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The Military Intelligence Training Center
Camp Ritchie, Maryland
Lecture I - Geography Of The Pacific Theater
Lecture II - The Social Basis Of Japan's Military Power
lecture III - Ibs Religious Basis Of Japan’s War Effort
Lecture IV - The Jap As A Fighting Man
This is a description of Japan's military power as the Japanese conceive it. The nation's strength roots in many things, including beliefs, attitudes, feelings and mental habits. These are the factors that make the Japanese a formidable foe, and an accurate conception of them has military value. The action of the enemy often is intelligible only in terms of these factors.
An understanding of the forces motivating Japanese actions is best attained by residence in Japan and association with Japanese people. The war has made such contact impossible at the very time an insight into Japanese characteristics is most needed, and observations already made have to serve as a substitute. The material presented here is intended to help in this way. The conclusions stated here were formulated by the writer after three years of residence in Japan and subsequent studies of things Japanese. The material was first presented as a series of lectures at the Military Intelligence Training Center, and the original organization has been retained.
The Japanese entered this war with the expectation of winning. Most of them still expect to win. Some of their objectives are matters of geography. These are the subject of the first lecture. The dynamic element in the situation ahs been inside Japan. Here we can observe powerful, driving forces enabling the Japanese to make a war effort out of proportion to the area and resources of their country. This combination of forces is sketched in the second lecture. The Japanese regard one element in this combination as being particularly important. This is the Shinto religion. Shintoism is supposedly the basis of unique patriotism and superior morale, which are expected to compensate for inferior mechanical equipment. This religious basis of Japan's war effort is described int he third lecture. The fourth lecture is a statement of some ways in which the ideas and attitudes previously described have affected the organization, training and tactical doctrines of the Japanese Army. The lectures have been designed as a unit, and each member of the series is more helpful if considered in relation to the others.
As presented at the Military Intelligence Training Center the lectures have been supplemented with a film, The Enemy Japan.
The Japanese expect to win this war. This is a study of the factors they have relied on to bring them ultimate victory. Some of these factors are matters of geography. Many of Japan’s objectives and some of the elements she has counted on to help achieve these objectives can be stated in terms of geography, for the Japanese have been taught to regard the geography of Asia as one of their major assets.
They also have been taught to regard the present war as just on® in a series of wars, some of which have already occurred, some of which are still to come. For it is assumed that it is Japan's destiny to become the dominant power in the Pacific, and war is the means by which this des tiny is to be fulfilled. Rival powers have been disposed of one by one, as rapidly as Japan's strength and position permitted. In 1894-95 the Japanese waged war against China and destroyed such Chinese sea power as existed. Ten years later they attacked Russia and destroyed Russian sea power in the Pacific. The Germans had acquired bases in China and had purchased numerous Pacific islands from Spain. After the war the Japanese acquired these islands, fortified them and relied on them as a formidable barrier, making it difficult for us to approach by sea, Japan's militarists considered the nation's geographical position carefully, found it good and did everything possible to make it better. Eventually they concluded that distance, weather, natural barriers, fortifications and Japan's armed forces made their position invulnerable. They were then ready, they thought, for the present war.
The objectives of this war were stated long ago in a document known as the Tanaka Memorial, sometimes referred to as the Mein Kampf of Japan. This document was the work of General Tanaka, formerly Prime Minister of Japan, who professed to find the fundamental elements of his plan in the papers of the Emperor Meiji. It was submitted as a long-range political and military program. It was a military program because the men who sponsored it assumed that Japan would have to fight in order to carry it out. And the nation's expansion, in the main, has followed this plan. When the program has been modified, it has been because Japan's soldiers have been stopped by force of arms. There is no evidence that the ultimate goals have been abandoned. While Americans are thinking in terms of months or a couple of years as sufficient time to win the war, the Japanese are being trained to think in terms of decades. Day after day the people of Japan have been told that this war may last a hundred years. Unless we keep this approach in mind, along with the belief of the Japanese in their nation's destiny, the proposed steps of expansion look fantastic and absurd. Unfortunately, the Japanese are in terrible earnest about them.
Before considering Japan’s objectives more fully, let us consider the resources available for the Japanese effort. The four main islands of Japan have an area slightly greater than that of our state of Montana, slightly less than that of California. They have a population of about seventy-three millions. After Commodore Perry opened Japan and the process of modernization got under way, the Japanese acquired the Loochoo Islands, Formosa, the Kuriles, the southern half of Saghalien Island and Korea. By the time the Japanese were ready to undertake the conquest of Manchuria in 1931, their empire had an area greater than that of France and a population of nearly one hundred millions.
The most important part of Japan's acquisitions up to this time wa3 Korea, with an area about equal to that of Kansas and a population of twenty-three millions. These millions of Koreans may prove to be important in the war against Japan. Many of them dislike the Japanese, and with good cause. In 1904 the Japanese obtained the privilege of passing through Korea. After their war with the Russians they failed to withdraw, and in 1910 they annexed Korea as part of the Japanese Empire.
They claim to have greatly improved the country, but the improvements work largely to the benefit of the Japanese, while the condition of the Koreans is in some respects worse than before. Four-fifths of the Koreans are farmers, but the Japanese, by manipulating the interest rates and the water rights, have got control of four-fifths of the land. Uprisings have occurred, and Japanese rule has been maintained only by the presence of Japanese bayonets. More than half a million Koreans live in Japan Proper, where they work as laborers, chiefly on the docks and in the mines. As Japan’s manpower has been drained off by the war, additional Koreans have been brought into the country. There are signs that the Japanese are concerned about this situation. These Koreans may constitute a potential source of trouble inside Japan. Koreans used as labor troops have surrendered and have volunteered to help us. Thousands of Koreans hope for the liberation of their country as a result of this war.
The first great step in the achievement of Japan’s destiny, according to the Tanaka Memorial, must be the conquest of Far East Asia, the Asiatic countries bordering the Pacific. To accomplish her ultimate goal Japan must, it was maintained, conquer Manchuria, the gateway to continental Asia. Once accomplished, this move would facilitate the conquest of China and other countries on the Pacific. Each step was envisaged as making possible further conquests. Later objectives would include India, Asia Minor, Central Asia and Europe. Even this advance, grandiose as it appears, was regarded as only a preparatory step, preparatory to spreading the supposedly superior Japanese way of life throughout the remainder of the world. To the Japanese this program was feasible because it rested on certain religious beliefs. Their thinking started with the premise that they were a select people, destined by divine nature to rule the world. Elsewhere we shall see how they came to have this attitude .
The first move was an easy one. In 1931 the Japanese Army drove into Manchuria and waited to see if anyone would oppose it with force. Nobody did. The gain was considerable. Manchuria has an area approximately one-sixth that of the United States and more than 40,000,000 people. Here are vast quantities of timber, coal, iron, copper, zinc, aluminum and other minerals of incalculable value to the Japanese war machine .
The Japanese Army was not long content with these gains. In 1937 it struck in China Proper. The areas it has overrun include China's greatest cities, 155,000,000 of its people, 70 per cent of its industries and a large part of its modern transportation facilities. The stakes were truly stupendous here. China has an area greater than that of the United States and a population of approximately 450,000,000.
Even while their army was fighting in China, the Japanese militarists were greatly concerned about another area. This was the part of Russia which skirts Manchuria on the east and comes nearest to Japan. It was assumed in the Tanaka Memorial, and likewise in the minds of Japan's militant leaders, that the Japanese would not be able to dominate East Asia without coning to a showdown with Russia. There were powerful men in Japan who asserted that Japan would have to seize the Maritime Provinces to protect her flank and rid herself of "the Russian menace". Accordingly, the Japanese Army felt out the Russians, and what happened appears to have had much to do with the course of the subsequent war in Asia. In 1938 there was a battle at Changfukeng, near the point where Korea, Manchuria and Russia come together. The battle was not exactly decisive, though when it was over the Russian flag was still flying where the Russians wanted it to fly. A year later at Nomonhan, near the border of Mongolia, another important battle occurred. Here the Japanese developed considerable respect for the abilities of the Russians. They admit that in these two battles they had more than 25,000 killed. They were convinced by force that the Russians were a truly formidable enemy.
Meanwhile, in Tokyo, the generals and the admirals, by means we shall consider elsewhere, had obtained control of the government and occupied the key political positions. They felt that the time had come to try to achieve some of their long-range objectives, but there had been some disagreement as to which way they should move next. The Russians had now helped them to settle the issue. It was obvious that the areas offering greatest gains and least resistance were to the south. One faction of the military leaders had long stressed the importance of the countries in this direction. Now that France and the Netherlands had been overrun by the Germans, the possessions of these countries in the Far East were inadequately defended. They were easy picking, and Japan picked promptly.
The winnings of Japan's drive southward were enormous. The Philippines alone have a population of about eighteen millions and an area about equal to that of the state of Arizona. Here the Japanese got vast quantities of timber, copper and chromite. Here they hope to grow cotton, much needed in Japan. Long before Pearl Harbor the Japanese had maneuvered to gain control of French Indo-China. After Pearl Harbor it was a simple matter to complete the job. This country has a population of about 23,000,000 and an area about equal to that of Texas. Here the Japanese get rice, rubber, coal, tin and lead.
Thailand (Siam), west of French Indo-China, was easily worked into the Japanese scheme of things. The Japanese had entertained many a Siamese dignitary in Tokyo, and now Japan's army was able to move across Siam without resistance. This country has a population of about 16,000,000 and an area about four-fifths that of Texas. Preparatory moves also had been made in Burma. This country has an area about equal to that of Texas and a population of about 16,000,000. Some of these people are pro-Japanese, and their activities were an appreciable factor in helping the Japanese drive the British out of Burma. The Japs hope that a similar situation may develop in India, that the people of India may come to regard the Japanese as liberators, to be welcomed and aided. This aspect of Japanese aspirations should not be dismissed lightly. India has a population of 389,000,000 and an area equal to about two-thirds that of the United States. And the Japanese are making an effort to win the sympathy of India's people. They have established a "provisional government for India", headed by an Indian urging the cooperation of the Indians with the Japanese. Let no one suppose that the Japs have abandoned their plans for a Japanized India.
Japan's control of the Dutch East Indies was quickly completed. These islands are vast and rich. They stretch along the equator for more than three thousand miles. Collectively they have an area equal to one- fourth that of the United States, and the area is rich in the resources and raw materials most needed in Japan. They offer enough petroleum for all Japan's needs. They furnish vast quantities of sugar, rubber, sisal and kapok. They supply 90 per cent of the world's quinine. Prior to the war they produced one-fourth of the world’s tin. They have some of the finest nickel mines in all the world. They alone have an area three times that of the Japanese Empire at the outbreak of "the Manchurian episode". They alone have a population almost as great as that of all Japan Proper.
But the Japanese aspired to even more than the riches of the Indies. They hoped to overrun Australia in their initial drive in this direction. They had what they regarded as good reasons for this. In Tokyo it was a common practice for government officials to give prizes to prolific parents. The same officials then proceeded to insist that the world must make a suitable place for Japan's surplus population. Australia has long been regarded by Japanese jingoists as the logical solution to their population problem. It has an area comparable to that of the United States, but its population is only about 8,000,000. The Japanese envisaged ample living room her® for their supposedly superior race, in a rich and comparatively undeveloped country.
We have been concerned this far with Japan's objectives, things we might term "the stakes in Asia". Henceforth we shall be concerned with some things the Japs counted on to enable them to achieve these objectives. One of these things was simply the fact that Japan emerged ahead of the other countries of the Orient as a modern industrial power. Japan alone, of all the nations of the Far East, had the factories to equip and maintain a modern army. She struck before the other Oriental countries were sufficiently modernized to defend themselves effectively. This was no mere coincidence. The Japanese had long labored to acquire and maintain exactly this advantage, and they guarded it jealously. One of the reasons offered for the invasion of China in 19S7 was that China was becoming industrialized and therefore constituted a menace.
Another thing that the Japanese counted on, and which they are trying hard to exploit, is race hatred. They concluded that the white race had antagonized large numbers of people in the Orient and that these people could be made to regard the Japanese as liberators. The Japanese have attempted to utilize the grievances, real or fancied, of such people for Japanese purposes. This effort has not been entirely in vain. There are appreciable pro-Japanese elements in some of the territories overrun by Japan's armies. The Japanese envisage the possibility of using these elements for military purposes, and various puppet armies have appeared, trained and armed by the Japanese. Just how important these may prove to be remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that they exist. The Japanese have been busy for more than four years organizing a Manchurian army, and they are making efforts to utilize Koreans, Chinese, Burmese, Indians and the natives of the Dutch East Indies in the same manner. When such people cannot be depended on to fight for the Japanese, they can still be utilized as labor troops, thereby freeing Japanese personnel to fight. In one way or another the Japanese contrive to benefit from the manpower of the conquered areas.
Another thing that figured heavily in Japanese thinking, at least before the war, was the idea of ’’Western decadence’’. Perhaps the wish was father of the thought. At any rate, some influential Japanese insisted that the English-speaking nations had gone soft, that they were unable to solve their economic problems at home and were inadequately united for an effective military effort in the Far East. Their people, it was maintained, had gone flabby physically and spiritually and had become unable to endure the rigors of a long, hard war. The Japanese have been given good reason to change their minds about this, and in their propaganda there is evidence that they are now troubled by their erroneous assumptions. There has been considerable surprise at the way American women have turned out to labor at war industries. As the Japs conceived them, with the aid of Hollywood, American women were incapable of such exertions. In more ways than sue the Japs have had to revise their estimate of American capabilities.
Another factor that the Japanese counted on was the proximity of the spoils. The Philippines, the Dutch East Indies and other areas coveted by the Japanese are considerably closer to Japan than they are to the United States. The Japanese were able to seize the areas, plant themselves firmly and say in effect, "What can you do about it?” How, before we can beat the enemy, we must of course get to him. And just getting to the Japanese with sufficient men and materiel to give them a knockout punch is a problem in itself, one that is a definite factor in determining the length of this war.
To get at the Japs we have to cross the Pacific Ocean or travel a comparable distance by way of the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. And the Pacific covers more than one-third the surface of the earth. It is larger than all the continents of the earth combined plus Africa a second time. We have to cross this vast expanse of water before we can even begin our battle with the Japanese Array. A supply of ammunition to our soldiers in New Guinea must travel more than 7,000 miles. When we reach Guadalcanal, we have just nicely pricked the perimeter of Japan's proposed domain. The distance from Guadalcanal to Java is about the same as that between Baltimore and San Francisco. The distance from Sidney, Australia, to Singapore is greater than that from. New York to Europe. Even from Port Darwin, it is more than 2,000 miles to Singapore. And the total distance from San Francisco to Calcutta by the routes our ships have had to use is about 11,000 miles. It has been necessary for the United States to send troops and equipment to India, and it does not require an expert on logistics to see that the problem of maintaining an array over this distance is a very considerable one indeed.
And the distances already stated are only a part of the obstacle. One of our objectives has been to maintain bases in China. The only means we have of getting supplies into China now (1 July 1944) is by way of India. So we must consider the obstacles in the area between India and China. The only means of transportation across this country at present is airplanes. And while these have helped immensely, there are some problems they cannot solve. One of the items most needed in China is motor trucks, The Chinese are reported to be tearing down the existing trucks at the rate of 10 per cent each month to obtain spare parts essential for the remaining vehicles. Adequate heavy equipment cannot be carried in by air. And so we are confronted with the necessity of opening a road from India to China. The distance from Calcutta to Chungking by highway is 2,300 miles. And we do not possess the highway. We have to build a road across Burma to join up with the old Burma road leading into China. This new road must go through country covered with mountains and jungles, formidable obstacles in themselves. In addition, it has been necessary to drive out the Japanese. After we reach Chungking, we are still 2,000 miles from Tokyo.
It is not only in Burma that modem highways are lacking. In nearly all Oriental countries rivers and canals are heavily depended on. Almost any American state that might be named at random has more hard-surfaced highways than existed in all of China prior to the war. In China the railways and such highways as exist are largely in the hands of the Japanese. If we want modem communication facilities in Asia, we shall have to construct most of them or wrest them from the enemy. The job, of course, can be done. It is now clear that we can open a road from Calcutta to Chungking or wherever else we must go. If we must, we can make it a six-lane highway and line the sides with American billboards, But the task will take time. And, as we shall see later, the Japanese maintain that time, like distance, is their ally.
One of the factors regarded ty the Japanese as giving them valuable time is the climate of Asia. In Burma, for example, the rainy season greatly hampers military operations between May and October each year. A natural reaction to the difficulties already described is to seek a shorter and easier approach to Japan's vital areas. The route across the Pacific by way of the Aleutians has sometimes been envisaged as the solution to the problem. But bad weather in the Aleutians greatly reduces the amount of air power that can be brought to bear on Japan from this direction. Furthermore, this approach does not lead to the industrial heart of Japan as directly as is sometimes assumed. The major part of Japan's great industries is still in the southern part of the mainland, south of Tokyo. Still others are on the continent, in Korea and Manchuria. These cannot be reached readily from the Aleutians. The Japanese long proceeded on the comfortable assumption that we possessed no means of standing at a safe distance and striking the vital areas of Japan with crushing force.
Another factor that works to the advantage of the Japanese, in that it tends to prolong the war, is the terrain in Asia. The Japanese admit that technologically they are inferior. If the war were primarily a contest of fire power in areas where all existing weapons could be readily utilized, we should be able to overwhelm than. They assume that such a conflict is avoidable because of the terrain. Vast areas in Asia are mountainous. Other areas are covered with swamps and jungles. In the tropics, as in Hew Guinea, jungles sometimes exist on the mountains. Much of the arable land in the Orient is devoted to growing rice and is under water a good part of the time. So long as the Japanese can make us fight in areas of their choice, the terrain makes it difficult for us to utilize our mechanized equipment to the maximum advantage. Events in Hew Guinea illustrate how the Japanese may benefit in this way. The energy drove across the Owen Stanley Mountains to within 32 miles of Port Moresby. They were then driven back over the route they had come. But in the mountains and jungles of this area the Australians and Americans could not use artillery in their customary manner. There was no way of getting heavy weapons through the difficult terrain. Pack howitzers (105mm) were the heaviest weapons that could be brought into the mountains. The campaign was primarily an infantryman's fight. This is to Japanese liking - they have confidence in their infantry. And all the tanks and self-propelled guns we can produce yield no benefit so long as we must fight where we cannot use them.
Distance, time and terrain - the Japs regarded these factors as important assets. We have Premier Tojo's word for it that these things will help Japan win. Japan's militarists knew that they could not knock us out completely in one devastating blow. But they believed that surprise and the proximity of the spoils would enable them to seize what they wanted before we could handily do anything about it and that it would then be impossible for us to deal Japan a knockout blow. The result, they concluded, would at worst be a stalemate. Vast distances, difficult terrain, inadequate communications and inclement weather could, they believed, make it a stalemate of indefinite duration, characterized by many Tarawas. The issue would then be a matter of seeing who could hang on the longer in a long, weary war of attrition, a war that would become a contest of morale. And, for reasons we shall consider in our next lecture, the Japanese believe that their morale is superior to ours, that eventually we shall say, "To hell with this war on the far side of the world - let's go home." And that would be a victory for the Japanese, giving them all the things they most hoped for out of this war.
The factors considered here are only part of the picture. Fortunately there are other factors, important factors, that operate to our advantage. The islands that were to be barriers have become stepping stones. Native people that were to help the Japs are helping us. Japan's industrial production, while superior to that of other Oriental countries, is decidedly less than that of the United States. Distances and shipping have become a problem for Japan too. America has shown a will to win that has alarmed the enemy. All this is another story. This study is just a statement of the factors on which the Japanese have relied.
The dynamic, driving forces behind the Japanese war effort are inside Japan. They are social forces rather than geographical factors, and they have enabled the Japanese to make a war effort far more formidable than might be expected from the population and resources of their country. We must consider these factors if we are to comprehend the strength of the enemy.
One of the factors is very simple. The avowed purpose of the men who emerged as leaders in the new Japan was to make the country strong. They wanted a nation sufficiently strong to resist all potential enemies. They never forgot that Japan was opened to the world by ships that carried cannon. Relations with Western countries were established only after the shelling of Japanese cities had demonstrated unmistakably that the strength of feudal Japan was decidedly inferior to that of modern nations. The leaders of the new Japan assumed that if their country ware to avoid dismemberment by foreign powers, it must be modernized; and they provided for a modern army, an army that became a force in itself and eventually came to rule the nation.
Two groups of factors contributed to the development of this military power. One group was the heritage of Old Japan, attitudes and ideals that were the residue of feudalism. The other was the endowment of the West; it consisted of science, technology and other innovations borrowed from Western countries.
The combination of these things is the basis of Japan's military strength. The survival of this strength has depended on the survival of this combination of factors. And, as we shall see, the two groups are fundamentally incompatible.
The heritage of Old Japan consists of certain beliefs and attitudes that have characterized Japanese thinking from medieval times and which have been carefully preserved within the framework of the modern nation. Collectively they constitute & scheme of values, an outlook cm life. The chief characteristic of this outlook is "the religion of loyalty”. This originated in the era of feudalism. For seven centuries Japan had a feudal society. In this society there were well-defined classes of people. Great lords, the daimio, controlled the land. Peasants worked the land for these feudal lords. Professional fighting men, samurai, the only men permitted to carry two swords, fought for them. Skilled craftsmen made beautiful things for them. Merchants, too, constituted a class. And, theoretically, the Emperor reigned over all. During Japan's feudal period the rights and duties existing between members of different social classes became clearly defined and firmly embodied in law and custom. The members of all classes had recognized rights as well as duties. A sense of mutual obligation existed between the master and his servant, between the lord and his warrior, the craftsman and his apprentice, the merchant and his clerk. The greatest of virtues consisted in loyalty, the fulfillment of obligation in accordance with custom.
In feudal Japan the traditional loyalty and respect for prescribed duty was best exemplified in the conduct of the samurai, the warrior, in accordance with his code, now known as Bushido, "the way of the warrior”. He must be ready at all times to obey his daimio, the feudal lord whom he served, even if obedience meant taking his own life. At one time the warrior was compelled by law to kill himself upon the death of his daimio. As late as the sixteenth century, it was not uncommon, though no longer compulsory, for the warrior to kill himself that he might accompany the feudal lord even in death and thereby evince his loyalty. A woman of the samurai class likewise considered loyalty the chief virtue. Her first allegiance was to her husband; and in loyalty to him or to his spirit, if he were killed in battle, she might take her life, in acoordsn.ee with a ritual for women of her class. The samurai, of course, are gone, but the traditional regard for loyalty and duty remains. Eulogized in popular songs, schoolbooks, the cinema and the army's training program, "the Spirit of Old Japan"’ is for most Japanese a vital and dynamic thing. The soldiers of Japan's modern army are trained to regard themselves as the samurai of the new Japan and to conduct themselves in a manner becoming the ancient warrior. Their weapons are modern. Their ideals are medieval.
In feudal Japan loyalty was manifested chiefly in immediate, personal contacts. In the new Japan it has been directed to new ends. It is easy to see how this was accomplished. In the old Japan some of the feudal lords became more powerful than the Emperor. The latter always reigned but often did not actually rule. Furthermore, the great feudal lords occasionally had waged war with each other. The men who emerged as leaders in the new Japan saw that if the country were to become strong, it mast be well united. They proceeded to develop a sense of unity and common interest on a national basis, broader than any that had existed previously. Unification was greatly facilitated by two things; the Emperor and a primitive religion, Shinto.
There was a tradition that in the last analysis all Japanese owed their loyalty to the Emperor, the spiritual head of the nation. Evan the shoguns, the military dictators who actually ruled, acted in the name of the Emperor. It was therefore a relatively simple matter to dust off the throne and announce that henceforth the Emperor would rule in person. The old loyalties were retained, intensified and redirected to the Emperor, now the symbol of the new nation-state. Shinto, familiar in form but vague in meaning, was revitalized and made to affirm the significance of the Emperor as a divine ruler, deserving the utmost loyalty from all good Japanese. Japan's government thus became a theocracy.
According to the new tenets of Shinto, the Emperor partakes of divinity and the monarchy is divine; unquestioning obedience to the Emperor and government is a religious duty; and patriotism embodies the fervor of religious feelings. legends had long described the Japanese race as descendants of the gods, with the royal family appointed to rule. The Japanese are therefore one great family, with the Emperor at its head. "This spiritual union between sovereign and people,” says an imperial rescript, "is the essence and flower of our nationality and should remain unchanged as heaven and earth." The constitution, which describes the Emperor as "sacred and inviolable", was proclaimed in no sense a popular right, but a gift from a divine ruler. Government officials, accordingly are not ordinary public officials, but the executants of a supreme and divine authority. Redirected to the deified ruler of a unified nation, with provincial barriers removed, feudal loyalty became a vital pillar in the house of new Japan.
Another important element in the feudal heritage is the traditional attitude toward assassination. Many Japanese regard assassination as a legitimate political method. In the course of centuries characterized by decidedly brutal politics, the belief developed that assassination is an honorable thing if committed for patriotic purposes. Most Americans find this attitude foreign and difficult to appreciate. Regardless of how much we disapprove of a statesman's policies, we disapprove of assassination as a means of removing him from office. But in Japan the man who resorts to violence is frequently hailed as a hero. The prize example is the conduct of a statesman who lost a leg when a would-be assassin hurled a bomb at him. Upon his recovery he erected a monument in honor of the assailant for having the courage to act upon his patriotic convictions. In 1933, when a group of young army officers was an trial for having slain civilian officials, the Minister of Justice received thousands of letters, many written in blood, affirming that the defendants had done a noble deed and urging that they be acquitted. This readiness of Japan's people to regard assassination as reputable political procedure worked to the advantage of the Japanese militarists and, as we shall see, had much to do with the coming of the present war.
Still another element in the feudal heritage is an attitude toward government, an attitude resulting from the fact that for centuries government was the business of a few aristocrats. The masses of people had little to do with government other than to obey. The effect of custom and tradition was to make the people docile and obedient, rather than critical. The attitudes and rights which we regard as the essence of democracy never developed in Japan. When Japan was reorganized, the people could not demand democratic rights and institutions. They had no experience with them, could not conceive of them and would not have known how to operate such institutions if they had been introduced. And the leaders in the new Japan did not wish to introduce them. Institutions were sometimes democratic in appearance, but they rarely operated for democratic ends. After examining the political institutions of the Western democracies, the committee that drafted the Japanese constitution patterned it on that of Prussia.
According to this constitution the army and navy were not responsible to the people or any representatives of the people, but only to the Emperor. It was stipulated that the Minister of War must be a general on the active list; likewise, the Minister of the Navy must be an admiral on the active list. This arrangement gave the armed forces a formidable political weapon. Japan has a cabinet system of government. If the army does not get what it wishes, the War Minister can resign. The cabinet then falls, and a new one cannot be formed until the army appoints a Minister of War, which it can refuse to do until its demands have been granted. By thus stalemating the political life of the nation, the army has been able to impose its will in political natters and has proceeded to do so again and again. In various ways, directly and indirectly, the "Spirit of Old Japan" worked to the advantage of the most aggressive, militaristic elements in the new Japan.
Combined with the heritage of Old Japan there is a second group of factors, already referred to as the endowment of the West. It consists of things borrowed from Western nations. One of these things is modern medicine. Military strength depends in part on manpower, which requires adequate medical facilities. Modem medicine was one of the things the Japanese borrowed first and most enthusiastically.
They have done well with this undertaking. Medical facilities in Japan are superior to those in other countries of the Orient and have contributed appreciably to Japan's manpower. But men must be trained to be effective, and Japan took measures to insure that the nation's potential soldiers received adequate military training. The constitution stipulates that upon becoming seventeen years of age every able Japanese male, even in peacetime, is subject to two years of military service if the army chooses to call him. Foreign officers were brought in to supervise the organization and training of the new army. At first these officers were obtained from France, after the defeat of France in 1871, the Japanese, apparently determined to have the best, procured their instructors from Germany.
To be effective, a modern army must have considerable equipment. Feudal Japan was primarily an agricultural country and could not produce the modern machines of war. Consequently, the new army was dependent for modern equipment on the very nations envisaged as Japan's potential enemies. The only satisfactory solution to this problem was to make the desired equipment in Japan. And it could be produced only by complex industrial processes. To compete with Western nations, Japan had to utilize Western methods of production, communication, transportation and finance. These facilities can be operated successfully only By men trained for the purpose; there must be engineers, chemists, doctors - thousands of skilled technicians for important key positions. An adequate number of such men can be trained only in schools, and Japan was compelled to organize a new educational system.
This educational system has enabled the population to read and write. Today Japan claims a rate of literacy higher than that in the United States. But if the populace is taught to read without being taught to think, the result is merely one more avenue whereby the government can promote the attitudes desired of its subjects. As conceived in America, good education is primarily a matter of developing the latent capacities of the student and enabling him to think for himself. It is a matter of drawing out. In Japan, education is a matter of indoctrination. A major function of the elementary schools is to inculcate reverence for the Emperor, to generate the proper degree of patriotism, based on Emperor- worship. In higher education, investigation and the critical spirit are essential, but in Japan they have been directed chiefly to the study of technological problems. Education is controlled by the state, and the government wants technicians, not critics. There is comparatively little critical study of history, government, economics, sociology, philosophy or literature - the fields that can best prepare men to make intelligent evaluations of political and economic policies. This lop-sided emphasis in higher education has prolonged the survival of the medieval attitudes described as the heritage of feudalism, but at the same time has provided the technicians essential to the maintenance of an industrial order and a modern war machine.
It should now be evident that what the Japanese rejected was as important as what they borrowed. They adopted our science, technology and machine production, but they rejected our ideals. The attitudes that have been the humanizing element in Western civilization never became firmly rooted in Japan. Historically many of these attitudes have stemmed from Christianity. Democracy, says Thomas Mann, is "the political name for ideals which Christianity brought into the world as religion." Jesus was the Prince of Peace, and Christianity has emphasized the value of peace and the human personality for its own sake. But Christianity has affected modern Japan less than might be supposed.
Though numbers are not the only factor, they are perhaps indicative, and at the outbreak of the war there were only about 300,000 Christians in all Japan, and even these were compelled to bow before the Shinto shrines in homage to the Emperor. Japan is modernized, but in terms of trains, electric power, assembly lines, airplanes, battleships and machine guns - not in terms of political ideals. And this combination of medieval political attitudes and modern technology is the basis of the nation's military power.
The army of the new Japan eventually managed to establish itself in a position to utilize the strength of the nation for its own purposes. Once it was created, it evolved as a political force in itself, a force that eventually dominated all others. Many of the officers of the new armed forces were descendants of aristocrats and samurai. Many of them retained their medieval attitudes, and some developed political ambitions. A high percentage of the enlisted men have always come from Japan’s farms. These men, remembering the poverty characterizing peasant life, have welcomed the political programs of their superiors as a means of improving the lot of Japan's farmers. The political influence of the army has varied at different times, but always it has been there, at least in the background, and eventually it emerged as the dominant force in the nation.
Various developments in Japan contributed to this emergence of the army as the directing force in Japan. The endowment of the West brought problems to Japan as well as benefits. One of these problems was a rapid increase of population. When Perry went to Japan, the population totaled about thirty-three millions. Because of disease,, famine and infanticide, the population increased by only four millions in three centuries prior to the arrival of Commodore Perry. With modern medical facilities and sanitation preventing ravaging epidemics and preserving the lives of children who would have died under former conditions, the population of Japan Proper has more than doubled, now totaling about seventy-three millions. At times the increase was nearly a million a years and this increase has been largely in urban areas. From 1880 to 1925 the population of cities of more than 10,000 inhabitants increased by more than 300 per cent; in this same period the population of rural areas increased only 7 per cent. It has become ever more difficult for Japan's tiny farms, averaging less than three acres in size, to provide employment for her people. The increasing masses have become steadily more dependent on jobs in the nations new factories. The urban population in 1920 was 32 per cent of the total for the nations in 1940, it was 49 per cent.
There was no simple solution to this population problem. The government encouraged large families, and ancestor-worship created a strong desire to maintain the family line. The sale of contraceptives was forbidden by law. Emigration was no solution. The Japanese have been reluctant to emigrate to any but warm climates. In Manchuria they found It difficult to compete economically with the Chinese. Foreign countries that could have best accommodated them found that they created problems, and in self-defense set up immigration barriers or restrictions an Japanese economic activities. So Japan's people became increasingly dependent on Japan's factories.
To keep these factories operating was increasingly difficult. For their labor the Japanese did not receive wages sufficient to purchase the goods created in the nation's factories. The result in terms of the existing economic order was overproduction, and foreign markets became essential if factories were to function and the people of industrial areas were to live. In seeking foreign markets Japanese manufacturers encountered economic restrictions frequently designed to be insurmountable. Furthermore, great factories require great quantities of raw materials, and the supply in Japan was inadequate. The needed materials could be obtained only if it were possible to export manufactured goods in exchange for them. These problems became more acute, and by 1931 the country was engulfed in an economic depression.
This depression was a golden opportunity for the militarists. Japan's civilian leaders were unable to cope with its problems and were thereby discredited in the eyes of the public. The militarists, meanwhile, threw out their chests and insisted that they had the solution. They asserted that the nation should not make itself vulnerable by becoming dependent on possible enemies for essential raw materials. They maintained that Japan could obtain both the raw materials and the markets needed by acquiring control of geographical areas described previously as the stakes in Asia. These areas were rich in resources; they were undeveloped industrially; they had great populations that could use Japan's finished products in exchange for raw materials. If Japan were to acquire these areas, the army argued, there would be "co-prosperity" for all concerned. That the wishes of the other peoples of Asia had not been considered apparently did not trouble Japan's militarists.
Many of the Japanese accepted this, proposal as the approved solution to Japan's difficulties, and the army had means of dealing with those who dared actively oppose it. As already has been shown, the armed forces were responsible only to the Emperor and if necessary could arrange a cabinet crisis to enable them to impose their will upon the other elements of the government. When courageous civilian statesmen dared insist on more conservative policies, army officers found they could assassinate these obstinate elements of resistance without discrediting the army in the estimation of the public - thanks to the traditional regard for patriotic assassins. Militarists and self-styled patriots repeatedly resorted to the expedient of murder, accepted, even, if not always enthusiastically approved, as a legitimate political method. One aged statesman, Yukio Ozaki, has enumerated ten friends and colleagues who died at the hands of assassins. Since 1920 three premiers have been assassinated, and a fourth escaped only because the murderer failed to identify him and killed the wrong mans two former premiers were slain while holding other government posts. In February 1936, officers led fourteen hundred soldiers in what momentarily appeared to be a coup d'etat and murdered not only civilian statesmen but several of the more conservative leaders of the army. The most aggressive element of the army thus gained control of the key political positions in the nation. There was no legal means of removing them or preventing them from proceeding with their program of territorial expansion, already under way.
The effort of the army to carry out its program could not be delayed indefinitely. Japan’s strength depended on the combination of medieval attitudes and the endowment of the West. And In the long run, as already suggested, these were incompatible. The opportunity of Japan lay in the interval before this inherent contradiction worked itself out, the period after the benefits of modern technology had been attained, but before the medieval loyalty had seriously declined. By 1931 the blind, traditional loyalty already showed signs of decay.
The means by which people lived in the new, industrial Japan mad© for significant changes in their ideal - their ideas of rights and duties. In feudal Japan the obligations between master and subject were mutual and relatively well defined in custom and law. The peasant worked the land for the feudal lord, but the feudal lord likewise had obligations to the peasant and was expected to provide for him. In the new Japan, obligations were less clearly defined and far less mutual. The feudal lords were replaced by modern entrepreneurs, who were free to hire and fire as they saw fit to make a profit. During the years of the economic depression they were doing a good deal of firing, and great numbers of people found themselves unemployed and left to shift for themselves. Hardship bred resentment. In effect, members of the laboring class were asking, "What do we get in return for loyalty to the new order of things?" Labor organizations emerged, and strikes occurred. In the first half of 1937, labor disputes reached a new high for a six months' period and totaled 1,455 cases. In July of that year, the army struck in China.
The traditional "Japanese Spirit" also suffered as a result of higher education. As already stated, there was an attempt to limit higher education largely to scientific, technological subjects and related natter. But once a man has learned to think, there is no assurance that he will think exclusively on approved subjects. Suppose, for example, that a young nan is trained as a chemical engineer. If he is to be competent and creative, he must learn to think cautiously, critically, in terms of evidence. Once he has learned to think in this manner there is no assurance that he will be interested exclusively in chemistry and engineering. If he finds himself unemployed in an era of depression, he may feel that he has both ability and justification for criticism of the leaders and policies he considers responsible for his plight. As the economic depression settled over Japan and criticism ensued, it was loudly lamented that the traditional Japanese Spirit had declined and that the younger generation, particularly the educated element, was going to the devil.
It thus became necessary to maintain the traditional attitudes of loyalty and unquestioning obedience by artificial means, known as "spiritual mobilization® and "thought control." The National Mobilization Bill, passed in March 1938, empowers the government "to close any workshop after a labor dispute has occurred and to limit or prohibit the activities of third parties intervening in the dispute." The state sponsored an "Industrial Service League" to replace labor unions. In October 1940, the Labor Federation of Japan, the oldest and most powerful union, "voluntarily dissolved itself" after being "advised" by the government to do so, and other unions followed its example. The purpose of the organization replacing them was to promote "the spirit of devotion to the state in the industrial field." It emphasized that the job of every Japanese, laborer or entrepreneur, was entrusted to him by the Throne, that he must do his work to the best of his ability to fulfill his duty to the Emperor. Creation of the Industrial Service League was a neat move by the government, eliminating the labor unions from the scene and providing a patriotic society for the workers.
Thought control was based on the "Peace Preservation Law" and the stipulations of an imperial ordinance making persons attempting to alter the national policy liable to death or imprisonment, even if they did not contemplate the use of force. Regulations were sufficiently broad to include as "dangerous" whatever ideas the government might see fit to suppress. The police were empowered to supervise all public meetings, to forbid a speaker to appear, to interrupt a speech at any point, to break up a meeting at any time. A "Supreme Cultural Council" regulated education, the press and religion. Control was facilitated by the fact that Japan's system of education is highly centralized, organized on a national basis and headed by a cabinet minister directing various bureaus. The Minister of Education has sometimes been an army officer. Exhibit A being General Araki, The department determines what shall be taught and who shall teach it. Textbooks are selected in Tokyo. Books and teachers must emphasize that "the national spirit is politically rooted in the concept of the whole nation as a single family which ha3 always had the Emperor as its patriarch, a concept that excludes the individualism and class consciousness of the West." Courses have been "readapted to Japanese thought." Teachers have been "retained", and woe unto the teacher who dared resist the process. More than 1000 Japanese teachers in colleges and universities were jailed to reflect over their ways.
"Dangerous thought” was not easily rooted out. The snore "thought control" was used, the more necessary it became. Police raids became commonplace, and there were thousands of arrests. Offenders included Buddhist priests, students in the School of Peers, judges on the bench and members of the Diet. Suspects were sometimes held for weeks without being allowed to communicate with their friends and without any reason being given for their detention. Arrests of persons merely suspected of harboring dangerous thoughts were not uncommon, and according to Japanese law, the accused person is guilty until he can demonstrate his innocenoe. Thought control provoked more dangerous thinking. More and more the maintenance of the traditional loyalty depended on artificial means, which in themselves helped destroy it. The contradiction inherent in the structure of the new Japan had begun to manifest itself.
The nation's militarists loudly deplored the
new "spiritual trends". In their rise to power they had displayed
in various ways a nice sense of opportunism. When public feeling
was adverse to them, they waited. When it was sympathetic, as it
was during the depression era, they capitalized on it. And they
lamented the spiritual trends with good cause. Even if there had
been no other problems to consider - and there were many - the
"incipient spiritual deterioration" necessitated action. If the
militarists, now in the key political positions and committed to
a policy of territorial expansion, were to utilize their maximum
opportunity for success, they had to make their bid for the
stakes in Asia after they had acquired the benefit of modem
science and technology, but before they lost the benefit of the
traditional Japanese Spirit. For the blind, traditional loyalty
was considered a major asset, the essence of "spiritual
superiority". It was relied on to compensate for Japan's
weaknesses. It was expected to enable Japan to win, if by no other
means, in a weary war of attrition, made possible by geographical
factors already discussed
The basis of Japan's military power, as already shown, is a medieval mentality combined with the benefits of modern science and technology. One element of the medieval mentality is the state religion, Shinto. The Japanese consider this the source of a superior patriotism, a superior morale that makes them superior fighting men. They regard this morale as a decided advantage, compensating for inferior equipment and other weaknesses.
Shinto is a difficult subject. It is difficult because it is both foreign and abstract. The logic of it can be stated readily enough in a series of propositions easily comprehended. But to insist that the propositions are the essence of the religion is about as accurate as to insist that the bones of a skeleton constitute a man. For the effectiveness of a religion depends on the way its followers feel about it, the extent to which it is an emotional driving force in their lives. There is no way to measure such things with mathematical exactness, but it Is quite possible that no religion in the world today means more to its adherents than Shinto does to the Japanese.
Shinto constitutes the religious basis of political attitudes and institutions in Japan, and Ambassador Grew has described it as "the only neolithic mythology in the world which still plays a part in the affairs of a government". The modern political rendition of it hag been effected within the lifetime of men still living, but the fundamental elements of it existed long before. There are several versions of this religion, as a result of different cults teaching different things, but by far the most important form is that sponsored by the government, State Shinto. No cult is permitted to teach anything conflicting with this official version. This state religion is the only thing considered here. We shall be concerned with three problems! (1) To state the basic doctrines of this religion, (2) to state the implications of these doctrines as they are interpreted in Japan and (5) to show how these doctrines are utilized for military purposes.
When a good Japanese describes the beginning of his nation, he does so in terms of his religion. To the Japanese mind the beginning of Japan is identified with the beginning of the world and can be explained only in terms of the creation. In the beginning, according to the teaching of this religion, there were various shadowy deities who accomplished the remarkable feat of creating themselves. They lived on the Plain of High Heaven. The world at this time was "still young and looking like oil and floating like a jellyfish". The god and goddess concerned with its creation were ordered to improve this nebulous state of things. According to the current official version of all this, in The Way of Subjects, issued by the Education Ministry to all schools for the guidance of all good Japanese, the creative efforts of the god and goddess resulted in "the eight great islands, then mountains and rivers, grasses and trees, gods and Amaterasu-o-Mikami, who ruled over all of this". Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, was destined for an illustrious career. She is the chief deity in the accepted Japanese view of the universe, the chief object of worship. She "leniently governed and brought up all the subjects” of the divinely created land. Perhaps she tired of her tasks at any rate she eventually assigned it to her grandson, with an order to go down to the land and reign over it. "Under you and your offspring it shall prosper as long as the Heavens and Earth endure." She equipped him with Three Sacred Treasures - the Curved Jewel, the Mirror of Polished Metal and the Sword - as symbols of authentic authority.
Accordingly, the "August Grandchild, Kinigi-no-Mikoto", left his heavenly abode and, in a manner becoming a god, descended to earth, landing on the island we know as Kyushu. What happened after that was sufficiently vague to enable various chieftains to claim a divine descent and the right to rule. However, according to the current teaching of Japan’s Education Ministry, Jimmu Tenno, grandson of Hinigi-no-Mikoto and great- great -grandson of the Sun Goddess, worked north from Kyushu, "consolidated the Empire", built a palace and on February 11, 660 B.C., celebrated his success with rites to his divine Ancestress, the Sun Goddess. This date is now observed as that of the founding of the Empire, and Jimmu Tenno is honored as the first Emperor. Chinese records show that Japan actually was far from being consolidated as late as the third century of the Christian era, and even Japanese scholars once maintained that Jimmu Tenno’s date should be placed in the first century. But higher criticism is no longer tolerated in Japan. And to this day the items reputedly originating as the Three Sacred Treasures are revered as the mark of divine authority and preserved by the Imperial Household.
This is what Ambassador Grew termed Japan's "neolithic mythology". But according to Japanese officialdom and popular conception, the event just described are no mere myths they are the actual origin of Imperial Japan, the basis of political authority. The account of them must not be dismissed as insignificant simply because it is crude. As accepted and interpreted in Japan this myth, with embellishments, has become on® of the most vicious and far-reaching political beliefs in the world today. It is the basis of Japanese patriotism in its most fanatical form. It accounts for the fact that the Japanese consider this "a Holy War". It is one reason Japan will not crack readily.
Let us now see how this neolithic myth has managed to survive. The idea that the Emperor was descended from the gods and is therefor® divine has a long history. Centuries ago the chiefs who ruled the Kyushu and Yamato areas apparently felt & need for authority based on something more permanent and convenient than mere force. To promote the belief in their right to rule they exploited a legend, a very dim one, according to which their ancestors "had come in great glory from somewhere". This was combined with other myths and embellished for practical purposes. The result was a compilation designed to show that the chieftain had descended from the gods and ruled by divine right. This account, known as the Kojiki, is now accepted as stating the origin of Japan's ruling house an3 passes in Japan as reliable history. The fact that this honorable beginning is recorded in a fora of writing few Japanese can read has served only to make it more respected. The myth, somewhat modified, is an integral part of the Shinto religion, which has survived to this day as the accepted explanation of the origin of the Japanese nation.
The distortion and chicanery by which modern Shinto has been established is a story in itself. For centuries Shinto was a poor second to Buddhism in the esteem of Japan's people. It did not enjoy the benefit of great wealth. Its shrines were poor and shoddy compared with those of Buddhism. It survived as a primitive form of nature-worship, and its deities were more or less local ernes, gods of rivers, trees and mountains. It did not possess a creed, and its meaning was not precisely formulated in the minds of the people. But it existed, and its shrines were familiar objects in Japanese life. And the very fact its meaning was obscure made it pliable and workable in the hands of the men who emerged as leaders in the new Japan.
These gentlemen, as already stated, were confronted with the problem of unifying the country and redirecting provincial feudal loyalties for the benefit of the new nation-state. Several factors facilitated the solution of the problem. One was the traditional belief that the Emperor was divine and that in the last analysis all loyalty was to him. This belief already had done much to shape Japan's political institutions. It was obvious to all good Japanese that a god should not be troubled too much with the mundane matters constituting political administration. It was therefore plausible that someone should rule for him. The way was thus opened for the exploitation of both the throne and the credulity of the public. For centuries military dictators, known as shoguns, possessed the real powers of government, but they ruled in the name of the Emperor. The fact that the Emperor was relegated to seclusion only made him more revered. Actually, behind the scenes, in this land where loyalty was reputedly the greatest of virtues, emperors were treated most disdainfully. Emperors were dethroned, emperors were exiled, emperors were murdered. The throne sank so far into oblivion that the Chinese Court forgot it existed and addressed its communications to other quarters. But the tradition persisted that the Emperor reigned, even though he did not rule. The leaders of the new Japan found this tradition exceedingly convenient. The Emperor was dusted off and presented to the public as the symbol of the new nation-state. The populace was informed that henceforth he would rule in person, and that everyone owed allegiance directly to him. A primitive religion and medieval loyalty were thus utilized to unify the country and establish the government on a religious basis.
Once the Emperor was resurrected and enthroned as the divine head of the new state, the next problem was to insure the permanency of the arrangement. The belief that the Emperor was divine could not be allowed to deteriorate. Shinto afforded a solution to this problem. The government quietly subsidized it. The shrines were polished up and many new ones erected. Priests eventually became civil servants. The populace was already familiar with the external trappings of this religion, and, since nobody was quite sure what it meant, it was a simple matter for the government gradually to develop a content which bolstered the state. This has been accomplished to a great extent by means of Imperial Rescripts,
statements from the Emperor to his people, formulating their duties as loyal subjects. These are duly expounded with religious veneration in the schools and form a convenient and effective means of pumping a credulous populace with exactly those beliefs regarded as having political and military utility. The possibilities in this set-up become evident if one remembers that a general has occasionally functioned as Japan's Minister of Education, determining what shall be taught in the schools.
The political implications of the ancient myth, as now propagated by the government and accepted by Japan's people, are of tremendous significance. It means the very land is divine in origin and therefore sacred. It means that the Emperor has descended from the gods, that he is "one with the divine imperial ancestors" and that "the Empire of Japan shall be reigned over and governed by a line of Emperors unbroken for ages eternal". The state, founded by the gods, is destined by its divine nature to endure forever.
And since, as the Japanese conceive him, the Emperor is a god, it is only logical that he shall be worshipped and served. This belief has played squarely into the hands of the militarists, who have declared that of course the most manly and becoming way of serving him is as a member of the armed forces. Military service thus becomes a religious duty, and often the soldier is driven by the zeal of the religious fanatic. It is no accident that Japanese soldiers attack with the cry of "Banzai". For this is a contraction of "Tenno Heika Banzai"s; "May the Emperor rule ten thousand years". The good Japanese soldier is fighting for his Emperor and his gods. "You, yourself, are nothing," says the Japanese national creed. "You must give all to your Emperor."
It is not the Emperor alone who is divine. His divinity is shared in a minor way by the people. All members of the race are endowed with a divine quality, making them superior to ordinary and less fortunate peoples. They are "recipients from the kami (gods), by direct descent through the ancestors, of a specific endowment of tendencies and capacities" assuring the race of eternal superiority and greatness. Japan is one big household, with the Emperor as its head, recipient of the filial piety and obedience traditional to the Japanese family. The Emperor is thus the basis of national unity in terms of religion and the family system. "Japanese patriotism or loyalty," a professor at Tokyo Imperial University has written, "is not simple patriotism or mere loyalty in the ordinary sense of the word . . . It is more - It is the lofty self-denying enthusiastic sentiment of the Japanese people towards their august Ruler, believed to be something divine, rendering them capable of offering up anything and everything, all dearest to them, willingly . . . All this is nothing but the actual manifestation of the religious consciousness of the Japanese people." And in theory, at least, this religious and unique quality operating in Japanese life makes for social solidarity, a sense of common welfare and mutual dependence, with a minimum of self- interest and strife such as characterizes ordinary nations.
In this scheme of things Japan is literally "the land of the Gods". The ancestral deities extend special guardianship and protection to the land and its people, The gods are immediate and real and offer aid in mundane matters. In time of peace, politics is a matter of ascertaining the will of the gods and carrying it out, "the realization of the justice of Heaven and the expression of the Divine Will". The gods help the statesman make the right decisions. In time of war, they supposedly offer divine protection. According to Japanese belief they once sent a divine wind to disperse an enemy fleet. They are believed to have calmed the seas so that Japan’s soldiers might escape from Kiska. After the onslaughts at Pearl Harbor and Singapore a Japanese admiral spoke on the radio and urged the people to give thanks to the gods for these great victories, because, said the admiral, the gods were more responsible than even the Imperial Army or Navy for Japan’s success. Millions of good Japanese feel confident that Japan cannot be beaten, because the gods are on her side and in crucial moments will extend divine protection.
As the Japanese see it, this scheme of things - a divine land and a select people, blessed with divinely created political institutions - means that they are superior. And since they have divine institutions and a superior way of life, these things deserve to be spread. The "unique Japanese Spirit" thus becomes a militant, crusading spirit, bringing the blessings of a superior way of life to peoples who do not understand Japan's mission in the world.
It is difficult to appreciate how much this means to the generation of Japanese fighting this war. Perhaps the following episode will throw a bit of light on it. Some years ago the writer was living in Japan. A Japanese boy came to him, seeking some tutoring in English. The boy was competing in an oratorical contest. He had won in his school, which he was to represent in a later contest. The speeches were in English, and the boy therefore desired some assistance. It is significant that he won first place in the province with his speech, the essence of which wag as follows: (1) Japan has divine, superior political institutions, (2) Because they are divine and superior, these institutions deserve to be spread throughout the world. (3) Since other countries do not understand the nature of these institutions and therefore cannot appreciate the benevolent intentions of the Japanese, Japan has encountered resistance. (4) The end justifies any means, and Japan must us© her great army and navy to complete the proposed missionary work. The climax of the speech was a plea for all young Japanese to prepare themselves spiritually for the great struggle that lay ahead. As the boy rehearsed this speech, he glowed with enthusiasm. In private he explained that h® hoped he might some day give his life for the Emperor and the realization of this great program. All this was in 1934. The speaker was simply reiterating, with emotional overtones, what had been pumped into him at school. Publications by the Education Ministry emphasized that the propagation of these doctrines, in the name of "moral education", was a major goal of the Japanese school system.
The program for extending the Japanese way of life to other countries is based on the doctrine of hakko-ichi-u, "the world under on® roof". Efforts have been made to establish this doctrine with the authority of a divine edict. There have been convenient means for doing this. Accounts of various semi-legendary events have been assembled in a compilation known as the Nihongi and are taught in the Japanese schools as history. According to one of these accounts, the first emperor, Jimmu Tenno, ordered his imperial rule extended through all the world, uniting the peoples in one family under one rule, "one roof". The fact that, as Jimmu conceived it, the world probably consisted of little more than what are now the main islands of Japan apparently troubles nobody, and Japan is thus regarded as ordained by divine forces to extend her peerless policy to less fortunate nations. The current version of all this appears in The Way of Subjects, the synthetic Bible issued by the Education Ministry, giving the key legendary events an interpretation convenient and useful for current political purposes. Most Japanese appear to take it seriously. Even Prince Konoye, a comparatively sane and conservative man, stated as prime minister that "the basic aim of Japan's national policy lies on the firm establishment of world peace in accordance with the lofty spirit of the hakko-ichi-u in which the country was founded".
The function of the armed forces in this scheme of things is obvious and logical to the Japanese mind, They must carry Japan's peerless institutions to regions where the inhabitants have failed to appreciate them. Accordingly, the Japanese Army is engaged in a titanic piece of missionary work. It has a divine mission and is motivated by religious zeal. The Japanese are quite correct in referring to the present conflict as a "Holy War". From their standpoint, it is undoubtedly a religious war. Indeed, every war conducted by the Japanese is "holy" because it is conducted by order of the divine Emperor and thereby acquires a sacred quality. The army, being responsible only to the sacred throne, operates for sacred purposes. Whatever the soldier does for the glory of Japan has divine sanction. "The order of an officer", says General Araki, "is in reality the expression of an Imperial order of the Emperor."
War has a religious function for the individual. First, it affords a means of atonement. Whatever his sins or crimes, they are wiped away by the individual's military service. As a Japanese has put it: "No matter how much of a wrongdoer, no matter how evil, a Japanese may have been, when once he has taken his stand on the field of battle, all his past sins are entirely atoned for and they become as nothing." In Japanese thought, even the process of redemption is bent to military purposes.
By honorable conduct in battle the individual assures himself of immortality. If, in loyalty to his sovereign and obedience to the any, the soldier is honorably killed, he is deified. The ceremony of deification occurs at Yasukuni Jinja, "the Nation-Protecting Shrine", on Kudan Hill in Tokyo. Here the spirits of all soldiers and sailors who gave their lives for the Emperor are enshrined. At regular intervals scrolls bearing the names of men who have died in battle are presented to the Imperial Ancestors and the spirits of the warriors become kami (gods), who thenceforth act as guardians of the nation, protecting it in military matters and guarding the soldiers on the battlefields with the same devotion that characterized them in life and won for them immortality. Japan's soldiers never die - spiritually they fight on forever.
Modem Shinto has been propagated with remarkable skill. Begun as a political expedient, it has developed the dynamic drive of genuine religion. It was maintained in a flexible form and developed gradually as the people were ready for it and as new needs arose. Chief of the factors facilitating its propagation is its favored place in the educational system. In 1899, the government issued an order prohibiting religious instruction in the schools, private or governmental. It was further ruled, however, that State Shinto was not a religion, and instruction in the meaning of its rites and ceremonies, its deities and the duties of loyalty, obedience and patriotism was carefully provided for. Thus, emperor-worship was introduced, to "guard and maintain the prosperity of Our Imperial Throne, coeval with heaven and earth.” The schools, highly centralized and directed from Tokyo, became the great stronghold of the state religion. Indeed, education, religion and government are so closely identified that it is difficult to distinguish between them. This relationship has been described in The Fundamental Principles of the National Structure (Kokutai no Hongi), 1937, issued by the Department of Education in Tokyo. "The Emperor by means of religious ceremonies (saishi) becomes one with the divine imperial ancestors, and, through participation in the spirit of the imperial ancestors. He is able to educate the subjects of the state ever more and more and promote their prosperity. In this way the spirit wherewith the Emperor rules the country is imparted. For this reason the worship of the gods on the part of the Emperor and His administration of government are in their fundamental aspects one and the same thing. Furthermore, the Emperor is the custodian and executor of the testaments of the ancestors, and with these He makes clear the great principles on which the nation was founded and the Great Way in which the subjects should walk. In these consist the great essentials of our education. Thus, education in its fundamental aspects is unified with religious ceremonies and government. That is to say, although religious ceremonies and government and education have each their own separate operations, yet in the last analysis they are one and the same."
In the decade preceding the war the government took measures to weaken the religions competing with Shinto. Even Buddhism was not entirely exempt. Pressure was greatest against Christianity. Japanese churchmen, acting under instructions from government officials, informed the foreign missionaries that thenceforth no foreigner could head a church or diocese. Foreign missionaries were forbidden to receive funds from abroad and were thereby compelled to leave the country. When the war came, the former church organizations were replaced by a national Christian church, "the Japan Church of Christ", retaining sectarian divisions but controlled entirely by Japanese. This "new Christian Structure" was planned to harmonize Christianity with "Japan's national thought".
The war against Christianity has extended far beyond Japan. The Japanese Army appears to have found particularly great satisfaction in destroying Christian missions in China. Hundreds of churches, schools and hospitals have been destroyed. Christian missionaries have been beaten, shot and tortured, and every effort has been made to undermine their work. All this was perfectly logical in view of Japan's purposes. The Japanese were out to conquer China. Christianity teaches that the individual has intrinsic worth and therefore human rights, a view hardly suited to the development of docile subjects. So, as with all other things in her way, Japan decreed that Christianity must go.
The Japanese perceived that long established religions could not readily be removed. Accordingly, there has been an attempt to work from within, to bend them to Japanese purposes. A special organization, the East Asia Religious League, has been set up to achieve this objective. Recently the Education Ministry announced the creation of a Religious Enlightenment Policy Commission, designed to "control the whole religious world". Great effort has been made to achieve the "cooperation" of the Moslems and Buddhists of conquered areas. Before the war no less a figure than Mitsuru Toyama, head of the Black Dragon Society, supervised Japan's political infiltration among Asia's Moslems. There are about seventy millions of these in the areas overrun by the Japanese. Many of them are in the Dutch East Indies. Here the Japanese Military Administration, operating through its Religious Affairs Sections, has steadily extended its control.
There are signs that Buddhism may be utilized more ingeniously. Spokesmen have advocated a Super East-Asia Religion, and Buddhism, the "most Asiatic of all religious sects in East Asia", comes nearest to encompassing the things needed. Recently the patriotism of Japanese Buddhists has been played up, apparently to some purpose. Since Buddhism and Shinto have been regarded traditionally as compatible in Japan, the Japanese perhaps feel that the combination can be made acceptable in conquered areas where Buddhism is already rooted. The ashes of Buddha recently were brought to Japan from Burma, and sacred relics from other areas have been carted off systematically for enshrinement in Japan. Such action apparently is intended to demonstrate the superiority of the Japanese and to create an intangible bond with the Buddhists of conquered territories. Meanwhile, in Japan, Buddhism is manipulated for political and military purposes. A "Rouse-All-Buddhists-to-Action" movement has been instituted, and the Education Minister has declared that religious men "must guide the thoughts and lives of the people, especially the 10,000,000 Buddhist believers, and bring about the increase of fighting strength".
The manipulation of religions includes an attempt to promote Shinto. The authorities concerned with such matters have formulated, in cooperation with the armed forces, extensive regulations covering religious matters in conquered territories. Where the army goes, the Sun Goddess is to be enshrined and worshipped as the chief deity. The teaching of other religions is prohibited or supervised. Shinto has thus become a product for export. How effectively it can be established in conquered territories remains to be seen, but the effort is being made. The tribesmen of Formosa, the subjected Koreans and the millions of Manchurians are to bow in obeisance to the Emperor and his Imperial Ancestors. In the summer of 1940, the spirit of Amaterasu-o-Mikami was transferred to Manchukuo. A special shrine was dedicated to her at Hsinking, the spirits of the Manchukuans who died to achieve the "independence" of their country were enshrined, and henceforth all good subjects will pay homage to the goddess of Japan. As a part of this development, native scholars have conveniently discovered that at some time in the remote past the conquered race was closely identified with the Japanese and that current developments are not a matter of conquest but, rather, a reunion, a case of the lost sheep returning to the fold.
State Shinto, then, highly militant and sponsored by the Imperial Government of Japan, has far-reaching political implications. Crude but accepted by all good Japanese, vicious but skillfully maintained, it has become a highly dynamic political force, motivating the Japanese both as individuals and as a nation. It constitutes the religious underpinning of the political and military program already described.
The Japanese beliefs and attitudes described in the foregoing lectures have military significance. They constitute the spiritual, emotional basis of the Japanese war effort. The Japanese Army promotes them and exploits them for its particular purposes. It remains for us to see how this mentality is promoted, how it affects military doctrines and actions and how, in the final analysis, it is sometimes a weakness. For, as we shall see, fanatical patriotism is no guarantee of military efficiency.
The Japanese Army devotes considerable effort to the development of what is tensed seishin, military spirit. Like many other things in Japanese life, seishin is supposedly unique, attainable only by good Japanese. The future soldier has the basis of it as a result of his indoctrination in the schools. The army proceeds to temper and intensify this religious, patriotic feeling for military purposes. In this way it develops supposedly superior morale.
The process of inculcating this spirit continues from the day the recruit departs for the army until the day of battle. The conscript departs amidst solemn and impressive ceremonies, stressing his duties to the Emperor and the importance of military service. Never is ha allowed to forget that he is serving the Emperor and the Imperial Ancestors. When he receives his rifle, it is emphasized that this is no ordinary weapon, but a trust from the Emperor, to be cherished and treated accordingly. The presentation of rifles is often carried out with considerable ceremony, including a speech by the regimental commander to the effect that the new soldier is the samurai of modern Japan and that the rifle is to him what the samurai's sword was to the ancient warrior. Accordingly, the rifle must be kept as clean and bright as the samurai's sword and must be employed with the true samurai spirit.
The soldier is indeed the soldier of the Emperor. The Emperor Meiji's great Rescript on Education, stressing the importance of loyalty, is included in the soldier's "military notebook", along with the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors citing the virtues to be cultivated by servicemen. To the good Japanese soldier these are religious as well as military documents. A captured "schedule for the day” of a Japanese unit in New Guinea allots a few minutes in the morning for meditation on these Imperial Rescripts. Well-thumbed copies of them have been picked up on the field of battle. Emperor-worship is the basis of morale.
Japan's soldiers have acquired a reputation for cruelty, ferocity and mercilessness. The question is frequently raised as to whether or not reports of atrocities are true, and, if so, how we are to explain atrocities appearing to yield no military benefit. That such actions have occurred there is no doubt. Large numbers of captured Chinese have been massacred. Photographs taken from Japanese prisoners have shown the decapitation of prisoners. The Chinese have reported "mass beheadings". The slaughter at Nanking has been authenticated by overwhelming evidence. Reports of Japanese brutality have piled up for years, ad nauseam.
As to why the Japanese indulge in wanton brutality, we can best learn from the Japanese soldiers themselves. Their explanation is that "it is war". It is the traditional Japanese manner of treating a vanquished foe, and it is the way they expect to be treated if they are vanquished. This attitude is not new, and it is not peculiar to operations against a foreign foe. It is medieval Japanese savagery, and it characterized warfare in Japan through centuries of internecine strife. In the latter part of the twelfth century, for example, there was a bloody war
between the Taira and Minamoto clans. By means of treachery the Minamoto defeated the Taira in a great sea battle. The classic account (Nihon Guaishi) of what followed demonstrates that Japanese cruelty is nothing news "Every member or adherent of the family who could be found - men, women or children, high and low without distinction - were mercilessly slain, women only being spared to be placed in public brothels, gently- bred ladies of the court and kitchen-wenches alike." Warfare in Japan was never a gentleman's game tempered by Christian chivalry.
Decapitation is understandable in the light of Japanese history. Of illustrious antiquity, the practice figures in Japanese mythology. Later the heads of the vanquished were taken as trophies. As late as 1870 enemy heads were taken after battle. In 1877 there was a rebellion against the central government, and the leader of the rebels, seeing the cause was lost, committed suicide. Prince Yamagata, leader of the government forces, took the head of the rebel leader in accordance with ancient customs. The Prince was a student of German strategy, became one of the famous Elder Statesmen, and until his death in 1922 was one of the most powerful men in Japan.
At times the practice of taking heads had some curious results. Hideyoshi, "the Napoleon of Japan", invaded Korea and in 1598 lopped off more than 38,000 Korean heads. But then as now, military activities were hampered by transportation difficulties, and it was found impractical to carry so many heads back to Japan. It was decided that under the circumstances the ears and nose of an enemy were sufficient evidence of his death; so Korean noses and ears were packed in barrels, brought to Kyoto, and buried in what is now known as the Ear Mound. Before the war this mound was proudly shown to tourists. Such events as these perhaps make Japanese conduct at Nanking a bit more intelligible. His equipment has improved, but the way the warrior regards a beaten foe remains essentially unchanged.
In view of the fate of the vanquished in Japanese warfare, there was nothing to be gained by being taken prisoner. Death was preferable to capture. Every good samurai was supposedly able to out off his own head if the situation demanded it. But the feat did not readily lend itself to preliminary practice and seems to have been rather difficult.
As a result, the custom of disembowelment, called seppuku or haraklri, developed, affording the warrior an honorable alternative to surrender. Later it became customary to allow prisoners who had been unable to kill themselves on the battlefield to do so after capture. Eventually seppuku became the honorable means of expiating certain misdemeanors on-the"~ part of samurai, and elaborate ceremonies were developed around it. The act of disembowelment was reduced to a mere stab in the belly, death actually resulting when a friend, a "second", lopped off the head of the principal in the prescribed manner, with all Japanese respect to form and etiquette.
Verified reports tell of Japanese soldiers tying Chinese civilians and using them for bayonet practice. This action is quite intelligible if viewed as a product of Japan's medieval thought and traditions. The Japanese soldier is taught to regard himself as the samurai of modern Japan. The weapon of the samurai was a heavy sword, still a formidable weapon if the Jap gets close enough to use it. The soldier is taught that his bayonet is to him what the sword was to the ancient warrior and is to be used accordingly! "Handle it as your fathers did their swords and rely on it as they relied on their swords."
The ancient samurai had the custom of sword-testing. Even in Japan there were eras of peace, when times were dull for the swaggering, two- sworded samurai. It was permissible to hack the corpses of executed criminals, but this was a dull sort of sword play, and it became more and more common for samurai to take an occasional swing at one of the eta, the pariahs of Japan. The object of the game was to see whether or not the samurai could out his victim in two completely with one clean stroke. In times of peace there was a tendency to abuse this privilege of sword testing, and attacks on the commonalty became so frequent that a law had to be made regarding the matter. But a samurai, after all, was a samurai, and sword-testing continued. As late as 1870 corpses of unfortunate eta were found slashed in two on the highways.
When Japan's modern army was organized, many of its members were men who formerly had been samurai. Today many of the regular army officers are descendants of samurai or men at least imbued with samurai traditions, and the idea that the modern soldier should test his modern weapons in the traditional manner lives on. It accounts, in part at least, for the inclination to use captives for bayonet practice. It also accounts for the fact that sometimes, as at Hong Kong, the treatment of prisoners varies greatly with different units. Much depends on the local commander as to how far his men go in utilizing the situation for realistic practice in the use of cold steel and traditional ferocity.
All this means that the Japanese soldier has every readily conceivable inducement to fight on rather than to surrender, however hopeless his situation may be. If taken prisoner he expects to be tortured and killed. Captured Japanese have stated they were told that we mutilated our prisoners, tortured them and killed them. Some prisoners have shorn surprise that they were not executed at once. Nearly all have declared that, whatever the outcome of the war, they can never return to Japan. They have disgraced their families, failed as soldiers and, whatever the circumstances of their capture, have betrayed the trust of the Emperor. The army is reluctant to admit that a Japanese ever is taken prisoner. He is listed as "missing", and it is assumed that he was killed. The government declares him legally dead. His family conducts the man’s funeral, So far as Japan is concerned, he has ceased to exist, and it would create no end of complications and embarrassment if he were to appear in the flesh. On the other hand, if he dies, he saves the honor of his family, of the army and of his country. However futile his death may be otherwise, he saves his reputation as a soldier and assures himself of immortality} hence, the suicides when the situation appears hopeless.
One does the best one can, and, according to Japanese ideas, suicide is better than surrender.
As a result of this scheme of things the Japanese soldier regards himself as highly expendable. He does not enjoy suffering and tying any more than anyone else, but he has been taught that he really has not done his duty unless he dies. Japanese officers have boasted that while Western troops can stand casualties up to only 10, 20, SO or 50 per cent without morale being seriously affected, Japanese troops can sustain casualties up to 100 per cent without morale being weakened. A Japanese general once declared that Japan was prepared to expend 10,000,000 men if necessary. American officers have commented on the comparative disregard for casualties once the Japanese have committed themselves to a plan of action, and, judged by our standards, the life expended has sometimes been out of all proportion to the results that could be expected at best.
This cheapness of human life results from various factors. It is traditional. Heads have been lopped off freely in Japanese life, as evidenced by the role of assassination in modern polities. The very nature of the country has made suffering prevalent. Floods, droughts, earthquakes, typhoons, fires and tidal waves have made death commonplace and have contributed to the development of a fatalistic attitude. The Japanese as an individual often is less inclined than the European to feel that he has any great degree of control over his destiny. He finds frequent use for the expression, "Shikata ganai", suggesting a feeling of helplessness and resignation. Furthermore, as already noted, Japanese society has been largely unaffected by the Christian-democratic view that the individual’s personality has intrinsic value in itself. Rather is the individual's value to be reckoned by service to the Emperor, by adding to the glory of Japan. And since it is man's fate to suffer and die, as the Japanese "Soldier's Handbook" puts it, "to become one of the guarding Deities of the country and as such to receive unique honors in the temple,"
These traditional attitudes permeate Japanese political thought. They are seldom subject to exacting analysis. They are simply assumed to be natural and correct. If you attempt to discuss social problems with good Japanese, you encounter these ideas operating as premises from the outset. And this is true of Japanese thought on military matters.
These basic attitudes have had their effects on Japanese military doctrines. They color the conclusions as to how the Japanese Army can fight to best advantage, Some of these conclusions merit examination.
The men who organized this army and formulated its guiding doctrines believed that Japan's soldiers possessed the finest offensive spirit in the world, that superior morale was one of their chief assets. The problem, then, was how to utilize this superior spirit to the maximum advantage. The solution was the doctrine of the continuous offensive as the basis of Japanese training. Previous victories, even those over poorly equipped opposition, are cited as evidence of inherently superior Japanese skill at attack. "Always attack," says the Field Service Code, "even when on the defensives".
Until recently comparatively little attention was given to problems of defense. It was supposedly unbecoming for soldiers of the Emperor to fight defensively. Before the war it was almost impossible to write a problem for use in maneuvers which Japanese officers would admit called for defensive action. Judged by the training of other armies there was one-sided emphasis on attack: "Always attack." At their best, Japanese soldiers are inclined to gamble boldly in an attempt to seize the initiative, whatever the cost. They have often attacked in situations which the soldiers of more orthodox armies would have regarded as calling for defensive action. For example, they have been known to attempt a double envelopment against a force which they knew was numerically superior. There is evidence they are now developing better appreciation of modern fire power.
Exploitation of morale in a continuous offensive presupposes mobility, and the Japanese had various ideas about how to get it. Their reasoning took into consideration the jungles, the mountains and the lack of good roads in the areas of Asia where they expected to fight. In such areas, mobility often is a matter of the soldier moving on his own strength It is a matter of physical endurance. Furthermore, it is a relative matter. The Japanese soldier was taught that if he could still crawl after the enemy could no longer go at all, he would have a valuable advantage. Japan's soldiers were trained to develop this vital element of physical superiority. In the broiling heat of summer there were long "heat marches". The hardships of some of these marches were great indeed. Men sometimes died of heat, thirst end exhaustion. An American military attache, Col Warren J. Clear, tells how a unit to which he was attached marched 122 miles in seventy-two hours, with but four hours' sleep. Such men carried a forty-pound pack, a rifle and 150 rounds of ammunition. The Japanese Any has its weak points, but the coddling of recruits is not one of them.
The physical hardening practiced by the Japanese was not fruitless. It did much to enable them to set the tempo in the battle for Malaya. Troops that had not been adequately toughened to the hardships of the jungle were at a great disadvantage. There is no evidence of the Japanese advantage being a matter of innate, racial superiority. The enemy simply had trained more earnestly, for the glory of Japan.
To facilitate the continuous offensive in the early stages of the war, Japanese troops were careful to make themselves independent of supply lines, rolling kitchens and any other equipment that might delay their advance. They learned to recognize the things that can be found in the jungle and used as food. There were great efforts to make units mobile, fast and independent. They were taught that terrain must never be regarded as impassable, that difficult terrain must be utilized to effect surprise and maintain the offensive. They were taught that water must always be regarded as a highway, never as a barrier; that native boats must be utilized to achieve movement and surprise. Fifth columnists had been planted to provide information on native transportation facilities. When Japanese troops arrived these agents were on hand to act as expert guides, thereby speeding up movements and the offense.
Much of Japan's military experience has been in China. Here the circumstances lent themselves to the free expression of the Japanese offensive spirit against the poorly armed Chinese. The Japanese enjoyed naval support, virtually unopposed airpower and vastly superior fire power The Chinese had little artillery and few automatic weapons. Consequently, the Japanese could use direct frontal assaults successively. These were regarded as admirable evidence of superior Japanese morale.
Experience against other armies - Russian, French, Dutch, British and American troops - demonstrated that methods used in China were not effective against modern fire power. Captured documents show that Japanese officers were greatly impressed by the gruesome results of a frontal rush against .50 caliber machine guns manned by American Marines on Wake Island. The Japanese adult that American troops have superior weapons. Their problem is how to utilize their own assumed advantage, superior morale, to compensate for their weakness, inferior fire power. There is evidence that the more intelligent Japanese are beginning to realize that the best morale is a poor substitute for adequate artillery.
Japanese training manuals have emphasized that surprise and speed, rather than mass, must be used to offset enemy fire power and expedite the offensive. The problem, then, was to achieve effective means of surprise. Infiltration was regarded as one of the most valuable methods, being particularly well-suited to the jungle, where movement is difficult to detect. Troops were trained to penetrate the jungle individually or in pairs and assemble at vital, predesignated points where they could conceal themselves preparatory to fighting as a unit. Infiltration was regarded as more or less a suicidal mission, and picked men were often used. They were acclimated to living, working and fighting in the jungle. They were trained to use compasses and maps. They went on "practice marches" and learned to maintain themselves independently. Every effort was made to achieve the initiative and maintain the offensive.
Once infiltration was accomplished, it gave the Japanese a great psychological advantage. This benefit was achieved by the infiltrating troops' using noise as a weapon. Several factors contributed to the effective use of noise. Unlike the Japanese, trained in China, many of the defending troops had never before been under fire. In addition they sere fighting in the jungle, an eerie, and unpleasant place for troops not sufficiently familiar with it. Opposed by an enemy of whom they knew little and who maintained a swift and unrelenting pace night and day, British soldiers developed bad oases of jittery nerves. The Japanese were able to misrepresent their number effectively. Riflemen ducked from tree to tree, firing shots from numerous positions. A few light machine guns were moved quickly to give the impression that numerous guns were in use. Men rapped on sticks, simulating the sound of machine guns. Firecrackers were used. To men under pressure and weary with combat, the jungle appeared alive with Japs, so skillfully camouflaged that they were rarely seen. In effect, the enemy seemed to say, "We’re going to run the next play squarely over your position, and there's nothing you can do about it. On more than one occasion British troops, worn-out and on the defensive, feeling that they were outnumbered and in danger of being cut, withdrew prematurely, leaving behind them supplies and poor demolition, which facilitated the advance of the Japanese.
Another mission of infiltrating troops was to establish road blocks. As used by the Japanese these blocks had an important role in the pattern of activity designed to maintain a swift and continuous offensive. This was partly because of the terrain. In the jungles and mountains of Malaya and Burma there are sometimes considerable areas with comparatively few roads penetrating them. Because they were motorized, British units often were road-bound. Japanese troops, trained to live in the jungle, moved off the roads and constructed blocks across the highways behind the British lines. These blocks were frequently laid in a series and were defended. British forward units found themselves sealed off. Because they were road-bound, they could not readily out their way out. Reinforcements could not handily be brought up. The blocks were designed to break the British units into fragments and delay them long enough to enable the main Japanese force to attack and cut them to pieces. This stratagem could be used to out off a company, a battalion, a regiment. In the first Burma campaign some well-placed blocks cut off a whole division, which was then chewed to pieces. In Malaya and Burma the continuous offense was at its best.
Night attacks are regarded by the Japanese as a particularly valuable means of achieving surprise. Japanese troops receive extensive training for such attacks and consider night fighting a specialty of the Japanese Army. They look upon the troops of other countries as inadequately trained in this respect and feel that it affords a means of overcoming superior enemy fire power. For the Japanese soldier is taught that he excels in close combat, in the use of cold steel; and stealthy approach at night enables him to transpose the battle into the type of fighting at which he is theoretically at his best. Another Japanese idea on night attacks is well expressed in a statement by a Japanese officer speaking with a captured Dutch officer who later escaped; "You Europeans march all day, prepare all night and at dawn launch an attack with tired troops. We Japanese allow our troops to rest all day while we reconnoiter your positions exactly. Then that night we attack with fresh troops."
"Attack, always attack." This is the keynote of Japanese thought on tactics. The Japanese soldier is taught that, regardless of the situation he must think in terms of the offense. Since it is assumed that it is a disgrace for the soldiers of the Emperor to fight defensively, the only really honorable aspect of defense is the counterattack. This frequently comes when the Japanese are about to be run out of a position. It is often local, by small units and poorly coordinated, but it is rarely lacking in vigor. "Jap counterattacks," says a report on the Attu campaign, "ware pressed home regardless of losses until practically all the counterattacking troops were exterminated." This characterizes the Japanese soldier at his best. This is Yamato Damashii, "the Japanese spirit", in operation.
This does not mean that the Japanese soldier enjoys dying. Rather, it is likely to be an act of desperation. The more hopeless the Japanese situation, the greater the likelihood of a suicidal counterattack. The Japanese sometimes appear to realize that such an attack will not affect the ultimate outcome of the battle. It is made because it affords the good Japanese soldier an honorable way out. It is the only honorable procedure in an impossible situation. It enables him to demonstrate that he is worthy of his country and his ancestors, a man whose spirit is to be honored at the temple.
A corollary to this is the view that suicide is preferable to capture. And suicides occur. Disembowelment is greatly expedited by the use of a grenade. On Attu desperate Japanese soldiers, their officers killed in the final attack, blew themselves to pieces with grenades in preference to surrendering. They had lost the battle. Little good could come from further resistance. They chose to die as good Japanese rather than to live disgraced by capture. There, of course, are Japanese who prefer to be living cowards rather than dead heroes. But they are comparatively few. The Japanese have on no occasion surrendered in vast numbers.
It is dangerous to underrate the enemy. It is better to give him credit for his strength and then ruthlessly seek out and exploit his weaknesses. Of these the Japanese have ample for our purposes. This is true of the Japanese as a nation, true of the Japanese soldiers in the field.
The nation that permits its best minds to be persecuted and its most enlightened statesmen to be murdered is likely to appreciate its loss too late. The men who have emerged as the leaders of contemporary Japan, committed to aggression, using murder as a political method at home and war as an instrument abroad, have made fatal errors. They assumed that Germany would win, but Germany is losing. They assumed that they could seize what they wished, and that America would be too diffident or decadent to fight back; there are signs they now feel they have a tiger by the tail, and know not what to do with it. They thought that they had mastered the technology of the West; they now find this war waged at a technological pace they have failed to maintain and which truly alarms them. They thought that they had developed superior, unbeatable methods of warfare, as the war progressed and these methods are observed and understood, they have lost their initial effectiveness. They thought that distance afforded them protection from retributive blows; today the blows are falling on Japan herself. There are other weaknesses too, weaknesses that may prove doubly significant as the Japanese, too late, perceive their implications.
Since it is assumed that Japanese soldiers must never be captured, it is impossible to teach them what to do if captured. But prisoners are taken. Defeated, without instructions, accustomed merely to obeying orders, they talk when ordered. In this respect the doctrine of invincibility plays into our hands. On more than one occasion the aggressive, egotistical Japanese spirit has worked to our advantage. Cocky with past successes, troops have frequently overestimated their abilities until it was too late to remedy the situation.
Fanatical patriotism is no guarantee of military efficiency. The eagerness to counterattack, once understood, has been used to entrap the Japanese on ground of our choosing. The reckless expenditure of Japanese troops has resulted at times in their sacrifice to no avail, when they might have been withdrawn for more effective use later. The Japanese soldier who kills himself instead of continuing resistance simplifies our task. A warped idea of honor can actually impair the military effort.
In the early stages of the war almost superhuman achievements were accredited to the Japanese soldier. There is now abundant evidence that he is far from a superman. And the evidence is increasing every day. His physical endurance is no greater than that of our own men, once they are properly trained and conditioned. He too is subject to hunger, thirst, heat and disease. Cut off from supplies and reinforcements, he dies of starvation, malaria, dysentery and dengue. He has no magic weapons. His equipment, in the main, is inferior to our own. His skill is superior in certain respects, as in the use of camouflage, but he has serious deficiencies. Judged by our standards, his marksmanship is decidedly inferior. In movement he is inclined to be noisy and to hug the trails. His aggressive, reckless spirit makes him subject to ambush. Once it is understood and anticipated, his trickery loses much of its effectiveness. He is not particularly good at adapting himself to the situation when things fail to go according to plan. He too experiences discouragement and despair in persistent adversity. He has begun to realize that in certain ways, as. in the production of aircraft, Japan is inferior.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for Japan's leaders to conceal their blunders and defeats. Captured documents show that inherent and unavoidable weaknesses in Japan’s military position are becoming more perceptible to Japan’s soldiers. There are ever better reasons for the Japanese people to question the pretentious assumptions of their nation's j divine mission and invincibility. The accumulative effect of repeated defeats of Japan's armed forces will be a great disillusionment, which, as the war progresses, may prove to be a considerable force in itself.