The gist of the story is as follows:
It was during World War II, the Americans bombing Tokyo and all kinds of bad stuff was happening. So, the Army ordered a zoo to kill all the dangerous animals, lest they get out during the bombing and hurt people. There were three elephants that the zoo-keepers didn't want to kill, but they had to follow orders. So, they tried to poison them, but they were too smart. They hoped the war would end and they wouldn't have to kill them. But, eventually they had to just let them starve to death and it was all sad and they were majestic beasts, etc., etc. The Americans kept bombing and these poor elephants died.
Obviously, I'm paraphrasing and being a bit sarcastic. But I really find the use of this story in an English textbook and its message quite puzzling. I'm trying not to read into it too much as the story is not directly about the war, but I can't help but find the story's implicit message, framed through a very limited view of the war, kind of offensive. It seems to be a thinly veiled allegory, where the Japanese are presented only as victims and the Americans are the real aggressors. Furthermore, anything bad that the Japanese do was because they were forced to do so by the actions of the Americans, and the individuals involved were "just following orders."
I'm quite aware that Japanese civilians suffered greatly during the war and I do not approve of past American attacks on civilian targets. However, it seems to me that this story presents an extremely narrow view of the war using this story about the elephants. There's no mention of what the Japanese army was actually off doing at the time (invading neighboring countries and being allied with a genocidal regime, etc.), and I don't foresee anyone wanting to have such a conversation. In this story, it's just about how those mean Americans forced some Japanese people "to do the unthinkable." As an American ALT teaching in Japan, I 'm not sure how comfortable I feel standing in front of my classes and telling such a story.
Like I said, we haven't covered this section yet and I haven't talked to my JTEs about it. Maybe I'm just thinking way too much about this, but I wanted to ask and see what you guys think about the use of this story.