When I wrote Chapter XIV of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, “The Care and Nurture of a Sacred Cow,” I closed the chapter with a subsection titled “Japan’s War Crimes” (pages 286-289), for a very specific purpose. I felt it was vital to demonstrate to a wide swath of the generally uninformed American public the ghastly barbarities the Imperial Japanese military had been practicing against its perceived enemies long before Pearl Harbor, for obvious reasons.
“For those too young to understand the Japanese military’s capacity for barbarity in the several years before and during World War II,” I wrote in the original lead to the subsection, “a brief overview is instructive, because Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were among the first American victims of Imperial Japan’s war machine, an ugly fact our establishment has always been loath to admit.”
The version of “Japan’s War Crimes” that finally appeared in both editions of The Truth at Last is less than half of the original. The Sunbury Press editor saw no reason at all why a brief section on Japan’s gruesome history was necessary, and actually suggested that I drop the entire section! When I vehemently objected, the matter was kicked upstairs to Sunbury publisher Larry Knorr, whose decision to split the difference seemed to mollify both parties. Of course I didn’t lose the original subsection, which you can read now in its entirely and decide for yourself whether I went too far in describing Japan’s prewar and World War II depredations, which, in my opinion, were among the most villainous in all world history.
Here is the first of two parts of the original, unedited and unabridged version of “Japan’s War Crimes”: (Boldface emphasis mine throughout, not in original.)
In late July 2007, the Germany-based Reuters News Agency ran a small item that went largely unnoticed, but the reaction it elicited from the White House offers an instructive glimpse into the politics of the Washington-Tokyo alliance, and why this cozy relationship offers so little hope for those who seek a final solution to the Earhart case. The story, headlined “House seeks Japan’s apology on ‘comfort women,’” announced that the “U.S. House of Representatives on Monday called on Japan to apologize for forcing thousands of women into sexual servitude to its soldiers during and before World War II”:
On a voice vote, the House approved a nonbinding resolution intended as a symbolic statement on the Japanese government’s role in forcing up to 200,000 “comfort women” into a wartime brothel program starting in the 1930s.
The vote marked a rare rebuke by Washington politicians of Washington’s closest ally in Asia. An official at the Japanese Embassy in Washington would not comment on the House vote, leaving it to government officials in Tokyo.
“Today, the House will send a message to the government of Japan that it should deliver an official, unequivocal, unambiguous apology for the indignity the comfort women suffered,” said Rep. Mike Honda, the California Democrat who pushed the legislation through the House.
California Congressman Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee approving the resolution, was among the more vocal critics of Japan’s blasé attitude about its wartime comfort women program. “There can be no denying the Japanese Imperial military coerced thousands upon thousands of Asian women,” he said. “Those who posit that all of the ‘comfort women’ were happily complicit and acting of their own accord simply do not understand the meaning of the word rape,” added Lantos, a Holocaust survivor. Honda, 66, is a Japanese-American who spent his early childhood in a World War II internment camp in Colorado.
According to Reuters, in 1993 Japan had acknowledged “a state role in the wartime program, which mostly victimized Chinese and Korean women. Japan’s government later established a fund, which collected private donations and offered payments of about $20,000 to 285 women.” But this was a token gesture, as “Japanese officials including the Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, have [recently] denied there was evidence the government or military were directly involved in procuring the women.” In June 2007, the Japanese government, deeply offended by the prospect of the forthcoming House resolution, warned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Honda’s resolution “will almost certainly have lasting and harmful effects on the deep friendship, close trust and wide-ranging cooperation our two nations now enjoy.”
The American media, aghast at the House’s callous breach of protocol with our closest Asian allies, ignored the story. The Bush administration, tripping over itself to assure Japan of its unconditional loyalty, trotted out mouthpiece Tony Snow the next day to send a conciliatory bouquet to the Japanese prime minister. The French news outlet, Agence France Presse, an unlikely U.S. ally, apparently was the only available messenger, but Snow availed himself of its willingness to carry the White House water. The AFP story, “US [sic] supports ‘valued ally’ Abe, mum on ‘comfort women’ row,” appeared the next day:
We support the prime minister. He is a valued and important ally, and the president supports him,” spokesman Tony Snow told AFP one day after US lawmakers voted to demand an “unambiguous apology” on the wartime issue.
But Snow declined to say whether the White House sided with the US House of Representatives or Japan’s government, which says it has addressed the criticism over the use of an estimated 200,000 Asian “comfort women.” “At this point I don’t fall on either side,” Snow said.
The French release also cited the House resolution as “calling on the Japanese prime minister to make a public apology, urges the government to refute any claims that the episode never happened and wants future generations to be told of ‘this horrible crime.’ ”
The New York Times weighed in Aug. 1, with its Tokyo bureau reporting that the Japanese Prime Minister was not pleased by this reminder of his government’s lack of public remorse over its despicable abuse of women during the war. “Call by U.S. House for Sex Slavery Apology Angers Japan’s Leader,” the Times headline announced:
Prime Minister Shinzō Abe expressed some irritation on Tuesday at the resolution approved by the House of Representatives in Washington that calls on Japan to acknowledge its wartime sex slavery. His reaction indicated strongly that the Japanese government would not offer surviving victims an official apology. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan called a House resolution on sexual slavery “regrettable.”
“The resolution’s approval was regrettable,” said Mr. Abe, who caused a furor in Asia and the United States in March by denying that the Japanese military had directly coerced women into sex slavery in World War II. . . . This spring, Mr. Abe rejected any demand for an apology. But since then, he has avoided discussing the issue in detail.
“Japan had lobbied hard against the [U.S. House’s] resolution in Washington, warning that it could harm relations, ” the Times reported. The Tokyo office of the British newspaper Guardian Unlimited ran a similar account, but otherwise the comfort women story was ignored. The House resolution condemning Japan’s wartime abuse of women came just a few months before the first World Conference on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery, held at the University of California-Los Angeles from October 4-7, 2007. “HR 121 is the biggest reason why we came to the conference,” panelist Haruko Shibasaki of the Tokyo-based Action Network for the Military Sexual Slavery Issue told the Los Angeles Times. But the conference was a well-kept secret, and its only advance publicity came from the Web site of its sponsor, UCLA’s Asia Institute, announcing that the event would build on the “momentum of House Resolution 121 demanding the Japanese government to apologize for its war crimes against ‘comfort women.’”
While the L.A. Times supported the comfort women’s cause, running two stories during the three-day session, no other news organizations touched it. In the weeks following the event, a few college newspapers including Yale, in New Haven, Connecticut, and Emory University in Atlanta, ran stories about the appearances a few surviving comfort women made at their campuses, but the 24/7 American media never mentioned the UCLA sex slavery conference.
In May 1999, The Rape of Nanking author Iris Chang told Salon.com she was “not welcome in Japan,” and addressed the ongoing phenomenon of that nation’s failure to fully acknowledge, adequately apologize for or pay restitution to its countless wartime victims. “To this day, Japan has never paid a penny in reparations to the victims of the Nanking massacre,” Chang said, “or, to my knowledge, adequate restitution to its other victims, like Korean women who were forced to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese military or the American and Chinese POWs who were used as human guinea pigs for Japanese medical experimentation. . . . I find it extremely disturbing that the newly elected governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, is an outspoken revisionist of World War II history. He told Playboy magazine back in 1990 that the Rape of Nanking was a ‘lie’ and ‘a story made up by the Chinese.’ He’s enormously popular in Japan, and he won the election by a landslide.”
Chang’s comments came a week after the Japanese company Kashiwashobo announced it had canceled plans to publish The Rape of Nanking in Japan. And though her book brought long-overdue attention to Japan’s forgotten war atrocities and international fame to the driven young journalist and mother, in early November 2004 she was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in her car along a rural road south of Los Gatos, California. Chang, 36, had been battling clinical depression, and was hospitalized, treated and released five months before her death.
Whether threats and media attacks from Japanese ultranationalists and others, who, as her husband Brett said, didn’t “take kindly to what she wrote in the Rape of Nanking,” exacerbated the mental illness that precipitated Chang’s suicide, is uncertain. But as Orville Schell, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California Berkeley, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “Iris scraped away the scar tissue of something that had been half forgotten and half healed over, and to this date, it’s still a very raw wound. She ventured into a minefield of unexploded ordnance” when she exposed Japan’s guilt in the wholesale slaughter of more than 300,000 innocent men, women and children at Nanking, China – upwards of half the total population of Nanking and its surrounding area — in December 1937.
Another appalling example of Imperial Japan’s cruelty toward her conquered neighbors can be found in the massive biological and chemical warfare program it began shortly after seizing Manchuria in 1931. In towns and cities throughout Manchuria and occupied China, at Beiyinhe, Changchun, Mukden, and even Nanking, in death pits with benign names like Unit 100, Unit Ei 1644, and Unit 565, the secret Japanese biological warfare experiments subjected countless human and animal subjects to the most deadly pathogens known to science without restraint from 1931 until Japan’s surrender in August 1945.
In Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American Cover-Up (1994), Sheldon H. Harris writes that “Japan, during its occupation, in effect, turned Manchuria into one gigantic biological and chemical warfare factory. . . . They worked with human subjects on diseases that ranged from anthrax to typhoid A and B, typhus, smallpox, tularemia, infectious jaundice, gas gangrene, tetanus, cholera, dysentery, glanders, scarlet fever, undulant fever, diphtheria, pneumonia, brysipelas, epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis, venereal diseases, tuberculosis, salmonella, frostbite and countless other diseases that were endemic to the communities and surrounding regions. . . . No one has been able to catalog completely all the maladies that the various death factories in Manchuria visited on human guinea pigs.”
The mastermind of Japan’s biological warfare program was Lieutenant General Ishii Shiro, who performed his most notorious work at Unit 731, the enormous biological warfare facility at Ping Fan, about 15 miles south of Harbin. At least 3,000 Chinese, Koreans, Russians, and other Asians died at Unit 731, where they were sent after their convictions for capital crimes, sentenced to death and sent to Ping Fan for use as “experimental material.” Outside the death factories, Japanese and Chinese scholars have estimated as many as 270,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians died as a result of Japanese biological warfare attacks, but the exact numbers are impossible to determine.
In the conclusion of “Japan’s War Crimes” we’ll examine many of the gruesome details of the Japanese atrocities at Unit 731, as well as the everlasting infamy the Imperial Japanese Military achieved by their barbaric treatment of their prisoners of war, including the worst single atrocity ever perpetuated against American POWs, the Bataan death march.
Well, Amelia, another year has passed since Amy Otis Earhart brought you into this world in your grandparents’ Atchison, Kansas home on July 24, 1897, eons ago, in a much simpler and, some would say, far better America. Because you were so unexpectedly taken from us sometime after you turned 40, you’ll be forever young to those who remember and celebrate your life.
I’m sure you can read these comments or receive this message somehow, and I’m certain you’re in a place where the free flow of all information is enjoyed by all, and where no secrets exist. I’ll bet there’s plenty you’d like to tell us, but the rules up there prevent it.
Admittedly, it’s a stretch to think you might still be with us at 117 if a few things had gone differently for you and Fred Noonan, and had you reached that exclusive club, you’d surely be a contender for world’s-oldest-person honors. But considering the amazing feats you managed in your brief life that earned you nicknames like Lady Lindy and the First Lady of Flight, an equally lofty and hard-earned title 77 years later doesn’t seem impossible, does it? After all, Amy was an impressive 93 and lived the majority of her years before penicillin was discovered, and your sister, Muriel, made it all the way to the venerable age of 98 before she cashed in, so I’d say the odds were about even money that you could have been your family’s first centenarian.
Of course, wishing you a Happy Birthday is just something the living do to make ourselves feel better; where you are, every day is far better than any grand birthday bash we could imagine, and birthdays there must be quite passé. For your devotees down here, though, at least for those who know the truth about what’s been going on for so long, it absolutely is another unhappy birthday, because nothing of substance has changed in the past year, and what little news we have ranges from the mundane to the depressing.
The big lie that your disappearance remains a great mystery continues to dominate nearly all references to you, often followed by another well-publicized whopper from TIGHAR that they’re just about to find your Electra on Nikumaroro, if only they can raise the money for the next search, ad nauseam. Such unrelenting rigmarole must bore you, but this and other ridiculous claims are what has passed in our despicable media for “Earhart research” since Time magazine trashed Fred Goerner’s bestseller The Search for Amelia Earhart in 1966.
You’ve likely heard that a young woman, Amelia Rose Earhart, a pilot and former Denver TV weatherperson who happens to have your first and last names but isn’t otherwise related, completed a relatively risk-free world flight July 11 following a route that roughly approximated your own. At least three others have already done this, all Americans: Geraldine “Jerrie” Fredritz Mock in 1964, Ann Pellegreno in 1967 and Linda Finch in 1997, so there was nothing notable in Amelia Rose’s flight, especially considering that she had the latest GPS navigational technology to ensure her safe journey.
Her motivation was to honor your memory, said Amelia Rose, who was the featured speaker at the annual festival held in your name at Atchison last week. I don’t attend these pretentious galas, and unless and until event organizers find the courage to come to terms with the truth of your untimely and completely unnecessary demise on Saipan, I never will. Last week she must have been making the rounds of the TV talk shows, as someone on FOX News announced she would be on soon, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it.
If Amelia Rose actually cared a whit about your legacy, she’d learn the truth that so many insist on avoiding but is available to all. She would then use her public platform to stand up and call attention to this great American travesty and cover-up – rivaled only by the Warren Commission’s “lone gunman” verdict in the John F. Kennedy assassination in its mendacity, but unlike the JFK hit, completely ignored in the popular culture – and demand that our government stop the lies about her namesake’s true fate.
Unfortunately and all too predictably, based on what I know about this grandstanding pretender, Amelia Rose has never uttered a word that had any relationship to the truth about what happened to you 77 years ago.
Facts are stubborn things
Amelia Rose’s supporters say she doesn’t know about all the investigations and research that tell us that you and Fred Noonan landed at Mili Atoll on July 2, 1937, were picked up by the Japanese and taken to Jaluit, Roi-Namur and finally Saipan, where you suffered wretched deaths. This gruesome scenario, as well as the fact that our fearless leader at the time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, refused to lift a finger to help you, much less inform the public that you were the first POWs of the yet-undeclared war to come, continue to be denied by the corrupt U.S. government and suppressed by our media big and small. But facts are stubborn things, and they don’t cease to exist because the local PTA, the Atchison Chamber of Commerce or Amelia Rose Earhart wishes it were so.
Many hundreds of books celebrate your remarkable life, but only a handful dare to reveal the facts surrounding your miserable demise at the hands of barbarians on that godforsaken island of Saipan. Now that the Japanese are among our best friends and allies in the Pacific Rim, we don’t want to offend their delicate sensibilities with public discussions of their World War II barbarities, do we?
Speaking of which, you might know Iris Chang, author of the 1997 bestseller The Rape of Nanking, which exposed the long-suppressed Japanese atrocities against the Chinese in December 1937, only months after your disappearance. Despite the book’s notoriety and widespread acceptance of its findings, the Japanese ambassador refused to apologize for his nation’s war crimes when Chang confronted him on British TV in 1998. In 1999 she told Salon.com that she “wasn’t welcome” in Japan, and she committed suicide in 2004.
We’re still not sure why Chang perpetrated the ultimate atrocity against herself, but it’s been said that the years of research into such horrific subject matter disturbed her greatly. The parallels are obvious, but the depravities the Japanese committed against the Chinese, despite the overwhelming numbers of the murdered, don’t rankle Westerners nearly as much as the mere consideration of what befell you and Fred on Saipan. Chang may have been unpopular in Japan, but her work was celebrated by the U.S. media, which avoids anything or anyone that hints at the truth about you like the plague.
Amelia Rose may not know the sordid details, but she’s heard the story and has shown no inclination to learn about the truth, falsely marginalized as an “unsubstantiated fringe theory” for many decades by our trusted media. So at best, Amelia Rose is among the willfully ignorant about you; this strain of ignorance is just another form of cowardice, another excuse to avoid the truth, and of course it’s dishonesty in spades.
How can I say this so blithely? At last year’s Amelia Earhart Festival, an Earhart researcher engaged Amelia Rose, on hand to collect another dubious honor, in a conversation that began well but abruptly turned to ashes when he brought up the subject of your death on Saipan. Amelia Rose, upon hearing this, flew from this man as if he had leprosy. Almost a year earlier, she ignored my email missives that not only politely informed her of the truth, but offered her a free copy of my book, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.
So Amelia Rose Earhart, rather than being a special person, is just one of many hundreds of similar mainline media lemmings who assiduously avoid the truth. Those who aren’t part of the solution are part of the problem, and excuse me if I repeat myself, but they are cowards as well.
So the lies continue without surcease, and 99.99 percent of the public continues to hear, read and without reservation buys the myth that your disappearance remains among the “greatest aviation mysteries of the 20th century.” A few of us know better, and are doing our best to rectify this appalling situation, but we aren’t having much success. Few will admit it, but the word has long been out that it’s not acceptable to talk about what really happened to you. Nobody wants to hear it, so it’s fallen to outsiders like this writer to do justice to your story. We’re called conspiracy theorists and wing nuts, and are strenuously shunned.
So Amelia, that’s how it looks to at least one of us down here on your 117th birthday. Sadly, you and Fred Noonan are as far from realizing Fred Goerner’s “justice of truth” as ever, and there’s nothing coming from our government that gives us the slightest glimmer of hope. But the difficulty of this mission doesn’t deter those of us who truly believe in the worthiness of the cause. And so we continue.