Saturday, March 14, 2015

"The Japanese obviously did pep-talks differently"

In his fine The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War, Andrew Roberts relates the horrors of the war - the Final Solution, the atrocities committed by the Japanese - with appropriate gravity and revulsion.

And yet, in even so terrible a landscape as the war presents, every once in a while a hint of extremely dry British humor bubbles to the surface.  Witness, for example, Roberts's description of a "pep-talk" given to his officers in April 1944 by Japanese General Kotoku Sato shortly before the Battle of Kohima, in which Japanese forces launched an attack on a mountaintop village held by British and Indian forces in northeastern India:

Despite his formidable advantage in numbers at Kohima, Sato had little faith in the success of U-Go [the code name for the Japanese plan to invade India] in general.  On the eve of the attack, he drank a glass of champagne with his divisional officers, telling them, "Ill take this opportunity, gentlemen, of making something quite clear to you.  Miracles apart, every one of you is likely to lose his life in this operation.  It isn't simply a question of the enemy's bullets.  You must be prepared for death by starvation in these mountain fastnesses."  The Japanese obviously did pep-talks differently.

The illustration is of Colonel Hugh Richards, whose 1,500-man British-Indian-Nepalese force held off more than 6,000 Japanese under Sato for almost two weeks.

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