Earlier this month, a Gatestone Institute reader, Goh Heung Yong, submitted a comment in which he noted:
No one should forget that it was America's strength for freedom, that freed just about all of Asia from Japanese occupation. Her power for peace liberated half of Europe and kept Stalin's predatory advance at bay. America still is that shining beacon for freedom and civilized existence.
His astute observation reveals a number of important insights regarding the historic role of the United States during World War II. While much of our attention is often drawn to the European theater of operations, America fought a two-front war. The Pacific theater was a literal fight-to-the-finish as our Marines, Army, Navy and Army Air Corps created a ring of steel around the Japanese Empire intent on fighting for every square inch of land. America won in the Pacific at enormous cost, and only the use of two atomic weapons finally brought the conflict to an end.
What few Americans appreciate was the path of destruction and litany of war crimes committed by the Japanese Empire throughout their zone of occupation, which included huge swaths of China.
Historians have documented their crimes; these included repeated massacres of civilians and prisoners of war, sexual slavery, human experimentation, forced labor and starvation. While those crimes occurred wherever the Emperor's soldiers occupied Asia, China bore the brunt of Japan's assault on humanity. Historians estimate that from 1937 to 1945, nearly 4 million Chinese, mostly civilians, were killed as a direct result of Japanese violence.
Among the horrifying examples of Japanese atrocities was the Nanjing Massacre, where, in the Chinese capital of that era, civilians endured six weeks of mass rape, looting, arson and murder at the hands of Japanese forces.
Had the United States not defeated Japan, a likely scenario would have seen China subjugated for generations to come, the victim of unspeakable crimes that Imperial Japan would have sustained as a matter of government policy.
There is no small irony that a nation that now seeks to confront the United States through veiled military confrontation, industrial espionage, and the intimidation of those embracing democracy, was rescued by the U.S. from the horrors of Imperial Japan nearly 80 years ago. It was not lost on Goh Heung Yong, nor should it be a lost footnote in Beijing.