Go Spotting: Know Your Enemy—Japan

By August 1945 the Greater East Asia War (official Japanese term) had entered its terminal phase. Hiroshima was obliterated by the atomic bomb “Little Boy” on 06 August, Nagasaki followed with “Fat Man” on 09 August. Over 100,000 people were killed instantly with tens of thousands more suffering injuries. Also on 09 August the Soviet Union broke its non-aggression pact with Japan by declaring war and launching an invasion of Manchukuo, a Japanese puppet state. These events sealed the fate of the Empire of Japan.

In the United States 09 August witnessed the release of a propaganda film which, given contemporary events, ought to have been released much earlier. This was Frank Capra’s Know Your Enemy—Japan. Like his earlier, Why We Fight series, Capra’s Know Your Enemy—Japan was intended for US personnel readying for deployment, but it never realized this aim because of the war’s abrupt conclusion in the days following its release.

Know Your Enemy—Japan portrays the Japanese as a homogeneous mass lacking all individuality. The Japanese are depicted as a people molded by ancient traditions (true) who have used their acquaintance with modernity solely to subvert the West (propaganda). According to historian John Dower, author of War Without Mercy, “[the film] was a potpourri of most of the English speaking world’s dominant clichés about the Japanese enemy, excluding the crudest, most vulgar, and most blatantly racist.”

Of interest to the baduk community is a section beginning around 43:29 which describes purported Japanese attempts to eradicate Western influence from its culture. The narrator says: “Western card games were purged in favor of this: It’s a game of super chess called go. Actually it is a game of military strategy.” Yes, and even more so is chess! I said to myself. True, it’s propaganda, but I couldn’t help but become exasperated at the superficiality of the vilification.

So there you have it! Go spotting circa 1945.