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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 March 6 - 12  > Government should end its disregard of civilian victims of air raids during war
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2019 March 6 - 12 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Government should end its disregard of civilian victims of air raids during war

March 10, 2019

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

At dawn on March 10, 1945, half a year before the end of the Asia-Pacific War, around 300 U.S. B29 bombers rained incendiary bombs on the densely-populated eastern area of Tokyo. This bombing operations, which killed 100,000 civilians, is remembered as the Great Tokyo Air Raid. Until Japan’s surrender in August, some 400 other cities and towns nationwide, including Nagoya and Osaka, were targeted for indiscriminate attacks by U.S aircraft and warships. A large number of civilians were victimized in the war launched by the state. However, after the war, successive Japanese governments have refused to apologize to or compensate the civilian victims and have neglected to investigate the actual extent of the damage. The government should admit to its responsibility and take measures without delay to relieve civilian victims from the often mental and physical hardships which they have endured for over seven decades.

Although U.S. indiscriminate bombing of Japanese cities were illegal in the light of international law, the wartime Japanese government should be blamed for maladministration that caused much more damage from the air strikes. The wartime legislation for air raid defense, the “Anti-Aircraft Defense Law”, stipulated that when hostile bombs set fire to houses, neighbors should fight the fire instead of evacuating, which just forced many people to make vain efforts and die. City people were ordered to not leave their cities and if they did so, they were imprisoned. The wartime special criminal law stated that any hampering of anti-air raid efforts is punishable by death. With the aim of carrying on with the war, the imperial Japanese government tried to deceive the general public into supporting the war with the false assurance that air raids are not serious threats and that there is no need to flee.

In a lawsuit which victims of air strikes in Osaka filed to demand state compensation and a formal apology, the Osaka High Court and the Osaka District Court in their rulings acknowledged that the wartime Anti-Aircraft Defense Law and information control endangered people’s lives, although the courts turned down the plaintiffs’ demands for compensation and an official apology. The government should take seriously the facts which were acknowledged in the rulings.

After the war, the Japanese government compensated veterans and former civilian employees of the Imperial military, but refused to provide any compensation or financial support for civilian air raid victims, arguing that they were not employed by the state and that war damage should be endured equally by all. In contrast, Germany, which also lost the war, provided compensation to war victims regardless of whether they were military personnel or civilians. In France, the U.K., Italy, Austria, and the U.S., military personnel and civilians are treated equally in terms of war damage.

The government’s discriminatory stance of leaving the issue of civilian victims untreated violates the principle of the current Japanese Constitution which upholds pacifism and defense of basic human rights. The government should sincerely face all the air raid victims and take concrete measures to support them.

Past related articles:
> Participants in memorial ceremony for Tokyo Air Raid victims resolve to defend pacifist Constitution [March 10&11, 2018]
> Tokyo Air Raid survivors call for peace at memorial ceremony [March 10 & 11, 2017]
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