Japanese General Defends Revised Version of WWII

Toshio Tamogami was removed as air force chief for writing an essay that said, among other things, that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor because of a
Toshio Tamogami was removed as air force chief for writing an essay that said, among other things, that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor because of a "trap" set by the U.S. (Katsumi Kasahara - AP)
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By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

TOKYO, Nov. 11 -- A former Japanese air force chief, removed from his post last month for writing an essay that says Japan was not an aggressor in World War II, is refusing to quietly fade away.

Pugnaciously defending his version of Japan's role in a war that killed millions across Asia, Toshio Tamogami, 60, told parliament Tuesday that he does not see "anything wrong with what I wrote."

The ousted general's revisionism, together with revelations that 94 air force staff members may have written similar essays this year, has triggered demands in parliament for a full-scale investigation of the training given to military officers to determine if it is consistent with government policy, which states that Japan deeply regrets and apologizes for its wartime aggression.

Questions have been raised about officer training at the Joint Staff College, where Tamogami served as a commandant and personally revised the curriculum. Some of Japan's elite military leaders were trained at the college.

Members of parliament said Tuesday that Tamogami may have taught trainee officers to deny Japan's aggression in the war.

"I think there is a need for reeducation and for a complete examination inside the military," Tokushin Yamauchi, an opposition lawmaker, said during his questioning of Tamogami.

Tamogami was dismissed for writing, among other things, that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor because of a "trap" set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He also wrote that "many Asian countries take a positive view" of Japan's wartime role.

China and South Korea, the principal victims of Japan's brutality before and during the war, have voiced shock and anger over the general's claims.

In parliament Tuesday, Tamogami said he had no regrets. "I was fired after saying Japan is a good country," he said. "It seems a bit strange."

The affair of the noisily unapologetic general, whose views echo those of many prominent nationalists in Japan, is turning into a substantial political liability for Prime Minister Taro Aso, who must call a general election in less than a year.

Before he became prime minister in September, Aso, 68, an elder in the ruling party, had made a series of statements that suggested his nationalist leanings. He upset the governments of North and South Korea by praising his country's 35-year colonial occupation of their peninsula, saying Japan did many good things there.

As foreign minister in 2006, Aso annoyed China by suggesting that Japan's emperor should visit Yasukuni, the shrine in Tokyo where convicted war criminals are honored along with 2.5 million war dead.


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