Maybe if you compared Singapore to Nanjing, that would be true. But consider this: 50,000 to 100,000 young men were killed during Sook Ching alone - a genocide against Chinese civilians here in 1942. That was 6 to 13 per cent of the total population. Total civilian and military deaths during the entire war in China hit 4 per cent of its population.

Second, unlike China and Korea, Singapore was not a nation during WWII. We had not been thinking of ourselves as one people for millennia past. That makes a world of difference in how we recall our history. When we tell the Singapore story, we are more likely to start in 1965, when we began the project of building a nation.

Indeed, there were some in 1942 who saw the invasion as just a change in colonial masters. For this group, the subsequent anger may have sprung more from post-invasion brutality than from the invasion in and of itself.

Third, the Japanese treated each race in Singapore differently. Historians agree that the Chinese suffered most harshly and systematically. That makes it harder to make the war issue a national one because the emotions evoked by the issue could vary significantly across the races.

Finally, Singapore benefited more, post-war, from Japanese investments than did China and Korea. At a time when Singapore's viability was in doubt, given its political instability and lack of a hinterland, Japanese firms came.

On a trip to Japan earlier this year, Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Grace Fu said in a speech: "It is...not an exaggeration to say that Japan had helped to lay the foundation of Singapore's industrialisation and development. This is something Singapore and Singaporeans remember well."

None of this should detract from the untold suffering of many here and in China and Korea.

And stories of the war should continue to be passed on. My father - born shortly after the war - once recounted one by his elders about a woman who was raped, killed and hung on a tree by the Japanese.

There is no reason why my children should not also be educated about what happened.

And, of course, it would be helpful if the Japanese were more contrite and gave their schoolchildren a fuller picture of the war.

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