SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

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Mt. Fuji

Note: Images from this article were used in the H. Byron Earhart 2011 University of South Carolina Press book “Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan.” Permission was granted once again when requested by the University Press in Japan to translate the book and publish it in Japanese under the title “Mount Fuji: the Cultural History of its Religion and Representation.”

When one wishes to pictorially represent the United States of America, the Statue of Liberty is often chosen. For France it is the Eiffel Tower. When American OWI propagandists wanted to represent Japan and all of its spiritual values, they used Mt. Fuji. A number of different leaflets depict the holy mountain as the central feature of the vignette. Byron Earhart, a retired professor of Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University, whose field is Japanese religion, and who published a book on the history of Mount Fuji entitled Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan, University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, South Carolina, 2011, explains its significance:

At 12,385 feet, Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan, and has always been revered by Japanese as its most beautiful peak, distinguished for its sacredness. In the earliest collection of Japanese poetry, the eighth century Manyoshu, Fuji was praised as "our treasure, our tutelary god." From early medieval times, Fuji was one of the most popular subjects in painting. In prehistoric times Fuji's life-giving water provided the holy blessing of fertility. Later the custom of traveling to and climbing Fuji was considered a religious pilgrimage, not only honoring the deities and Buddhas of the mountain, but also improving the character of the individual and strengthening the nation. During the late medieval period, when the capital of Japan moved to Edo (present-day Tokyo), more people had an opportunity to view Fuji as they traveled along the Eastern Sea Highway. As Edo grew into a major city with a population of more than a million, Fuji, visible from the city, became linked with the busy life of this metropolis. The nineteenth century artists Hokusai and Hiroshige created many colorful woodblock prints of Fuji, and produced sets of thirty-six or one hundred views of Fuji. When these prints reached Europe and America in the late nineteenth century they established the international reputation of Fuji as the hallmark of Japan. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as Japan moved from a country of many feudal territories to a modern nation-state, symbols of identity were needed to unify the people. The emperor was the primary rallying point for focusing the people on loyalty to the newly developed state. Fuji was the next most important symbol, with its long history of beauty combined with divinity, linking the people to the land. Both in Japan and abroad, the triangular outline of Fuji is universally recognized as standing for Japan. The form of Fuji has graced many Japanese postage stamps, and still appears on Japanese coin and currency. If as Americans, we joke about the soldiers fighting for mom and apple pie, leaflet 114a seems to say that for the Japanese soldier it was mom and Mt. Fuji. Except for the picture of the emperor, no other image has represented at the same time the land, people, and state of Japan more effectively than Fuji.

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1942 Japanese 4 Sen Mt. Fuji stamp

Since Professor Earhart mentions that Japanese stamps and currency often featured Mt. Fuji we should give an example of each. There are numerous specimens that we could show but since this article covers the war years I think it is best to show examples from prior to 1946.

In regard to postage stamps Earhart says in Mt. Fuji: Shield of War, Badge of peace:

A postage stamp is a means of mailing, but some wartime issues definitely fall into the category of "propaganda." In fact, an earlier standard English-language catalog of Japanese philately designates a special category of "Propaganda Stamps." Among twelve such stamps, it notes: "The design of the 4 sen stamp shows peerless Fuji and that monumental tower which was erected in the province of Hyga.

A group of stamps issued during Japan's World War II occupation of the Philippines, pairs Fuji with a local volcano, Mount Mayon, in the service of Japanese power in the Philippines. A set of three 1943 stamps features two mountains: Mount Mayon, slightly lower to the right emerging out of a tropical setting of palm trees, and Fuji, to the left and a little above, resting on a layer of clouds. Fuji's colonial service was not limited to the Philippines: "Eleven kinds of stamps were issued in May, 1943, by the Japanese Naval Administration in the Moluccas and Lesser Sunda."

The patriotic service performed by Fuji's postal images of the 1930s and 1940s evokes the ideal of the late Tokugawa ideologues who insisted that pictures of the mountain should be "tools of national utility." Fuji certainly functioned as an instrument of imperial, colonial, and military goals, both within Japan and in the colonies.

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Japan 50 Sen Banknote of 1938 depicting Mt. Fuji; Sunshine and Cherry blossoms

Earhart says about the image on Fuji on Japanese currency in Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan

The early Japanese currency of Meiji times featured mythical themes, such as dragons and the phoenix, and popular divinities; later important rulers, political figures, cultural figures, and famous shrines and temples Fuji's silhouette on a national banknote did not appear until 1938, when it graced a 50-sen bill illuminated by a golden sun and flanked by clouds and cherry blossoms in a "natural" or photographic setting associating Fuji with the mythical founding of Japan.

The Leaflets

We should point out that during WWII there were numerous Allied agencies producing propaganda leaflets and they often overlapped. The Australian Far Eastern Liaison Office (FELO) was producing such leaflets before the arrival of the Americans.

The United States Navy was producing numerically coded Office of War Information (OWI) leaflets in Honolulu and on the captured island of Saipan; an example being leaflet "101." Prior to March 1944, OWI's Honolulu outpost was devoted to information service. After that date, it began full-scale propaganda activities against the enemy. It brought in presses for printing leaflets and news sheets. It originated and relayed radio messages from its short wave transmitters.

When U.S. General Douglas MacArthur reached Australia he authorized his own propaganda unit called the Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB) that produced leaflets with mixed alpha and numeric codes, an example being "1-J-6." On some occasions the same image or text was used on more than one leaflet and by more than one agency. In this article we will depict how the American propagandists used the holy mountain Mt. Fuji over and over again in an attempt to demoralize the Japanese soldiers and civilians.


FELO Leaflet J224

This 21 September 1944 Australian FELO leaflet was distributed to Melanesia and the Netherlands East Indies. The front depicts a drawing of Mt Fuji and a thank-you note supposedly sent from Japanese prisoners of war to one of the Allied officers who looked after them in Finschhafen. The all-text back encourages Japanese soldiers to avoid useless deaths by surrendering now so that they can serve their country in the future. The June 1944 letter from the prisoners in English and Japanese says:

Thank you very much for your kind treatment given to us during our stay at the Finchaven P.O.W. Stockade.

Saburo…and 282 others.

The long text on the back is:

Officers and Men of the Japanese Forces

The drawing on the other side, as you will have seen, was presented by a group of 283 Japanese soldiers to one of the Allied officers who looked after them when they came over to us. Attracted by the undeniable charm, we had it reproduced. The names of the draughtsman and the recipient have been deleted out of respect for the personnel character of the gift

The drawing shows Japan’s Mt. Fuji rising behind a wooded landscape from another port, a combination of views in which the author and his comrades have tried to reveal their emotions.

There is an additional touch of charm in the courtesy shown by the author in dating his drawing in accordance with western fashion, and in his spelling of the name Finschhafen as it is pronounced in English.

Presenting the drawing to the lieutenant the donor said, “We were cut off from supplies and reinforcements and had fought to the very utmost. It was easy to die and hard to live on. We do not know what others who have not experienced this situation will think, but we found it useless to continue as it was clear that our duty lay in preserving our lives in order to work for Japan after the war.”

Now that the war is in its third year, the number of your officers and men who have come over to us has reached several thousand. Their feelings are similar to those expressed by the man who made this drawing on behalf of himself and his group.

[Author’s note] Finschhafen was a village on the tip of the Huon Peninsula of New Guinea. The town was occupied by the Japanese on 11 March 1942. General MacArthur ordered that Finschhafen be retaken a year later by Australian forces and by 2 October 1943 Finschhafen was back in Allied hands.

To be honest, I did not find anything too mysterious about this propaganda message. It was a bit different from anything that Americans might write; Yanks would certainly never say that a letter or date had “charm,” but it was written by Australians. The writers wanted to entice the Japanese holdouts to surrender and to show that it was no great sin, cleverly pointed out that there were 283 Japanese soldiers that had already surrendered. This would remove some of the stain and shame of surrender and allow the Japanese soldier to save face by believing that he was just doing what thousands of others had done before him. Professor Earhart found it a bit more philosophical and told me:

That is a very interesting leaflet. I don't know how you view it, but to me it is a double dose of nostalgia for the homeland and invoking Fuji's permission to surrender. If you will excuse an irreverent remark; Christians wear a bracelet with WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). This leaflet is almost like WWFD (What Would Fuji Do--or want you to do).

SJ/60 - 32-J-6

The British Southeast Asia Command leaflet (SEAC) coded SJ-60 to the Japanese is drawn in a very minimal way, just a few lines to give the general impression of Mt. Fuji. The exact same image and was used in the Philippines campaign, printed by MacArthur’s PWB on 4 February 1945 as 32-J-6. The American version had two sides and a different text.

At the bottom of SJ/60 there are some pine boughs and bamboo cut on the diagonal which are typical New Year’s decorations. The poem at the top is by the Buddhist priest Sojun Ikkyu, who lived during the 1300’s. The top poem, with Ikkyu’s signature, says:

The pine trees placed at the door celebrate the passing of another year.
But, they are nothing but a marker on one’s journey to the afterlife.

A longer text is found on the front and back of 32-J-6. It is meant to cause homesickness and nostalgia in isolated Japanese forces:

From birth to death, each New Year brings us one step closer to the grave.

The herbs sent to me by my friend are at my side, reminding me of home and the snow on KAGUAMA.

The tradition of placing pine trees at the door still lives on for wealthier people, but for most they have been replaced with small pine bow decorations as shown at the bottom of the leaflet.

The initial land forces operational area for SEAC was India, Burma, Ceylon, Malaya, Sumatra, and, for offensive operations, Siam (Thailand) and French Indochina.

The leaflet title is from an old Japanese poem; in fact two classical poems have been combined on the leaflet; one later, one earlier. Each New Year Japanese families traditionally placed pine branches or trees at each corner of the front door or gate. The pine expressed long life and the hope that the residents would live a long and meaningful life. New Year’s Day is also celebrated as the individual’s birthday, so the pine represents the concept that the person is another year older and perhaps closer to death, sometimes translated as “milestones to Hades.” It is an example of the pessimistic teaching of Buddhism, thought to have originated about 500+ years ago from the sayings of Ikkyu-osho, a priest of the Rinzai sect.

A friend who spent much time in Japan called the candles and pine boughs “gate pines.” He said:

The second poem actually refers to Kaguyama (Mount Kagu), not Fuji. Mt. Kagu is not a symmetrical triangle like Fuji, more of a low hill. Apparently the writer of this leaflet borrowed two classical poems and an image of Mount Fuji to invoke nostalgia for the homeland. The leaflet quotes two classical poems, coupled with an image of a mountain at the top and a sketch of a New Year's decoration at the bottom to invoke nostalgia for the homeland. It was a custom to send poetic New Year's greetings at New Year's. I noticed the bamboo, cut on a diagonal. From years of living in Japan, I recognize this New Year's decoration. In front of departments stores they were rather tall, 3-4 feet, and smaller in front of houses.

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PWB Leaflet 7-J-1

As I mentioned above, MacArthur’s Psychological Warfare Branch produced a similar leaflet for use in the Philippines. In this case, the leaflet was folded and opens to show four pages. Page 1 depicted the Fuji image, Pages 2 and 3 depicted five photographs of happy Japanese prisoners of war, and the back page showed four more prisoners. Some of the text is:

Expressing the deep appreciation of 283 Japanese soldiers, the picture above was presented to an Allied officer who cared for them after reconciliation had been affected…Pictures inside show how these men and others are reacting to their new lives…

The captions of the photos on the back are:

Enjoying breakfast.
After receiving treatment from a medical officer.
Let’s have a smoke.
Busy at his favorite handy work.

PWB Leaflet 34-J-6

This leaflet was the idea of a Japanese prisoner-of-war on Leyte. He was a graduate of law at Nippon University but just a private first class in the infantry. The theme of the leaflet was Empire Day, 11 February. I add this leaflet because it does seem to use the symbol of Mt. Fuji in the center of the leaflet. Some of the long text is:


On this great occasion of your Empire Day, we sincerely celebrate with you. The day has deep significance. We must be thoughtful and recognize the essential nature and present state of the Greater East Asia War. We must also think realistically of the war…Defeat after defeat – tremendous losses suffered by your loyal comrades in battle because of the shortness of resources at home…The blame for these conditions must be laid on the stubborn Gunbatso and the ambitious men who strongly favor the continuation of the war.

There is a sinister cloud obscuring the will of the Emperor. Even though the people are making a mighty effort, the war is heading toward disaster. As is written in the history of the world, “Devouring ambition leads to military downfall.” Look into the past and you will see several examples of rises and falls. Who are the present Iruka, Dokyo, and Takauji (power grasping traitors to Japan), and where are they? We must think carefully and remove them; and we must promise to establish peace in this world as the Emperor wishes.

OWI Leaflet 101

American OWI Leaflet 101 is a very picturesque photograph of Mount Fuji, with the inverted image reflected in a lake. The leaflet is printed on a white paper with a faint green tint to it in various shades of blue. The size of the leaflet is five-inches by seven and one half-inches. It is attractive enough to frame. Its purpose was to stir up pangs of homesickness and resentment toward their leaders in Japanese troops who are about to be attacked by American forces. These enemy troops are presumably fresh, motivated, and eager for battle. Therefore, the propaganda message is in the form of a mild suggestion rather than a direct forceful statement. The text on the back is:

Now is the season of beauty in your homeland and the glorious snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji beckons to the traveler and the visitor. Your parents and wives await you and your dear children wonder whether they will ever see you again.

You are here on a miserable island, awaiting our overwhelming force of men and machines. Your military leaders at home grow fat as they continue to mislead your people. They enjoy the beauties of the season and the thrilling sight of Mount Fuji. Their children dine with them and bask in their love.

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OWI Leaflet 114a

Leaflet 114a is five-inches by eight-inches and depicts a Japanese mother and child in the forefront, dead Japanese soldiers behind her, with what appears to be cherry blossoms, and the towering presence of Mt. Fuji in the background. Surprisingly, the leaflet is in black and white. One might expect such a picturesque scene to be in full color. The concept of the leaflet was that the policy of aggression which the militarists took had not resulted in happiness for the Japanese people, but rather, has brought on great destruction and unhappiness. The Japanese troops were exhorted to bring reason into play and to save the lives of their comrades who commit useless suicide. The text is:


The question is whether or not the policy of aggression, which the militarists took for the happiness, and prosperity of the Japanese people has backfired. Although wars are supposed to bring happiness to the people, the more you fight the unhappier you are. What is the meaning of this war, which continues to destroy your homeland? To die in battle for the cause of making your people unhappy is obstinate and foolish.

Now is the time to bring strong reason into play. Deliver your homeland. Deliver your compatriots who unwittingly seek the path of annihilation. Moreover, think profoundly of saving the lives of your comrades who are uselessly committing suicide and wasting lives that they should revere.

Earhart says about this leaflet in The Asian-Pacific Journal - Japan Focus:

One leaflet combines the theme of homesickness with fear, a picture set against the backdrop of cherry blossoms and Fuji, with a Japanese mother and child in the forefront, and dead Japanese soldiers behind this pair. Americans have joked that WWII GIs fought for the homespun values of "mom and apple pie." This leaflet seems to appeal to the Japanese values of "mom and Fuji."

OWI leaflet 1049 has the exact same black and white illustration of the woman with baby in front of Mt. Fuji. The back has a long message meant to encourage the Japanese Wake Island garrison to surrender. It is in the form of a letter from a Japanese prisoner of war. The text is:

A Comrade's Cry

Like you, I have eaten seaweed. I know how weeds taste. I have been exposed to bombing and shelling. I escaped from an isolated island in the MARSHALLS where I suffered the worst tortures of starvation and despair. As a result of the kindness of the Americans, which was greater than you can imagine, I made a complete recovery although I had been just a step this side of death.

Now, even though I am a prisoner of war, I spend the nights and days without feeling any discomfort. However, even now, while I am receiving this fine treatment, I cannot help feeling uneasy when I picture to myself the sight of you recklessly throwing away your precious lives by starvation on an isolated island.

Friend, please listen to me!

The homeland of Japan is now under naval bombardment by the American forces. Is it likely that a second Takasago Maru will come again to save you? At the present time there are tens of thousands of our comrades who have taken the same road that I have, and who have surrendered to the Americans. They had believed what they heard about American "cruelty," and so they were surprised by the treatment they received, which was very different from Japanese propaganda on the subject. Now, fired with new hope, they are living contentedly.

Friend, our lives are precious. The Japan that will exist after the war is waiting for us. You dear mother, your brothers and your children continue to live only by the hope they have for you. By all means, reconsider the fact that there is a way of escape before you die of starvation.

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OWI Leaflet 519

Leaflet 519 depicts Japan (as indicated by Mt. Fuji) being attacked by multiple American aircraft and ships. The purpose of the leaflet is "to show that American forces are closing in on Japan." The leaflet is 5-inches by 8-inches printed on a faded pink paper. There is no text on the front. The text on the back is:

Do you know that:

American bases in strength are less than 1500 miles from Tokyo.

The American Navy is free to operate practically off the shores of Japan.

The Japanese mainland is in danger of being completely isolated from the rest of the world.

American submarines are sinking Japanese ships faster than Japan can build them.

The terrible destruction to Germany need not happen to Japan.

Free your country from the Gumbatsu tyrants who control it.

Free your country before it is too late.

The Gumbatsu mentioned in the text is a combination of the militarists (sometimes called "the military clique"), industrialists (Later called the Zaibatsu), large landowners and political office holders. They had the real power and control over the Japanese people. The Allies used this term in a number of propaganda leaflets.

Byron Earhart depicts this leaflet in his book on Mt. Fuji and says in part:

The main use of this image of Fuji in American propaganda leaflets during WWII was suasion, showing the lovely peak as stimulus to homesickness and an inducement to surrender and return home (to Fuji). In this leaflet the message is a direct threat conveyed by the sight of many planes attacking Japan (with Fuji identifying the target).

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OWI Leaflet 520

Leaflet 520 is a rather calm and sentimental picture of a Japanese landscape, with rocks and trees in the foreground and Mt. Fuji in the background. The leaflet is designed to make Japanese soldiers wonder why their leaders have been so insistent in impressing upon them that their belief in surrender is synonymous with disgrace. The fact that there have been exceptions in the "no return to Japan" idea is casually mentioned, and an appeal is made to them to consider the ideals introduced during the nineteenth century by Emperor Meiji. The leaflet is printed on a creme-colored paper. I have it in two sizes, five-inches by eight-inches in a grey tone, and five-inches by Nine and one half-inches in red. There is no text on the front. Text on the back is:

In olden days, before Japan became a powerful nation, citizens were forbidden to visit other countries. If they returned to Japan after such a visit, they were put to death.

With the enlightened rule of the Emperor Meiji, such practices were abolished. After the Russo-Japanese War, more than 2,000 Japanese soldiers taken prisoner by the Russians were returned to Japan. Some of those men hold important positions today.

Who is trying to make Japan go back to its former customs, against the wise policy of Emperor Meiji? Who is trying to prevent the return of soldiers who devoted themselves to the nation's welfare?

Are the Gumbatsu ashamed of their conduct of the war? Do they fear to have their mismanagement of the war known at home? Do they fear to have you loyal soldiers see what they have done to the country?

Will you allow them to succeed in their policy of deceiving you?

It is interesting to note that the U.S. Army Psychological Warfare Branch in the Philippines produced the exact same leaflet and text entitled "Militarists oppose Surrender" but coded it 04-J-1. Normally, PWB leaflets are not preceded by a "0" so the "04" may indicate that the leaflet was also OWI.

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OWI Leaflet 2064

Leaflet 2064 is a very stark dark blue and white leaflet that depicts a Japanese pilgrim standing at the foot of Mt. Fuji at the intersection of two paths marked by road-stones reading "Duty" and "Humanity." The leaflet is designed to lower Japanese morale and create a desire for peace. Text at the upper right of the leaflet is, "There are two roads but only one goal." The back is all text:

Japanese people have been praised and respected for their sense of duty. A true Japanese knows his obligations to his country as well as his family.

In a predicament such as Taira no Shigemori and Amanoya Rihei were put in, one has to, in order to serve his lord and country, sacrifice his responsibilities to his family. In such a situation, a true Japanese will conquer ninjo [human feeling] and give his all to his country.

Now, from the humanitarian standpoint, you would like to end this war so that you might save your parents and your children from meaningless death. However, you have been taught that you must undergo suffering to carry out your duty to your country. Hence, while you are thinking of your family, you are awaiting death.

If you are truly patriotic, you would not hesitate to put an end to this war. You could not stand to see your country heading straight to disaster. Homes lost, factories destroyed, the people sunk into the depths of poverty. You need not wait until this happens.

Your duty is to bring peace and to save your country from ruin. The Emperor has stated his desire for peace on several occasions. Japan is based on a family system. When death or other forms of disaster destroy the family, the entire nation suffers.

When you sacrifice yourselves and your families, the nation itself suffers. You lower the prestige of Japan among the nations of the world.

The Emperor, father of the Japanese people, must be deeply concerned to see his subjects die and the national fiber weakened. Duty to your nation is identical with the duty to your family.

To serve your Emperor is to serve your family. Therefore, if the Gumbatsu prevents you from doing your duty to your duty, rebel and save your family and your nation. Let the Gumbatsu take the blame for starting this war and its consequences.

This is a particularly interesting leaflet as was explained to me by military analyst Jeffrey Clinton Hill who lived in Japan for most of his life. He said in part:

The leaflet shows a Japanese pilgrim standing at the foot of Mr. Fuji at the intersection of two paths marked by road-stones reading "Duty" and "Humanity." Those are the English words that translate the Japanese kanji of Geri and Ninjo. The Japanese consider the yin-yang concepts of Giri and Ninjo to be at the heart of what it means to be Japanese along with other Japanese yin-yang concepts that the Japanese consider to be unique to their culture and therefore impossible to translate into English and impossible for foreigners to fathom.

Ninjo refers to human inclinations such as the desire for individual recognition, friendships, love, family life, and all of the simple pleasures and hedonistic desires.

Giri refers to duty. The Japanese concept is that quite often in life there is a conflict between the two and the honorable person will sacrifice his "ninjo" for his recognized "giri." The assumption is that when the conflict arises, choosing "giri" is tough. Japanese literature abounds with this theme:

Giri: Leave the one you really love, marry for duty, and secretly think of the one you really love with romantic idealism for the rest of your life.

Ninjo: run away from your duty-marriage, indulge in passionate, romantic, beautiful love with your lover for two weeks and then you both jump off a cliff hand-in-hand before society can find you and drag you apart from each other.

I think the PSYOP text of Leaflet 2064 shows remarkable skill. The leaflet honors the Japanese concepts and challenges the Japanese to realize that, given the adversity they are facing, choosing to simply follow their corrupt leaders and die would actually be the easier "ninjo" choice, while choosing to challenge the Gumbatsu, survive, and rebuild Japan, would be the tougher and more honorable, "giri."

I particularly like the last line: "Let the Gumbatsu take the blame for starting this war and its consequences." Various Japanese disciplines ranging from zazen indoctrination in a Buddhist temple to everyday at-home child rearing by the mother are "Accept life. Don't blame someone." The reason these disciplines exist, in my opinion, is that the Japanese are naturally given to blaming others more than most peoples of the world are given to blaming others. All sorts of ways are built into the Japanese system so that no one individual gets blamed for something. These ways are needed precisely because the Japanese have such a natural tendency to look for someone to blame.

This is a leaflet designed by Frances Blakemore. It is mentioned in An American Artist in Tokyo, Michiyo Morioka, The Blakemore Foundation, Seattle, WA:

The light that emanates from behind Mt. Fuji suggests the sunrise...Appealing to the Japanese emphasis on family, a long text tells soldier that duty to one's nation is synonymous with duty to one's family...Frances's illustration exemplifies an effective use of a cultural symbol in the choice of the Mt. Fuji pilgrim motif. Any Japanese citizen would have instantly grasped its spiritual and nationalistic symbolism.


The OWI printed a number of newspapers for the Japanese and their allies to tell them the true status of the war and how the Empire was being pushed back island by island. Since some of the news had to do with the bombing of Tokyo, several of the newspapers depict Mt. Fuji to show the Japanese the truth of the story.

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OWI Newspaper Leaflet 2502

This one-page illustrated newspaper was entitled "The Hawaii Weekly News." Since it was known that many Japanese did not trust the news as reported in Japan, this airborne copy of a Japanese newspaper was dropped to tell them the truth. It was printed as a single sheet eight-inches by eleven-inches. This copy depicted the Marines raising the flag on Mt. Suribachi on one side, and a photograph of Mt. Fuji taken by carrier based aircraft that were raiding Tokyo on the other side. Some of the stories include: Catalina aircraft destroys 40,000 tons of shipping; Battle for Luzon entering final stage; British nearing Mandalay; Ota aircraft plant 90% destroyed and German prisoners number more than one million.

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OWI Newspaper Leaflet 4502

The Japanese discouraged the use of the Korean language. This newspaper was written in that language to show the Koreans that we supported their desire for independence from the Japanese. The newspaper is a single sheet eight-inches by eleven-inches entitled "The Chosin News." It is dated 9 March 1945. The stories are all the same as the Japanese language above; the only difference the use of the Korean language to show unity and gain their cooperation. Some additional news stories I did not mention above: Three hundred B-29 Superfortresses over Tokyo today; Red Army captures Cammin, City on Stettin Bay; Marines make small gains in bitter Iwo Jima fight and U.S. First Army crosses Rhine River to east bank.

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PWB Leaflet 5-J-8

The United States Army Psychological Warfare Branch in the Philippines also produced a number of leaflets that depicted Mt. Fuji. For instance, leaflets 5-J-8 and 7-J-8 were prepared by the Eighth Army G2 (Intelligence) on 2 February 1945. They depict a drawing of cherry blossoms to the left of Mt. Fuji in red ink on the front. Leaflet 5-J-8 was designed to be dropped before U.S. troops landed on the southern islands and meant to produce nostalgia by presenting pictures of Japanese home life. The leaflet is 10-inches by seven-inches in size. The leaflet is entitled Mt. Fuji. Some of the text is:

Japanese soldiers in the Philippines. What hope victory?

We feel sorry for you. Your leaders do not tell the truth. They have not told you that we control the strategic islands in the Northern Philippines.

Have you been told that Americans control Luzon; that our fleet is operating in your home waters; our bombers are over Japan every other day; you have lost 78 leading admirals and that the Allies are approaching Berlin?

Your wild eagles cannot fly to you, or your ships supply you with food and medicine. You have given your best in the past. Why should the children of the Land of the Sun be forced to live in darkness?

In your homeland the plum and cherry trees will soon be budding, ready to bring forth their dazzling beauty. Your children should be playing beneath this beauty with you lying contentedly by sipping sake, and listening to their laughter.

Look at the picture now. Your families have heavy hearts, living terrified of the winged giants that tear apart your war industries, and you, existing in a land where even the inhabitants kill your comrades.

When we land on the islands what hope have you of victory? None! Of life? All.

The back of leaflet 7-J-8 is all text and entitled "Blossom time." The text is:

It will soon be cherry blossom time in Japan. How beautiful it must be! After looking at the jungle vegetation for so many months, to see the graceful cherry tree would be like being reborn.

We Americans appreciate beauty and know what you are missing. In our capital, Washing, thousands of Americans go every year to see the Japanese cherry blossoms, a one-time symbol of peace between our two great nations.

Brave soldiers of Japan, do not throw away your lives in vain. Live to feast your eyes once again on those beautiful blossoms in a peaceful and prosperous Japan. Live!

Professor Earhart adds:

The tie to Washington and cherry blossoms is a nice sentimental touch. Once I ran into a little pamphlet about how the cherry trees in Washington were cut down during the war as a way of spiting the treacherous Japanese; then when the two nations became friendly after the war, cherry trees were planted again. One of the interesting aspects of Fuji is how it was a symbol of the enemy and war, and then a badge of peace. The cherry trees, too, seem to have been a gift of friendship, then a sign of betrayal, and later renewed amity.

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PWB Leaflet 10-J-8

The same unit produced a second leaflet coded 10-J-8 that depicted a Cherry tree to the right of Mt Fuji all in green ink on the front. It was dated 5 March 1945 and designed for Japanese ground forces in Visayans & Mindanao. The leaflet was entitled "Self decision." The text was written by members of the Eighth Army Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) and then tested and improved by Japanese prisoners of war. The leaflet is 10-inches by 7-inches in size. The text is:

To the Courageous Men of the Japanese Army

At present your fate is becoming acute. It is up to you, individually, to decide whether you die a miserable death, take refuge in the mountains, get infected by disease and face starvation, or live a long life for the future of Japan.

The bloody battlefields of New Guinea, Saipan and Leyte have ended. The losing battle of Luzon, the Philippine Islands decisive battlefield, is in the determining stage. The promises of your officers have been completely destroyed. The ambitions promises of the future are just a dream. What has happened to the Japan that was exercising overwhelming power in the pacific?

In the past, a great number of men have died in fruitless battles. On the other hand, many are temporary prisoners of war awaiting peace with the progressive idea of constructing a new Japan.

It has become impossible for your officers to faithfully guide and assist you. The Japanese Army, Navy and Air Force have deserted you. Consequently, routes that supply you with rations, materials and reinforcements have been severed. You are in a pitiful position with no means of withdrawal.

Why are you holding your ground, with no hope of victory, depriving yourself of the glory of living? Why must you die a pitiful death? At this very moment you may make an honorable decision of which course you choose to follow. Hesitation in the end means death.

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PWB Leaflet 35-J-6

The United States Sixth Army also produced leaflets for the Philippines. This 17 February 1945 leaflet to the Japanese depicts a soldier looking at a grave-site with Mt. Fuji and a torii in the background. Fuji implies that the soldier has returned home after the war. The text on the front is:

Two Roads of Thought

The back is all text:

Officers and men of the Japanese Imperial Forces:

After this conflict is over, wouldn’t it be better to return to your beloved homes which you are always thinking of in your dreams day and night, than death far away from your parents, wife, and children who are waiting for your return.

Display a white object, come over to our lines, and you will be given food, clothing, and medical care as specified by the Geneva Convention.

Note: A torii is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of, or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the mundane to sacred.

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PWB Leaflet 36-J-6

The United States Sixth Army also produced leaflets for the Philippines. This leaflet is entitled “Aims” and depicts four members of a Japanese family on the front. The text is:

America does not wish to inflict harm on you gentlemen or the families of you gentlemen.

The back depicts Mt. Fuji with a cherry tree at the right, identical to PWB leaflet 10-J-8 above. The text is:

America has no designs on Japanese territory, intending only to avoid aggression wherever possible in securing a lasting peace for the world.

The leaflet was dropped on South Luzon, Philippines on 16th July 1945. The translations are courtesy of David C. Earhart, author of Certain Victory: Images of World War II in the Japanese Media, M. E. Sharpe, 2008.

We note that the exact same front image was also used on PWB leaflet 16-J-8, aimed at the Japanese civilian population on Mindanao, dated 17 March 1945 and entitled “Japanese Civilians.” The back was all text:

Notice to Japanese Civilians

American forces are fighting against Japanese soldiers, not against Japanese civilians. We have no hostile feelings against innocent Japanese civilians. For some time we have been considering plans and measures whereby you civilians will escape injury as a result of battle. As the best solution, we strongly advise all of you to take refuge with American forces. It is our guarantee that you will receive humane treatment in full accordance with the rules laid down by the Geneva Convention.

For your safety, take refuge immediately with American or Filipino Guerrilla forces.

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Leaflet 113-J-1

Leaflet 113-J-1 depicts a riveter working on a building, with other new buildings and Mount Fuji in the background. It tells of the need to live to rebuild Japan. The theme of the leaflet was “Destroy the military clique and form a peace government. The text on the front is:

Who will rebuild Japan?

The text on the back of the leaflet is:

War Reaches Japanese Heartland

Japan’s great cities are being heavily bombed from bases on the Pacific Islands and on Okinawa. The industrial districts of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Kobe are being devastated. Great areas in these once flourishing cities have been reduced to ashes,

It is sad that the exigencies of war mean that the US air raids will increase in fury with each day until the selfish militarists have been destroyed.

The Japanese militarists alone are responsible for Japan’s present misery. It is they and not the Japanese people at whom the attacks are directed. On the day when the militarists are crushed and peace returns under a modern government, will you not be needed for the great work of rebuilding Japan?

Shortly after the war many Japanese civilians were sent to the Philippines on various jobs; finding and shipping scrap metal to Japan, etc. Every now and then, one or two of those Japanese workers would disappear without a trace. Unlike the Americans, the Filipinos had a long memory and did not forgive the Japanese for their wartime actions. I suspect that any Japanese male surrendering to a Filipino guerrilla band during the war would be very lucky to survive to return home.

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Mt. Fuji Leaflet - Source Unknown

Patriotic March - VF/J/21

This leaflet is interesting because it depicts Mt. Fuji, but we are not sure when or where it was made. It is part of a large series since this leaflet is numbered 21. Many of the leaflets mention Manchuria, and one mentions being there seven years. That implies the leaflets could be as early as 1938, or depending on when the soldier left home it could be several years later. It does seem likely that they were aimed at Japanese troops fighting on the Asian mainland. The leaflet depicts two soldiers looking at the Holy Mountain with arms uplifted. They say in unison:

Hail the citizens of Japan!

The text over Mt. Fuji is:


Look at the dawning in the eastern sea, the land of freedom glistens.
The gallant citizens of Japan cheer the native land.
Of the frightful days of military dictatorship are past and gone.
Thinking about it now appears a nightmare of Japan.

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Japanese Student Conscripts in Front of Mt. Fuji - 1940
From the personal collection of 95-year-old Yasuyuki Hashimoto;
courtesy of

Earhart adds in Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan that the Japanese also used Mt. Fuji in their wartime propaganda.

The government sponsored magazine Shashin Shuho (Photographic Weekly Report) published other photos and text utilizing the power of Fuji. A 1944 cover of the magazine features a photograph of a boy peering out of a tank, which was taken at a low angle so that the tank dominates Fuji.

In Shield of War he adds:

A 1942 issue of the same magazine features the Bantam Tank Troop in a photograph titled “At the Foot of Mount Fuji”; the camera positions Fuji as the crowning touch over this phalanx of boys in outsize uniforms, in front of tanks. The synergy of such pictures goes far beyond what the text explicitly states: although Fuji is invoked as a guardian, at the same time, the images encourage and inspire the boy soldiers to guard and preserve not only this national hallmark, but also the nation as the physical land and political entity nuanced by Fuji. That this deeper message need not be spelled out speaks to the power of Fuji’s iconic status.

An October 1944 Japanese leaflet depicts President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill as debauched ogres carousing within sight of Mt. Fuji. The Japanese were encouraged to kill the devilish Americans and British. Earhart says that a second propaganda cartoon depicted Americans as gangsters lusting after foreign lands while they committed outrageous racist crimes at home. As one American attempts to lasso Mt. Fuji, a Japanese bayonet stabs him in the behind.

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Boeing Advertisement: B-29 over Mt. Fuji

In this article we have discussed military propaganda using Mr. Fuji as a propaganda theme. It was not only the military. Numerous civilian firms and organizations used various images of Mt. Fuji in an attempt to use patriotism as a way to gain American acceptance and support. The advertisement above is especially significant since it was the Boeing B-29 that was bombing Japan on a daily basis and would later drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the ad, a flight of B-29s is depicted over Mt. Fuji and we assume they are about to bomb Japan. Although the ad actually asks the readers to buy war bonds, it is clearly meant to remind the people that it is the Boeing Company that is taking the fight to the Japanese home islands.

A Propaganda Plan that was never Approved

In every war there are numerous propaganda plans that are forwarded and go all the way up the ladder only to be ultimately shot down at the highest echelons. For instance, there was an Office of Strategic Services plan to drop propaganda on Hitler’s lair. It was thought that he was so tightly wound and unhinged that the sight of thousands of photographs of naked women would drive him over the edge.

There was another plan to drop bats with incendiaries tied to their body over Tokyo hoping that they would roost under the wooden roofs of the homes and set the city ablaze.

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A Black Mt Fuji?

And then, there was the plan to dye the top of Mt. Fuji. The story is told by Allan Richarz in a 1 March 2017 article entitled: “The WWII Plan to Mess with the Japanese by Dyeing Mt. Fuji.”

Late in WWII, the United States’ Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Areas (JICPOA) instituted a new psychological warfare unit. One of the ideas put forward by the new unit was to dye the revered Mt. Fuji ice cap black as a psychological blow against the Japanese. The proposed operation would give Fujiyama some color other than that endowed by nature, or, to say it more clearly, the plan called for dyeing Mt. Fuji black. After some study, it was decided that the proposed action would ultimately prove impractical, ineffective and even counter-productive. The 12,365-foot peak would require frequent missions to re-dye its 370-square-mile surface after each snowfall and it might lead to the Japanese accusing the United States of desecrating a national shrine. It was a truly terrible idea.

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The Setting Sun

The best way to end this article is with the end of the World War Two. The above image is the back of the pamphlet given to Professor Earhart’s father SC3c (Ship's Cook, Third Class)Kenneth H. Earhart at the time of surrender when he was stationed on the USS Missouri. The eight-page brochure was issued by the “Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Areas” titled U.S.S. Missouri: Scene of Japanese Surrender. It was originally distributed to naval personnel shortly after the surrender in 1945. Kenneth Earhart was in charge of one of the galleys on the Missouri. The brochure consists mainly of postcard-size photographs, featuring an aerial shot of the Missouri, and the American and Japanese signatories of the surrender. The image on the back is of the U.S. fleet against the background of the sun setting over Fuji. The caption is “The Setting Sun," which could mean the time of the day, but more likely means the end of the Japanese Empire.

I am sure that there are many more American propaganda leaflets that mention Mt. Fuji. I would be pleased to hear from readers who know of more or just care to comment on this article. Kindly write to the author at

End: 26 December 2011.