Our Tortured Past

 Vintage illustration WWII Soldier in Japanese prison camp

WWII American POW in Japanese camp. Vintage Advertisement Nash Kelvinator 1943 Illustration Fred Ludkens

The torture was brutal- beatings, water boarding, deprivation and death.

When the truth was revealed we were shocked.

During WWII the Japanese treatment of POW was barbaric.

When the truth was revealed, a rightly so public was outraged  at the horrible mistreatment. Torture was a crime.

After all, this is not what Americans do.

Except it is.

Tortured Excuses

Thanks to the blistering “torture report” recently revealed, we now learn  the extent of abuse and torture the CIA has inflicted on detainees post 9/11.

In the name of democracy, CIA detainees were subjected to rectal hydration, doused in cold water, slapped, and brutally beaten; they were subjected to stress positions, humiliation, severe sleep deprivation and water boarding along with threats to harm children of detainees.


Once upon a time torture was a crime and those responsible for it were held accountable and brought to justice.

The U.S. has a history of not only condemning the use of torture but punishing those who did.

After WWII the U.S. organized and participated in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East called The Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Among other war crimes, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for water boarding American and Allied POWS.

Torture was evil. It was not how we fought wars. It was not American the way.

The American Way

WWII Soldiers Nash Kelvinator ads

Vintage Advertisement WWI Nash Kelvinator 1943 Illustration Fred Ludkens


During WWII Nash Kelvinator ran a series of full-page color ads which graphically showed the pain, blood and fear of our fighting men. These patriotic ads served not only as a testament to the bravery of our servicemen and women it was a tribute to the American Exceptionalism and the American Dream for which they were fighting for.

What Makes us Proud to be Americans?

WWII Nash Kelvinator 650 43 SWScan10083

Vintage Advertisement WWI Nash Kelvinator 1943 Illustration Fred Ludkens

One advertisement from the series that ran in 1943, illustrated an American  prisoner of war in a Japanese camp.

The POW suffered terribly at the hands of the Japanese.

Brutalized and used for slave labor they were savagely tortured, starved, beaten and used for medical experimentation including vivisection without anesthesia. At the top of the list of torture techniques was water based interrogation known as the water-cure, water torture and water boarding.

The Japanese did not sign the Geneva Convention in 1929. We did.

Holding out Hope

Despite the suffering the POW held on to  hope, like the one in these Nash Kelvinator ads. This proud and courageous soldier dreams of the America he wanted to come home to and voices his dreams:

“I know that once again the sirens will howl over Tokyo and bombers will fly so low we’ll see the stars on their wings. Silently I pray for the day they’ll come-to deliver us from evil- to bring me home to you again..” begins the sometimes cloying copy.

“Home-where I want unchanged just as I remember them now, all the things that I hold dear.”

“The right of a man to think and speak his thoughts, the right of a man to live and worship as he wants, the right of a man to work and earn a just reward!”

“Don’t ever let those be lost.”

WWII American Dream Post WII ads

Vintage Advertisements Kelvinator 1945

“Keep everything just as it is until I come back…back to an America where no armed guard bars the door to liberty…where there will never be a barbed wire fence between a man and his opportunity to work and build and grow and make his life worth living – this war worth winning,” the copy continues.

“…where together we can do the things we’ve always dreamed of doing…where we and our children are free to make our lives what we want them to be…where there are no limits on any mans or any woman’s or any child’s opportunity.”

“You’ve said ‘That’s the America I want when I come back don’t change that ever…don’t let anyone tamper with a way of living that works so well.”

Now that same American dream itself is drowning.

America has changed. Something has been lost.

It turns out when it come to torture maybe Americans are not so exceptional after all.

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



  1. I’d like to see some heads roll on this business, but I doubt anything will ever come of it. I hope Dick Cheney, in particular, has a day of reckoning.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My father-in-law was a POW in Korea and has on many occasions told me how he was tortured, it sickened me then and even more so now we find out we are no better.


  3. Pingback: Tortured Truth | Envisioning The American Dream

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