Saturday, December 15, 2007


As I was eating my sushi and sashimi and sucking down some Kirin Beer on the eve of the anniversary of Pear Harbor I pondered how rapidly our priorities and allegiances change. The Japanese, despite some of the most heinous and unwarranted barbaric behavior in the history of Man, are once again at the forefront of world politics and a staunch and valuable ally of the United States. Tell that to my Mother…

My Mother’s Brother, Charles Seabury Littlefield. fought with distinction in World War II. He was the middle of the three Littlefield kids that also included Elisabeth (Betty) Alden and Richmond Gorham. Richmond and Seabury were in that age group that found pride and defense of country their major calling - enough to enlist in the Army and Army Air Force (USAAF) respectively. Seabury ended up as a dorsal/tail gunner on a Douglas DB-7/A-20 Havoc attack bomber where he met his maker in 1944. Seabury’s crew were practicing skip bombing on the Japanese Ayutosen Maru which had been destroyed by USAAF bombers on July 22, 1942 and had settled in the shallow waters of Gona Bay, New Guinea giving it the appearance of still being afloat. During and following their bombing run the A-20 pilot veered too close to the Ayutosen Maru where a wing struck her mast causing the A-20 to spiral out of control into Gona Bay. The A-20 and the bodies of her three man crew were never recovered. The Ayutosen Maru continued to be used for the remainder of the war to range artillery and also as a target for other American bomber crews.

My Mother never, ever got over her loss and from that time to her death in 1998 she never again looked in favor upon any Japanese citizen. Mother was not unlike many of those who, as veteran Australian journalist and author Cameron Forbes put it, “still cast a suspicious eye on Japan.” Forbes continued, “There are people who will use the word hate. There are others, of course, who have walked down the road of forgiveness, though not forgetting what happened." Ironically when Richmond attended Harvard Business School in 1952 his roommate was from Japan. Richmond describes him as a good man and still communicates with him fifty-five years later. That seems to be the epitome of our impending ”new world order” only seven years after the last world war.

When I went to work as Human Resource Manager for the Japanese-owned Yoshino Denka Kogyo America (YDK) Company in 1994 Mother admirably held her tongue never volunteering dialogue or opinions about my employers (very unusual). Some hypocritical senior managers at the YDK plant in private secure quarters didn’t hold back expressing their utter contempt for their Japanese employers though they publicly fawned and doted over them and readily accepted their money. Along with several other enlightened managers, I held these deceitful folks in greater contempt and never trusted them. So world politics and all pervasive, divisive ethnocentric attitudes continued.

On December 7th of each year some of the Japanese employees at YDK saw fit to take a sick day or just not show up for work. The President of the company, an exceedingly polite gentleman named Kouzo Kameyama always deliberately assured his new American Friends that he wasn’t in the Pacific theatre in 1941. Given the atrocities committed by the Japanese all over Asia, methinks this doesn’t exactly exonerate Kouzo of any liability for the Japanese aggression at Pearl Harbor or anywhere else. At any rate, understanding the honorable Samurai psyche, Kouzo had long contemplated the issue and I believe felt morally plagued for those actions. Kouzo was a good man who probably did much to cement relations with his American employees. YDK owner Kanji Yoshino is an American educated, free wheeling international businessman who I suspect still appreciates and enjoys his trips to the United States.

After Pearl Harbor the United States responded by forcibly detaining some 120,000 Japanese-Americans (including many WWI US military veterans) in desolate Western camps from Arkansas to California while their personal property was sold off for a farthing. Some were legitimately detained as subversives though the great majority were only guilty of being of Japanese ancestry. Despite this discrimination and in a great irony many of their sons served with great distinction in the US Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team who known for their rescue of the "Lost Battalion" in France emerged as the most decorated combat unit of its size in the history of the United States Army. In deference to its service in eight major campaigns in Italy and France, the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team earned eight Presidential Unit Citations.

Many Japanese-Americans served as Japanese translators and interrogators with the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) with others serving with honor in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to include the Nisei OSS Detachments 101 & 202 and the distinguished former Battalion Sergeant-Major of the 328th and American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in WWI, Toki Slocum, a Nisei with a magnificent and distinguished fighting record. Sergeant-Major Slocum a dedicated modern Bushido declared his loyalties to America by presenting my grandfather, Colonel G. Edward Buxton, Jr. with his two samurai swords immediately following Pearl Harbor. Those swords remain within the Buxton Family.

As second in command and Head of Operations of the OSS, Buxton and his boss William Donovan believed that the best way into the mind of the enemy was to harness the minds, talents and experiences of every kind of American (hyphenated or not). That meant hiring women as well as ethnic minorities. So, while many people were gripped with a fear of subversion and while Japanese-Americans were being put in internment camps, the OSS (and Buxton specifically) was hiring Japanese-Americans from these camps along with German, and Italian-Americans. The OSS personnel office once boasted that its payroll listed every nationality and every occupation. The OSS hired thousands of women to work in many types of jobs. Buxton and the OSS and other war-related positions offered the first real relief from the discrimination then rampant in our society and set the stage for future progress. So, out of bad came some good…

The ironies of changing politics were further pointed out by Cameron Forbes who commenting on the relationship between Australia and Japan in 2005, "It's a demonstration that if the gods of war have not got a sense of humor, they've a sense of irony, because at the moment Australian troops are on their way to defend Japanese military engineers in Iraq. What goes around comes around - in November 1914, the Japanese battle-cruiser Ibuki was helping escort Australian diggers towards Gallipoli and the start of the Australian-New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) legend. In between those two events of course was one of the blackest periods in the relationship between Australia and Japan." Cameron, was, of course, referring to World War II.

Japan’s military Shogunate dictatorship of the 1930’s and 40’s was fueled by the not too original ideas of racial purity where their citizenry were taught from an early age that they were the only “true” human beings. The noble precepts of their ancestors were perverted and disgraced as aggressors against us “decadents”. Fast forward to the 21st century.

We worked our way through all that and today the United States remains Japan's single largest economic partner with Japan now being the second largest investor in the United States helping provide critical services and propping up the weak American Dollar. Their constitutionally limited military (such as it is) is still a critical foil to those that would try to destabilize that part of the world. We all need hope that their renewed sensitivity to and leadership role re. the environment might motivate a more responsible attitude in the United States. In short, they have evolved into most indispensable Friends.

The Imperial Japanese and to some degree the Soviet Union have been replaced by the likes of “militant Islam” which has been around for over a thousand years patiently waiting to rid the world of infidels. As Jim Clonts author of Virulent Winds and US Air Force veteran who flew B-52s in Operation Desert Storm recently pointed out that, “Militant Islam has thematic roots in ridding the world of impurity, in this case religious. They are willing to use violence and intimidation to subjugate the masses. Who will come forward and condemn the militants who have highjacked their religion?

All this sounds hauntingly familiar (same song, different verse) to those who remain and remember that the citizens of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were asked that same question over sixty years ago and their failure to address that issue cost them dearly.

What new/old Friend will stand up and raise their standard beside the United States of America? By the way, while my Mother was an avid coffee drinker I think she would like to try some white Persian melon tea.


Ned Buxton

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