Of course remember Pearl Harbor, but please don’t forget Hong Kong

poil harbor

Those of a certain age will always remember that today, December 7th is a day that will, in the terms of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “live in infamy.” The reference being, of course, to the surprise attack of the forces of the Empire of Japan on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

And I am old enough that the 7th always sticks in my mind. I’ve never toured the USS Arizona hulk or visited the memorial despite the almost countless times I have been to Hawaii. In an odd way this is out of respect for the final resting place of the personnel that were on the ship when it was hit by a Japanese torpedo that went down the funnel and nailed the magazine dead on blowing the battlewagon to ratshit and killing all those servicemen who had been anticipating a quiet Sunday morning. The Arizona is, after all, a grave.

A few years ago we drove out to the big Pearlridge Mall, an extensive shopping venue that overlooks the harbor. I was wandering around a sizable Japanese-owned department store and couldn’t help but be struck by the fact this Tokyo-based emporium looked directly down upon the Arizona. Somehow there was an undefined irony in that.

While the hit on Pearl Harbor was on a US military installation, it was much more global than that. Not only did it bring the United States into World War Two – finally, two years after everybody else began mixing it up – but it brought the rest of the Allies, including Canada, into the Japanese War.

So, as the Pearl Harbor Attack was America’s day of infamy, later in the month of December Canada faced her own Asian War day of infamy, and it’s well that Canadians remember, despite the fact that successive Canadian governments have chosen to happily forget Christmas Day, 1941. While Japan has consistently ignored its culpability in terms of human rights violations.

Young men from two battalions of the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers set sail from Vancouver in late October, 1941 for Hong Kong where they were to join 12,000 other Allied soldiers on what they expected would be a simple assignment of garrison duty. Under pressure from the Russians who were trying vigorously to defend the Allies in the Pacific and the nation of China that was falling rapidly to the Japanese, Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King mistakenly sent nearly 2000 young Canadian soldiers to join other regiments in the defence of Britain’s far eastern colony.


And here’s how that horrific tale has played out over the years.

The Japanese have never issued any kind of an apology to the Prisoners, nor were they mentioned at the Geneva Convention in 1952. The government of Canada was also no help as in 1990 they insisted the Japanese pay nothing in return for their unethical acts in the Second World War. It was not until August of 2000 with the help of the War Amps and the Hong Kong Veterans Association that the living veterans and the families of those who have passed away were finally shown the gratitude they deserved. The Canadian Government issued them with 100% pensions and established a monument in Hong Kong in memory of those who served there.



A special thought today for those who were at Pearl, though few still remain, and likewise those at Hong Kong.


5 responses to “Of course remember Pearl Harbor, but please don’t forget Hong Kong

  1. I think there are many events we should remember and pass that on to our children and their children and on through the ages to come. Sometimes this helps to prevent things like that happening again. If forgotten, those who were part of those events will be forgotten.

  2. A very effective piece.

  3. I’ve been to the memorial of Arizona. I was expecting to be bombarded with propaganda and rah-rah-rah, but it was very tastefully and respectfully presented, with a variety of points of view. I was impressed (and, admittedly, rather surprised).

    It’s sad and unfortunate that the Canadian story didn’t get at least a BIT of the rah-rah-rah happening, so our veterans could feel supported and appreciated while most of them were still alive!

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