A Lesson in Positive Chutzpah for Surviving Print Authors and Publishers

(2 October 2012)
In today’s print issue of The Australian, I was impressed to see a costly full page advertisement by Paul Ham about his book, Sandakan: The Untold Story of the Sandakan Death Marches, released yesterday by Random House Australia. The advertisement was titled: ‘An Open Letter to the Emperor of Japan’. (Perhaps there is a copy on the Random House website. It is worth reading.)

Subsequent reference to the Internet revealed an accompanying article that I hadn’t seen in the print version. (Was it only posted on the paywalled Internet version of “The OZ”?) I reproduce it below.

The inspiring aspect of this interesting initiative is that it shows that printed books and printed media should not be prematurely dismissed as moribund. Here surely is proof that they are both alive and kicking, especially for the under 40 age group and other serious researchers.

Here is how journalist Rick Morton is recorded as reporting the audacious initiative in today’s Internet version of The Australian (2 October 2012).

‘Paul Ham doesn’t beat around the bush: what happened at Sandakan was abhorrent’
“The Australian historical author Paul Ham has used a full-page newspaper ad paid for by the publisher of his new book to accuse the Japanese government of failing to account for war crimes committed in Borneo more than 60 years ago.

The advertisement, in The Australian today, which calls on Japan’s current emperor Tenno Heika to apologise for war-time atrocities, and specifically for the Sandakan prisoner-of-war death marches that killed thousands, says some Australians still “hate” the Japanese.
“I do not share in the slightest degree the racial intolerance of some of my countrymen and women, whose hatred of the Japanese people festers decades after the last drop of blood fell on the earth in the dying months of the Pacific War,” Ham writes.
“It is absurd to hate a whole people. I therefore appeal to our shared sense of humanity, in presenting you with my book Sandakan: The Untold Story of the Sandakan Death Marches (Random House Australia, 2012), the history of the little-known war crime that occurred between 1942 and 1945 in Borneo, when the island was an outpost of the Japanese Empire.”

Ham denied the advertisement was part of a publicity stunt designed to stir old hatreds. “It’s not a publicity stunt, no, the publisher really liked the letter which I’d originally written as the introduction to the book and decided it should reach a wider audience,” he said.
Japanese leaders have apologised for atrocities during the war, including in 1957, when prime minister Kishi Nobusukesaid: “It is my official duty, and my personal desire, to express to you and through you to the people of Australia, our heartfelt sorrow for what occurred in the war.”
Ham said these, and others like it, were only “half-hearted” apologies and denied his strongly worded letter could lead to diplomatic tension.

“This is not a diplomatic issue, it’s an appeal to a human issue,” he said. “It doesn’t beat around the bush; what happened at Sandakan is really quite abhorrent, the most disgusting stuff.
“Japanese politicians have individually expressed remorse and regret in the past but I wrote this letter on behalf of the families who lost loved ones at Sandakan for the highest figurehead in Japan to apologise specifically to them.”

Some 2400 Australian and British POWs died at Sandakan, and only six Australians escaped.
National President of the Returned and Services League Rear Admiral Ken Doolan did not wish to comment on the letter, saying only that Ham was “entitled to his opinion”.
I wish Paul Ham and his sponsors healthy print sales! With e-versions to follow, no doubt.

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