10-7 World War Two – BUSHIDO


Bushido was a code which the Japanese were taught to live by.

They were taught that dedication and complete respect to their emperor and family was important.

Some of the Code’s character traits included Justice, Unselfishness, Righteousness, Honor and Virtue.

It required many things like courtesy towards women and strong spirituality.

The code of the Samurai warrior extolled the offensive, created a lust of battle and condemned weakness.

The most important was having no fear of death.

If the Japanese in anyway disgraced themselves they would commit suicide so they could save the reputation of their family.

Delving into ancient myths about the Japanese and the Emperor, they exhorted the people to restore a past racial and spiritual purity lost in recent times. They were indoctrinated from an early age to revere the Emperor as a living deity, and to see war as an act that could purify the self, the nation, and ultimately the whole world.

Within this framework, the supreme sacrifice of life itself was regarded as the purest of accomplishments. Death in combat was honorable. The great classic of Bushido – ‘Hagakure’ written in the early 18th century – begins with the words, ‘Bushido is a way of dying’.

The rise of Japanese nationalism was seen partly in the adoption of Shinto as a state religion holding the Emperor to be divine because he was deemed to be a descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu.

This provided justification for the requirement that the emperor and his representatives be obeyed without question.

As in other dictatorships, irrational brutality, hatred and fear became commonplace. Perceived failure, or insufficient devotion to the Emperor would attract punishment, frequently of the physical kind.

In the military, officers would assault and beat men under their command, who would pass the beating on to lower ranks, all the way down. In POW camps, this meant prisoners received the worst beatings of all.

The Code of Bushido in WWII was used as a tool to motivate the masses to die in the name of the emperor.

In combat, this code was used to rally troops into suicidal banzai charges, or to encourage encircled troops to take their own lives with grenades before they could be captured. Suicide plane bombers called the “divine wind” or “kamikaze” died in large numbers.

Bushido demanded total obedience in the name of the Emperor and nation.  The Field Service Code issued by General Tojo in 1941 put it more explicitly: “Do not live in shame as a prisoner. Die, and leave no ignominious crime behind you.”

During WWII this sacred code was considered important to follow, particularly in causes of surrender.

It demanded bravery, loyalty, allegiance to orders and forbade surrender Surrender was disgraceful not only to the soldier, but to his entire family. There are documented accounts of soldier’s wives driving themselves to disgrace or death because of rumors that their husband dishonorably surrendered.

Returning prisoners from Japan’s previous major war with Russia in 1904-5 had been treated as social outcasts. Although some Japanese were taken prisoner, most fought until they were killed or committed suicide.

In the last, desperate months of the war, this image was also applied to Japanese civilians. To the horror of American troops advancing on Saipan, they saw mothers clutching their babies hurling themselves over the cliffs rather than be taken prisoner. Not only were there virtually no survivors of the 30,000 strong Japanese soldiers on Saipan, two out of every three civilians – some 22,000 in all – also died.

In WWII, the Japanese could not understand why many of the Allied forces surrendered and therefore treated them poorly.

The rape, torture and murder of over 300,000 “unarmed” civilians in Nanking was justified by the arrogance and racism of the Code.

The most infamous incident during this period was the Nanking Massacre of 1937-38, when, according to the findings of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, the Japanese Army massacred as many as 300,000 civilians and prisoners of war, although the accepted figure is somewhere in the hundreds of thousands.

The rape, torture and murder of NANKING was justified by the arrogance and racism of the Code

An estimated 10 million Chinese (mostly civilians) killed starved and murdered. According to the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal, the death rate among POWs from Asian countries, held by Japan was 27.1%

The death rate of Chinese POWs was much higher. Only 56 Chinese POWs were released after the surrender of Japan. R. J. Rummel , a professor of political science, states that between 1937 and 1945, the Japanese military murdered from nearly 3,000,000 to over 10,000,000 people, most likely 6,000,000 Chinese, Indonesians, Koreans, Filipinos, and Indochinese among others, including Western prisoners of war.

In Southeast Asia, the MANILA MASSACRE, resulted in the deaths of 100,000 civilians in the Philippines and in the Sook Ching massacre, between 25,000 and 50,000 ethnic Chinese in Singapore were taken to beaches and massacred.

There were numerous other massacres of civilians e.g. the Kalagong massacre in Burma. On July 7, 1945, the Imperial Japanese Army occupied the village and rounded up all the inhabitants for questioning. Women and children were raped and beaten but no information was forthcoming. The Kempeitai therefore ordered the entire village massacred.

The inhabitants were taken in groups of five to ten persons to nearby wells, blindfolded, and bayoneted, and their bodies were dumped in the wells. An estimated 600 villagers died in the massacre.

Biological weapons”, among other experiments. Anesthesia was not used because it was believed to affect results.

Historian Mitsuyoshi Himeta reports that a “Three Alls Policy” (Sankō Sakusen) was implemented in China from 1942 to 1945 and was in itself responsible for the deaths of “more than 2.7 million” Chinese civilians.

This scorched earth strategy, sanctioned by Hirohito himself, directed Japanese forces to “KILL All, BURN All, and LOOT All.

When the Japanese were held prisoner in Australia, many Japanese prisoners could not understand the quality of the treatment which the Australian guards gave them. They received a good standard of housing and were well fed.

Although treated so well, the Japanese were not happy and often attempted suicide. Many also changed their names so that their parents assumed they were dead rather than disappoint them. This was because of the way they were taught to follow the Bushido code.