Published Date

June 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From What Shall Be Done about Japan after Victory? (1945)

One question that naturally arises here is: Can the Japanese lose their bigoted and antagonistic attitude toward the rest of mankind?

Some observers, especially those who have suffered from Japanese cruelty and injustice, say, “The Japs are hopeless.” The entire nation, they declare, is so impregnated with racial hatred, belief in their divine destiny, and fanatical militarism, that there is little hope of their altering for the better, at least in our lifetime. They point to Japan’s treatment of the people whose countries it has annexed or invaded over half a century.

There is no denying that Japan, as a colonizer, is a failure and that the Japanese is at his worst in uniform and among subject peoples. In Korea, Manchuria, and Occupied China the Japanese are feared and hated taskmasters. Mistreatment of prisoners of war and interned civilians is offered as further evidence that there is a strain of cruelty and treachery in the national character.

But the Japanese have defenders, even among those who have endured imprisonment and injustice at their hands. Japan, these people point out, embarked on her career of aggression only about fifty years ago. Before that most of the people were peaceable small farmers. Japan’s misdeeds since then are the work of a minority. Once the troublemakers are gone, the people’s docility and law-abiding character will help in their readjustment.

Moreover, it is maintained, the majority of Japanese who settled in the United States and Hawaii have become loyal and useful citizens. Thousands are serving honorably in the United States Army. Many foreigners who have made their homes in Japan testify to the kindly, honest, industrious, and cultured character of most of the civilian population. All this evidence, it is claimed, points to the hope of a useful and prosperous future for the Japanese.

If and when this happy state of affairs comes about, it is assumed that Japan will want to become a member of the organized community of nations —open to membership by all peace-loving states—described in the Declaration of Moscow. But it is generally agreed that a country with Japan’s record will be eligible only after it has given full and convincing evidence over a period of years that it has become peaceable and law-abiding.

The people of the United States and Great Britain, and especially the people of China, will not be hastily convinced. In the meantime, our best policy will be to maintain an unremitting watch upon our Pacific ramparts, and to keep our powder dry.

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