Dialogue of Violence: Cinema in WWII’s Pacific Theater

Monday, April 8, 2013

Author: Abé Mark Nornes
Author email address: amnornes@umich.edu
Institution: University of Michigan

“We can’t beat this kind of thing. We make a film like that maybe once in a decade. We haven’t got the actors.”

—Frank Capra, upon watching a captured print of the Japanese war film Chocolate and the Soldier

“Watching Fantasia made me suspect that we were going to lose the war. These guys look like trouble, I thought.”

—Ozu Yasujiro after seeing a captured print in Singapore

Meets: Tuesday & Thursday, 10:00-11:30; Screening: Thursday, 4:00-7:00.

Readings: The readings for this course are generally split between “core,” “primary documents,” and “recommended” readings. Read both sections carefully; they are equally important. Read the core texts critically, and use the tools they provide to analyze the primary texts.

  • Core = texts written by scholars and historians which provide the theoretical and methodological tools for the course.
  • Primary documents = primarily 1 to 2 page items written during the war, including top-secret memorandum, letters, proclomations, congressional testimony, comics, telegrams, oral histories, speeches, photographs, and propaganda leaflets.
  • * (recommended) = short essays on films being shown in class from the book Japan/America Film Wars; these will help you think about and/or remember the films we see in class.

Books: (may be purchased at Shaman Drum Bookstore)

  • Dower=Dower, John. War Without Mercy
  • J/A=Japan/America Film Wars
  • Cook=Cook, Haruko and Theodore Cook. Japan at War: An Oral History
  • Doherty=Doherty, Thomas. Projections of War

Reader: (may be purchased at Accucopy)


  • Participation 10%
  • Annotated Oral History 15%
  • In-class Midterm 20%
  • Yankee Air Force Museum Analysis 20%
  • Research Project with In-class Presentation 15%
  • Take-home final 20%

Participation: This will be a small class so participation and attendance is extremely important. This may include participation on our class list-serve (you must have email for this course). Tardiness and unexcused absences (including missed screenings) will result in a precipitious drop in grades.

Annotated Oral History: You will experience first-hand one of the most important forms of history “writing”: the oral history. This must be edited and annotated, and may form part of the research project. Oral histories from previous courses may be found on our website.

Yankee Air Force Museum Analysis: Ypsilanti is home to one of the more fascinating monuments to WWII culture; we will take a field trip to the museum as a class. Using analytical models from class, you will write an essay about the organization of history in space at the Yankee Air Force Museum. Those unable to make the class trip must visit on their own.

Research Project with In-class Presentation: This may be any kind of historical writing, in the broadest sense. Since it is designed to demonstrate a critical approach to American war culture, you are not restricted to WWII, but I prefer that you avoid earlier periods and nations outside of Asia and North America. Projects may be individual or group, and could include WWW sites, elaborations of oral history, exhibits, video tapes or films, photography and other visual media, aural art, performances, fictional or non-fictio nal writing, etc. Draw on your strengths.


  • Jan 7: What Was/Is WWII?
    • Read: Telegram, Vice Admiral Randall Jacobs, Chief of Naval Personnel to Patrick Francis King (3 Jan. 1945); Letter, James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy to Patrick Francis King (22 Jan. 1945).
    • Songs: “Kiss the Boys Goodbye” (Mary Martin), “You Can’t Say No to a Soldier” (Swing & Sway with Sammy Kaye, vocal by Nancy Norman).
    • Films: Prelude to War: Why We Fight, (1944, 65 min.), Greater East-Asia News #1 (1941, 4 min.), December 7th (Gregg Toland and John Ford, 1943, 34 min. version); Momotaro’s Sea Eagle (1943, 33 min. fragment).
  • Jan 12: Remember December 7th/8th
    • Read: Core: George Lipsitz, Time Passages; Dower (94-117, 293-317). Primary:Congressional testimony of Darryl F. Zanuck on “Propaganda in Motion Pictures (Sept. 1941); “Hollywood to the Wars” (Time Magazine, 22 Dec. 1941); “Speaking of Pictures,” Life (22 Dec. 1941). *: Yamane Sadao, “Greater East-Asia News #1” (J/A); Abe’ Mark Nornes, “December 7th” (J/A); Komatsuzawa Hajime, “Momotaro’s Sea Eagle” (J/A), Abe’ Mark Nornes, “Battle of China” (J/A).
  • Jan 14: Prehistory of War Propaganda
    • Read: Core: Doherty (16-35). Primary: Upton Sinclair, “The Movies and Political Propaganda,” in The Movies on Trial (1936); Memo by Eric Knight defining propaganda (1942).
    • Songs: “Day by Day” (Doris Day), “Blue Moon” (Jo Stafford with her V Disc Boys), “I Left My Heart at the Stagedoor Canteen (Swing & Sway With Sammy Kaye).
    • Films: Why We Fight: Battle of China , (1944, 65 min.), Civilian Victims of Military Brutality (excerpt), Justice (1945, 3 min.), Our Enemy: Japan(20 min.).
  • Jan 19: On the Brink: Japan in China
    • Read: Core: Shimizu Akira, “War and Cinema in Japan” ( J/A, only pp. 7-37), Dower (164-180). Primary: Du Rung Wen (www). *: Abe’ Mark Nornes, “Civilian Victims of Military Brutality” (J/A); “Justice” (J/A).
    • Jan 21: Hollywood’s “Good War”
    • Read: Core: Doherty (60-70, 85-87, 100-121); Dower (15-32). Primary: Tom Collier (www); Speech by John Grierson, “Feeling in Tune—Perhaps Inspired…” (1942, J/A); speeches by Francis Harmon, “Films Fight for Freedom” and “No Blitz Required” (both 1943). “Annual Report of the President, Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc. (26 Mar. 1945). *: Abe’ Mark Nornes, “Kill or Be Killed” (J/A).
    • Songs: “The Marine’s Hymn” (Fred Warring & His Pennsylvanians), “Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans” (Noel Coward)
    • Films: Army-Navy Screen Magazine (circa 1943), Kill or Be Killed, Back to Bataan (Edward Dmytryk, starring John Wayne, 1945), Keep Your Mouth Shut (Normal McLaren, 1944, 3 min.)
  • Jan 26: Japan’s “Holy War”
    • Read: Core: Dower (234-261); Shimizu Akira, “War and Cinema in Japan” ( J/A, only pp. 37-57).
    • Jan 28: The Charms of the War Film
    • Read: Dower (77-93).
    • Songs: “There’s a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere” (Elton Britt), “Praise the Lord & Pass the Ammunition” (Kay Kyser).
    • Films: Private Snafu: Double Snafu (circa 1943), Tokyo Jokio (Bugs Bunny, 1943), Autobiography of a “Jeep” (Irving Lerner, 1943, 10 min.), Tender Comrade (Edward Dmytryk, starring Ginger Rogers and Robert Ryan, 1943).
  • Feb 2: Hegemonies & Ideology I
    • Read: Core: Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy.
    • Feb 4: Hegemonies & Ideology II
    • Read: Core: James Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts; Mimi White, “Ideological Analysis of Television.” Primary: Rhoades Murphey (www).
    • Songs: “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You, Baby” (Harry James & His Orchestra, vocal by Helen Forrest), “Any Bonds Today?” (Kay Kayser & His Orchestra), “Rosie the Riveter” (Allen Miller & His Orchestra)
    • Films: Women in Defense (1941, 10 min.), Women of Steel (circa 1943), Army (Kinoshita Keisuke, starring Tanaka Kinuyo)
  • Feb 9: “Why We Fight”—American Documentary
    • Read: Core: William Murphy, “The United States Government and the Use of Motion Pictures During WWII” (J/A). Primary: Memo, K.E. Lawton to Directorate of Administration (with Enclosure by Frank Capra), (22 August 1942); Letters, Eric Knight to Jere Knight (wife), (July-Aug. 1942).
    • Feb 11: “How We Fight”—Japanese War Film
    • Read: Core: Dower (262-290); Abe’ Mark Nornes, “Dawn of Freedom” (J/A). Primary: Ruth Benedict, “Japanese Films: A Phase of Psychological Warfare,” (Foreign Morale Analysis Division, Office of War Information, 30 March 1944). *: Komatsuzawa Hajime, “Nippon Banzai” (J/A).
    • Songs: “Swingin’ on a Star” (Bing Crosby), “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” (Jimmy Dorsey & His Orchestra).
    • Films: Fury in the Pacific (1945, 18 min.), Fighting Soldiers (aka. Soldiers at the Front, Kamei Fumio, 1939, 60 min.).
  • Feb 16: Kamei Fumio & Cracks in the Hegemony
    • Read: Primary: “G.I.’s v. Hollywood” ( Time, 11 Sept. 1944). *: Yamane Sadao, “Soldiers at the Front” (J/A).
    • Feb 18: Race (&) War
    • Read: Core: Doherty (133-148); Michael Renov, “Warring Images” (J/A). Primary: Charles Siegel (www), James Patterson (www), Arthur Decamp (www); Memo, Donald Young to Frank Capra, “Suggested Motion Picture of the Negro in the U.S. Army”; Leaflet dropped on Japanese villages, “To the Farmers!”; Letter, Attorney General to Secretary of War (5 November 1941); Memo excerpt, C.B. Munson (General Services Administration), “Japanese on the West Coast” (7 Nov. 1941); Letter, Secretary of War to President Roosevelt (5 February 1942); Memo, “Publicity Regarding Alien Detention Camps” (7 February 1942); Letter, David Buck to President Roosevelt (7 July 1943); Resolution, Washington State Elks Assoc. (8 July 1943); List, “Hollywood on the Jap(anese).” *: Abe’ Mark Nornes, “Japanese Relocation” (J/A); Komatsuzawa Hajime, “Superman: Japateurs.”
    • Songs: “The White Cliffs of Dover” (Vera Lynn), “I’ll Be Seeing You” (Jo Stafford with Paul Weston & His Orchestra)
    • Films: Superman: Japateurs (1942, 8 min.), Japanese Relocation (Office of War Information, 1942), Negro Sailor (Stuart Heisler, Frank Capra, 1944), Behind the Rising Sun (Edward Dmytryk, starring Tom Neal and J. Carrol Naish, 1943)
  • Feb 23: “Co-Productions” in the “Co-Prosperity Sphere”
    • Read: Core: Ueno Toshiya, “The Other and the Machine” (J/A). Primary: Leaflet dropped on Japanese troops, “What is a Soldier?” (circa 1944-5).
  • Feb 25: In-class Midterm
    • Films: Nippon Banzai (1943, 10 min.), Target Invisible, Dawn of Freedom (Abe Yutaka & Geraldo de Leon, 1943, 76 min. fragment, Philippines version).
  • Mar 9: War’s End—Nagasaki (and Hiroshima)
    • Read: Core: Tsurumi Shunsuke and Kogawa Tetsuo, “When the Human Beings are Gone.” Primary: Ernie Mansfield (www); Letter Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt (2 August 1939); Petition from 157 scientists working on the atomic bomb (July 1945); Flier dropped on Japanese cities (6 August 1945); “Things Said About the Bomb” (August 1995); Mark Gayn, “Jap Film of Atom Bomb Damage En Route Here (13 May 1946); *: Abe’ Mark Nornes, “Let’s Have a Drink” (J/A); Abe’ Mark Nornes, “Interviews with the Crews of the Enola Gay and Great Artiste” (J/A).


  • Mar 11: Problems of Memory
    • Read: Core: Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory (1952); David Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country. Primary: Leaflet dropped on Japanese troops, “Those Who Wait for You” (circa 1944-5); Speech, John D’Arms (Dean of Rackham School of Graduate Studies, UM, 19 April 1995), “Enola Gay Symposium: Some Uneasy Reflections on the Academy and its Relationship with the Public.”
    • Songs: “Dream” (The Pied Pipers), “Sentimental Journey” (Les Brown & His Orchestra with Doris Day), “He’s Home for a Little While” (Dinah Shore).
    • Films: Let’s Have a Drink (Office of War Information, 1945, 2 min.), Interviews with the Crews of the Enola Gay and Great Artiste (unedited footage, 1945), The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Strategic Bombing Survey & Nippon Eigasha, 1946, shortened version: 45 min.), History and Memory (Rea Tajiri, 1991, 32 min.).
  • Mar 16: Violence into Propaganda—Representations of Atrocity
    • Read: Core: Dower (33-73); Abe’ Mark Nornes, “Cherry Trees and Corpses” (J/A). Primary: George Rex (www); Leaflet dropped on Japanese cities, “A Dream Come True” (1945).
  • Mar 18: Commemorating / Celebrating / Remembering / Forgetting the Atomic Bombings
    • Read: Core: Explore the Web, using the Hiroshima Project as a jumping off point. Primary: Photographs from government photo album, Operations Crossroads (1946); Sgt. Harry Barnard, “Atomic Might”; Joe O’Donnell, “Photographer’s Statement.”
    • Songs: “You Don’t Have to Know the Language” (Lena Horne), “Pennsylvania Polka” (The Andrews Sisters).
    • Films: Pica Don (Kinoshita Renzo and Kinoshita Sayoko, circa 1970s, 3 min.), Crossroads (Bruce Conner, 1976, 36 min.).
  • Mar 23: Spaces of Commemoration: Censorship of “The Last Act”
    • Read: Core: Donna Haraway, Primate Visions. Primary: T.R. Reid, “U.S. A-Bomb Stamp Called ‘Heartless’ ” (10 Aug. 1994); “Debating the Enola Gay” (15 Aug. 1994); Gar Alperovitz, “Questioning Hiroshima” (20 Aug. 1994); Chalmers Roberts, “The Revisionists Err: The Bomb Was to Save Lives” (26 Aug. 1994); “A Debate’s Ground Zero” (26 Oct. 1994); George Will, “Time to End This Assault On the Honor of a Nation” (26 Jan. 1995); “Enola Gay: From Glory to Dishonor: Our Shameful Treatment of the World’s Most Famous Airplane” (Aug. 1995).
  • Mar 25: Apology & Responsibility I
    • Read: Core: Kenneth and Jeffreey Ruoff, “Japan’s Outlaw Filmmaker” and “Filming at the Margins”; Tsurumi Shunsuke, “Cooperative Research on Ideological Transformation” (1959). Primary: Donald Richie and Joseph Anderson, “Imai Tadashi,” in The Japanese Film (1959).
    • Songs: “Rhumboogie” (The Andrews Sisters), “Tess’s Torch Song” (Dinah Shore).
    • Film: Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (Hara Kazuo)
  • Mar 30: Apology & Responsibility II
    • Read: Core: John Dower, “Japan Addresses War Responsibility”; Speech, Robert Dole at 78th National Convention of the American Legion (3 September 1996). Primary: Walter Miyao (www); Tim Golden, “Japanese Deported from South America.”
  • Apr 1: Channels of Commemoration: Gulf War and Beyond
    • Read: Core: TBA
    • Songs: “I Fall in Love Too Easily” (Rod McKuen), “Comin’ In On a Wing and a Prayer” (Ambrose, vocal by Anne Shelton).
    • Films: Something Strong Within (Robert Nakamura, 1994, 40 min.), Rabbit in the Moon (Emiko Omori, 1998, ? min.), The Gulf Conflict 1991: A Television History (19 min.).
  • Apr 6: Hollywood Returns to the Good War
    • Read: Core: To be decided; Homework: outside viewing of Starship Troopers, Private Ryan, and Thin Red Line.
  • Apr 8: Class presentations of projects
    • Films: Class projects
  • Apr 13: Class presentations of projects
  • Apr 15: Conclusion & Review (Museum paper due at beginning of class)
    • Films: To be decided by class discussion.
  • Apr 20: Special Guest