Out of Context: How to Make Bad History Worse | World War 2

Out of Context: How to Make Bad History Worse | World War 2



There are a number of myths and counter myths
involving the end World War 2. It was Russia declaring war, and not the atomic
bombs, that convinced Japan to surrender. Not dropping the bombs would have cost hundreds
of thousands of American lives during the invasion. But perhaps my favorite is the leaflets. Critics of the use of the atomic bomb make
it sound like the bombs weren’t dropped out of necessity, but some sort of bloodthirsty
rage or even morbid curiosity. “And they haven’t used the bomb yet and
were curious to see if it works, so they drop it on Japan. They actually dropped two.” But they leave out the fact that in the weeks
prior to the bombing, the US dropped leaflets on three dozen Japanese cities warning civilians
that these cities would be bombed and to evacuate. Including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Critics of the leaflets point out that they
didn’t specifically say atomic bomb and that the picture is of B-29s dropping firebombs. But remember, this is 1945. Atomic bomb wasn’t really in anyone’s
vocabulary, so explicitly saying atomic bomb wouldn’t really make sense to the – forgive
the pun here – target audience. And what difference would it make? This is Tokyo after being firebombed and this
is Hiroshima after being atomic bombed. It doesn’t matter whether it’s one bomb
or hundreds, the effect is basically the same. In fact, more people died in Tokyo than Hiroshima
or Nagasaki. After Hiroshima, we started dropping leaflets
specifically saying “We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised
by man. If you still have any doubt, make inquiry
as to what happened to Hiroshima.” This was somewhat of a bluff though since
we only had the two and we used both of them, we wouldn’t have another one for several
weeks… but they didn’t know that. A few weeks ago I was asked by…. Fiosracht? To respond to a twitter rant regarding Winston
Churchill. I won’t respond to the entire thing in this
video, but link down below. It got me thinking about the many ways that
people pluck out pieces of history, maybe dust off the context and embellish parts in
order to make it fit the story they want to tell. While the twitter thread itself never mentions
it, several others commented that Winston Churchill didn’t care about Australia and
said things like “let the Japanese have it.” Australians often call it the Great Betrayal
and this is somewhat of a mischaracterization. After the Fall of France in 1940, when the
Battle of Britain started, the British met with the Americans to figure out a strategy
for World War 2. They agreed on two major points. The Atlantic and European areas were the “decisive
theater” and as such would be the primary focus of US military efforts. A defensive strategy in the Far East/Pacific. This is commonly referred to as the Germany
First plan. There was no plan to cede territory to the
Japanese just get it back later, in fact one of the sub-points was
The security of the British Commonwealth must be maintained in all circumstance including
the retention of a Far East position. Both the US and Britain agreed that since
Nazi Germany was rapidly expanding and on Britain’s doorstep, that it was the greatest
threat and even the backbone of the Axis powers. And so it should be the primary focus of the
war. But the US wasn’t in the war yet. We were not-so-covertly helping Britain, France,
and Russia, but not officially. Of course, all of that changed on December
7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy. There is seriously so much to say about Pearl
Harbor, but I would like to focus on the conspiracy theory that FDR let Pearl Harbor happen in
order to justify getting into the war. This is a real conspiracy theory, you can
look it up, there are dozens of videos and books on the topic. The main problem here is that they’re focusing
on just Pearl Harbor. Like they have historical tunnel vision or
something. To be fair, when we look back, that’s the
only one we talk about since it was on the front page of every newspaper and it even
got entire Michael Bay explosions devoted to it. In the December 7th, 1941, a date which will
live in infamy speech given by Jon Voight in that movie, he says… “The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands
has caused severe damage to American military forces. I regret to tell you that over 3000 American
lives have been lost.” Which makes it seem like Hawaii was the only
place that was attacked. But as accurate as that movie is, that’s
an abridged version of the speech. “I regret to tell you that very many American
lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported
torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu. Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched
an attack against Malaya. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong
Kong. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine
Islands. Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway
Island. Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise
offensive extending throughout the Pacific area.” Saying FDR let Pearl Harbor happen is a myopic
view of history that strips away the fact that dozens of islands and countries across
the Pacific were all attacked at once. Pearl Harbor was by far the most important
to the American military, but certainly not the only one. American entry into World War 2 was inevitable
at this point. FDR didn’t need to sacrifice nearly every
US territory in the Pacific, thousands of American lives, five battleships and about
a dozen other smaller ships to justify it. Ah, but what about the carriers? Stan, mmk. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor,
aircraft carriers were still somewhat of a novelty and curiosity. We only had 3 in the Pacific Fleet. The undisputed pride of the US Navy was its
battleships, 8 of which were in Pearl Harbor on that day. The primary objective of the Japanese attack
in Pearl Harbor was to disable the battleships – they launched the attack knowing that
the carriers weren’t in the harbor, and not caring, because they weren’t seen as
important. A major part of the conspiracy is that the
carriers weren’t at Pearl Harbor. Suggesting that FDR thought they were more
important than any admiral moved them so they wouldn’t be destroyed in the coming attack. So where were they? The USS Lexington was delivering dive bombers
to Midway. The USS Saratoga was in San Diego. And the USS Enterprise had just finished delivering
a squadron of fighters to Wake Island and was returning to Pearl Harbor that morning. Many of its fighters actually participated
in Pearl Harbor’s defense ahead of the carrier’s arrival. Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett weren’t the
only ones flying around that day. All of these missions were planned separately,
weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The reason people find this suspicious is
because aircraft carriers were key to our victory over Japan. This is historical hindsight at its worst. Think about it, what did we have left after
Pearl Harbor? Since all of our battleships were either damaged
or sunk. Aircraft carriers. So we were forced to use what we had left,
and we suddenly realized that these former novelty items were actually pretty dang useful. Once America declared war on Japan, anti-Japanese
sentiment exploded. Americans were suspicious of any Japanese
person living in America, thinking they might be spies or saboteurs… which… remember this scene from Pearl Harbor? Yeah, that actually happened, his name was
Tadashi Morimura, or actually Takeo Yoshikawa. Though, we didn’t find out about him until
well after the war. Suspicions and racial tensions were excessively
high and as a result, FDR signed an executive order that moved all people of Japanese ancestry
from the western states to internment camps in the interior of the country. Many people, who want to make this event sound
as bad as possible, will call them concentration camps. And I guess by literal definition, they could
be considered concentration camps. But also by literal definition, if you try
to kill more than one person, that’s genocide. It’s the connotation, the background meaning
that’s evoked when you hear the phrase that’s important. When you hear concentration camp, you think
of that one specific concentration camp. When they weren’t at all comparable in terms
of purpose or end result. These weren’t labor camps or death camps. In fact more people came out of the camps
than went in. Yes, people died, but the death toll in the
internment camps was actually no higher than the outside civilian population, and there
were more births than deaths. “Adults could work if they wanted to, for
a measly salary of $5 a day.” Five dollars a day sounds awfully low. But we’re in 2018. They were paid five dollars in 1942 money,
which is almost 80 dollars today. To put that into perspective, a private in
the US military in 1942 made 50 dollars a month. “Measly” is an added adjective to make
it sound worse. I’m not saying the conditions weren’t
awful, but Internment Camp is a perfectly accurate term for what they were. As awful as Heart Mountain, Wyoming might’ve
been, it wasn’t Auschwitz. When you exaggerate everything, you diminish
everything. When everything is the worst thing that ever
happened, nothing is. We should all be able to agree that both internment
camps and concentration camps were both bad – but one of them was clearly worse. The camps were absolutely racially motivated
and without any hard evidence of military necessity. Two-thirds of the internees were US citizens
and I’m willing to bet all of them were loyal to the United States. I personally don’t agree with it, but when
it’s put into the wider historical context, I can at least try to understand it. But I’m saying that with 2018 Hindsight. Get it? Instead of 20/20? I thought it was funny. When talking about the Japanese Internment
Camps, people often point to Hawaii as an odd example. Since that’s where the Pearl Harbor attack
happened, and over a third of the population was Japanese and they weren’t rounded up
into camps. They usually say something to the effect of
how devastating it would have been to the economy. “The military governor of Hawaii actually
said, please don’t do this you can’t do it, it’s impractical, we could never pull
it off and you’re going to wreck the territory’s economy. Just leave it alone.” Did you catch that? Because it’s really subtle. “The military governor”
Hawaii did have an internment camp, it only held about 1400 people but more importantly,
the entire island was placed under martial law. As in, barbed wire on the beach, tanks in
the streets, freaks in sheets, martial law. Hawaii wasn’t some liberal paradise where
everyone got along in racial harmony despite the war. There were travel restrictions, no radio stations,
curfews, and a blackout. Which meant that you had to cover all doors
and windows, you weren’t allowed to light fires or drive around with your headlights
on at night. This was done so that Japanese bombers flying
overhead wouldn’t be able to find their targets. Not that they ever tried bombing at night,
but still. They even printed special money just for Hawaii
so that if it ever got invaded, the US Government could immediately render it useless. So just saying that Hawaii didn’t have a
camp and they didn’t round up all the Japanese is inaccurate. Because the entire territory was on military
lockdown, like one giant internment camp. But, there were some Japanese Americans, mostly
from Hawaii, who joined the military. “One of the last German units to see action
in World War 2 was the 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division, which participated in the defense
of central Berlin. And that was comprised of French volunteers. And of course, some Japanese people fought
for America in the Second World War. The 442nd Infantry Regiment of the United
States Army was made up almost entirely of soldiers of Japanese ancestry.” These two units are not at all comparable. The 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division was made
up of French people, from France, fighting for the Germans, against France. The 442nd Infantry Regiment was made up of
Japanese people, from America, fighting for America, against… the Germans. Yeah, the reason why is actually both smart
and a little racist. They were assigned to Europe not because they
were worried that the Japanese would defect, but because they were worried that other American
soldiers would mistake them for the enemy. There weren’t a lot of enemy Japanese people
running around Europe at the time so… yeah. They were American soldiers fighting for America,
they weren’t at all traitors to their nation. In the aftermath of World War 1, when the
Ottoman Empire was broken up, Britain got control of a large section of the Middle East. It’s actually a pretty interesting story,
someone should make a video about that. Would you like to know more? The very first tweet in that Churchill rant
is about the British occupation of Afghanistan. But Afghanistan’s not part of the Middle
East. Alright, Stan, mmk. “While he was there Churchill discovered
his passion for war and viewed the Pashtuns as beneath him. Going so far as saying that ‘all who resist
will be killed without quarter.’ That they ‘needed to recognize the superiority
of race” “He wrote about how ‘We systematically,
village by village, destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers,
cut down the great shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive
devastation.” This makes Churchill look pretty bad, right? Well here’s a question for you – what
year is this? He rather conveniently leaves that information
out, because it’s 1897. 1897 isn’t even close to World War 2. Stan, mmk. Churchill is a 22 year old war
correspondent for the Telegraph, he’s not exactly the Prime Minister or in charge of…
anything. And everything he was quoted as saying is
wartime propaganda – we do the exact same thing in every single war. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen,
I am guided by the beauty of our weapons. And they are beautiful pictures of fearsome
armaments. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, I’m
just saying it makes a lot more sense when you put it in context. “Churchill was ‘Secretary of State for
the Colonies’ in ’21. This is when he decided air power was superior
to troops on the ground and he bombed the s*** out of any resistance”
He advocated for the use of the air force rather than troops because it was cheaper. No other reason really. “’I am strongly in favour of using poisoned
gas against the uncivilized tribes, it would spread a lively terror.’” But that isn’t the full quote is it? … No, it isn’t:
“I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the
loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly
gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror
and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.” He advocated for the use of non-lethal tear
gas to subdue rebellions. It’s pretty important to note that they
never actually used any gas – of any kind. He just kind of suggested it. But there is one Arab Revolt that he doesn’t
bring up – The Anglo-Iraqi War. The thing about revolts and independence movements
in the middle of a war is that you never really know who’s behind it. Is it a natural uprising from within – or
is it being funded and supported by your enemy? The Germans did this a lot. In fact, during World War 1 they tried it
in Afghanistan against the British, which didn’t work. They tried to get Mexico to start a war with
the United States in order to keep the Americans occupied and out of Europe. Which also didn’t work. In order to get Russia out of the war, they
funded and sent Vladimir Lenin to Moscow to start an internal coup. Which did work, rather famously actually. And Spain didn’t participate in WW2, because
it had just finished fighting an internal civil war, supported by… the Nazis. So it shouldn’t surprise you to find out
that the leader of the Iraqi revolt was the Ba’ath Party, yes, the same Ba’ath Party
that this guy was part of. Supported by, say it with me – Germany…
or the Nazis, whichever one you said. Revolts and independence movements during
a war are never a good idea for this very reason – they’re going to crack down on
you even harder. You can’t pick and choose revolts that you
think were unjustly put down while ignoring the ones you now know were justly put down,
because you’re coming at it with 70 plus years of extra knowledge. In the moment, whether it’s funded by the
enemy or a natural uprising of the people, it all looks the same. I got a lot of flak for saying that during
my video on Gandhi, and I got comments like this, saying
“No reason why a country can’t fight for independence instead of waging a war in Europe.” India wasn’t fighting in Europe, they were
fighting in India. Indians were fighting against the Japanese,
who were right here, this is India. So when the enemy is right on your doorstep
and you start demanding independence… it raises some questions is all I’m saying. But the twitter rant mentions India as well. “He orchestrated a mass genocide in Bengal.” “It was a famine in the same sense that
we had a famine over here. He starved over 4 million Bengalis in 1943.” It’s actually two million, not that makes
it any better. This bit right here is Bengal, it’s part
of India and also happens to be the front line. So food was often shipped back from the front
line or reserved for the military, and whenever the Japanese would advance they’d burn it
all so that it wouldn’t be captured. So there was a famine. “Churchill refused all said to Bengal. Canada and US offered rice and he refused.” What? Your first clue that this is false should
be that Canada and the US aren’t exactly known for their bountiful agriculture of rice. They offered wheat, not rice. But Churchill declined because it would take
two months to ship it and that’s assuming it made it through all of this mess. The United States didn’t offer anything,
that part is just plain made up. In fact, in 1944 when Churchill wrote to FDR
asking for help, saying “I am seriously concerned about the food
situation in India… I have had much hesitation in asking you to
add to the great assistance you are giving us with shipping but a satisfactory situation
in India is of such vital importance to the success of our joint plans against the Japanese
that I am impelled to ask you to consider a special allocation of ships to carry wheat
to India.” FDR refused, for the exact same reasons that
Churchill decline Canada’s offer. Instead, Churchill ordered Australia to ship
350,000 tons of wheat, although the reallocation of ships was still an issue given the upcoming
Normandy invasion. The writer of these tweets, and indeed many
of the other things I’ve mentioned, seems to want to pluck these events out of World
War 2 and talk about them as if they were the only thing going on at the time. It’s only when you put it in the larger
context that things make sense. This isn’t always nefarious, it has a lot
to do with just how we tell stories. Nobody wants to hear about the second worst
time something happened. Just like with people, we want to label events
as either good or bad. But that’s not interesting enough, it also
has to be the worst. Not everyone was as bad as Hitler and not
everything was as bad as the Holocaust. The actual history is bad enough on its own. Exaggerating or embellishing, or cherrypicking
things out of context casts doubt on the rest of history. Especially if the person ever finds out that
there’s more to the story. So the next time you see someone being labeled
as a genocidal maniac… Gee, where have I heard that before… or
hear that people were rounded up into concentration camps, maybe look into the story a little
more because now, you know better.

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell

48 Comments

  1. Recent comments by a congressperson have made my statements on the differentiation between internment/concentration camps relevant again, please see my full statement here: https://www.reddit.com/r/KnowingBetter/comments/c306qb/regarding_aocs_concentration_camp_comments/

    I would like to make it clear that this isn't a defense of all of Churchill's actions – he was an absolute imperialist and undeniable racist. Nor am I defending the internment camps – that was one of America's most shameful acts. Rather, this is a defense of historical context.

    Correction: The segment regarding Internee pay is based on an incorrect source – they were in fact paid an average of $14 a month in 1942 money. However, the point of that segment is to focus in on the added word "measly."

  2. You made it look like the civil war in Spain was caused by the nazis but the nazis didn't create the civil war, they just supported the nationalist part. Mostly because the sovjets supported the socialist part.

  3. i am Japanese
    stop this topic
    USA need not apologize for japan

    USA rescue Japanese touhoku Mega earthquake

  4. Noncontroversial opinion (because this is the fucking internet), but we should have mass produced tf out of those fuckers and lit the entire fucking island nation on fire. Everything except the city where the emperor was.

  5. 3:21 "What on earth is that bowl of cherries all about? That's the second time it's been shown! What is that, someone is picking out a cherry…oh! Cherry picking!" LOL!

  6. I really like your videos and this one as well, but the Shaun clip is taken way out of context. He isn't comparing the two army units or trying to equate them, he is arguing against some stupid MRA who thinks that women are inherently disloyal to "the tribe"(whatever that is supposed to mean), while men are superior because they always stay loyal to their tribe. Shaun then uses the Waffen-SS unit and the american regiment to show that this statement is false. He isn't equating anything and it feels a little dishonest to frame it as such.

  7. Great video! Except at the beginning you state that fire bombing and an atomic bomb are the same in effect. While the initial effects are very similar, the atomic bomb has had lasting negative effects upon civilians due to radiation fallout and it's this (as well as their efficiency) that makes nuclear weaponry so much worse than conventional explosive ordnance. Other than that, awesome stuff. Love your channel, very informative and well written.

  8. At 8:11 "and by literal definition, If you kill more than one person then that's genocide." It's not. Genocide is the killing of and entire group or race of people with the intention of erasing that entire group. Killing more than one person is mass murder. Doing it with the purpose of eradicating a specific group is attempted genocide. Also, trying to say that a concentration camp isn't a concentration camp, because it's not as bad as another group of concentration camps somewhere else makes no sense.

  9. There were also Italian and German internment camps during that time: it was for all Axis Powers. Japanese are most known, again, from the 'playing the victim'. Here in Texas though, we have a sizeable German populous, especially in the central region of the state. Our local fairgrounds, of this small coastal county, was not just a POW camp for submariners caught off shore. BTW, the nco's were given a choice after the war: return or stay…our population increased.

  10. I wonder if these camps were more for the protection of these people from the general public than racially motivated.

  11. Nazi Germany – Killed 11-20 million innocent people in literal death camps
    Japan – Slaughtered, raped, and tortured millions of Chinese civilians and POWs, also slaughtered and tortured thousands of American and British POWs
    Russia – See the two above but switch out the victims for Poles and Germans.
    America – Bombed legitimate military targets resulting in unintentional civilian casualties, put their Japanese immigrant and descendant population into camps temporarily after a surprise attack from Japan, no evidence exists of any attempt to exterminate the Japanese population, or to use them as slave labour for the war machine(which both Germany and Russia did on a massive scale)

    You would have to be a monumental, blithering, mouth breathing simpleton to think that the Allies were even CLOSE to being on the same level as the Axis or USSR.

  12. I'm not saying the the pacific fleet was bait, but saying it is not because the Japanese attacked many places at the same time is not at all a sound reasoning for it not being bait.

  13. What if we developed an atomic bomb months before dropping it on Hiroshima and we actually dropped in on Berlin, before the Soviets got there?

  14. I think you're too prickly about the use of concentration camp as a term. I think to rope it off to mean only the Nazi camps or camps of that horrific magnitude, or that we must be ringing the Holocaust bell if we use it, I think that robs us of a useful term. There are plenty of other names of the labor and death camps that set them apart. I do not think we need to be squeamish about calling something a concentration camp if it fits the literal definition. We should be squeamish about being responsible for things that fit the literal definition, whatever the fuck we're calling them.

  15. Aircraft Carriers vs Battleships in 1942: You couldn't have attempted the battles of Coral Sea and Midway without carriers. If the US Pacific battleships had survived Pearl Harbour they would have played little role in both battles. Yet in the battles around Guadalcanal it was the carriers that had little purpose and what the USN really needed was those missing Battlewagons. If they were considered expendable in Dec 1941, someone hadn't planned ahead.

  16. 12:20 Saying that the practicalities of making comrades more easily distinguishable from the enemy by sending them to a different part of the world is even a little racist makes you sound like one of those people out looking for trouble. Just like the conspiracy theorists you are debunking, nothing more than a different side of the same coin.

    Anyway I don't think the Japanese-American unit's were sent to Europe for this reason; Given the choice having soldiers fight people who look more like them than most of their comrades isn't wise as the psychological burden on them is increased greatly. The plain fact is that most Japanese look much more like each other than they look like the majority of Europeans or Americans. You can say that's racist if you like but this is just how the human mind works, regardless of race or indeed an individual's racial prejudice.

  17. For someone who "knows better", you sure give a pretty weak and oversimplified argument for why internment camps were justified. It almost sounds like you're saying that the camps were meant to "protect" the Japanese from angry whites! Mischaracterizing one of the most shameful episodes in american history like this is frankly revolting.

  18. 1:15 be careful with casualties after A-Bombing… loads of people died days, weeks, monthes, years AFTER the atomic bombings….
    from residual radiations, from eating irradiated food, from cancer….

  19. Grateful Dead, Cumberland Blues: "Make good money, five dollars a day

    If I made any more I might move away…"

  20. So, just so you know, Bill Wurtz doesn't mean everything he says literally. No but seriously, you talk kind of fast and I find myself rewinding to clarify what you said. Which is fine but if there's something you really want us to hear, I suggest finding a way to repeat yourself that's not too dramatic.

  21. I can’t say this video has done much to sway my opinion on Churchill, while I deny the idea he was a genocidal maniac he certainly wasn’t the brave hero many portray him to be. Being Irish I have particularly questionable words to describe Churchill, an absolute cunt to begin with and the reason I say this is because he organized the first battalions of quite possibly one the most infamous paramilitary groups ever (at least in Irish history) The Black and Tans. He gathered old WW1 veterans gave them armored cars and guns and basically said scare these people into submission resulting the Irish population being terrorized by these troops. Not to mention his military blunders such as the Galipoli campaign of WW1 but I suppose it all just comes down to personal opinion, just be sure to take things like these into account when judging someone’s character and if you still see Churchill as a hero then that’s fine but just don’t expect me to agree with you.

  22. I dont think Internmeant camps where shamefull to the US. More just proof FDR was a terrible President.

  23. I've watched 2 of your videos and now I know better. Time to watch anime as I process this information

  24. I really have to object to your suggestion that Aircraft Carriers were seen as a "novelty" and "not the primary target" of pearl harbour. The Japanese Navy's main strike force, the Kido Butai, was made up of six aircraft carriers and just two battleships. Japan knew better than most, better than America certainly, the power of the carrier, but America knew that these were useful tools or they wouldn't have built them. As some of the largest ships in the fleet it is completely absurd and extremely misleading to say that they were thought of as somehow frivolous.

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