Target Tokyo
December 12, 2010 9:13 PM   Subscribe

Japan Air Raids "is an ongoing project to build a digital archive dedicated to the international dissemination of information about the World War II air raids against Japan." They have seeded it with quite a bit of material (e.g. Target Tokyo, narrated by Ronald Reagan in the documentary and propaganda section) and promise there is much more to come. [Warning, some images may disturb] [via]
posted by unliteral (21 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
It is our hope that, by taking advantage of technological developments that allow for digitization, storage, and global retrieval of documents, the JapanAirRaids.org archive will play an important role in addressing this unfortunate situation.

I'm unclear as to what the unfortunate situation is. Is it that there's been no historic record?
posted by uraniumwilly at 10:00 PM on December 12, 2010


I think that the unfortunate situation they're identifying is that there's been little acknowledgement and documenting of the suffering and damage caused by American air raids in WWII.

This feels like a really tricky subject to handle because focussing on the suffering of the Japanese, especially in the context of Japan's post-war history, is likely to cause a few knees to jerk. There was massive death and destruction rained on civilians that seems, not just unjustifiable now, but on the level of the war crimes carried out by Japan and Germany, our collective acme of evil.
posted by fatbird at 10:47 PM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


It did set my knee a-quiver fatbird, but I looked (quickly, I admit) around the site and found their timeline included the Japanese terror bombing of Chongqing in 1939, so I was reassured it's not some exercise in special pleading. What of the other resources I looked at seemed like a sober record of the horrors of war including plenty of primary sources and I see nothing wrong with the particular focus on the Japanese experience.
So thanks for the post unilateral; faved for future study.
posted by Abiezer at 11:07 PM on December 12, 2010


This feels like a really tricky subject to handle because focussing on the suffering of the Japanese, especially in the context of Japan's post-war history, is likely to cause a few knees to jerk.

I don't think it's unreasonable to look askew at a group of people complaining about a lack of acknowledgement of the damage of the bombing when the Rape of Nanking is still being dismissed as a fabrication.
posted by rodgerd at 11:32 PM on December 12, 2010


I don't think it's unreasonable to look askew at a group of people complaining about a lack of acknowledgement of the damage of the bombing when the Rape of Nanking is still being dismissed as a fabrication.

Sigh... there's no end to this, is there? "They don't do X so we shouldn't do Y." It's leads us nowhere.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:48 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, that should be "it leads us nowhere".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:50 AM on December 13, 2010


Sigh... there's no end to this, is there? "They don't do X so we shouldn't do Y." It's leads us nowhere.

I didn't say we shouldn't acknowledge the sufferring of ordinary Japanese caught in the bombings, any more that we shouldn't criticise the revenge raid on Dresden. But I'd look askance at Holocaust deniers outraged by Dresden.
posted by rodgerd at 1:28 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the Timeline:

7.16.1945 488 B-29's airborne, incendiary attack on cities of Numazu, Oita, Kuwana, and Hiratsuka.

Hiratsuka is the city I currently live in and it was only recently that caught in a wikipedia vortex that I discovered a considerable part of the city was destroyed in fire bombing raids. As you can see the military targets were missed and the civilian area was bombed, when the mostly abandoned military factories were bombed it was children killed.

We need to look at the tragedies in every conflict regardless. As flapjax at midnite points out above because of the denial by some of one terrible tragedy doesn't mean we shouldn't look at another. There are innocent victims in all. The tragedy of people killed in air raids here in Japan is not lessened by the crimes of other Japanese elsewhere.
posted by gomichild at 1:29 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I'd look askance at Holocaust deniers outraged by Dresden.

So would I. And if this website were actively denying the Rape of Nanjing, your first comment would have held water. But as far as I know, the people who created this website are not doing that. So I found your comment to be needlessly inflammatory. But perhaps you can point me to the place(s) at this website where they deny Japanese war crimes and atrocities? If they are doing so, then I'll join you in condemning this website.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:13 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or if "condemning this website" is too strong a term, then perhaps I should say I'll join you in "looking askew and/or askance" at this website.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:23 AM on December 13, 2010


rodgerd: "I didn't say we shouldn't acknowledge the sufferring of ordinary Japanese caught in the bombings, any more that we shouldn't criticise the revenge raid on Dresden. But I'd look askance at Holocaust deniers outraged by Dresden"

Ryu Murakami, a celebrated Japanese novelist, in his novel 69, talked about Japanese boomers angry at their government for lying about the atrocities committed in the name of the emperor. I say this to point out that there has been a decades-long acknowledgement of and anger about, at least among people from Murakami's generation, the terrible things Japan did during the war. The government of course has been decidedly reticent and unapologetic on a number of points, but this doesn't make the Japanese government unique in any way, nor does it make the deaths of innocents, regardless of their nationality or what their government does, any less repugnant and deserving of remembrance and respect.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:57 AM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


World War II is and always will be a tricky subject for historians and students of history. In Japan, much like in the United States there has been a tendency to whitewash history. Looking back at the war has always just left me flabbergasted. The sheer scale of the conflict is almost unimaginable to those who didn't live through it, and I'd venture to guess that even while it was ongoing it was still very difficult to fathom the ubiquity of the conflict, especially in an age where the news came in snippets days later via newspapers or radio (Murrow's Boys excellent live radio reports notwithstanding) It always seems much easier to look back and cast judgement upon the actions of the combatants, a problem that permeates the study of history in all of its facets. If anything, I think that kind of presentist thinking tends to cloud the reality of motivation and events. Attempts to put this type of chaos into a form that can be digested and understood will typically have that presentist slant but in general I think that attempts to do so, when combined with the vast array of sources, secondary and primary, can really help deepen understanding of something this vast and devastating. I look forward to parsing the site and seeing what it has to offer, thanks for the post.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:58 AM on December 13, 2010


I'm unclear as to what the unfortunate situation is. Is it that there's been no historic record?

In The Fog of War, Robert McNamara acknowledges that the air raids were targeting civilians, and that he and other government and military officials were committing war crimes of the kind that would likely have had them before a tribunal and executed, were the Americans to have lost WWII.

What is unfortunate is not that there is no historical record, but that the historical record is largely written by the victors, who often leave out many uncomfortable details like these.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:17 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The point of this and all similar exercises is not to find fault, but to inspire us to restrain the dogs of war in our own lifetimes. Not in theory, not in our prayers, not with some exceptions. But with a firm determination to find a something-other-than-violent solution to conflicts among nations. Unfortunately, our generation of Westerners has failed its biggest test so far, being unable or unwilling to stop the invasions of Irag and Afghanistan. And we continue to support the meme of war and militarism and give states permission to commit mass murder in our names. So it doesn't matter who was right and who was wrong back then -- just don't do it again. Any of you.
posted by Faze at 4:25 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Some context would lend this otherwise excellent site a bit of integrity. In other words, the horrors presented are the result of not only American bombers sent forth by war criminals, but also the consequences of Japan's misguided, imperialist aggression. Cultural differences aside, an acknowledgement of this from the start would serve to strengthen their point, I think. For example, one cannot present the story of Okinawa by simply beginning with the American invasion. It has no context without mention of Japan's prewar mistreatment of Okinawans and their bombing of Pearl Harbor. Karma and consequence.
posted by Shike at 5:48 AM on December 13, 2010


But with a firm determination to find a something-other-than-violent solution to conflicts among nations.

Bombing civilians is bad, but are you suggesting pure diplomacy was a viable option with the Japanese in WWII? I suppose eventually the Japanese government would have been satisfied with dominion over the entire Pacific Rim and a lot of interior Asia, but that would have had not so ideal consequences for all the conquered nations. As, indeed, there already had been even before World War II officially started. China had been suffering for years in the Sino Japanese Wars.
posted by kmz at 6:03 AM on December 13, 2010


Elevator music for JAR's digital lobby from Pere Ubu: 30 Seconds over Tokyo.
posted by notyou at 6:57 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


People in Japan, at least in my experience, feel great sorrow over the American conventional bombing raids (my father-in-law remembered his younger sister burning to death as a result of a raid), but there isn't much rage or resentment. Then again, I never lived in Tokyo. I did live for a while in Hitachi, north of the Tokyo region, and an American acquaintance had mentioned that an old guy angrily pointed out landmarks where Americans had bombed or strafed the town, but this is not something I ever experienced.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:03 AM on December 13, 2010


when the Rape of Nanking is still being dismissed as a fabrication.

The situation is complicated by the fact that Iris Chang's book of the same name was filled with misinformation.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:07 AM on December 13, 2010


not just unjustifiable now, but on the level of the war crimes carried out by Japan and Germany

And the axe grinds on...
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 7:46 AM on December 13, 2010


It's a little tangential, but since the links in my previous post on Japanese air Raid and Civil Defence posters were broken, this is a chance to update them: generally to the archives here, and specifically to this set of awesome posters in particular.

Nice post and interesting discussion.
posted by Rumple at 1:09 PM on December 13, 2010


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