Know Your Enemy – Japan

Part of the Global Perspectives on War and Peace Collection. A WWII U.S. War Department orientation film using racist, anti-Japanese propaganda techniques. The film gives a brief history of Japan, and an overview of Japanese social, military, and political culture, with the ultimate goal of explaining that the whole  Japanese culture is designed to create soldiers bent on world domination. It uses typical War Department technique of narration over newsreel and stock footage, and dramatic re-enactments.

0:00Copy video clip URL The film begins with a disclaimer that was presumably added several years after it was originally produced. “This program is considered of historical value and does not necessarily reflect current policy or plans of the sponsoring agency.”

0:35Copy video clip URL Text onscreen: “In the last 100 years a small number of Japanese have come to the United States. Under our law their children, born in this country, are citizens. They have been educated in our schools and speak our language, and a great many of them share our love of freedom and our willingness to die for it. In Europe, a regiment formed of these Americans of Japanese descent, called Nisei, distinguished itself for gallantry against the Nazis. The story of these brave men who, however much they resemble our enemies in physical appearance, have proved their right to American citizenship on the battlefields of Europe, has been told in other information films. Their story symbolizes the loyal contribution of Americans of Japanese descent in all theaters of war. This film tells the story of the Japs in Japan to whom the words liberty and freedom are still without meaning.”

1:20Copy video clip URL Using location footage and clips from motion pictures, the first section attempts to portray the Japanese as having barbaric and unfamiliar customs, like frequently whacking things with swords. “We shall never completely understand the Japanese mind. But then, they don’t understand ours either. Otherwise, there would never have been a Pearl Harbor.”

4:08Copy video clip URL The narrator examines the “typical Japanese soldier,” painting him as militaristic, conformist, fanatical, and possessing a machine-like determination, and claiming that the Japanese have no regard for non-Japanese life. “He and his brother soldiers are as much alike as photographic prints off the same negative… His uniform is ill-fitted, his appearance un-soldierly.”

6:28Copy video clip URL The narrator describes the status of the emperor as divine and claims that life in Japan is centered around blind devotion to him. “If you are Japanese, it actually hurts your eyes to look at Hirohito, just as it hurts your eyes to look at the blazing sun.” The narrator names things that the Japanese believe the emperor brings to Japan – enlightenment, prosperity, etc – over images that obviously contradict his words, such as those of starvation and squalor.

9:03Copy video clip URL The narrator describes the creation myths explaining the founding of the country of Japan 2600 years ago, implying that the Japanese are stupid to believe them. He concludes with the information that the Japanese believe they are superior to all others because of their direct lineage to gods.

11:40Copy video clip URL A discussion of the national religion of Japan, Shintoism, predictably portraying it as superstitious and crazy. “Each living Japanese is merely a link in this endless chain of ghosts. He is identical with them except for the unimportant fact that he breathes and can be seen.” The narrator then goes on to describe the reason for Japanese aggression as based on some corrupt principles newly incorporated into their religion. “Now on the surface, Shinto seems to be a nice quaint religion for a nice quaint people. And in the olden days, it used to be just that. But today, there’s a diabolical joker in Shintoism. Since about 1870, the state has forced into the teachings of Shintoism a mad fanatical doctrine. A doctrine that has brought untold suffering to millions of innocent Asiatics. And now, to thousands upon thousands of Americans… ‘Let us extend the capital and cover the eight corners of the world under one roof’… It’s called Hakko Ichiu, and it’s become the national ambition of Japan.”

16:37Copy video clip URL The film moves to a fevered pace. “If you are Japanese, you believe you have been commanded by heaven to conquer all other races and peoples and put them under a Japanese rule.” The narrator makes several more alarming pronouncements about Japanese military ambition and the revered status of fallen soldiers.

18:33Copy video clip URL What is Japan to the non-Japanese? The “real” history of Japan, based on solid American facts. The narrator points out that the Japanese are not actually descended from gods, but instead from a mixture of several barbaric tribes.

21:00Copy video clip URL Samurais. The narrator describes the code of the samurais as the art of cowardice, relying on ambush and cruelty. He then lists historical attempts at empire expansion. Eventually, Europeans bring Christianity to Japan – “The revolutionary doctrine of peace on earth, and the equality and brotherhood of man. Here was something that dignified the lowly Japanese serfs as human beings!” However, the ruling warlords could not stand the teachings of peace, brotherhood, and equality. For the next 200 years, Japan remained completely isolated and closed to the outside world. While Europe and America made great advances (French and American revolutions, etc), Japan remained closed. In 1853, however, upon a peace offering from America, the Japanese realized they couldn’t rule the earth if they were not advancing alongside other nations. At this point they concocted the ideas that positioned the emperor as divine leader and began their quest for world domination, manipulating the people through false religion. Japanese efforts at collaboration with the world community is described as “the old Bushido double cross,” an attempt to learn how other countries work in order to later conquer them. “Whatever Japan took from the West or the Chinese, the warlords never took the moral or ethical principles that went with them.”

30:38Copy video clip URL Images of the Statue of Liberty and words like freedom accompany soaring descriptions of the marvel of American democracy. Here, all ideas come from the people up to the leaders, not the other way around. In contrast, “Japan was Westernized by decree, not by popular desire.” “Even today, there isn’t any moral right or wrong in Japan, merely ‘Are you, or are you not, obedient to your superiors?'” The narrator goes on to describe the barbaric living conditions and attitudes in Japan. Japanese women are described as “human machines producing rice and soldiers.” “The Jap peasant works harder, eats less, and pays more taxes than any other peasant on earth. But he seldom complains, because he is carrying out the divine will of the Emperor.” The narrator explains that the Japanese have been living the same way (without walls, paint, or chairs in their homes) for hundreds of years. “For Japan became industrialized not to raise the standard of living, but to prepare for conquest.”

34:07Copy video clip URL Why don’t the Japanese revolt or organize labor unions? Because they are part of a regimented social structure only interested in serving the Emperor and conquering the world. And because they are constantly being watched, both by the Japanese police, the ghosts of their ancestors (who are loyal to the emperor), and “a unique Japanese invention – the thought police.”

37:10Copy video clip URL Japanese educational system. Because it is run by the government, it is naturally suspicious. “It is designed to make all children think alike. It is designed to teach students only what they need to know to be loyal to the emperor.” It is the final component in the social structure designed to create loyal citizens intent on accomplishing Hakko Ichiu.

39:10Copy video clip URL The modern history (since 1894) of Japanese aggression against other countries, including China and Korea. “Hakko Ichiu was coming true.” A discussion of Japan’s systematic plan for world domination, especially the methods for conquering America.

45:56Copy video clip URL At this point, the narrator moves in to cast doubt on all Japanese-born people. Narrator claims that the Japanese sent spies, disguised as fishermen or farmers, to countries all over the world. “Tourists” with cameras photographed foreign countries for the files at home. Japanese industrialists insidiously flooded world markets with cheap goods and pirated products. “They even undersold us with our own American flag!” [Onscreen image shows an American flag, and then cuts to the words “Made in Japan.”]

50:23Copy video clip URL “But the greatest weapon made in Japan was the first-seen product, the Japanese soldier. As iron ore is melted in a furnace to remove impurities, so in Japan, humanitarian impurities are burned out of a child. As the steel is shaped by beating and hammering, so is the boy hammered and beaten into the shape of the fanatic samurai.” The film cuts together quick shots of military imagery, set to the rhythmic pounding of the steel machine. “The final product: the Japanese soldier. Ready to shoot, slap, and slug Japanese superiority into all non-Japanese people. And so on September 18, 1931, the first team kicked off.”

53:14Copy video clip URL “Captured Jap Newsreel celebrating their Philippine victory.” The Japanese are superimposed marching on top of the American flag. The narrator describes the cruel treatment of the American and Filipino soldiers. “Before our men could kill them all, the ‘sons of heaven’ had bound and slaughtered thousands of helpless Filipino civilians in the inner city.”

56:44Copy video clip URL The final call to arms. “Defeating this nation is as necessary as shooting down the mad dog in your neighborhood.” List of American military accomplishments towards this goal. The American flag is raised over Iwo Jima. Footage of American military equipment and victorious battles.

1:01:07Copy video clip URL Secretary of War Stimson: “We’re going to destroy Japan’s armies, Japan’s navy, Japan’s air forces, Japan’s war factories – Japan’s whole power to wage war.”



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