WW II was much larger in scale and longer in time than WW I. There were two major war theaters, one on the Continent of Europe and One in Asia Pacific. The first theater was the principal battle ground for the Allied, the U.S., U.K., France, China (and Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, the Soviet Union), fighting against the Axis Germany and Italy, whereas the Asia Pacific theater was the main battle ground for the Allied, China, the U.S., U.K., France (and the Soviet Union, India, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand) fighting against the Axis Imperial Japan (the order of Allied nations signify the size of military forces involved in the theater). Post WW II, numerous books, films and documents especially news media and Hollywood productions are devoted to the European part of WW II. This is because that Germany, after its surrender, has assumed its responsibility of committing the war crimes. Just on the holocaust alone, the world has learned all the naked truth from the published materials, many based on valuable and indisputable official records. On the other hand, the world (particularly young generations born decades after the war) knows very little details about the WW II in the Asia Pacific Theater other than the atomic bomb made Japan surrender. Basically, Japan after surrender tried every means to deny its war crimes against Asian nations, to this day still white-washing the WW II crimes in Japanese textbooks. Japan denies the Nanking Massacre where 300,000 innocent people were slaughtered. Japan also denies its sex slavery program known as ‘Comfort Women’. Japan has hidden the truth about its biological warfare and bacteria experiments applied to civilians and POWs.
Recently, an exhibit, Forgotten Camp: POW at Shenyang, was held at the the WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall, 809 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, from November 21 to December 5, 2017. The US edition of China Daily and the Chinese Consulate of San Francisco sponsored the exhibit. The Memorial Hall is small but the story is big and significant for Americans, especially for American veterans. The Japanese Imperial Army ignored the Geneva Convention and treated POWs cruelly. Tens of thousands of American POW died of torture and inhumane treatment. It is too sad and hard for anyone to tell the horrible stories. Only through a curator’s exhibit one may realize how the POWs were brutally treated by the Japanese Imperial Army. Shenyang camp is just one example of the 200+ camps. In contrast to the European theater, the Japanese military was far more brutal than the Germans as evidenced by the numerous massacres caught on film and photos. The Shenyang POW Exhibit was shown in the U.S. for the first time, but it should be exhibited everywhere for every American to understand the truth about the suffering of POWs. The Chinese government and Asian Americans in California should be applauded for their effort to put up this exhibit. The U.S. government and other states should make similar effort to inform Americans everywhere about the Shenyang POWs.
The Shenyang POW Camp was established to lock up the high-ranking officials of the Allied forces taken prisoner during the war, including 2,000 captives from the Allied Nations from 1942 to 1945 with about 1,200 being Americans. The exhibition is called "The Forgotten Camp" because this camp and its story went forgotten for half a century until scholars uncovered it in 2003. Japanese forces incarcerated some 2,000 Allied troops at this notorious Mukden POW Camp also known as Shenyang WW II Allied POW Camp located in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang. It is maintained as a historic site and museum today, the best preserved of the more than 200 POW camps established by Japanese forces in the Asian-Pacific Theater. Through assembled photographs, drawings and artifacts, the exhibition offers a glimpse into the hardships endured by the nearly 2,000 Allied prisoners, some among the high-ranking officers taken captive. The exhibit also reveals the friendships that took root between the prisoners and the local Chinese workers who risked their lives to help the POWs.
Compared with the European theater in WW II, the American public has heard so little about the atrocities and sufferings inflicted upon the Chinese people and POWs of the Allied Nations by the Japanese Imperial Army in China as well as in other Asian countries. Showing this exhibit in the home country of those POWs is significant in that the forgotten truth about the service men, who had fought side by side and helped one another but unfortunately mercilessly murdered by the Japanese Army, is finally told. Shenyang Camp was established to prison the high-ranking officials of the Allied forces captured during WW II. Among those notable inmates was US Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, commander of Allied forces in the Philippines, who survived and received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Fall of Bataan. The Battle of Bataan (7 January – 9 April 1942) represented the most intense phase of Imperial Japan's invasion of the Philippines during WW II. Despite a lack of supplies, Filipino and American forces managed to fight the Japanese for three months. After the surrender at Bataan, 76000 soldiers altogether were forced into the Bataan Death March, a 60+miles march under severe physical abuse and wanton killings.
Jewish Americans were credited for their effort in exposing the holocaust and preventing it to ever happen again. Germany has made sincere apology and contributed to the Memorial effort. Germans are respected for supporting their postwar government’s actions condemning the war crimes including legislations to outlaw speeches to praise Nazis and their WW II crimes. On the other hand, Japan is doing the opposite hiding and distorting the facts about the Asia Pacific WW II. Postwar Japanese government denies Nanking massacre, comfort women, and bacteria experiments on human which happened in Shenyang POW camp. One puzzles why the U.S. having the first hand experience with the brutal Japanese war crimes is rather lame regarding telling the truth, rarely taking a position to challenge Japan’s lies and denials about war crimes, whitewashing its textbooks and protesting American citizens for erecting a ‘Comfort Women’ statue in San Francisco.
Allowing Japan continuously denying its war crimes for seven decades is utterly unfair to the American WW II servicemen. Does the U.S. government take such an injustice position simply because the U.S. and Japan have a mutual defense treaty? Precisely because of such a Treaty, we should be more open and honest about the past war crimes. Only when Japan sincerely admits its war crimes and accepts the guilt like Germans did, then American soldiers can ever trust the Japanese soldiers and fight for their defense. One also puzzles why the Japanese people living in a democratic society keep voting for politicians whose ancestry having strong ties with the Japanese Imperial Army, thus making the above said denials and distorted textbooks persistent for seven decades. If the world does not stand up to challenge the Japanese war crime denials and lies, we should be afraid that those crimes may be committed again!
The two puzzling questions cited above present a psychological burden to Americans and Japanese. Japanese Americans resented the internment during WW II but the American government had apologized for such injustice. American citizens all regret it ever happened. However, the internment camps were in no way comparable to the cruel POW Camps ran by the Japanese Imperial Army. Why shouldn’t Japan admit its guilt so its citizens can be free from this psychological burden? The perpetual denial and unwillingness to apologize and show remorse is casting Japan into a dark character and all Japanese citizen hypocrites! Why can’t Japan admit its war crimes like Germany?!