Tom Hanks put himself squarely in the bullseye of many a blogger this week with this interview in Time magazine. For most of the interview he was pretty much what I’ve known him to be, a humble and intelligent man who is trying to preserve a part of our history eroded by age. His work in presenting “Band of Brothers”, “John Adams”, and “From the Earth to the Moon” has been invaluable.
In the end, though, he apparently couldn’t resist a halfhearted attempt to assure Hollywood that he wasn’t really as big a fan of American exceptionalism as his work might suggest. Here’s what he said:
[Hanks] doesn’t see the series as simply eye-opening history. He hopes it offers Americans a chance to ponder the sacrifices of our current soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. “From the outset, we wanted to make people wonder how our troops can re-enter society in the first place,” Hanks says. “How could they just pick up their lives and get on with the rest of us? Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as ‘yellow, slant-eyed dogs’ that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s going on today?”
There’s no such thing as a definitive history. But what was once a passing interest for Hanks has become an obsession. He’s a man on a mission to make our back pages come alive, to keep overhauling the history we know and, in the process, get us to understand not just the past but the choices we make today. [Emphasis mine]
You can read very able deconstructions of Hank’s reflexive left-wing blather from Michael van der Galien and Victor Davis Hanson. I’m not going to revisit that topic because they both handled it very well.
What strikes me is how wrong Hanks is about the history of the war, even though he’s been intimately involved with two miniseries about it. We never wanted to annihilate the Japanese. Indeed, we had the chance to do just that and pulled back from it. We could have utterly destroyed the Japanese, but we chose to attack with just enough strength to force their surrender and, once they did, we put forth an incredible effort to rebuild them. To my knowledge, the United States’ rebuilding of both Japan and Germany was unprecedented in the history of warfare. No other nation sought peace and friendship with its enemies from the moment hostilities ceased then spent millions of dollars to rebuild then.
Is there any doubt that we could have dropped more than two atomic weapons on Japan if we really wanted to destroy them? If we wanted to erase Japan entirely, would we have pulled back from a full invasion of the Japanese home islands? Surely a million allied casualties would have been worth killing many million more Japanese soldiers and civilians, if our motivation was built on hatred.
Hanks knows better. He has to. There is no way that he could have spent time with the good and honorable men represented in “Band of Brothers” and come out believing them a bunch of wild-eyed fanatics (remember that Easy Company was slated at one point to fight in the Pacific). Hanks should have known that the portrayal of American soldiers as annihilators and worse came from the Japanese military itself and led to thousands of suicides (sometimes forced by the Japanese) on the islands of Okinawa, Saipan, and Iwo Jima or the horrendous atrocities in places like Guam.
So, assuming he does know better, why in the world would he choose to slander the brave men with whom he worked so closely? It’s not like Hanks is susceptible to being blacklisted. The man carries enough power all by himself to get anything produced he wants. The Hollywood leftists can’t really touch him. Yet he feels the need to offer up a silly and completely unnecessary left-wing talking point that serves no real purpose but to slander a whole nation.
It’s a shame. He seemed a better man than that.