledge of military matters, even though he was now the commander in chief.
Less than one month after Yoshihito succession to the throne at the start of the new Taisho Era, the press reported the appointment of extra doctors to the court in December 1912. Admiral Yamamoto, I believe it's gumba. I told General Matsoukas Masayoshi. That when it came to recommending a successor, prime minister, Emperor Yoshihito, quote, is not of the same caliber as the previous emperor. In my view, it is loyal not to obey the TYKO Emperor as word if we deem it to be disadvantageous to the state.
Bicks continues, quote, Thus, Without any institutional change having occurred, the assertion in 1912 of Hirohito's father became an important turning point in the conduct of state affairs. End quote. Well, they say nature abhors a vacuum and power does, too, and all of a sudden we get to a very interesting question, which is in a system where if you said, you know, who's got the power, everyone answered the emperor. In a period where the emperor is not up to using that power, who is your default choice when the emperor is not up to the task?
That's not been really defined in this vague system. And so the 1920s will be a period, for example, when different elements in the system will be trying to sort of jockey for a larger position of power in the state now that, you know, there's a vacuum sort of where the emperor's role is supposed to be. More on that after the brief interlude that is known as World War One. The First World War breaks out in 1914 and in Asia, it is a very different sort of an animal than it is in Europe.
Obviously in Europe it is a catastrophe. It is a charnel house.
It is a nightmare. In Asia, it's not that bad at all. In fact, the Japanese get into the war. They have an alliance with Britain anyway, but they get into the war on the allied side. Interesting to note that both the Italians and the Japanese will fight with the allies against the Germans in the First World War and then switch sides in the second. But in this case, for the Japanese, this is a wonderful opportunity to like hit the jackpot in a way they haven't hit it since that first war in China.
Right. The first sign of Japanese war in this case, the Germans don't have a lot in Asia, but what they do have is almost undefended. And so you can argue, you know, who came out of the First World War, the best. And I think the two candidates that are the most logical choices here is, is it the United States or is it Japan? The United States came out of it much, much stronger than, you know, what they were like when they went into it.
And they did much better than Japan did, but they paid a much larger price in doing it. In a really short period of combat operations, the United States lost a lot of people comparatively.
Now, the Japanese lost virtually nobody but the, you know, winnings weren't as good, but if you look at a map, look at what the Japanese require as a result of taking over German possessions in Asia.
What are the Germans have? Well, they have a little piece of China, you know, basically like everyone else does. Right.
Remember nineteen hundred, the Boxer Rebellion, everybody had a little chunk of China.
The Japanese take over the German chunk of that, and then they take over some island chains that the Germans have.
They have the Marshall Islands, they have the Marianna's and they have the Carolines.
If you know your Second World War history, you'll note that these are some of the most important battlefields of the Pacific War. And if you look at a map of Japan and its possessions before the First World War and the same map afterwards, you will notice that they basically gain their Pacific island empire, which Japan would later considered to be sort of its Pacific defense perimeter as a result of taking over these German possessions in the First World War. In 1915, sort of when no one's looking because everybody's killing each other so horribly on the western front, the Japanese go to China and issue a bunch of demands.
Now the Chinese are falling apart. During this time period, the government's very weak. And you can see the Japanese almost have a chance to say to themselves, well, you know, what can we get away with here? And the demands include some that would basically the historians I was reading say basically turn China into the beginnings of a colony of Japan. This freaks the Chinese out. They're in no position to resist the Japanese themselves, but they appeal to the great powers the Japanese are forced to back off on the most outrageous of these demands.
But it begins to set up conflict with the allies where before this time period, really there hadn't been much of a reason for disagreement. In 1917, we all know what happens to Russia then, right? They have a revolution, you get a provisional government that can almost go maybe in a democratic way for five seconds, but then that collapses into the Bolshevik revolution, which collapses into the Russian civil war, which ends up with the communist victory. And this freaks everybody out, Japan more than just about anyone else.
Now, let me stop for a minute and point out two things. One, there is no way for us to understand how much the Bolshevik Revolution scared and freaked people out during the era. Right. Our our attitudes toward this now are so much calmer than people back then you would have felt. And the more traditional and conservative your society, the more threatened you were likely to be by what was seen at the time period as a utopian experiment and by the way, one that some people were very interested in.
So in some of the you know, some countries like there are people in Britain and Ireland and the United States, for example, Western Europe, that looked at the Bolshevik Revolution as something potentially positive. But to the Japanese, communism was extremely scary. And one of the things that was not emphasized in the histories when I was growing up either would talking about the Nazis or talking about the Japanese was how much at least they believed and their people believed and how much the materials that they used as propaganda for their own populations, you know, sold this idea that they were these anti-communist warriors and that so much of what they did was based on fighting communism.
Nowadays, the histories are very clear that, you know, read the materials. Right. What are they writing about? What are they talking about? Well, this communism stuff scared them so much that one of the arguments made for why Japan has to begin to maybe take over more of Manchuria is to move up into this territory along the border with what used to be Russia, but now is some weird place called the Soviet Union in case we have to fend off, you know, communist hordes.
A fear of communism plays into the rest of imperial Japanese history, and they will never get over this fear.
And it's worth knowing that the largest army, Japan, will deploy in the Second World War by far will be the one that is standing by just in case the Soviet Union attacks them. In 1918, in November, the First World War ends, and Japan, like a bunch of other powers, will get involved in an effort, you know, to try to play a role in the Russian civil war. But basically, when the war ends, Japan gets to go to the peace conference.
I mean, it's you know, it's really moving up in the world. But at the same time, when they propose a sort of a racial equality kind of clause, a really tepid one is the way one historian describes it, the Western powers and guys like Woodrow Wilson. It's no surprise. Shoot that down. The Japanese take this as a sort of a argument against all the sort of high minded talk they're hearing because there's a lot of Wilsonianism going on here.
That's kind of where the term comes from, right? This high minded stuff. The First World War had rocked the countries of the world and even more than at the end of the Second World War, there was this attitude that this must never happen again. And so there was a lot of remember, they create the, you know, early version of the United Nations, the League of Nations, because we're going to have countries talking to each other again.
What's more, and this shows you the pie in the sky level. But I mean, there was a lot of thinking that we have to have a language that we all speak. We can't have all these foreign tongues anymore that make us, you know, impossible to understand each other. So let's all learn Esperanto. But there was also a real sense that one of the main reasons, you know, that the the world got sucked into those wars was competition over colonies and things like that.
The very crocodile in the water that's played such an important role in the story was seen to be an important role in why the First World War happened. So one might think this would change people's attitudes in terms of having or not having colonies. What it really seems to have done is change the way you have to speak about them, talk about them and refer to them. You can't you can't really talk about dominating a people, but you can talk about a protectorate where you're creating the conditions where a stable government can take hold, you know, for the for the safety of the cities.
I mean, you know, it's it's a different way of sort of explaining to other people why you have things like veto power over the, you know, foreign policy of another country. But the Japanese are watching all this stuff to sort of, you know, see what this new Wilsonian world is going to be like and what it kind of does sort of the mood of the age is strengthen that group of people in Japan who think we should be working with China.
We should be the leader of Asia in a in an economic sense.
I mean, that group is sort of exalted all throughout the 1920s and the 1920s. Are this really sort of exciting era in Japanese history where if you're looking at it in terms of sort of the stages that one would expect a true democracy to go through and they're going, you know, from where Japan was to where a true democracy would go, you would expect the stage that Japan has in the 1920s to happen. It's a crucial stage. It's the stage, though, you know, we're all those intellectual contagion's brought over in Pandora's Box by that American fleet that opened Japan in the 1950s.
It's when they've all had a chance to sort of take seed and mature and grow up and bloom and bear fruit, even the 1920s is a wild time in Japan, and it's a time where the oligarchs that were controlling that country start to lose control of the country. And it goes back to the fact that the emperor is not able to play his normal role, but the Japanese are embracing the sides of democracy that are a little bit sometimes messy.
They are rioting regularly after the Rousso Japanese war.
They are protesting this parliament, which was supposed to just be a rubber stamp organization for the emperor.
And the the clique that rules the country is instead really contentious.
Political parties start developing and you begin to see an interesting development, which is that the Japanese really take to political parties, a lot of them, and really get into the the ebb and flow of the of the confrontation and the ideological battles and the discussions and all that stuff. But there's a chunk of Japanese society that is just so turned off by a couple of things, the political wrangling and how venal it is and how it seems to, you know, put party over country.
And they also don't like some of the other things that they see infesting their society, which they also kind of attach to this new democratic sort of system, they don't like the materialism that they see were these almost religious values of the samurai and frugality and what makes us great and loyalty to the emperor. These are what we would consider to be if you actually look at their beliefs and you know, their place in Japanese society, super patriots. To these people, it looked like the country was, you know, coming apart at the traditional seams, these are the sorts of people when if we talk about a nation getting the equivalent of decompression sickness, as we said, coming up from the deep water, too fast, you get the bends.
These are the people that get left behind in a society maybe that's moving forward too quickly. And they're not just going to passively accept it and, you know, they have working in their favor the fact that, you know, they may differ in many ways with the leadership of the country, the old cabal style leadership. There are some things that they agree upon. And one of the things they agree upon is that the country is dangerously flirting with radicalism.
But of course, when you're one of the most traditional great powers in the world, if not the most traditional, your definition of radicalism, you know, might be a little bit different than most. Here's what historian James L. McClain writes in his modern history of Japan, quote. Feisty tenants and disgruntled labor, intrepid feminists and radical students, seething minorities and outcasts, Moga and mobo, anarchists and communists to many within the governing establishment, it appeared that the country was coming apart at the seams in the 1920s.
The disruptive consequences of modernization, the competing attractions of new visions, the dislocations inherent in industrialization, the tensions associated with new modes of living, and the stresses that accompanied imperialism were imploding on one another. The tumult of the 20s alarmed many bureaucrats and members of the mainstream parties who sought ways to restrain the more extreme forms of radicalism that seemed at times to threaten the very existence of the state.
And to quote. The Japanese state will always be more paranoid and more repressive against any perceived threat coming from the left side of the political spectrum, and in Japan, that includes like bomb throwing Bolsheviks and anarchists to liberal writers who questioned the divinity of the emperor or militarism or women's rights activists.
It's a broad group of people that sometimes gets thrown into a similar. Breadbasket, I mean, there will be a sort of police force, a thought police inaugurated during this period that will go after, like liberal writers and thinkers who will be jailed and sometimes tortured to death in prison.
It's a tough time to be questioning the status quo from that political side of the ledger in the 1920s and 1930s and certainly 1940s, up till 1945, Japan, the other side's extremists didn't have that kind of problem, in part because some of them were in government already and in the power structure, especially when you got down to like the junior officer level of things in some military circles. So they weren't really outsiders. They were kind of insiders. The other reason why is every time the government tried to deal with one of those, you know, super patriot type societies or groups, those groups would basically wrap themselves in the imperial flag.
You know, you couldn't use a they don't love the emperor excuse on them. That would get a lot of the public behind you because their response is no, we love the emperor. We love the emperor more than you love the emperor. And our extreme actions here and our willingness to lay it all on the line for the emperor proves that we love him more than you do. I mean, that's a tough one. And you will see a lot of the, you know, things that are done by these ultranationalist groups.
They will get off would like sometimes little hand slaps. These groups, by the way, have some of the greatest names you will ever run into, these patriotic groups that start off as kind of like pseudo secret societies, but more and more, you know, come out in the open. I mean, there's one called the Black Dragon Society. There's another one called the Dark Ocean Society. And they have one called the Cherry Blossom Society, which sounds beautiful.
But those members of that Cherry Blossom Society kill people.
There will be assassinations in Japan, a rising amount starting at least in the late 19 teens, they have a prime minister in like 19, I think it's 21 who's assassinated. They have another one assassinated in 1932. If the head of a major corporation assassinated and these groups are killing these people as a way one to get them out of positions of power, and sometimes they do, they'll change the course of the way things go by taking out a key person.
Other times they do it as a way to send a message to the other people out there. It's an intimidation move. And an American diplomat, I think it's an American diplomat, will call the government of Japan during the late 20s, early 30s as a government by assassination. And oftentimes the assassins are members of these groups. What are these groups want? They want to go back to a golden age that never existed.
These groups are generally, although there's differences among them, but they're generally strongly anti-communist, they are strongly pro military, and they think that Japan's been, you know, given in to the Western powers on arms limitations and all that too much. They are usually pan Asian. So they believe in, you know, Japan leading an Asian revolution against, you know, Western supremacy and the superior nature often of the Japanese race and people. And Spirit. They loathe parliamentary democracy in all its vile politicians who are corrupt, but they also have a big problem with the business and corporate interests of the Times.
As I bazza the people that you know, the corporations and the governments that are partnering together for developmental purposes and everything else, these people see them as a Western infection. That is destroying the traditional nature of Japanese societies and ripping off the populous right and taxing them to death and squeezing them to death the peasant class. I mean, there will be a lot of members of these groups or sympathizers who will come, you know, from idealistic peasant youth who see what's happening in their little villages and whatnot and are outraged.
So you join a group like this because one of the things they want to do is make it all better. And the only way to do that is to put the emperor back in power like he was in the good old days that never existed. And he'll fix everything justice wise. And if we just, you know, bring back the old samurai virtues that never existed either.
Life will be grand again, it's a utopian sort of movement and there's a couple of figures in it who are so revered and held in such all by their subordinates that there's almost a demigod like element to a couple of them, big thinkers pushing these ideas. And if they get what they want, there's going to be an expansion of Japanese power in Manchuria and then a confrontation with the Soviet Union at the very least.
So with all these different players in the Japanese political sphere, it's a kind of a vibrant but possibly explosive stew here, maybe the beginnings of a vibrant, early, rough and tumble democracy may be something that could fall off the cliff in a bad direction.
There will be several major historical wildcards that get played on Japan in the 1920s that would have made it tough for democracy to flourish anyway. I mean, in 1923, there's a horrible earthquake and it affects a couple of major cities more than the rest of the country. But it's like 150000 dead people.
Tsunami. Massive economic damage. In 1924, the USA decides they're going to pass some immigration act with the Japanese see is particularly discriminating against them, the United States is almost oblivious to the fact that it bothers the Japanese to the Japanese. It's another sign that they're not being taken as equals, goes right on the Rainman grievance list. In 1927, there will be a financial crisis that throws Japan into economic turmoil. And then two years later, everybody gets hit by the Great Depression.
That's a hard sort of soil to try to nurture the seed of democracy. And isn't it? We should point out that the emperor Yoshihito, who has not been seen in public very much since like 1920, his son Hirohito, is sort of taking over the duties as crown prince. Well, in December 1926, Yoshihito dies, Hirohito takes over. So we now have the World War to emperor, you know, here in power and theoretically, perhaps more capable of playing, you know, some sort of activist role in the system.
You know, should he want to.
Japan does play a part in several major between the two World Wars arms control agreements, specifically ones limiting naval shipping.
This absolutely infuriates the ultra nationalist rightists, as you might imagine, and there will be more assassinations. I think it's a little ironic that some of the people that get bumped off in this interwar period are people trying to address the fatal flaw in the Japanese constitutional system, the one that prevents the political leaders from actually controlling the military. Pretty basic when you think about it, if you're going to have a real representative system. Right. Historian Mark RPV is describing how this created a confused situation with Japan's China policy, and he writes about the what's called the right of supreme command, the fact that the Army and the Navy are only answerable to the emperor and not to elected officials or bureaucrats.
He describes its effect on Chinese policy and he writes, quote. To begin with, structural and political weaknesses within Japan confused the development of a clear cut policy. First among these debilitates was a lethal flaw in the modern Japanese constitutional system. It centered on a link between a theoretical supreme imperial throne, supposedly the source of all political legitimacy and authority and an ill defined locus of political responsibility. It meant that any institution in the Japanese state could, if it had sufficient practical power, pretend to act in the name of an inviolable emperor and thus assume a Supreme Decision-Making role.
With one critical exception, however, he writes, no institution could claim an actual constitutional right to do so. The exception was the Armed Services Right of Supreme Command, which made the services directly responsible to the emperor and to no civil authority. It thus gave the Army and Navy the legal authority to act and speak in the name of the Imperial Throne. As the throne was not constitutionally responsible to any other institution within the Japanese state, the services could theoretically act as they please without checker interference from the civil government, end quote.
If only it was that simple, though, because then it would just make the Japanese division of power in the system like a lot of other states, right, where you have an army on one side and elected officials on the other, and they kind of don't necessarily see eye to eye. But there they are, two camps.
The Japanese military isn't unified at all. Start at the top where the services don't get along with each other. Let me point out that interservice rivalry between things like the Army and the Navy in most militaries is pretty common. But the Japanese once again are like everyone else, only more so in this regard. And the services really don't like each other and really don't see eye to eye and can only unify sometimes when they're talking about, you know, their right to control events or their right to receive piles of money.
When it comes to specific things, they have total disagreement. I mean, the Navy sees the next war in the Pacific against the United States.
The Army sees the next war as an expansion in Manchuria, eventually to confront this new Soviet Union along a border where there Japan controls the entire Manchurian area. Right. The Texas, Alabama, Louisiana state, full size. In this system, those two services are equal and they're totally out of the control of the civilian government, so who referees disputes between them?
Maybe a more complicated question is who referees disputes within them, because neither the Army nor the Navy are even unified as a service, their faction ridden.
The Army famously has a faction. And these are unofficial things, by the way, although certain officers become associated with it. So it's not a good comparison. But I mean, imagine political parties and you just you know, you're not officially one way or the other. But, you know, General Yamaguchi is a Republican, you know, that kind of thing. In this case, one of the factions is called or known as the Imperial Wave faction called OHA, is the Japanese mispronounced term, certainly, and these people are the ones who buy into like the super patriot stuff, the Cherry Blossom Society sort of thinking it's almost religious and it wants to go back to a golden age, wants to get rid of, you know, all the materialism, all the liberal democracies and the politicians and the corruptions.
And just go right back to our show, a restoration, you know, the return of the emperor to total power. That same theme again. Right. It comes up in Japanese history. It's a utopian kind of way of looking at things, and normally you would say to yourself, well, who the heck cares?
You know, what a bunch of maybe mid-level officers in the Japanese military think, right?
Who cares if they're Democrats or Republicans? Who cares if they're imperial wavefunction people or the other faction, which is, you know, still expansionistic and still doesn't love politicians and all that kind of stuff, but they're more conservative and more opportunistic. The Imperial Way faction wants to take Manchuria and move on up to the Soviet Union. From there, again, who cares? Bunch of colonels and lieutenant colonels and majors and captains. What are they going to do in a normal military?
Not much. Shut their mouth and follow orders, but we run into and it's key to the story. Another one of those little wonderful, you know, distinctive things about Japan that goes back to an earlier era. And it provides an opportunity for a bunch of junior officers to hijack policy here in a way that would be impossible in most great powers, not impossible everywhere, but impossible in most great powers unless things were going down a dark road, which, of course, as we know things are.
There's a Japanese concept called getgo Kujo. And it's difficult to understand it's another one of those things where you kind of have to have the cultural antenna set to Japanese. It's also controversial because you will hear historians wonder how much of a role this really played in the story versus how much it was a wonderful excuse exploited by, you know, higher ups as a way to say, oh, well, we didn't do it. Some captain acting alone did it.
But the concept is not exactly unknown in Western societies or Western militaries, for example, the Japanese just take it to, you know, extremes.
Again, in a in a Western military, for example, the concept might be something like, you know, the rule that says that if American soldiers are in combat somewhere and some higher up orders them to commit some sort of atrocity, they have a responsibility to be insubordinate in that situation. Right. It's not only forgiven, it's kind of required. Well, the Japanese take that to the next level sometimes, and they will have, you know, this concept that goes back centuries that essentially says that lower ranking people in some circumstances have a right, maybe a responsibility to act insubordinate.
And sometimes that can mean extreme sorts of behavior, like killing people. But some of the things I read almost portray it as like a societal safety valve, right. In a system, you know, shaped like a pyramid in terms of its power structure. How did the people at the bottom ever have a way to register their displeasure with something? For example, maybe this is one of those ways. The key to the whole thing, though, is you got to be doing it for the right reasons, right?
Your heart has to be in the right place. Sure, they committed an outrageous act, but they meant well.
This is why something like a Kokoro probably doesn't work as well for your, you know, communist assassin who wants to kill the prime minister and sees that as part of his doing it for a good cause. But the public can be really sympathetic, the Japanese public, to these people who do it for patriotic reasons. Right? Well, clearly, they love the emperor. Sure, they were misguided, but they meant well. And again, you will see these people get off easy sometimes in these cases.
And maybe that's a reason. If you're more conspiratorial and if you're a general that doesn't want to face a firing squad for treason, you know, you can just have some captain or colonel do it and then say that it was good, Kujo. And they meant well. Right. Let's let them off easy. Now, maybe the upside of a policy of letting them off easy is that you don't create martyrs out of them. But the obvious downside is it's not much of a deterrent either.
An example, perhaps, of this, Geko Kujo, you know, in action happens on June 3rd, 1928, when a railway car full of officials from a province, a warlord province in Manchuria in air quotes, gets shredded by a bomb.
The bomb killed several people, including the governor of one of these provinces, it also kills the warlord himself, will die a few hours later. This warlord had been a friend of Japan's up until that very explosion. But a couple of Japanese mid-level junior officers, including maybe as low as a lieutenants involvement, but a colonel and a captain maybe took it upon themselves, we are told, to plant this bomb in order to create an incident that required a response, that triggered a policy change that these officers thought was the smart move here.
Right. That would have triggered something that may have led to the takeover of Manchuria.
If you wanted to craft an analogy here, you have to start playing with things like, you know, U.S. Central Command forces in the Middle East, having some mid-level officers there, you know, independently decide we're going to spark a war with a place like Iran because we think it's in the long term, you know, good interest of the United States to do so.
Right. It'd be better to fight them now than later. I mean, everyone would thank me if they knew what I knew.
I mean, it's a little inconceivable to think about that. It has happened throughout history and it's not that inconceivable. But amongst the great powers, usually there's more, you know, control over that mid-level of command in this case, it's very possible that what you have here is a tail wagging the dog.
Where people at the low level are able to, you know, control policy, perhaps that's one interpretation. The other is that they're just stooges acting for much more powerful generals or corporate interests. You know, you buy the interpretation you like. Nevertheless, this 1928 train bombing assassination, which goes by several different names, by the way, my favorite is the Shang Solin explosion death incident, because it sounds like a Tom Wolfe novel title to me.
Nonetheless, it didn't achieve almost certainly what the people who did it wanted and did, in fact, prompt significant blowback across a number of different fronts.
Front number one is global public opinion, 1928, you know, right before the Great Depression starts and most of the world. But you're already starting to see in Europe and over here in the Pacific, a little subtle change in the weather, if you will, from that 19, you know, 20s post First World War rainbows and unicorns thing. All of a sudden, the real politic return to normalcy, sort of clouds are starting to appear. And this is one of those incidents that sort of cast a pall a little bit on things in the United States, especially this assassination stuff just looks sinister by its very nature.
But the real significant blowback is that this is, as my great ad would have called it, a come to Jesus moment in the Japanese governmental system. Because initially, the Japanese government is not sure who does this, and it's supposed to be a bunch of locals, I mean, one history I read said it was some opium addicts that the Japanese blame this on. Some Chinese opium addicts and other ones said it was blamed officially with a communiqué on elements of a northern Chinese nationalist army.
More on that later. But almost no one outside Japan was buying it, and when the opposition party in Japan finds out that it's a lie, all hell breaks loose in Japan.
The prime minister himself during this period, a general named Tanaka, won't survive politically this scandal and the problem with 20/20 hindsight is totally clear. As you look back on it, it's a moment where the military essentially pushes back against the political leadership and they get away with it. Because the prime minister is told by, get this, the Emperor Hirohito and one of the few times and it's an early young indiscretion, he says will turn into the Hulk when something goes awry in this whole investigation.
But he will tell the prime minister to get to the bottom of this. The prime minister says I will. And if there are any army men involved, you can be sure will take care of this. Then he goes back to his army folk who look at him now as a totally political fied general. He's not their comrade anymore. He might as well be a politician and they don't cooperate with him. And when he says, we have to look into this, they essentially say, no, we have to cover it up.
And they give him a whole bunch of good reasons why it should be covered up. It'll affect our international standing. It will affect our troops in Manchuria, blah, blah, blah. But the bottom line is he doesn't have the power. And it's made apparent during this incident to tell them, no, I don't want your approach. I'm the boss. We're going to do it my way. He essentially has to go back with his tail between his legs to the emperor.
And when the emperor finds out he didn't do anything, the emperor turns into the Hulk and blames him.
With the famous line, the emperor said in the war conversations to allied investigators, the emperor says he told the prime minister, don't you think you should resign?
Boom. I mean, that nice, banal little comment there is more powerful to a Japanese person, especially a general like Tanaka, than anything. A mustachioed, spitting, fascist dictator type. Getting in your face and threatening to dismember you nine ways to Sunday could achieve. And Tanaka will not only fall from government, he'll die soon afterwards.
Boom, don't make the emperor happy. Might as well just leave. By the way, it's worth pointing out that according to Hirohito, he learned from this that it was a youthful indiscretion. He shouldn't have, in a virtual sense, killed this poor prime minister by turning into the Hulk and he would learn not to do it again. So this very incident is one of the reasons allegedly you don't see the emperor involving himself more in these sort of matters when after the war you keep looking at these things going, why the heck did the emperor involve himself more in these matters?
The real bottom line, though, if you look at it, and according to Hirohito himself, is there were higher ups who might have been implicated in all this, had a real investigation and maybe some interrogation under torture of the mid-level officers who carried out this stuff. Hirohito says that the mid-level officer in question threatened to squeal about everything. So, you know, things get covered up, no investigation and nothing to see here. We move on. And yet in 1928, you've established this sort of line in the sand that says that if the political leaders and the military leaders disagree, there's not much the political leaders can do about that unless the emperor gets involved, which he says he learned from this incident you shouldn't do.
Now, I should point out that the 1928 train bombing, what did we call it, the Chang'e Solin explosion, deaf incident, the timing of that is not coincidental.
It comes at a time when there is a lot of rising anxiety in the South Manchurian area about events happening in China, events that have the potential, if they go a certain way, maybe to cut off the supply of Manchuria at some point in the future.
And there are people who begin to make the argument that that can't happen. We're already hooked. And it's worth asking the question, who's hooked, are these corporate slashed government interest in the south Manchurian area? Are they hooked or is the government hooked to the revenues coming in, which unfortunately often get turned right back around into new military expenditures? Because these new areas require, you know, greater amounts of troops, a bigger navy, all these other things?
I mean, it comes with the cost, right? Security, protection. But are the people hooked? Well, it's during this time period that an open propaganda push is made to convince the Japanese people, the darn right we're hooked and not just us. You're hooked because we have this thing, a lifeline in Manchuria that connects us to the Eurasian population and, you know, sends raw materials and goods and stuff back to Japan that keeps us all alive.
Well, the question about whether or not Japan really needs Manchuria is an interesting one.
Historian Sandra Wilson in her book The Manchurian Crisis in Japanese Society 1931 to 1933, points out that the whole idea of Manchuria as this vital lifeline is part of the propaganda of the Japanese state, the stuff it's using to justify whatever is required to keep using Manchuria.
Using the equivalent of the idea that we are hooked. She writes, quote, The principle that Japan was dependent upon access to the resources of Manchuria for survival as a nation was part of an attempt to create a narrative justifying Japan's claim to the region and was closely linked with the assertion that Manchuria rightfully belonged to the Japanese, despite China's technical sovereignty over it. End quote. She then goes on to describe this phrase that was in use, and she points out that it had instead of a dry sort of diplomatic tone, it referred to sort of the idea of what Japan has already paid in blood and sacrifice and investment for this territory is what we talked about earlier.
Certain things attract you to the region, then certain things keep you there.
She writes, quote. Far from being a dry diplomatic term, Kennedy in the early 1930s was rather, as Murakami has pointed out, a vivid word suggesting sacrifice and the shedding of blood, and it relied for its effect upon a certain view of history in which the Sino Japanese and Rousso Japanese wars figured prominently. Manchuria, she writes, was frequently referred to as the place where the spirits of 200000 Japanese war heroes slept. The importance of the South Manchurian Railway and the large amount of Japanese public money which had contributed through the railway to the development of Manchuria were also evoked as evidence of Japan's right freely to exploit the Manchurian resources and quote.
Citing the sacrifices of 200000 war dead would be, I would think, a pretty effective tactic in most countries, even today in the uber patriotic era, we're talking about even more effective in the uber patriotic Japan, even more effective than that.
But if you happen to be an investor, for example, in, you know, the South Manchurian Railway, you have every reason right around this same time period that this warlord's done away with to worry about your investments, because events in China are starting to get to a point where it's conceivable to see somebody unifying it in the not too distant future.
And what's going to happen if that occurs? Remember, everybody's been taking advantage of China during this preceding period here because it's been down. But what if it gets up and this is the sleeping giant of the world, the largest population on the planet, when it's all put together, it's a landmass the size of the United States where the Japanese have been taking advantage of this, you know, situation. While the Chinese are weak, they currently occupy places the Chinese considered theirs.
What's going to happen if all of a sudden somebody puts Humpty Dumpty back together again here? They allow have half a billion people, the Japanese have 70 million. How do the long term trends here look, I mean, you can see a positive possible outcome if you or the people you know, who want to keep this lifeline to Japan open, you want to keep this, you know, addiction, you can make it work, but it means you've got to either keep China perpetually divided or split it up permanently or you've got to take it over or you've got to control it in such a way that you will never lose control of it.
But you get to tell it what to do. You can't have a powerful, independent China, though, because obviously that's going to get messy when they want their stuff back. The other, of course, policy approach you could take is the one that those more liberal people in Japan have been advocating. Let's have this cooperative Asian relationship with China, where if Japan and China, you know, with their population and resources and our high tech, you know, nose to the grindstone, fanatical work ethic, I mean, we can do anything.
Maybe you go the route those people want, because it's the only way to deal with China once they're back on their feet, start negotiating now when they're still weak so that they don't hate you later because the Japanese are not in good graces with the Chinese population. During this period, the sleeping giant has already awoken on the ground. The Chinese people are pissed off and a lot of historians blame the 1950s. You know, we sit in the middle of the First World War when everybody's attention was on Western Europe, the Japanese tried to slip one of these treaties on a very weakened China that would have made them a protocol.
And they freaked out the Chinese, but the people freaked out. It wasn't a governmental thing. I mean, the people started boycotting Japanese goods. Riots would erupt or they killed Japanese officials in, you know, Chinese cities. I mean, it was anger. It was the same kind of nationalist awakening that Japan it had, you know, when Commodore Perry and America's black fleet, you know, came and opened them up, you get this awakening.
In the case of China, they were mad at everybody for what had happened when they were weak being taken advantage of. But the Japanese more and more were, you know, getting the focus specifically of their ire. And so if you want to forestall this, if you don't want the sleeping giant to be mad at you when it's fully awake and now might be the time to start patching up old wounds and fixing things. And by the way, five, six, seven years before this period, you know, when Wilsonianism rainbows and unicorns were totally in play, the Japanese were giving territory back to China.
This peninsula, you know, they were trying it was policy for a minute. But the people in Tokyo aren't necessarily in control of policy, as we said, this is where the tail wagging the dog comes into play, where a bunch of people who are on the ground can create situations that the military and even the government behind them simply have no option but to respond to. Once again, if you're conspiratorial, you don't believe any of this is like this.
You believe it emanated from ground zero and has been, you know, let's call it responsibility laundered the whole way.
But the the traditional story is we have elements that are out of control, you know, in Asia that are able to prompt events that everyone else has no choice but to respond to. For example, in 1931, there will be another explosion on a railway track. Are you sensing a pattern here, also carried out supposedly by mid-level Japanese officers? Here's the way. Historian James L. McClain in a modern history of Japan describes it, quote. Captain Kawamoto Sui Mori laid the 42 yellow packages of blasting powder with care shortly after 10 p.m. on September 8th, 1931, he detonated them, displacing a portion of the tracks of the South Manchuria railway line as it passed the northern outskirts of Mukden.
Kawamoto and his co-conspirators intended to derail the dairy and express do just minutes later and blamed the act on the local Chinese warlord Zanga Alang. Incredibly, when the train reached the damaged section of track, it swayed only slightly and passed on safely. Unruffled, Kawamoto relayed a prearranged message to his home base. This is the famous prearranged message, quote, engaged in action with the Chinese forces who set off explosion along railroad, end quote. The author continues, quote, ostensibly in response to that, quote unquote, unprovoked aggression.
Units of Japan's Guangdong army immediately attacked the barracks of Jang soldiers in Mukden and Changchun. Within 48 hours, Japanese troops occupied the two cities and do Ihara Kenji, a colonel in the Guangdong army, named himself to head an emergency committee to govern Mukden, effectively detaching that provincial capital from Chinese control and quote. This event, by the way, is known by a couple of different names, most famously it's called The Manchurian Incident. Historian Andrew Gordon says that in Japan, this is generally considered to be the start of what they call the 15 year war, which is essentially the Second World War.
So this is an explosive moment in some people's view of the entire subject. We're going to talk about here.
And it is the result of so much James Bond undercover, you know, it's like the Star Wars bar with all the gun slinging, you know, bootleggers from that time period.
I mean, here's how historian Mary Jensen describes it. And he's a pretty sober historian.
So when he uses a word like partying, understand, you know, how much like a novel this is. But these are the people engineering these events on the ground in a place like Manchuria. Jensen writes, quote. Plotters had better success in Manchuria in the days preceding the explosion that triggered the Manchurian incident and unsavory group of Japanese had collected Guangdong army headquarters. He then goes on, by the way, to name these people. The first one is a guy who murdered, you know, a left leaning think it's a writer and he was there, Jensen says, with money sent by Japanese rightists.
But he says even better financed was this colonel, you know, the guy who had actually blown up the warlord in the train.
So he's there to. And Jensen says, quote, Arrogance, avarice and dishonesty found shelter under the claims of crisis, Quantong Army officers were in touch with associated figures in the Tokyo general staff. But those men doubting the timing, though personally favoring the coup, dispatched Takigawa Yoshihiko, freshly disappointed that march to the scene to urge caution and delay.
Quantong Army plodders aware of taqwacores mission, deflected him when he arrived with a round of partying that delayed his appearance at headquarters when he was ready to resume his mission the next morning. A bomb had already gone off on the South Manchurian Tracks, end quote. So the government not necessarily against the idea of this Manchurian deal, but doubting that it's a good time to send somebody to say don't do it now, he's deflected by a bunch of people who take him out drinking so he can't deliver the message right away.
By the time he's sobered up and ready to deliver the message, the events already happened.
That's like a movie, isn't it? But this isn't like the 1928 incident where everybody seemed caught off guard, there's a bunch of people who know this is going to happen and there's a lot more people who knew that at some point, you know, in the distant future, this was likely to happen. And when it does, the civilian government is exposed as powerless now. As an aside, we should point out that the prime minister in power is often lambasted as weak, so maybe he is, but he wrote an emergency note to one of the, you know, sort of old guard wise men that are built into the Japanese system, the general who are less and less powerful than they used to be back in the Meiji restoration days.
But this guy is obviously desperate. And this note comes only hours after the explosion happens where the government is finding out about this stuff from the newspapers. Their army, the Japanese army over there is not telling them anything.
The prime minister's name, by the way, is Walke Itsuki and his appeal to the general for assistance says, quote. I am not being kept informed by either the foreign ministry or the Army Ministry. I have just warned them through chief cabinet Secretary Kawasaki, the Chinese forces in Manchuria and Mongolia, no more than 200000, while we have only some 10000. I asked the army minister, what are you going to do if by chance your challenge causes something you have an anticipated something that given you are so outnumbered, you can't stop?
The Army minister told me we'll send in troops from Korea.
Indeed, they may have already gone in. I rebuked him. How can you allow dispatch of soldiers from Korea without government authorization? He said, well, the fact is that during the Tanaka cabinet, troops were dispatched without imperial sanction. I gathered. He had not foreseen any problem at all. Under these circumstances, I'm quite powerless to restrain the military. How can His Majesty's military act without his sanction? What can I do? Maybe I should not be talking to you like this, but can you do anything?
I'm in serious trouble and quote. Now, if the prime minister sounds panicked there, it's not just my vocal interpretation. This is the way Marius Benson describes the situation. You know, as all this is coming to light in the hours after the incident, quote, Within hours, the Guandong Army had achieved its initial military objectives against the Indian army. Once the forces were engaged, pleas of military necessity were used as justification for additional moves, giving the lie to promises from the Tokyo civilian government that these were steps taken to preserve order and that no further expansion was contemplated.
Those in positions of responsibility were anxious to limit the incident and regain control of events, while the field and junior grade officers that people, the general staff and army ministry were jubilant that the Manchuria Mongolia quote, end quote problem was finally being addressed in Tokyo, he writes, The atmosphere was electric with rumours of plots to take on the home. Government and nervous government did its best to hush things up to avoid destabilizing the situation. But this had the effect of magnifying rumours.
The reality, he writes, was bad enough and quote.
So what was that reality? Well, some of the ultra nationalists looked at this as the coming out party, Gensen continues, quote. A few weeks after violence broke out in Manchuria, Lieutenant Colonel Hashimoto Kingara of the 2nd Division, general staff and stalwarts of the Cherry Blossom Society, conceived a bizarre plan to wipe out the entire government by aerial bombardment of a cabinet meeting. A crowd of rightists would then surround the war ministry and general staff headquarters and demand the creation of a military government for this October incident, as it was called, which never took place.
Hashimoto received 20 days confinement from superiors who did their best to deny that anything untoward had taken place and quote. So this guy's got a plot to destroy the government by bombing it while it's in session and he gets 20 days confinement from superiors. What's going to happen here, though, is going to get Japan and all kinds of trouble because it's as over the months go on and the Quandong Army just keeps rounding out their conquest and looking to create, it says, buffer zones to keep, you know, bandits and whatnot farther away.
They're conquering Manchuria. And the people in Japan that were worried and were against this start coming around, I mean, for the first two weeks, the stuff I've been reading says the Japanese populace wasn't sure what to think about this. But after, you know, incessant propaganda and talk about how this is the lifeline and stories and films of Japanese, you know, heroic victories, the public comes around and they support this big.
So if you're the politician kind of worried and saying we need to get control of the situation and no more expansion, but every time the army expands, the public loves it.
What do you do? Well, if there were no consequences, maybe you just go along with it, but there are consequences and they're huge and they lead directly to war. And let's remember, in this war, a bunch of these patriotic civilians supporting the troops are going to die in their homes, burned to death. And I've had conversations a lot over the years with people about what's called strategic bombing, the bombing of civilians in cities that was so prevalent in the Second World War and there are so many side issues and moral quandaries and things to examine.
But the one that often gets brought up and it's well, it's at at this point in the story where it's relevant, if it's relevant at all, has to do with responsibility on the part of your average Japanese person. If they're getting bombed in the Second World War. Is that something that's the equivalent of getting their just desserts right? Or is it a historical sort of. You know, warning maybe lessons are not real in history, but is it sort of something that reminds you that these sorts of things have consequences because there are people that will blame the Japanese public for supporting, you know, this road to war that they're going down, but to not support it seems a little counterintuitive.
I mean, how likely is it to imagine this Japanese public conditioned the way we've talked about with all the carrots and sticks and cultural head binding and punishment for people who didn't toe the line and all these other things? How likely is it to have imagined that they would do anything other than support their troops when the troops are victorious in the field?
Right. When it's their own sons out there fighting?
And of course, you got the government pushing the super propaganda button all the time, you know, how likely is it that you're going to see anything other than what you did see? What's more, forget all the cultural head binding stuff I've been throwing out there.
And just think about your own people.
How hard is it to imagine, you know, most of them not coming out and supporting the troops? It's something that can be reliably counted upon. So if that's the case.
Can you really hold people accountable and say they had any, you know, real options as a group, right enmasse? Sometimes individuals surprise us, but enmasse, was there really another road for the Japanese patriotic civilians to go down once their troops were fighting in the field? Hmm. It's an interesting question, as I said, but I guess the way I look at it is I look at it and think that could happen to anybody. If that means we can all be bombed and deserve it.
Well, that's a scary thought, isn't it? In the case of the uber patriotic Japanese during this period, it's extra scary because this is like a blank check for whatever this Quantong army going to do. Control from the central authority is tenuous at best. And over the next several months, this Guandong Army is going to destroy Japanese diplomatic. Credibility with the rest of the world, because over and over the Japanese government and even the top military officials are going to say we're not going to advance any farther, everything's going to stay the way it is.
And then they're almost as they're saying it, the army in the field would advance. At one point, the army itself, one army says we are not going to we promised we will not advance on the city and they do. So at a certain point, not only is the rest of the world not believing anything the Japanese government is saying, but it's making them extra angry. I read one historian who made a point of, listen, this is a really bad time for the world in the Great Depression and all this.
Everybody's got their own problems. Every country on the world stage would love to be able to say, I'm just going to ignore this. It's a long way away. But looking like they're being played for fools over and over by the Japanese government, instigates push back that might not otherwise have been their.
In the defense of the Japanese government, they may have believed it every time they said we're not going to move any farther. And then think about the weird position it puts the government in when the army does move farther against orders, has great victories, conquers more territory, the media shows the newsreels and plays it up. The public is cheering. What are you supposed to do with denounce them? And remember, nobody in the foreign world out there at all knows that you don't control your own army.
You don't want to admit that to them. So you kind of have to own these things now. It's a bizarre situation. It gets even more weird at times, too, because and you can't tell, again, if there's a a forced feeling to this, if you feel like you have to do it or if they really want to. But I mean, the emperor has to have the general of the Guandong Army over 40.
Private meeting in the palace, I mean, it's this enormous honor and he's being honored for all these conquests in Manchuria that he went against orders to do. I mean, what sort of message are you sending here?
It's bizarre. And I should point out, there have always been some historians and writers out there that suggest that it's possible that you could look at this entire situation with this Quantong army acting on its own as a case of Geko Kujo on a mass scale, an army wide level, an entire army, you know, being insubordinate for high minded moral reasons. Maybe you say their heart was in the right place and maybe because of that, you forgive them, especially since they keep winning.
See how that goes? But if it's true that this army really did all this on its own and for super patriotic reasons, right, well, then they've just managed to doom the very country and defied Ampara that they worship because they've gotten Japan into a cycle now that it's not going to be able to get out of. The best example I came up with is unfortunately of limited practical value, because unless you've gone out too deep in the ocean, you know, with the breakers crashing on you, you're not going to know what I mean.
But in my head, it seems like the perfect analogy. And if you've ever done it, you know what I mean. When you get trapped in that no man's land between the breaking surf and the shore too far away from the shore to get to safety before the next giant wave crushes you. So there's only one option. You have to go out deeper into the surf so you can dive under that giant wave before it starts crashing. The problem, as we all know, is that when you come up sputtering from that, you have another giant breaker bearing down on you and you're even farther away from the shore.
So you have to go out even deeper and dive under that one. Of course, you can't keep this up forever. Eventually, you drown following that strategy and the Japanese are going to drown in China. And if you believe the Army defenders out there who are trying to explain what they were doing, they're going to drown in China, simply trying to find a defensible place to stop advancing.
The army claims it's got bandits to deal with, for example, these bandits are probably really Chinese guerrilla fighters and at one point they'll be like 350000 of them.
That's a lot of bandits, by the way. There will be a constant drumbeat of things that are called incidents when Japanese troops and bandits or Japanese troops and Chinese troops or Japanese troops and warlords, troops will have some sort of a, you know, gunfight or something. And all hell can break loose for a while that the Japanese take another city in response to that and they'll settle down.
And then another incident. If you string all these incidents together from 1931 to about 1937, you get I mean, there were like 50 in a really short period of time. So you get a lot of incidents. And some historians like to refer to that whole period as an era of undeclared war between Japan and China. Neither side, by the way, wanted to declare war for different reasons. The Japanese are trying to make it look like nothing's really going on here, nothing to see here.
Great powers. It's not a war.
We have a bunch of incidents going on and the Chinese have their own problems. More on that in the second. These incidents can get very large, though, there will be an incident in late January in Shanghai, which will go on until March 1932.
Shanghai, by the way, I believe the second largest city in Asia, after Tokyo itself, between three and four million people in a giant city that is an urban environment. So you can only imagine what it's like to have fighting going on in the streets of Shanghai. You will have at one point, you know, it starts off with Japanese Marines, but they get into trouble because there's very stiff Chinese resistance and street fighting. So the Japanese government sends in more troops.
At one point, you'll have 100000 Japanese ground troops, several hundred planes like 75 or so ships. You know, that's incident doesn't really do it justice. In fact, the high numbers, when you start adding up civilian and military deaths for this incident run somewhere between 10 and 20000 killed. That's quite a few people in something. You know, that sounds as small as an incident.
Now, we've been talking a lot about the Japanese here, we've been pointing out that they've been fighting in a quote, end quote, Chinese, but who are the Chinese during this period? It's worth examining, you know, the resistance here for a minute. The resistance used to be, you know, 10 years before this time, a bunch of fragmented states, the disunited states of China, perhaps you could have called it.
But in the intervening like eight years, there's been quite a bit of consolidation. The number one consolidator is a guy named Chiang Kai shek, who was a fascinating character, a Japanese protege, maybe you could almost call it, but a Chinese patriot. He's a guy who went to military schools and whatnot in Japan, learned a lot from the Japanese, came back, participated in the overthrow of the imperial system. And the emperor was a key, you know, protege of the guy who started the, you know, first Chinese Republic.
And he's been fighting ever since to maintain sort of, you know, a put together China. He's a difficult guy to pin down because he seems to be willing to do whatever it takes, you know, to achieve his goals and his goals are both to create this, you know, great China that he sees, you know, rising from the ashes of this terrible low point in Chinese history. At the same time, a China maybe run by him, maybe perpetually.
He's got this military dictator side to him that his critics, you know, harp on. So bear that in mind.
But he's a relatively remarkable person. I mean, think about somebody trying to put the United States back together again if it broke up into its components states against the will of those states, by the way. And you get an idea of the task we're talking about here. Chiang Kai-Shek is part and is the leader most at the time of a governing political party called the Common Tongue. We used to call it the Kumin Tang when I was a kid, so if I slip into, you know, bad habits, you'll know why.
But that leader and that party are sort of the big dog in this Chinese reunification thing going on during the 1920s. He's the major threat that these Japanese people, you know, in Manchuria see, I mean, this Chiang Kai shek guy could put China back together again and then where are we? His main competition? In order to achieve this, though, are communists people getting help, for example, from the new Soviet Union? Chiang, by the way, getting help from the Soviet Union, too, but he'll take help from anybody who will give it to him.
All he wants to do is achieve his goals. The Communists are working with the Communists, but there may be the second great power in China during this era, and they and Chiang will have this terrible struggle with each other. Sometimes they'll, you know, kiss and make up long enough to fight the common enemy. But Chiang Kai-Shek Point most of the time is that he wants to unify China first, destroy his internal enemies first, and then turn on the Japanese.
So when during this period, the Chinese appear to really, like, not be fighting back too much and deliberately sort of taking the the easy road, backing up, making nice. I mean, it's all because Chiang Kai shek got his eyes elsewhere. He's trying to defeat the communists in his country. And by the way, as I said, when this guy is taken, you know, money and arms and organization from the Soviet Union, the Western press is portraying him as a communist stooge.
He's the red general to them. But later on, he's going to turn on the communists and he may be. This is arguable. It's off the top of my head. He may hold the record for most communists or suspected communists killed. He'll kill like 300000 of them in one purge. He may have killed millions of them and many of them may not have been communists at all. He's famous for a phrase he may or may not have said.
So let me issue that disclaimer right here. But the phrase was something like, you know, he'd rather kill a thousand innocent people than let one communist get through. It's a little twist of the old American idea. You know, that better. A hundred guilty should go free than one innocent man be prosecuted. In any case, Chiang Kai shek seems to be pretty focused on China and conquering it first and then turning its enormous weight on the Japanese invader afterwards is his policy.
And that allows this undeclared war to continue longer than maybe a lot of the other leaders in China and Chang's underlings want it to.
Meanwhile, though, Chiang Kai shek and the Chinese have complained to the only body out there that's available to do that, the League of Nations, the prototype, as we said earlier, for the United Nations, this will become a practical test for the Rainbows and Unicorns organization that is supposed to prevent aggressive war because the Chinese are asserting that that's what you have here. And not only that, the Japanese are the signatories to a number of treaties during the so-called interwar years designed to make war, if not uncommon and maybe even totally illegal.
One of these is called the Kellogg Brand Pact, for example. And sometimes that's the way its supporters sort of touted it. You know, we're going to make war illegal because people signed a treaty. So you can see how that goes. Nonetheless, the Chinese make the complaint. The League of Nations has to respond to it. They send investigators in 1932 early to look at the train tracks that were blown up and examined everything, talk to all sides.
And while they're doing this, the Japanese is creating a puppet state. They're going to call Manchukuo. And the reason you create a puppet state instead of, you know, trying to conquer it directly like you would in the old days is because you just don't do that anymore. It's just not done. Great powers don't conquer others.
You create a sort of a Wilsonian sort of colony where you call it the return of the Manchu people to controlling their own destiny. The Japanese brought in the last emperor of China. A man who put him on the throne made it look like, hey, we've restored the Manchurians to their rightful place. We Asians are all in this together. It's going to have this pan Asian flavor to it. Meanwhile, the Japanese army is going to defend it. It's going to send, you know, economically anything Japan wants back to Japan and the Japanese will control all the major decisions.
It's a puppet state. But the rest of the world is going to say you can't keep it. The United States will be the most vociferous critic and by the way, the U.S. is operating on many levels here. On one level, there's a moral level. The Americans have a lot of Christian missionaries, for example, in China, and they get to watch a lot of this stuff unfold. And it's horrible on the ground. So they're complaining for moral reasons.
But the Americans have huge economic stakes in this region, something called the open door policy that they want to keep open. They don't want anything that would threaten the good thing that they have going trade wise with China. And if Japan starts taking all these areas, are making treaties that, you know, lock China up for themselves, will that cuts out U.S. interests. So there's a lot of reasons the Americans aren't so happy about this. They'll invoke something called from this period called the Stimson Doctrine, which basically says the U.S. is not going to acknowledge, support, countenance or anything, any territories that are, you know, created through aggression, whether or not its aggression is up to the League of Nations.
They do their investigation. They come back with a report that is actually so even handed. You have a feeling that the great powers didn't want anything where they had to confront anybody, because as I said earlier, they all have their own issues. They'd rather look the other way. But the Japanese required, like, you know, a real acceptance that they'll be allowed to keep Manchuria. They did not get that. So when forced to make a choice between the steroid, that could make them maybe as big as they want or, you know, staying in the good guy column, you know, off the global international naughty list, they chose keeping the Manchurian Addiction.
And this will be disastrous in the long run. In a practical sense, what it means is when the Japanese don't get what they want from the League of Nations, they walk out of the League of Nations. Trendsetters in that regard, because Germany and Italy will eventually join them. But to people like the Americans and the British and the French, this looks like choosing the dark side in an ever increasingly dark, you know, world as the storm clouds on the on the international horizon deepen and darken and threaten.
The Japanese have decided, you know, in terms of this international community idea, there's rainbows and unicorns thing in the past. It's just a plot by the great powers to keep the status quo. We're out. But when you think of, you know, what options they actually had in this regard, you know, what can the Japanese really do? We're going to walk a mile in the moccasins of the Japanese government here, we have to ask what real choices they had in the same way.
You know, we were wondering about the responsibility level of your average Japanese patriotic Japanese citizen. Well, in this case, you know, sometimes I think we pretend like there's a fork in the road here for these governments and we hold them accountable for making the wrong directional choice, you know, at the fork in the road when maybe there was no fork there at all. And this is a wondering but I mean, in this case, look at what was being asked of this Japanese government.
They're being asked to give up this territory that many great thinkers have been out there in Japanese writing and whatnot. And and many of the prominent people saying Japan has to have in order to survive and protect themselves in part from these very great powers who banded together in this League of Nations are telling them they have to give it back.
You know, you can't have these steroids to get as big as we are. The Japanese, as we've already pointed out. Right, had this long laundry list of Rainman like grievances, some of which are real.
You also have that wonderful element in play that we talked about, the number of people now that have died to conquer this place, the number of people that have died to protect the investment in money that's, you know, been invested to create this wonderful safe area in China by the South Bansuri and Railway me just goes on and on. So if you're a political leader, that's going to see this as a way to avoid having a showdown with the other great powers in the world and your choices, you have to give this back.
Could you realistically do that? I mean, I would think that the loss of face on the world stage, you know, the embarrassment of having to, you know, listen to what everyone say and go with your tail between your legs. I mean, I think that alone would doom a politician, you know, with the voters in an electoral system, wouldn't you? But what about, you know, real doom as opposed to electoral doom, because this is the period where, you know, if you realistically suggested giving Manchuria back because the great powers were telling you to, you might not live to see the next month because we talked earlier about something one American I think referred to as government by assassination in Japanese history.
This is the period where that skyrockets and it's the high watermark of that between like 1931 in 1936. And you will see a number of major figures, not just political figures, but also corporate ones gunned down.
How about the one in 1932 where 11 naval cadets from a faction in the Navy that wants a military dictatorship and a return to the emperor and the golden age and all that, they storm into the building where the prime minister is and the 11 of them kill him. And there's even a conversation that's recorded that happens, you know, while it's going on where the prime minister says something to the effect of, you know, if I could only talk to you, you would understand.
And the person who's about to kill him says dialogue is useless, boom. The people who kill the prime minister release a manifesto, one that historian James L. McClain reprints and he says shows the depth of emotional anger experienced by these people who want to put the emperor back on the throne to fix all the injustices. The manifesto says, quote, Look straight at the present state of your fatherland, Japan, where we dare ask, can you find the genuine manifestation of the godliness of the imperial country of Japan?
Political parties are blind in their pursuit of power and egoistic gains. Large enterprises are firmly in collusion with politicians as they suck the sweat and blood of the common people. Bureaucrats and police are busy defending the corrupt political industrial complex. Diplomacy is weak kneed. Education is rotten to the core. Now is the time to carry out drastic revolutionary change, rise and take action now. End quote. McClain, in his book Japan of Modern History, says it's these kinds of coups, along with the stuff, the challenges posed by Manchuria that dooms everything he writes, quote, The Manchurian incident and the violence from the right in 1931 in 1932 marked a Copernican turn in Japan's foreign relations and domestic politics on the continent.
The conception of the new state, carved from Chinese territory and dominated by a wing of the Japanese military soured Sino. Japanese relations beyond redemption began the isolation of Japan from an infuriated West, which viewed Japanese actions as naked aggression and propelled the island nation along a path that would lead it to even more dangerous foreign confrontations at home. The assassinations and attempted coups expose the fragile structure of Japanese politics, contributed to a snowballing loss of confidence in party politicians and encouraged the ideologues who romanticized the country's imperial past and sought to forge a new national polity and quote.
The 1932 killing of the prime minister is a perfect example how so many of these coup attempts and assassinations that happened between like 1931 in 1936 go because they'll put these young naval guys, the assassins on trial and they're all like twenty years old. So they're kids. And they'll wrap themselves in the ultra patriotism stuff. And the public will be very sympathetic. I think they get a petition. The court does signed in the blood of hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens pleading for leniency.
People offer to die in the place of the young naval officers. I mean, it's it's a level of fanaticism on the part of one segment of Japanese society that makes it difficult to just crush these people as anti-government terrorists. And by the way, for killing the prime minister, these guys get a pretty lenient sentence, jail time, be out maybe and not too long. What the hell is that?
So there'll be several of these events in the 1930s, culminating in the very famous one, the February 26 incident that happens on February 26, imagine that 1936. In this one, you get some of these Imperia Way faction, junior officers who lead like 1500 soldiers against the war ministry and some other major buildings, they take them over. They kill a bunch of officials, two former prime ministers. It's very dramatic, actually. And once again, they're sometimes talking between the assassins and the ones we're are going to be killed.
It's very dramatic.
But if you believe the Emperors post-war comments, he basically says he turned into the Hulk Hogan at this moment, ordered the Imperial Guard to crush the whole thing. Some people commit suicide, the rebels give up, and this time there's a crackdown afterwards. So this is the bridge too far for the ultranationalist right in Japan, the control faction, and they get crushed after this. So several people, I think it's like 18 to 20 people will go to the firing squad, be hooked up to the old stake and shot.
A bunch of generals will be purged from the army. I think it's more than half, which shows you, you know, how deeply embedded this Imperial Way faction was. Other influential officers that are not sort of ostracized will be pushed off to commands where they can't cause the kind of trouble that somebody, oh, for example, in charge of the Guandong Army can cause. And the military will once again sort of strengthen its hold over the government, you know, they'll say to protect it from these kinds of things happening.
And this, of course, is a period of growing global anxiety, as we all know, right, the middle 1930s tough time, you know, the late 20s, see the fascists come to power in Italy, the 1932, 1933 time period have the Nazis coming to power in Germany. Both of those ideologies, of course, make it over to Japan in the Pandora's Box Intellectual Contagion update, you know, version three point five one seven with a patch.
But while most people don't think of the Japanese during this period as Nazis, fascism is sometimes debated and people will ask, well, you know, where the Japanese of this period fascists, you didn't ask for it. But my own opinion is to me, it looks more like, you know, this era provides some frosting on the top of a very tall, multilayered Japanese cultural cake, each piece of which we've been lovingly talking about in the story.
So not narcissistic or fascistic, but both of those ideologies make an impact and they seep into some of this during this period. They influence things. That is, of course, as I always say, my own non expert opinion, the experts on this from multiple countries have different views, by the way, on, you know, the proper classification of the Japanese Second World War government or just right before the Second World War government. Now, if you wanted to just sort of look at the optics, though, and try to make a judgment based on that, well, the Japanese are not doing themselves any favors because they may not officially be fascist, at least in my mind, but they sure do play nicely with them.
In November 1936, the Japanese and Nazi Germany will sign something called the anti Comintern pact, which is supposed to be sort of directed at global, you know, communist efforts to undermine the world. The Italians will eventually sign it. The Spanish will eventually sign it. So these are basically the fascist states of Europe. So if you're not a fascist, you're sure signing the same treaties and the Japanese who already were not getting wonderful press in places like the United States, see it just get worse.
Now, we should point out a new geopolitical reality that's very important now in the scene here, that now that the Japanese have this puppet state of Manchukuo where Manchuria used to be, it means they now have the same neighbors Manchuria used to have, which means Japan now has a giant or excuse me, the puppet state of Manchukuo now has a giant border with the Soviet Union and another giant border with Mongolia, which is a puppet of the Soviet Union.
So now the idea of maybe getting involved in any sort of meaningful combat with China that would take any significant amount of effort, looks like it might take troops away from this giant border that looks horribly open to, you know, maybe a giant tank attack or maybe infiltration by communist hordes in 1937. The Japanese do not want a general war with China. The problem that they're going to have is this is exactly the time period where the Chinese are thinking maybe that is what they want.
And of course, for the longest time in this story, you haven't even been able to say what China wanted because there were multiple Chinas, weren't there. Warlords and multiple different states, and I mean, you know, you could hardly keep track of it for so long. But in late 1936, something happens that will change, you know, the entire affair and it will do so sort of against the will of Chiang Kai shek, he's going to be kidnapped by some of his subordinates who are going to whisk him away to a location where for two weeks they try to convince him that he has to stop waging his civil war against the communists and turn against the Japanese.
This meeting has the feeling of like a mafia sort of get together where it's, you know, put a gun on the table and say either you change your policy or you're not leaving this meeting. It gets even scarier for Chiang Kai-Shek. When the communists show up, they've been invited. And instead of some sort of explosion amongst arch enemies, maybe Chang had no choice. Of course, you actually get this patriotic moment in Chinese history where these bitter enemies decide to work for the common cause.
They're going to fight the Japanese and stop fighting each other. Now let's just play the cynical card for a minute.
Chang will eventually execute one of these guys that lured him to this detainment, I think, in 1949, something like that. And there are more than a couple of books that will suggest that the goal of the communists here rather than some high minded, you know, national unity thing involved, you know, the positives for them of getting the nationalist Chinese enemies of theirs and the Japanese enemies of theirs to fight each other, kill as many of each other as they can, and then, you know, eventually maybe easier to take over down the road.
So you can always go there if you want to. But on the surface, this looks like a pretty patriotic, heroic, you know, moment in Chinese history. And you can certainly see it in the writings of the common soldiers saying things like, you know, for the first time in my life, I get to fight, you know, in a united effort against an outsider. Now, the Japanese are unaware basically of any of this. So in July 1937, when another one of the incidents breaks out in Beijing, which is, of course, the modern day capital of China, everyone thinks it's the same old, same old.
And by the way, there's Japanese troops in small numbers all over China for various reasons going back to treaties decades ago. In this case, though, the ones in Beijing opened fire against Chinese troops, vice versa. They fight for little while the truce gets started. And the Japanese can't get the Chinese to agree to the normal kind of almost embarrassing terms that they agree to routinely.
That doesn't happen this time. Instead, they get a public proclamation from Chiang Kai shek, it's really like in front of the global stage, throwing down the gauntlet, saying we're not going to take it anymore.
And he says, quote. If we allow one more inch of our territory to be lost or sovereign rights to be encroached upon, then we shall be guilty of committing an unpardonable crime against our Chinese race. China's sovereign rights cannot be sacrificed even at the expense of war. And once war has begun, there is no looking back and quote. This proclamation is meant for several different audiences. It's obviously meant for Chinese people. Who are in large part really excited about the chance to finally, you know, strike at the outside enemy, as we said, but it's also meant for the Japanese public and they will be infuriated for the most part by it.
And the editorials in the newspapers will play it up and generals and bureaucrats will call for China to be chastised here and punished for their effrontery. And Chiang Kai shek specifically not looking very good to them. All of a sudden, they kind of liked him when he was fighting communists. Now, when he's allied to communists, don't like him very much anymore. But this proclamation is also meant, you know, for global public opinion to tell the peoples and the great powers, listen, how much of the rainbow and unicorn fumes are still left?
I mean, the politicians in all these countries like France and Britain and the United States, I mean, these people are all talking a really good game still with the high minded moral sentiments. And Chang's message is kind of another way of saying maybe put your money where your mouth is and answering a key question. A lot of people who are wondering about supporting China have, which is will they be around five minutes after real fighting starts? Is it worth my investment?
Will there even be a Chinese army still around by the time the rifles that I buy for them get there? It's a legitimate question.
People that are probably in the best position to answer this question, although they're probably biased, you would think, though, would be the Japanese military. After all, they've been fighting the Chinese now for years in this undeclared war.
And they're apparently telling the emperor that they can get a handle on this Chinese problem, just give him three months, so not exactly the highest opinion of Chinese military capabilities. But let's remember, they've not seen a united China, nor have they seen a very defiant one up till now. They're getting both this time. But in an attempt to sort of answer these questions for, you know, the global audience out there, Chiang Kai shek and his generals choose a strategy and it's got a lot of reasons why he chose it.
But there's a lot of downsides, too, that will put everything that's going to happen. You know, as much as China has an opportunity to do this anyway, on the other side of the world, from most of the great powers, it's going to put all these events front and center in front of the people whose opinion matters. In this case, the people that can make loans, send arms and maybe even launch embargoes on Japan or maybe even bring in troops.
I mean, the possibilities are endless. If you can just get them interested. You know what if you expand the war to an area where they're already really interested.
How about taking the war to Shanghai, where all those great powers have a lot of money invested, have commercial interests, have in most cases thousands, in some cases tens of thousands of their citizens living there as expatriates or workers? How about you just bring the war to Shanghai, where the entire global media will be there to witness it, too? And what if you throw in a ton of your strength, you know, that you've built up over the years and and sort of safeguarded and kept for just such an occasion so that you can give a huge display of your capability to fight the Japanese when you want to.
So what if you do all that and, you know, if you trap these technologically superior, better trained, better coordinated, better supply, better lead, more experienced in many cases, Japanese troops, if you trap them in the narrow alleyways of a city in Shanghai, in its dense cores like a modern European city, stone brick buildings, I mean, you trap somebody there. It could be. And this is a book title that I used for this by author Peter Harmsen, Stalingrad on the Yangzi.
Know things like street fighting that all falls into the tactical questions, obviously, if you zoom out here, though, and look at this from the strategic point of view, look at what Tchang has done here.
And as I said, it's a double edged sword, but he's essentially sort of calling Japan's bluff in terms, I would say, of being a true great power, because there are several great powers that don't have the land mass or Raw Materials Foundation, you know, to put them in the very top class of great powers. There's nothing in Germany, for example, can do about that. They've tried the Lavon's round thing once before.
But they make up for it with a lot of other things like the Japanese do, but the Chinese are legitimately huge. We're talking about land masses that, you know, you're a Soviet Union type size things, although that was somewhat bigger. But United States type sizes, it gives them a luxury most places don't have, gives them the luxury of space. And if you are a battlefield, general space is to say it's huge might be an understatement. It might be a determining factor.
Think like a Russian general, for example. The Chinese will sometimes trade space for time and one of the times will be here.
But look at what they've done. I mean, if you look at a map, the Japanese are up in the north fighting, you know, above Beijing and stuff. Shanghai is more than 600 miles to the south with intervening Chinese territory the whole way.
The only way the Japanese are going to be able to fight is by using the Japanese navy to ferry troops continually from other areas and land them in amphibious operations around Shanghai. They're going to have to create an ocean going logistical supply line all the way back to Japan. That's more complicated and expensive than doing it with railways and supply lines on land. I mean, to get an idea of the distance here. In the book, The Battle for China, which each chapter is written by different expert historians, Edward J.
Dreya and Hans Vandeven try to put it in U.S. terms. And they say that if you locate Beijing, which used to be called Peking back in this area, but if you locate Beijing up at Michigan's. Upper Peninsula that would put Shanghai over by Washington, D.C.. Canton down by New Orleans, one they right would be where St. Louis is approximately, and Chongqing would be in southwestern Kansas. Imagine somebody landing on the East Coast and trying to counter everything to the Mississippi.
Now imagine it's a small island nation with about 70 to 80 million people that less than, what, 75 years ago was living under a military shogan and was closed to the Western world.
China is going to call Japan's bluff here, right? How large are you, you want to play this game? You're beating us in single deck poker. How about we throw out five decks and see if you can still play?
Of course. Let's not forget the downsides of fighting in a place like Shanghai. I mean, if you're Chinese, Shanghai is your commercial capital to.
If New York is your commercial capital, how much are you going to appreciate having a couple of mid 20th century armies numbering in the hundreds of thousands fighting it out anywhere in your city?
What's that going to do to your industrial output? It's even stranger than that, though, and there's a certain dynamic when you get modern battles in big, big cities and that's that you can have fighting raging in one part and yet total peace in another part. So imagine New York City has this fighting raging in a place like Queens or a borough like Brooklyn. But it's peaceful enough in Manhattan for you to take a date up to a skyscraper, have martinis and watch over the balcony of the puffs of smoke in the distance where the fighting is raging.
That'll happen in Shanghai to where people will come out to watch. And don't kid me, New Yorkers. You'd have a lot of people coming out to watch. That's the other problem with deciding to have a battle in Shanghai, the people. If you have a city of three to four million people and they're going to start to fight a modern battle in the middle of it, what happens to them? While a mass exodus begins right as the fighting starts in Shanghai, that will be the largest in the city's history and at times will reach a stampede like levels of panic.
And you have to imagine and all the books try to convey this deep sea of humanity in this city. At this time. It's already a crowded city and you have all these war refugees that have also poured into it. So it is jam packed with a sea of humanity. Author Peter Harmsen in Shanghai, 1937, Stalingrad on the Yangzi, you know, recalls one account from somebody who was caught on a bridge with a bunch of civilians trying to get from one perceived unsafe district in the city to a perceived safe one arms and writes, quote.
For the foreigners of Shanghai, visitors and residents alike, the war was a rather violent diversion, but nothing truly dangerous, or so they thought. For the Chinese, life was falling apart as the fighting intensified around the Japanese district. Thousands of refugees fled through the streets, heading for Soochow Creek in the Garden Bridge, which was the only link to the international settlement that remained open. It was a mad and merciless stampede where the week had little chance. Now, quoting a primary source, quote, My feet were slipping in blood and flesh, recalled Roads Farmer, a journalist for the New China Daily News who found himself in a sea of people struggling to leave Anku, quote, Half a dozen times I knew I was walking on the bodies of children or old people sucked under by the torrent, trampled flat by countless feet and quote Harmsen continues, quote, Near the creek, the massive sweating and panting humanity was almost beyond control as it funneled towards the bridge, which was a mere 55 feet wide.
Two Japanese sentries were nearly overwhelmed by the crowds and reacted the way that they had been taught with immediate, reflexive brutality. One of them, he writes, bayonetted an old man and through the lifeless body into the filthy creek below. This did not deter any of the other refugees who kept pushing toward the bridge and what they believed to be the safety of the international settlement. They could not know it, but they were now moving in the wrong direction towards the most horrific slaughter of innocent civilians of the entire Shanghai campaign, end quote.
These refugees are trying desperately to get to the area they think is going to be the safe zone because they know that neither Army wants to kill foreigners from great powers and they know those foreigners stay in places like the French concession part of the city or the international settlement part of the city. So they're trying to get there. It's an already crowded, very nice part of town. And so as these refugees pour in, they're going to swell the numbers even more.
Now they're running away from the first real combat, which gets going August 13, 1937, but it's more the strategic taking of places in preparation for the big attack. The big attack will come the next day, almost at exactly the same time Murphy's Law comes into play. You know, Murphy's Law of urban warfare and dense population centers. And in an attempt to bomb Japanese warships in the river running through Shanghai twice in 15 minutes, Chinese planes will instead release their bombs.
In places that kill lots of other people, innocent people, people from their own country. If you had wanted to design an experiment, maybe you're an arms manufacturer looking for data and you wanted to give the maximum number of people, you know, one bomb in a given situation could kill you could not design probably a better testing ground to get positive results as you would see them in that situation than choosing this part of Shanghai at this time. I mean, an urban center with concrete everywhere, buildings on both sides and people absolutely jam packed there, extra jam packed here as well because they're watching.
There are thousands upon thousands of people lined up on the boulevard watching these Chinese planes and cheering them on as they try to hit these Japanese ships in the river. So when these bombs go awry, the thousands of people watching actually I mean, there's accounts actually see them coming down at them. They had a split second to think about what was just about to happen. Here's what Peter Harmsen writes, quote, The two bombs released by the Chinese airplane had struck at exactly four to seven p.m. The attacks stopped the arms of a clock at the entrance of Kafe Hotel, freezing in time.
The moment of the twin blasts, the shock waves and the debris had both taken a toll on the mass of people who had been crammed into the street. To Percy Finch, a foreign correspondent. It was as if a giant mower had pushed through the crowd, chewing it to bits. Now quoting the foreign correspondent, quote, Here was a headless man there, a baby's foot wearing its little red silk shoe embroidered with fierce dragons. He wrote one body, that of a young boy was flattened high against a wall to which it clung with ghastly adhesion.
And quote, now Harmsen continues, quote, A sickening stench of burnt flesh filled the air. As the wounded came to, they started moaning. Some were screaming. Part of the facade of the Palace Hotel had been blown away. On the fourth floor, a man clung desperately to the remains of the wall, with one hand waiting for help. It came too late, and he eventually let go, crashing through the glass awning of the hotel's entrance before hitting the pavement.
Others attempted to crawl to safety, scrambling with fumbling limbs over mangled bodies and slipping in the blood that covered the sidewalk and quote.
Now, let's understand why we know in such graphic detail this kind of stuff. Well, the guy that the modern author just quoted was a foreign correspondent who was in the street when the event happened. The press is there and it makes a big difference. You want to know how you really get foreign countries interested in events far away in overseas places, have their own citizens die there. They'll pay attention. As an old reporter, I can tell you the practice is known as localising a story easier to get people to relate to something that seems like it's closer to their lives than something far away that's sort of amorphous and hard to get your mind around in this case.
Author Peter Harmsen recounts the situation involving 66 year old Christian missionary Reverend Frank Rawlinson. He's been in China for a long time. On this particular day, he's driving his car with his wife in the passenger seat, his 13 year old daughter with him down Avenue Edward the Seventh, which, you know, that's a British kings that should show you. You're probably not in the, you know, Chinese part of town, persay. I can hear about a billion Chinese people screaming in the back of my head saying it's all Chinese.
But anyway, Avenue Edward the Seventh, Reverend Frank Rollinson about to run people over with his car. It's so packed in the street that his wife says you'll get a better view. He's trying to see some of the, you know, bombing in the river going on like everyone else. If he gets out of his car, he gets out of his car and he gets a whole blown open in his chest.
And the story, you know, his wife gets out, sees her husband bleeding out in front of her, the 13 year old daughter gets out of the car and sees this horrific, traumatizing sight. And in a weird way, because we are human beings and it's how we function to be able to recount that event back to the folks back home will make more of a difference than explaining, you know, the other people that that bomb killed because that bomb that killed this reverend on Avenue, Edward the Seventh, will also hit, I guess the best description I can describe a as a six story shopping mall, but much less structurally sound.
It's called the Great World Amusement Center, and it's normally packed with thousands of Chinese people. Right now, it's packed with thousands of Chinese people who happen to be mostly refugees, more than normal, even on site getting a rice, you know, food handout. And the bomb hits there and the bodies are stacked five feet high. Here's how author Peter Harmsen describes it, quote. The mood was excited once more at about four 45 p.m. when two Chinese aircraft seemed about to make another run on the Japanese positions.
Cheers and applause rose from the street. Then sharp eyed individuals noticed two small dark dots dropped from one of the planes. The same bombs that another guy had earlier spoken of had seen. They fell with deadly haste, hitting the busy street before anyone had time to react, let alone escape. One left a huge crater near the traffic control tower in the middle of the road. The other exploded a few feet above the ground, causing shrapnel to fly over a large area.
The explosions were so powerful that they killed a servant at the building of the YMCA nearly 700 feet down a subsidiary road. The casualties included several foreigners. Harmsen and writes on Avenue Edward the Seventh Reverend Rollinson Lay dying in his wife's arms while his teenage daughter was watching. Just yards away. Two other Americans, Hubert Koenigsberg and his wife, were killed in their car. It was the same type of carnage as in the Nanjing Road earlier. Just larger death on the most massive scale was at the entrance of the Great World Amusement Center, where the fatalities were piled five feet high.
The victims, men, women and children had been thrown up against the walls of the buildings. Many were stripped completely naked after the intense gas pressure from the bombs had torn off their clothes and quote. The eventual death toll from the great world and surrounding areas will be more than 650 people, men, women and children. The death toll from both of these accidental bombings put together more than 100 people, almost 1500 seriously wounded, seven foreigners among the dead.
Author Peter Harmsen calls these American deaths here in these bombings the first American casualties of the Second World War. They matter more than they should theoretically in terms of public opinion, because, after all, people are people, they should all count. But there's something about an American Christian missionary and his daughter watching him die on the roadside and all this stuff that attracts American attention once again. And even though these are Chinese bombs that accidentally did this, most of the Ayers directed at Japan, and after all, one can ask the obvious question, what the heck are they doing in Shanghai anyway?
A Chinese city so understandable. But it's just part of the drumbeat of atrocities that make its way into, you know, the foreign media. And a picture is worth a thousand words, right? There's going to be a weird, perverse sort of incentive loop that happens with these terrible disasters and the suffering of the Chinese people, because the more the Chinese people suffer and the more it's publicized, the more international sympathy and sometimes eventually aid that brings them.
So, for example, you know, a month or two from this time period, the Japanese will bomb a railway station in Shanghai and a photographer will be there again. You know, the media working all the time here will catch a photo, snap a photo of this destroyed railway station with bodies lying around and a baby, I'm guessing, six months old, seven months old, sitting there, covered, burnt, but crying.
And he sent this image back to the, you know, great press outlets. It got published. And it's one of the most moving and emotionally. Demanding photos of the war, and it's this kind of thing that plays into a change in mood, especially once again in the United States, a photo like that is a if you're a reporter and you're trying to move public opinion and somebody hands you that photo, that's gold. How weird is that? That that person suffering, that little baby suffering on that railway platform after the bombing is in a weird way serving the interest of Chinese nationalism and patriotism by, you know, helping to publicize the mass Chinese suffering going on in a way that moves people in a way that you could say, yes, 2000 Chinese people died the other day.
And you go, oh, well, you show the baby on the platform.
They go, oh, my God. It's weird, isn't it, but that's how they teach a reporter, for example, in the news business. I mean, if it bleeds, it leads and please localize your story so people care. This is an example of both of those things. And almost the exact same time that those bombs are going awry and killing all those people on the waterfront and at the amusement center, the Chinese launch their big attack against the Japanese, the one, by the way, that was suggested to them by a German general because the Germans are training the Chinese.
And this is very weird, if you know the story, because like five minutes from now, the Germans and the Japanese are going to be allies. But in this battle, which some Japanese refer to as the German war, the Germans are helping the Chinese. They've equipped the Chinese elite units with German helmets and German stick grenades. I mean, they look like the Africa Corps Asian edition, right. Wearing khaki Asian features, but otherwise looking like German soldiers.
They have advisers at the officer level that sometimes, as advisers sometimes do, will lead units into combat.
The Chinese amongst a number of other troops, they're pouring troops in and the Japanese are starting to as well have these two units, the 7th and 8th Division, both of which I think you could reasonably classify as elite the best units in the army. They also have stuff the Chinese do that they've lovingly built up over the years, a tank force, an air force, small, obsolete. But they've got one some armored cars. I mean, but it's all been took forever to build and they've saved it up.
And they're going to throw it all into this attack and they're going to do it with fanaticism. It's going to be interesting for you. Military history majors, they're going to fight the Japanese the same way the Japanese will fight the allied powers in the Second World War from a position of being the one who has to have sacrificial suicide attacks to make up for material differences. There are stories of Chinese troops, you know, throwing themselves under Japanese tanks and blowing themselves up to stop a tank column, you know, shades of what the Japanese will do in the Second World War.
The officer casualties on this first day for China will be irreplaceable and shocking, but as one author pointed out, you are literally fighting in rubble, in streets, with buildings, and you're having people shooting at you from behind, although it's crazy kind of Stalingrad type fighting. But in the first day, the Chinese suffer irreplaceable losses. Author Peter Harmsen writes, quote. First and foremost, however, the massive fatality rates among officers and to an even larger extent, the rank and file were the result of Chinese forces employing frontal attacks against a well-armed, entrenched enemy, the men who as a result were dying by the hundreds where China's elite soldiers, the product of years of effort to build up a modern military, they formed the nation's best hope to be able to resist Japan in a protracted war.
Nevertheless, on the first day of battle, they were being squandered at an alarming, unsustainable rate. End quote. By not sweeping away the Japanese, though, the way the German general had advised here, they allow things to stay in place, everybody to reinforce and this thing to go on for three months. Now, I suppose looking on the bright side, it's a kind of a victory for the Chinese forces because the Japanese thought they'd take Shanghai in three days.
So three months is a lot harder than the Japanese thought. The other thing that's a lot harder than the Japanese thought was how many people they would have to lose as casualties in order to do this. Numbers are sketchy here. So taken with a grain of salt, the Japanese suffer about 40000 casualties in this three month period. No casualties are killed, wounded, captured, missing. They will, by the way, and this entire affair with a Stalingrad like almost, you know, attack around the city on both sides and they're getting ready to close it off.
So the Chinese forces have to withdraw so that they don't get, you know, Dunkerque. But China is going to suffer something more on the lines of 250000 casualties in three months. 250000 casualties is hard to get your mind around, but maybe a good way to look at it is if you take those numbers I just gave you Japanese and Chinese casualties and you put them together in three months of fighting, you have almost as many people, darn near as many people as the United States lost and its entire involvement, admittedly short, but more than a year in the First World War.
By the way, Chinese numbers always look like somebody did the math wrong, it always looks like somebody multiplied by some strangely large number or something. But it's part of what makes Chinese history so overwhelmingly awe inspiring. You can hardly get your mind around the numbers sometimes.
You know, we had said earlier, sort of with the Japanese, you get an extra dose of intensity. With the Chinese, you get an extra dose of numbers. Now, when the Chinese forces are sort of required to withdraw from Shanghai now you begin to see maybe the downside or another downside of expanding the war to this area, because if you lose Shanghai now, you have the victorious Japanese in a new theater of war. Now they're in central China and they're winning and they're pursuing the Chinese forces on the road back to the not very far from Shanghai Chinese capital at Nanjing back then was called Nanking.
The Chinese have expended an enormous amount of effort, they are in no position necessarily to stop and halt the Japanese advance here. What are the Japanese going to do when they get to the Chinese capital? Well, that's a well known and still controversial story, but a shorthand way to describe the traditional way of looking at it is it looks like a Mongol sacking of a city. Arguably, the most horrific atrocity that will occur in 15 years of war in the Pacific and Asian theater will occur when the Japanese get to this Chinese city.
That's coming up next. Just strap yourselves in at the beginning of the next program, because it's going to get nasty quickly. I have a confession to make. I did not like. The idea of the Harry Potter books when I first encountered them, you have to understand, I am a fantasy snob. I'm a Lord of the Rings snob. I am the kind of guy that likes my fantasy to go so deep that we could have legitimate conversations over the proper use of pronouns in the wood elf language.
I'm not talking about the high elves. I'm talking about the southern Kirkwood dialect. I mean, that's how I like it. And what big long poems in a language some guy invented in his head.
So I scoffed when my kids wanted me to read the Harry Potter books to them, and then I started getting into them, you know, more and more it's funny, they almost start like a book written for like a seven to 10 year old.
And then I think the next one came out like about two years later. And it's almost like that book is for the same kid that read the first one. But now two years later, and they get increasingly more complex and adult and dark. And I just remember one day waking up to the realization that for 45 in the morning that for six straight hours I've been saying just one more page while I read The Order of the Phoenix. You know, I had to work that day, that's where I'm going, OK, you have a problem.
A lot of people like to have books read to them, and a good narrator, of course, can add so much to it. I liked the guy Audible's got doing the whole Harry Potter series right now, and he was Jim Dale.
Click on a few samples of him to see if he doesn't just have one of those voices. The first of all, you just like to listen to anyway. But second, that just sounds like a person that should be reading a Harry Potter book to you. It's great. Amazon Prime members right now through July 31st, 2018, can get audible for a mere 495 a month that lasts for three months, and it goes up to the regular only 405 a month.
Audience members, just so you know, get a credit every month that's good for any audiobook in their store, regardless of price, and the unused credits roll over to the next month. If you don't like an audio book, you can exchange it with no hassle. Plus, your audio books are yours to keep forever, even if you cancel. I love that part. If you're somebody that ever gets to go out and enjoy, you know, summer activities and whatnot, audiobooks are, of course, a great thing to enjoy while you're doing it.
You could be in the dark Harry Potter world while you are tanning on the beach. Maybe that's the best way to do it. All, by the way, has the largest selection of audio books on the planet, which lets you fill your summer with things like, well, this Harry Potter series, or you could go all, you know, would Hellfish and go, you know, get the Lord of the Rings to this. Sounds like a good deal to you.
Why don't you go to audible dotcom slash hardcore history. You could also text hardcore history, all one word, all lowercase letters to 500, 500 to get started. Once again, that's audible dotcom slash hardcore history or just text hardcore history to 500 500 to get started. Wrath of the cons, Punic Nightmares, Apache tears and of course, Ghosts of the East Front, just a few of the classic hardcore history titles available from Dan Carlin Dotcom. Every true fan has heard these favorites.
Hey, they make great gifts, too, if you think the show you just heard is worth a dollar.
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