June 21, 2007, - 9:54 am

Iwo Jima: A Name Change Won’t Change History

The Japanese are changing the name of the island of Iwo Jima–site of the monumental World War II Battle of Iwo Jima–back to its prewar name, Iwo To.
Japan claims it is doing so at the urging of the island’s “original inhabitants”–whatever that means, since the island was mostly barren when the famous WWII battle took place. Currently, its only residents consist of 400 Japanese soldiers. The “original inhabitants” are upset that the “identity” of the island has been “hijacked” by high profile movies like the extremely long and boring “” (which made the Japanese look like good people in the battle, and Americans like evil killers of those who’d already surrendered).

Iwo Jima, 1945 by

But since nobody went to see “Letters”–the mostly Japanese movie with English subtitles was a huge bomb at the box office–it’s apparent that’s not the real reason for the name change.
Let’s face it. The real reason the Japanese are changing the name of the island is because the current name–Iwo Jima–is synonymous with what happened there: a huge military defeat for Japan and a point of significant import and pride in U.S. history. We all know the famous photo of the flag being raised on Mount Suribachi (a shining American moment, which Eastwood also tried to sully and attack in “”). And the Japanese know it, too.
But a name change at Iwo Jima won’t change history. It won’t change what happened there. It won’t change the brutal attacks and torture of many of the nearly 7,000 American soldiers who died there. It won’t change their victory over Japan. And it won’t change the fact that American won World War II, and Japan was defeated and humiliated.
Retired Marine Major General Fred Haynes–who was a 24-year-old Captain in the regiment that raised the flag on Mount Suribachi–agrees and is upset by the news. From AP:

“Frankly, I don’t like it. That name is so much a part of our tradition, our legacy,” said Haynes.
Haynes, 85, heads the Combat Veterans of Iwo Jima, a group of about 600 veterans that travels back to the island every year for a reunion. He is currently working on a book about the battle called “We Walk by Faith: The Story of Combat Team 28 and the Battle of Iwo Jima.” He doesn’t plan to change the name.
“It was Iwo Jima to us when we took it,” said Haynes. “We’ll recognize whatever the Japanese want to call it but we’ll stick to Iwo Jima.”

Like I said, they can change the name. But they can’t change the history: a tremendous U.S. victory over the enemy (with tremendous sacrifice of American soldiers’ lives to do it).
**** UPDATE: Although I don’t agree with him, Asia Business Intelligence Editor Rich Kuslan has a different take. He writes:

Dear Debbie,
The Iwo Jima/To change is not a big deal. Jima and To are two pronunciations of the same Japanese character for “island”
Japanese borrowed Chinese characters to represent the spoken language for purposes of reading and writing. The traditional Japanese pronunciation for island is “jima.” But Chinese itself pronounced island very differently, something close to its current mandarin pronunciation of “dao.” Japanese took that pronunciation and read it as “To.”
And besides, it’s Japanese territory. Wouldn’t it be nuts if the Dutch were to insist on calling it New Amsterdam?
Rich Kuslan, Editor
Asia Business Intelligence

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15 Responses

We have here yet more examples of two prime symptoms of wingnutitis.
First, wingnuts feel the desperate need to weigh in with ginned-up outrage to just about everything, from the renaming of foreign lands to the incidence of circumcision in California. Let’s face it: who gives a damn what Debbie Schlussel or any American soldiers feel about the name of the island? It’s Japanese territory.
Second: the need see everything in black and white–“You’re either for us, or yer agin’ us,” the feeling seems to be, and there is nothing in between. People who disagree with wingnuts are not wrong; they’re “retarded.” Prominent female wingnuts must by definition be “hot” and “smoking,” even if the’re actually knobby and horsefaced. If a wingnut doesn’t like something–especially if it has even the hint of Leftiness to it, that thing is TEH. WORST. EVAR.
I’m generally reluctant to quote Wikipedia as support for my positions, but it’s quick and concise in this case:
“Tthe National Board of Review of Motion Pictures named Letters from Iwo Jima the best film of 2006…The Los Angeles Film Critics Association named Letters from Iwo Jima Best Picture of 2006. The American Film Institute named it one of the 10 best films of 2006….CNN.com’s Tom Charity in his review described Letters from Iwo Jima as ‘the only American movie of the year I won’t hesitate to call a masterpiece.’ In Ebert and Roeper’s end of the years top 10 film lists Roeper had the film #3 and guest critic The New York Times A.O. Scott had it at #1, and said that the film was ‘close to perfect.’
“On 23 January 2007, the film received four Academy Award nominations. Eastwood was nominated for his directing, as well as Best Picture along with producers Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz. The film also received nominations for Original Screenplay and Sound Editing.”
But since Schlussel disagrees with the theme of the movie, it’s not enough to say that she disagrees with the theme; it has to be crappy as all get-out, and let nothing stand in the way of this pronouncement.

Doc Washboard on June 21, 2007 at 11:55 am

Doctor Washboard,
Joseph Kennedy while Ambassador to England was known to say that the US could do business with a Nazi Europe. The democrats pulled a fast one in the middle ’70’s http://www.hnn.us/articles/31400.html then lead everyone to believe the US or the Military lost the war. Screamed like a bunch of banchees when President Reagan rebuilt the Military during the ’80’s. He’s running us into debt for the next three generations. Today they rewrite history trying to lead everyone to believe that we chatted with the communists. Did the communists give up because we chatted or do you think it was because they were afraid Reagan would unleash the hounds? The only one chatting was Teddy behind Reagan’s back. We found this out when the wall came down and the CIA and KGB were able to compare notes. One would think that the democrats were in bed with the communists then. They handed South Vietnam over to the communists by not springing for a few bucks for beans and bullets money and would not let us use our Air Force to give them air cover to help them defend themselves against the chinese communist financed blitzkreig launched by the North. The democrats wasted the efforts of 58,000 dead GI’s which lead to the destabilization of Cambodia which lead to the deaths of 2 million in the Killing Fields and encouraged millions of Vietnamese to vote with their feet by floating out to sea to become the Boat People. The leftist democrats at what they do best. Today they’re dying to do an encore and do a replay with the US efforts in Iraq. In an effort to not upset the enemy, Saddam and the democrats, the administration tried the light footprint policy in Iraq. They should have listened to Republican Powell and do what we did when we evicted Iraq from Kuwait. So, now we’re doing what we should have done and the democrats are nervous as dogs shitting razor blades because they know that the Surge will work and they’ll be seen for what they are, in bed with the islamofacists. The democrats have been liars since I was 27 and I’m now 59 and they haven’t stopped. I like war movies and probably would have gone to see the Iwo Jima movie but Debbie said don’t waste my time and I said OK. Add the 58,000, the 2 million Cambodians and millions of Vietnamese and convince me the democrats are all about the people. We have three carrier groups off the coast of Iran, they’re next. I wouldn’t trust a democrat as far as I could throw a carrier group.

John Cunningham on June 21, 2007 at 1:14 pm

Does your post in any way address anything I wrote?

Doc Washboard on June 21, 2007 at 1:20 pm

Doctor Washboard,
Cute. Though I must say you are prompt. You caught me in the middle of my way out the door. Now, excuse me, I’m retired and I’m going to go down the street for a couple of fews. It fortifies me against the WINGNUTS.

John Cunningham on June 21, 2007 at 1:33 pm

No, seriously. No cuteness intended. Here’s the only sentence in your post that addresses what I wrote: “I like war movies and probably would have gone to see the Iwo Jima movie but Debbie said don’t waste my time and I said OK.” The rest is about Vietnam and Joseph Kennedy and so on. Did I miss a post or something?

Doc Washboard on June 21, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Doc, I took also your remark ‘it’s Japanese territory’ and ran with it. Yea, it’s theirs and it would be ‘nice’ if they at least waited until all of the Americans involved back in the ’40’s died of natural causes. People like myself look at the timing and say, ‘gee, they have thoughtless wingnuts in Japan, also’. Then I decided to go off on wingnuts here in the US, commonly referred to as democrats. Eastwood’s movie may have been nominated for awards but some look at that and wonder out loud, ‘well, we know where they’re coming from’. As I said I haven’t seen the movie but there are other’s that have seen it that say basically the same as Debbie, it’s kind of revisionist. I don’t want revisionist. I think revisionists and democrats should, ‘begone, before someone drops a house on them’.

John Cunningham on June 22, 2007 at 1:01 am

Rich is correct, and you are completely ignorant.
Here’s how Iwo Jima is written in Japanese:
Meaning: “Sulfur Island.”
Here’s how Iwo Tou is written in Japanese:
Meaning: “Sulfur Island.”
They’re exactly the same. The difference in pronunciation as is that “Jima,” an alteration of “Shima,” is of traditional Japanese origin, and Tou is of Chinese origin. It’s not even part of the name – it’s the suffix that identifies it as an Island, the same as how they put suffixes at the end of all their place names. “Tokyo” isn’t just “Tokyo” in Japanese. It’s “Tokyo-to,” identifying it as a metropolis.
Changing “jima” to “tou” is about as significant as the difference between “Mount Rushmore” and “Rushmore Mountain.”
My guess at why they’d be changing the official name of is is because people there ALREADY call it Iwo-tou. I’ve never heard it called “Iwo Jima” except by Americans. I’ve never heard ANY island be pronounced in Japanese with the suffix “jima.” On the Japanese Wikipedia site, “Iou-tou” is listed as the primary pronunciation, with “Iou-jima” as an alternate pronunciation.
Your claim that they’re changing the name because of the military defeat there doesn’t make any sense. To you it is synonymous with Japan’s military defeat. To them it’s the name of a place. Would it make any sense for them to say, “Let’s change this from Sulfur Island to Isle of Sulfur” because of a military defeat? Would it make any sense for us to say, “Let’s change ‘Pearl Harbor’ to ‘Pearl Bay'” so that it won’t remind us of our military defeat?
Anyway, I have no doubt that we’ll continue calling it Iwo Jima in English. Even the name “Japan” itself isn’t what Japanese people ever called their country. Why should we care if they change the suffix on the name of an island?

LibertarianBulbasaur on June 22, 2007 at 2:47 am

LibertarianBulbasaur, OK, so we learned some Japanese. “military defeat” Referring to Pearl Harbor as a defeat is where you blew your cover. Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack. In order for Imperialistic Japan to continue their enslavement of China they knew they had to knock out our Navy. Their sneak attack lead to us eventually being positioned to drop two atomic bombs which lead to a 180 degree reversal in behavior. Boom, there goes imperialism. I know they teach revisionist history in schools now a days if they even teach history. Didn’t your mother ever bring down to the basement a history book to show you?

John Cunningham on June 22, 2007 at 5:19 am

    I found myself nodding my noggin all the way thhrogu.

    Lynsey on May 25, 2014 at 6:03 am

OMG, that was some debate. I didn’t learn a damn thing. And can’t you 2 have a pissing contest somewhere else? In this day and age I never know what to think, and I don’t find Democrats to be any more liars than the Republicans who lied to all of America in order to kill thousands of our young men in Iraq solely to satisfy their personal financial lust. You oughta stop arguing over a GENUINE…REAL war that occurred 60 years ago, and concentrate on the fake one perpetrated by our current administration.

Jeff on June 22, 2007 at 9:48 am

History is supposed to be revised. Unless they have some ideological axe to gring, historians welcome new details that bring deeper understanding and fresh perspectives on the past. These new details–this “revision”–bring a better picture of the events of the past. This even applies to those events that have been sanctified by tradition.

Doc Washboard on June 22, 2007 at 11:12 am

Doc, “Supposed”? “ideological”, revealing. “deeper”, keep on digging. Jeff, Anything I said at 1.14pm yesterday you didn’t understand? I wasn’t lying. Now, again, I’m heading for the bar and I’ll be well able to ‘piss’. For now, piss off.

John Cunningham on June 22, 2007 at 12:38 pm

Buddy, don’t even try. I’ve been teaching history for seventeen years. It’s what I’ve been trained to do. It’s my profession.
Yes: “supposed.” The task of writing history is never complete, and the goal of historians is to find more information than existed before. The days of seeing history as merely a vehicle for passing on received mythology are long gone. The task of the historian is to give us a more complete picture of the past than we had before, not to underscore the work that has already been done.
There’s an army of Master’s and Doctoral candidates out there every year who are looking into obscure corners of the past, trying to unearth new information that hasn’t been brought to light before.
When you get more information, the picture necessarily changes, sometimes in small ways and sometimes in large ones.
All people have ideologies and preconceptions–even historians. In school, though, a strenuous effort is made to teach professionals to see past these and come to new data with as few preconceptions as possible.
The only thing being “revealed” here is your total lack of understanding of the historical process. That’s all right; I’m probably ignorant of the ins and outs of whatever your line of work is. The difference, though, is that I won’t start pontificating about it as if I were an expert.

Doc Washboard on June 22, 2007 at 2:46 pm

What’s up, Doc? Well, I’ve been alive since ’47 and I may not be a teacher but I am a thinker and I have eyes and ears. I see a constant effort of revisionists to re-write recent history. Just things I was alive at the time of the event that some ‘supposedly’ today try show in a different ‘light’. I spend a lot of my life saying, ‘that’s not what happened’. I was alive at the time, I have eyes, I have ears, I have a brain, I know where I live. I can see you’re an extraordinarily intelligent individual but I seem to have hit a nerve. Speaking of history. Now, I realize that Mel Gibson is presently in the dog house, but, I wait until movies come to On Demand on my cable system. They just started running ‘Apocolypto’. Watched it yesterday morning. Talk about going to a different world, left me the same way HBO’s ‘Rome’ did. Did you see either?

John Cunningham on June 23, 2007 at 10:21 am

I just saw Apocalypto and found it interesting. I happen to have done a little reading on the Maya over the years and had some quibbles with some of the facts, but I’m no expert, by any means. I just happened to have read the Wikipedia article about it this morning as I drank my coffee, and it was very interesting.
My biggest complaint with the movie was that it was shot in digital video. I hate the cheap look it produces, and felt that the grandeur of the set design and costumes would have been better served by using film.
I’ve never seen “Rome.”

Doc Washboard on June 23, 2007 at 11:34 am

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