HIEA 112 Final

Jacob Farrell

Images may be disturbing (WWII Propaganda)

Below are two images of World War II propaganda art, the first originating from the United States and the second being from Japan. The themes that will be emphasized through these images are the idea that despite its vast cultural differences, Japan behaved just like its western opponents during the war in its own imperialistic efforts and racial manipulation. In addition, the outcome of World War II made it an indispensable event in modern Japan’s history as it transitioned from an enemy of the United States into one of its closer economic and political ally. While analyzing propaganda offers us the perception that war nationalists wanted to spread to other civilians in order to rile up anger or racial animosity towards enemies, the question of whether or not the average person in Japan or America was influenced by these images comes into question.

World War II remains the deadliest war in history involved more than 30 countries and resulted in more than 50 million civilian deaths. On one sector, the United States, Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and France led the allied powers and on the other hand Germany, Japan and Italy led the Axis powers. A war at this scale had each side putting everything aside in order to keep the war effort alive. One of the strategies employed were war propaganda. At its core, war propagandas role in its own domestic countries was to promote nationalism, dehumanize enemies, and also to justify the war efforts.

1. Tokio Kid Say Much Waste of Material… Douglas Aircraft Company. Santa Monica, CA 1939–1945

In the first comic created by the Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica California, we see a horrific depiction of the Japanese with commonly used exaggerated characteristics such as large round spectacles, small squinting eyes, and animalistic features (in this case bat-like ears and fangs). The text reads, “Tokio Kid Say Much Waste of Material Make SO-o-o-o Happy! Thank You” written in blood from a dagger. The purpose of this specific war art was to emphasize the idea that in wartime, every American should be doing their own part or contribution to give the U.S the best chances of victory. In this case, a lack of material conservation is attributed to helping the Japanese win the war. Besides the obvious visual racist elements of this image through its Japanese caricature, the grammar that the text is written in also throws jabs at mocking the speech of foreigners in America in which english is not their first language. This distrust in Japanese-Americans already living in the U.S during the war was physically shown in other propagandas advising to be weary of Japanese spies as well as the decision of the internment of many Japanese-Americans in concentration camps in order to control and reduce contact with their home country. As will be discussed further, Japan displayed its own share of racial brutality during the war as well through propaganda and as John Dower asserts in their book, “War Without Mercy Chapter 1, Patterns of a Race War” Japan and its western opponents were much more similar than you would think.

As an American, I have seen many World War II propaganda from the western perspective which I always found very fascinating. Before taking this class and reading the Chapter from Dower, my previous belief was that war propaganda was exclusive to the United States because that was all I was exposed to. Now that I have learned that most countries have a history with wartime propaganda comic, it not only made me interested in viewing other perspectives on historic wars, but also agree with Dower in that war propaganda has a specific racial and imperialistic purpose that all countries could utilize.

2. Roosevelt and Churchill Imperial Octopus. (Could not find source)

This second image was a propaganda made by the Japanese however unfortunately I could not find the source. However, its connection to World War II is very clear depicting U.S president Franklin D. Roosevelt and United Kingdom prime minister Winston Churchill as octopuses as a Japanese soldier slices their tentacle appendages off a map of the Eastern and Southern areas of Asia. The characterization of Roosevelt and and Churchill as octopuses originates from a common metaphor comparing octopuses spreading their own tentacles to imperialism. Through this propaganda, Japan is depicted as the hero preventing further western spread into the Asian continent and most likely was used to gain the support of other neighboring Asian countries during World War II. The irony is that while Japan may have seen itself as the hero against imperialism, we have learned from this class that Japans militaristic colonization efforts were largely inspired by Great Britain and the United States. Through various other World War II propaganda, Dower champions the belief that “plain race hate won’t go away” and it is during times of war where these patterns perpetuate in order to dehumanize enemies and manipulate our own beneficiary that make us all the same.

One of the excerpts from “Diary of a Housewife” offers a more realistic and personable account of the Japanese wartime experience. While our previous discussions have been mainly focused on determining the effectiveness of propaganda and nationalism in order to unify support for the war efforts, Diary of a Housewife presents the thought that some Japanese may have felt disconnected from the war only experiencing the negative side affects of it such as food rationing, no gas or electricity, and living in a constant state of fear or unpredictability. Based on wartime conditions for the average person, it would depend on whether or not daily life is sustainable to the extent that propaganda would even be effective since the main priority would be to simply stay alive before they would even think to decide if the war is one worth supporting. The end of the excerpt recounts a mixed feeling of sadness and joy in response to the news of Japan’s surrender. While the sadness may stem from the inherent sense of nationalism still left, the joy would come from the hopeful relief of wartime life and new order among the average Japanese person.

In summary, World War II played a crucial role in the history of modern Japan and the horrific propaganda created by both the axis powers and the allied powers reveals a shared sense of racially motivated animosity and nationalism. However, the propaganda will always be an extreme exaggeration or caricature of the feelings during the war which can undermine the reality behind the harsh wartime life for the average person.

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