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August 1945 – Turning Swords into Ploughshares: Important psychological components of “Yesterday’s Enemy is Today’s Friend”
- Helmut Morsbach (Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Temple University Japan Campus)
August 1945 saw one of the most radical attitude reversals in human history. Deeply hostile Japanese had been fighting with extreme determination US servicemen since December 1941 in a conflict which also saw the US Army Air Forces bomb most major Japanese cities. This long and very bitter struggle was set to reach a climax with the planned US-Commonwealth landings in Japan in late 1945 and 1946 when Japan surrendered in August 1945.
What were the some of the most important Psychological reasons for this drastic change of heart? Why and how did this most radical attitude switch come about? By focusing on various psychological findings, especially those obtained by Stanley Milgram and by Philip Zimbardo we will discuss some major differences between Japanese and American cultural values, obedience to the Emperor’s commands, general conformity, persistence to the bitter end, fear of Russia as an additional enemy, increasing stress due to almost non-stop bombing at night, the shock of a totally new kind of bomb, war-weariness, exhaustion, desire to stay alive, but also the ability for radical change.
How did this attitude change affect the US Occupation of Japan (1945-1952)? What are some long-term outcomes, noticeable even today?
Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Temple University Japan Campus
Helmut Morsbach, M.Sc., Ph.D. (Cape Town) is Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Temple University Japan Campus (TUJ). Although born in South Africa,, he and his parents got stuck in war-time Germany, and he experienced the 1945 British occupation of Hamburg as a boy. After studying Biology and Social Psychology in South Africa he was appointed as full-time Assistant Professor of Psychology at International Christian University in Tokyo, and later Professor of Communication at Shiga National University, Hikone, until his retirement. For the last decade he has been Adjunct Professor of Psychology at TUJ where he teaches “Evolutionary Psychology” and “Psychological Aspects of Intercultural Marriage”, among other courses.