Apologies During the World War II 50th Anniversary Victory Celebration

Recent reports indicate that the official observance of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II to be held in Hawaii on September 2, 1995 will be called a commemoration rather than a celebration.

I prefer celebration. The surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945 was a great American victory, a reason for celebrating and honoring those who served in our armed forces. The word, “commemoration” implies a “memory” or “remembrance” and is a description too understated for recalling this historical and emotional event.

Our nation, if not the world, will have eyes focused on Hawaii because World War II started here. Hawaii is also the geographical and cultural bridge between our country and Japan. The celebration planned will have greater meaning for future generations in the United States and Japan and promote more good will in both countries if each would recognize the other’s misdeeds, apologize for them, and then sign a treaty of alliance in the pursuit of perpetual peace.

To apologize would in no way be a negative reflection on those who died or served during the war. It takes courage to apologize because on must acknowledge mistakes. Apology is the first step in preventing or absolving hatred. Parents apologize to children, employers to employees, teachers to students, friends to friends, and vice-versa. Apologies open the doors to communication and nurture love and mutual respect. A nation-to-nation apology should be no different. The promise of perpetual peace should be reason enough for each country to overcome its supposed humiliation.

Apologies by Japan to the United States

Apologies for the Pearl Harbor Attack

Japan should apologies for its undeclared attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 which resulted in the death of 2,400 people.

Apologies for Atrocities

Japan should admit to and apologize for the cruel aggression and atrocities it has committed since 1931 on countless thousands of Asians and POWs and for its wanton destruction of property and then offer appropriate compensations, especially to China, Korea, the Philippines, and the United States.

Apologies by the United States to Japan

Apologies for the Pearl Harbor Attack by Japan

We should apologize for provoking Japan prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. Facts indicate that the attack President Roosevelt condemned as unprovoked and dubbed, “a date which will live in infamy” was not a sneak attack.

The following rarely mentioned facts should be considered because they prove that we were partially to blame and that President Roosevelt lied to Congress on December 8, 1941. Beginning in July 1940, we imposed economic sanctions on Japan: We froze her assets, boycotted her products, and placed an oil embargo and other controls on her exports, all in the name of halting her military aggression in Asia which started in 1931. American pilots were already fighting in China against Japan as members of the Roosevelt-sanctioned American Volunteer Group, the Flying Tigers.

The question then is, why did we allow Japan to go on a military rampage in Asia since 1931 and wait ten years to halt her aggression? History no shows the answer to be Prime Minister Churchill’s diplomatic astuteness. The massive 1940 British withdrawal from Dunkirk, the beginning of the Battle of Britain, and Churchill’s close relationship with President Roosevelt prompted Churchill to conspire with Roosevelt.

Hamilton fish, a prominent member of Congress for 25 years, claimed at the time that President Roosevelt was very anxious to go to war with Germany and prevent the invasion of England. Fish said Roosevelt, “shred and astute, covered his tracks by shouting from the rooftops and denouncing the attack on Pearl Harbor as ‘a day in infamy,’ blaming it entirely on Japan.” Senator Hiram Johnson, a former governor of California, said, “There are people in high places in government who will trick the American people into war.” Sir Oliver Lyttleton, one of Churchill’s ministers, stated, “Japan was provoked into attacking Pearl Harbor. It is a travesty on history to ever say America was forced into the war.” Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce, who later became U.S. Ambassador to Italy, said, “President Roosevelt tricked and lied to get us into war with Japan in order to get into war with Germany through the back door.”

Excerpts from the book, Great Events From History, Vol. 3, which I received from the Library of Congress via our U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, states that, “President Roosevelt and his top advisers actually planned Pearl Harbor… They knew about Japanese plans and allowed the attack to take place in order to force the United States into war.”

The authoritatative Encyclopedia Britannica (vol. VIII, 1974, p. 822) is very explicit in reference to the “Pearl Harbor Attack.” It states that, “the attack culminated worsening relations between the U.S. and Japan that had extended over a decade. In November, after being economically strangled by the U.S. efforts to stop oil and other war material from being shipped to Japan, the government of Premier Tojo Hideki finally decided on war.”

The Japanese attack on December 7, 1941was a savior to the British because the following day the U.S. declared war on Japan and a few days later on Germany and Italy. The rest is history. The immediate massive movement of U.S. troops and war supplies to the European front saved England from the imminent German invasion. The three Axis nations eventually surrendered. The Roosevelt-Churchill conspiracy became a reality.

From experience, having served in Japan as an Army officer in the U.S. Military Intelligence Service immediately after the surrender, I am convinced that, prior to the attack, our intelligence service and especially our American Embassy in Tokyo and other foreign embassy intelligence organs there were fully aware of the coming attack on Pearl Harbor. There is no way the large-scale logistical preparations in Japan—which went on for many months and involved thousands of civilian and military personnel and a flotilla task force of 31 warships including six aircraft carriers with 432 planes which spent 12 days on the ocean—could have gone unnoticed by the various allied foreign intelligence services actively operating in Japan, knowing Japan had been on war footing for ten years. To even assume that all the intelligence services did not know of the coming attack is a gross insult to them. There is no doubt that, prior to the attack, Japan consulted with and received concurrence from her Axis partners, Germany and Italy. Pearl Harbor was not a sneak attack, nor was it even a surprise attack.

A high school student in 1941, I can recall talks in Hawaii about a possible war with Japan and the need to train students as ambulance drivers, letter bearers, and nurse’s aides, and for the use of schools as emergency hospitals.

On November 30, 1941, The Honolulu Advertiser headlined, “Japanese May Strike Over Weekend!” Americans had access to secret diplomatic codes.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Edwin Reischaur, a noted historian and diplomat wrote, “In the weeks preceding Pearl Harbor, American intelligence had gathered clear evidence of an impending attack.”

Today, the family members of former Hawaii Commander Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, in seeking exoneration for the charges of dereliction of duty brought against him, are arguing that Washington knew of the coming attack on Pearl Harbor and that Kimmel was not notified. They are supported by former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman William Crowe, Jr. that “Kimmel’s rank be posthumously restored… that he’s been made a scapegoat.”

At the East-West Philosophers’ Conference held in Honolulu in January 1995, there was a consensus that the United States was partially to be blamed for the attack.

Apologies for Bombing Civillians

We should apologize for the 300-bomber fire bombing of Tokyo on March 9, 1945 and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945. 310,000 non-combatants, mostly women and children since Japan’s manpower was low after 15 years of war, were needlessly mass-murdered.

After Axis partner Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945, Japan fought the world alone for the four months before the nuclear bombings without being able to import any necessities. She was on the verge of surrender.

Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki were civilian targets. Pearl Harbor was a military target. War does not justify the mass-killing of women and children. We always have and will condemn mass killings by terrorists.

Many say we prevented 700,000 American casualties by making a land invasion unnecessary. General MacArthur always believed the estimates were greatly exaggerated. The huge estimate, unfortunately believed by many, is mythical. It is probably based on using a ratio of our losses on Iwo Jima and Okinawa against the population of those areas in order to justify the killing of 310,000 civilians. Based on my experience, Japan did not have the extensive coastal anti-invasion barriers, elaborate underground bunkers, fortifications, huge gun emplacements, ample war material, and most importantly sufficient numbers of fresh, well-trained and fed troops that we all know were common on the Pacific islands we conquered. I have knowledge that if our troops invaded Japan, they would have been facing mostly women with pointed bamboo poles. High wartime emotions made us blind and receptive the the line that the war would continue and an invasion would be necessary for victory.

President Truman, who had become President only three months earlier, was easily and overly persuaded to drop the bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 by some of our zealous nuclear scientists at Los Alamos, New Mexico who worked on the $2 billion bomb. After our first test explosion only three weeks earlier at Alamogordo on July 16, 1945, we had test data on the effects of one bomb blast concerning initial thermal and nuclear radiation, fallout, and residual radiation on military equipment and structures. We lacked data on the capabilities of the bomb on actual cities and live people. Our enemy, Japan, was a made-to-order target because we had complete air and sea access.

The use of the nuclear bombs were not necessary because our military strategists had been claiming that each of the many successful major battles of our Pacific campaign “had turned the tide of the war,” starting with Midway and Guadalcanal in 1942, including Coral Sea, Saipan, the Gilbert Islands, and Leyte Gulf, and ending with Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945. We overwhelmed the Japanese on most fronts. Were our historians incorrect in their assessments that the nuclear bombings were necessary?

Otis Pike, former Congressman and now with Newhouse News Service, recently wrote that General Dwight Eisenhower was opposed to the bombings because “Japan already was defeated.” He was deeply depressed on being informed that the bombs would be used. It is likely that a short blockade would have ended the war with no additional American casualties.

All recent Presidents have stressed the great importance of U.S.-Japan relations. In the past 50 years, Japan has proven to be a very valuable friend and ally. For four years in a row now, she has been the world’s largest foreign aid provider. In 1994, she disbursed $13.34 billion. Her people are law-abiding, well-educated, and skilled; her technological and industrial achievements are admired all over the world; and in world affairs she has always supported the United States. For example: during the Gulf War, in support of U.S. policy, Japan was early to contribute $13 billion in aid, in sharp contrast to a leading European ally which loaned the use of one small naval vessel. Unfortunately, such news does not make headlines in the U.S. We have also learned that Japan could be a formidable enemy. As her technology and industry are advancing and her people are solidly united under a democratic system which we nurtured, it behooves us to have her as a perpetual ally.

Some people justify the use of the nuclear bombs by claiming “revenge.” To intentionally mass-murder women and children anywhere in revenge or as acts of war is evil and is not the American way—It is not the Christian way. To say we killed them because they started the war is both too simplistic and not the civilized way. Wartime or not, I’m sure there isn’t a Jew today who would cold-bloodedly kill a single “frau” or “kind” in revenge for the deaths of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust.

There is an old Japanese saying, “Do not fret; the truth will prevail in the end.” I predict it will only be a matter of time before apologies by Japan and the U.S. will come, paving the way for a true partnership and a treaty of peace emphasizing the prevention of the use of nuclear bombs. Certainly, the sooner the better! For Japan, closer ties with the U.S. should hasten a peace treaty with the former Soviet Union and the return of the northern islands.

It is easy to be emotional when discussing war, but we should not overlook the facts. We should honor our 2,400 Pearl Harbor and 400,000 World War II dead. They did not die in vain or simply as pawns of a Roosevelt-Churchill conspiracy. It is better that they be remembered as heroes who triumphed over dictatorships.

On March 6, 1995, the United Nations World Summit for Social Development declared in Copenhagen that, “The entire world looks upon the United States for World Peace.” Let us keep that trust. We have a great country.

The United States started the atomic war. I know that she is great enough to put an end to this war.

We must always put all aspects of the war into the correct historical perspective, even if it is painful, in order to hold our heads high. Abraham Lincoln told Congress in 1862, “We cannot escape history.”

During our September World War II victory anniversary celebration in honor of all our military heroes, we should arrange ceremonies for mutual apologies and pledges to strengthen the defense accord and to uphold the future peace, especially in the Pacific area. What better way for two bitter enemies of yesteryear who are today the two most powerful economies in the world to celebrate and welcome the 21st century?

George S. Ishida

Major, U.S. Army (Retired)


1) I know the Japanese language. I am a Japanese-American and a resident of Hawaii. Also, like most Americans, I too have a feeling of kinship with the land of my ancestors. It is our fateful duty as Americans to evolve that kinship into positive actions for world peace.

2) I was one of the tens of thousands of emotional Americans in uniform and Japanese who lined the Keihin National Highway on a cold, windy morning in April 1951, waving U.S. and Japanese flags to bid General Douglas MacArthur farewell as he was driven to Haneda Airport. The Japanese regard him, a former enemy, as their savior who was responsible for their constitution, for initiating their economic recovery, for land reform, and also for preventing the destruction of their cultural centers such as Nikko, Kyoto, Nara, Kamakura, the Imperial Palace, and their Emperor system.

3) I served in Japan with MacArther’s Occupation Forces immediately after the war and for 12 years on extended tours as an Army Intelligence Officer, Engineering Officer, and as a qualified Nuclear Weapons Tactical Employment Officer.