Frying Children, Women, Old People
Shadows and Foreshadowing at Nagasaki
by William Norman Grigg
When U.S. Secretary of War William Howard Taft arrived in Nagasaki Harbor on July 31, 1905, he and the huge imperial retinue about the SS Manchuria were given a rapturous welcome.
As the ship departed that evening, notes James Bradley in his infuriatingly informative history The Imperial Cruise, Nagasaki’s mayor toasted Taft and his party with champagne. The Sumo-sized American functionary then led the throng in a war chant to celebrate Japan’s battlefield triumphs over Russian forces in Manchuria:
Japanese emperor – banzai [may he live ten thousand years]!
Japanese navy – banzai!
Japanese army – banzai!
At least some of those who joined in Taft’s celebration would be immolated almost exactly 40 years later, some of them memorialized in the “atomic shadows” etched into walls by the nuclear fireball that vaporized them. As they lifted their hands skyward, those Nagasaki residents couldn’t have imagined that their government’s imperial benefactor would someday annihilate them.
The frenzied reception granted to Taft and his entourage was generated, at least in part, by the celebrity of Alice Roosevelt, Teddy’s oldest daughter, a rebellious girl who was something of a pre-electronic media Britney Spears. (One widely circulated photo depicted the First Wild Child wearing a boa constrictor draped around her neck and shoulders.) But Japan’s government, in which Washington had played a key role, was eager to please its imperial patron.
Teddy Roosevelt, whose geopolitical views were defined by a nearly obsessive preoccupation with what he called “ethnic conquest,” had conferred the status of “honorary Aryans” on the Japanese. In diplomatic machinations he kept secret from his cabinet and the Congress, Roosevelt had abetted the rise of Japanese militarism, goading them into their war with Russia over control of Manchuria.