Out of Context: How to Make Bad History Worse | World War 2


There are a number of myths and counter myths
involving the end World War 2. It was Russia declaring war, and not the atomic
bombs, that convinced Japan to surrender. Not dropping the bombs would have cost hundreds
of thousands of American lives during the invasion. But perhaps my favorite is the leaflets. Critics of the use of the atomic bomb make
it sound like the bombs weren’t dropped out of necessity, but some sort of bloodthirsty
rage or even morbid curiosity. “And they haven’t used the bomb yet and
were curious to see if it works, so they drop it on Japan. They actually dropped two.” But they leave out the fact that in the weeks
prior to the bombing, the US dropped leaflets on three dozen Japanese cities warning civilians
that these cities would be bombed and to evacuate. Including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Critics of the leaflets point out that they
didn’t specifically say atomic bomb and that the picture is of B-29s dropping firebombs. But remember, this is 1945. Atomic bomb wasn’t really in anyone’s
vocabulary, so explicitly saying atomic bomb wouldn’t really make sense to the – forgive
the pun here – target audience. And what difference would it make? This is Tokyo after being firebombed and this
is Hiroshima after being atomic bombed. It doesn’t matter whether it’s one bomb
or hundreds, the effect is basically the same. In fact, more people died in Tokyo than Hiroshima
or Nagasaki. After Hiroshima, we started dropping leaflets
specifically saying “We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised
by man. If you still have any doubt, make inquiry
as to what happened to Hiroshima.” This was somewhat of a bluff though since
we only had the two and we used both of them, we wouldn’t have another one for several
weeks… but they didn’t know that. A few weeks ago I was asked by…. Fiosracht? To respond to a twitter rant regarding Winston
Churchill. I won’t respond to the entire thing in this
video, but link down below. It got me thinking about the many ways that
people pluck out pieces of history, maybe dust off the context and embellish parts in
order to make it fit the story they want to tell. While the twitter thread itself never mentions
it, several others commented that Winston Churchill didn’t care about Australia and
said things like “let the Japanese have it.” Australians often call it the Great Betrayal
and this is somewhat of a mischaracterization. After the Fall of France in 1940, when the
Battle of Britain started, the British met with the Americans to figure out a strategy
for World War 2. They agreed on two major points. The Atlantic and European areas were the “decisive
theater” and as such would be the primary focus of US military efforts. A defensive strategy in the Far East/Pacific. This is commonly referred to as the Germany
First plan. There was no plan to cede territory to the
Japanese just get it back later, in fact one of the sub-points was
The security of the British Commonwealth must be maintained in all circumstance including
the retention of a Far East position. Both the US and Britain agreed that since
Nazi Germany was rapidly expanding and on Britain’s doorstep, that it was the greatest
threat and even the backbone of the Axis powers. And so it should be the primary focus of the
war. But the US wasn’t in the war yet. We were not-so-covertly helping Britain, France,
and Russia, but not officially. Of course, all of that changed on December
7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy. There is seriously so much to say about Pearl
Harbor, but I would like to focus on the conspiracy theory that FDR let Pearl Harbor happen in
order to justify getting into the war. This is a real conspiracy theory, you can
look it up, there are dozens of videos and books on the topic. The main problem here is that they’re focusing
on just Pearl Harbor. Like they have historical tunnel vision or
something. To be fair, when we look back, that’s the
only one we talk about since it was on the front page of every newspaper and it even
got entire Michael Bay explosions devoted to it. In the December 7th, 1941, a date which will
live in infamy speech given by Jon Voight in that movie, he says… “The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands
has caused severe damage to American military forces. I regret to tell you that over 3000 American
lives have been lost.” Which makes it seem like Hawaii was the only
place that was attacked. But as accurate as that movie is, that’s
an abridged version of the speech. “I regret to tell you that very many American
lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported
torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu. Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched
an attack against Malaya. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong
Kong. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine
Islands. Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway
Island. Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise
offensive extending throughout the Pacific area.” Saying FDR let Pearl Harbor happen is a myopic
view of history that strips away the fact that dozens of islands and countries across
the Pacific were all attacked at once. Pearl Harbor was by far the most important
to the American military, but certainly not the only one. American entry into World War 2 was inevitable
at this point. FDR didn’t need to sacrifice nearly every
US territory in the Pacific, thousands of American lives, five battleships and about
a dozen other smaller ships to justify it. Ah, but what about the carriers? Stan, mmk. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor,
aircraft carriers were still somewhat of a novelty and curiosity. We only had 3 in the Pacific Fleet. The undisputed pride of the US Navy was its
battleships, 8 of which were in Pearl Harbor on that day. The primary objective of the Japanese attack
in Pearl Harbor was to disable the battleships – they launched the attack knowing that
the carriers weren’t in the harbor, and not caring, because they weren’t seen as
important. A major part of the conspiracy is that the
carriers weren’t at Pearl Harbor. Suggesting that FDR thought they were more
important than any admiral moved them so they wouldn’t be destroyed in the coming attack. So where were they? The USS Lexington was delivering dive bombers
to Midway. The USS Saratoga was in San Diego. And the USS Enterprise had just finished delivering
a squadron of fighters to Wake Island and was returning to Pearl Harbor that morning. Many of its fighters actually participated
in Pearl Harbor’s defense ahead of the carrier’s arrival. Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett weren’t the
only ones flying around that day. All of these missions were planned separately,
weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The reason people find this suspicious is
because aircraft carriers were key to our victory over Japan. This is historical hindsight at its worst. Think about it, what did we have left after
Pearl Harbor? Since all of our battleships were either damaged
or sunk. Aircraft carriers. So we were forced to use what we had left,
and we suddenly realized that these former novelty items were actually pretty dang useful. Once America declared war on Japan, anti-Japanese
sentiment exploded. Americans were suspicious of any Japanese
person living in America, thinking they might be spies or saboteurs… which… remember this scene from Pearl Harbor? Yeah, that actually happened, his name was
Tadashi Morimura, or actually Takeo Yoshikawa. Though, we didn’t find out about him until
well after the war. Suspicions and racial tensions were excessively
high and as a result, FDR signed an executive order that moved all people of Japanese ancestry
from the western states to internment camps in the interior of the country. Many people, who want to make this event sound
as bad as possible, will call them concentration camps. And I guess by literal definition, they could
be considered concentration camps. But also by literal definition, if you try
to kill more than one person, that’s genocide. It’s the connotation, the background meaning
that’s evoked when you hear the phrase that’s important. When you hear concentration camp, you think
of that one specific concentration camp. When they weren’t at all comparable in terms
of purpose or end result. These weren’t labor camps or death camps. In fact more people came out of the camps
than went in. Yes, people died, but the death toll in the
internment camps was actually no higher than the outside civilian population, and there
were more births than deaths. “Adults could work if they wanted to, for
a measly salary of $5 a day.” Five dollars a day sounds awfully low. But we’re in 2018. They were paid five dollars in 1942 money,
which is almost 80 dollars today. To put that into perspective, a private in
the US military in 1942 made 50 dollars a month. “Measly” is an added adjective to make
it sound worse. I’m not saying the conditions weren’t
awful, but Internment Camp is a perfectly accurate term for what they were. As awful as Heart Mountain, Wyoming might’ve
been, it wasn’t Auschwitz. When you exaggerate everything, you diminish
everything. When everything is the worst thing that ever
happened, nothing is. We should all be able to agree that both internment
camps and concentration camps were both bad – but one of them was clearly worse. The camps were absolutely racially motivated
and without any hard evidence of military necessity. Two-thirds of the internees were US citizens
and I’m willing to bet all of them were loyal to the United States. I personally don’t agree with it, but when
it’s put into the wider historical context, I can at least try to understand it. But I’m saying that with 2018 Hindsight. Get it? Instead of 20/20? I thought it was funny. When talking about the Japanese Internment
Camps, people often point to Hawaii as an odd example. Since that’s where the Pearl Harbor attack
happened, and over a third of the population was Japanese and they weren’t rounded up
into camps. They usually say something to the effect of
how devastating it would have been to the economy. “The military governor of Hawaii actually
said, please don’t do this you can’t do it, it’s impractical, we could never pull
it off and you’re going to wreck the territory’s economy. Just leave it alone.” Did you catch that? Because it’s really subtle. “The military governor”
Hawaii did have an internment camp, it only held about 1400 people but more importantly,
the entire island was placed under martial law. As in, barbed wire on the beach, tanks in
the streets, freaks in sheets, martial law. Hawaii wasn’t some liberal paradise where
everyone got along in racial harmony despite the war. There were travel restrictions, no radio stations,
curfews, and a blackout. Which meant that you had to cover all doors
and windows, you weren’t allowed to light fires or drive around with your headlights
on at night. This was done so that Japanese bombers flying
overhead wouldn’t be able to find their targets. Not that they ever tried bombing at night,
but still. They even printed special money just for Hawaii
so that if it ever got invaded, the US Government could immediately render it useless. So just saying that Hawaii didn’t have a
camp and they didn’t round up all the Japanese is inaccurate. Because the entire territory was on military
lockdown, like one giant internment camp. But, there were some Japanese Americans, mostly
from Hawaii, who joined the military. “One of the last German units to see action
in World War 2 was the 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division, which participated in the defense
of central Berlin. And that was comprised of French volunteers. And of course, some Japanese people fought
for America in the Second World War. The 442nd Infantry Regiment of the United
States Army was made up almost entirely of soldiers of Japanese ancestry.” These two units are not at all comparable. The 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division was made
up of French people, from France, fighting for the Germans, against France. The 442nd Infantry Regiment was made up of
Japanese people, from America, fighting for America, against… the Germans. Yeah, the reason why is actually both smart
and a little racist. They were assigned to Europe not because they
were worried that the Japanese would defect, but because they were worried that other American
soldiers would mistake them for the enemy. There weren’t a lot of enemy Japanese people
running around Europe at the time so… yeah. They were American soldiers fighting for America,
they weren’t at all traitors to their nation. In the aftermath of World War 1, when the
Ottoman Empire was broken up, Britain got control of a large section of the Middle East. It’s actually a pretty interesting story,
someone should make a video about that. Would you like to know more? The very first tweet in that Churchill rant
is about the British occupation of Afghanistan. But Afghanistan’s not part of the Middle
East. Alright, Stan, mmk. “While he was there Churchill discovered
his passion for war and viewed the Pashtuns as beneath him. Going so far as saying that ‘all who resist
will be killed without quarter.’ That they ‘needed to recognize the superiority
of race” “He wrote about how ‘We systematically,
village by village, destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers,
cut down the great shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive
devastation.” This makes Churchill look pretty bad, right? Well here’s a question for you – what
year is this? He rather conveniently leaves that information
out, because it’s 1897. 1897 isn’t even close to World War 2. Stan, mmk. Churchill is a 22 year old war
correspondent for the Telegraph, he’s not exactly the Prime Minister or in charge of…
anything. And everything he was quoted as saying is
wartime propaganda – we do the exact same thing in every single war. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen,
I am guided by the beauty of our weapons. And they are beautiful pictures of fearsome
armaments. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, I’m
just saying it makes a lot more sense when you put it in context. “Churchill was ‘Secretary of State for
the Colonies’ in ’21. This is when he decided air power was superior
to troops on the ground and he bombed the s*** out of any resistance”
He advocated for the use of the air force rather than troops because it was cheaper. No other reason really. “’I am strongly in favour of using poisoned
gas against the uncivilized tribes, it would spread a lively terror.’” But that isn’t the full quote is it? … No, it isn’t:
“I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the
loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly
gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror
and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.” He advocated for the use of non-lethal tear
gas to subdue rebellions. It’s pretty important to note that they
never actually used any gas – of any kind. He just kind of suggested it. But there is one Arab Revolt that he doesn’t
bring up – The Anglo-Iraqi War. The thing about revolts and independence movements
in the middle of a war is that you never really know who’s behind it. Is it a natural uprising from within – or
is it being funded and supported by your enemy? The Germans did this a lot. In fact, during World War 1 they tried it
in Afghanistan against the British, which didn’t work. They tried to get Mexico to start a war with
the United States in order to keep the Americans occupied and out of Europe. Which also didn’t work. In order to get Russia out of the war, they
funded and sent Vladimir Lenin to Moscow to start an internal coup. Which did work, rather famously actually. And Spain didn’t participate in WW2, because
it had just finished fighting an internal civil war, supported by… the Nazis. So it shouldn’t surprise you to find out
that the leader of the Iraqi revolt was the Ba’ath Party, yes, the same Ba’ath Party
that this guy was part of. Supported by, say it with me – Germany…
or the Nazis, whichever one you said. Revolts and independence movements during
a war are never a good idea for this very reason – they’re going to crack down on
you even harder. You can’t pick and choose revolts that you
think were unjustly put down while ignoring the ones you now know were justly put down,
because you’re coming at it with 70 plus years of extra knowledge. In the moment, whether it’s funded by the
enemy or a natural uprising of the people, it all looks the same. I got a lot of flak for saying that during
my video on Gandhi, and I got comments like this, saying
“No reason why a country can’t fight for independence instead of waging a war in Europe.” India wasn’t fighting in Europe, they were
fighting in India. Indians were fighting against the Japanese,
who were right here, this is India. So when the enemy is right on your doorstep
and you start demanding independence… it raises some questions is all I’m saying. But the twitter rant mentions India as well. “He orchestrated a mass genocide in Bengal.” “It was a famine in the same sense that
we had a famine over here. He starved over 4 million Bengalis in 1943.” It’s actually two million, not that makes
it any better. This bit right here is Bengal, it’s part
of India and also happens to be the front line. So food was often shipped back from the front
line or reserved for the military, and whenever the Japanese would advance they’d burn it
all so that it wouldn’t be captured. So there was a famine. “Churchill refused all said to Bengal. Canada and US offered rice and he refused.” What? Your first clue that this is false should
be that Canada and the US aren’t exactly known for their bountiful agriculture of rice. They offered wheat, not rice. But Churchill declined because it would take
two months to ship it and that’s assuming it made it through all of this mess. The United States didn’t offer anything,
that part is just plain made up. In fact, in 1944 when Churchill wrote to FDR
asking for help, saying “I am seriously concerned about the food
situation in India… I have had much hesitation in asking you to
add to the great assistance you are giving us with shipping but a satisfactory situation
in India is of such vital importance to the success of our joint plans against the Japanese
that I am impelled to ask you to consider a special allocation of ships to carry wheat
to India.” FDR refused, for the exact same reasons that
Churchill decline Canada’s offer. Instead, Churchill ordered Australia to ship
350,000 tons of wheat, although the reallocation of ships was still an issue given the upcoming
Normandy invasion. The writer of these tweets, and indeed many
of the other things I’ve mentioned, seems to want to pluck these events out of World
War 2 and talk about them as if they were the only thing going on at the time. It’s only when you put it in the larger
context that things make sense. This isn’t always nefarious, it has a lot
to do with just how we tell stories. Nobody wants to hear about the second worst
time something happened. Just like with people, we want to label events
as either good or bad. But that’s not interesting enough, it also
has to be the worst. Not everyone was as bad as Hitler and not
everything was as bad as the Holocaust. The actual history is bad enough on its own. Exaggerating or embellishing, or cherrypicking
things out of context casts doubt on the rest of history. Especially if the person ever finds out that
there’s more to the story. So the next time you see someone being labeled
as a genocidal maniac… Gee, where have I heard that before… or
hear that people were rounded up into concentration camps, maybe look into the story a little
more because now, you know better.

Comments 10

  • Recent comments by a congressperson have made my statements on the differentiation between internment/concentration camps relevant again, please see my full statement here: https://www.reddit.com/r/KnowingBetter/comments/c306qb/regarding_aocs_concentration_camp_comments/

    I would like to make it clear that this isn't a defense of all of Churchill's actions – he was an absolute imperialist and undeniable racist. Nor am I defending the internment camps – that was one of America's most shameful acts. Rather, this is a defense of historical context.

    Correction: The segment regarding Internee pay is based on an incorrect source – they were in fact paid an average of $14 a month in 1942 money. However, the point of that segment is to focus in on the added word "measly."

  • Lmfao instead of having that annoying ass Masked Singer-type voice in the quotes (that are actually interesting and enlightening) and just do that voiceover for yourself

  • If you want some insight on the mood of US government towards Japanese Americans, read about anthrax attacks on American Calvary horses in American ports during WWI by German spies. One has to understand this was a war of all wars, the first nations to go down showed the rest what awaits them, no one was settling for trench warfare anymore, no more abdications, Hitler killed himself, Mussolini died on a meat hook, and Japan got nuked, cause that's what it took.

  • Fact: Hitler offered peace, and the British declined.

  • As someone who lives in Wyoming given I live the the north eastern part and hart mountain is in the western part. still the worst part of hart mountain was it is in Wyoming and going from the pacific coast to Wyoming would be probably awful

  • The US internment camps may have been "racially motivated" in the sense that their occupants were chosen on the basis of race, but they were NOT racially motivated in the far more meaningful sense. FDR's executive order was not some vacuous expression of white superiority over, or white irrational fear of, the Japanese race. German-Americans (i.e., white people) were interred just like the Japanese were.

    This was a TOTAL WAR against a brutal enemy, not a slam-dunk war like Vietnam would have been if the US had unleashed all of the firepower at its disposal. In WWII, the US DID unleash all of the firepower at its disposal, and still it could have easily lost. With our 20-20 hindsight, we can say that the US could have endured some sabotage and still almost definitely have won. Back then, who knew what problems might have proved material to the outcome?

    I'm a very libertarian-leaning person–I was even when I was a leftist–but I no longer have a problem with the relocation and internment program, at least in principle. It was a reasonable response, in a true crisis, one where the unfavorable outcome (losing to Tojo and Hitler) was reasonably likely to happen, and that would have been an existential catastrophe, and the executive order solved what could easily have been an issue (sabotage) that changed the ultimate outcome.

    The problem was that care should have been taken to minimize the damage inflicted on the population interred, but it wasn't. They should have been fully-compensated for the property they were forced to abandon, in accordance with the Constitution's rules surrounding eminent domain takings, for example. Perhaps a small city in Iowa could have been seized, cleared out, and surrounded with a fence and guards ordered to shoot to kill any escapees; then the internees could have been moved in. They could have been allowed to live decent lives, instead of being put into camps. AT THE VERY LEAST, they should have been fully compensated by the Federal government as soon as the war was over.

    The conditions of the interred was the problem. The overall policy was itself reasonable. Michelle Malkin wrote what sounds like a reasonable defense of the program, and she has at least one long video on YouTube–it might have been an episode of BookTV–making her case on this.

  • Noam Chomsky used that quote of Churchill about causing a lively terror using gas attacks. I now see that Chomsky deceptively edited the quote. Thanks for the full picture.

  • By interesting Coincidence just picked up Churchill's book 'The River War' today. Written in 1899, it tells the story of the British re-conquest of the Sudan.

  • We never nuked Japan. Nukes aren't even real as described.

  • Ok what about the British bombing Norwegian schools and the US bombing Mortsel?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *