Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945
Kennedy, David M.
Oxford University, 1999
In June of 1940, the French having been overwhelmed, and Russia not yet an ally, Winston Churchill had to persuade his own people that the days of appeasement of Germany were over. He also had to persuade the citizens of the United States of Britain’s valor, generating sympathy, and a desire to help their English cousins. One of Churchill’s supreme gifts for a time like this was oratory designed to stir hearts. And so, on June 4, 1940, on the floor of the House of Commons, Churchill let her rip in one of the world’s greatest speeches in the English language: “’We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender . . . until in God’s good time, the new world with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the old.’”
In WWII Americans and Japanese hated and vilified each other based on racial stereotypes and thus fought a “war without mercy.” The Japanese thought Americans were “decadent” and “self-indulgent.” Americans had no stomach for war, the Japanese believed, and would, after Pearl Harbor, “immediately sue for peace” to Japan’s great advantage. Besides, the Japanese were racially pure and of one will. Americans, by contrast, were in the eyes of Japanese “a contemptibly polyglot and divided people . . . riven by ethnic and racial conflict, labor violence, and political strife, incapable of self-sacrifice or submission to the public weal.” All because Americans were infected with the “detestable Western virus of individualism.” Americans, for their part, thought the Japanese were “servile automatons devoid of individual identity.” Meanwhile, “wartime cartoons and posters routinely pictured the Japanese as murderous savages, immature children, wild beasts, or bucktoothed, bespectacled lunatics.” Kennedy observes that national pride issuing in stereotypes of the “other” and war-making on this basis is an ancient phenomenon seen, for example, among ancient Greeks, who thought of themselves as cultured aristocrats and thought of everybody else as mere “barbarians.”
In WWII Japan was a hard enemy for U.S. GIs. Its troops had all been indoctrinated in the “code of Bushido,” which was “an ancient samurai ethos” that emphasized brutality and “indifference to pain.” From the top ranks down, all Japanese superiors abused all Japanese inferiors in the army, by kicking, slapping, and punching. The result was an ugly, brutal army which disdained its opponents, both Chinese and American. The code Keywords and preaching connection: of Bushido made no provision for surrender. The Japanese ethos was “never give up a position but rather die.” “To surrender was to be disgraced. Reciprocally, enemies who surrendered were regarded as craven cowards shorn of dignity and respect..: