Tag Archives: World War II

Subversive Historian – 08/27/09

The Kellogg-Briand Pact

Back in the day on August 27th, 1928, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed in the city of Paris by fifteen nations pledging to halt wars of aggression. In the wake of the ravages of the First World War, the United States and France had originally approached the notion of the pact through a bilateral agreement. U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg and French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand discussed formally abolishing any possibility of war solely between the two nations, when Kellogg thought it best to extend the invitation to all nations. Among the initial signatories to the pact that called for the “renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy” were France, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and Japan. Forty-seven nations would follow in formal adherence. Of course, wars of aggression would also soon follow, as was the case, for instance, when Italy invaded Ethiopia.

By not clearly delineating the boundaries of self-defense and having no enforcement behind it, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was practically useless in achieving its aim as evidenced most tragically by the outbreak of World War II.

Subversive Historian – 08/06/09

Hiroshima

Back in the day on August 6th, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb named “Little Boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. In the last phases of World War II, the devastating blast from the B-29 bomber known as the “Enola Gay” killed an estimated 140,000 people, the grand majority of which were civilians. Many in Hiroshima died instantly while tens of thousands more succumbed to radiation poising in the following years. The massive death wrought by the first usage of atomic weaponry in human history was rationalized under the context that it saved lives by hastening Japan’s surrender. However, historian Howard Zinn has argued against the notion citing General Eisenhower and Admiral Leary in making the case that Japan was on the verge of surrendering and that the bombing was unnecessary.

Sixty-four years later, however, a majority of people in the United States remained unconvinced by the Zinn Master’s work. According to a new poll, sixty-one percent still contend that the bombing was “the right thing to do.”

Subversive Historian – 05/08/09

The Setif Massacre

Back in the day on May 8th, 1945 French colonial forces began massacring Algerians in the Setif and Guelma regions of the North African nation. The cruel irony of history is that the wanton killings by the colonizers began on the very same day that France joined much of Europe in celebrating the surrender and defeat of the Nazis in World War II. As such celebrations also took place in Algeria, peaceful protesters wanted to remind France and its allies of Algerian nationalist aspirations. General Duval was a principle architect of the repression that followed as unarmed crowds were fired upon in Setif, and others were summarily executed in Guelma. Lasting days, the disturbances claimed a disputed number of lives. France pilfered out a highly questionable death toll of 1,020 following the massacre while the Algerian state has placed it much higher at a staggering 45,000.

The blood spilt starting on May 8th marked a turning point in the Algerian anti-colonial struggle, as understandably, the population did not want to be occupied, shall we say, like “Vichy.”

Subversive Historian – 04/09/09

The Hanging of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Back in the day on April 9th, 1945, Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged with piano wire by the Nazis at the concentration camp in Flössenburg, Germany. Executed at the age of 39 and just one month before the end of World War II, Bonhoeffer had immediately spoken out against the reign of Adolf Hitler when he came to power in 1933. A year later, Bonhoeffer was involved in organizing the Pastors’ Emergency League which later morphed into the Confessing Church whose seminaries were eventually shut down by the Nazis in 1937. As a religious ethicist, he left Germany for a seminary in New York, but returned to his country within a month feeling the need to more actively resist Hitler’s regime. As a theologian who philosophized that “action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility,” Bonhoeffer joined an anti-Nazi conspiracy as a double agent and participated in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler.

Some pacifists question the moral basis of his decision to resort to violence, however, beyond question is the fact that Bonhoeffer, in the face of tremendous injustice, was willing to die resisting.

Subversive Historian – 04/02/09

Jeannette Rankin Takes Her Seat

Back in the day on April 2nd, 1917 Jeannette Rankin was sworn in as the first Congresswoman in the history of the United States. It didn’t take long for this pacifist woman from the state of Montana to make trouble in the halls of Congress. Just four days into her term, she cast one of the few votes against U.S. entry into World War I stating, “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war.” Her stance was quickly vilified along gender lines by those who saw women as unfit to be politicians and Rankin lost her seat two years later. After a number of years working for peace, Rankin sought and won re-election to the House of Representatives in 1940. Now among a handful of women legislators, Rankin distinguished herself and made history once more. With World War II raging overseas, she cast the sole vote against U.S. entry into hostilities.

Looking back at Rankin’s career, it’s true as they say, “well behaved women seldom make history.”

Subversive Historian – 03/10/09

U.S. Firebombing of Tokyo

Back in the day on March 10th, 1945, the United States concluded its firebombing of Tokyo, Japan. Occurring during the final months of World War II, the U.S. Air Force deployed more than three hundred low-level B-29 bombers beginning in the late night hours of March 9th. In what many historians note as the most catastrophic air raid in history, the bombing of the Japanese capital through the early morning hours of March 10th, annihilated nearly half of the city and incinerated an estimated 100,000 civilians. The stated, though indefensible, objectives of the campaign, were to bring about the surrender of the Japanese, while dealing a destructive blow to the economy. The intense firebombing of Tokyo, though historic and tragic in size and scope, is all too often obscured by the shadow of the mushroom clouds of Hiroshima and Nagasaki even though it caused more immediate deaths than either of them.

The memory of the attack is enshrined in a modest museum in Tokyo, however, in the U.S. it’s just another forgotten chapter from the so-called “good war.”

Subversive Historian – 12/18/08

Korematsu vs. the United States

Sixty- four years ago on this day in people’s history, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the supposed constitutionality of Japanese internment camps. On December 18th, 1944, Justices handed down a 6-3 vote in the case of Korematsu vs. the United States. Considered one of the most important legal challenges to the camps, Fred T. Korematsu, a Japanese man born in the U.S., sued the government after having been arrested for not reporting for relocation. Rightly saying that his constitutional rights had been violated and that he was subjected to racial discrimination, Korematsu’s argument, however, did not prevail. Delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Black claimed that World War II justified the removal of all Japanese citizens from the West Coast. Vindicated by history, Korematsu would be awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1998.

Amazingly with this history, conservative commentator Michelle Malkin managed to pen “In Defense of Internment: The Case for ‘Racial Profiling’ in World War II and the War on Terror.” But as a Filipina, in this era of the so-called War on Terror, what if she was profiled and discriminated against for fear of potential ties to the Abu Sayyaf group? Just a thought…