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Japanese Whitewashing of the Past

[ 72 ] May 9, 2015 |

Nanking_bodies_1937

187 of the world’s most prominent historians of Japan have written an open letter to Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, urging that he stop whitewashing the atrocities committed by the Japanese during World War II. You can read the letter here. Of course, Japanese right-wingers refuse to allow this to happen, denying horrors ranging from the sexual slavery of comfort women to the depredations at Nanking. Abe has been pretty awful on these issues:

Earlier this year Japan took the unusual step of requesting the US textbook company McGraw-Hill to change its account of Japan’s wartime practice of rounding up women in occupied nations and providing them as sex partners for its soldiers. Abe himself has been part of an effort to suggest the women behaved in a voluntary manner in nations like Korea, and that local Koreans organized the military brothels, not Japan.

The 187 historians took exception with that revision:

“The ‘comfort women’ system was distinguished by its large scale and systematic management under the military, and by its exploitation of young, poor, and vulnerable women in areas colonized or occupied by Japan,” their letter said.

Incidentally, I just watched this documentary on Nanking earlier this week and I highly recommend it, disturbing as it is.

Japanese Flying Fortresses

[ 19 ] September 10, 2014 |

This is a fascinating picture:


Some more information here.

The first B-17 to come under Japanese control was an B-17D which was pieced together from the remnants of other destroyed B-17Ds on Clark Field in the Philippines. The same thing was done to to two B-17Es on Bandung Field on Java. At the time, this was the newest model of the B-17 available. The Japanese were impressed with the simplicity of the cockpit for such a large aircraft. One of the B-17Es was used for a test bed for a captured Norden bombsight, coupled to the Sperry automatic flight control system. Also of great interest was the B-17’s gunnery equipment, especially the Sperry automatic computing gunsight. The May 1943 issue of Koku-Asahi was devoted almost completely to the captured B-17s. Nearly every major component was shown in photos and drawings. Since the Japanese also had instruction manuals for the aircraft, no detail was overlooked.

Japanese Air Warfare Footage

[ 94 ] November 14, 2013 |

More Farley’s beat, but this footage of air warfare from Japanese archives in 1945 is pretty amazing to watch.

The Japanese Counter-Insurgency Experience in China

[ 11 ] January 12, 2013 |

This week’s Diplomat column takes a look at COIN in the Second Sino-Japanese War, based on the Murray-Mansoor edited volume Hybrid Warfare:

Yamaguchi suggests that elements of the Japanese Army and a variety of hybrid civil-military organizations took the problem of COIN quite seriously from a strategic point of view, appreciating that the only way to victory in China was the establishment of a self-sustaining, pro-Japanese Chinese government.

However, the Japanese Army suffered from problems of focus and resources.  Rather than concentrating on counter-insurgency operations, the Army needed to prepare for conventional operations against Chiang Kai Shek’s Nationalist Army, defensive operations in jungle and island theatres against British and American forces, and finally the long-anticipated Soviet invasion of Manchuria.  These threats all posed radically different challenges, making training haphazard and incoherent. The Japanese also faced unity of effort challenges, with civilian and military agencies organized around pacification and institution building losing out in intra-agency battles against conventionally oriented officers.

Long story short, the history of Japanese operations in China was more complicated in process, if not in effect, than the “Kill All, Loot All, Destroy All” that has come to characterize the war*.

*Standard caveat: I trust that readers are bright enough to understand that this does not constitute an apology for the Japanese Imperial Army.

And Medicare is like a mini Japanese-American internment program

[ 0 ] August 5, 2009 |

Well, this pretty much beats the shit out of anything Juan Williams has said recently. Given Liasson’s record on Katrina itself, one supposes she ought to avoid mentioning the subject altogether. Is NPR offering its reporters funnel cakes for making stupid on cable TV?

So Why No Fortune at Japanese Restaurants?

[ 0 ] January 18, 2008 |

It seems that the fortune cookie originated in late 19th century Japan:

There is one place where fortune cookies are conspicuously absent: China.

Now a researcher in Japan believes she can explain the disconnect, which has long perplexed American tourists in China. Fortune cookies, Yasuko Nakamachi says, are almost certainly originally from Japan.

Her prime pieces of evidence are the generations-old small family bakeries making obscure fortune cookie-shaped crackers by hand near a temple outside Kyoto. She has also turned up many references to the cookies in Japanese literature and history, including an 1878 image of a man making them in a bakery – decades before the first reports of American fortune cookies.

The idea that fortune cookies come from Japan is counterintuitive, to say the least. “I am surprised,” said Derrick Wong, the vice president of the largest fortune cookie manufacturer in the world, Wonton Food, based in Brooklyn. “People see it and think of it as a Chinese food dessert, not a Japanese food dessert,” he said.

Japanese Defense

[ 0 ] July 23, 2007 |

There’s a good article in the NYT today about Japan’s increasingly aggressive defense posture. In addition to slight increases in defense spending, the deployment of assets farther away from Japan, and the purchase of new weapon systems, the Japanese Self-Defense Force is carrying out more aggressive and realistic training exercises.

For a few reasons, this doesn’t bother me a bit. First, the dichotomy between “offensive” and “defensive” weapons is and always has been nonsense. Almost any weapon (including a wall, or even a missile defense system) can be used for both offensive and defensive purposes. The inter-war arms agreement negotiators tried to ban offensive weapons, but failed to come to any plausible determination of what constituted offensive and defensive. Political scientists have played around with the “offense-defense balance” concept for years, with few sound results. The idea, therefore, of a military organization built around “defensive” weaponry suffers from some serious conceptual problems.

In the specific case of Japan these problems are exacerbated by Japanese dependence on foreign trade. While Japan remains under the US security umbrella, it doesn’t need to worry too much about attacks on its supply lines. If that umbrella ever weakened, or if Japan wished to contribute more, defense would necessarily include deployments well outside Japanese waters. Similarly, an attack on Chinese, US, Korean, or Russian missile or air bases capable of striking Japan could plausibly be defined as “defensive”. Long story short, the idea of a “defensive” Japanese military makes no sense whatsoever outside the context of American military hegemony. As long as the US conducts all of the distant operations for Japanese defense, we can pretend that Japan has a Self-Defense Force instead of a military, but that designation amounts to little more than a charade.

Of course, all things military are also political, and Japanese defense re-organization (Japan is already heavily armed, so re-armament doesn’t make any sense) has political effects at home and in the region. Rightist politicians have long argued for a more substantive military profile, but such arguments don’t weaken the case itself. China and the Koreas have expressed a lot of concern about Japanese revanchism, and could meet a more aggressive Japanese military posture with additional spending of their own. Since China is already increasing its defense spending (and orienting that spending around Taiwan, rather than Japan), and North Korea is pretty much tapped out, this puts South Korea on the spot. Call me a sap, but if Japan and South Korea go to war again in my lifetime, I’ll buy every reader of TAPPED and LGM a Coke. Nationalist politicians in China, South Korea, and Japan have become remarkably adept at playing off one another for domestic political gain over the past twenty years or so; re-organizing or re-titling the Self-Defense Force isn’t going to change that, or even affect the dynamic very much.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

. . . and somewhere in Omaha, the Chunichi Dragons are the lords of Japanese baseball

[ 0 ] February 4, 2007 |

I’m not sure why I found this article so irritating and compelling at the same time. I’ve known for years that the losers of major sporting events have their “championship” t-shirts swiftly dumped on Romania or Thailand, so the substance of the piece isn’t really surprising. What struck me, however was the degree to which the NFL wants to flush the offending apparel down the proverbial memory hole.

By order of the National Football League, those items are never to appear on television or on eBay. They are never even to be seen on American soil.

They will be shipped Monday morning to a warehouse in Sewickley, Pa., near Pittsburgh, where they will become property of World Vision, a relief organization that will package the clothing in wooden boxes and send it to a developing nation, usually in Africa.

This way, the N.F.L. can help one of its charities and avoid traumatizing one of its teams.

There’s a side of me that loves counterfactuals, and so I would probably pay decent money for a 1997 Cleveland Indians shirt or a 1980 Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl hat. I would pay even more for New York Yankees’ shirts from 2001 or 2003, or Atlanta Braves merchandise from 1991 or 1992 — though my motives there would be of a purely spiteful nature.

There’s also a side of me that thinks this is one more reason that terrorists are correct to hate our freedoms. Post-championship marketing is so aggressive that we can’t wait a few minutes to see the MVP in his victory paraphernalia? How long can it possibly take to silk screen a fucking pile of t-shirts?

Of course charity is the big winner here, obviously. If we didn’t send our losers’ gear to the third world, what on earth would they wear? Nice of us to send them our ships and broken computers, too.

The Times didn’t mention whether Larry Summers is behind this, but I have my suspicions.

Japanese F-22

[ 0 ] February 25, 2006 |

Ryan at Capital Cadre highlights this story on the F-22:

Momentum is building within the Air Force to sell the service’s prized F-22A Raptor — which is loaded with super-secret systems — to trusted U.S. allies, with Japan viewed as the most likely buyer, service and industry officials tell Inside the Air Force.

A Lockheed Martin official heavily involved in the Raptor program told ITAF Feb. 14 that a proposal to alter course and sell the Raptor to Japan is working its way through the Air Force. Lockheed is leading development and production work on the service’s newest fighter.

Several interesting things are going on here. Obviously, it’s no surprise that Lockheed and Boeing like the idea of selling the F-22 on the international market. It’s a little bit more puzzling that Air Force brass like the idea. The notion of selling the most advanced aircraft in the US arsenal even to a committed US ally would seem to make them mildly twitchy. However, given that so many different countries are part of the Joint Strike Fighter research, perhaps this isn’t the case.

Another way to think of this is to interpret it in terms of the more general expansion of Japan’s military role, and of the slow redefinition of the US-Japanese military alliance.

Japanese Normalization

[ 0 ] September 13, 2005 |

I disagree with John Ikenberry. I don’t believe that Article 9 of the Japanese constitution serves any further purpose, and I think it should be abolished.

Ikenberry’s case is built around three arguments. First, the Japanese ought to resist normalization because normalization is being strongly pushed by the United States. The United States is pursuing this in order to make Japan a more useful military ally, and presumably to free up forces that could more profitably be used elsewhere in the world. Ikenberry’s second argument is tied to his first. Rather than becoming “normal” by establishing a set of regular military institutions, Japan ought to fulfill its global responsibilities through more peaceful means, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world. Finally, Ikenberry suspects that a remilitarized Japan will destabilize East Asia. I find all of these arguments uncompelling.

[Japanese] feel pressure from the United States to “step up to the plate” and be a more fully capable ally. Even before September 11, the U.S. has been urging Japan to breakout of its old postwar straightjacket. The so-called Armitage report – a bipartisan group of Japan foreign policy specialists and diplomats – called for the U.S. and Japan to transform their relationship into something akin to the U.S.-British special relationship.

I don’t see a problem here. Why is it a bad thing for anyone if one of the world wealthiest states, and one that has a deeply vested interest in maintenance of the political and economic status quo, takes more vigorous military steps to maintain that status quo? Why, exactly, would it be bad for the Japanese to become a military power on par with Britain or France (or, likely, even stronger than that)? Ikenberry does not present a compelling argument, but seems concerned that a stronger Japanese military will simply become a pawn in some neoconservative fantasy. This is absurd; whatever foreign policy goals Japan could be imagined to have, invading countries and installing liberal democratic governments can’t possibly be one of them. Japan is never going to be a driver of US military adventurism, and I doubt very much that it will even be an enthusiastic participant. Neocons are idiots, and just because they think that a re-militarized Japan will enable them to further pursue their fantasies doesn’t make it a reality. Indeed, I would expect a re-militarized Japan to be less amenable to US hegemony, rather than more. If the Japanese military can solve problems on its own, it will need to rely less on the United States. Moreover, I’m not really even sold on how strengthening the hand of the United States in hegemonic maintenance is a bad thing.

Ikenberry is concerned that international responsibility is being defined to narrowly by advocates of re-militarization:

I agree that Japan ought to be a “responsible” power. But I think it is incorrect to simply equate “responsibility” with the ability to use force. Is Japan being responsible when it alters its constitution so that it can more fully join the Bush administration’s war on terrorism – or is it being responsible when it engages America on its own terms and articulates its own vision of security and international community?

It seems to me that this is rather a question for the Japanese to answer. I am uncompelled by the argument that Japan ought to pursue some kind of pacific form of responsibility while it is obviously dependent on the military force of other nations for the maintenance of the global economic system on which its prosperity is contingent. Sure, there are plenty of ways to influence world politics without using military force, and certainly the Bush administration would be well advised to learn at least one. There are also lots of ways in which military force is a useful tool of statecraft. I see no reason why Japan should eschew this tool while Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, India, and the United States do not.

Finally, Ikenberry uses a form of the old argument about Japanese war guilt:

I am not convinced that Japanese national identity – particularly as it is manifest in military/constitutional terms – is strictly an internal matter. Nor is Chinese, Korean or American national identity, for that matter. As is international politics more generally, national identity is profoundly relational. In Japan’s complicated historical case, this is all the more true. The revision of Article 9 is a major “regional event” – and Japan is headed for trouble if its leaders say:

It’s true that Japan has not evaluated its behavior in World War II as clearly as, say, Germany. It’s also clear that the Japanese have done a much better job of assessing their responsibility than, for example, the Russians. Yes, I am certain that the abolition of Article 9 will disconcert many of the Asian countries that suffered from Japanese imperialism sixty years ago. I am just as certain that Japan has no interest in reasserting the imperial project, and doubt very much that it could even if it wanted. I suspect that the abolition of Article 9 will arouse a fair amount of indignation at first, and will then be largely forgotten. I doubt that the Chinese, for example, put much trust in the argument that a constitutional clause will restrain Japanese imperialism in any case. Because Chinese defense policy is oriented around the conquest of Taiwan rather than defense against an outside aggressor anyway, I’m unconvinced that the Chinese leadership view Japan as a genuine threat, rather than as a useful sounding board for nationalist rhetoric.

Again, I see no further use for Article 9. If Japan wishes to build a more powerful military, capable of foreign intervention and hegemonic maintenance, then it ought to be able to. To be quite honest, I think that the world will benefit from a more militarily capable Japan.

Monuments to What?

[ 102 ] August 31, 2015 |

H60566Mixed feelings…

The dull reverberations of the underwater explosions are clearly audible from the surface. The scavengers have returned, laying home-made charges to break up the hulls of two of the most celebrated British warships of the age, sunk in December 1941 and the last resting places of more than 830 Royal Navy sailors.

No-one would countenance such desecration on land. But the wrecks of the HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales, just a few miles off the coast of Malaysia, are now being stripped bare for their scrap metal. Recognised war graves, they are disappearing, with the damage intensifying in recent months, according to those who know the wrecks and try their best to preserve them.

It’s obviously unfortunate that the wrecks are being taken apart. At the same time, it’s hard for me to accord too much blame to Malaysian scrap dealers for taking apart a couple of ships that were destroyed when one imperial master fought another imperial master. They are monuments for the British, and possibly for the Japanese, but not for the people of the region.

And of course, HMS Prince of Wales is featured here…

Better Know a Brazilian: João Cândido Felisberto

[ 19 ] August 24, 2015 |

This is a guest post by Dr. Colin Snider, who also blogs at Americas South and North.

João Cândido Felisberto remains one of the more overlooked figures in one of the more overlooked periods of Brazilian history. However, his life offers much insight into the transitional nature of race, society, politics, and life during Brazil’s First Republic (1889-1930) and beyond.

João Cândido Felisberto was born in Rio Grande do Sul in 1880 to parents who either were still slaves, or who had been recently manumitted. Either way, João Cândido was raised in a context in which slavery (which was only fully abolished in Brazil in 1888) was a daily part of living memory. At the age of 15, João Cândido attended the School for Naval Apprentices in Rio Grande do Sul. Apprenticeship schools (where orphaned boys were often sent) were one of two ways that most men entered the navy, with forced recruitment being the other typical route into the navy.

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Sailors on the Minas Geraes in the 1910s. The photograph reveals the ways in which sailors were overwhelmingly of African descent, even while the officer class was overwhelmingly white. Thus, Brazil’s navy replicated the racial hierarchy of Brazilian politics and society more generally.

João Cândido served in the navy for 15 years, a period that saw substantial transformations in both the navy and in Brazilian politics and society more generally. In 1889, Brazil’s military, with the support of republicans, abolitionists, and others, peacefully overthrew the empire of Dom Pedro II, bringing an end to the Brazilian Empire (1822-1889) and ending the reign of the House of Bragança. The First Republic, an oligarchic federalized regime, struggled to re-define the nation, even while it dealt with internal challenges (including no fewer than two naval revolts in the 1890s). Among its major concerns were how Brazil, a country of racially-mixed history in the midst of the scientific racism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, could project an image of modernity and civilization in the world.

By the early 1900s, the Brazilian government determined that military modernization would be one of the mechanisms through which Brazil would join the “civilized” countries of the world. Brazil had long had a strong navy, which played an important role in the eventual Brazilian victory in the War of the Triple Alliance, and the navy had also been key to extending the Brazilian state’s presence into the Amazon. With the Japanese victory over Russia, predicated largely on naval power, in the Japanese-Russo War had demonstrated the value of a modernized, steam-powered navy. With the debut of the Dreadnought in England, the first ship of its firepower, Brazil determined that improving its navy  with Dreadnought-class battle-ships would be the way to project its “civilized” status and “modernity” to the world. As a result, it pledged to buy three dreadnoughts (and, in the process, spurred an arms race with Argentina and Chile). By 1910, Brazil had the Minas Geraes, which was up to that point the largest warship in the world – not even Great Britain had an equal to the Minas Geraes. Brazil also commissioned the São Paulo, the second of its warships, while a contract for a third (the Rio de Janeiro) was completed. Each ship cost $10 million dollars (roughly $250,000,000 each in 2015). Beyond the two dreadnoughts, Brazil also purchased some cruisers and refitted older battleships and other ships. To demonstrate its new firepower, the ships went to Portugual in November 1910, arriving just in time to witness the Republican revolution that brought an end to the Bragança Family’s rule in Portugal.

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São Paulo on trials, 1910

While Brazil’s naval firepower had modernized substantially, the naval use of force had not. While Brazil’s 1891 constitution had outlawed flogging, a loophole meant that the practice remained common on enlisted men in the navy. While (almost universally white) officers defended the practice, going so far as to say it allowed sailors to show their physical strength, the (overwhelmingly Afro-Brazilian) enlisted men bristled at the practice’s ongoing survival. A naval force of men who, like João Cândido, had slavery within their living memory, bristled at the state’s assertion of control over their bodies through whipping, and the associations that the practice carried with slavery.  Much of the western world had banned flogging of sailors, either in practice or in legal codes, yet the practice remained in Brazil’s navy into the 2oth century. While legally, officers could not lash sailors more than 25 lashes a day, the naval code allowed for more, based on the “prudent discretion” of the officers. As a result, men like Marcelino Rodrigues de Menezes could be sentenced to 200-250 lashes in November 1910.

It was in this political and military context in which João Cândido entered into the national historical stage. Menezes’ punishment was the spark that lit the simmering resentment of sailors over abuses they suffered. Sailors had quietly been preparing a revolt in protest against the use of flogging and other issues. The revolt was initially planned for November 15 – the anniversary of the founding of the Republic in 1889 – but ultimately postponed. With Menezes’s whipping, however, sailors on the Minas GeraesSão Paulo, and other ships in Guanabara Bay determined the time to act had come. On November 22, 1910, nearly 2400 sailors (out of 5000) rose up, killing the commander of the Minas Geraes and some of his subordinates, proclaiming “Down with the lash” and “Long live liberty!”

Having not taken a part in the initial wave of violence, João Cândido nonetheless emerged as the leader of the revolt on the morning of the 23rd. João Cândido himself had never been flogged (though he had been periodically reprimanded for fights with other sailors), and indeed had recently twice received citations for good conduct. As part of the transitional generation that witnessed the move from Empire to Republic and the technological transformation from sailing to steam-powered ships, João Cândido had the respect of both the older and younger sailors, which aided in his position as leader of the movement.

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João Cândido (right) with his personal aide during the Revolt of the Whip.

By the morning of the 23rd, two of the most powerful battleships in the world, whose firepower the Brazilian government had trumpeted as evidence of its development, were now pointing those very guns at the city of Rio de Janeiro, and the people who were once supposed to feel pride at Brazil’s military might now panicked as it was directed toward them. This fear was compounded by the deaths of at least two civilians when the ships fired toward the city in one instance.

The sailors’ demands were not revolutionary. In addition to the abolition of flogging (and of corporal punishment more generally), sailors also demanded the removal of “incompetent and unworthy officers,” an increase in pay, better access to education, and more workers (the naval forces were notoriously understaffed). As the revolt dragged on, sailors also added better food and an amnesty for their actions to their list of demands. Meanwhile, their manifesto insisted they acted as “sailors, citizens, and republicans.” In making such claims, they were not expressing political radicalism, but rather, were asserting their rights as citizens and equals in the new Republic. Indeed, the joining of “down with the lash” and praises for liberty revealed the subtle ways in which the legacies of slavery, and the affiliation of whipping with slavery, resonated among an overwhelmingly Afro-descendent naval force who worked for white officers. Thus began what came to be known as the Revolt of the Whip.

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A Brazilian overseer whipping a slaves, both in the foreground and at the tree in the background. Such images were in the living memory of sailors during the Revolt of the Whip. That white officers still flogged black sailors mirrored the relations of slavery (abolished just 22 years earlier) doubtlessly resonated in the minds of the sailors and helps explain why lashings were at the core of the 1910 revolt.

While politicians debated what to do, military leaders expressed begrudging admiration for the sailors’ planning and coordination of the revolt, and their ability to maintain secrecy. In order to prevent reprisals, the ships under João Cândido’s guidance (he’d been a helmsman, among other positions in his 15 years in naval service), regularly moved out beyond the bar at night, so that the military could not launch a counter-attack. After much debate,with opponents saying to capitulate to the (black) sailors would destroy Brazil’s ability to govern itself, the government of President Hermes Rodrigues da Fonseca – himself a soldier and the nephew of Deodoro da Fonseca, who led the coup of 1889 – agreed on November 26 to an amnesty and to consider the sailors’ demands. The navy retook control of the ships shortly afterward.

However, the amnesty did not produce an end to the tensions. Despite agreeing to consider the demands, there was no immediate pay raise, nor was flogging immediately abolished. On the ships themselves, officers remained tense, and their command was in reality tenuous, as sailors only obeyed commands that João Cândido approved. In this context, the sailors themselves divided: some, like João Cândido, sided with the government in the wake of the pledge to address their issues; others demanded more radical action.

In spite of its promise for an amnesty, the government quickly moved to crack down on the sailors who revolted, launching a wave of illegal arrests of sailors. By the first week of December, over 100 sailors were arrested in what amounted to a purge of the already understaffed navy.

In this context, the radicals plotted another revolt for December 9. At the fort in the Ilha das Cobras [one of the islands of Guanabara Bay], marines rose up and took the fort, holding it for 17 hours before the government re-took the fort. This second revolt did not express any specific demands, and caught many of the leaders of the first revolt, including João Cândido, off guard. Indeed, in the brief course of the second revolt, João Cândido expressed support for the government.

With this second revolt, the government and military quickly deployed repressive tactics, removing 1000 sailors from the navy and imprisoning 600 sailors and marines. Among those arrested was João Cândido, who had had no part in the second revolt and remained supportive of the government during the brief rebellion. João Cândido then endured some of the most horrific events of the crackdown. He, along with 28 other men, was imprisoned in the colonial-era maximum security prison in the fort at Ilha das Cobras (where the second revolt had occurred) on Christmas Eve. The prison cell itself lacked fresh water and was stiflingly hot. Making matters worse, soldiers had cleaned it out with quicklime. As the stagnant water on the floor of the prisons evaporated, the lime on the walls entered into the air that the prisoners were breathing. They called for help, but the jailor did not have the keys to the cell – the commander had taken them with him to Rio de Janeiro as he celebrated the holiday. By the time the cell was finally opened on December 25, twenty-five of the twenty-nine prisoners were dead from asphyxiation. João Cândido was one of the four survivors.

While news of the Ilha das Cobras scandal slowly emerged, João Cândido remained a prisoner, finally charged in June 1912 for involvement in the second revolt, in spite of the fact he had sided with the government during the second revolt and had played no part in it. In December 1912, just over two years after the Revolt of the Whip and nearly two years since João Cândido nearly died in prison, a court-martial unanimously found João Cândido not guilty of involvement in the second revolt.

Despite the amnesty of 1910 and the acquittal of 1912, João Cândido would not lead an easy life. He briefly worked for the merchant marine before Navy officials pressured his employers to fire him. He ultimately settled down as a fishmonger and merchant in Rio de Janeiro by the end of the 1910s. Meanwhile, the Revolt of the Whip had tapped into, but certainly not solved, questions of racial difference and inequality during the First Republic, even while highlighting the limits of “modernity” that the government had pursued. As time progressed, João Cândido, and the Revolt of the Whip, came to offer symbolic meaning and hope to other groups. When the Communist Party launched a revolt during the government of Getúlio Vargas, they appealed to sailors to rise up as they had done in 1910. In 1959, the governor of Rio Grande do Sul finally offered him a pension in recognition of his role in demanding an end to corporal punishment and the fight for equality during the Revolt of the Whip. And in March 1964, as marines and sailors went on strike to demand the right to vote and run for office, they invited João Cândido to speak. However, he lacked the exuberance of the young sailors, simply claiming that he “didn’t expect to witness another revolt” and suggesting that the sailors were “tempting fate.”[1] His assessment was remarkably prescient, as just one week later, the military, appalled at the sailors’ insubordination and fed up with what it perceived to be the growing “communism” of president João Goulart, launched a coup that ushered in a 21 year military dictatorship. The new conservative governor of Rio Grande do Sul used the opportunity to strip João Cândido of his pension.

João Cândido Felisberto ultimately lived long enough to see Brazil’s military regime enter its most repressive phase. He died in December 1969, at the age of 89 years old, leaving behind his (third) wife and several children. However, even after his death, his status as a symbol of resisting repression and standing up for Afro-Brazilians and the working classes grew. In 2008, nearly 100 years after the Revolt of the Whip, President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva granted a posthumous amnesty to João Cândido and all the other sailors involved in the Revolt of the Whip.

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The monument to João Cândido, the “black admiral,” in Rio de Janeiro.

 

[1] Quoted in Joseph Love, Revolt of the Whip, p. 112.

For further reading, recommended works are Joseph Love’s The Revolt of the Whipand Ann M. Schneider’s
PhD dissertation, “Amnestied in Brazil, 1895-1985,” an excellent study that explores the history of amnesties in Brazil and devotes a full chapter to the 1910 amnesty.

For additional reading on the mythic and social significance of the battleship, see The Battleship Book, which includes a chapter on São Paulo.

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