World War II: Race--Asia

Japanese ware crime and attricities
Figure 1.--America largely fought the Pacific war. The American commitment to Asia--the CBI Theater was limited, but not absent. Here we see an Anerican serviceman India. The press caption read, "No caste system here!: As more and more American troops are landing in India, the caste system there is going more and more by the board'. To the Yanks, born in a democracy where there is no such thing as 'untouchable', the caste system means little and they fraternize easily with the natives -- who reciprocate willingly. Here Sgt. Douglas Radney, USA, from Mineola, Texas, stops to chat with an Indian boy of the untouchable caste, 'somewhere in India'. The youngster was fascinated by the attention paid to him by the American, and he and his pals would follow the Sergeant around repeating 'okedoke' and other bits of U.S. slang and laughing continuously." (passed by censors.) The photograph was dated January 27, 1943. The newspaper caption ignores racial issues in America, but does bring up the racial problems in India. And India was not the only Asian country with strong racist sentiment.

Discussions of racism in World War II primarily focus on the German NAZIs. A central tenant of Fascism was hyper-nationalism and with it racism. The NAZIs were only the most extreme manifestation of this. And the Allies also had racist sentiments as well. All to commonly ignored are the racist attitudes prevalent in Asia. This is a complicated issue given the number of countries involved, but racist feelings were prevalent in the three major countries and many smaller countries as well. Chinese racism existed, but was not a major factor in the War. The Chinese from the start of the War were on the defensive and not involved in occupying other countries. India was a British colony. Again Indian racism was not an important factor in the War, but very strong racist sentiment existed in India. People with lighter complexions had greater status and skin color was an important factor in I ndian marriages. India is a large country and racist attitudes varies regionally and toward people from different regions. And of course untouchability was a major problem. This was a caste, but there were racial overlaps as many untouchables had darker skin that the higher-status castes. The Japanese had very strong racist attitudes. While professing pan-Asian values, in fact they looked down on other Asian peoples, a factor in their savage behavior in China and conquered Asian countries. Japanese atrocities like the Rape of Nanking are hard to imagine without a racial component. Another country with strong racist attitudes was Iran. The country changed its name from Persia to Iran before the war, in part to emphasize the Aryan origins of the Persian people.

China

Chinese racism existed, but was not a major factor in the War. The Chinese from the start of the War were on the defensive and not involved in occupying other countries.

India

India was a British colony. Again Indian racism was not an important factor in the War, but very strong racist sentiment existed in India. People with lighter complexions had greater status and skin color was an important factor in Indian marriages. India is a large country and racist attitudes varies regionally and toward people from different regions. And of course untouchability was a major problem. This was a caste, but there were racial overlaps as many untouchables had darker skin that the higher-status castes. Another factor in India was British racial attitudes. A reader points out, "There was a huge difference between the British and the Americans in regards to relations with the Indian people." Many Brits looked down on the Indian people. Clubs and other faciluities catering to the Brits did not admit Indians. Even Indian soldiers fighting with the British were treated differntly than the British, this affected wages, rations, recreational facilities, and other maters. We also suspect that race was a facror in the terrible, and preventable, Bengal Famine. This was a huge stain on the British war effort.

Iran

Another country with strong racist attitides was Iran. The country changed its name from Persia to Iran before the war, in part to emphasize the Aryan origins of the Persian people. Iran also flirted with the NAZIs. It is difficult to assess the notivations and separate out racism from geo-political issues such as balancong out British and Soviet influences. We know that the Shah gave refuge to the Grand Mufti in his campaign against the British and Jews in Palestine. From Iran he went on to Italyand Germany where he spebt the War encouraging Himmler to kill more Jews.

Japan

The Japanese had very strong racist attitudes. They were an Axis country and determined to benefit from the War, in particular to finally complete their conquest of China. While professing pan-Asian values, in fact they looked down on other Asian peoples, a factor in their savage behavior in China and conquered Asian countries. Japanese atrocities like the Rape of Nanking are hard to imagine without a racial component.








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Created: 6:14 AM 3/4/2014
Last updated: 5:27 PM 3/4/2014