The USS Arizona (BB-39) sunk and burning during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 (from here)
The USS Arizona (BB-39) sunk and burning during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 (from here)

Today I heard a great speech when Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, spoke at the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  The Prime Minister’s words should strike a chord deep within the heart of every American. The Prime Minister’s words should recall to us the example set by those generations who fought World War II.

Did the Prime Minister apologize for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor? No. How can anyone apologize for what someone else did? What the Prime Minister did do, however, was far more important. He thanked us.

I suggest that you read the whole speech (Shinzo Abe at Pearl Harbor: ‘Rest in Peace, Precious Souls of the Fallen’ (nytimes.com)), but here are the key paragraphs.

Yesterday, at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, I visited the memorial marker for an Imperial Japanese Navy officer.

He was a fighter pilot by the name of Commander Fusata Iida who was hit during the attack on Pearl Harbor and gave up on returning to his aircraft carrier. He went back instead and died.

It was not Japanese who erected a marker at the site that Iida’s fighter plane crashed. It was U.S. servicemen who had been on the receiving end of his attack. Applauding the bravery of the dead pilot, they erected this stone marker.

On the marker, his rank at that time is inscribed, “Lieutenant, Imperial Japanese Navy, ”showing their respect toward a serviceman who gave his life for his country.

“The brave respect the brave.”

So wrote Ambrose Bierce in a famous poem.

Showing respect even to an enemy they fought against; trying to understand even an enemy that they hated — therein lies the spirit of tolerance embraced by the American people.

When the war ended and Japan was a nation in burnt-out ruins as far as the eye could see, suffering under abject poverty, it was the United States, and its good people, that unstintingly sent us food to eat and clothes to wear.

The Japanese people managed to survive and make their way toward the future thanks to the sweaters and milk sent by the American people.

And it was the United States that opened up the path for Japan to return to the international community once more after the war.

Under the leadership of the United States, we, as a member of the free world, were able to enjoy peace and prosperity.

The good will and assistance you extended to us Japanese, the enemy you had fought so fiercely, together with the tremendous spirit of tolerance were etched deeply into the hearts and minds of our grandfathers and mothers.

We also remember them. Our children and grandchildren will also continue to pass these memories down and never forget what you did for us.

The words pass through my mind; those words inscribed on the wall at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., where I visited with President Obama.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all… let us strive on… to do all which may achieve and cherish a… lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

These are the words of President Abraham Lincoln.

On behalf of the Japanese people, I hereby wish to express once again my heartfelt gratitude to the United States and to the world for the tolerance extended to Japan. (from here)

When we think of tolerance these days, we think of that shallow sort of tolerance bandied about by our public officials, taught in the public schools, and spoken of in the mass media. That is not the sort of tolerance the Prime Minister had in mind.  Race was not the issue. Language did not matter. Culture and religion did not matter to the Americans who forgave Japan. What mattered was their willingness to forgive a hated enemy and extend a hand in help and friendship.

Romans 12:9-21 New King James Version (NKJV)

Behave Like a Christian

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

When the war was over and the Japanese needed help, Americans remembered the teachings of Jesus Christ. They did not call it tolerance. They just identified with the sufferings of the Japanese and remembered that Jesus had paid the price for their sins too. And so they forgave as they wished to be forgiven their own sins — as we should wish to be forgiven for our own sins.


  1. This was an amazing post. An amazing story, that honors human dignity and freedom in the midst of so much that is evil and tragic with war and post-war tension….

      1. Yes…I got to say this was moving to read. My ethnicity is among the people that were victims of Japanese aggression and being also a former Marine reading about the Marines vicious fights with the Japanese sometimes I felt Japan should have been punished more after the war. But this, reading this, puts things in perspective…

        1. When I was a child, 7 – 11 years old (1959 – 1963), my father, an NCO in the Air Force, was stationed in Japan. I liked the Japanese, and I never sensed any hostility. Even then I was old enough to be surprised by that.

          Because we graciously accepted their surrender (with our Lord’s grace), the Japanese graciously accepted their defeat. In the annals of history, such is a rare event.

  2. @madblog

    I agree. The best way to make America great is for us to to be good people. So, if I understand you correctly, we each need to develop a good conscience and use it.

  3. Though self-orientation is an impulse to be resisted these days, it is one way we could emulate the Americans of the late 40’s. One of the reasons they did as you say is because of what kind of a nation they perceived themselves to be. Did they want to be a people who would grind its defeated enemies into the dirt? No. They wanted to be magnanimous. They wanted to embrace a healthy, peace-embracing future. They could look into the future and do what was good for their descendants. We could use more of that introspection, and that concern for who we want to be, right now.

  4. much wisdom is to be found in the Prime Minister’s speech.
    to be able to find thankfulness in one’s heart through the memory of all that was…
    is in turn an act of great power.
    You are correct in stating that apologies are not for this generation but rather the gleaning of lessons still to be learned…
    a very sobering reminder of a dark time in the history of the world—with the key being…freedom is not free and democracy is a fragile gift….

      1. we can never change history, despite the current cultural trend to try….but rather we can learn how best to respond to what was, in hopes that we won’t repeat the mistakes nor forget the successes….

  5. Moving and insightful blog. Would America have been so magnanimous in victory if it were not for the Christian ethos that underpinned it as a nation? It is striking that the two nations who stood alone and who led the resistance against the fascism and imperialism of those dark days were the UK and the USA. These two nations had been more affected by the Protestant Reformation than any other. One trembles as we view our nations forgetting their heritage and ploughing a path towards godless liberalism. “If the foundations be destroyed what can the the righteous do?”. How will we fare during the next international crisis, which surely is looming?

    1. Would America have been so magnanimous in victory if it were not for the Christian ethos that underpinned it as a nation?

      There is almost nothing in history to suggest any but a Christian nation would have been so magnanimous in victory. In the past what a powerful nation like the USA would have done is engage in wars of conquest. In the past what powerful nations did is utterly destroy any power that strongly resisted them. That served as a warning to others.

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