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What to Expect in the Next Issue (Fall 2023)

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Understanding Daily Life in Wartime Japan: 1937–1945

Historian Thomas Havens argued that the war had a lot of popular support and elucidated his main points. But I found myself wanting to know more about how exactly the wartime government generated and maintained that support and whether the home front population really believed what they were told.

In the 1990s, I set out to try to answer these questions. I searched for the wartime letters and diaries of ordinary Japanese men, women, and children, which I thought might reveal their true feelings about the war and whether they really supported it. During my many research trips to Japan, I collected about two hundred diaries, most of them published, and fifty memoirs, and I have spent the last thirty years reading what I collected.

Experiential Learning in Taiwan

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, I had planned and led six short-term faculty-led abroad trips for teachers, K-12 students, undergraduates, and graduate students to China, as well as eight additional short-term abroad programs to Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Taiwan’s complex history and its current political situation are important for American students to understand. By studying in Taiwan, students can gain insights into Taiwan’s relationship with mainland China, its struggle for international recognition, and its democratic development. In this essay, I describe a faculty-led program to Taiwan in the summer of 2023 modeled on the idea of “reading the city” and students as co-creators.

These different historical experiences and political ideologies of Taiwan and mainland China have resulted in distinct national identities and competing historical narratives. The People’s Republic of China sees Taiwan as an integral part of its territory, considering it a renegade province that needs to be reunified with the mainland. On the other hand, Taiwan views itself as a sovereign nation with a unique history, culture, and democratic system.

a city skyline at night
IMAGE CREDIT: Taiwan skyline at night. Source: Wikimedia Commons at

The Vietnam War through Memorials

As Vietnamese resistance grew, so did French repression. This dual legacy of selectively adopting the culture of the colonizer while resisting foreign political domination persisted in the modern era. As European empires staked out colonies across the globe, France came to dominate Vietnam and its neighbors Laos and Cambodia, which the French governed collectively as Indochina. . . Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi, which would later serve as home to American POWs, was originally constructed by the French to detain Vietnamese insurgents.

On September 2, 1969, Ho Chi Minh died. Like Stalin and Lenin before him, and Mao Zedong and Kim Il-sung after, Ho’s body was preserved and placed on public display . . . the mausoleums of communist leaders have become pilgrimage destinations, granting them a kind of secular immortality.

American airmen who conducted these bombing raids across both north and south Vietnam were at risk of being shot down and, if they survived, becoming prisoners of war. There were several detention centers for POWs, the most infamous being the former French prison at Hoa Lo . . . which residents referred to euphemistically as the “Hanoi Hilton.” Visitors to the site today are confronted with two jarringly different narratives—on the first floor, where the dark prison cells and leg irons and dungeon are located, visitors learn about the severe living conditions and brutality the French inflicted on Vietnamese prisoners, while upstairs in the former staff quarters, guests are told about the benevolent treatment extended by the Vietnamese within the same prison to US pilots who had been bombing them.

The late John McCain, airman and former POW who was captured and imprisoned at Hoa Lo for over five years, detailed his experiences of beatings as well as physical and psychological torture undocumented in the museum.

This article is from the August 2023 EAA Digest.