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August 15, 2005 11:42 PM   Subscribe

Japanese Propaganda from WWII I've seen & been fascinated by a fair amount of Allied propaganda from the second World War, including an exhibit at the Smithsonian a decade back, but this is the first bit of "enemy" propaganda I can remember running across. It's a pamphlet detailing Japan's plans for a better future. Another piece, "Farewell American Soldiers" piece which was leafleted to the troops is in English and is particularly chilling.
posted by jonson (34 comments total)

 
So chilling, in fact, that it made me type the word "piece" twice in the final sentence of my post, apparently.
posted by jonson at 11:43 PM on August 15, 2005


10. Don't eat your own excrement or drink your own urine in the presence of others. If you do, you are sure to be branded as a lunatic, however warmly you may protest.


Sage advice. I always wait until I'm not in the presence of others to consume my own excrement.

nice post! very interesting.
posted by thanatogenous at 11:59 PM on August 15, 2005


I have to say the "mult-cultural" cover on the japanese pamphlet is strange to see from that era. While the Nazis were preaching racial hatred, the japanese (seemed) to be preaching tollerance and togetherness. At least thats what it looked like. It's so similar to the "pc" images we see in America today.

It's so reminicient of modern corporate PR work, it would even sell in America today.
posted by delmoi at 12:00 AM on August 16, 2005


[this is good]
[this might be offensive]
posted by raaka at 12:04 AM on August 16, 2005


I like that image of East Asia; I think that globe represents the Japanese militarists' thinking going into the war quite well.

Ie, the war to them was all about East Asia. The Central Pacific was largely a void and, for the Army, the Navy's bailiwick anyway.

The zaibatsu industrialists salivated over the finest colonial territories available on the Risk board at that time. What prizes, free for the taking! And with Germany keeping the Dutch, French, and British occupied, this opportunity for national greatness could only come around once a millenium.

Looking from our postwar perspective, we know the Americans would end up building hundreds of fleet subs, dozens of aircraft carriers, thousands of B-29s, and even a successful nuclear bomb program to take the war to the homeland.

But sitting in an Imperial War Cabinet Council in 1941, this future of America bringing the pain to Japan itself was inconceivable... Look at that map of the globe! Japan was on the march in Asia; the Japanese Navy had the doctrine, training, and equipment to repel any american attempts at moving towards Japan's new-won empire in East Asia, and at any rate it was the Navy's sacred duty to the emperor and nation to rise to the occasion and fight like warriors.

The Japanese Army was of course confident it could defeat any allied army able to transport itself into the theatre... what were the British going to do, walk from India? And as for the Americans, the Phillippines were much further from American than the Empire -- heck, Japanese army fighters could make the round-trip flight from Formosa! Russia was a real threat but in November 1941 it certainly looked like they were on their last legs.

Looking at the propaganda is of course salutary. People believed this stuff about the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and sometimes I think the reality of the Japanese occupation was closer to this propaganda than our propaganda; the Japanese did have some sort of defense about the Allies whinging on how they had attacked "French" Indochina, "Dutch" East Indies, etc. Such hypocrisy (in their eyes) -- (ob: not that the cultural imperialism was so hot, see next post)
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:07 AM on August 16, 2005


Yes, multiculturalism was supposed to be the big thing with the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere... "Asia for Asians", and all that. The reality almost approached that, in some places, perhaps, but looking at the print with the dude on the horse shows the nasty flipside, from all appearances this looks like a reader for grammar school, where the Thai kids would be forced to read along to the story.

The katakana is pretty easy to read, it's a story about "Our Army Officer-san"

Strong Japan's Army Officer
Riding the horse, paka paka paka paka
When we salute
from the horse's (can't read)

The officer salutes us in return
Our Army officer,
Kind Japan's Army Officer.

Japanese is a cool language, as you might guess they used the polite/honorific form of the verb for the officer's salute to the kids.

The kids look pretty Japanese to me, but I think this was printed for Empire use, like maybe Korea.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:18 AM on August 16, 2005


Nice post, chilling stuff but very interesting too.
posted by fenriq at 12:25 AM on August 16, 2005


While the Nazis were preaching racial hatred

Actually the Nazis also had this multi mono-culturalism bs going, too. Similar fetishing of military strength, education, cooperation, revolutionary zeal to supplant the old order. The Japanese cultural imperialists were just taking a page from the Nazis here.

Granted in Europe there were definite untermensch targeted for elimination, but the Nazis were fine with most of Europe, though of course chauvinistic toward German High Culture etc. The nazi bigotry was IMV not that exceptional for the times; I think most people from prewar Europe would be quite horrified to see what has happened to their countries today.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:50 AM on August 16, 2005


Heywood wrote:

Yes, multiculturalism was supposed to be the big thing with the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere... "Asia for Asians", and all that. The reality almost approached that, in some places,

where exactly? because it certainly didn't in occupied Manchuria and Korea.

also: I think most people from prewar Europe would be quite horrified to see what has happened to their countries today.

well, it's a good thing those people are all DEAD or for the most part quiet about their discomfort then... right?
posted by saketini99 at 2:09 AM on August 16, 2005


Heywood... Your idescription of the pre-war Japanese viewpoint seems to make sense but it doesn't fit with the little bit of history that I've been taught.

It was my impression that the top-level Japanese military leaders assumed if they attacked the United States then they had to grab as much of the Pacific and Asia as fast as they could because they knew that they would lose if they got into an extended war with a fully mobilized U.S. Once they grabbed a good size empire they could make taking it back very costly and negotiate from a position of strength.

Am I wrong about this? If this wasn't the military brass were thinking, then what did they believe Pearl Harbor would accomplish?
posted by rdr at 2:12 AM on August 16, 2005


It was my impression that the top-level Japanese military leaders assumed if they attacked the United States then they had to grab as much of the Pacific and Asia as fast as they could because they knew that they would lose if they got into an extended war with a fully mobilized U.S.
Your impression is correct. Admiral Isoroku Yamamato, who'd studied in the US and knew the country's capabilities, explicitly said at the time
"In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success."
Other than for a few delusional militarists who really did believe all that crap about Amaterasu Omikami, the Japanese never really hoped for a victory against America, just a long, drawn out campaign of attrition which would result in a cost too high for the American populace to bear. This, of course, is where the A-bomb comes in, as it completely ruined that calculation.
posted by Goedel at 2:51 AM on August 16, 2005


It's very hard to say what 'a government' was thinking, because goverments don't think... only the people in them do, and they obviously will have differing opinions.

One abstraction I've seen is that Japan was terribly afraid of Russia, which had ten times its industrial capability. Back then, everyone thought about their war-fighting capability in terms of their industrial production, which was a pretty darn good way of modeling it, at the time. They rightly believed they'd get stomped if they ever got into it with the Russians. So they started expanding into Asia to expand their industrial base. (and committed unbelievable atrocities in doing so... the recent Chinese riots about the Japanese 'cover-up' might not have been staged by the Chinese government. They might actually have been genuine.)

The United States got most upset about all this invasion, and stopped trading with Japan, which caused them a great deal of economic discomfort. So they seem to have decided that war with the US was inevitable, and tried to stage a surprise attack to knock us out of the Pacific all at once. And it nearly worked. Had they hit the fuel dump in Pearl, we'd have been out of the Pacific for at least a year longer; we didn't lose our aircraft carriers, but what fleet we had left couldn't go far without massive stocks of fuel.

But, overall, while it was a tactical victory, it was an enormous strategic blunder. That's obvious now, but it should have been obvious BEFORE the war started. Remember, they're invading because they're afraid of Russia and its ten-times-greater industrial production. So, in typical bureacrat style, they attack a country with TWENTY TIMES their production.

The strategy of 'grab like crazy and make it very expensive to take back' worked, in the sense that it WAS terribly, terribly expensive to us to take back.... but we were, at the time, absolutely willing to pay that price. I don't believe they expected us to take them on headfirst and WIN... they knew their soldiers would fight to the last man. Well, they did, and we just kept coming. I have enormous respect for those men. Both sides, really.

I don't think the US has that kind of backbone anymore.
posted by Malor at 2:58 AM on August 16, 2005


Wow.

"But this is not all. There is still another thing in store for you along the Philippines front. What is this thing? I will answer you. It is a grave, YOUR GRAVE!"
posted by voltairemodern at 6:35 AM on August 16, 2005


I think most people from prewar Europe would be quite horrified to see what has happened to their countries today.

That's just silly. pre-war Europe was filthy and impoverished. Post-war Europe may have unemployment problems, but nothing like the mass starvation, triple digit inflation and squalor of the pre-war days. Extremist governments like the Nazis and Soviets didn't rise up because the people were happy and satisfied with their conditions!

it WAS terribly, terribly expensive to us to take back

Not compared with the price that everyone else in the world was paying. How many Filipinos gave their lives to retake the Philippines? How many Chinese for China? Afterwards it still took long hard struggles by those people before the West would give them the right to govern themselves as they saw fit.

I don't think the US has that kind of backbone anymore.

Personally, I'd rather not have the kind of "backbone" it takes to colonize other regions, but hey, I'll never be made President of the World Bank either, will I?
posted by Pollomacho at 6:47 AM on August 16, 2005


I like the before and after maps.

That's what totalitarian imperialistic military states are missing today... that special kind of unbounded optimism.
posted by cedar at 7:26 AM on August 16, 2005


I don't think the US has that kind of backbone anymore.

Given the right fight, sure.

I'd fight myself into a powder over my son or wife but I wouldn't get my knuckles bloody trying to attack the guys I thought were running a meth lab next door.
posted by argybarg at 7:26 AM on August 16, 2005


That "Farewell American Soldiers" piece was very interesting. It's odd how the Japanese samurai was taught to disregard death, how even in later years with their modern military, death was something that you knew was going to occur, but it was how you died that defined your life - and yet they attempt to instill the fear of death into enemy troops.

Methinks thou doth protest too much. We tend to confront others with what we fear.

Since I buy into the samurai ethos, this would have strengthened my resolve: "I get to die fighting gloriously?! Cool! I'm in!"

/I thought I'd die fighting the Soviets, my K-bar fist deep in some spaznuts (Spetsnaz). C'est La Vie....or rather C'est la Guerre.

I'm with argybarg, I think our backbone is still there, we're just getting beguiled by our leaders. Same could have been said for the Germans or the Japanese (as opposed to the Nazis or the 'Japs' who were the enemy - if you take my meaning). I wouldn't take on the meth lab next door either, but since it's bad for the neighborhood, and on general principles, I suspect there would be a great number of unexplainable 'accidents,' and bizzare disappearances.


Great post jonson.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:42 AM on August 16, 2005


I read this last night, and ruminated on it before responding. It's amazing to me the lengths and ways that one country will find to attack another. Psychological warfare is every bit as important as the physical. A soldier who'd read that leaflet would have a gut-level rememberance of it when he went into battle. The whole "you're going to die, just thought we'd give you a heads-up before you go feet-up" would have probably freaked the hell out of me.
posted by PossumCowboy at 8:50 AM on August 16, 2005


Other than for a few delusional militarists who really did believe all that crap about Amaterasu Omikami, the Japanese never really hoped for a victory against America, just a long, drawn out campaign of attrition which would result in a cost too high for the American populace to bear. This, of course, is where the A-bomb comes in, as it completely ruined that calculation.

My argument above was that the Navy and the Army had two different views of the world. True, the Navy was less parochial and understood the difficulties involved, but the Army and Navy only communicated as much as necessary, if that, and the Army didn't give a crap about anything but their East Asia empire.

*America's own doctrine* pre-war was to force its way to the Philippines, and had they tried in 1942 they would likely have been smashed by the superior Japanese navy ('course, the Navy had already largely smashed our fleet at Pearl Harbor, preemptively).

The attrition battles of 1942-43 (note that most of those years was mainly focused on an island chain nobody had known about pre-war) and the big island set-pieces of 1943-44 were unexpected, and from the Army's standpoint the Japanese Navy dropped the ball.

But it is my argument that the B-29 changed the calculus of the war for the militarists, like bringing a shotgun to a knifefight.

As for Japan's imperial ambitions being a net-good for the subjected peoples... Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria, Vietnam were horribly exploitative and abusive. ISTR some mixed successes in Indonesia, but that was largely towards the end when the IJA was attempting to save face for their failures.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:13 AM on August 16, 2005


What was that last page about?
posted by kozad at 9:36 AM on August 16, 2005


It's odd how the Japanese samurai was taught to disregard death... - and yet they attempt to instill the fear of death into enemy troops.

It's not odd at all. They were aware that the enemy troops were not Japanese and thus did not share their attitude towards death. Al-Qaida does the same thing: "We look forward to death, but you fear it, so we shall win." And during King Philip's War, the first great war fought by the English colonists here, the Algonquians they were fighting left a note tacked to a tree saying "...we hauve nothing but our lives to loose but thou hast many fair houses cattell & much good things." You care about what we do not, therefore we shall win. What's odd about that?
posted by languagehat at 9:37 AM on August 16, 2005


ror.
posted by guruguy9 at 9:55 AM on August 16, 2005


Part of what emboldened the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor was the belief that Americans were a decadent mongrel race of bullies. Japanese war planners believed that, like bullies everywhere, American could dish it out but they could not take it. One good punch in the nose (Pearl Harbor) and the Americans would be begging for mercy. Japan did not need to fight a long war because the greedy, decadent Americans could never fight such a war.

(All the above comes from an undergraduate reading of John Dower's book War Without Mercy, which I hope I am representing properly!)

By the way, another interesting set of Japanese war propaganda, aimed at Australian soldiers, here.
posted by LarryC at 10:31 AM on August 16, 2005


LarryC, those are AWESOME, thanks!
posted by jonson at 10:35 AM on August 16, 2005


But it is my argument that the B-29 changed the calculus of the war for the militarists, like bringing a shotgun to a knifefight.

Doolittle's B-25's had firebombed Tokyo (April, 1942) a full two and years before a B-29 was to drop a bomb on Japan (June 1944). The first B-29 sorties left from China and India, "over the hump" and were extremely costly. It wasn't until the capture of the Marianas that B-29 raids became convenient. It could be said that this year of heavy pounding was what precipitated the end of the war, but it would not have been possible without a lot of blood and guts from Marines and soldiers that died in beach landings.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:46 AM on August 16, 2005


Is this a guide for (Japanese?) soldiers for how to not try to get out of service via reason of insanity? Very odd.

But apparently it's ok to eat your excement, as long as you don't do it in front of others.
posted by Four Flavors at 11:35 AM on August 16, 2005


Four Flavors: it was intended as a subtle suggestion to Allied soldiers that they could get out of service (and hence be sent home, to avoid dying at the hands of the Japanese army) by doing any or all of the listed behaviors.
posted by yhbc at 12:29 PM on August 16, 2005


The helpful Section 8 how-to piece at the end led me to this thought: if and when Hollywood gets around to an unnecessary remake of M*A*S*H, it should definitely be used as inspiration for an updated and "edgier" version of Klinger.
posted by Drastic at 12:46 PM on August 16, 2005


It's odd how the Japanese samurai was taught to disregard death... - and yet they attempt to instill the fear of death into enemy troops.

To second what Languagehat had to say- I read once that Lord Clive observed that his Bengal opponents were more than brave in the face of death, but were terrified of being wounded. (Presumalby the life of maimed veteran even if he lived past sepsis was not so nice.) Thus- he ordered is men to shoot to wound.

Worked, too.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:40 PM on August 16, 2005


Doolittle's B-25's had firebombed Tokyo (April, 1942) a full two and years before a B-29 was to drop a bomb on Japan (June 1944).

The Doolittle raid was a one-time thing and did not have the mass to start a firestorm. While one fire was started near the Toyama barracks, it did not spread.

The first B-29 sorties left from China and India, "over the hump" and were extremely costly. It wasn't until the capture of the Marianas that B-29 raids became convenient.

Right, and B-17s didn't have the range from Guam or Saipan.

It could be said that this year of heavy pounding was what precipitated the end of the war

Yes, yes it could.

but it would not have been possible without a lot of blood and guts from Marines and soldiers that died in beach landings.

Looking back on it, it is indeed arguable how much of that island hopping, eg. Tarawa, New Guinea, or the Marshalls, was necessary. Granted, it brought out the Japanese fleet and air arms to be ground down, but from a Utilitarian standpoint going directly to the homeland might have been a more humane, but contrary to Hague, approach.

But it is also arguable that the rain of defeats handed to the militarists 1943-45 were also necessary to wring a surrender out of them. The militarists certainly had nothing to complain about that part of the war, we fought them toe to toe like they wanted.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:10 PM on August 16, 2005


Or, conversely we could have done nothing in the Pacific until August 1945, and the war would still have ended shortly thereafter...
posted by jonson at 3:37 PM on August 16, 2005


and the war would still have ended shortly thereafter...

yeah, it's hard to say what was the best course in retrospect.

Certainly in the most perfect world we could have just invited a Japanese observer mission to some South Sea island.

But this ignores the dynamics of war and what war is, really.

Pearl Harbor was not an invitation to a tea party, and just a bombing campaign would not have necessarily discredited the militarists enough. The totality of the defeat, from all angles, was necessary for a just, secure, peace.

Hitler had a similar sense of military honor wrt this; he had not defeated the French Navy, so left it in place with its institutional honor intact. The IJN's institutional honor was not necessarily lessened 1942-45 per se but clearly shown impotent in the face of American combat power.

So I've always considered the grinding island battles to be a necessary component of the campaign, even with the city-clearing atomic bombings at the end... there was no doubt by mid-1945 that the militarists had had their heads handed to them, on their own terms, even though there will still plenty of undefeated troops on the Asian mainland.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:29 PM on August 16, 2005


PSY versus PSY: more Japanese propaganda examples and the American counter-effort. We didn't pull any punches at home, either (some images NSFW). Funny how the only participant that seems to regard all people as equals is war itself...

Walt Disney Studios produced many war films, most notably the prophetic 1943 live action/animated Victory Through Air Power, which promoted the concept of long-range aerial bombing of Japanese cities (more images here). VTAP had the desired influence on both sides:

...the Army Air Forces embraced the motion picture wholeheartedly. Winston Churchill saw the film and insisted that President Roosevelt watch it with him during their August 1943 summit in Quebec. Soon after the war, Seversky [VTAP book author and film narrator] interviewed Emperor Hirohito, who claimed to have watched the movie and been deeply troubled by its predictions concerning the fate of his country at the hands of US airpower.

One reality show he should have heeded.
posted by cenoxo at 10:38 PM on August 16, 2005


Interesting summing of both sides on end game debate here and here

Pace Pollamacho, but US occupation, however irritating, is/was a damn site better than 1930's Japanese. If nothing else, when asked, we leave.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:31 AM on August 17, 2005


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