Roland Kelts

  • Atrocity Exhibition

    The fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942, remains the single largest surrender of United States military forces in history, with roughly seventy-six thousand soldiers (most of them Filipino allies) handed over to Japanese captors. Japan’s attack on America’s Clark Air Base in the Philippines destroyed an entire airfield of unprotected planes and unprepared men. While the Pearl Harbor attack of four months earlier is universally acknowledged as a watershed moment of US involvement in the Pacific theater, Bataan, with its less heroic mix of humiliation at the hands of the enemy and betrayal by those


    One-third of the way into Japan scholar Donald Keene’s slim, modest memoir, he recounts the predicament faced by his Japanese professor at Columbia University in the years following World War II. The professor was depressed by Japan’s defeat, Keene writes, “but he probably would have been equally depressed if America had lost the war. . . . His was the tragedy that anyone who loves two countries may experience.”

    This description of divided emotions might apply to Keene himself, though his own experience of it has been more melancholic than tragic, and only periodically so. At two hundred pages,