August 30, 1974: The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries headquarters bombing

On this day in 1974, a leftist/anarchist Japanese terrorist group bombed Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Tokyo for their support to the US in the Vietnam War.

Targeting industry for doing things you don’t like is a common terrorist motive.

I have written a little bit over the past few months about terrorism and the Vietnam War. Most of us assume that the target of (mostly) peaceful demonstrators and, more rarely, terrorists, was the US as that nation was perceived as the major actor in military action in Southeast Asia.

There were other countries involved, however. Thousands of Australians fought with the US in Vietnam. From the time of the arrival of the first members of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam in 1962 almost 60,000 Australians, including ground troops and air force and navy personnel, served in Vietnam; 521 died as a result of the war and over 3,000 were wounded. The war was the cause of the greatest social and political dissent in Australia since the conscription referendums of the First World War. Many draft resisters, conscientious objectors, and protesters were fined or jailed, while soldiers met a hostile reception on their return home.

And Australia was not the only ally for the Americans. Japan, which had occupied then French-controlled Vietnam from 1941 to 1945, also helped out. Some of its companies supplied the US with armaments which the latter used against the Viet Cong. One such firm was Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

On this day in 1974

On this day in 1974 the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front (EAAJAF) – now how’s THAT for a terrorist group’s name? – placed two timer bombs outside the Mitsubishi HQ in Tokyo. The terrorist organisation, a leftist/anarchist movement which hated Japanese ‘imperialism’, contacted authorities eight and four minutes before the explosives detonated, but both calls were ignored as ‘pranks’. Eight people died and 376 more were injured when one of the two bombs went off, in what was Japan’s most lethal attack until the 1995 subway bioterror attack. Mitsubishi was targeted because of its supply of military materiel to the US in Vietnam.

This incident is a most atrocious challenge to our society. Society itself was the target and the victim.

The government and opposition both initially remained quiet about the bombing: some speculated that they were afraid of the impact of an act of this nature on Japan’s business sector. Arrests were not made until the following May. Two EAAJAF members were convicted and sentenced to death.

In our day it is hard to imagine a government ignoring calls of a bomb or dismissing them outright as a prank. Then again, our views on terrorism today are not those of 1974, are they?

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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