"Our Enemy—The Japanese” is the second of three 1943 short training films produced by the United States Navy and Office of War Information to provide background knowledge about the wartime foe. The film begins with the narrator, former U.S. ambassador to Japan, Joseph C. Grew (mark 00:38), stating that he has lived in Japan for ten years (mark 01:07) and that their logic is incomprehensible by Western standards, and that they are 2,000 years behind in ethical and social thinking. “You cannot measure Japanese sense logic by any Western yardstick,” he says.
The film is an odd assortment of truths and untruths, and begins with scenes of Emperor Hirohito on horseback (mark 01:50). As it continues, the film correctly states that Japan had been geared to a war path for most of the 1930s (mark 03:13), that it was a totalitarian society with a tightly controlled press and militaristic education system, and that war production was being carried out in family houses. However other statements are prejudice, or unsubstantiated. The film implies several times that the Japanese are not inventive or resourceful, and that they get many of their ideas from the west or copying Nazi propaganda (mark 05:50). It also states that the Shinto religion had always been, and that the Japanese people had always believed, an ideology preaching world domination and fascism—in fact the militarist brand of Shinto was a comparatively recent development.
There are a few combat scenes including a Japanese plane in flight (mark 14:27) as the narrator explains that it is goal of the Japanese to bring “pitiless destruction upon unarmed people” and “by slaughtering all those who stand in Japan’s way.” There are also scenes of young military cadets participating in drills (mark 16:11) and learning how to use a rifle so that they may become a soldier “ready to die for his Emperor.”
“This then is the enemy: primitive, murderous, and fanatical,” says the narrator starting at mark 19:29. “This people, this war machine, this Empire, can be beaten … but for total victory we must make total sacrifice.”
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