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"Japanese Explanation of 'Duty' and 'Spirit'" from Intelligence Bulletin, May 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following translated Japanese lecture was published in the Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 9, May 1944.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



To acquaint U.S. troops as much as possible with their Japanese foes, the Intelligence Bulletin has included in previous issues a number of articles dealing with characteristics of the individual enemy soldier, his reaction in combat, and the factors of his environment that make him different from the average U.S. soldier. For a complete reference to these articles, see the introduction to "Japanese Characteristics and Reaction in Battle" (Vol. II, No. 8, p. 69).

In connection with the general subject above, a "morale lecture" by a Japanese lieutenant is reproduced in part below. This lecture, apparently very carefully prepared, gives a clear picture of Japanese thought on the subject of "duty" and "spirit" as it relates to combat in the present war. The lecture apparently was written before mid-1943.

It is believed that this lecture may be of particular value to officers in the preparation of orientation talks on enemy attitudes and psychology.


When we fight, we win. When we attack, we capture. The results of our recent glorious battles are acknowledged by all. What induces these admirable military accomplishments? America, England, and China, whose natural resources, physical strength, and equipment are not inferior to ours, were routed miserably in battles with the Imperial Army. So we must assume that for some reason they have defects. If so, what are these defects?

Fundamentally, America and England are countries which traditionally value individualism. It is known from American and English literature and orations that the people regard the state as an assembly of individuals. Accordingly, the individual is of supreme importance and the state secondary. Thus, it is quite understandable that there is no disgrace in the individual sacrificing everything to save his life when endangered.

China is a country dominated by the family system. From ancient times the traditions of a perennial family have been observed and respected, but the people have little interest in changes in the constitution of the country. Their past history reveals 20 changes of dynasties. Among them were families, but nothing higher. With the Han, Tang, Sung, Ming, and Manchu dynasties, the country passed through different eras, but there was very little historical record of any spirit among the people with these changes. The Chinese still observe the family system, as of old....

Then, what about Japan? It is a known fact that Japan is not an individualistic country. Nor is it a country of family systems. In Japan the family is stressed; blood ties are highly regarded, and ancestors are worshipped more than in China. But there is much more than this in Japan. There is the Imperial Family, unique in this world, that is over us. The Imperial Family is the light, the life, the pride of Japan. In truth, Japan is Japan and the Japanese are Japanese because of the Imperial Family. From this consciousness the Japanese spirit is born. A loyalty is born, which utterly disregards the safety of the home and family—even one's own life—for the welfare of the Emperor and country. This special Japanese spirit is something peculiarly Japanese, quite different from anything American, English, or Chinese. When setting out to do things, we who possess this special Japanese spirit can accomplish our duty; but those who do not have it, perform only a superficial duty....

Our great air raid on Pearl Harbor was an attack that satisfied our soldierly spirit, which stops at nothing short of total destruction. It affords an affirmative answer to whether this magnificent achievement was right or not....

In our Imperial Army, we have graciously been permitted to witness and hear many loyal speeches, many instances rich in Japanese spirit, and many actions carried out with enthusiasm and power.

In times of peace when there was no danger of attack or fighting the enemy, officers and men, covered with dirt and sweat, silently and enthusiastically carried on their training, never relaxing their efforts for a moment. We could see all this for ourselves. This ardent peace-time training could not have continued if there were not the strong resolution to repay the Emperor's trust by acting as the bulwark of the Empire in time of emergency, and by taking the safety and dangers of the country on our shoulders. We thus assured the security of the state and fulfilled our duty as soldiers.

When we stop and reflect on those who have carried out their duties in the past, we find that they always discharged them with full determination and with the Japanese spirit. In this lies the strength of Japan.

Happily our forefathers have repaid the trust of His Majesty, the Emperor, by preserving tradition and discharging their duty in this way. We must not in the least defile the shining tradition bequeathed to us by them. On the contrary, for Emperor and country we must do all we can to add to its luster.

It is obvious that the road before us is not easy. We need strong determination to establish the New Order in Greater East Asia. Governors and governed must unite purposes and push ahead fearlessly with a single object in mind. Here I want to raise my voice and declare: "Carry out your duty with the Japanese spirit."

The spirit of Bushido has been spoken of from olden times in these words: "Among flowers, the cherry; among men, the warrior." With this spirit hold your ground without yielding a step, no matter what wounds you may receive, and thus make your end glorious by carrying out your duty calmly.


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