Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Labor Action, 29 July 1946


Gerry McDermott

The Behavior of American GIs in Japan


From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 30, 29 July 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A story recently appeared in the daily papers about the occupation forces in Japan which is worth thinking about. The dispatch told of an order from Lt. Gen. Eichelberger commanding the Eighth Army in Japan. The order, to unit commanders, read in part as follows:

“There have been cases of the malicious beating of Japanese by both individual soldiers and by groups. There have been cases of troops breaking into Japanese homes and taking trivial amounts of money from needy natives. There have been ... assaults on women on highways and in their homes. And in addition there are many indications of deliberate, arrogant, bullying attitudes on the part of some of our soldiers.”

Malicious beatings ... assaults on women ... breaking into homes ... deliberate bullying attitude. And evidently not just isolated cases here and there, for no less a person than an army commander is concerned with the situation. This writer, who was with the occupation forces in Japan, saw such things happen long before Gen. Eichelberger wrote about them.

What Is the Cause?

We have been told, oh so many times, that Germans are militaristic brutes with cruel ideas about how “inferior” races should be treated. And as for the “Japs,” words hardly describe these barbaric sadists. But now we read that American troops are also guilty of “assaults on women, beatings, breaking into homes, an arrogant attitude.”

Perhaps, then, the things we have been told all these years about peculiar “German” barbarity and particular Japanese savagery does not explain why soldiers are often cruel and brutal. Perhaps there is something inherent in all modern countries and armies that makes normal young human beings behave so shamefully at times.

There is. The reason is capitalism, which Germany, Japan, and the United States all have in common. Capitalism, and the evils which capitalism inevitably breeds: imperialism and militarism. Capitalism, in its drive for markets and profits breeds war; imperialism, in its subjugation of weaker nations, drags young men away from their homes to foreign lands where they are miserable, homesick, and lonely; militarism teaches these young men to be unthinking killers and oppressors. These forces affect not only young Germans and Japanese, but also young Americans.

But, the objection may be raised, there is still a difference between the United States and Axis countries. German and Japanese soldiers committed cruel acts with the official approval of their armies and officers. When American soldiers get out of line, the American army steps in. Gen. Eichelberger is correcting the situation.

Get. Eichelberger’s statement may make the American brass hats look good at first glance. But the slightest examination of the facts shows the brass hats to be a hundred times more guilty than the average soldier.

By the Brass Hats

The German soldier was stuffed with vicious stories about inferior races. The Japanese soldier, too, was told he was divine, and taught to despise people of other nations. But hasn’t there been an intense and frenzied campaign of racial hatred against the Japanese waged in the U.S. for the past five years or more? Weren’t the government and the brass hats largely responsible for this?

Weren’t the soldiers now being “arrogant and bullying” in Japan shown orientation (that is propaganda) films produced by the army that laid the blame for Japanese aggression and atrocities on all the Japanese people?

And what about the huge sign that was erected over the main supply road on Guadalcanal for American troops to see, the sign which shrieked in huge letters, “Kill the Bastards.” Wasn’t there plenty of that in the Pacific, Gen. Eichelberger? Wasn’t it the Supreme Commander himself, Gen. MacArthur, who looked on the burned corpses of Japanese soldiers and made the famous remark, “That’s the way I like to see them?”

On second glance, the generals don’t look so good. When the division to which this writer was attached, landed in Japan, the troops were told, “You are conquerors. Act like it. These people understand nothing but force, so we will treat them that way.” What did you expect, General Eichelberger?

With the example the officer caste has consistently set in Japan, it is surprising that stealing by troops is not more widespread. High ranking officers live in Roman splendor in the best buildings, with elaborate furnishings “requisitioned” from the surrounding area. Military government officers cynically accept fine gifts from Japanese officials and rich men in return for favors. A few weeks ago, a scandal was revealed in Tokyo along this line which was too big to cover up. Officers in Gen. MacArthur’s headquarters were revealed to be accepting fabulous gifts and lavish entertainment from a Japanese millionaire, in return for which he was awarded lush contracts. The newspaper stories said a general was involved, but his name, strangely, has never been revealed.

How Explain the Order?

How, then, do we explain General Eichelberger’s order? Further down in his report we find the answer. “This condition ... is endangering the mission of occupation.”

There you have it. The American people don’t want more boys drafted, don’t want to pay any longer for a huge standing army. The good general, without as many troops as he would like, has to get along as best he can. So he doesn’t want the civilian population antagonized.

A final interesting note. How does Gen. Eichelberger propose to correct the situation among his troops? By relaxing the regimentation and rigorous life of the soldier so he can live and behave more like a human? By ending the hateful caste system whereby the GI is constantly humiliated and is tempted to take it out on Japanese civilians? Alas, no. The general’s answer is this: if the situation is not corrected, “our courts are empowered to mete out stiff penalties.” All the Lichfields aren’t in England, you know.

What is the answer of Labor Action and the Workers Party to this? We say, bring the troops home so they can live normal, decent lives again. Free the Japanese workers and peasants from the victimization of occupation so that they can rid themselves of the reactionaries who remain in high places under MacArthur’s administration, and organize their own society in fighting their oppressors.

Top of page

Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 8 July 2019