Mao Zedong (1893–1976) In 1893, Mao Zedong was born into a prosperous peasant family in Hunan Province, After an elementary school education, Mao began working the fields at age 13. At age 17, he enrolled in a secondary school in Changsha, the capital of Hunan. At age 18 he joined Sun Yat-sen's Nationalist Kuomintang Party which overthrew the monarchy and formed the Republic of China in 1912. In 1918 Mao graduated from the Hunan First Normal School and became a certified teacher. In 1918 he took a job as a library assistant at Beijing University. In 1921, still supporting the Kuomintang, he was one of the founding members of the Chinese Communist Party. However, when Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, his successor Chiang Kai-shek broke the Kuomintang alliance with Communist Party and pursued a traditional conservative path for China. In 1927, many Communists in the Kuomintang were imprisoned or executed. Shortly, Mao led an abortive coup attempt and was forced to flee with his forces to Jiangxi Province where he established the Soviet Republic of China. With a small army of toughened guerillas, Mao proceeded to suppress dissidence with torture and execution. He soon gained control over ten regions in Jiangxi Province. In 1934, surrounded by Chiang's million-man army, Mao retreated with ~100,000 Communists and their dependents on a 8,000 mile trek across northern China that became known as the long march. Inspired by Mao's heroic escape and his inspiring Communist oration, many young Chinese volunteers joined him in Shaanxi Province. In 1937, the Japanese invaded China, initiating the Second Sino-Japanese War. Chiang Kai-shek abandoned the capital city Nanking and soon lost control of China's coastal regions and most major cities. Mao agreed to a truce with the Kuomintang and joined the fight against the invading Japanese. Maintaining a shaky truce, the Communists and Kuomintang battled the Japanese together until Japan's defeat in 1945. After WWII, Allied efforts to form a coalition between the Communists and the Kuomintang were to no avail and civil war erupted. In 1949 Chiang Kai-shek's forces re-established the Republic of China on the island of Taiwan and Mao established the People's Republic of China on the mainland. .
In the summer of 1921, at the age of 39, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) had the sudden onset of low back pain, muscle weakness and the inability to bear his own weight. After several misdiagnoses (blood clot, tumor) and ineffective therapies (massage, hot baths), he was diagnosed with infantile paralysis. Halting his developing political career, FDR began a rigorous rehabilitation process at his home in Hyde Park, New York. Soon swimming became his main exercise. By the winter of 1921, his arms regained strength and his stomach and lower back were getting stronger. In January 1922, FDR was fitted with full-leg braces that locked at the knee. By spring, he could stand with assistance. Resolving that he would one day be able to walk the length of his driveway ( 1/4 mile), he trained continuously. Hearing of its purported healing waters, FDR began visiting Warm Springs, Georgia in 1924. Although not cured of his paraplegia, he made good progress and eventually bought the facility, transforming it into a hydrotherapeutic rehabilitation center for polio patients. Although disability was generally frowned upon in the 1920s, as FDR began to ascend the political ladder, he found Americans were sympathetic to his condition rather than embarrassed. Fueled by America’s “good cheer” he was elected governor of New York in 1928; and in 1932, President of the United States. In private, FDR used a small, custom-built wheelchair designed to move around tight corners and narrow hallways with ease. In public, he “walked” with support of a cane and the arm of his son or advisor. Maneuvering his hips and swinging his legs forward, FDR gave the credible impression that he was walking. On stairs, he supported his weight with his arms, as if on parallel bars, and swung himself down to the next step. Of the press, FDR requested no photographs while walking, maneuvering, or being transferred from his car. With the occasional noncompliant photographer, the Secret Service would intervene.
Il Duce Rises
Born in 1883 into a passionate socialist blacksmith's family, Benito Mussolini was named after the Mexican revolutionary Benito Juarez. Although expelled from several schools for bullying and defying authority, he obtained a teaching certificate at age 18 and worked as a schoolmaster for a short time. In 1902, after gaining a reputation for his socialist rhetoric in Switzerland, he was expelled from the country. In 1904, after brief imprisonment in Italy for promoting socialism, he became editor of the socialist newspaper Avanti. After early opposition to Italy's entrance into WWI, he reversed his position and joined the Italian army - bringing about his expulsion from the Italian Socialist Party. Wounded on the front lines, he was promoted to corporal and honorably discharged. In 1919 Mussolini founded the National Fascist Party, (Partito Nazionale Fascista, PNF) promising to increase employment, build public works and return Italy to the glory of ancient Rome. A paramilitary force of Black Shirts (Voluntary Militia for National Security - MVSN), was organized to suppress opposition as Mussolini assumed increased power during a period of political chaos in Italy. In 1925 Mussolini declared himself Il Duce (leader).
Hitler’s Rise to Power
Born in Austria in 1889, Adolf Hitler, moved to Germany when he was three years old. Following the early death of his father, with whom he had frequent conflict, he dropped out of school at age 16 and moved to Vienna where he worked as a laborer and a watercolor painter. After rejection by the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts, and homeless for several years, he enlisted in the German Army at the outbreak of WWI in 1914. He was wounded in the Battle of the Somme and was awarded the Iron Cross and the Black Wound Badge. Embittered by Germany’s collapse in 1918 and the inequitable Treaty of Versailles, Hitler became a passionate German nationalist and joined the anti-Semitic, anti-communist German Workers Party (DAP) in 1919. Soon after, the DAP changed its name to Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) and Hitler became party chairman in 1921. In 1923 Hitler and his Sturmabteilung (SA) tried to initiate a revolution with the infamous failed Munich beer hall putsch that landed him in jail for a year. During that time, he wrote Mein Kampf (My Struggle), a diatribe that outlined his plan for an ethnically pure German society. With an ineffectual government during the Weimar Republic and the Great Depression, Hitler’s extremist views made large political gains. Although he came in second, behind WWI hero Paul von Hindenburg in the 1932 presidential elections, he was appointed chancellor, a position from which he subsequently launched his dictatorship. By the end of 1933, Hitler had achieved complete control over both legislative and executive branches of government, and was systematically eliminating all opposition. In July of 1933, the Nazi Party was declared the only legal political party in Germany. In 1934 the rising power of Ernst Röhm's SA was purged on the bloody night of the long knives. After President von Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler enacted a law abolishing the office of president, leaving absolute power in the hands of the chancellor. Hitler then became supreme commander of the armed forces, Germany withdrew from the League of Nations, and Hitler announced a massive expansion of Germany’s armed forces.
Hirohito, the Emperor Shōwa (昭和天皇) of Japan, was a controversial figure. Some historians claim he was inherently pacifist and tried to prevent war. Others say he was neither a proponent of war nor peace, but an opportunist who governed in a pluralistic decision-making process. At the start of Hirohito's reign in 1926, Japan had the ninth-largest economy in the world, the third-largest naval power, and was a member of the council of the League of Nations. During the first part of Hirohito's reign, marked by financial crisis and extreme political violence, military extremists gained increased power through both legal and extralegal means. Although some apologists insist he was a pacifist, it appears that Hirohito made no objection in 1937 to the Japanese aggression in the China. In the fall of 1941, breaking tradition at an imperial conference, Hirohito directly questioned the chiefs of the Army and Navy general staff about the advisability of their war plans. However, since all speakers at the conference were united in favor of war rather than diplomacy, it's said that Hirohito gradually began leaning in that direction. On November 5, 1941, Hirohito approved the operations plan for a war against the West. During the war, the Emperor took a keen interest in military progress and appears to have made significant interventions in some military operations. In June 1944, as Saipan fell, Hirohito sent an imperial order encouraging all Japanese civilians to commit suicide rather than be taken prisoner. In June of 1945, as a final Japanese victory seemed very unlikely, the cabinet reassessed the war strategy. The upshot of the meeting, a decision to fight to the end, was not challenged by Hirohito. In June 1942, the Hirohito met with his ministers, saying "I desire that concrete plans to end the war, unhampered by existing policy, be speedily studied and that efforts be made to implement them." In July 1945, the Allies issued the Potsdam Declaration demanding the unconditional surrender of Japan. The Emperor decided not to surrender. On August 10, 1945, following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and a belated Soviet declaration of war, the Japanese cabinet drafted an "Imperial Rescript ending the War" providing it did not compromise the prerogatives of Hirohito as the sovereign leader of Japan. Although fanatics attempted a coup and suppression of the document of surrender, a hidden recording of Hirohito's speech was broadcast and the coup was quickly crushed. After the war, Hirohito, without prosecution for war crimes, was kept in place as a figurative head of state.
Education in Imperial Japan
After opening to the West in the late 19th century, Imperial Japan created a public school system based closely on the American model with additional emphasis on traditional Japanese values. Reflecting Confucian principles, a social hierarchy, with the Meiji state at its pinnacle, was prescribed. Centralized government control, as defined in the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education, remained in place until the end of WWII. In 1907 compulsory education was extended to six years. Middle schools were established as preparatory institutions for students aspiring admission to Imperial Universities. And Imperial Universities were charged with developing leaders to direct the modernization of Japan. Only textbooks approved by the Ministry of Education were allowed in a curriculum centered on moral education and patriotism, mathematics, design, reading and writing, composition, Japanese calligraphy, Japanese history, geography, science, drawing, singing and physical education. As Japan's government became increasingly militaristic from 1912-1937, protest movements by teachers and students were vigorously suppressed and the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors became compulsory reading for students. In 1941, elementary schools were renamed National People's Schools and students were required to attend Youth Schools for basic military and vocational training upon graduation. Shinto textbooks such as the Kokutai no Hongi became required reading and emphasis was placed on teaching traditional political values, religion and morality. Emperor worship and loyalty to the nation were promoted as ancient military virtues. After the war, U.S. occupation authorities abolished the old educational system and established a new one. Read more: Education in the Empire of Japan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ezra Pound – Poet / Fascist
The America poet Ezra Pound's contributions to the arts in the early 20th century have been widely acknowledged. A Girl The tree has entered my hands, The sap has ascended my arms, The tree has grown in my breast - Downward, The branches grow out of me, like arms. Tree you are, Moss you are, You are violets with wind above them. A child - so high - you are, And all this is folly to the world. In 1925, Pound moved to Italy where he became an admirer of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. When World War II broke out, Pound stayed in Italy, speaking as a “patriotic American” on a series of controversial radio commentaries that were openly anti-semitic and often included personal attacks on President Roosevelt. At war's end Pound was arrested by the U.S. Army and kept imprisoned for several weeks in a small, outdoor wire cage near Pisa, Italy. Eventually judged insane, he was returned to the U.S. and incarcerated in St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. until 1958 when the poet Robert Frost led a successful effort to free him. Ironically, while imprisoned by the U.S., Army in Italy, Pound completed the Pisan Cantos which won the Bollingen Prize for poetry in 1949.
From 1933-1945, the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) was the sole official youth organization in Nazi Germany. This quasi-paramilitary organization was made up of: - Hitlerjugend proper) for male youth aged 14-18 yrs. - Deutsches Jungvolk (German Youth) for boys 10-14 yrs. With emphasis on physical training and Nazi indoctrination, Hitler Youth were viewed as future "Aryan" leaders who would fight faithfully for the Third Reich. The Bund Deutscher Mädel (Band of German Maidens), the only female youth organization allowed in Nazi Germany, was composed of: - Jungmädel Bund (Young Girls' League) for girls ages 10-14 yrs. - Bund Deutscher Mädel proper for girls ages 14-18 yrs. - BDM-Werk Glaube und Schönheit (Faith & Beauty Society) open to girls 17- 21 yrs. The BDM used campfire romanticism, summer camps, folklorism, tradition, and sports to indoctrinate girls in Nazism and train them for their roles in German society as wives, mothers and homemakers.
Lauren Bacall 1924-2014
Lauren Bacall has died at age 89. Born Betty Joan Perske to Jewish parents in the Bronx, as a teenager she took the Romanian surname of her mother and became the actress Lauren Bacall. Known for her sultry looks, green eyes and husky voice, she was extremely successful in modeling, the theater and movies. Her breakthrough into movie stardom occurred in the waning years of WWII when she acted with Humphrey Bogart and subsequently married him.
The Great Depression, started with the American stock market crash of 1929 and soon spread around the world. In the USA, heavy industry, construction and farming were hit the hardest. Crop prices fell by 60% and unemployment rose to 25%. Some countries, including Japan, were recovering by the mid-1930s. However, in the USA the negative effects of the Great Depression lasted until the the country’s entry into World War II.
During the 1920s ultranationalist beliefs, expressed by writers such as Kitta Ikki and Shumei Okawa, were increasingly embraced by the military and many citizens in Japan. Ancient mystical beliefs regarding Japan's unique relationship with the divine were rejuvenated along with a perceived obligation to lead Asia into the light.
Japanese Naval Power
While the USA demobilized after WWI and Congress resisted increased armament requests by the military, Japan sailed full speed ahead in the 1920s. The Fubuki-class destroyers were the most powerful ships of their type In the world. Large, heavily-armored, powerful and fast, they had fire power comparable to a conventional light cruiser.
American Military Languished.
While Japan’s military grew powerful in the 1920-30s, in America: Lack of government funding made peacetime maintenance of the U.S. Army difficult. The Naval War College created the carrier doctrine, before a single aircraft carrier was operational. The Army, and its Air Corps, emphasized professional military education, with little focus on innovation or the development of new capabilities. Theories of air war were largely unproven. Here's an interesting analysis from the Institute of Defense.
Japanese Militarism Rises
From 1873, all Imperial Japanese males were required to serve three years of active military duty and four years in the reserves. Emulation of Western imperialism and security concerns resulted in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. By the 1930s, assuming the role of the big brother who promoted co-prosperity for Asia, Japan increasingly faced down provocations by Western powers. Mounting economic concerns in the 1930s further drove Japan’s expansionism in East Asia.
National Origins Act
When the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 stopped immigration of the major source of labor on the west coast, Japanese became the primary immigrant group to fill the demand. Initially employed by railroad companies and factories, Japanese immigrants quickly started their own businesses and communities. The National Origins Act of 1924 limited the number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States, according to the Census of 1890. The law was aimed at further restricting the Southern and Eastern Europeans who had begun to enter the country in large numbers beginning in the 1890s, as well as East Asians and Asian Indians, who were prohibited from immigrating entirely.
Universal Male Suffrage
Voting certificate, Muramasa; WikiMedia Commons. The General Election Law of 1925 extended suffrage to all Japanese males aged 25 and over. Since the Meiji Period of imperial restoration began in 1868, the Japanese government had been suspicious of democracy. Limited suffrage was allowed only for tax-paying male property holders over age 25 (roughly 1% of the population). After WWI, popular movements arose to eliminate the tax-paying requirement. With increasing student and labor demonstrations, and popular press coverage, the government was moved to provide universal male suffrage.
The meaning of the word kokutai is (intentionally) broad and vague. It was used to justify authoritarian acts by the Imperial Japanese government. “Kokutai is a vague but emotionally powerful term for the mysterious national essence of Japan, which finds more concrete expression in such things as an unbroken line of sovereigns, loyalty and filial piety, obedience to the emperor, and a variety of Japanese cultural habits or characteristics."
Yōshū Chikanobu Scene of the Diet 1890s, WikiMedia Commons. The Peace Preservation Act of 1925 “Anyone who has formed an association with altering the kokutai, or the system of private property, and anyone who has joined such an association with full knowledge of its object, shall be liable to imprisonment with or without hard labour, for a term not exceeding ten years." With the vague and subjective term kokutai, the government was now able to outlaw any form of dissent.
League of Nations
Opposition to The League of Nations Treaty 1920; Flickr Commons After WWI, the “war to end all wars”, anti-war sentiment was strong and President Woodrow Wilson promoted the idea of the League of Nations to avoid future conflicts. Despite his vigorous support, opposition by Republicans in the U.S. Senate was fierce, and the USA did not join the League of Nations which was established in October 1919. The Empire of Japan joined the League in 1933.
Downsizing the Military
After WWI, American perception of international threats diminished. Congressional enthusiasm for military funding of a large standing army, much less modernization of the existing “mobilization force,” dwindled. Although Imperial Japan was recognized as a potential enemy in the Pacific, it was presumed any such war would be primarily a naval conflict.
Japanese View of Americans
Ronald Reagan 1927, WikiMedia Commons. After being forced open by gunboat diplomacy in 1853, substantial aid from many Americans assisted Japan in rapidly catching up with the West. At the turn of the century, many Western ideas, fashions and styles were enthusiastically adopted. But, racial discrimination and perceived lack of respect increasingly tempered the relationship with the West. Additionally, traditional Japanese and American world views seemed quite different. Americans tended to see things in black and white, good and evil; Japanese had a more nuanced, often subtly ambiguous outlook on life.
The Inscrutable Japanese
“To most Westerners, the Japanese was utterly inscrutable. The way he handled his tools was all wrong: he squatted at an anvil; he pulled rather than pushed a saw or plane; he built his house from the roof down. To open a lock, he turned a key to the left, the wrong direction. Everything the Japanese did was backwards. He spoke backwards, read backwards, wrote backwards…” - John Toland, The Rising Sun, Random House 1970.
Silent Cal & Lucky Lindy
During a time of relative prosperity, many Americans wanted pro-business, conservative leadership. President Calvin Coolidge said little and promoted a laissez-faire form of government. The sky was the limit. Charles Lindbergh became a national hero and symbol of the wonders of modern technology with his non-stop flight in the Spirit of St. Louis from New York to Paris in 1927.
Great Red Scare
In the USA, a nationwide "Red Scare," fueled by strikes, bombings and labor unrest, occurred shortly after WWI. Civil liberties were trampled and dissidents arrested as the nation feared a Bolshevik revolution. But, unlike Japan where suppression of leftist ideology accelerated, American attitudes soon relaxed and the great Red Scare abated. In the early 1920s, left wing parties in Japan were generally banned or suppressed by the government and military. In 1928 a serious government crackdown resulted in the arrest of many socialists and communists. Thereafter, communism was forced completely underground.
The Monkey Trial
Although the fundamentalist orator William Jennings Bryan won the case for the state of Tennessee, the immense publicity of the trial swung much national opinion toward Clarence Darrow in defense of modernism. While legislation prohibiting the teaching of evolutionary science in public schools faded, the conflict between religious fundamentalism and science continues to this day. William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. Smithsonian Institution; Flickr Commons.
Shōwa Emperor Hirohito
Hirohito became the Shōwa Emperor of Japan in 1926. Despite post-war Allied attempts to characterize him as a retiring, amateur marine biologist with little more than ceremonial involvement in his country’s wartime policies, Hirohito appears to have been significantly involved. "Following the detonation of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese military and the government clash over the demand from the Allies for unconditional surrender. Minister of the Army Anami leads the military officers who propose to fight on, even to the death of every Japanese citizen. Emperor Hirohito, however, joins with his ministers in asking the unthinkable, the peaceful surrender of Japan. When the military plots a coup to overthrow the Emperor's civilian government, Anami must face the choice between his desires and loyalty to his Emperor." - Jim Beaver IMDb
American & Japanese Movies
Commercial motion pictures, developed with late 19th Century American technology, were enthusiastically adopted by Japanese audiences who had a long tradition of viewing gentō (magic lantern presentations). In the 1920s, Japan and the USA were the world's largest producers of motion pictures. Certain screen actors in each nation became major stars, drawing large audiences to movie theaters. At the end of the 1920s,"talkies" were extremely popular in both countries. Japanese movie poster 1928, Wiki Media Commons. U.S. Library of Congress 1921; Public Domain.
Drinking in Japan
Social drinking, within certain customs and rituals, has existed in Japan for centuries. In the 20th Century, moderate drinking became increasingly acceptable for women, but remained predominantly a male practice. Many men drank on ceremonial occasions and with their family in the evenings. Heavy social drinking (often to intoxication) was generally tolerated among men. Sake, Wiki Media Commons
In the USA, the century-old debate between “wets” and “drys” over the potential harmful effects of alcohol on health and society culminated in the National Prohibition Act of 1920. This legislative experiment, intended to ameliorate social conditions, actually resulted in increased illegal activity and the substantial rise of violent, organized crime. Fed up with bootlegging, speakeasies and increasing gang violence, a Depression-weary populace voted to rescind the act in 1933.
Tobacco smoking was well-established in both Japan and America by the early 17th Century. Wiki In mid-20th Century Japan, feminine role expectations strongly discouraged smoking and few women did. In contrast, although smoking remained much more prevalent in men, women increasingly smoked in the USA.
In the USA, citizens of Northern European origin held significant cultural (and often legal) advantages over racial and ethnic minorities. In the mid-1920s Ku Klux Klan membership peaked at several million. The Immigration Act of 1924 further restricted the influx of Southern and Eastern Europeans, East Asians and Asian Indians. The Ku Klux Klan is the most infamous — and oldest — of American hate groups. Although black Americans have typically been the Klan's primary target, it also has attacked Jews, immigrants, gays and lesbians and, until recently, Catholics. With a false belief of racial singularity and superiority, Japanese culture also does not embrace ethnic diversity. Just a few examples of ethnic violence perpetrated by the Japanese include: vigilante mobs after the Great Kanto Earthquake killing minority Koreans, the Rape of Nanking, the Changjiao Massacre and the massacre of Philipinne citizens in Manila.
Great Kanto Earthquake
Following the Great Kantō earthquake with over 100,000 deaths, vigilante mobs hunted down and killed ethnic minority Koreans rumored to have committed arson, looting and poisoning of drinking water. The Home Ministry stated that 231 Koreans were killed, but much higher estimates were reported by others.
Five-Power Naval Treaty
In an effort to slow the arms race after WWI among the world's major naval powers, the Five Power Naval Treaty of 1922 maintained the status of current naval bases and limited vessel tonnage and size. Many Imperial Japanese naval officers resented the ratio allotted to Japan, feeling once again slighted by the West. Guns from scrapped battleships, Philadelphia Navy Yard 1923, Wikimedia Commons
The Roaring 20s
In America shortly after the Great War, came Prohibition, a surging economy and dramatic strides in technology and transportation. Social mores were loosened and new opportunities opened for many women. Riding the stock market boom in 1929, many felt like Ukulele Ike: I'm singing in the rain Just singing in the rain What a glorious feelin' I'm happy again
Japanese Modern Girl
In the first half of the decade, Western influences on Japanese culture were powerful and many traditions were challenged by the younger generation. Junichirō Tanizaki's novel of Naomi. a bold, westernized "modern girl" provoked both a fascination with the potential changing role of women and a strong backlash.
The Lost Generation
Disillusioned by the horrors of the Great War, and disaffected with the path the USA was taking in the 1920s, some American writers renounced American policies and lifestyles. Included among this Lost Generation, were F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos. Ernest Hemingway went to fight in the Great War at age 18. Disqualified for active duty due to poor vision, he joined the American Field Service ambulance corps in France and was later transferred to Italy where he was wounded. A Farewell to Arms is a fictionalized account of his experiences during the Italian campaign of WWI.