Tamogami’s cohorts reprimanded

by Jun Hongo

The Defense Ministry on Thursday reprimanded two people involved in encouraging Air Self-Defense Force personnel to enter a controversial essay contest won by sacked ASDF Chief of Staff Gen. Toshio Tamogami and unveiled measures to prevent similar controversies.

The ministry said a 54-year-old lieutenant general and a 51-year-old colonel have received warnings for failing to consider the consequences of encouraging servicemen to enter the contest but refused to name the officers.

A total of 97 ASDF members entered the contest after reportedly being told it would help their career prospects.

Tamogami was sacked Oct. 31 after it was learned he won the APA Group-sponsored contest with an opinion piece that contradicts the government’s stance on the war by justifying Japan’s wartime aggression and colonial rule in Asia.

The unapologetic general has not withdrawn any of the opinions stated in the piece, including his assertions that Japan was “trapped” into attacking Pearl Harbor and was not the aggressor in its conflicts with China and the United States.

In a report handed to a panel on Self-Defense Forces reforms, the ministry said it aims to prevent such missteps by establishing regulations that require an officer to notify superiors when entering an essay contest or making a public speech.

Tamogami’s essay is a “grave matter” and “inappropriate, considering the civilian control” of the SDF, the ministry said, adding it will revamp educational courses and strengthen background checks before promoting an officer.

While acknowledging that SDF members have a constitutional right to freedom of speech and thought, the ministry will demand that officers — especially those with high rank — act moderately and in accordance with their positions, the proposal said.

The Defense Ministry also acknowledged that the war history lectures started at the Joint Staff College by Tamogami were “unbalanced.”

The lectures were sometimes given by hardcore hawks, including Atsushi Fukuchi of the Atarashii Kyokasho o Tsukuru Kai (Japanese Society for Textbook Reform), and referred at times to Japan’s wartime acts as acts of self-defense.

“We will review the context of the lectures. All options are possible,” a ministry official told reporters, hinting that Tamogami’s revisionist classes could be axed.

The report did not specify a date for implementing the new rules, but the ministry official said they would be put into practice as early as possible.

Although organizers of the essay contest said the entries from other ASDF staff included views similar to Tamogami’s, ministry officials said that no reprimands were being considered for the 97 personnel who participated.