Many nations remember The Second War and the people who perished during the combat in a variety of ways. Memorials of those who passed away and museums to bring to memory the past are not unique to the area of Asia Pacific. This war was one of the major conflicts in the history of humankind. This brutal combat affected many nations, persons, and a major change that occurred in history. Most powerful countries in the world participated in this conflict categorized into two conflicting military coalitions: the Axis and the Allies.
The conflict involved the engagement of up to one hundred million army recruits, hence made it the most extensive combat in history. At the end of the war, over seventy million persons composed mainly of civilians suffered horrific deaths, establishing it as the severest battle in the history of humankind. That is why memories of this bloody battle still linger in people’s minds.
Remembrance of World War Two
In transmitting the memories of World War II fresh in the minds of people, different people have come up with several ways of doing this. A range of literary works (publications and memoirs), creative works of art (photographs and drawings), and architectural designs (sculptors and adorned monuments) have all been made to commit to memory the events that took place in our world from September 1, 1939 and August 14 1945.
Nevertheless, the major events that took place and caused massive loss of life and property have kept this period in memory. As the world remembers sixty-four years since the end of this bloody conflict, the root causes of the combat replays in the minds of people. The main cause was due to the Prussian militarism that developed for two hundred historical years. This power made Germany be influential and gave the opportunity for a person like Adolf Hitler to have the power of controlling it. This madman and a gimmick in politics, Adolf Hitler, brought the powerful force of Prussian militarism again after the conquering of the Germans in the First World War.
This great influence under his management made him start the bloodiest combat in history with the intention of increasing the territorial boundaries of Germany in order to rule the whole world. Appeasement was another main reason that led to the war. The great countries of Britain and France were in a position of preparing the advancement in the military strength of Adolf Hitler. The two nations had war-traumatized pacifist aspirations of eliminating violence that enabled Hitler to develop the strength of the German army until it was too late to prevent him. The Japanese militarist leaders had similar aggressive motives similar to the ones of Hitler. In fact, Japan commenced the conflict in East Asia sometimes before Hitler gained dictatorial leadership of Germany, and its army surrendered to the allies only after Germany did so.
How the Asians and the Americans remember WWII
The account of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific is fresh in the memories of most people due to the high number of people who lost their lives. What has been forgotten in this conflict is that the Japanese invaded and dominated a far bigger area and population than did the army of Hitler and his partners in Europe combined. The marginalization of atrocities committed during this period in the East and Southeast Asia has taken place unnoticed.
A forgotten fact is that Imperial Japan may have started the war way back before Hitler attacked Poland in 1939. The militarist Japanese generals manifested equally ruthless aggressiveness in Asia (Hixson, 174). In 1931, Imperial Japan invaded Manchuria. This attack became the most likely starting period of The Second World War and the worldwide catastrophe that followed. On September 27, 1940, Germany, Italy, and Japan agreed on the Tripartite Pact, thus forming a military coalition referred to as the axis (“World War II in the Pacific,” para.1). Japan attacked Asian nations that composed of one-third of the population of man.
The aggressive Japanese army invaded over half of the Asian countries population. They caused extensive damage to infrastructure, and many people lost their lives. The Japanese population endured long working hours, deprivation of necessities, economic difficulties, and other forceful malpractices. The United States started full involvement in World War II after provocation by the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor. The U.S, together with Great Britain, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, formed the key allies of the Second World War. Either they participated in the conflict due to their previous invasion or because they considered the advancement of the axis powers a threat to their superiority.
Extensive mobilization efforts to compel people to participate either directly or indirectly in the war marked the United States participation in this worldwide conflict. Thousands of dedicated men and women participated directly in the war overseas, and those left at home struggled to support them by providing necessary resources to sustain the war. Engagement of the United States in the war assisted its economy in coming back on track after about ten years of depression.
Many of the Americans who had been jobless quickly found means of getting income to sustain them and pay off previous debts. The U.S government feared that the Japanese might attack its West Coast; hence, they detained many Japanese Americans who dwelt therein internment camps. When the confinement program culminated three years after the war, thousands of Americans who came from other countries like Japan, Germany, Italy and others, had served as internees. United States dropped atomic bomb on the cities of Japan in 1945 that made the bloody conflict to end. The battle led to 330,000 U.S soldiers losing their lives and many more others suffered severe injuries. The allies ultimately won the war as the axis surrendered to them
Personal and Public memories of the war
My personal memory concerning the war appertains to a time when I was on holiday and I went to visit my aunt who stays in Osaka, Japan. During the visit, I made friends with two of our neighbors; one was from Okinawa and the other from Tokyo. One day I inquired from them about comfort women in the Second World War, but I was surprised that none of them was aware of anything like that or how their country participated in the war.
However, they did tell me that their country was defeated in the war and that their engagement was justifiable. I did not immediately accept what they told me until I confirmed with my aunt.
TimForgarty describes the experiences his grandfather faced as a German and Japanese civilian war prisoner from 1942 to 1945 (para. 1). His grandfather’s life in captivity took place in parts. He was in the hands of the Germans, Japanese, and again under the Japanese. Together with other travelers, their ordeal started while on transit from Australia to India in the Indian Ocean. Generally, their treatment by the Germans was good.
A section of the ship was for their exclusive use. The captives who comprised a mixed company of various races were then transferred to be under the charge of the Germans. Their complaints to get adequate supply of food did not yield any fruit. Some of the captured women suffered from segregation. They lacked any means of communication with the outside world. Most of them died while serving as prisoners of war.
The World War II veterans have bright memories of their experiences during the war (Porter, para.1). One of them, eighty-seven year old Warner Schlaupitz, remembers is personal engagement in the war in the Philippines island of Corregidor in 1943. He saw many young men killed when the Japanese were fighting with the Americans. The weapons used during the European and the Pacific theaters of the conflict are still fresh in his mind. To immortalize his courageous input during the war, he was honored with a medal.
Recently, Indonesia relocated the remains of about two hundred and ninety one World War II Japanese soldiers back to their homeland. The remains were surrendered to a Japanese government official at the Second World War Monument on Biak Island. The allies’ forces killed these soldiers during the war (“Indonesia transfers ashes,” para. 1).
Further, to keep the memories of the war fresh in the young population, about eighty Japanese students spoke via video with two American veterans who lived to tell the tale of the Japanese invasion on Peal Harbour. They shared their experiences on how they witnessed Japanese planes attacking Pearl Harbour as they were getting off the day’s duty. They assisted some people who were still alive after the attack to safety (Shikina, para. 1, 13)
The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki encountered the destruction of the American atomic bomb. These cities commemorate this catastrophe on August 6 and August 9 every year for the city of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. All of them have built museums to keep the memories of the two days afresh, which also act as an educational center to inform the public about the effects of the war (“Issues: Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bombings,” para.1). In the United States of America, public memory of the war was enforced in 1994 by the construction of The Enola Gay Smithsonian Exhibit. It commemorated fifty years since the end of the Second World War.
The Kwak Kwi Hoon court case brings to the memory the kind of injuries sustained by the people who engaged in the war. The court case brought to the public attention the devastation that the victims of the atomic bombings experience. Comfort women have equally filed court cases to demand compensation for the harm done to them. This has sparked international reaction to their plight.
The present-day significance of World War II in Asia Pacific
The Second World War caused massive loss of infrastructure and over 60 million lives were lost. The current estimates suggest that Japan alone suffered over 5 million civilian deaths. The nations in the Asia Pacific that were undergoing depression quickly had their economies improve as various industries were re-ignited to make arms and supply resources to support the war. Some of the countries are still reaping this benefit currently, as some of the industries that were set up then are still operational. The anticipation that Imperial Japan had of occupying the Western Pacific, Southeast Asia and China did not materialize due to her defeat in the war (Cook & Theodore).
At present, downgrading of the commemoration of Japan attacking Asia and the massive destruction it caused to the status of “attic of history” has taken place. The perception of the devastation caused is as if it did not count for anything. Little attention is paid to the consequences of the war to the Chinese people. The horrific episodes of the conflict to the people of Pacific Ocean islands have attracted no attention. Marginalization of the internees who suffered under the cruel hands of the Japanese soldiers has occurred. Major technological discoveries and inventions, that are applicable today, took place during this time.
The governments of Asia Pacific countries established scientific agencies to invent or enhance equipments of war. The commonly used Penicillin drug that treats a wide range of infections together with the discovery of DDT to treat jungle ailments occurred during this period. After the Second World War, Japan became one of the celebrated United States Cold War associate in international relations and trade. The People’s Republic of China became the challenger of communism.
The alliance between the U.S and Japan has turned attention from Japan’s responsibility in the war. This limited view of the war has led many people to perceive falsely that Japan was the key culprit of the war and the one that mostly need our sympathy. This alliance has greatly improved Japan’s economic growth from the devastations caused due the WWII. Japan was once a ferocious and conventional society in the pre-war era.
After the war, it started to imitate the free world’s ideologies in societal norms and even in governance structure. Japan began its occupational phase after admitting defeat in the war and the Americans established democratic government in four of its islands. If the territorial boundaries of Japan could have been divided as was in Germany, the Russians could have probably established a communist government.
Japan enacted a new constitution that reduced the powers of the Emperor in the new democratic government. Addressing of human rights issues started to take place and the separation of the state religion from the government structure occurred. Introduction of the American education system in the country has occurred and many English words now form part of the local dialect.
At present, Japan and the U.S are major cultural and trade partners. Recently, a plausible amendment to the constitution of Japan occurred to give room for a standing army and the addition of Japan to the permanent membership status at the sitting of the United Nations Security Council. This has made Japan to have equal status as the five major countries after the Second World War. The Second World War has indeed been a significant event to the economic and societal aspects of the people of Asia Pacific. An occasion of remembrance is done every year in August to keep these dramatic events in memory.
Cook H. T & Theodore F. Japan at War: An Oral History. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1980. Print.
Hixson, Walter. The American Experience in World War II: The atomic bomb history and memory. New York: Rutledge, 2003. Print.
“Indonesia transfers ashes.” Japan Today. 2009. Web.
“Issues: Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bombings.” Memory & Reconciliation in the Asia-Pacific. n.d. Web.
Porter, Ira. “World War II veterans share slices of still-vivid memories.” The News Journal. 2009. Web.
Shikina, Rob. “A history lesson online.” Star Bulletin. 2009. Web.
TimFogarty. “Experiences as a German and Japanese Civilian Prisoner of war,” BBC News. 2003. Web.
“World War II in the Pacific.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 2009. Web.