Japan's Air Self-Defense chief fired over essay on wartime history

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Chief of Staff Toshio Tamogami of Japan Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) was dismissed on last Friday. General Tamogami, age 60, lost his post after his essay for a contest was made public on that day to show his views contradicting the government's official standpoint, as to Japan's deeds during a period of its imperialistic past. Tamogami, a graduate of the National Defense Academy, joined ASDF in 1971, and became Chief of Staff in March 2007.

Tamogami laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery in the US in August 2008.
Image: United States Air Force.

The essay includes a claim that it is a false accusation to describe Japan as the aggressor in connection with the war in China and World War II. Tamogami also challenges the ban on Japan's exercise of collective self-defense and the restrictions on use of weapons by Self-Defense Forces (SDF).

Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada soon decided to dismiss Tamogami from the post, deeming that the opinion expressed in Tamogami's essay was inconsistent with the government's position, and that it should not have been publicly expressed by an officer of his rank. The government's official standpoint is reflected in the Murayama Statement of 1995, which was delivered by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on the 50th anniversary of the war's end. It states that Japan advanced along the road to war "to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis," and "through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries"; these are described as "irrefutable facts of history." The Murayama Statement has been upheld by succeeding Prime Ministers.

Do you think that the government was right to fire General Tamogami?

Reportedly Tamogami in the essay justifies Japan's deeds during the period, describing Japan as a "victim" that was drawn into the Sino-Japanese War by Chiang Kai-shek, who led Kuomintang party at that time. He blames the United States for a "trap" that forced Japan into starting the war between the two countries. He also says "we need to realize that many Asian countries take a positive view of the Greater East Asia War," claiming that the local people in the Korean Peninsula and the former Manchuria were liberated from oppression and their standard of living markedly improved, under Japan's colonial rule.

Tamogami apparently skipped a procedure, which is provided by a Ministry's internal rule, of obtaining pre-publication permission for an essay by an SDF member. Tamogami submitted this essay with a title meaning "Was Japan an aggressor nation?" for an essay contest hosted by a Tokyo-based company, and won the top prize.