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Somebody Gives A Damn!

Dr. Paul Ashton

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From the book "Bataan Diary"
Page 5 of 12
Lieutenant Sasaki often invited me to his quarters to listen to his radio, and these meetings usually led to discussion pertaining to the war. He was about thirty, married and the father of two children, though he rarely brought them into our discussions. Full of questions concerning me, he would long consider my answers. Why I had no children as yet mystified him. His work was teaching, and he said that he was a professor of Chinese History at a university in Tokyo. I would point out, however, that he was duped by his nation's propaganda. He shocked me one day by saying his armed forces were in position soon to invade the continental U.S., because they "now hold the Caroline Islands!" When I found a text book of geography in a pile of books there in his quarters which had a map of the Pacific Islands, and pointed out how foreshortened and distorted his propaganda map seemed to be, he began to see some chinks in his own armour.

When Eddie Cantor or some other comedian made unflattering remarks about Roosevelt, he was delighted, since he hated Roosevelt as the cause and architect of the war. Yet he wondered how anyone, much less a comedian, could say such things and keep his head. If anyone said anything "like that" about the Emperor, Tojo, or any other important people, they would never get home from the studio. They would "just disappear." He was greatly impressed with free speech, so much so, that he began to understand that if just anyone could speak the entire truth with impunity, like Cantor, then maybe our newscasts were more reliable than the Japanese. This led to more radio-listening. I asked him why he was for bidden to hear broadcasts from America, when they were full of lies, if the Japanese knew the "real truth." At any rate, I began to realize he was already suspicious of his own propaganda, and a few of my revelations seemed enough to crumble the false facade of his belief. Why could he not be trusted to listen to any foreign radio?

Although he had learned to speak good English in school, the fact that he was forbidden to use it except through an interpreter, a third party, was more evidence of mistrust. He also decried the secret police, whom he said were everywhere, even in his own group of soldiers. They were even rewarded by tattling on other people about radio listening and other petty matters.

I asked him one day why he was only a Second Lieutenant in a guard detail, and his answer was immediate. He had a nice family, a good job, nice home and social position, but could never be a combat commander because of these. When it became necessary to risk his life in battle, he would think of all he had to lose and might hesitate. He believed in me, because I had risked my life without hesitation, and even for very scant reason. Also, he had an uncle who was a very high officer, and in Japan, if he were promoted to high rank it might indicate nepotism, and disgrace his family. He further stated that there were many "very low class" people in Japan without rank, prestige, and also very poor, who were drafted into the services, given food, clothes and position surpassing anything they had ever known. They were also given the opportunity to advance and were paid more money, especially if they proved intrepid and very reliable by reporting on their fellow soldiers, maybe even becoming members of the secret police. This was a path toward dizzying heights. So when the time came to lead a charge and throw themselves on barbed wire, in order that those following could use them as a bridge, they did not hesitate!

So I brain-washed poor Sasaki. It was not long before he volunteered in one of our conversations that "You will win this phase of the conflict," even though the battle of Midway had not yet happened! We were then at the lowest ebb in our conduct of the war. He said also that Pearl Harbor was a disaster for Japan, in that it aroused a sleeping giant and provided it with a single purpose, revenge! He had never been in the U.S., but was certain that we were preparing for war, and they were powerless to interfere. The Nips could only wait for the blow. He even said that, though defeated in Bataan and Corregidor, we had been able to delay the Japanese advance to Australia. "Yes, we have lost this round, but the war will go on maybe a century and Orientals will defeat the Occidentals in the end."

Copyright 1997 Paul Ashton, M.D.
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