Treatment – Allied POWs

Prisoners of War held by the Japanese were continually at risk of losing their lives. Forty percent of the men held by the Japanese died in the Pacific, only 1.1% of the men held by the Germans perished.

Bushido, a term meaning “military scholar road”, is a word for the samurai life.  The term most represents values held by the Japanese, the most important moral value being honor unto death. This code allowed the Japanese to believe the Allied prisoners that surrendered were less valuable than dogs, and therefore treated as the Japanese soldiers chose. Also the Japanese military culture was one in which higher commanding soldiers could treat those with lower rank as they chose, many times this meant abuse even for the Japanese soldiers.

The Japanese were so committed to Bushido that:
“When MacArthur returned to the Philippines and it cam time to retake Corregidor, five thousand Japanese fought for eleven days, to the death, the final hundreds of them killed in the Malinta tunnels when tons of thousands of explosives were detonated. Only twenty were taken prisoner.  (p. 322)

For a Japanese fighting man, death in victory was supposed to be glorious. In defeat–not that the word defeat was ever spoken–death rather than surrender was insisted upon. And to become a prisoner was unthinkable.” (p. 276)

– Prisoners of the Japanese by Gavan Daws

Why Bushido and the Japanese philosophy of war and death are important, is that when Allied soldiers surrendered they were considered less than . . . meaning they had no value to a culture that believed in fighting to the death. This does not mean that the Japanese should not have compassion for their prisoners, it only states that culture had a part in how the prisoners were ultimately treated.

The Japanes did not have to answer to Western reason in their killing . . . P 76

“In the Japanese armed services, a senior officer could slap a junior officer, a lieutenant could hit a sergeant, a sergeant could beat a three-star private” . . . and on down the ranks. “And the lowest of the low had to take it. But basic training in the Imperial Japanese Army did not routinely include hundred-mile marches with Japanese privates bayoneting and shooting their own officers and burying them alive.” (page 81-82)
– Prisoners of the Japanese by Gavan Daws

The atrocities . . .

The men were exposed to the most extreme life.

The Japanese hated whistling, they hated Christianity, and they hated natives.

“At Outram Road (Berma Prison Camp), someone somewhere was always screaming under torture, or deathly ill and in agony, or going insane. The prisoners could try to stop their ears against the noise and blank out what it meant. They could spend their days figuring endless mathematical problems to keep their brain turning over, or try to recall everything that ever happened to everyone in their family – one Australian took himself all the way back to when his mother was breastfeeding him. Or they could give up on family, tribal memory, the sustaining power of human reason, and any hope for a life beyond . . . They were exisiting as caged carcasses, nothing more. They chewed their fingernails off and ate them. They tried to see how long thecould go without scratching their scabies.”

– Prisoners of the Japanese by Gavan Daws

Time passed unbearably slowly and yet they had no memory of it.

were affected by many diseases that made loss of life continually more challenging.