Saturday, December 21, 2013

John Birch

If you don't read the Friday history posts over at ChicagoBoyz you're missing some fun. Trent has been doing a series on WWII-in-the-Pacific history that got left out of the official histories, and Sgt. Mom one on Texas.

Trent's latest is on the secret intelligence network set up in China to monitor Japanese movements--doubly secret because it had to be kept secret not just from the Japanese but also from Gen. Stilwell who had forbidden it. (Sometimes internal service politics took precedence over defeating the enemy. Kenneth Roberts described the same me-first attitude during the American Revolution, and it is visible to this day in DC.)

And who should turn up in Chennault's network but a fellow named John Birch. I'm not sure why I never bothered to look him up before. Probably it was prejudice; all right-thinking people ignore the John Birch Society, therefore his name does not come to mind: crimestop. (Funny how the anti-fluoridation movement is coming back again, from the other direction this time.) That was silly of me--they could just as easily pick a genuine hero as an ideological hero, and apparently they did.

For me he's a slightly ambiguous hero, though. He was a Baptist missionary in China who fled the Japanese invasion and worked establishing missions well in the interior. After he rescued some downed Americans he was recruited to spy on the Japanese, which he agreed to do provided he could continue his mission work. He did both, and apparently was courageous enough with the missions work to worry his supervisors.

In his travels (he was skilled enough to pass through Japanese lines as an ordinary farmer) he relied heavily on a network of fellow Christians, and recruited many to monitor Japanese troop, air, and other movements. At war's end the Japanese had to surrender control to the Nationalists, even in areas where the Communists had effective control, and as he went to receive surrender of a Japanese post for the Nationalists, he was intercepted and killed by Communists.

What sounds a little iffy to me is the use of Christian groups for military ends. It was probably inevitable (who could he trust?), and the Maoists already hated religions so it wouldn't have made any difference in how Christians were treated afterwards. But it makes me a little itchy.

I know there is precedent for Christian fighters and I am not pacifist myself, but still... Would I have done the same? If I had the courage, I think yes--who else could I trust? And if I cared at all about the people I was working with I'd want them free from the enslaving aliens.

Go look him up.

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Interesting we were on a related wavelength this week.