A month of remembrance brings World War II into focus

Updated: 2014-07-02 05:17

By Chang Jun (China Daily)

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The collective wisdom of the Chinese people holds that without reflection on the past, no good will come of the future.

Chinese communities in the US are busy this July. The Chinese embassy and consulates are staging wartime memorabilia exhibitions while Asian Americans — including WWII veterans and long-time advocates for preserving the history of WWII — will establish a Pacific War memorial hall in San Francisco and hold seminars.

A month of remembrance brings World War II into focus

The international community must stay vigilant as Japan's right-wing politicians have been playing with fire in recent years, putting the peaceful development of Asia at risk, said Ding Yuan, spokesman for the Global Alliance for Preserving the History of WWII in Asia.

The latest developments include the Japanese cabinet on Tuesday lifting the ban on its armed forces fighting overseas, based on a limited re-interpretation of its 70-year-old pacifist constitution, a move some experts described as dangerous.

This year marks the 77th anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, or the July 7 Incident, which came as a prelude to the Chinese people's eight-year struggle against Japanese aggression.

Japan invaded northeast China in September of 1931, while historians took July 7, 1937 as the start of Sino-Japanese War. On that day, after long planning, the Japanese Imperial Army opened fire on Chinese soldiers stationed in Wanping Town, a crucial access southwest of Beijing, and launched a full-scale invasion of China.

According to 89 Japanese wartime documents made public on April 25 in Jilin province, invading Japanese troops committed shocking atrocities in China — they abducted and trafficked Chinese women and forced them into sex slavery at "comfort stations"; they occupied the city of Nanjing and killed more than 300,000 Chinese civilians, burned down a third of the houses in the city and raped more than 20,000 women, including teenagers; and they carried out bacterial experiments on people at Unit 731, the notorious top-secret biological and chemical warfare research base established in Harbin in 1935, which served as the nerve center for Japan's biological warfare in China and Southeast Asia during WWII.

The files, once kept by the invading Japanese army, only represented a small portion of the nearly 100,000 wartime files retrieved in the 1950s, said Yin Huai, president of the Jilin Provincial Archives in Changchun.

These wartime archives not only expose Japanese brutality in China during WWII but also the vile intent of those who have denied the facts for decades, said a commentary in China's flagship People's Daily after the documents' release.

"They (the documents) serve as undeniable proof of historical issues that Japan's right-wing politicians have given their every effort to deny. By distorting and covering up historical details, Japan's right-wing forces whitewashed an invasion into liberation and made war criminals into heroes," said the article.

In the Bay Area, grassroots organizations have formed alliances of different formats in order to preserve historic facts and widespread wartime truths in the US.

Ding Yuan and his comrades of similar mind have pushed for the installation of an "In Memory of Victims of the Pacific War 1931-1945 Memorial Bench" at the Sonoma State University Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove in September of 2013. They also pushed for the Cupertino City Council to approve installation of a Pacific War Memorial Monument in the town's Memorial Park.

In their second proposal submitted to the city council in May, the group said as home to Apple, HP and many office buildings and shopping malls, Cupertino lacked anything to tell children and future generations about what happened during WWII.

"Having a great Apple campus and many world-renowned technological achievements is only half of the equation to making Cupertino a great city," said their proposal. "Completing the existing Veterans Memorial with a civilian genocide site will give our citizens something to be proud of. It would be a step in the right direction to building character for our city."

"We are racing against time," said Ding, after the city again tabled their proposal. "Japanese politicians have deprived young generations of the chance to know the truth. In the US, we Chinese have the responsibility of making the American people more familiar with that part of history."

Historians say the Pacific War, or Asia-Pacific War, started in early December of 1941 with Japan's invading neighboring countries. The Pacific War saw the allied forces of the US and China, with China's Anti-Japanese War (1937-45) an important segment in WWII, fighting Japan together, culminating in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Japan's final surrender in September 1945.

"The Chinese people were not fighting alone against the Japanese invaders," said Florence Fang, a renowned patriotic community leader who later this week is to announce the establishment of the WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall, the first memorial of its kind on anti-Japanese invasion outside of China.

"We had our American friends standing side-by-side with our forces to fight together against the Japanese," Fang said.

Contact the writer at junechang@chinadailyusa.com.

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