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I hate to see these atrocity stories start and grow. Our experience in the last war shows that most of them are not true, but the very talking of these stories brings more atrocities on both sides of the war.
It’s not clear which incidents Charles Lindbergh had in mind when he wrote his diary entry for April 7, 1942. That morning’s edition of the New York Times included accusations of biological warfare against Chinese civilians and a brief report of Japanese soldiers looting a church in that same country. Or Lindbergh might have been thinking of early allegations of Japanese mistreatment of prisoners of war — e.g., the fifty British POWs bayonetted at Hong Kong the prior month. (The Bataan Death March started two days after this diary entry.) The historical record testifies amply to Japanese atrocities in World War II, but it’s striking that in 1942 the most famous American in the world was prepared not only to dismiss such reports as propaganda, but to believe his countrymen capable of their own barbarism:
Soldiers - Japanese - Cruelty - Tendency - Cruelty
Our own soldiers are not immune to cruelty, much as we like to think they are, and when they hear of Japanese cruelty, they have a tendency to inflict cruelty on the Japanese they capture… Nothing the Japanese could do to Americans would be worse than what some Americans are saying we should do to the Japanese. We like to think we are a civilized people but the fact is we are as far from being civilized as most of the people we condemn.
So it’s notable how often the tiny handwriting of Lindbergh’s wartime journal describes American atrocities that he learned about during his secret deployment to the South Pacific in 1944. Typical is this entry from June 28, when he was stationed at Hollandia:
Lindbergh is far...
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