Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Sun Also Rises

Discussion of World War I rarely mentions the Asian theater of the conflict; a few months ago, I noted the British conquest of Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire, and posted a few cartoons about Japan's and China's declarations of war before that.

From the beginning of the war, Japan had expressed an interest in siding with the Entente powers in exchange for being promised Germany's Pacific territories; Japan declared war on Germany on August 23, 1914. The Imperial Navy handily seized the Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall Islands; after a three-month siege, Germany surrendered Tsingtao, China to Japan as well.

The U.S. entry into the war in 1917 made it by extension an ally of Japan, although up to then the two countries were actively competing to establish influence in China and the Pacific. To reduce tensions between them, the two countries signed the Lansing–Ishii Agreement in November of 1917.

"Schöne Seelen Finden Sich—" by Arthur Johnson in Kladderadatch, Berlin, October 14, 1917.
Arthur Johnson's cartoon riffs on an aphorism about beautiful souls finding themselves on sea and on land, and pairs it with two lines from the sonnet "Wie Es So Geht" ("How It Works").

Johnson, whose father was American, was born in Germany in 1878 and raised there by his mother. Leaning heavily on grotesque caricatures of Germany's adversaries, he had a lot to say about the Entente's embrace of Japan.
"Ex Oriente Luchs" by Arthur Johnson in Kladderadatch, Berlin, March 17, 1918
This time, Johnson's cartoon rests on a pun on "Ex Oriente Lux" ("Light from the East"), exchanging the Latin "Lux" for the German "Luchs." It's a shame that Kladderadatch didn't spring for red ink to color that Japanese rising sun on the lynx's belly; with yellow ink, it looks more like a daisy.

Russia's surrender to Germany at Brest-Litovsk in March, 1918 was in violation of a 1916 treaty between Russia and Japan promising that neither would sign a separate peace with Germany. Even before the Brest-Litovsk treaty was signed, Japan and the United States mobilized a joint invasion of Siberia to bolster the anti-Bolshevik White Army. The Imperial Japanese Army initially planned to send more than 70,000 troops to occupy Siberia as far west as Lake Baikal.
"Verspekuliert" by Arthur Johnson in Kladderadatch, Berlin, April 7, 1918
I'm less confident in my translation here. I found one source that says that "Schöne Pleite!" is the equivalent of a sarcastic "Nice one!" in English, but some of the words in the rest of the dialogue seem to baffle Google Translate. I suppose that Johnson might be mimicking an American or British accent, much as English-language cartoonists misspell words to indicate a German accent. (You can imagine, for instance, that while an English reader of The Katzenjammer Kids would recognize "vot" as "what" in a German accent, Google Translate would probably ask "Meinst du 'vote'?")
"Der Held des Ostens" by Ragnvald Blix in Simplicissimus, Munich, April 2, 1918
Johnson was not the only German cartoonist casting aspersions on the Entente's alliance with Japan. Here's the fifth panel of a cartoon excerpted here last Saturday
Detail of "Ostereier" by Arpad Schmidhammer, in Jugend, Berlin, March 16, 1918
Wilson's egg is labeled "Japanese Selflessness," and I know of no allegations that the Japanese used weaponized gas in World War I. Germany had resumed gas attacks at this point; perhaps Herr Schmidhammer was trying to suggest an "everybody does it" defense.
"Netze Über Sibirien" by Carl Olaf Petersen in Simplicissimus, Munich, April 26, 1918
I ought to present a Japanese view of some of these events, but I have to confess that I'm practically fluent in German compared to my grasp of Japanese. But here's a Japanese cartoon anyway.
From Osaka Puck, Osaka, possibly November, 1917
I've posted cartoons dating from before America's entrance to the war warning of the Yellow Peril; but now that the U.S. and Japan were, so to speak, in the trenches together, cheerleading was the order of the day. Omaha's Spencer depicts the Lansing–Ishii Agreement as a love affair in much less lurid manner than Herr Johnson, and Dayton's Stinson has a different view of Ex Oriente Lux.
"The Love Feast" by Guy Spencer in Omaha World-Herald, about November, 1917
"Darkening the Rising Sun" by Homer Stinson in Dayton News, about March, 1918
San Francisco's Bronstrup applauds Japan's attack on Russia from behind.
"Wilhelm in the Bear's Den" by Gustavo Bronstrup in San Francisco Chronicle, about March, 1918
On the other hand, this Polish-American cartoonist appears to have strong reservations about Japan's intentions. Perhaps the Committee on Public Information Bureau of Cartoons (yes, that was a real thing) didn't get the memo translated for him in time.
"Między Dwoma Złymi" by Fosliko in Motyl, New York, April, 1918
The Chicago Tribune's Carey Orr also recommended caution.
"They'll Need a Chaperon" by Carey Orr in Chicago Tribune, March 3, 1918

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