Angelina Jolie has made her directorial debut with this new film based on the memoirs of Louis Zamperini who was an Olympic Distance Runner in the United States before joining the Army Air Force in September 1941. During his military career he was shot down and captured by the Japanese Navy near the Marshall Islands and tortured while a POW at Naoetsu Camp.
The film chronicles Zamperini’s life with particular emphasis on his experiences as a Prisoner of War and the brutality of his Japanese captors.With the film due for release in the UK on 26th December, it has been criticised by Japanese
Nationalists for its portrayal of Japan and the ‘immoral’ depiction of Japanese Second World War Prison Guards and POW camps.
When Louis Zamperini’s memoirs were published in 2010 they received the very same criticism with Japanese patriots furious at the depictions of US POWs being beaten, tortured, murdered, experimented on and eaten alive at the hands of their captors.
Both Jolie’s work and Zamperini’s memoirs have been called ‘pure fabrication’ with ‘no credibility’ and accused of racism.
I find this reaction absurd if not hypocritical.
There are numerous, confirmed sources of Japanese brutality and to borrow a quote from Gavan Daws in Prisoners of the Japanese; “The Japanese were not directly genocidal in their POW camps. But they drove [Prisoners] toward mass death just the same.”
The war in the far east was a clash of widely differing cultures. Japanese soldiers were taught the Bushido code; the Samurai moral values, which governed how they fought. Coupled with Seppuku, a form of ritual suicide Samurai were expected to carry out if they failed the bushido code, it made the Japanese soldier both a formidable and ruthless warrior.
Boiled down, the Bushido code is analogous to the old chivalric ideals of European Knights, however it is so much more. Death in battle, in service to the Emperor was almost law. The Japanese soldier was expected to die, and it was just anathema to them that the American, British and Allied soldiers could and would surrender.
When Allied soldiers did surrender they became a lower form of life to the Japanese hence their mistreatment of prisoners. In the same vain this is also why comparatively few Japanese soldiers were captured by the Allies.
Marcus McDilda was a P-51 Fighter Pilot captured in the closing stages of the war. He was tortured for information about the number of Atomic Bombs the US had after the two dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
3 “Doolittle Airmen”, members of the Air Force who crewed B-25 Bombers which attacked Tokyo following the Pearl Harbour raid, were executed in the wake of a Drumhead trial in which they were not allowed to defend themselves.
98 Allied Soldiers captured during the fall of Wake Island were executed in 1943 on the order of Rear Admiral Shigematsu Sakaibara, one personally by the admiral, as explained in the Journal of Naval History, Volume 1, No. 1, April 2002.
Need I go on?
To call such portrayals in the film, groundless and fabricated is in itself a fabrication! It’s nearly as bad as holocaust denial and Japanese War Crimes, particularly those committed against Chinese citizens and soldiers has been described as the “Asian Holocaust”. Of course this isn’t to say that every Japanese soldier was a war criminal, and vice versa for the allies.
But, perhaps these complainants need to read a history book before crying foul?
The military history of the United Kingdom is far from squeaky clean itself, but would a Briton, familiar with said history cry “racism” for a poor portrayal, I’d find it hard to believe if they did.