Sunday, August 30, 2015

Poisonous Legacy of China Mirage

Review by Bill Doughty

The first shocker revealed in James Bradley's "The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia" (2015; Little, Brown and Company) is how much the Delano/Roosevelt family fortune was based on opium smuggling in China in the 1800s.

Other revelations: President Theodore Roosevelt's strong ties with Japan and support for Imperial Japan's incursions in Korea; FDR's simultaneous support for the China Lobby and Japan (before Dec. 7, 1941); and the Nationalist Chinese connection threading through World War II, Korea War and Vietnam War.

Bradley, author of "Flags of Our Fathers," shows how earlier administrations were led to believe – and became convinced – that millions of Chinese wanted to be "Americanized." That mirage led to misunderstanding, misinterpretation and war, he contends, and made America (with strong influence by Time magnate Henry Luce) to choose between Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong.
"American misunderstanding of China caused the nation to support Southern Methodist Chiang, bring on a world war that didn't have to be, oppose the bandit Mao, and go on to fight two bloody Asian wars. About one hundred thousand Americans died in World War II in the Pacific. About fifty-six thousand Americans died in Korea, and another fifty-eight thousand in Vietnam. The total cost of America's wars in Asia is staggering. Millions of lives terminated, trillions of dollars devoted to rifles, airplanes, and napalm, rather than to roads, schools, and hospitals. America's fabric was stretched and then torn by the latter two Asian wars, which challenged its citizens' belief that their country was a beacon of freedom."
Commodore Matthew C. Perry
The passion runs deep in the pages of this book. Bradley's father, John Bradley, was one of the six men in the iconic photograph showing the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima in World War II. His brother was nearly killed in Vietnam.

This book is bound to be upsetting to people who see the world in black-and-white, but it's a must-read for those who want to understand the nuances of diplomacy, human nature and lessons of history. And it's helpful to see how other nations see us.

Japanese artist depiction of Perry.
Bradley reminds readers how Commodore Matthew C. Perry, father of the steam-powered United States Navy, opened Japan and helped the feudal Japanese government begin industrialization. Bradley describes how American missionaries traveled to China and attempted to convert so-called "heathen" Asian nonbelievers.

Sen. Joseph McCarthy
There are few heroes in this book. Among those depicted in a positive light are John Service and John Davies, persecuted by the FBI for speaking truth to power but later vindicated. The outright "villains" include Joseph McCarthy, Luce, Chiang, members of the Soong family and Dean Acheson, among others.

Acheson, in particular, is revealed as having a role in bringing about three wars. While FDR secretly tried to keep Japan's moderates in power by supplying Nippon with oil, Acheson found a way to impose a total oil embargo, thinking it would make Imperial Japan bow to the United States, according to Bradley. 

But: "Instead of empowering moderates in Tokyo, Washington's demands resulted in the fall of the moderate government and the military taking full control. The chief of the mad dogs, General Hideki Tojo, now became Prime Minister."

President Truman and Acheson, an architect of war in Korea.
Acheson next lobbied for war in Korea, which would eventually pit Douglas MacArthur against Mao and set McCarthy against Truman, leading to an inevitable one-term presidency of Harry Truman and cries by McCarthy and others of "Who lost China, Who Lost Korea?" Acheson's machinations for war in Vietnam would lead to another one-term presidency, that of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Bradley quotes David Halberstam, author of "The Coldest Winter": "Acheson urged Truman not only to go to war in Korea with no congressional consultation, but also to send covert military aid to the French in Indochina for their war against Ho Chi Minh."

Another revelation: How much Harvard University was a hub into – and eventually away from – the China Influence. Connected to Harvard: Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Baron Kaneko (friend of T.R.), T.V. Soong (friend of FDR), Thomas Corcoran (ran FDR's covert operation), McGeorge Bundy (stepson of Dean Acheson and advocate for expanded war in Vietnam under LBJ), Henry Kissinger (eventually led efforts toward normalized relations with China), and Daniel Ellsberg (who "revealed his evidence of executive war crimes and his belief that in a democracy the public had a right to know.")

Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon each warned about the spread of Communism causing a "domino effect" in the region, something that did not happen.

Opium is not the only poison contributing to the mirage of the true believers. The China Lobby was tied to Southern Tobacco, and the War in the Pacific was brought on by an embargo of crude oil. Thoroughly researched and annotated, this book contributes to a sober understanding of how blind faith and hubris can lead to war and more war.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ten Sterling Insights in Life of Pearl Harbor Survivor

Review by Bill Doughty

Another Pacific Historic Parks (2014) booklet focuses on "A True American: The Story of a Pearl Harbor Survivor, World War II, Korean and Vietnam War Veteran." Here are ten insights in a remarkable life of a member of the "Greatest Generation" narrated by Sterling R. Cale to his son Sterling V. Cale.

1.  Medical: Cale served as a Pharmacist's Mate, forerunner to Navy Hospital Corpsman. Early in his career he passed out during a circumcision when the patient, supposedly anesthetized, started screaming. He thought of himself first as a farm boy from Illinois, but he had dreams of one day becoming a surgeon, dreams that were cut short later in life when he injured his thumb.

2.  Dec. 7, 1941: Cale worked the night shift at the Pearl Harbor naval dispensary, a shift that ended in the morning of Dec. 7. He walked outside to witness Japanese planes attacking Battleship Row. He broke into the armory and helped hand out Springfield rifles to fellow Sailors.

Cale salutes during a wreath presentation in 2010.
3.  Rescue: During the attack, Cale rushed toward USS Oklahoma and helped with the rescue of Sailors from the waters of Pearl Harbor. "Some of them were already dead, some burned, some wounded and some were just tired," he remembers.

4.  Recovery: After the attack, he was assigned – along with 10 other men – to "ride out to the USS Arizona and start recovering bodies." Cale climbed into a heavy suit and diver's helmet, something out of Jules Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea." His description of what he finds beneath the surface is disturbing and haunting.

5.  Risk: Cale took risks. He was written up for breaking into the armory (even though Pearl Harbor was under attack). And he was court-martialed (but cleared) for keeping a war diary. " I meticulously recorded the precise location of every item and body part" to help with identification. He eventually earned commendation instead of condemnation; luckily, common sense would trump military bureaucracy.

6.  Action: During World War II he served with the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal, then saw action at Saipan, Tinian, Bougainville and Espiritu Sato, later serving aboard USS Panang (AG 41), named for "the U.S. gunboat that had been sunk [by Imperial Japan's military] in Chinese waters."

7.  Love: Sterling Cale met beautiful Victoria Vienna Ventula in Honolulu in 1941. They courted, married and started a family. "We managed to live with two children on my $21 monthly military salary," he said. Cale shares poignant family photos in the booklet.

Marines in Korea.
8.  Korea: Cale left the Navy for the Army "with no break in military service" and headed to Korea with the 5th Regimental Combat Team serving with the 24th (later 25th) Infantry Division as a field medic. "The North Koreans booby trapped everything: cans, bodies, vehicles and foxholes ... I remember sleeping with a grenade in each hand because North Korean soldiers would come in to the sleeping areas to slit throats." It's no wonder that Cale was affected.  "Later in life, my family could not touch me when I was asleep or I would jump up, prepared to kill them." He faced and overcame "post traumatic stress disorder."

9.  Vietnam: Like the war itself, Cale's involvement in Vietnam was complicated. It started in 1955 and continued through the 60s, with assignments that included military advisor, intelligence, logistics, medic and hospital administrator. Cale briefly discusses his work in Da Nang and support missions to the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

With Naval Academy Women's Glee Club aboard USS Arizona Memorial, 2012.
10. Legacy: "A True American concludes with an epilogue from Sterling Cale that shows his acceptance of the realities of life. "Pearl Harbor haunted me, but I did my best to put the past behind me, focus on the present and be positive about everything. Today, Sterling Cale volunteers at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center where he can talk about his role in the Pacific War and other wars in the Pacific.

This booklet offers other interesting tidbits about Sterling Cale's life: as an orphan, working with the Tom Mix circus, book binding and repair at the public library, musician (trumpet and drums), Eagle Scout, Navy "frogman" training, partying with "gold hair" tobacco heiress Doris Duke Cromwell aboard her yacht, and serving as NCOIC of the honor guard and burial detail at Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific.

Thanks, once again, to YNCM (ret.) Jim Taylor, Pearl Harbor Survivors Liaison and honorary USS Utah Survivor, for recommending this read. See a related Navy Reads post about another PHVC volunteer, Uncle Herb Weatherwax: "From Street Gang to WWII Veteran."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

WWII Companion: How Peace Was Achieved 70 Years Ago

Review by Bill Doughty

Starting in the aftermath of the First World War, when the world lived in "interesting times" – economically, politically and socially – David M. Kennedy shows how the fumes of discontent and aggression exploded into war. 

How and why the Allies won in Europe and the Pacific in 1945 is explained in Kennedy's encyclopedic "The Library of Congress World War II Companion" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

Kennedy provides fascinating context alongside hard facts and historical photos in this 982-page book that shifts chronologically from East to West and back with timelines, lists, and profiles of people, places, battles and concepts.

Interesting "Times" July 26, 1940 reporting FDR's embargo on oil to Japan.
Timeline entries show how the war began, with tensions growing in 1940 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt embargoed oil and other materials to Japan in January  "in retaliation for Japan's continuing aggression in China." Volatility increased into the summer:
"July 26: Attempting to restrain Japanese expansionist policies, the United States embargoes shipments of high-octane aviation fuel and premium scrap iron and steel."
Kennedy shows the perspective from all sides, including Japan's. In a separate textbook "The American Pageant" written with Thomas A. Bailey, Kennedy and Bailey refer to the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into the war as "Japan's hara-kiri gamble in Hawaii."

Among the topics in "Companion": mobilization, operations, tactics, instruments of war, and how war affected the homefront. Kennedy compares Allied teamwork, cooperation and coordination with the Axis powers' backstabbing, subterfuge and war crimes.

Japanese officers turn in their swords to the Allies in 1945.
This week marks the 70th anniversary of the end of war in the Pacific, when "Tenno Heika" Emperor Hirohito announced Japan would surrender, signifying the end of theocratic divine rule, male dominance over society, and military control of the government.

As to how the United States led efforts in the the Pacific to bring freedom, equality and democracy to Japan, Kennedy lists the "Keys to Victory: Why the Allies Won." He has lists for both the European War and Asian-Pacific War. In the case of Asia-Pacific:

  • Allied Industrial Production. The United States quickly overcame the damage done to the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, while Japan had neither the population nor the resources to match Allied industrial output. The intense rivalry between Japan's army and naval branches greatly limited the country's production capabilities
  • Intelligence. Allied intelligence gathering, code breaking, and analysis was far superior; after the war, Japan's chief of army intelligence, Lieutenant General Seizo Arisue admitted, "We couldn't break your codes at all." The Japanese in fact broke some, but to little effect.
"VJ celebration at sea" – photo from Louis Forrisi collection, NHHC.
  • Battle of Midway. After the war, all Japanese naval officers questioned by U.S. interrogators cited the defeat at Midway as "the beginning of total failure." Japan could not make up for the tremendous loss of aircraft, warships, or experienced pilots. In 1943-1944, Japan produced seven aircraft carriers; in that same period, the United States produced ninety.
  • Island Hopping Strategy. By skipping over many fortified Japanese-held islands, the Allies isolated and kept large Japanese forces out of the fight (as at Truk and Rabaul); the strategy also kept the Japanese guessing as to where the Allies would strike next.
  • Combined Operations and Amphibious Landings. The Allies mastered these techniques to successfully capture the islands necessary for an eventual attack on Japan.
  • Destruction of the Imperial Navy. At the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, U.S. forces destroyed nearly all that remained of the Japanese navy, which was "tantamount to the [subsequent] loss of the Philippines," the Japanese naval minister said after the war. "When you took the Philippines, that was the end of our resources."
Surrender aboard USS Missouri Sept 2, 1945 aboard USS Missouri (BB 63)
  • Conventional and Atomic Bombing of Japan. Bombing from spring 1945 to August destroyed more than 2 million buildings and demolished about 40 percent of the country's urban areas. The destruction and Allied blockades put Japan on the verge of starvation.

One could argue that other key reasons deserve special recognition: the impact of submarines and inspirational naval leadership, such as that provided by Fleet Adm. Nimitz, for example. 

Balanced with the joy of victory and end of suffering, Kennedy also shows the tragic aftermath of war. He writes of a U.S. Marine, Eugene Sledge, who was on Okinawa August 14, 1945 and who remembers poignantly the Marines' reaction:
"We received the news with quiet disbelief coupled with an indescribable sense of relief. We thought the Japanese would never surrender. Many refused to believe it. Sitting in stunned silence, we remembered our dead. So many dead. So many maimed. So many bright futures consigned to the ashes of the past. So many dreams lost in the madness that had engulfed us. Except for a few widely scattered shouts of joy, the survivors of the abyss sat hollow-eyed and silent, trying to comprehend a world without war."
Today, Japan and the United States share the same values of an open and free society based on democratic principles. A commemoration in Pearl Harbor this week presented by sister cities Nagaoka and Honolulu and hosted by the U.S. Navy celebrates "70 Years of Peace."

Last week, Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers and sailors paid their respects aboard USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.

50804-N-IU636-024 PEARL HARBOR (August 04, 2015) Japanese soldiers assigned to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and sailors assigned to Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH 181), destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178) and amphibious tank landing ship JS Kunisaki (LST 4003) render honors during a wreath-laying ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial during a scheduled port visit at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The ceremony was meant to pay respect to those who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. The JDMSF ships are scheduled to participate in the multilateral exercise Dawn Blitz 2015 in San Diego. Dawn Blitz is a scenario-driven exercise led by U.S. Third Fleet and I Marine Expeditionary Force that will test participants in the planning and execution of amphibious operations through a series of live training event. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Johans Chavarro/Released)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A 'Chasm' Between Civilians and Their Military?

Review by Bill Doughty

Is the gap between the military and civilians growing? What are the lessons of wars in Korea and Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan? What are the changing roles for women in combat? What is the nature of future warfare?

David M. Kennedy and more than a dozen contributors explore these questions and others in "The Modern American Military" (Oxford University Press, 2013), a volume of scholarly essays that looks into the All Volunteer Force and the history of evolving conflict in the world.

"The dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended World War II but ushered in an entirely new form of conflict that came to be called the Cold War." That's how the foreword to the book by former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry begins.

Perry notes:
"The security dangers we face today must be dealt with at least as much with political, social, and economic strength (soft power) as with military strength (hard power). Our need to exert military power can no longer be met by the large conventional forces used during World War II, or the large nuclear forces accumulated during the Cold War. Today, our armed forces have been reconfiguring to meet these new demands, but many more changes are required ... Our naval forces should continue to focus on their mission of establishing sea control that can be projected worldwide on relatively short notice. Also, all our military services must become more proficient in operating in an environment of cyber threats to military technologies."
William Perry (left) and Kennedy (center) at Stanford in 2010. (L.A. Cicero)
Setting the stage for the essays that follow, Perry concludes:
"The world has been changing in very important ways since the end of the Cold War, and new and dangerous threats are emerging every day. But, against all odds, the world has not had a nuclear bomb used in anger since World War II; there has not been, nor is there likely to be, a World War III; and the average standard of living worldwide has increased since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. military has played an important role in these positive results and will be called upon to continue to play that positive role in the future. In order to do this, the U.S. military will have to adapt to economic, political, technological, and social changes, as well as evolve to meet the changing global threat environment."
David M. Kennedy
This insightful book, which zeroes in on the All Volunteer Force, is edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David M. Kennedy. He assembles contributions by such distinguished thinkers as Perry, Lawrence J. Korb, Karl W. Eikenberry, Mady Wechsler Segal, Renée de Nevers, and others.

Much of this book examines the AVF, established in 1973, and its effects on society and the military, with reference to such standout personalities in military history as Gen. George C. Marshall, Gen. Creighton Abrams, Gen. Charles Krulak, Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Adm. Mike Mullen.

In a chapter titled "Manning and Financing the Twenty-First-Century All-Volunteer Force," David R. Segal and Lawrence J. Korb outline the "undue strain" placed on people and systems since 9/11.
"Despite the fact that the George W. Bush administration deployed more than two hundred thousand people on a continuous basis in Iraq and Afghanistan, and although Congress approved these conflicts, our political and military leaders did not have the courage to activate the draft. Many of the volunteers in the active and reserve ground forces were abused, physically and psychologically, while Americans went shopping. The military and the nation will pay the costs of this moral failure for a long time. Let us hope that the next time we engage in large campaigns, political and military leaders will not again forget their obligations to the country and those who serve it."
Adm. Mike Mullen (right) congratulates 2nd Lt. Erin Anthony at West Point. (Tommy Gilligan)
Kennedy has been focusing on years on the dilemma of a military being at war while the nation is not. He quotes Mullen, former CNO and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in an address to West Point graduates in May 2011: "I fear they [civilian Americans] do not know us. I fear they do not comprehend the full weight of the burden we carry ... We're also fairly insular, speaking our own language of sorts, living within our own unique culture."

From the abstract to an essay called "American Military Culture from Colony to Empire":
"In the midst of a civilian society that is increasingly pacifistic, easygoing and well adjusted, the Army (career and non-career soldiers alike) remains flinty, harshly results oriented, and emotionally extreme. The inevitable and necessary civil-military gap has become a chasm."
While readers may wince, many of the authors' conclusions are often backed up by strong research in the costs over the past 15 years – financial, physical and psychological.

But despite the problems presented here about the AVF, there are no calls for an immediate return to the draft.

North Korean soldier conscripts.
In fact, balancing the argument for conscription is the situation in North Korea, as described by James Sheehan in "The Future of Conscription":
"In Kim Jong Un's first public appearance following his father's death, the new leader reaffirmed Kim Jong Il's emphasis on the military: it was, he declared, his government's 'first, second, and third' priority. With terms of active duty from five to twelve years and reserve obligations up to the age of sixty, North Korea has what is perhaps the world's most extensive and socially intrusive system of conscription."
Sheehan also describes historical and comparative use of conscription in Europe and other regions and countries over the past century.

This book is recommended by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who lauds the exploration of use of contractors in war zones and new technologies that are changing the nature or warfare. "We owe it to our servicemen and women and to those who command them to examine critically and debate the state of military affairs," Rice writes. "This book is a significant contribution to that cause."

The size of the gap or "chasm" between the U.S. military and the civilian society it serves is debatable. According to Kennedy, "This volume aims not only to measure the range of that distance, but to help close it."