Saturday, October 18, 2008
The closest Korea has to its own religion is Chondogyo, combining various aspects of the Buddhist, Confucian and Tao beliefs. Buddhism in Korea stems from the Mahayana line, having first arrived about 1700 years ago.
In South Korea Christianity is the dominant religion, despite being a late arrival to the peninsula. Over 200 years ago Jesuit missionaries working in China crossed into Korea, bringing their version of Catholicism to the people. Koreans enthusiasm for the faith made the Yi Dynasty feel so threatened that a campaign of persecution was launched against the Jesuits. Protestant missionaries arrived in the 1800s, spreading their faith by practical methods such as establishing schools and hospitals.
Officially, North Korea has no religion as it is considered contrary to to communist ideology. However, as was seen in other communist countries this is no barrier to people retaining their faith. Buddhism, which can be practised individually and in private is the strongest religion in the North
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Nobody knows for certain how the Korean language, which is unique to the Korean peninsula, evolved. Spoken Korean is most closely related to Japanese, although even then is has many distinct differences. The syntax is similar to Chinese: however, it does not use tones to discern meanings a Chinese does. Korean writings began 13000 years ago, but initially used Chinese rather than a distinctive Korean style. Hangul, the Korean phonetic alphabet, was devised around 500 years ago. For an outside observer Korean script tends to be less complicated than that of Japan or China.
Daily life varies enormously for Koreans depending on which side of the 38th parallel they live. The average North Korean lives a fairly bleak life under an unrelenting communist dictatorship. Where once North Korea was fairly self-sufficient, today it is widespread starvation and malnutrition. Agricultural workers live in communities of collectivised farms. Everyone works to produce food for the rest of the population. Non agricultural work centres primarily on heavy industry, mineral extraction and military service. The state controls all aspects of life.
South Korea is vastly different, having a private-enterprise economy, although with some state intervention at various levels. The average South Korean works a full day Monday to Friday and half day on Saturday.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Causes and effects of the great Tokyo air raid of the 9th and 10th of March 1945
Just as in Germany the allied air-forces, predominately the American attacked the Japanese island with an enormous bomb offensive during the latter part of World War II. Large scale bombings did not however come into practice until the Mariana-islands had been captured in the summer of 1944. At the same time the Americans introduced their newest bomb-aeroplane B-29 which had a much longer flying range and capability to carry heavier loads of bombs. Simultaneously, the Japanese air defence was almost none existing which left Japan completely defenceless from the massive hoards of bombers flying in over Japan and most of the Japanese major cities were destroyed which left hundreds of thousands of people dead as a result. The absolute peak of these air raids apart from the Atomic bomb over Hiroshima was to hit Tokyo on the nights of the 9th and 10th of March 1945. Even if the raids against the German city of Dresden is more known this was the worst bomb attack the world had ever seen, apart from the atomic bombs on the 6th and 9th of August the same year. In this particular attack over 330 B-29s dropped some 2000 tonnes of fire-bombs over Tokyo. The result was to be an overwhelming fire-storm raging over the city destroying everything its way. This was much due to large portions of Tokyo at the time was built by wood and paper and further attack on Tokyo and other Japanese cities such as Nagoya, Kobe and Osaka were carried out throughout the rest of the war. The devastation was immense with about 40 km2 of the city burnt down along with over 250 000 buildings of the city completely destroyed, leaving one million people on the streets. Not even the atomic bombs five month later caused as much material damage. No exact figures of the number of human deaths have been established but most research point towards at 100,000 dead civilians.
Today most scholars agree that the fire-bombing of Tokyo together with the bombings of Dresden to be acts of war-crime. Even the responsible people in the American air-force have been doubtful about the justification of the massive killings of such a large number of civilians and Curtis LeMay himself said "If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals". During the war it was however agreed upon that these kinds of bombing shortened the war and therefore spared a lot of lives, even civilian ones. This paper will examine that the massive destruction of Tokyo by the American fire-bombing raids was not solely due to American superiority in the air and by technology, but also by the strong determination of the leading Command to destroy Tokyo. It will also look at Japanese building materials and the ineffectiveness of the Japanese civil defence as possible explanations for the destruction of Tokyo.
The decision to carry out the attacks
In order to carry out the attacks it was necessary that there existed a strong leadership with a determination and will to deliberately target areas that consisted of large civilian populations. After the capture of Guam and Marianas Island by the American forces Japan came in reach for the American bomb squadron and on January 20th, 1945 Commander Curtis LeMay received the leadership of the American bomb squadron, and it was he who finalized the ideas and actively worked for a massive bombing of the Japanese cities. In the initial stages of the war American leadership opposed deliberate attacks on civilian populations and focused to limit raids on targets of military significance such as combatants, railroads, and factories. This stance was to be taken a 180 degree turn as the war went by and Commander LeMay describes it best in his own words when he said that he wanted Tokyo "burned down―wiped right off the map" LeMays mission and goal was to win the war as soon as possible and with as few American soldiers dead as possible. He believed that if a land invasion of Japan was necessary maybe 1,000,000 American soldiers could face death, and therefore Japan had to be crushed to spare those lives. With American bombers well in reach of Japan on their new bases and the strong will of Commander LeMay Japanese cities was destined to be wiped of the map.
As the Pacific war went on and the American forces managed capture islands within range of launching their bomb attacks on Japan along with with introduction of the B-29 in May 8th, 1944 Japan was now inevitable to be destroyed from the air. In March 9-10, 1945 these B-29 Super Fortresses was loaded with napalm and incendiary bombs flying in over Tokyo on low altitude to avoid detection as well as having their guns and ammunition taken off with the purpose of carry more bombs than usual. There were two types of bombs used, the M47 gel bomb with the purpose of starting major fires and smaller M69 gelled-gasoline bombs. The destruction and heat made by these bombs were immense and when exploding spreading a burning thick gel over buildings setting them on fire. The Japanese air defence was completely out of order, the number of defending fighter planes was so small they hardly made a difference, and there were no anti air craft artillery capable of defending the city against a low altitude attack of B-29´s.
Had the Japanese been more prepared and assembled more planes anti aircraft to defend Tokyo the destruction may have been limited.
One of the absolute key factors to the rapid spread and damages caused by the fire-bombing was in fact due to that large parts of Tokyo was still built traditionally of wood and paper. This was a fact well known by the American Air force and experiments with incendiary bombs on copies of Japanese buildings were carried out as early as 1943. Many of the houses in Tokyo's densely populated residential areas were in fact small workshops or factories which made it impossible to draw a definite line between residential and industrial areas and therefore it was justified to destroy these areas as they did contribute to the overall Japanese war time production. No longer were factories and infrastructure only seen as the primary target for American air operations. Clusters of civilian populations were also actively targeted to end the war time industrial production, but also to completely break down the morale of the Japanese population to the degree that they would realize that any form of resistance or support of the defence of Japan were to be in absolute vain. Just to make matters worst, the night of the bombings a dreadful wind travelling of over 40 miles per hour swept over Japan and Tokyo helping to spread the fires rapidly over a much larger anticipated area. The wind made the fires reached temperatures over 950 degrees Celsius and when moving over the city it burning everything that could be burned at the same time as consuming all the air and spreading a deadly smoke killing everything in reach. Thousands of fleeing people did seek refuge in the Tokyo waterways only to drown or to be suffocated by the lack of oxygen. The heat and fires was so intense that the crews of the B-52 bombers reported that they could see Tokyo burning from as far away as 250 km.
Tokyo had at the time a population density without comparison by any other industrial city in the world with figures up to 135.000 people per square mile, with a total of 1.5 million people living in the actual target area. So as described, one major contributing factor to the high death rate was the high density of people living in a considerably small area in houses made by wood and paper, because they did not stand a chance as the bombs were falling.
Slow response to American bomb attacks
There was a very slow response to the American bomb attacks by the Japanese civil defence and the police. The war's demand for young skilful men seem to have left Tokyo and other Japanese cities with unsuitable and not properly trained never less equipped people as fire fighters. Guillian describes the fire fighters when battling the flames working with hand pumped water, wet blankets, and sand, clearly in vain. Many people were also just staying put were they were, ordered by the authorities to defend their homes after their own ability.
The Japanese never expected that enemy planes would ever reach Japan in any large numbers and did therefore not build up any significant defence towards bomb attacks. This policy did on the other hand change after November 1944 when B-29´s begun to bomb factories on the Japanese mainland. One can however assume that by then it was all too late. One of the consequences of the slow response to the bombings was that people remained within urban areas without any preparation to defend or protects themselves to any aerial attacks. For example every citizen was by 1945 required to have some sort of shelter organized but the truth was that the only effective shelters were to be found in business centres concrete buildings leaving most of Tokyo's residential population completely unprotected. The lack of preparation and knowledge in how to deal and act effectively during an air raid led to that absolute panic broke out and people were fleeing in all directions from the fires in search for shelter only to be caught in the fires.
There was not only structural damage and massive losses of lives for the Japanese as a result of the bombings but also an immense psychological damage to the Japanese people. Commander LeMay managed to completely eliminate what was left of the morale of the residents of Tokyo. Daniels describes as a comparison that after earthquakes that regularly strike Japan and the destruction that follows of such events is always followed up by massive reconstruction activity, but after the fire-bombings the hopelessness among the people was so great that no such activity ever occurred. As a result of the fire bombings the Japanese authorities did begin what they should have done long ago when closing all the schools, handing out emergency rations of food, and conducting mass evacuations of civilians out from the cities.
The great Tokyo air Raid of March 9th and 10th caused some 100,000 civilian deaths and material damage to Tokyo of huge proportions. It was clearly understood by the American side of the conflict that the human losses were to be great. Allied forces had captured island well in distance for launching attacks on the Japanese mainland and they had recently developed technology in terms of planes with long distance capability and incendiary bombs and when used together it was a lethal combination. The Japanese leadership however failed completely to realise the Americans determination to destroy the Japanese cities and had therefore not managed or had the will to prepare the civilian population for what was to come. Residential quarter of Japanese cities did still to a large extent consist of materials such as wood and paper and they became literally dangerous traps when catching fire. The wind of the night spread burning flares to neighbouring houses and distances far away and caused damage in much larger area than planned by the Americans. LeMay's plan to wipe of Tokyo from the map of Japan was almost literally succeeded. A more important factor and success of his plan was however the effects of psychological devastation and sense of defeat on the Japanese side. Many did after this attack realise for sure that battle was over and that Japan was not in a position to continue a war against the allies.
In general, the Japanese seek for unanimous approval whenever possible. They seldom decide matters arbitrary and despotically. A Japanese man divorce his American wife. The reason was that she used to express her opinions too frankly or too selfishly according to his interpretation: he expected her to be more attentive and compromising. In the case of a Japanese wife, she usually asks her husband´s opinions before she expresses her own opinions at the initial sate although she controls final decisions according to her favourite eventually. The Japanese seek conclusion by exchanging their opinions several times among those concerned rather than forcing a particular opinion on others. The Japanese try to involve every one concerning in making decisions. In Japan, therefore "everybody´s business is nobody's business" is not the case. The Japanese, thus succeed in making the lowest office clerk feel as if he were as senior as his boss and he had participated in his company's decision making. Thus a decision is no longer his boss´s decision which he has to follow and obey reluctantly but his own. He has therefore, not only the responsibility to make the project successful but also a keen fighting spirit to achieve the goal. This is something opposite to the ideal of the "I am a boss" system. In the latter case, the boss himself is quite energetic and vigorous but his subordinates are usually reluctant to perform their duties. The boss does not have the full support of his men.
To be continued: