Openendedsocialstudies has a unit for teaching middle or high school classrooms about the history of Nicaragua, the Sandinistas, and controversial leader Daniel Ortega. Find free readings, guided questions, and lesson plan ideas on the following subjects:
A Basic History of Nicaragua: A basic overview of Nicaraguan history and culture through the end of the modern period, with a focus on the post-colonial period.
William Walker, the Grey-Eyed Man of Destiny: William Walker was an American who organized several private military expeditions into Latin America with the intention of establishing English-speaking colonies under his personal control, an enterprise then known as “filibustering.”
Augusto Sandino, National Hero: From 1927 until 1933, Gen. Augusto César Sandino led a sustained guerrilla war first against the Conservative regime and subsequently against the U.S. Marines, whom he fought for over five years. He was referred to as a “bandit” by the United States government; his exploits made him a hero throughout much of Latin America, where he became a symbol of resistance to United States’ domination.
The Sandinistas: The Sandinista National Liberation Front – also called the Sandinistas – are a former guerrilla army and ruling party of Nicaragua. Following a decade of single party rule, they submitted to free and fair elections in 1990, ushering in Nicaragua’s current period of period of peace, democratic stability, and relative prosperity after decades of corrupt dictatorship, civil war, and domination by the U.S. and its corporations.
One great way for students to develop a deeper understanding of a concept is to have them teach others.
Choose any section from this unit and develop a lesson – in the form of a presentation, a storybook, or a worksheet – that teaches younger students about some aspect of Nicaragua’s history. Make sure the material is age appropriate in content and approach, and create some simple questions to check your audience’s understanding.
Find more free lessons on Nicaragua at Openendsocialstudies.org.
There are also plenty of free lessons featuring other peoples from world history.
Aside from fire, what other examples of indigenous Americans shaping their environment does Denevan cite? Follow one of the links in the relevant portion of this passage and explain one of these techniques or accomplishment in greater detail.
Why did so many Europeans and their descendants fail to recognize the ways that Native Americans purposefully shaped the land?
How did Native Americans use fire?
How did Europeans achieve the same or similar goals using different techniques?
Could any of these Native American techniques be applied today?
The Pristine Myth
“There were not really very many of these redmen … the land seemed empty to invaders who came from settled Europe . . . that ancient, primeval, undisturbed wilderness . . . the streams simply boiled with fish … so much game . . . that one hunter counted a thousand animals near a single salt lick … the virgin wilderness of Kentucky … the forested glory of primitive America.” – John Bakeless, The Eyes of Discovery, 1950.
In fact, Bakeless’s portrayal of Native Americans as passive in their environment – as little more than wild animals inhabiting a niche in an ecosystem – couldn’t be more wrong. Various groups of Native Americans shaped North and South America for millennia before modern Americans started paving the forests to put up parking lots.
Historical ecologist William M. Denevan was one of the first scholars to recognize and describe the ways in which Native Americans, just like Europeans, shaped the environments in which they found themselves. In a seminal book, he called the idea that Native Americans had not significantly impacted the landscape of the Americas prior to the arrival of Europeans “the pristine myth.” To support his case, Denevan cited the many mounds, causeways, roads, terraces, and cultivated forests in both North and South America – as well as ample evidence that Native Americans used fire as a versatile tool to control and shape their environment.
Purposefully set fires helped promote valuable resources and habitats that sustained indigenous cultures, economies, traditions, and livelihoods. The cumulative ecological impacts of Native American fire use over time has resulted in a mosaic of grasslands and forests across North America that was once widely perceived by early European explorers, trappers, and settlers as untouched, pristine wilderness.
It is now recognized that the original American landscape was already humanized at the time that the first Europeans arrived.
Eleven major reasons for Native American ecosystem burning:
The burning of large areas was useful to divert big game (deer, elk, bison) into small unburned areas for easier hunting and provide open prairies/meadows (rather than brush and tall trees) where animals (including ducks and geese) like to dine on fresh, new grass sprouts. Fire was also used to drive game into impoundments, narrow chutes, into rivers or lakes, or over cliffs where the animals could be killed easily. Some tribes used a surround or circle fire to force rabbits and game into small areas. The Seminoles even practiced hunting alligators with fire. Torches were used to spot deer and attract fish. Smoke was used to drive/dislodge raccoons and bears from hiding.
Burning was used to harvest crops, especially tarweed, yucca, greens, and grass seed collection. In addition, fire was used to prevent abandoned fields from growing over and to clear areas for planting corn and tobacco. One report of fire being used to bring rain (overcome drought). Clearing ground of grass and brush was done to facilitate the gathering of acorns. Fire was used to roast mescal and obtain salt from grasses.
Some tribes used a “fire surround” to collect and roast crickets, grasshoppers, Pandora Pinemoths in pine forests, and collect honey from bees.
Burning was sometimes used to reduce insects (black flies, ticks, and mosquitos) and rodents, as well as kill mistletoe that invaded mesquite and oak trees and kill the tree moss favored by deer (thus forcing them to the valleys). Fire was also used to kill poisonous snakes.
Improve growth and yields
Fire was often used to improve grass for big game grazing (deer, elk, antelope, bison), horse pasturage, camas reproduction, seed plants, berry plants (especially raspberries, strawberries and huckleberries), and tobacco. Fire was also used to promote plant structure and health, increase the growth of reeds and grasses used as basket materials, beargrass, deergrass, hazel, and willows.
There are some indications that fire was used to protect certain medicine plants by clearing an area around the plants, as well as to fireproof areas, especially around settlements, from destructive wildfires. Fire was also used to keep prairies open from encroaching shrubs and trees.
Warfare and signaling
Indians used fire to deprive the enemy of hiding places in tall grass and underbrush, to destroy enemy property, and to camouflage an escape. Large fires (not the Hollywood version of blankets and smoke) were ignited to signal enemy movements and to gather forces for combat.
Some tribes also used fire for a “scorched earth” policy to deprive settlers and fur traders from easy access to big game and thus benefiting from being “middlemen” in supplying pemmican and jerky.
Clearing areas for travel
Fire was used to fell trees by boring two intersecting holes into the trunk, then dropping burning charcoal in one hole, allowing the smoke to exit from the other. This method was also used by early settlers. Another way to kill trees was to surround the base with fire, allowing the bark and/or the trunk to burn causing the tree to die (much like girdling) and eventually topple over. Fire also used to kill trees so that it could later be used for dry kindling (willows) and firewood (aspen).
Fire was used to fell trees by boring two intersecting holes into the trunk, then dropping burning charcoal in one hole, allowing the smoke to exit from the other. This method was also used by early settlers. Another way to kill trees was to surround the base with fire, allowing the bark and/or the trunk to burn causing the tree to die (much like girdling) and eventually topple over. Fire also used to kill trees so that it could later be used for dry kindling (willows) and firewood (aspen).
Clearing riparian areas
Fire was commonly used to clear brush from riparian areas and marshes for new grasses and sedges, plant growth (cattails), and tree sprouts (to benefit beaver, muskrats, moose, and waterfowl), including mesquite, cottonwood, and willows.
Changes in Native Indian burning practices occurred as Europeans settled across the continent.
Some settlers saw the potential benefits of low intensity, controlled burns, but by and large, they feared and suppressed them as a threat to their homes, farms, and towns.
Meanwhile, as Native American populations collapsed due to disease, violent conquest, and forced removal, the once-cultivated and sculpted green spaces between European settlements became truly wild.
In fact, the “primeval” forest observed by the romantic and transcendentalist writers of the early Nineteenth Century was the product of a catastrophic disruption of Native American society over the previous century by European settlers and conquerors. In other words, the state of primeval nature – the overgrown forests with thick underbrush, overrun with wildlife – as described by such ostensibly perceptive men as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or Henry David Thoreau existed because European-style civilization had supplanted Native American-style civilization, and their carefully cultivated wilderness landscapes had fallen into disrepair.
As Denevan puts it, “The pristine image of 1492 seems to be a myth, then, an image more applicable to 1750, following Indian decline.”
By the 1880’s, impacts of colonization had devastated indigenous populations, and fire exclusion became more widespread; by the early 20th century fire suppression had become official U.S. federal policy. Understanding how Native Americans used fire pre-settlement provides an important basis for studying and reconstructing subsequent fire regimes throughout the landscape and is critical to correctly interpreting the ecological basis for vegetation distribution.
In his famous novel El Filibusterismo, describing the abuses the Spanish government and the colonial church, Jose Rizal wrote, “It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted in the field without becoming part of an edifice.” What did he mean? Did he achieve this goal in his own life?
Many risked and ultimately sacrificed their lives and livelihood for the cause of Philippine independence. What cause do you believe in?
Andrés Bonifacio was a warehouseman and clerk from Manila, fed up with Spanish rule and his status as a second class citizen in his own homeland, and inspired, like many, by the writings of Jose Rizal. He established the Katipunan—a revolutionary organization which aimed to gain independence from Spanish colonial rule by armed revolt—on July 7, 1892. After more than three hundred years of colonial rule, discontent was widespread among the Filipino population, and support for the movement grew quickly. Fighters in Cavite province, across the bay from Manila, won early victories. One of the most influential and popular leaders from Cavite was Emilio Aguinaldo, mayor of Cavite El Viejo, who gained control of much of the eastern portion of Cavite province. Eventually, Aguinaldo and his faction gained control of the leadership of the Katipunan movement. Aguinaldo was elected president of the Philippine revolutionary movement at the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897, and Bonifacio was executed for treason by Aguinaldo’s supporters after a show trial on May 10, 1897.
Aguinaldo’s exile and return
Why did Aguinaldo agree to leave the Philippines? Do you agree with his decision?
What was the decisive contribution of the Americans to the defeat of the Spanish?
Was Aguinaldo’s right to claim independence for the Philippines legitimate?
Upon receiving the first of the installments, Aguinaldo and 25 of his closest associates left their headquarters at Biak-na-Bato and made their way to Hong Kong, according to the terms of the agreement. Before his departure, Aguinaldo denounced the Philippine Revolution, exhorted Filipino rebel combatants to disarm and declared those who continued hostilities and waging war to be bandits. Despite Aguinaldo’s denunciation, some of the rebels continued their armed revolt against the Spanish colonial government. According to Aguinaldo, the Spanish never paid the second and third installments of the agreed upon sum.
After only four months in exile, Aguinaldo decided to resume his role in the Philippine Revolution. He departed from Singapore aboard the steamship Malacca on April 27, 1898. He arrived in Hong Kong on May 1,which was the day that Commodore Dewey’s naval forces destroyed Rear-Admiral Patricio Montojo‘s Spanish Pacific Squadron at the Battle of Manila Bay. Aguinaldo then departed Hong Kong aboard the USRCMcCulloch on May 17, arriving in Cavite on May 19.
Less than three months after Aguinaldo’s return, the Philippine Revolutionary Army had conquered nearly all of the Philippines. With the exception of Manila, which was surrounded by revolutionary forces some 12,000 strong, the Filipinos rebels controlled the Philippines. Aguinaldo turned over 15,000 Spanish prisoners to the Americans, offering them valuable intelligence. Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence at his house in Cavite El Viejo on June 12, 1898.
The Philippine Declaration of Independence was not recognized by either the United States or Spain on the grounds that it did not give power to the people and only left an elite few in charge. The Spanish government ceded the Philippines to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, which was signed on December 10, 1898, in consideration for an indemnity for Spanish expenses and assets lost.
What was Aguinaldo’s understanding his relationship with the Americans? What were the Americans’ understanding? Whose version do you believe and why?
Would things be different if Filipino troops had captured Manila, raising their flag over Fort Santiago?
How did the Filipino relationship with the Americans change once the Spanish were defeated?
On April 22, 1898, while in exile, Aguinaldo had a private meeting in Singapore with United States Consul E. Spencer Pratt, after which he decided to again take up the mantle of leadership in the Philippine Revolution. According to Aguinaldo, Pratt had communicated with Commodore George Dewey (commander of the Asiatic Squadron of the United States Navy) by telegram, and passed assurances from Dewey to Aguinaldo that the United States would recognize the independence of the Philippines under the protection of the United States Navy. Pratt reportedly stated that there was no necessity for entering into a formal written agreement because the word of the Admiral and of the United States Consul were equivalent to the official word of the United States government. With these assurances, Aguinaldo agreed to return to the Philippines.
Pratt later contested Aguinaldo’s account of these events, and denied any “dealings of a political character” with Aguinaldo. Admiral Dewey also refuted Aguinaldo’s account, stating that he had promised nothing regarding the future:
“From my observation of Aguinaldo and his advisers I decided that it would be unwise to co-operate with him or his adherents in an official manner. … In short, my policy was to avoid any entangling alliance with the insurgents, while I appreciated that, pending the arrival of our troops, they might be of service.”
Filipino historian Teodoro Agoncillo writes of “American apostasy,” saying that it was the Americans who first approached Aguinaldo in Hong Kong and Singapore to persuade him to cooperate with Dewey in wresting power from the Spanish. Conceding that Dewey may not have promised Aguinaldo American recognition and Philippine independence (Dewey had no authority to make such promises), he writes that Dewey and Aguinaldo had an informal alliance to fight a common enemy, that Dewey breached that alliance by making secret arrangements for a Spanish surrender to American forces, and that he treated Aguinaldo badly after the surrender was secured. Agoncillo concludes that the American attitude towards Aguinaldo “…showed that they came to the Philippines not as a friend, but as an enemy masking as a friend.”
The first contingent of American troops arrived in Cavite on June 30, the second under General Francis V. Greene on 17 July, and the third under General Arthur MacArthur on 30 July. By this time, some 12,000 U.S. troops had landed in the Philippines.
Aguinaldo had presented surrender terms to Spanish Governor-General of the PhilippinesBasilio Augustín, who refused them. Augustín had thought that if he really needed to surrender the city, he would do so to the Americans. On 16 June, warships departed Spain to lift the siege, but they altered course for Cuba where a Spanish fleet was imperiled by the U.S. Navy. Life in Intramuros (the walled center of Manila), where the normal population of about ten thousand had swelled to about seventy thousand, had become unbearable. Realizing that it was only a matter of time before the city fell, and fearing vengeance and looting if the city fell to Filipino revolutionaries, Governor Augustín suggested to Dewey that the city be surrendered to the Americans after a short, “mock” battle. Dewey had initially rejected the suggestion because he lacked the troops to block Filipino revolutionary forces, but when Merritt’s troops became available he sent a message to Fermin Jáudenes, Augustín’s replacement, agreeing to the mock battle. Spain had learned of Augustín’s intentions to surrender Manila to the Americans, which had been the reason he had been replaced by Jaudenes.
Merritt was eager to seize the city, but Dewey stalled while trying to work out a bloodless solution with Jaudenes. On 4 August, Dewey and Merritt gave Jaudenes 48 hours to surrender; later extending the deadline by five days when it expired. Covert negotiations continued, with the details of the mock battle being arranged on 10 August. The plan agreed to was that Dewey would begin a bombardment at 09:00 on 13 August, shelling only Fort San Antonio Abad, a decrepit structure on the southern outskirts of Manila, and the impregnable walls of Intramuros. Simultaneously, Spanish forces would withdraw, Filipino revolutionaries would be checked, and U.S. forces would advance. Once a sufficient show of battle had been made, Dewey would hoist the signal “D.W.H.B.” (meaning “Do you surrender?), whereupon the Spanish would hoist a white flag and Manila would formally surrender to U.S. forces. This engagement went mostly according to plan and is known as the Mock Battle of Manila.
The Filipinos would not be allowed to enter the city. On the eve of the battle, Brigadier General Thomas M. Anderson telegraphed Aguinaldo, “Do not let your troops enter Manila without the permission of the American commander. On this side of the Pasig River you will be under fire.” On August 13, American forces captured the city of Manila from the Spanish.
Before the attack on Manila, American and Filipino forces had been allies against Spain in all but name. After the capture of Manila, Spanish and Americans were in a partnership that excluded the Filipino insurgents. Fighting between American and Filipino troops had almost broken out as the former moved in to dislodge the latter from strategic positions around Manila on the eve of the attack. Aguinaldo had been told bluntly by the Americans that his army could not participate and would be fired upon if it crossed into the city. The insurgents were infuriated at being denied triumphant entry into their own capital, but Aguinaldo bided his time. Relations continued to deteriorate, however, as it became clear to Filipinos that the Americans were in the islands to stay.
On December 21, 1898, President William McKinley issued a Proclamation of Benevolent Assimilation, which read in part, “…the earnest wish and paramount aim of the military administration to win the confidence, respect, and affection of the inhabitants of the Philippines by assuring them in every possible way that full measure of individual rights and liberties which is the heritage of free peoples, and by proving to them that the mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule.”
Major General Elwell Stephen Otis—who was Military Governor of the Philippines at that time—delayed its publication. On January 4, 1899, General Otis published an amended version edited so as not to convey the meanings of the terms “sovereignty,” “protection,” and “right of cessation,” which were present in the original version. However, Brigadier General Marcus Miller—then in Iloilo City and unaware that the altered version had been published by Otis—passed a copy of the original proclamation to a Filipino official there.
The original proclamation then found its way to Aguinaldo who, on January 5, issued a counter-proclamation: “My government cannot remain indifferent in view of such a violent and aggressive seizure of a portion of its territory by a nation which arrogated to itself the title of champion of oppressed nations. Thus it is that my government is disposed to open hostilities if the American troops attempt to take forcible possession of the Visayan islands. I denounce these acts before the world, in order that the conscience of mankind may pronounce its infallible verdict as to who are true oppressors of nations and the tormentors of mankind. In a revised proclamation issued the same day, Aguinaldo protested “most solemnly against this intrusion of the United States Government on the sovereignty of these islands.”
Otis regarded Aguinaldo’s proclamations as tantamount to war, alerting his troops and strengthening observation posts. On the other hand, Aguinaldo’s proclamations energized the masses with a vigorous determination to fight against what was perceived as an ally turned enemy.
Why did Aguinaldo initially offer a cease fire? Why do you think the Americans refused a cease fire when Aguinaldo offered one?
On the evening of February 4, Private William W. Grayson—a sentry of the 1st Nebraska Volunteer Infantry Regiment, under orders to turn away insurgents from their encampment, fired upon an encroaching group of four Filipinos—fired the first shots of the war at the corner of Sociego and Silencio Streets, in Santa Mesa. According to Grayson’s account, he called “Halt!” and, when the four men responded by cocking their rifles, he fired at them. Upon opening fire, Grayson claims to have killed two Filipino soldiers; Filipino historians maintain that the slain soldiers were unarmed.
The following day, Filipino General Isidoro Torres came through the lines under a flag of truce to deliver a message from Aguinaldo to General Otis that the fighting had begun accidentally, saying “the firing on our side the night before had been against my order,” and that Aguinaldo wished for the hostilities to cease immediately and for the establishment of a neutral zone between the two opposing forces. Otis dismissed these overtures, and replied that the “fighting, having begun, must go on to the grim end.” On February 5, General Arthur MacArthur ordered his troops to advance against Filipino troops, beginning a full-scale armed clash between 19,000 American soldiers and 15,000 Filipino armed militiamen.
Aguinaldo then reassured his followers with a pledge to fight if forced by the Americans, whom he had come to see as new oppressors, picking up where the Spanish had left off:
“It is my duty to maintain the integrity of our national honor, and that of the army so unjustly attacked by those, who posing as our friends, attempt to dominate us in place of the Spaniards.
“Therefore, for the defense of the nation entrusted to me, I hereby order and command: Peace and friendly relations between the Philippine Republic and the American army of occupation are broken—and the latter will be treated as enemies with the limits prescribed by the laws of War.”
In this Battle of Manila, American casualties totaled 238, of whom 44 were killed in action or died from wounds. The U.S. Army’s official report listed Filipino casualties as 4,000, of whom 700 were killed, but this is guesswork, and it is only the unfortunate opening battle of a much larger war that would drag on in one form or another for more than a decade.
There is a long tradition of resistance to colonial rule in the Philippines.
Couple of this with the country’s strong Catholicism – with its tradition of sainthood and martyrdom – and you have nation that is very aware of those who have sacrificed to advance the cause of the Filipino. Manila’s Rizal Park features the Gallery of Heroes, a row of bust sculpture monuments of historical Philippine heroes. These include: Andres Bonifacio, Juan Sumuroy, Aman Dangat, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Gregorio Aglipay, Sultan Kudarat, Juan Luna, Melchora Aquino, Rajah Sulayman, and Gabriela Silang. Choose one of these personalities to commemorate in your own classroom. Write a brief description of their accomplishments to accompany a piece of artwork that celebrates their life for those who aren’t aware.
Jose Rizal never specifically advocated violence or even open revolt against
the Spanish, pushing instead for political reforms within the colonial structure. He wrote with such clarity and passion, however, that he become a symbol to revolutionaries – and this is why the colonial authorities decided he needed to die, in a plan that ultimately backfired, transforming him into a martyr. Debate with your class – “Does a national hero need to be a warrior – a violent figure? If not, why are so many warriors celebrated the world over as national heroes?”
Rudyard Kipling wrote a famous poem about the U.S. and its conquest of the Philippines. It is called “The White Man’s Burden.” The poem became so famous that it became the subject of parody as well. Read both the poem and one of its parodies and discuss it with your classmates using the included questions to help guide you.
Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire – This exhibit juxtaposes the visual message presented by the stereoscopic images with excerpts from the letters written by U.S. soldiers that were first published in local newspapers and later collected in the Anti-Imperialist League’s pamphlet, allowing us to get a glimpse of the Philippine-American War as it was presented to Americans at home, reading the news or entertaining friends in their parlors.
“My name is Thomas Kenning. I am the creator of Openendedsocialstudies.org. I am an educator with approximately fifteen years of experience in classrooms ranging from preschool to university, though my primary focus is on grades six to nine in the field of social studies. I have a bachelors in secondary education from Indiana University and a masters in history from American University. I started this website because it is the kind of resource that I am always looking for myself – digestible lessons that expand the too limited American notion of “world history,” accompanied by questions that help students to process and apply (not just regurgitate and forget) what they are reading. If the idea is to build bridges to a broader view of the world – not wall our students in – then I hope this website is one of those bridges, rickety as it may be.
I am a firm believer that the best teachers are creative and resourceful, making dynamic use of the tools they have at hand. In that spirit, some of the basic text on this website is adapted from open sources (like Wikipedia), but every bit of it has been fact checked and cross-referenced with academic sources. I’ve made every effort to ensure accuracy, as well as balance, across this website. I stand by everything I have posted here – I use many of these lessons in my own classroom on a regular basis – but if you see something that strikes you as inaccurate, by all means, please let me know in the comments section of the page in question.
Thank you for choosing to use Openendedsocialstudies.org in your classroom.”
Thomas Kenning is an author, educator, and adventurer. He has written extensively about Washington, DC, including in the recently published Abandoned Washington, DC. Mr. Kenning is the creator of the award-winning Openendedsocialstudies.org, a library of free lesson plans and travel writing designed to foster a sense of wonder about the world and our place in it. When he is not travelling to some far flung corner of the Earth, he resides with his wife and daughter (a DC native!) – planning his next improbable adventure and trying to leave the planet a little bit nicer than he found it.
“I have asked myself many times: Is the Filipino worth suffering, or even dying, for? Is he not a coward who would readily yield to any colonizer, be he foreign or homegrown? Is a Filipino more comfortable under an authoritarian leader because he does not want to be burdened with the freedom of choice? Is he unprepared, or worse, ill-suited for presidential or parliamentary democracy?
I have carefully weighed the virtues and the faults of the Filipino and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying for because he is the nation’s greatest untapped resource.” – Ninoy Aquino
Islands in a Friendly Sea: Some Basics of Filipino History and Culture (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Who are the Filipinos? What is their history and culture? How has it been shaped by island geography? By contact with the outside world?
Manila at the Crossroads of World Trade (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): For more than three centuries, Manila was one of the crown jewels of the Spanish Empire, sitting at the intersection of global trade between Asia, the Americas, and Europe. How did this global trade shape the Philippines – and how did the Philippines shape global trade?
The Origins of the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): How did the Filipinos gain independence from Spain, only to have it snatched away by their alleged ally, the United States? How does this experience resonate in both Philippine and U.S. history?
The Brutality of the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Why was the Philippine-American War so violent? Did this violence help or hinder the goals of each side? Should there be rules that govern the conduct of war?
The Philippines in the American Empire (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): After nearly 400 years, how did independence finally come to the Philippines? Was the United States conquest of the Philippines an anomaly in its history, or was it business as usual?
“The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Full text of this imperialist poem, as well as an answer in the form of an anti-imperialist parody.
Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): This exhibit juxtaposes the visual message presented by the stereoscopic images with excerpts from the letters written by U.S. soldiers that were first published in local newspapers and later collected in the Anti-Imperialist League’s pamphlet, allowing us to get a glimpse of the Philippine-American War as it was presented to Americans at home, reading the news or entertaining friends in their parlors.
In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): How did the American media cover the war in the Philippines? An excerpt from “In The Trenches” by John F. Bass, originally published in Harper’s Weekly.
Ninoy and Marcos – “A Pact with the Devil is No Pact at All.” (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Cory Aquino, and the People Power Revolution toppled the kleptocratic Marcos regime through nonviolence, answering with their lives the question, “Is the Filipino worth dying for?”
What spurred Spain to fund Columbus’s initial expedition?
Why was the silver mined in Potosi of special interest to the Spanish?
Schoolchildren learn that Columbus sailed under the flag of Spain, and that his venture was funded on the audacious notion that a lucrative trade route with the far east might be established with an easy trip west. Columbus grossly misjudged the diameter of the Earth, it turns out, though his mistake became one of the most consequential in all of world history, bringing the Eastern and Western Hemispheres into direct contact for the first time, opening the Americas for European conquest and colonization, and inaugurating a period of social, economic, and environmental exchange through which we are still living in the early the early 21st century.
But the Spanish wanted more. They never gave up on that tantalizing promise of a western trade route with Asia, especially after the initial plunder of the Aztec and the Inca in the early 1500s.
The Spanish continued to extract raw materials from indigenous labor their American colonies, most notably silver from the great mine at Potosi, in modern Bolivia. Silver mines were opened here in 1545 and soon accounted for fully half of the silver produced in the world on an annual basis. On its own, the silver mined at Potosi was of little use to Spanish. The rich don’t love money, but what it can buy for them. In this case, much of the silver mined at Potosi made its way to Ming China – via the Manila Galleon.
The Manila Galleon
What challenges and what discoveries on behalf of the Spanish led to the opening of the Manila Galleon route?
Did the wealth generated by this trade route benefit all parties equally? Why or why not? Consider the Spanish, the Chinese, and Filipinos in your answer, describing the role of each.
Consider modern trade in the same way – does it benefit all parties equally?
In 1521, just after the conquest of the Aztec in Mexico, and just before the conquest of the Inca in Peru, a Spanish expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan sailed west across the Pacific using the westward trade winds. The expedition arrived in the Philippines, finding there a diverse assortment of tribal groups, Muslim sultanates, and most enticing to the Spanish, a small community of Chinese merchants. Magellan promptly claimed the archipelago for Spain.
Although he died there after involving himself in a local conflict, one of Magellan’s ships made it back to Spain by continuing westward around the tip of Africa. In the decades that followed, other Spanish sailors figured out how to sail east – rising eastward winds at the 38th parallel north, off the coast of Japan – back over the Pacific toward Mexico, a journey that under the best of conditions took four months, but sometimes as long as six. This is an incredibly long time to go without taking on fresh water or food.
The goods arrived in Acapulco and were transported by land across Mexico to the port of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico, where they were loaded onto the Spanish treasure fleet bound for Spain. From the early days of exploration, the Spanish knew that the American continent was much narrower across the Panamanian isthmus than across Mexico. They tried to establish a regular land crossing there, but the thick jungle and malaria made it impractical.
This route was a vital alternative to the even riskier trip west across the Indian Ocean, and around the Cape of Good Hope, which was reserved to Portugal according to the Treaty of Tordesillas and fraught with European privateers who might commandeer the Spaniard’s valuable cargo.
As it was, the city of Manila, representing wealth and a formidable European foothold in Asia, became a regional hub of trade and a target for foreign powers. At various times, has Manila come under attack by the Chinese, the Dutch, the English, the Americans, and the Japanese. In 1574, a fleet of Chinese pirates led by Limahong attacked the city and destroyed it before the Spaniards drove them away. The colony was rebuilt by the survivors. These attacks prompted the construction of a walled, stone city – today known as Intramuros – to anchor and secure the eastern end of Spain’s trade route.
The first Manila Galleon made the round trip between Acapulco and Manila in 1565, with galleons making the same circuit nearly every year until Mexican Independence in the early 1800s. This trade route, whose main hub was Manila, marked a new chapter in globalization, linking the labor and products of Asia, the Americas, and Europe. While this is a remarkable achievement, it is important to remember that it came about through tremendous hardship, brutality, and exploitation at almost every turn.
Potosi silver – mined, refined, and transported by native slaves under horrendous conditions – was taken by llama and mule train to the Pacific coast. From there, the silver was transported by ship up the coast to the port of Acapulco (in present-day Mexico), and from there on to Manila in the Philippines. This silver was in high demand by the Chinese, who based their monetary system on this precious metal.
Wary of outsiders, the Chinese spurned European attempts to establish trading posts in their home territory. As a result, the Asian end of the galleon trade was supplied by merchants largely from port areas of Fujian in southern China, who traveled with the blessing of the Chinese Emperor to Manila to sell the Spaniards spices, porcelain, ivory, lacquerware, processed silk cloth, and other valuable commodities. These are the same products – so valuable in Europe – that in ancient times fueled the Silk Road; the same ones that nearly a century earlier tempted Columbus and other men hungry for profit.
As a result, every available corner of the galleon was dedicated to carrying its profitable cargo – reports even suggest that cisterns meant to carry fresh water were sometimes given over to commercial product – and hygiene was poor. Historian Jan DeVries found that some 2 million men made trading voyages to Asia between 1580 and 1795, but only 920,412 survived: an overall survival rate of just 46%. On the Manila Galleon route, a large number of these men were Filipino, who worked under these harsh conditions for pay that you and I would find appalling – but which represented to them a tremendous windfall, the likes of which were otherwise hard to come by under the poverty of Spanish rule.
“In Manila, life was leisurely, even beautiful,” writes David Z. Morris, describing the height of the galleon trade as experienced by the Spanish elite. “The work of administering the galleons took up only two or three months of a year, with the rest of the colonists’ time given purely to lavish parties, carriage rides, and social intrigue. The Spanish were singularly indolent occupiers, developing no aspect of the local economy except the galleon trade.”
By contrast, little of this wealth made its way into the hands of Filipinos. The Spanish cultivated a deliberate policy of exclusion toward their colonized subjects – prohibiting their education in the Spanish language as means to hold Filipinos from professional jobs and more cosmopolitan views of the world, encouraging Filipino submission through the careful application and withholding of Catholic teachings, and establishing large Spanish-owned estates in the countryside, reducing the Filipino to little more than an unskilled laborer and a tenant in his own homeland, even as its resources were enriched the Spanish conquerors.
From time to time during more than 300 years of Spanish rule, Filipinos openly rebelled against this injustice. Manila proved to be too lucrative a prize, however, and the Spanish would not let it go so easily, even after Spain’s American colonies achieved independence in the early 1800s. During these centuries, tens of thousands of Filipinos went abroad – settling at the other end of the galleon route, in Acapulco, in Mexico City, in California, seeking greater opportunity outside of the repressive structures that the Spanish had erected to maintain their domination over Manila.
The San Diego
Why is the discovery and recovery of the San Diego valuable to historians?
Formerly known as San Antonio, the San Diego was a trading ship built in Cebu by Filipino workers under the supervision of European boat-builders. It was docked at the port of Cavite to undergo reconditioning and repair, but at the end of October 1600, under threat of an impending Dutch attack on Manila, it was hastily converted into a warship and renamed.
On December 14, 1600, the fully laden San Diego was engaged by the Dutch warship Mauritius under the command of Admiral Olivier van Noort a short distance away from Fortune Island, Nasugbu, Philippines. Since San Diego couldn’t handle the extra weight of her cannons, which led to a permanent list and put the cannon portholes below sea level, she was sunk without firing a single shot in response. The Dutch were later reported firing upon and hurling lances at the survivors attempting to climb aboard the Mauritius.
Nearly 400 years later, in 1992, the wreck was discovered by an underwater archaeologist. A total of 34,407 artifacts were recovered from the shipwreck, including more than five hundred blue-and-white Chinese ceramics in the form of plates, dishes, bottles, kendis, and boxes which may be ascribed to the Wan Li Period of the Ming Dynasty; more than seven hundred and fifty Chinese, Thai, Burmese, and Spanish or Mexican stoneware jars; over seventy Philippine-made earthenware potteries influenced by European stylistic forms and types; parts of Japanese samurai swords; fourteen bronze cannons of different types and sizes; parts of European muskets; stone and lead cannonballs; metal navigational instruments and implements; silver coins from the mint at Potosi; two iron anchors; animal bones and teeth (pig and chicken); and seed and shell remains (prunes, chestnuts, and coconut), all of which shed invaluable light on the physical reality of a Manila Galleon.
Recovered from the San Diego was this part of a larger, mass produced set of Chinese porcelain with a deer motif – each hand painted, varying organically, but following the same design. (Manila, Philippines, 2018.)
Another fine example of Chinese porcelain recovered from the San Diego. (Manila, Philippines, 2018.)
This Mexican made vessel is decorated with Mediterranean influenced designs. It was aboard the San Diego when it sunk. (Manila, Philippines, 2018.)
Also aboard the San Diego were these silver coins were mined and minted in Potosi, in modern day Bolivia. (Manila, Philippines, 2018.)
Design a chart that lists the items in the room around you by their locations of manufacture. Check labels on the items themselves or, when all else fails, ask Google.
Speculate/Research: Choose one of the items that you use every day. Who physically made this item – were they rich or poor, young or old, male or female? Under what conditions do they live and work? Was this item cheap or expensive – why? Who got most of the money that you or your parents paid – the worker or the corporation whose logo appears on the item? Consider yourself, the worker, and the corporation – who are the economic winners and losers in this system? How would your life and the lives of Filipino workers be different if this trade connection did not exist?
Research: What are the primary exports of your country to the Philippines and the rest of the world? What are the Philippines’s primary exports to your country? What is the estimated value of trade in both directions? What kind of modern cultural exchange might accompany this economic exchange?
Use www.marinetraffic.com/ to examine cargo shipping around the globe. What patterns do you notice? Where are the ships most densely clustered? Find a large port near your hometown – where are these ships coming from and going to? Can you determine roughly how long it takes for a ship to travel between the Philippines and the US? Choose several ships and check back in on them over the coming days or weeks – do you notice a route or a pattern for this specific ship, how long it takes to complete this pattern, and so on?
Compare and contrast trade along the Manila Galleon route with modern trade networks. How have changes in technology changed both how goods are traded – and what is traded? Does more or less international trade happen now? Does more or less cultural exchange happen now? Is trade a force for good or ill in the world?
For Discussion: What kind of resources are involved in the manufacture and transportation of new goods? Are there more responsible ways to consume? Ways to avoid consumption all together?
On the night of March 9, 1945 the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) conducted a devastating firebombing raid on Tokyo, the Japanese capital city. This attack was code-named Operation Meetinghouse by the USAAF and is known as the Great Tokyo Air Raid in Japan. During the raid, bombs dropped from 279 Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers burned out much of eastern Tokyo. More than 88,000 and possibly over 100,000 Japanese, mostly civilians, were killed and one million left homeless, making it the single most destructive air attack of World War II. The Japanese air and civil defenses proved inadequate, and only 14 American aircraft and 96 airmen were lost.
In many parts of the world, World War II is remembered as a patriotic event – a tie that binds nations together, bringing out a peoples’ best qualities such as heroism, sacrifice, and determination. Such is the case in Russia, where it is remembered literally as the Great Patriotic War. In the United States, the conflict is sometimes termed “the good war,” fought by “the greatest generation.”
But World War II is also notable its sheer ferocity. Brutality became a science on all sides, systematized and streamlined for maximum effect, cranked out on an industrial scale. Perhaps no nation committed so fully to this pursuit than the war’s eventual victor, the United States. With its clockwork air war, refined via the experimental process and statistical analysis, the United States exhibited a chilling commitment to total war against the civilian populations of its enemies.
There is case to be made that this was war – that if the United States had not been so aggressive against Japan and Germany, those nations might have unleashed similar barbarity on the American people. The ends may justify the means…
But it is also worth considering a question posed by Robert McNamara, one of the architects of the bombing campaign against Japan. “What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?” he asked.
The U.S. government rightfully condemns the atrocities committed by the Japanese against the civilian populations of China or the Philippines, but it is loathe to grapple with the morality its own actions during the war. This is largely because in the 21st century, the U.S. military continues to rely on many of the same techniques that helped to defeat Japan and Germany so many years ago – that is, the domination of the enemy and any attached civilization populations from the air, be it with incendiary bombs, Agent Orange, napalm, so-called smart missiles, or remotely controlled drones.
To recant on the morality of area bombing of Japan would be to call all of these subsequent strategies into question.
But a free society should never fear honest questions about its conduct – unless it fears the answers.
How would you describe the planning and preparation that went into the deployment of incendiary bombs against Japan?
What is the difference between precision bombing and area bombing? How well did precision bombing seem to work in practice? In your opinion, knowing that this will greatly increase the civilian death tool, is this justification to switch to a policy of area bombing?
In June 1944 the USAAF’s XX Bomber Command began a campaign against Japan using B-29 Superfortress bombers flying from airfields in China. Tokyo was beyond the range of Superfortresses operating from China, and was not attacked. This changed in October 1944, when the B-29s of the XXI Bomber Command began moving into airfields in the Mariana Islands. These islands were close enough to Japan for the B-29s to conduct a sustained bombing campaign against Tokyo and most other Japanese cities. The first Superfortress flight over Tokyo took place on November 1, when a reconnaissance aircraft photographed industrial facilities in city.
The attack on Tokyo was an intensification of the air raids on Japan which had commenced in June 1944. Prior to this operation, the USAAF had focused on a precision bombing campaign against Japanese industrial facilities. Precision bombing refers to the attempted aerial bombing of a target with some degree of accuracy, with the aim of maximizing target damage while limiting collateral damage – destroying a single building in a built up area while causing minimal damage to the surrounding neighborhood.
Because of factors like altitude, wind, and limitations in military technology, these attacks were generally unsuccessful, which contributed to the decision to shift to area bombing – the indiscriminate bombing of city blocks or even whole cities – in this case, using firebombs. The operation during the early hours of March 10 was the first major firebombing raid against a Japanese city, and the USAAF units employed significantly different tactics than those used in precision raids including bombing by night. The extensive destruction caused by the raid led these tactics to become standard for the USAAF’s B-29s until the end of the war.
USAAF planners began assessing the feasibility of a firebombing campaign against Japanese cities in 1943. Japan’s main industrial facilities were vulnerable to such attacks as they were concentrated in several large cities, and a high proportion of production took place in homes and small factories in urban areas. The planners estimated that incendiary bomb attacks on Japan’s six largest cities could cause physical damage to almost 40 percent of industrial facilities and result in the loss of 7.6 million man-months of labor. It was also estimated that these attacks would kill over 500,000 people, render about 7.75 million homeless and force almost 3.5 million to be evacuated.
The plans for the strategic bombing offensive against Japan developed in 1943 specified that it would transition from a focus on the precision bombing of industrial targets to area bombing from around halfway in the campaign, which was forecast to be in March 1945. The British and American bombing campaign against Germany also included frequent area bombing of cities, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and massive firestorms in cities such as Hamburg and Dresden.
In preparation for firebombing raids, the USAAF tested the effectiveness of incendiary bombs on the adjoining German and Japanese-style domestic set-piece building complexes at the Dugway Proving Ground during 1943. These trials demonstrated that M69 incendiaries were particularly effective at starting uncontrollable fires. These weapons were dropped from B-29s in clusters, and used napalm as their incendiary filler. After the bomb struck the ground, a fuse ignited a charge which first sprayed napalm from the weapon, and then ignited it.
Several raids were conducted to test the effectiveness of firebombing against Japanese cities. On 3 January, 97 Superfortresses were dispatched on a firebombing raid against Nagoya. This attack started some fires, which were soon brought under control by Japanese firefighters. The success in countering the raid led the Japanese to become over-confident about their ability to protect cities against incendiary raids. The next firebombing raid was directed against Kobe on February 4, and bombs dropped from 69 B-29s started fires which destroyed or damaged 1,039 buildings.
On February 19 the Twentieth Air Force issued a new targeting directive for XXI Bomber Command. While the Japanese aviation industry remained the primary target, the directive placed a stronger emphasis on firebombing raids against Japanese cities. The directive also called for a large-scale trial incendiary raid as soon as possible. This attack was made against Tokyo on 25 February. A total of 231 B-29s were dispatched, of which 172 arrived over the city; this was XXI Bomber Command’s largest raid up to that time. The attack was conducted in daylight, with the bombers flying in formation at high altitudes. It caused extensive damage, with almost 28,000 buildings being destroyed. This was the most destructive raid to have been conducted against Japan, and LeMay and the Twentieth Air Force judged that it demonstrated that large-scale firebombing raids were an effective tactic.
The failure of a precision bombing attack on an aircraft factory in Tokyo on March 4 marked the end of the period in which XXI Bomber Command primarily conducted such raids. Civilian casualties during these operations had been relatively low; for instance, all the raids against Tokyo prior to March 10 caused 1,292 deaths in the city.
B) The Attack
Describe the technical aspects of the U.S. attack on Tokyo. How much of the attack was improvised, and how much of it was carefully orchestrated?
On March 8 LeMay issued orders for a major firebombing attack on Tokyo the next night. The raid was to target a rectangular area north-eastern Tokyo designated Zone I by the USAAF which measured approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) by 3 miles (4.8 km). It was mainly residential and, with a population of around 1.1 million, was one of the most densely populated urban areas in the world. Zone I contained few militarily significant industrial facilities, though there were a large number of small factories which supplied Japan’s war industries. The area was highly vulnerable to firebombing, as most buildings were constructed from wood and bamboo and were closely spaced. The orders for the raid issued to the B-29 crews stated that the main purpose of the attack was to destroy the many small factories located within the target area, but also noted that it was intended to cause civilian casualties as a means of disrupting production at major industrial facilities.
The B-29s in the squadrons which were scheduled to arrive over Tokyo first were armed with M47 bombs; these weapons used napalm and were capable of starting fires which required mechanized firefighting equipment to control. The bombers in the other units were loaded with clusters of M69s. The planes were each loaded with between five and seven tons of bombs.
The attack on Tokyo commenced at 12:08 am local time on March 10. Pathfinder bombers simultaneously approached the target area at right angles to each other. Their M47 bombs rapidly started fires in an X shape, which was used to direct the attacks for the remainder of the force. Each of XXI Bomber Command’s wings and their subordinate groups had been briefed to attack different areas within the X shape to ensure that the raid caused widespread damage. As the fires expanded, the American bombers spread out to attack unaffected parts of the target area. Power’s B-29 circled Tokyo for 90 minutes, with a team of cartographers who were assigned to him mapping the spread of the fires.
The raid lasted for approximately two hours and forty minutes. Visibility over Tokyo decreased over the course of the raid due to the extensive smoke over the city. This led some American aircraft to bomb parts of Tokyo well outside the target area. The heat from the fires also resulted in the final waves of aircraft experiencing heavy turbulence. Some American airmen also needed to use oxygen masks when the odor of burning flesh entered their aircraft.
A total of 279 B-29s attacked Tokyo. As expected by LeMay, the defense of Tokyo was not effective. Many American units encountered considerable antiaircraft fire, but it was generally either aimed at altitudes above or below the bombers and reduced in intensity over time as many gun positions were overrun by fires. Nevertheless, the Japanese gunners shot down 12 B-29s.
C) On the ground
What was the effect of the attack?
Should civilians be considered as fair targets in time of war?
Widespread fires rapidly developed across north-eastern Tokyo. Within 30 minutes of the start of the raid the situation was beyond the fire department’s control. An hour into the raid the fire department abandoned its efforts to stop the conflagration. Instead, the firemen focused on guiding people to safety and rescuing those trapped in burning buildings. Over 125 firemen and 500 civil guards who had been assigned to help them were killed, and 96 fire engines destroyed.
Driven by the strong wind, the large numbers of small fires started by the American incendiaries rapidly merged into major blazes. These formed firestorms which quickly advanced in a north-westerly direction and destroyed or damaged almost all the buildings in their path. By an hour after the start of the attack most of eastern Tokyo had either been destroyed or was being affected by fires.
Civilians who stayed at their homes or attempted to fight the fire had virtually no chance of survival. Historian Richard B. Frank has written that “the key to survival was to grasp quickly that the situation was hopeless and flee.” Soon after the start of the raid news broadcasts began advising civilians to evacuate as quickly as possible, but not all did so immediately.
Thousands of the evacuating civilians were killed. Families often sought to remain with their local neighborhood associations, but it was easy to become separated in the conditions. Few families managed to stay together throughout the night. Escape frequently proved impossible, with roads being rapidly cut by the fires. In many cases entire families were killed.
Many of those who attempted to evacuate to the large parks which had been created as refuges against fires following the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake were killed when the conflagration moved across these open spaces. Others sheltered in solid buildings, such as schools or theatres, and in canals. These were not proof against the firestorm, with smoke inhalation and heat killing large numbers of people in schools. Many of the people who attempted to shelter in canals were killed by smoke or when the passing firestorm sucked oxygen out of the area. However, these bodies of water provided safety to thousands of others. The fire finally burnt itself out during mid-morning on March 10.
Why is it hard to estimate the total loss of life during the Tokyo attack of March 9-10?
American coverage of the bombing of Tokyo – during the war and ever since – typically features photos like the one immediately above. Why wouldn’t war time leaders want to show Americans photos like the one immediately below?
Look in any American textbook you can find – are there any photos like the one below? Should students be spared seeing the human cost of their country’s wars?
The large scale population movements out of and into Tokyo in the period before the raid, deaths of entire communities and destruction of records mean that it is not possible to know exactly how many died. Most of the bodies which were recovered were buried in mass graves during the days after the raid without being identified. Many bodies of people who had died while attempting to shelter in rivers were swept into the sea and never recovered.
Estimates of the number of people killed in the bombing of Tokyo on 10 March differ. Following the raid 79,466 bodies were recovered and recorded. Many other bodies were not recovered, however, and the city’s director of health estimated that 83,600 people were killed and another 40,918 wounded. The Tokyo fire department put the casualties at 97,000 killed and 125,000 wounded, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department believed that 124,711 people had been killed or wounded. Following the war, the United States Strategic Bombing Survey estimated that 87,793 people had been killed and 40,918 injured. The Survey also stated that the majority of the casualties were women, children and elderly people.
American casualties were 96 airmen killed or missing, and 6 wounded or injured.
The raid also caused widespread destruction. Police records show that 267,171 buildings were destroyed, and 1,008,005 survivors were rendered homeless. This represents a quarter of all buildings in Tokyo at the time. Most buildings in the Asakusa, Fukagawa, Honjo, Joto and Shitaya wards were destroyed, and seven other districts of the city experienced the loss of around half their buildings. Parts of another 14 wards suffered damage. Overall, 15.8 square miles (41 km2) of Tokyo was burnt out. The number of people killed and area destroyed was the largest of any single air raid of World War II, including the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
While today, those atomic bombings are widely recognized to be uniquely devastating acts – inaccurately remembered as knock-out blows that ended the war, and worthy subject of another lesson – it is important to think of them in the context of the larger fire bombing campaign against Japanese cities. By the time Hiroshima was bombed on August 6, 1945, the Americans had been destroying whole Japanese cities – and their civilian inhabitants – on a regular basis for nearly six months.
In your opinion, was the attack on Tokyo a success?
Imagine you are the President of the United States during World War II – how many Japanese deaths are acceptable to save one American life?
How would you respond to McNamara’s question?
LeMay considered the operation to have been a significant success on the basis of reports made by the airmen involved and the extensive damage shown in photographs taken by reconnaissance aircraft on March 10. The aircrew who conducted the attack were also pleased with its results. The raid was followed by similar attacks against Nagoya on the night of March 11/12, Osaka in the early hours of March 14, Kobe on March 17/18, and Nagoya again on March 18/19. An unsuccessful night precision raid was also conducted against an aircraft engine factory in Nagoya on March 23/24. The firebombing attacks ended only because XXI Bomber Command’s stocks of incendiaries were exhausted.
Further incendiary attacks were conducted against Tokyo, with the final taking place on the night of May 25/26. By this time, 50.8 percent of the city had been destroyed and more than 4 million people left homeless. Further heavy bomber raids against Tokyo were judged to not be worthwhile, and it was removed from XXI Bomber Command’s target list. By the end of the war, 75 percent of the sorties conducted by XXI Bomber Command had been part of firebombing operations. Few concerns were raised in the United States during the war about the morality of the 10 March attack on Tokyo or the other firebombing raids directed against Japanese cities.
Following the war the bodies which had been buried in mass graves were exhumed and cremated. The ashes were interred at a charnel house in Yokoamicho Park which had originally been established to hold the remains of 58,000 victims of the 1923 earthquake. A Buddhist service has been conducted to mark the anniversary of the raid on 10 March each year since 1951. A number of small neighbourhood memorials were established across the affected area in the years after the raid.
Few other memorials were erected to commemorate the attack in the decades after the war. Efforts began in the 1970s to construct an official Tokyo Peace Museum to mark the raid, but the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly cancelled the project in 1999. Instead, the Dwelling of Remembrance memorial to civilians killed in the raid was built in Yokoamicho Park. This memorial was dedicated in March 2001. The citizens who had been most active in campaigning for the Tokyo Peace Museum established the privately-funded Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage, which opened in 2002.
One man who helped to plan the attack on Tokyo was Robert McNamara, an American whose job it was to maximize the destructiveness of U.S. air raids on Japan.
“We burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo — men, women and children,” he recalled later in life. “LeMay said, ‘If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he’s right. He — and I’d say I — were behaving as war criminals.”
“What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?” he asked.
As noted in his New York Timesobituary, McNamara, who could effectively organize the complex attack described above found this latter question impossible to answer.
In a small group, plan your own strategic bombing strike against an enemy city. Your goal is to win the war. Assign each of the following targets a priority rating of one through ten, one being an unacceptable target for attack, to be avoided, and ten being the highest priority for destruction. You may use numbers more than once, but be sure to explain your rationale for assigning each number.
A steel mill
A government office
A military base
A military hospital
A factory canning food
An elementary school
A high school
A railroad yard
Workers’ housing near a factory
The U.S. military preceded many of its bombing raids by raining cautionary leaflets over Japanese cities. Its Japanese text carried the following warning: “Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or friend. In the next few days, some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique which they are using to prolong this useless war. But, unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America’s humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives. America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace which America will bring will free the people from the oppression of the military clique and mean the emergence of a new and better Japan. You can restore peace by demanding new and good leaders who will end the war. We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately.” Imagine that you are resident of Tokyo and you find this message in your backyard. Do you believe it? What options for action do you reasonably have? What do you do? Write a short story following this scenario.
THIS LESSON WAS INDEPENDENTLY FINANCED BY OPENENDEDSOCIALSTUDIES.ORG.
If you value the free resources we offer, please consider making a modest contribution to keep this site going and growing.
You can actually visit parts of the world featured in this lesson:
Solemn Feats of the Atomic Tourist – A travel journal documenting a two week educational trip to Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, made in an effort to better understand the legacy of the atomic bombing of Japan, originally published as a zine in 2012.