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  • Writer's pictureChristopher G. Moore

Allied Prisoners of the Japanese

I’ve added to my wish list a non-fiction title: Gavan Daws’s Prisoners of the Japanese. If you have any interest in WWII and the Japanese treatment of allied prisoners of war, this book may give you insight not only into the mentality of the Japanese holding the prisoners of war, but the prisoners what went on between the prisoners who were held in captivity.

In The Telegraph, Christopher Silvester reviews Prisoners of the Japanese by Gavan Daws. The paperback edition is US$10.40. Having written about the 731-Corp in Tokyo Joe, I have an interest in chronicles such as this one which are based on the first hand accounts of POWs who survived the war to tell their tales.

“Acutely aware of the power of race-hate, both from and towards the Japanese, Daws is equally fascinated by the tribalism among the PoWs. One source of puzzlement to him is that, in the holds of the hellships, "Americans - and only Americans - killed each other". The worst of all these ships, Oryoku Maru, had "the highest number of officers in the holds, more than 1,000, more than one in four of them field-grade, and by far the highest proportion of officers to enlisted men, two to one".

“In the moral economy of the camps, it was only enterprising Americans who traded and lent rice to fellow prisoners (at interest) against future rations, thus luring them into nutritional bankruptcy. The Australians and the British wouldn't permit it. Smokers were particularly vulnerable, as they would trade what little protein they had for nicotine.”

Publisher’s Weekly also gave the book a positive review:

“He (Daws) convincingly describes Japanese POW camps not as homogenizing institutions but as tribal societies of Americans, British, Australians, Dutch-and Japanese. The Japanese showed no mercy to those who fell into their hands, the author stresses: Thousands were worked to death; as many more died of disease and starvation; others were beaten to death or beheaded, often so clumsily that two or three strokes were required to finish the job.”

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