A Just, Not Soft Peace


By GENERAL JONATHAN M. WAINWRIGHT, Commander at Corregidor

Delivered at the Dinner of the Commerce and Industry Association, New York, N. Y., September 13, 1945

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 753-755.

THIS day has been a magnificent climax to the welcome which my comrades and I have received from our countrymen since the day of our liberation. I suppose it is every small boy's ambition some day to have such a reception as we have had in New York. In my own case as I said at City Hall this noon to His Honor, the Mayor, and to the crowd of my fellow-citizens gathered there, it has been a special satisfaction. Mr. La Guardia honored me by making me a citizen of New York, and I feel that the Wainwright, after more than a hundred years service in the armed forces, of wandering about the country and the seven seas, have a home again at last. Once more we are citizens of New York.

My great-grandfather was once the rector of Trinity Church, which stands along the route we took this morning up lower Broadway. Later he was Bishop of New York It was his son—and my grandfather—who started the military tradition of my family. He went off to be a midshipman and was a member of the first class to be graduated from Annapolis—in 1841.

Enemy Unpleasantries

During my career I have had a good bit of foreign service, ending with an unanticipated three years, three months and eighteen days in prison camps which the Japs made as unpleasant as they know how—and they know a great deal about making things unpleasant. I can tell you that all this experience has given me a deep love for my country and a profound appreciation of its blessings.

One thing that impresses me particularly about the Japanese nation is the smallness of its way of life. This characteristic is a key to its entire point of view. The Japanese people, even in the best of years, led a parsimonious existence. Back in the sixties when they made their great decision to move out into the world and seek their place in the sun with the other nations, they began to imitate the way of the western powers without absorbing any of the great spirit of progress which has made these powers great. In due course Japan acquired an army and a navy and a merchant marine. She built up an industry and great cities. But she lacked the vision to use these things as we have used them. They were simply superimposed on a culture—if you may call it that—and a life which was still medieval in its outlook. They were not geared to the spiritual change which has enabled us to create the modern world as our own.

We know now that for years certain elements in Japan had been planning to make war on us, as they had already on their neighbor, China. To this end, they built up a powerful offensive force and gambled their future on a quick lunge to the south and the east which would put them in control of the territories which they wished to incorporate in the enlarged Japanese Empire—the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, as they chose to call it, and which the prisoners of war called the co-poverty sphere.

Japanese Errors

I have good cause to know the power of their original offensive which engulfed the Philippines. They knew we were unprepared. A predatory power always has the advantage at the outset of being able to build up a striking force whose momentum is almost irresistible for a time. The strategy is to seek a quick decision; to paralyze the opponent before he has a chance to recover his breath.

But there is a fatal error in this type of plan. The German found that out, and now the Jap has learned it to his chagrin. When you plan on a quick war, you must be prepared to fight a long one, in case something goes wrong. You must have the ability to build endlessly and uninterruptedly to make certain that you can hold your original advantage. You must be prepared to resist the counter-force which the enemy will surely build up if you but give him time.

Modern war is not won on static supply depots. It is won on production lines which can be expanded to meet ever greater demands. It was our good fortune that the Japanese mind failed to take this fully into consideration. Japan had an industry, but it was a poor thing when compared to ours. When we developed the power to sweep in and seize bases from which the factories could be attacked, Japanese industry was incapable of turning out weapons and other munitions of war in sufficient quantity to protect that nation.

Lack of Vision

But, spiritually, Japan had long since lost the war. In the early days of my captivity, prisoners in the camp on Taiwan, where I was then held, were permitted to read the English-language edition of the Nippon Times occasionally, I recall a significant statement in one of the issues as long ago as 1943 in which a member of the Imperial General Staff speaking for the War Office stated: "If the Axis powers do not win the war in 1943, Japan can never win the war and will regret it for a hundred years." I suppose at the time the spokesman felt his words would stir the people to greater effort, but the statement had a prophetic quality | which was comforting to me in those dark days. I knew that Japan had lost the war. I only hope he was right on the second count— that she has begun at least a hundred years of regret.

Japan lacked the vision ever to take measures in her conquered territories to enlist the sympathies of the people in those unhappy lands. There were a few gestures of friendship in the way of public utterances by Japanese leaders—promises that Japan intended to give the subject nations a share in the so-called "co-prosperity." But whatever slight co-operation may have been gained by these statements was immediately lost through the truculence of the average Japanese soldier who made up the occupation forces.

We often say with pride that the American soldier is this nation's best unofficial ambassador—and it is true. The character of a nation is revealed transparently through the impression conveyed by its average citizen. But where our men gain respect, the Jap breeds only hatred. He is a bully with all of the bully's smallness and love of brute force to impress his authority. He enjoys inflicting pain, both mental and physical, on any one who lacks the power to strike back. He is not a coward, but he lacks the generous spirit that gives meaning to courage.

Throughout my prison days it was the domineering quality of both officers and enlisted men of the Japanese Army which gave us our constant torment. Thousands of American soldiers died under its cruelty and neglect. Those of us who lived were the victims of endless indignities, both great and small, aimed at inflicting pain and humiliation.

I should be less than human if I had not emerged from my experience with a deep distrust and hatred of the Japanese character as I have known it for more than three years. It is unimportant now what happened to me. But I think it is very important that the American people understand the nature of this people we have beaten back to their poor earth.

Future Perils

They are not sorry for what they have done to countless thousands in the populations of countries they have overrun. They are not sorry for the torture they have inflicted on American soldiers. It simply would not occur to them to be sorry, because they have done nothing which is at variance with their accepted philosophy. That is the point which should be clearly understood. I am a soldier and I do not pretend to know how long will be required or by what steps the bestial elements in their nature can be eradicated. But until we are assured that these qualities have been extinguished—not simply submerged—then the Japanese nation, powerless as it is today to make war, will remain a menace to our world.

It would be repulsive to all our ideas of justice to advocate the same sort of treatment for the Japs which they have given our soldiers. I have no desire for personal revenge, nor do I believe that others who suffered with me have that feeling. I feel that we should treat the Japanese in full accord with the laws of war as they are practiced by civilized nations. But it must not be a soft occupation nor a soft peace.

Japan must be made to realize on every" step of her long road back to acceptance among civilized nations that a Government does not indulge in the excesses she has loosed in the world these past fourteen years and call it quits when her leaders have had enough. They must not be permitted for one moment the illusion that we will let them view the cessation of hostilities as merely a brake and not a stop to their ambitions. Before Japan again is allowed to take her place among other respected nations she must be made to realize that her medieval ways can have no place in our modern world. She must learn that truth and humanity and righteousness rather than deceit and cruelty and treachery are the basis of international relations and the way of life.

Lesson in Bataan

I have seen the Japanese as they are, with their veneer stripped off. I shall bear the scars of those years all my life, and I could not forget them if I would. I have come to know the cunning with which they conceal their true nature, and how quickly it leaps forth when there is no immediate chance of retaliation. The Japanese can be subservient; they can be pleasant and co-operative, if it suits their purpose. But the men who were captured on Bataan and Corregidor have seen the Japanese character in the raw. They have seen what Japanese soldiers do when they are on top, and I think all of us who lived through those tortured days are determined that they shall never be on top again.

You cannot believe how inspiring it is to come out of the darkness of living under the dominance of those people and into the sunlight of America. I found America first in Chungking, where my comrades and I were taken after our liberation. In the friendliness and consideration with which we were received by our countrymen stationed there we found the blessed realization that we were free men once more. In the reunions we have had with old friends, in the sights and sounds of the great new Army we found in the Pacific, we have breathed the bigness and the spirit of America. I tell you it is an inspiring experience for a man who has been shut away to see how great his nation has become, not only in military might but in warmth and friendliness and vision.

We must keep it that way. We must remain strong and great in spirit, fixed in our determination to keep the peace of the world. Peace is a militant state, which is not secured by wishful thinking. If we are to be sure of our liberty, we must preserve the peace through full co-operation with other peace-loving nations. We must be ready to fight for it, if necessary. Until we can be certain that our security is safe from such treachery as we have suffered at the hands of the Japanese, we must keep our defenses impregnable. That is the lesson of Bataan. That is the trust of all those who suffered from the defeat at Corregidor.