World War II: Japan--Propaganda


Figure 1.-- Japan had an active propaganda effirt during World war II. This effort varied substantially in China and the Southern Resourse Zone. In China, propaganda other than threats of violence were useless. Japanese barbarity was so extreme that there was no way they could convince the Chinese of benign intentions, althoughb interesting the caption here is in Chibnese and Jaoanese.. Rather the primary effort was on Japanese domestic public opinion. The Japanese people were not told about the purposes of overseas expansion. Nor were they told about the barbarities being committed abroad by their soldiers. Rather they were told that their soldiers were behaving correctly and that attrocity stories were lies. They were told that Japan was bringing peace and progress to China and ending Chinesec banditrty. This is why the invasion was termed the 'China Incident'. The caption on this Japanese Army propaganda photograph read, "23. Our soldiers playing with children."

The Axis countries had a great deal of difficuklty in making war propaganda. All three of the countries werre hyper-nationalistic , desiring to seize territory and resources from other countries and with national creeds that dengrayed foreigbn racial groups. In the case of Germany a mjor goal was genocide to reduce non-Aryan populations. In the case of Japan, genocide was not such a clearly though out policy, but as a result of seizures of food and other policies, the result was much the same. With such war efforts, the ability to convince occupied people to support Japan were limited. And in China the behavior of Japanese troops was so barbaric, that any kind effective proppaganda was virtually impossible. The Japabese abnswer was brute force. The Three All campaign showed that majing propagabda in China was a waste of time and effort. There was propaganda after the invasion of Manchuria, but uit was primarily aimed at the Japanese rather than the Chinese or Manchurian people. The Japanese people were not told about the purposes of overseas expansion. Nor were they told about the barbarities being committed abroad by their soldiers. Rather they were told that their soldiers were behaving correctly and that attrocity stories were lies. They were told that Japan was bringing peace and progress to China and ending Chinesec banditrty. This is why the invasion was termed the 'China Incident'. The militarists controlling Japan assumed that seizing China would yoeld boutiful returns. Instead it locked Jaoan into a costyly, intractable war. Thus they had to begin asking the Japanese prople for sacirifices even before launching the Pacific War. Japanese propaganda changed some what with the outbreak of the Pacific War. Outside of China, the territories that Japan invaded in the Southern Resoure Zone were European colonies where there was considerable resentment toward Europeans. (The Philippines was different. It was an Anerican commonwealth, but the United States was un the oricess if granting indeoendence.) The Japanese had some success in the European colonies, especially in the Dutch East Indies. The Greater East Asia Co-Propersuty Sphere had a notable exception--China. Japan policies, however, hardly resulted in properit. Instead, Japanese rule resultd in terrible famine. This obviously limited the impact of propaganda efforts. Again, the majoe importance of Japanese propaganda was on their own people, convincing them of the need to make great sacrifices and ultimately for even civilians, including children, to fight to the death.

Propaganda Agency

The Japanese Board of Information (Joho Kyoku) was made up of three divisions. The First Division developed war guidance and propaganda planning and public relations managemnent. The Second Division was given the task of preparing government announcements, newspaper guidance, expositions and exhibitions. They also watched radio broadcasts, motion pictures, drama, and music. They conducted censorship and prepared weekly newspapers and pictorial reviews. The Third Division was resposible for overseas operations, including overseas broadcasts, cultural affairs, and propaganda. One author writes, “... the Japanese developed a close-knit system that combined public relations of both army and navy, all domestic government publishing, complete control of book publishing, magazines, press, radio, and film, propaganda intelligence and over-all psychological warfare.” [Linebarger]

China

With such war efforts, the ability to convince occupied people to support Japan were limited. And in China the behavior of Japanese troops was so barbaric, that any kind effective proppaganda was virtually impossible. The Japabese abnswer was brute force. The Three All campaign showed that majing propagabda in China was a waste of time and effort. There was propaganda after the invasion of Manchuria, but uit was primarily aimed at the Japanese rather than the Chinese or Manchurian people. The Japanese people were not told about the purposes of overseas expansion. Nor were they told about the barbarities being committed abroad by their soldiers. Rather they were told that their soldiers were behaving correctly and that attrocity stories were lies. They were told that Japan was bringing peace and progress to China and ending Chinesec banditrty. This is why the invasion was termed the 'China Incident'. The militarists controlling Japan assumed that seizing China would yoeld boutiful returns. Instead it locked Jaoan into a costyly, intractable war. Thus they had to begin asking the Japanese prople for sacirifices even before launching the Pacific War. Japan could not play the fellow-Asian anti-colonial card in China. China was an indeoendent country. And Japan wanted to di what the Europeans had never done--colonize all of China and nit just the port cities--the Treaty Ports.

Pacific War

Japan employed a range of themes in its propaganda during thecPacific War. They included: 1) Military prowess, 2) European racism, 3) European colonialism, 4) explotive capitalism, 5) and war crimes. Their propaganda did not prove very effecive, especially as the military campaigns faltered after the American naval victory at Midway. And a combination of rapaciosness and incompetence resulted in a collapse of the eonomies of the Southern Resource Zone they seized, including terrible famines causing the death of millions. The one area in which they achieved some success was in attracting support from nationalist leaders who were focused on driving out the Europeans. Many did not understand that the Japanese offers of indepependence were mere propaganda ploys. The Japanese also attacked the Americans and British as plutocrats. And finally, Americans were accsed of war crimes, primarily bombing Civlian targets. The initial Japanese offensive after Pearl Harbor was impressive. Some began to see the Japanese as unstopable. Most had thought that the European presence was too intrenched to challenge. America was the only country preparing the colonial people for independemnce. The Japanese success showed European nationalists how vulnerable the Europeans were. And except in the Phillipines an Vietnam, they were not about to challenge the Japanese. The Japanese military victories ended at Midway (June 1942). This was not yet apparent to the conquered people of the princial Southern Rsource Zone (SRZ) colonies. The colonies (Burma, the DEI, Indo-china, and Malaya) remgained firmly under Japanese control. Racism was another factor. Euroean racism was especially resented. The Japanese presented themselves as fellow Asians. Irt soon became apparentt hat Japanese racism was every bit as stronglty felt, if not more so than European racism. Some in the West were beginning to question racism, this was not the case in Japan. The Japanese in an effort to sell their new role to Asian nationalists, called thrir empire the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (GEACPS). This was a propaganda concept to gain the support of subject peoples in European Asian colonies. The slogan coined by the Japanese was 'Asia for the Asians'. The propaganda image promoted by the Japanese was a grouping of independent Asian nations liberated from Western influences. The attackson British and Americans capitlists/plutocrats was absurd given that the country , but nothing could be more descriptive of Japan, dominated by the zaibatsu and rural landlords. The chrge of war crimes was also absurd. Japanese bombing of Chinese cities was standard practice in China, long before the onset of the Pacific War. The Japanese had no problem with bombing civilians, they just did not want their cities bombed. The Japanese also came up with horrible stories about how American soldiers treated civilians. They were outright lies, but actually accuate decriptions about how the Japanese treated civilians.

Sources

Dower, John W. War without Mercy – Race and Power in the Pacific War New Yoprk: Pantheon Books, 1986).

Linebarger, Paul M. A. Psychological Warfare (Washington Combat Forces Press, Washington D.C, 1948).







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Created: 7:17 AM 7/16/2013
Last updated: 7:18 AM 7/16/2013