An untold perspective on WWII
Published: Friday, March 8, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 8, 2013 00:03
Richard Frank, a Georgetown law graduate and ex-platoon leader, delivered an informed presentation on the Asian-Pacific War to Lafayette students this past Wednesday.
An expert on the topic, Frank has written several books on the Pacific campaign during World War II and has even been consulted by director Steven Spielberg for his TV miniseries The Pacific.
The lecture, entitled The Asian-Pacific War, 1937-1945: New Views from the New Century, focused on changing the perception that many students and scholars still hold today about the role that China played during the Second World War.
While most people think of Germany’s invasion in 1939 as the war’s beginning, Frank argues the real start of the war was 1937, when Japan engaged in battle with China.
If Japanese troops had not otherwise occupied China, Frank argues, they could have been sent to the Soviet Union along with German troops – leading to a completely different outcome.
Still, China’s contributions to the war go often unrecognized. Frank estimated there were approximately 15 million casualties in China, with at least 12 million of these being non-combatants.
Such tragedies are often ignored in the scholarly world.
Frank’s lecture also addressed the atrocities of Pan-Asianism – Japan’s divine mission to liberate other Asian nations. He said this idea rarely resulted in success as “it often led to horrific effects.”
In China, Japanese involvement was largely responsible for Chiang Kai-shek losing power to communist Mao Zedong as the war undermined the nationalists. But yet again, this side of the story is rarely addressed, Frank said.
In his upcoming book, Frank hopes to change the way the history of WWII goes and emphasize the enormous role China played in both the course of the Asian-Pacific and the global struggles of the time.
He also hopes to draw attention to the importance of seeing the war from a less Western and ethnocentric perspective and instead view it as a struggle equally involving the people of the Asian continent and the Pacific regions.
Frank has already made an impression on several Lafayette students.
“Frank was very knowledgeable and gave us a plethora of information,” Emily Nicholson ‘16 said. “The lecture helped me to view history differently.”
Geraldo Neto ‘15 agreed.
“I really like learning about history from a different point of view,” Neto said. “I found it refreshing to listen to someone who, through hard work, was able to shed light on such important matters.”