War Without Mercy, History Paper

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Nikola Zuber
History/ War without Mercy Paper
4/7/12
Wan
War without Mercy Research Paper
In the book, War without Mercy, Race and Power in the Pacific War, by John W. Dower and Published by Pantheon Books in 1986, the author powerfully illustrates the extreme racial tensions of Japan and the United States and how they affected policies in both countries. During World War II, the altercations between Japan and the United States were often overlooked, since Germany was taking all of the attention away from the world. But, as described by Dower, the ugly racial battles between Japan and the United States obviously point out that there was more friction between the two countries than most people believe. Another overlooked aspect of World War II is that racism was actually a major component of the war, not just a partial element of the War. Dower demonstrates that racism was a huge underlying factor that affected how people viewed the war as well as the war itself and that racism is highly neglected as a subject of World War II. Lastly, Dower argues how the racial stereotypes that fueled Pacific conflict did not disappear, but rather adapted to peacetime. Throughout the book Dower argues three major components of World War II; that the United States had more racist aggression against the Japanese over the Germans, that Racism was a huge influence during World War II, and that racism between that United States and Japan not only continued but also played a big role in peacetime and rebuilding policies between that two countries.

Dower opens his book with the chapter: Patterns of a Race War. The chapter explains that the beginnings of the war not only started up racial conflicts between many countries, but also “sharpened awareness of racism within the United States”.(5) In fact many Asian Americans and African Americans had many mixed feelings about fighting a war for the white people of the United States. This stresses the importance that World War II spiked up many important racial issues throughout the world, not just with the parties involved. Then the focus shifts to the racial stereotypes between the United States and Japan. The United States viewed the Japanese as “subhuman…routinely turning to images of apes and vermin to convey this.”(9) While the Japanese viewed the United States as “vivid monsters, devils and demons” (9) by pointing out the bombing of Japanese cities or the lynching of blacks in America. Here we can already see the foundation of one of Dowers arguments, that racial tension was often a much overlooked subject of World War II. The racial tensions between the countries were so extreme that “popular writers even declared it as a holy war”. (7) This also highlights Dower’s argument that racism was a key underlying root in the war.

The book continues with the chapter: Know Your Enemy. It opens with the propagandist cinema of Frank Capras, Why We Fight. The documentaries were meant for incoming American soldiers as well as being a morale booster for soldiers already enlisted. The documentaries were admired by the military, since fifty military and civilian agencies accepted the script. Even President Roosevelt liked it so much that he made it available for public viewing in theatres. However, when Know Your Enemy came out, also by Frank Capra, the government completely held off its release for three years. The reason this controversial documentary couldn’t be released is because the government didn’t want people to think of the Japs as “free-thinking” (19) and that it would “evoke too much sympathy for the Jap people.” Instead the government wanted to build a blind stereotypical that the Japanese were people who should be stopped and fought against. Similarly, the Japanese had their own counterpart propaganda to Why We Fight. A manifesto entitled “The Way of The Subject” “told the Japanese who they were-or should aspire to be-as a people, nation, and race.”(24) The Japanese had their own form of...
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