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Sunday, July 21, 2013

"How Many Japanese Did You Kill?"

"How many Japanese did you kill?" The question was candidly posed to my dad at a walk-in clinic last year. It was the type of question that really was rhetorical, where an answer was not expected. The intent was to shock and surprise, because the Japanese-American physician darted away before my dad could reply.

My dad, donning his ubiquitous USMC cap, usually received a cursory appreciative nod, and a show of thanks from patriotic Americans. As a result of my dad's age, folks surmise that he is a World War II Veteran and give him his props*. Usually some banter follows. But this was the first time that an actual person posed that type of question and then immediately scurried off into another room.


None of my friends or associates ever asked me that question  about my father. Veterans of other foreign wars such as Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korean, etc. never ventured to inquire the fatalities that my father might have caused.

 I have a friend whose father is also Marine. He was almost sent to participate in the "Bay of Pigs" conflict, involving Russia, Cuba and the nuclear missiles that were pointed in the direction of the United States. Her dad still fits the description of a soldier to the "t" despite being in his seventies. Ed walks seven miles a day and is in constant, perpetual motion. He has a pistol permit and a no nonsense, working class Irish American
demeanor. His previously close cropped buzz cut is now a clean shaven head. The Marine, with his piercing blue eyes, is always ready to assess any given situation. As an aside, Ed is not eligible to become a member of the Veterans of Foreign War. (VFW).Why? Because almost being sent to a conflict does not meet the requirements.

 Even consummate soldier Ed did not question the number of fatalities.

Perhaps these conversations take place behind closed doors of Veterans' groups, away from civilian ears. I know in military books, historical accounts, international watch groups, and news outlets that casualties are in fact documented. But to have that questioned just shouted out, so randomly, seemed so.... wrong.

When first a reporter and then a photographer came to interview my father they listened and took copious notes of what my dad had to say about his war experience. It even made the first page of The Hartford Courant, and later " mentions" in other papers. The question, "How many Japanese Did You Kill?" was not asked.

So, I ask the question to you, what is your opinion of the doctor wanting to know how many Japanese did my father kill?  Was he out of line? Is there some unwritten protocol that is followed on such a matter?

*give props: short for give proper respect to, slang

Reference: (Bay of Pigs)

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