Essay’s Without Mercy

Being so incredibly snowed under with essays and presentation preparation is hell. Unfortunately this seems to be a simple fact of life for the typical student. How much easier things are when the research being carried out is actually interesting, when you find yourself so immersed in your selected material that you forget you’ve an essay to be getting stuck into.

However rare this is, it does happen.
Currently I’m writing an essay for the Japan, History, Culture and Power module. The topic of the essay surrounds the significance of racism during the Pacific War. Obviously a very meaty subject in which are fused the issues of overbearing brutality during the war along with notions of racial superiority and inferiority, self and other.
After looking -albeit briefly- at the recent history of Amero-Japanese political relations during the early twentieth century, leading up to the Pacific War, I then decided to read a little about the actual Pacific War itself and the importance of race during the conflict.
The book in question John Dower’s (1986) ‘War Without Mercy: race and power in the Pacific war’ is incredible.  At once deeply shocking and insightful, I have not been able to put it down. Dower manages to walk a tightrope of possible bias conclusion whilst giving an in depth and grounded discussion of racial tensions and the resulting race related atrocities.

Of specific importance regarding the American perception of its enemy is the use of propaganda. Dower cites two propaganda films, one of which ‘Know Your Enemy-Japan’ really does capture the mood of the time. Most incredibly, in a bizarrely macabre turn of events, this film was actually released on the same day as the Hiroshima bomb feel on Japan.

While these propaganda films were originally made by Frank Capra for military viewing purposes they would soon be shown to the American public, and as Dower points out:
 ‘The propagandist deception often lies, not in the false claim of enemy atrocities, but in the pious depiction of such behaviour as peculiar to the other side’.


While these films and the Pacific War on the whole obviously mark a painful point in human history, it is immensely important that the sheer and truly shocking gravity of these events is never lost, and that they remain part of our global cultural consciousness should a similar situation ever arise again. After all, in the grand scheme of history, seventy years isn’t even a blink of an eye.

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About Bevan

Bevan has now graduated from the University of Leicester.

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