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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #198: March 11, 2004

The Fog of War

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"The Fog of War"
(Paul Byrnes) Sydney Morning Herald


In mid-March of 2002, The New York Times ran an article titled "100,000 People Perished, but Who Remembers?" written by their correspondent in Tokyo.

Two years later, and after 59 years from that incident (with an apology for using such a polite term), not just the Americans, but even the Japanese, or at least its media, has forgotten about it, if not that they deliberately ignored it.

On the evening of March 9-10, 1945, more than 300 B-29 Superfortresses attacked Tokyo, dropping 1,665 tons of napalm bombs, turning 16 square miles of densely inhabited area into an inferno, incinerating 100.000 people, virtually all of them being civilians.

Perhaps the bombing did not have that fancy glitz of a new technology associated with nuclear bombs, as when the US stunned the world by releasing atomic powers predicted by Einstein, and showing it of in a dramatic way of testing how many people it could slay with a stroke, by dropping the bombs onto civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After all, napalm bombs were already utilized routinely, notably to bombard Dresden, Germany.

This year's Academy Awards was saturated by The Lord of the Rings, but the event was closely followed by Japanese people also. It was last year when Spirited Away won the Best Animated Film award, and this year, Ken Watanabe was being nominated as the best supporting actor, playing in The Last Samurai, and The Twilight Samurai was nominated in the Foreign Language Film category. Neither of them won the prize, but the festivity came back with all the glares and glitters it was supposed to have, which satisfied many people.

It is no wonder that an unspectacular award such as the Best Documentary Feature attracted small attention, if at all. The winner, The Fog Of War, is, described in the synopsis prepared by the Oscar secretariat as; "Controversial former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, the man sometimes referred to as the "architect of the Vietnam War," reviews his life and career and offers an unflinching re-examination of the role he played in one of the most anguished periods in U.S. history."

In the film, Mr McNamara talks about mistakes the US has made through his own experience, starting with the reference to the Tokyo raid in 1945. He says, "In that single night, we burned to death a hundred thousand Japanese civilians in Tokyo, women and children." He goes on to reveal that General Curtis Le May, who had directed the bombing, admitted that had the US lost the war, he would have been tried as a war criminal. To that, Mr McNamara asks, "How could victory change the inherent immorality of a criminal act?"

Mr McNamara is, in the minds of thousands of not only Americans but also other conscious people around the world who lived through the 1960s, synonymous with bloodshed, misinformation campaigns and misjudgments. But at the age close to 90, Mr McNamara still remembers and recites that "incident" 59 years ago, while the heirs of the victims, those innocent civilians burned to death, seem to simply let it fade away, from their memories, and history.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications