by Jessica Leung
“That’s all you have to say! I think the highest symbol of human irresponsibility is the Emperor! Followed by officers like you!”- Okuzaki, The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan.
Emperor Hirohito was a complex political figure of war: he was responsible for the rise and fall of Imperial Japan before and after World War 2. He ascended to the Japanese throne on December 25th, 1926; a significant time in history for Japanese imperialism view which led to expansionism until Japan’s surrender to the Allied forces at the end of the war. Although he was as responsible as the rest of his army in committing crimes in the Pacific Asia War, he was able to negotiate with the west to escape prosecution. In fact, he was not even called as a witness during the whole Tokyo Trial as his deal with the United States kept the Supreme Shrine out of the trial. Under his leadership, not only did Japan would rise industrially in just 80 years, Japan would emerge a new era in the reconstruction of modern Japan.
Since the day he was born, he was regarded as a deity traditionally by the nation-state a symbol of Japanese unity and imperial greatness. However, the people on the political left did not feel the same about imperialism as the right, and on February 26th 1926, a coup was staged by young officers disgruntled by the upper classes neglect of their citizens and only focusing on building their own wealth. Emperor Hirohito was almost assassinated through this episode of the uprising. Although this coup failed and the young officers were executed causing social chaos, this incident shaped the way he ruled. He was more careful than any other emperors before him and hid behind his counsel. The right used this incident to make the monarchy to shift his policies more right and nationalistic.
This rising nationalistic sentiment was transferred into the education system. Racism against their neighboring countries was introduced in the schools. Children were taught that they were better than people from other nations. Racism would make it easier for them to erase any guilt when murdering their supposed inferiors.
During his reign, Hirohito was known as a man of mystery. His notes and letters were often confusing to his cabinet. In his notes, he did not initially want to pursue the war but went along the decisions of ministers that saw war as a method to generate revenue and escape their depression to boost their economy. Although there are myths after the war that depict him as merely a figurehead of the Japanese state influenced by the sole decision making by the military, it was far from the truth. Hirohito often reprimanded his generals when they took decisive military action without his stamp of approval.
For example, on September 8th, 1937, the Marco Polo bridge incident in China would escalate into a full- scale war led to full-scale Sino-Japanese war, Hirohito played an active role in directing his military. According to Bix, author of Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, “But once he had learned the true facts, he not only failed to punish the wrongdoers but actively joined in aiding and abetting the army’s seizure of Manchuria. In these ways, Hirohito allowed the military in general and army field commanders, in particular, to effectively take over Japan’s China policy and turn it openly aggressive”. The myth of the Emperor not having significant military influence as a passive emperor has been debunked and his decision making during the war was a national effort between his general, cabinets, and ministers. He also had the reservation to either approve or disapprove judgments to declare war. He was aware of the atrocities during the Pacific Asia War but did nothing to stop them.
He was also briefed and consulted about the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 and the Kamikaze attacks on the American Island that housed their naval fleet and American troops that were harmed during this attack which propelled American participation into the Pacific War. Since the Emperor part of the decision making during the war, the myth of him being a political figurehead or “puppet Emperor” was eliminated. Hirohito’s most trusted adviser Hideki Tojo strategically wanted to eliminate any possible help that Chiang Kai Sheik's troops would have from the Americans. One of their motives were that they were slighted by the United States decision to sell them oil and steel which they desperately needed to further their war efforts. Thus, expanding their territories into places where they would have resources that they would need for survival in the war to support their troops, manufacture weapons, as well as general labor from their territories. Pearl Harbor was an entryway to accessing the Philippines as well which was an American territory at the time. The Philippines were also attacked 10 hours after Pearl Harbor. There were three main reasons why the Japanese went to seize the Philippines right after Pearl Harbor. One was to remove it as a base for Americans, supplies, and lastly to connect the lines of communications for them and the home islands. The outcome was a success and it was noted that the Emperor was very pleased with the outcome of the attack on Pearl Harbor by his adviser Hideki Tojo.
Near the end of the war, he refused to surrender after the first atomic bomb was dropped. At this point in the war, it was obvious that Japan had no opportunity of winning the war. His refusal to surrender only led to the 2nd atomic bomb, which got him desperate to surrender. But he was also too afraid to face justice and decided to strike a deal with MacArthur to avoid facing trial.
Near the end of the war, he would be denying any allegations of him as a war criminal that provided a written account of what his responsibilities were during the war that depicted his innocence.
After his announcement of his decision to surrender to the Japanese populace on August 5th, 1945 he was the first Emperor to directly speak to the general public. After the war, he was protected by the Cold War as well as the United States. Emperor Hirohito became an ordinary again after the war and Japan became an important base for the United States during the Cold War. MacArthur protected him from facing trials as a war criminal not only due to the Cold War strategy but also due to the necessity in keeping Japan unified during post-war reconstruction to prevent revolts from those who were devastated by the atomic bomb. He remained on the throne as a constitutional monarch for 42 years until his death on January 7th, 1989.
Bix, Herbert P. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan (New York, 2000).
Bix, Hebert P. War Responsibility and Historical Memory: Hirohito's Apparition (Volume 6 | Issue 5 | May 03, 2008).
Burma, Ian. The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan (New York, 1994)
Citino, Robert. < https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/launching-war-hirohito-and-pearl-harbor>
Kawamura, Noriko. Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War (University of Washington Press, 2015).
Kitamara, Jun < https://open.library.ubc.ca/cIRcle/collections/ubctheses/831/items/1.0090684>
Wetzler, Peter. Hirohito and War: Imperial Tradition and Military Decision Making in Prewar. (University of Hawaii, 1998).
by Nickii Wantakan Arcado
While World War II was fought between economic, social, and political lines, often times we forget one of the main mediums in which encourage and influence both soldiers and individuals themselves to participate in wartime efforts; propaganda. On the social front, propaganda was used either as a mechanism to heighten a sense of nationalism or as a weapon to demonize and dehumanize enemies. While we are familiar with U.S. propaganda, the most famous being—but not limited to—the feminist icon Rosie the Riveter or spunky Uncle Spam, much U.S. propaganda centered on a domestic front and never really dispersed internationally. One nation, however, due to their need to promote their idea of the “Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere”. Japan did this on three main fronts—via posters, literature, and film.
Posters and Pamphlets
Japanese propaganda differed quite a bit from its Western counterpart. On one front, Japanese artwork was somewhat simplistic, focusing black and white images with an occasional color spot to highlight key areas. As what will be mentioned below, Japanese propaganda also differed in terms of its audience, as the country was aware that it had the difficult job of creating propaganda both to amass approval from within its borders as well as its neighboring Asian community. For example, the photo above sought to promote the harmony between Manchukuo, Japan, and China, displaying the flags of each region (for China, the Five Races Under One Union flag). The words "With the help of Japan, China, and Manchukuo, the world can be in peace" can be spotted on the bottom.
In addition, Japanese artwork and posters tackled various subject matters, including urging citizens to conserve resources, encouraging the increase of production, and short slogans that elevated the spectators' spirit and boost their sense of national pride. These posters were located in every corner of public life, including at subways, bus stations, phone poles, and school gates. In one example, the pamphlet below calls for citizens to meet production goals so that the Japanese army can product weapons to counter Western forces. These pamphlets were often handed out during rallies, lectures, or panel discussions. Banners were also hung around popular businesses to gain traction, including the one below which criticizes Western consumerism reading, “Luxury is our enemy”.
Other posters focused more on physical wartime action and military recruitment. Examples of wartime posters included one of a Japanese soldier trampling over both a British and American flag, an act that was deemed highly disrespectful. The poster, printed by the Army Ministry, reads “Fire and Never Quit”. Another poster shows a soldier pointing towards the audience and encouraging them to enroll in Japan’s Young Men’s Military Brigade, a recruitment slogan somewhat quite similar to that of Uncle Sam.
A highly stylized and popular pamphlet style was the Kokutai (国体). Directly meaning ‘national body’ the concept of these pamphlets were to promote the idea that Japanese nationalism and polity is issued through a divine leader and that the country has a spiritual origin. As such, people were instructed to put the nation before themselves, dedicate themselves to the Japanese family polity structure of government, and praise the apex that is emperor. The artwork would display animals with a backdrop of the Japanese flag or other distinctive Japanese symbols, and sometimes had writings promoting the traditional Japanese way of life. Kamikaze model planes were also named after this distinctive Japanese artform.
Examples of kokutais can be seen below.
Posters also contained caricatures that carried racist undertones set to dehumanize their Western enemies. Westerners were often depicted as hairy, demonic monsters (鬼, pronounced "oni") who were irrational and power hungry, caring for no one but themselves. President Roosevelt was often the target of ridicule. In one photo, he is depicted with pale, grey skin almost lifelike, akin to the monster in Frankenstein. The photo was used to show how heartless yet American forces were during the war. Another photo shows President Roosevelt removing his ‘human mask, with skulls around his neck, and horns protruding from his head. This depiction seeks to emphasize that the President’s true form is that of a monster who sees no problem in taking innocent lives, either his own or the people he’s fighting against.
The depiction of Americans as ‘Oni’ was common practice, as seen in the photos below. This, of course, was a response to America’s depiction of the Japanese as rodents or monkeys due to the difference in the shape of their eyes compared to Caucasians.
The Japanese Empire also saw great importance in translating their artwork. Leaflets, specifically, were airdropped into countries like the Philippines, Indonesia or China containing the language used by the region. One pamphlet encourages Filipinos to join the Japanese forces, rather than ‘waiting to die’ for endless war. Another pamphlet written in Thai was written to appeal to Thailand’s unique poetry format and rhyming structure.
In addition to posters and pamphlets, war bonds were also common, being printed daily newspapers or magazines.
Wartime Documents and Booklets
Wartime documents were regularly dispersed to both the Japanese public and military forces for free. Two of the most important wartime documents printed were Read This and the War is Done and The Way of the Subject (臣民の道).
The first document was basically a ‘War for Dummies’ cheat sheet, in which short paragraphs were written about the current state of war and everything that soldiers needed to know prior to going on the field. Written by Colonel Tsuji Masanobu and the Japanese intelligence unit, the booklet contains subjects including existing Western colonies in Southeast Asia, the current status of India, the history of Japan, and Japan’s role in protecting Manchuria. In addition, the booklet criticized Westerners and Western politics, noting that they were greedy, arrogant, and lived lavish lives by enslaving others, specifically other Asians. With its small size, the booklet could easily be ready while soldiers were traveling through transport ships or other vessels.
While Read This and the War is Done was a confidential military document, The Way of the Subject was issued and printed by the Ministry of Education. The ideological manifesto listed out the essential traits every Japanese individual should possess or aspire to be, including filial piety and loyalty to the state. Traits such as individualism, liberalism, utilitarianism, and materialism were condemned, claiming that they were a threat to true virtue. Printed in 1941, the manifesto was distributed to every school in Japan. Interestingly, this document was also one of the only pieces of foreign literature handed out during wartime that directly called out the hypocrisy of American democracy in comparison with their mistreatment of African Americans and other minorities.
Japan needed to convince the public that its invasion of nearby Asian countries were justifiable. A prominent booklet that served this purpose was titled The Greater East Asian War and Ourselves, which noted that through Japanese guidance, all of Asian will transform into a “branch family” which would be economically codependent on each other and obtain greater economic prosperity free from Western control. The booklet also contained Anti-Chinese rhetoric, claiming that although it was Japan’s duty to help its fellow Asian neighbors, that some nations were not reciprocal to their actions (using the example of China and Sino-Japanese conflict) and thus, force and take-over was needed to have them cooperate.
Films and Dramas
Two of the most popular Japanese war time films were the Story of Tank Commander Nishizumi (西住戦車長伝 ) and Chocolate and Soldiers (チョコレートと兵隊). The former is set during the Sino-Japanese war and starts off with young Nishizumi who works his way up to military school. He soon gets stationed in Nanking, and although he is wounded multiple times throughout the war, refuses to back down and leave the front lines. He is eventually killed by Chinese forces, but as he dies and is surrounded by his loyal scouts, whispers the words "All I have done is for my Emperor." This scene would later serve as an example of how to become a true ‘military god’ or gunshin, one who sacrifices himself for the greater good of his troops. This 1940 film attempts to install in its audience a message of hope; to endure loss and death without plunging oneself through the depths of despair. Director Kōzaburō Yoshimura was known for touring the battlefields of China during the early months of 1938 in order to accurately frame the soldiers’ movement and established bases. Consequently, the film completely highlights Japanese victories during the invasion and erases historical incidents like the Rape of Nanking, and only chooses to focus on the heroism of its main hero.
After the defeat of Japan, Yoshimura also directed another film A Ball at the Anjo House (安城家の舞踏会) which centers around Satsuko Anjo and her family, who are forced to give up their home and learn to live in post-war Japan. The film also deals with the meaning and, at the time, the moral obligation of Seppuku, a common Japanese ritual suicide in which one takes a knife or sword and disembowels themselves as a display of either loyalty and/or to restore honor to their family. The film won the Kinema Junpo Award in 1947.
While the Story of Tank Commander Nishizumi exemplified dignity and honor for fighting the war for the sake of Japanese royalty, Chocolate and Soldiers had a more humanist tone, with its main purpose of encouraging the audience to feel empathy for a father who is called to join a suicide. During the days leading up to his final act, he sends his family letters and chocolate wrappers that he receives from his comrades (hence the name) so that his son can redeem them for a free box of chocolate. The film ends with the son receiving a scholarship from the chocolate company and swearing vengeance on his father’s enemies.
Unlike American films and the American film industry during the 1940s, Japanese war films focused on portraying the hardships and weaknesses that come with waging war. Themes of sacrifice and seppuku (ritual suicide) were prevalent, often times exemplified in portrayals of kamikaze strategies. One of the most prominent and distinctive themes in Japanese films and Japanese culture, in general, is purity.
It is undeniable that propaganda helped boost public morale and granted hope to those who observed them, either through booklets, posters, or via film. While Japan did not win the war, its wartime propaganda encouraging purity, hard work, and national piety has managed to embed itself in Japanese culture to this day.
McClain, James L. Japan, a Modern History. WW Norton & Company, 2002.
Navarro, Anthony V. “A Critical Comparison Between Japanese and American Propaganda during World War II.” MSU.EDU, Michigan State University, msu.edu/~navarro6/srop.html.
Baskett, Michael. The Attractive Empire: Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan. University of Hawaii Press, 2008.
Baskett, Michael. "Goodwill Hunting: Rediscovering and Remembering Manchukuo in Japanese ‘Goodwill Films.’." Crossed Histories: Manchuria in the Age of Empire (2005): 120-49.
Beasley, William Gerald, and William G. Beasley. The rise of modern Japan: political, economic and social change since 1850. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000.
by Jessica Leung
The Prelude to War
From January 1st, 1886 to January 4th, 1948 Burma was a territory amassed by the British; who seized it for its tremendous wealth. Burma was wealthy due to the Silk Trade route and its agriculture. Burma’s precious resources such as rubies and gems, gas, oil, tin, and rubber made it a prime target for many countries seeking profitable commodities for the war effort. The benefits of having these raw materials contributed to the economic production of other countries that can assist them in amassing great national wealth. Rubber can be used to produce tires as well a resource that was extremely valuable to the war effort. Nearly all war-related efforts needed rubber in order to achieve victory without rubber it would have been impossible for America success in WWII.
Similarly, to British and American motives the Japanese came to occupy Burma as well for the same raw materials. It was the primary reason why the Japanese came to Burma but there were also other reasons militarily and politically. The Burma road was used to transport troops and supplies to the Chinese nationalists in the which the Japanese they intend to blockade them. Once they achieved that the Japanese were able to isolate the Chinese Nationalists from receiving necessary commodities to survive combat. The Route started from Lashio and ended in the Chinese province of Yunnan. Their campaign was the most successful in Burma outside of the Chinese regions during WWII when Chiang Kai Sheik was effectively forced out of the region and ended in a Japanese victory. There were many reasons for the victory as the British forces were weak, the Burmese were an uprising against the Empire for independence and overwhelming manpower from the opposing forces. In addition to these factors, the British were not prepared for a Japanese invasion as they were short on equipment and poor formation while in combat is the one many reasons why the British lost the region to Japanese.
Internal Conflict within the NATC
In addition to poor equipment and training, internal conflict between the allied forces caused rifts between Chinese, English, and American forces. China was a valuable member to the cause, but the British forces had their doubts about the alliance due to centuries of the political rift between the two nations. A fear the British had was that the Indian insurgents would uprise against them if the example was set for Chinese troops to become successful in combat and respected for their merit.
Americans respected the Chinese as a valuable part of the Alliance but despite their poor training and being ill-equipped General Stilwell reorganized their formations while accommodating them their units when he was assigned to his post on January 1942 believing that the Chinese troops did not have proper supply or accommodations from their own government.
Defeating the Japanese
Morale was low on the Burma road when the Japanese occupation closed off all access the Chinese troops would have for supplies and back up. To make the situation more difficult the Fall of the Burma road in 1942 caused the British to stop supplying troops to reopen the roads as the British no longer saw any reason to help the Chinese. Despite the loss of the road Stilwell negotiated to train Chinese troops with Sheik. They turned out to be a valuable source of victory for the NATC after 6-week retraining with American commanders.
On October 1943, the NATC steadily began the offense to recapture Yup Bang Ga. Despite several attacks in an attempt to destroy the Chinese troops the Japanese general Tanaka was not able to break their formation or put a dent to their morale. The outcome was an astounding victory for the Chinese battalion ending with a 419 casualty and 429 were wounded.
On April 7th the 1st Battalion pushed back Japanese troops on Yup Bang Ga and recaptured the city by setting up a post to block them from entering at the Village of Setan. By May 18th the Japanese attempted an attack on the 150th Battalion but failed to capture Myitkyina after the offensive have been put to a halt. By late June of 1945, the Japanese withdrew from Myitkyina and Burma’s Rail Road is open once again in allied hands.
After the campaign ended for the Allies and NATO agreements were signed Burma became an independent country on January 4th, 1948. The last of the Allied troops left Burma and Burma is officially renamed Myanmar. The campaign is also significant due to consistent American participation from the beginning of the war to the end of WWII.
The Burma Campaign Timeline
January 1st, 1886- Burma is colonized by the British. Burma becomes a British colony.
December 7th, 1941- Bombing of Pearl Harbor triggers American participation in WWII.
January 1942- General Stilwell becomes the leader of the NATC. Reorganized and retrained Chinese to prepare them for the Burma Campaign. The campaign is effective as it led to a string of victories.
August 1943- The Japanese “declared” Burma independence and established occupation of the country. Independence was a mere ploy to gain control of Burma. The Burmese catch on that the Japanese do not intend to grant them true independence.
October 1943- The Burma Road Falls into Enemies Hands as a temporary victory for the Japanese. Temporarily defeating exhausted American forces.
December 1944- Allied offensive campaign begins Sin American army meet in Yunnan.
March 27th, 1945- Burmese uprising against Japanese occupation.
June 1945- The Japanese withdraw after being halted in India and leave Burma.
January 4th, 1948- Burma becomes an independent country after two centuries of occupation.
Frey, Kurt M. Colonel. Burma Campaigns: Battles Over Lines Of Communication
Schwartz, Jill < https://www.worldwildlife.org/blogs/sustainability-works/posts/myanmar-looks-to-create-sustainable-rubber-industry >
Sullivan R, Gordon. < https://history.army.mil/brochures/burma42/burma42.htm >
by Nickii Wantakan Arcado
How it all began : Pre-War Thailand and Japanese Relationship
Thai-Japanese relations can be traced back as early as King Naresuan (1590-1605) reign during the Ayutthaya and Sukhothai dynasty. Stories were told that he defeated the Burmese Prince, Phra Maha Uparaja, with the help of over 500 Japanese Soldiers. During the 1600s, Japan was recorded as one of Thailand’s greatest trading partners. Trade usually involved silk, deer-hide, and shark skin in exchange for Japanese silver and handicrafts. Japan’s frequent visits and economic activities with Thailand challenged the Dutch East India Company’s trading monopoly in Southeast Asia, and by 1620, Thailand was trading with Japan more than any other foreign nation.
Japanese communities were also forming in the city of Ayutthaya during the 1620s. As much as 7,000 inhabitants lived in the commune, supervised by Japanese authorities chosen by the Thai government. Some had fled their home following the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu (who were great daimyō during the Sengoku period) while other were unemployed samurais hoping to start a new life and find work in Southeast Asia. The colony was valued for its military expertise and experience with the Shogunate, and active forces were deemed "Department of Japanese Volunteers". One of the more prominent individuals who lead this Japanese military group was Yamada Nagasama, a prominent adventurer who gained the trust and loyalty of the Crown King of Thailand. While spending most of his life in the Ayuttaya commune, he was eventually given jurisdiction to the government the province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, furthering positive relationships between Thailand and Japan.
By 1630 however, Japan adopted an isolation approach to their foreign policy deemed the Sakoku period. In addition to transforming Thai society as a whole, Thailand’s King Siam Prasat Thong also sought to destroy the Japanese settlements in Ayutthaya. Trade, communication, and societal relationships between Thailand and Japan thus were severed, and the Dutch took over as Thailand’s largest trading partner. No one would imagine that the next encounter between the two countries, would be one of mediation and intervention.
How it escalated: The Franco-Thai War
The fall of France in June of 1940 provided an ample opportunity for Thai forces to launch attacks in both Laos and Cambodia. Weakened, the French administration was cut off from outside help leaving a power vacuum for their colonies in Southeast Asia. The fighting persisted mostly in the eastern border of the country as well as territories that were previously lost to both the colonial powers of France and the United Kingdom in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The fighting eventually leads to a stalemate, with neither side presenting a clear victory. It was at this time that Japan intervened, organizing a mediation opportunity titled the “Conference for the Cessation of Hostilities” held in Saigon, Vietnam. The conference contained documented requesting a ceasefire between Marshal Philippe Petain from France and Generals from the Kingdom of Thailand. The ceasefire was signed on January 31, 1941, with an armistice deal arranged to be effective two days prior. By May, a peace treaty between the two parties was signed in Tokyo, where France agreed to relinquish the disputed territories. By March 1941, France ceded over 54,000 square kilometers of Laotian territory west of the Mekong river to Thailand. These also included Battambang and Pailin (renamed Phra Tabong Province), Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey and Oddar Meanchey (incorporated as Phibunsongkhram Province) and Xaignabouli and Luang Prabang Province (which was renamed to Lan Chang Province).
In response to their proposed victory, Thailand build ‘Victory Monument’ (อนุสาวรีย์ชัยสมรภูมิ) a Obelisk monument located in Bangkok, Thailand around the Rachathawi District, one of the most important intersections in the city. The statue, although a popular tourist attraction, many locals recall the history of the monument and the meaning behind it has been reinterpreted and repurposed as a shrine to pray for good luck and wealth.
Significantly, the Thai victory over French forces not only allowed for the eventual establishment of Axis power bases in Thailand, but such event marked the first modern victory of an Asian country over a Western nation.
How it proceeded: December 8, 1941 and the Occupation
Observing Japan’s growth in power within Southeast Asia, Prime Minister Phibun sought support from both the United States and the United Kingdom if Japan were to invade Thailand. While Prime Minister Winston Churchill was in favor of declaring war on Japan if they decided to infiltrate the Kingdom of Siam, the United States was unwilling to agree as the nation still adopted a policy of neutrality during the first years of the war. British forces, fearing that they would not have enough western support in Thailand, therefore, also did not agree to Phibun’s proposition. After days of continuous attacks at the southern border, Japan then moved to occupy Thailand on December 8, 1941.
To Japan, Thailand’s location was of strategic importance. The country provided both land and sea passages to Malaya (currently Malaysia) and Burma (currently Myanmar). This provided Japan with logistical and administrative advantages in Southeast Asia compared to their Allied counterpart, as Japan was now capable of launching campaigns from Thailand as well as supply these campaigns more easily. In addition, since Thailand was never colonized by western powers, Japan used the country as an example of what a “free” nation without colonial country could be under Japanese influence. This idea came to be known as Hakkō Ichiu and further expanded to the concept of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
Many arguments have been debating as to why Thailand decided to agree to house Japanese Axis bases in their territory. The first side argues that the country was coerced, as they were left with the choice to either side with the Japanese who was beginning to conquer lands to both the east and south of Thailand, or refuse and face the wrath of the Japanese Empire as seen through incidents such as the Rape of Nanking.
The second argument was that Thailand was pursuing ‘bamboo diplomacy’. Academic argue that during World War II, Thailand adopted clear and solid foreign policies, yet was flexible enough to bend in order to survive. Although the country supported an Axis power, they were rarely involved in the infighting itself and even birthed a large, underground, pro-Allied force movement that helped America infiltrate Japanese forces towards the end of the war. Thailand’s decision during World War II, they argued, was purposefully intentional.
What it Affected: Chinese Thai Forced Assimilation
Chinese Thais had actively supported and participated in anti-Japanese boycotts due to Japan’s aggressive actions in China prior to World War II. The boycott movement grew more violent when Japan and China announced a full-scale war in 1937. Phibun's government, wanting to maintain positive relations with Japan, worked to suppress the movement. Fearful that protesters would garner more support and therefore, plunge Thai society into chaos, the government initiated and implemented nationalistic policies that weaker Chinese Thais from their homeland and assimilated them to Thai culture.
These policies included the closure of Chinese schools, the shutdown of Chinese-language newspapers, and the deportation of politically active individuals. Specifically, in 1941, Thailand enacted a decree which banned Chinese Thais from serving in ‘military sensitive areas’. Unable to garner help from then General Chiang Kai-shek due to Thailand’s refusal to form positive diplomatic relationships, Chinese Thais became what was deemed ‘international orphans’— foreign nationals who had no support from their former homeland and were left with defending themselves.
Aware of the lack of political support of Chinese Thais, Japan offered a proposition; abandon their loyalty towards Kai-Shek’s government in China and instead, embrace the Japanese-supported Wang Ching-wei regime in Nanking. Chinese Thais were therefore forced to assimilate to Thai culture, abandoning their Chinese dialect, clothing style, and way of life.
How it ended: Post-War Thailand
Following Japanese surrender and the end of World War II in 1945, Thailand worked to restore its international reputation. Pridi Phanomyong (who led the Free Thai resistance movement) argued that because Phibun’s declaration of war against the Allied forces was unconstitutional, therefore, it was legally void. Successfully able to garner support from members of the international community—especially the United States who viewed Thailand’s declaration of war as one of coercion and duress—and returning formerly seized lands during both the Franco-Thai war and the onslaught of World War II, Thailand was admitted to the United Nations in 1946.
While the country fell under distress and chaos with the passing of King Ananda Mahidol due to a highly controversial gunshot incident, the resignation of Pridi Phanomyong due to the high level of difficulty in investigating the death, and a military coup shortly after, the country overcame its political turmoil and worked its way up to being an ally to western nations. Specifically, during the Cold War, the country served as a buffer zone and bastion against communist forces in Southeast Asia. It also sent troops to assist the United States and Korea during the Korean War, and eventually joined SEATO, the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization that acted as an anti-communist defense force. By the late 1950s, Thailand received massive financial support from the United States, setting up the foundation for the country’s economic boom in the 1990s.
Today, while Thai relationships with Japan center mostly around trade deals and tourism, the most relevant topic to date is involving the construction of a new railway line. China initially proposed the Belt and Road initiative, a modern-day ‘silk road’ that would connect Chinese to various economies and countries in both Central and South Asia (via land) and the Middle East and Europe (via sea). The proposed rail line in Thailand will stretch over 873 kilometers (about 542 miles), linking Thailand and Laos. Japan, on the other hand, offered to counter China’s proposed rail project in exchange for ¥170 billion in loans for a similar railway project. Such negotiations are still in the works, but it is interesting to observe a new force of battle taking place; one of soft, economic power. Nonetheless, the strange and peculiar alliance of the strongest East Asian state and the developing Southeast Asian nation during World War II, is one to be noted in history books forever.
Busbarat, Pongphisoot. “‘Bamboo Swirling in the Wind’: Thailand’s Foreign Policy in the Regional Power Competition.” ISEAS : Yusof Ishak Institute. 7 Mar. 2016, Singapore, ISEAS Seminar Room 2.
Reynolds, E. Bruce. "“International Orphans”—The Chinese in Thailand During World War II." Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 28.2 (1997): 365-388.
Denoon, Donald, Mark Hudson, and Gavan McCormack, eds. Multicultural Japan: palaeolithic to postmodern. Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Reynolds, E. Bruce. Thailand and Japan's Southern Advance, 1940-1945. St. Martin's Press, 1994.
Reynolds, E. Bruce. "Aftermath of Alliance: The Wartime Legacy in Thai-Japanese Relations." Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 21.1 (1990): 66-87.
Chankaew, Prapan. “After Delays, Ground Broken for Thailand-China Railway Project.” Reuters, Reuters, 21 Dec. 2017, www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-china-railway/after-delays-ground-broken-for-thailand-china-railway-project-idUSKBN1EF1E6.
by Nickii Wantakan Arcado
As Oscar and Golden Globe season is approaching, here is a look into some World War II films that have managed to snag the awards from two of the top organizations that celebrate cinematic merit and achievements.
Life is Beautiful “La vita è bella” (1997)
Director, produced, and acted by Roberto Benigni, the movie brilliantly manages to fuse humor within the serious of World War II by exploring the life of a Jewish bookstore owner and his employment of imagination and wittiness to protect his son from the horrors and dangers within a Nazi concentration camp. Trailer.
Academy Award Wins: Best Actor (Roberto Benigni), Best Foreign Film, Original Score
The English Patient (1996)
Based on the novel by Michael Ondaatje’s novel of the same name, the movie revolves around Laszlo de Almasy who, after being badly burned in a plane crash, is tended to by Canadian nurse Hanna. Throughout his recovery, the film slowly recollects his past via flashbacks, in which the audience uncovers his his involvement with a love affair. Trailer.
Academy Award Wins: Best Director (Anthony Minghella); Best Supporting Actress (Juliette Binoche); Art Direction; Cinematography; Costume Design; Film Editing; Original Score; and Sound.
Schindler’s List (1993)
German businessman Oskar Schindler navigates through a Nazi-occupied Poland and saves the lives of over a thousand Jewish refugees by employing them to work at his factories. Trailer.
Academy Award Wins: Best Picture, Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Film Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction.
A biographical film about the controversial career of American general George S. Patton.The actor, George C. Scott, who played the title role, caused an uproar during the 43rd Academy Awards when he refused to accept the Oscar for Best Actor, arguing that he disapproved the Academy’s voting process and the concept of acting competitions itself. Trailer.
Academy Award Wins: Best Director (Franklin J. Schaffner), Best Actor (George C. Scott) Best Original Screenplay, Art Direction, Film Editing and Sound.
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Based on Pierre Boulle’s 1952 novel of the same name, the movie delves into the physical and psychological impacts of British POWS who are forced, by the Japanese, to build a rail line connecting Thailand to Myanmar (Burma). Trailer.
Academy Award Wins: Best Director (David Lean), Best Actor (Alec Guinness), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, and Original Score.
Golden Globe Wins: Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Director (David Lean), Best Actor - Drama (Alec Guinness)
Directed by Christopher Nolan, the film depicts the 8 day evacuation (via the three perspectives of land, sea, and air) of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France. The film was notorious for having little dialogue, a quality in which Director Nolan emphasized was for the purpose of creating suspense. Trailer.
Academy Awards Win: Film Editing, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Based on a documentary title The Conscientious Objector, the film explores the life of Desmond Doss (played by Andrew Garfield) an American combat medic who refused to carry firearms or perform any physical military service other than provide medical assistance to injured soldiers. The real life Doss (b. 1979 d. 2006) became the only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II. Trailer.
Academy Award Wins: Sound Mixing, Film Editing
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Based on the novel of the same name, the movie explores the lives of three U.S. Army infantry soldiers who are stationed in Hawaii during the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 2002, the Library of Congress selected the film to be preserved at the National Film registry. Trailer.
Academy Awards Wins: Best Picture, Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Writing - Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), Cinematography, Film Editing, and Sound.
Golden Globe Wins: Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), Best Director (Fred Zinneman)
Letters From Iwo Jima ‘硫黄島からの手紙’ (2006)
A companion piece to the movie Flags of Our Fathers (also released in 2006), the film portrays the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective (the former movie being from the American viewpoint). Starring Ken Watanabe and Kazunari Ninomiya, the majority of the film is shot in Japanese. Trailer.
Academy Award Wins: Best Sound Editing
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Starring Greer Garson as Kay Miniver, the film looks into the impact the war has on families living in the rural parts of England. The film was named to the National Film registry in 2006. Trailer.
Academy Awards Wins: Best Picture, Best Director (William Wyler), Best Actress (Freer Garson, Writing - Screenplay, Supporting Actress (Teresa Wright), Cinematography
Starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in one of their most notable roles, the movie revolves around an American expatriate who helps his former lover and her Czech resistance leader husband flee the Vichy-controlled city of Casablanca and continue his fight against Nazi Germany. Trailer.
Academy Award Wins: Best Picture, Best Director (Michael Curtiz), Best Writing - Screenplay
The Imitation Game (2014)
The movie delves into the life of British cryptanalyst Alan Turing and his fight to decrypt German intelligence codes for the British government. Various LGBT civil rights advocacy organizations and the Human Rights Campaign have applauded the movie for bringing awareness to Turing’s struggles as a homosexual during war-time Britain to a wider audience. Trailer.
Academy Award Wins: Best Adapted Screenplay
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Set during the Invasion of Normandy, France, the film follows U.S. Army Rangers Captain John H. Miller (played by Tom Hanks) who alongside his squad, search for paratrooper Ryan, whose brothers have died in combat. Trailer.
Academy Award Wins: Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Cinematography, Sound, Film Editing, and Sound Effects Editing
Golden Globes Win: Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Best Motion Picture - Drama
*John Williams also won a Grammy for best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television
The Longest Day (1962)
Directed by three different directors depending on film locations, script, and exteriors the film, The Longest Day shows the Battle of D-Day from the American, British, French, and german perspective. Not only does the film utilize the stories of war survivors to ensure historical accuracy, but the film’s ensemble is one of the most celebrated in film history, containing actos such as John Wayne, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, and Paul Anka. Trailer.
Academy Award Wins: Best Cinematography, Special Effects
Golden Globe Wins: Best Cinematography
Despite these films not receiving Academy Award or Golden Globe nods, we believe these films deserve recognition for its beautiful storytelling as well as its ability to offer cultural insights and perspectives of various community struggles during World War II.
Grave of the Fireflies “火垂るの墓” (1988)
One of the only animated films ever produced that is set during World War II, the movie depicts the life of siblings Seita and Setsuko and their struggle to survive the final months of World War II. The movie is produced under Hayao Miyasaki’s Studio Ghibli. Trailer.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Focusing on the soldiers of C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, the film takes place in the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Pacific Theater of World War II. It was Director Terrence Malick return to filmmaking after a 20 year absence. Trailer
Das Boot (1981)
Uniquely shot almost entirely in a submarine, this German film shows us the lives of the captain and crew of U-Boat U-96 during the Battle of the Atlantic. Trailer.
1. When did you get involved with this organization?
2. What attracted you to the cause?
I believe educating the public, especially young people, about the atrocities committed against the Asian people by the Japanese Imperial Forces is very important.
3. What attracted you to this organization in particular?
Jenny Chan, the ED of PAE, is dedicated to the causes as stated above.
4. What are your activities and what do they involve?
I give talks about my experiences in WWII during the Japanese invasion of China.
5. What motivates you to stay involved?
The more the people understand what really happened to the Chinese and other Asian peoples during the Japanese invasion of China and other Asian countries, the more we can pressure Japan to own up to its war history and make a formal governmental apology and make formal reparations to the Chinese and other Asian peoples.
6. In your opinion, what is the most important work that this organization does?Educating the young people of the history of WWII in Asia.
7. Why do you donate?
To help PAE thrive.
8. Of what contribution or achievement are you most proud?
I am not proud of anything in this area. We have a long way to go.
9. What do you hope the organization will achieve in the near future? In the long term?
To educate more young people.
10. Do you have an anecdote about this cause/organization that really moved you? I am impressed by the dedication of the college interns.
11. What other organizations or causes do you support?
I support the Rape of Nanking Redress Coalition, the Mathematical Association of America, the Marin Chinese Cultural Association, the Asian Scholarship Fund, the Asian American Alliance of Marin, etc.
12. Do you have a message to share?
Best wishes to PAE, and I wish more people will donate to PAE so PAE can do more good to humanity.
by Nickii Wantakan Arcado
Looking back, one could say that Laos was in an interesting place during World War II. The country was occupied by two forces, both allied and axis powers while simultaneously fighting off Thai forces near the border, underwent internal struggles due to the conflicting ideals of members of the royal family, and the country was involved in one of the most disastrous bombing tactics in the History of the World. Yet, despite these incident, the country still managed to fight their way towards eventual independence in the late 1970s.
Beginning in 1940, an agreement called the Matsuoka-Henry Pact was enacted by the French government under the Vichy regime and Imperial Japan. Wanting to retain their colony in Southeast Asia but also recognizing their growing weakness in the region, the French government came up with a proposition to present to the Japanese: France would retain their sovereignty over Indochina and in exchange, Japanese forces were allowed to station troops within Indochina, including Laos.
Such agreement, however, did not hold up as intended due to two fronts; the growing threat from Thailand’s authoritarian regime under Prime Minister Phibun and Japan’s abolishment of the treaty itself in 1945. Beginning with the former, Thailand was launching both a political and social campaign against Laos, broadcasting nationalistic messages calling for the reunification of lost lands along the Mekong river. On August 1940, the Royal Thai Army attacked the Laotian provinces of Vientiane and Champassak along the eastern bank of the river. Eventually, a ceasefire—mediated by Japan—between French and Thai forces was eventually reached, granting Thailand territories near the southern border that was previously lost to the French colonization in 1904. (Details on these concessions can be seen in our last article here). In order to counter future Thai threats, French Governor-General of Indochina Jean Decoux supported Laotian nationalism, giving his support to the Movement for National Renovation which, although defended Lao territory, continued to acknowledge French rule over the nation. Running polar opposite to the Movement for National Renovation, on the other hand, was the Lao Isarra (Free Lao) nationalist movement. Unlike its counterpart, the Lao Isarra movement did not support French control and called for “Laos for Laotian” policies that would grant the country full independence. This precedent would later set the foundation for the rise of Lao nationalism and the fight for complete independence several years later.
On the second front, on March 9, 1945, the Japanese empire overturned the Matsuoka-Henry Pact via a coup de force, detaining all French forces in Indochina, with a majority being detained in Laos. While Laos for Japan didn’t hold any significant strategic importance and mainly served as a buffer zone, as Japan began losing forces in the Pacific Front, the country decided that the best way to solidify their stronghold in Southeast Asia was to dissolve all French control in Laos. Arresting several French forces as well as Laotian allies, the Japanese also detained Lao’s ruling monarchy, King Sisavang Vong. In an interesting turn of events, Imperial Japan forcibly called for Laotian independence, but one that was much different from the French. For Japan, Laotian independence would allow the nation to be properly merged into the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
While French forces supported the current king, Japan had an equally powerful and special allyship with his cousin, Prince Phetsarath Rattanavongsa. At complete odds with the King, the Prince was opposed to French colonial rule, arguing that France’s surrender of Laotian territories to Thailand shows France’s failure to protect the country. After the end of World War II, a power vacuum arose, providing an amply opportunity for the Lao Issara movement (under the direction of Prince Phetsarat Rattanavongsa) movement to take control and form an interim government in Vientiane. The movement was sadly short lived.
Seeing the movement as an impasse to their colonial restoration, French forces under Colonel Hans Imfeld along with the support of freed French prisoners moved against Lao Issara forces. King Sisavang Vong also denounced the takeover of Vientiane, repudiated the declaration for independence by the movement, and argued that Laos still required French protection. Instantly, tensions between Vientiane under Prince Phetsarat Rattanavongsa and Luang Prabang under King Sisavang Vong erupted. The King moved to dismiss the Prince as prime minister, and in response, the provisional National Assembly (established in Vientiane) passed a motion to depose the king. These series of events paved way for the French to regain control of Laos in 1946.
Soon French forces veered north to seize control of the rest of the country and the Lao Issara government was forced to flee in exile to Bangkok, Thailand. Many incidents paved the way for the fall of the Lao Issara movement. First was the modus vivendi agreement between Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and the French government on March 1946, which dissolved Chinese forces within the country. This severely weakened the Lao Issara government’s military power. Second was the appeal of the movement to the greater population as a whole. The Lao Issara movement was an academic, urban-based movement and leaders soon found it difficult to appeal to masses as a majority of the population was more tribal-oriented whose needs were more orientated on access to resources (water, food, job security) than it was for a free and independent country. Other factors, such as their inability to receive foreign aid and internal conflict within the Lao Issara movement itself also contributed to the downfall.
After the exile of the movement, the French then signed a modus vivendi with King Sisavang Vong, reinstalling his power and reaffirming the unity of Laos under French control. Previous lands taken by Thailand in the 1940s were also restored. For the next 3 years, the French integrated Laos into their Indochinese Federation, granting the country its own government and National Assembly. They also built the country’s first high school and improved public services. However, in 1949, a stalemate had arose between the French and Viet Minh forces. Still holding on to the prospects of independence, Prince Souphanouvong—a half brother to Prince Phetsarath Ratanavongsa— used this stalemate and French distraction to round up the remaining supporters of Lao Issara and renamed the movement to Pathet Lao in 1950. Although the organization was still anti-French, it adopted a more militant stance than its former counterpart. The movement then joined forces with the Viet Minh, an armed, communist-oriented nationalist organization that opposed French rule in Indochina. Fearing the communist takeover of Laos and a potential civil war, France conceded and granted Laos its independence under the 1954 Geneva Conference. However, conflict between the loyalist and Pathet Lao was inevitable, and by 1962, the country underwent a civil war.
During the Laos civil war in the 1960s to the early 1970s, the movement clashed with the U.S.-backed Vientiane regime and effectively won areas in the north and east part of Laos. The war essentially boiled down to a proxy war, with each side receiving external support from the Cold War superpowers as well as either North or South Vietnamese forces. During the civil war, the U.S. dropped than 2 million tons of ordinances, specifically cluster bombs, over the country, totaling to about 580,000 bombing mission. Not only was this deemed the heaviest aerial bombardments in history and marked Laos as the most bombed country in the world, a number which is higher than the U.S. bombs that were dropped in Japan and Germany combined. To the country continues to be plagued with over 80 million unexploded bombs.
Click here to see a gif of the increase of bombings from 1964-1973
By the end of the civil war in 1975, the Vientiane government fell to Pathet Lao and Northern Vietnamese forces and the leaders behind the movement consolidated their power and formed a new government in power today. Though the nation did undergo the violence of several wars and internal conflict prior to their independence by 1954 and 1975, these opportunities gave way for the country to evolve their own series of policies. By 1997, the country joined ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) using such platform to voice their prospects for the future as a developing state that has fought through some of the hardest conflict the world has ever seen.
Hays, Jeffrey. “LAOS, WORLD WAR II AND THE CHAOTIC EVENTS AFTER THE WAR.” Facts and Details, May 2014, factsanddetails.com/southeast-asia/Laos/sub5_3a/entry-2936.html
“An Accord on Laos Is Reached.” HISTORY, A&E Television Networks, 13 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/an-accord-on-laos-is-reached
Wright, Rebecca. “What 80 Million Unexploded US Bombs Did to Laos.” CNN, Cable News Network, 6 Sept. 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/09/05/asia/united-states-laos-secret-war/index.html.
Planet, Lonely. “History of Laos.” Lonely Planet, Lonely Planet, www.lonelyplanet.com/laos/history.
Stuart-Fox, Martin, and Stuart-Fox Martin. “A history of Laos.” Cambridge University Press, 1997.
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by Melis Hazal Degirmencioglu
World Cup is always an exciting time for most of the people in the world. The World Cup history was even more interesting. The first World Cup was held in 1930, but during it took on many interesting unusual events during the Second World War. Notably, the World Cup was canceled twice during the war. Since the first tournament in 1930, it has been held every four years, except for the years 1942 and 1946.
FIFA had organized an Olympic soccer tournament since the 1920s, but it was only open to amateur players. FIFA President Julies Rimet saw the opportunity to open up World Cup seeing the popularity of the Olympic soccer tournaments. And the games played with his name for a while.
Uruguay was chosen as a host country since it was their 100th anniversary of independence. The European teams opposed this decision because of the distance between their countries and Uruguay but thanks to efforts of French Sport professional Rimet, four teams from Europe attended to the game which was Belgium, France, Romania, and Yugoslavia. In total thirteen teams from different parts of the World attended to the World Cup. Uruguay was the champion of World Cup in 1930 in its home court.
Since most European countries couldn’t attend the first World Cup in 1930, so they decided to host the second World Cup in Italy in 1934. This would also feature the first World Cup event in Europe. For protesting purposes, Uruguay didn’t attend the 1934 FIFA World Cup because it was more popular than the 1930 FIFA World Cup. Italy won the 1934 FIFA World Cup thanks to the good management of Vittorio Pozzo who was their coach in that period and also of home court advantage. However, it was also suspicious due to the fascist administration in Italy, who was accused of conviction of the cup.
The World Cup in France in 1938 was announced as the first official game. The events leading up this 1938 FIFA World Cup was very intriguing in a political sense. In this World Cup, Uruguay was still protesting about the 1934 incident and decided to not show up in 1938 as well, but that was not the most interesting political affair during the 1938 World Cup.
1938 was a prime year as Italy and Germany were trying to spread their fascist ideals. Especially after the 1936 Olympics when the African American U.S. Olympians, Jesse Owen won 4 medals held in Nazi Germany, disproving Hitler's race theory.
During the 1938 FIFA World Cup, 12 countries from Europe, Asia, South America, and Central America participated. In details From Europe including Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and Switzerland, from South America: Brazil, from Central America: Cuba, and from Asia: India Antilles, current day Indonesia. Austria was not able to participate in the World Cup officially in 1938 since Germany had already occupied Austria and forced its players to put on Nazi uniform for Germans' team. However, similar to the 1936 Olympics, Hitler's plan did not work. Germany was eliminated by Switzerland in the first round. However, Italy was able to hold out until the last round and became the winner of the 1938 FIFA World Cup. Of course, the Italians were able to help Germany to gain a bit of fascist win, but it was actually Vittorio Pozzo who had a lot of contribution to the Italian team. He holds the title of the only coach in the history of FIFA World Cups to bring his team to glory in 2 World Cup tournaments.
After the crazy political tournament of 1938, World Cup was then canceled during 1942 and 1946 due the World War 2. The 1950 FIFA World Cup resumed in 1950 in Brazil where Uruguay participated.
by Nickii Wantakan Arcado
When we think of family feuds, we think of brother-sister bickering, friendly cooking competitions between cousins and in-laws, political arguments over the dinner table, or even who’s turn it is to pay the check. Rarely does one imagine a family feud that has the power to influence market capitals, transform the sports world, and divide communities. This is the story of Adolf and Rudolf Dassler, and how a comment over the crisis of World War II led to the creation of two of the world’s largest and most popular sport apparel brands in the world.
In the small town of Herzogenaurach, Germany in the 1920s, Adolf “Adi” Dassler and Rudolf “Rudi” Dassler founded the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company (Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik in German). Similar to any start-up story you would hear from Silicon Valley or San Francisco, the brother’s base of operation was one of convenience, comfort, and cost-effectiveness; their mother’s laundry room. The brothers effective collaboration relied played to each other’s strengths. Adi, the youngest, was the creative one, in charge of designing and constructing the shoes. Rudi, the more charismatic older brother, took care of marketing and sales. To the small town of Herzogenaurach, they were an unstoppable force.
When the National Socialist German Workers’ party gained power in 1933, Adi and Rudi were faced with both a political and business dilemma; accept membership to the Nazi party to have the Dassler shoe company remain in business and protect the job security of 100 German workers or refuse, and face the wrath of modern artillery. (This decision, evidently, led the Dassler shoe company to be the only active athletic foot company to exist during the war). Still motivated by his love of sports and athleticism, Adi was inactive and disinterested in the party and its policies and in 1936 made a decision that was arguably, one of the most controversial, high points of the company’s history; providing his running shoes to African American Athlete Jesse Owens.
While Hitler meant to have the Olympic event exemplify the superiority of the Aryan race, Owen’s record breaking performances, victory as a Black athlete on a worldwide stage, and sponsorship from a German-based company, challenged the feuer’s power and racial allegations. Coupled with the fact that the 1936 Olympics was one of the first widely televised shows in the world, Owen’s four gold medal victories in Dassler shoes introduced the company to the international stage. Unfortunately, in 1948, after 28 years of the familial partnership, the brothers split the company in two, creating Adidas and Puma.
There are many speculations on the reasoning behind the split. Some have claimed that the separation was due to the rivalry and distaste the brother’s wives had for each other. Others have mentioned that their politics, visions about the future of the company, and business development plans were always at odds, with Adi wishing to prioritize shoe development while Rudi was focused more on the company’s profitability. However, the most widely accepted incident cited by sneaker historians and researchers alike is an event that took place during the bombing of Herzogenaurach. When Adi and his wife climbed into the house’s bomb shelter that was already occupied by Rudi and his wife, Adi made a comment under his breath about the Allied Air Force, quoting “The dirty bastards are at it again”. Rudi, however, interpreted his brother’s comment to be about him and his family. By the end of the war, the arguments and disagreements escalated and in the end, the company assets were split. Rudi chose to build his new company, then named ‘Ruda’, across the Aurach river away from his brother. He would later rename his company to ‘Puma’, attempting to make his brand sound more athletically appealing.
The brother’s feud and newly founded shoe empires also impacted Herzogenaurach’s economy. Since the Dassler shoe company was the main hub of employment in the vicinity, the brother’s split caused everyone within the town to choose to work for one company or the other. Similar to a real life Romeo and Juliet story—or a college football rivalry, depending on how you choose to look at it--the workers were eventually pulled into the brother’s feud. Local business began turning away customers from rival companies, workers were disallowed to communicate, date, or marry anyone from the opposing side, and levels of interactions were determined by what types of shoes one chose to wear.
Other events involving the company's relationship to World War II are also worth noting. Multiple incidents of bickering between Rudi and Adi persisted before the bomb shelter pandemonium. When Rudi was drafted in 1943, Rudi claimed it was Adi who had arranged for him to be away from the factory so that he would take over the company in Rudi’s absence. In another instance, Rudi abandoned his post on the front lines, worried that his brother was making uninformed business decisions. This lead to his arrest and detention later one (which some have claimed, was Adi’s doing). Another remarkable event involved Adi’s wife Käthe, who was credited with saving the company from an Allied bombing. When U.S. troops arrived in Herzogenaurach ready to destroy the Dassler facility, Käthe argued to spare the company as its main purpose was to produce sports shoes. Well aware of their athlete’s Olympic victory in the past and Dassler’s growing popularity in the U.S., the troops decided against bombing and mobilized in the family’s house instead.
While the brother’s feud existing to this day—as they are buried at opposite sides of the the Herzogenaurach cemetery—not the same could be said their employees. After six decades of pettiness and shoe politics, a friendly soccer match was organized by employees of Puma and Adidas in 2009. While the past feud might have distracted the two companies from the eventual rise of the American-run Nike brand in the sports industry, the story of the Dassler brothers is one of the many examples of entrepreneurial accomplishments persisting throughout the dark and depressing atmosphere that was World War II.
“Chronicle and Biography of Adi and Kathe Dassler” Adi and Kathe Dassler Foundation, https://www.adidassler.org/en/life-and-work/chronicle
“The Family Feud that Spawned Adidas and Puma” How Stuff Works, https://history.howstuffworks.com/historical-figures/family-feud-that-spawned-adidas-and-puma.htm
“The Hatred and Bitterness behind Two of the World's Most Popular Brands.” Fortune, (http://fortune.com/2013/03/22/the-hatred-and-bitterness-behind-two-of-the-worlds-most-popular-brands/)
“Sports Shoe Feud that Keeps on Running” The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2007/apr/10/1
United States is a home to immigrants, or at least in theory. However, history and present day event would prove it otherwise. As immigration policy change according to political climate, this puts thousands of immigrants unsure of their future.
1784- America trade with China began, North America exported items such as furs, sandalwood, and ginseng while China exported furniture, silk, and tea.
The 1790 Naturalization Act specified that “free, white persons” could become citizens; Asian immigrants were later classified as “aliens ineligible for citizenship,” excluding them from full incorporation into American society.
1815- Sino-U.S. maritime trade began bringing Chinese merchants into United States
1844- The Treaty of Wangxia
First treaty signed between United States and China after the First Opium War in 1842 which opened up China to trade with the U.S.
1848-1880- Waves of Chinese migrated to Golden Mountain after news of gold being discovered. The first Asians that arrived in the United States were Chinese people.
1850 People vs. Hall
The People of the State of California v. George W. Hall or People v. Hall. It was an appealed murder case in the 1850s in which the California Supreme Court established that Chinese Americans and Chinese immigrants had no rights to testify against White Americans in court.
1852- Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry was sent to the Port of Japan by President Millard Fillmore as a part of gunboat diplomacy to force open Japanese ports to American trade.
1862- Chinese Police Tax Law
A California law which imposed a monthly tax only to adults of “Mongolian race” who worked in the mines or were hired to work in most businesses. It was an act to protect free white labor against competition with Chinese coolie labor, and to discourage the immigration of Chinese into the State of California
1868 Burlingame Treaty
It established a friendly relationship between the U.S. and China, including the encouragement of Chinese immigration but Chinese people had no rights to become citizens.
1870 Naturalization Act
It puts controls on U.S. immigration and limited naturalization to “aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent”, which means “whites” exclude all Asians from receiving citizenship”
1882 Chinese Exclusion Act
As white miners saw Chinese labor as a threat, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, which banned Chinese from immigrating to the United States.
1885-86 Anti-Chinese Riots Washington
After years of anti-Chinese sentiment stemmed from the Union Pacific Railroad company which hired Chinese as strikebreakers in 1875 and ended up in tragic riots. The Chinatown in Seattle was burned down during this riot. There were violent riots against Chinese people all across California, Washington, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Alaska.
1898 U.S. Acquires Philippines from Spain
The United States won the Spanish-American War resulting in the Philippines gaining Spain as a territory. This marks the start of the Filipino migration.
1905 Anti-Japanese Movement
Started with the Anti-Chinese movement, Japanese and Korean immigrants also faced discrimination when they arrived in the United States with the efforts of politicians, intellectuals, and community leaders. 67 labor unions in San Francisco formed a Japanese and Korean Exclusion League.
1906 Filipino Migration to Hawaii
Hawaii Sugar Planters Association started recruiting workers from the Philippines in 1906 after immigration legislation limited their access to Chinese, Japanese, and Korean migrant workers. By 1930, about 100,000 Filipino workers had migrated to Hawaii.
1907 Asian Exclusion Act League
Due to the influx of Indian immigrants, the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League renamed themselves to the Asian Exclusion League.
1907-1908 Gentleman’s Agreement with Japan
The United States and Japan entered into an agreement in 1907 to hinder the migration of Japanese to the U.S. with a goal to reduce tensions between the two countries. Japanese government decided to deny passports to laborers seeking to enter the U.S. instead of U.S. restricting Japanese migration.
1910 Angel Island
San Francisco opened up Angel Island, which is off the coast of San Francisco as an immigration station. Many Asian migrants were unjustly held there or even turned away.
Many Asian Americans served in the war despite discrimination against Asian-Americans. In return of their service, they were awarded naturalization By the end of WW1 in 1918, there were about 180,000 Asian Americans living in the United States, including about 100,000 Japanese, 60,000 Chinese, and 5,000 Filipinos.
1917 Immigration Act
This act restricted immigration from anyone born in a geographically defined “Asiatic Barred Zone”.
1924 Immigration Act
This created a national origins quota to limit the number of immigrants by the country and excluded all immigrants from Asia.
1941 Pearl Harbor Attack
Discrimination against Japanese immigrants started after the Pearl Harbor attack.
1942 Japanese Internment Camps
President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the War Relocation Authority to forcefully move Japanese residing in America to internment camps. However, even with this discrimination, many first generation Japanese immigrants still joined the U.S. military despite the internment camp.
1942 Second War Powers Act
This Act was to open naturalization to many immigrant groups. This was created with intentions to naturalize persons that served in the U.S. military during WW2.
1943 Chinese Exclusion Act Repealed
In order to strengthen ties with China as an ally during WW2, which removed the annual quota that limited Chinese migration to 105 visas per year. Even with the removal of Chinese Exclusion Act, the Immigration Act of 1924 still was in effect, which meant that aliens including Chinese, who were ineligible for U.S. citizenship were not permitted to enter the U.S.
1945 End of World War II and the War Brides Act
At the end of WWII, Asians except Japanese who had fought in the war were given the option of U.S. citizen. By December 28th of 1945, the War Brides Act allowed the immigration of all non-Asian spouses and children of U.S. military personal.
1946 Luce-Cellar Bill
The bill was passed in 1946 to allow 100 Indians and Filipinos to be admitted in the US per year and allow them to be naturalized.
1947 War Brides Act modified
It was modified to include Asians as well, but the ban was lifted for only the spouses of U.S. military personnel and not children, and only if the marriage occurred no later than 30 days after the law’s enactment.
1948-1965 Indian Immigration
During this period of time, nearly 7,000 East Indians immigrated to the U.S., which was the largest number in history.
1950-1953 Korean War
Many Asian-Americans served in the Korean War, which helped to combat Asian discrimination in the United States.
1952 Immigration and Nationality Act
This Act ended the Asian exclusion from immigrating to the U.S. and created a preference system which was determined by skill sets and family ties in the United States. This Act eliminated laws preventing Asians from naturalizing and got rid of the Asiatic Barred Zone and allotted each Asian country a minimum of 100 visas annually. However, this allowed persons of Asian parentage and any nationality to receive visas under the generic quota for the “Asian Pacific Triangle” and ended up limiting Asian immigration, and the law resulted in allotting Asian quotas based on race rather than nationality.
1950’s-1960’s Asian-Americans elected to Congress
In 1957, Dalip Singh Saund became the first Asian-American to be elected to Congress. Then Hiram Fong became the first Chinese American Senator in 1959, and Daniel Inouye became the first Japanese American in the House.
1965 Immigration and Nationality Act
This Act is also known as the Hart-Cellar Act. It established an annual cap of 270,000 immigrants per year with no more than 20,000 from one country, abolished the discriminatory national origins quota system, and replaced it with preference system that was based on skills and family ties to the U.S.
1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act
This allowed undocumented person who had resided in the U.S. continuously since January 1st, 1982 to apply for legal status.
1990 Immigration Act
This Act of 1990 increased the annual visa cap to about 700,000, tripling the original number.
2012 Asians surpass Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrant in the U.S.
Asians were recorded to be the fastest growing racial group in the country as there was a record of 18.2 million Asians were living in the U.S.
2013 Immigration Reform Bill
In the spring of 2013, a comprehensive immigration reform was introduced to the U.S. Congress. This created the DREAM Act for persons of all ages, resulting in thousands of new visa allotments and a path to naturalization for undocumented persons living in the U.S.
2017 Trump Immigration Plan
The Trump administration proposed drastic cuts in legal immigration. The White House pressed to cut family sponsored immigration by as much as 40%.
2017 The RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) Act
This was introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2017 to reduce the levels of legal immigrants by 50% by halving the number of green cards issued. This bill would also impose a cap of 50,000 refugee admissions a year and would end the visa diversity lottery.