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Japanese Treatment Of Prisoners of War
Transcript of Japanese Treatment Of Prisoners of War
There were more than 140,000 white prisoners in Japanese prisoner of war camps. Of these, one in three died from starvation, work, punishments or from diseases for which there were no medicines to treat. Prisoners of the Japanese found themselves in camps in Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and other Japanese-occupied countries. Prisoner of war camps in Japan housed both captured military personnel and civilians who had been in the East before the outbreak of war. Japanese POWs were treated very harshly but not as harshly as the Japanese treated it's POWs.
Japan did not sign the 1929 Geneva Convention protecting the rights of Prisoners of War though in 1942, it did promise to abide by its terms. However, Japan still violated the terms of Geneva Convention and as well as the Hague convention which was also signed by Japanese agreeing to protect the rights of POWs. Japanese felt that it was a sin to be captured as a POW and therefore, they saw their POWs as low class people and treated them very badly. POWs from China, the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the Philippines held by the Japanese armed forces were subjected to murder, beatings, summary punishment, brutal treatment, forced labor, medical experimentation, starvation rations, poor medical treatment and cannibalism. The most notorious use of forced labor was in the construction of the Burma–Thailand Death Railway. After 20 March 1943, the Imperial Navy was under orders to execute all prisoners taken at sea.
Torture of POWs
The Japanese Army massacred as many as 300,000 civilians and prisoners of war, although the accepted figure is somewhere in the hundreds of thousands. The two famous ones are the Nanking Massacre and the Manila Massacre, both resulting in thousands of deaths.
Special Japanese military units conducted experiments on civilians and POWs in China. Many written reports also indicate that Japanese personnel in many parts of Asia and the Pacific committed acts of cannibalism against Allied prisoners of war.
Who Is A Prisoner Of War?
A prisoner of war (POWs) is a person, whether combatant or non-combatant, who is held in custody by a belligerent power during or immediately after an armed conflict. Belligerents hold prisoners of war in custody for a range of legitimate and illegitimate reasons, such as isolating them from enemy combatants still in the field, releasing and repatriating them in an orderly manner after hostilities, demonstrating military victory, punishing them, prosecuting them for war crimes, exploiting them for their labor, recruiting or even conscripting them as their own combatants, collecting military and political intelligence from them, or indoctrinating them in new political or religious beliefs
According to the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal, the death rate of Western prisoners was 27.1%, seven times that of POWs under the Germans and Italians. The death rate of Chinese was much higher.The War Ministry in Tokyo issued an order at the end of the war to kill all surviving POWs.Life in prison camps was recorded at great risk to themselves by artists such as Jack Bridger Chalker, Philip Meninsky, Ashley George Old, and Ronald Searle. Human hair was often used for brushes, plant juices and blood for paint, and toilet paper as the "canvas". Some of their works were used as evidence in the trials of Japanese war criminals.
Water color staining of "Dusty" Rhodes–a three-minute sketch by Ashley George Old.
Conditions in the prison camps were very inhumane and the prisoners were treated really harshly. Many soldiers died because of starvation. They were only given 600 calories worth of food per day, an insufficient amount considering they were forced to do hard labor. Often it was rotten or maggot-infested rice. As a result they contracted scurvy and diseases associated with vitamin deficiencies like pellagra and beriberi. POWs had to supplement their rations with whatever they could find, including scorpions, snakes, and rats. Sanitation conditions were also poor leading to cholera, dengue fever, diphtheria, and dysentery. The Japanese slaughtered as many as 30 million Filipinos,Malays, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indonesians and Burmese in these camps and at least 23 million of them were ethnic Chinese.
The POWs were also subjected to savage treatment by the camp guards. Beatings with sticks and wire were common place. Guards devised a range of fiendish tortures. Lighted cigarettes butts were pressed to flesh and stick into noses and ears. Men were made to hold buckets filled with sand or water in the sun for hours on end. Men were forced to swallow gallons of water and then the guards kicked or jumped on their stomachs. There were also executions, including shootings and beheading. One survivor, Smith, describes his experiences, "Their method was to strip you down, and then they'd put two guys behind you. They had fake Samurai swords that had several angles on them and were made out of wood, which they used like baseball bats. They would also put a guy in front of you with a leather strap-something that resembled a razor strap. When they were ready they'd tell you how many times they were going to hit you. If you could stand there and take the beating, without making too much noise, they ended it. They'd give you the required number of swats and stop. If you fell down or if you yelled and screamed too loud, they started over."
Prisoner fearing the Japanese guard on duty.
Japanese soldiers shooting blindfolded Sikh prisoners
Clearly, Japanese imperial forces employed widespread use of torture on prisoners, usually in an effort to gather military intelligence quickly. Tortured prisoners were often later executed. A former Japanese Army officer who served in China, Uno Shin taro, stated: "The major means of getting intelligence was to extract information by interrogating prisoners. Torture was an unavoidable necessity. Murdering and burying them follows naturally. You do it so you won't be found out. I believed and acted this way because I was convinced of what I was doing. We carried out our duty as instructed by our masters. We did it for the sake of our country. On the battlefield, we never really considered the Chinese humans. When you're winning, the losers look really miserable. We concluded that the Yamato race [i.e., Japanese] was superior." The effectiveness of torture might also have been counterproductive to Japan's war effort. After the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, the Japanese military tortured a captured American P-51 fighter pilot named Marcus McDilda in order to discover how many atomic bombs the Allies had and what the future targets were. McDilda, who knew nothing about the atomic bomb nor the Manhattan Project, "confessed" under torture that the U.S. had 100 atomic bombs and that Tokyo and Kyoto were the next targets. McDilda's false confession may have swayed the Japanese leaders' decision to surrender.
The Nanking Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, was an episode of mass murder and mass rape committed by Japanese troops against the residents of Nanking (current official spelling: Nanjing) during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The massacre occurred during a six-week period starting from December 13, 1937, the day that the Japanese captured Nanking, which was then the Chinese capital. During this period, between 40,000 to over 300,000 Chinese civilians and disarmed combatants were murdered by soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army. Widespread rape and looting also occurred. Several of the key perpetrators of the atrocities, at the time labeled as war crimes, were later tried and found guilty at the International Military Tribunal of the Far East and the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal, and were executed.
In Southeast Asia, the Manila massacre of February 1945 resulted in the death of 100,000 civilians in the Philippines.In the Sook Ching massacre of February 1942, Lee Kuan Yew, the ex-Prime Minister of Singapore, said during an interview with National Geographic that there were between 50,000 and 90,000 casualties, while according to Major General Kawamura Saburo (Japanese), there were 5,000 casualties in total.
This scorched earth strategy, sanctioned by Hirohito himself, directed Japanese forces to "Kill All, Burn All, and Loot All." Additionally, captured Allied servicemen and civilians were massacred in various incidents, including:
Banka Island massacre
SS Tjisalak massacre perpetrated by Japanese submarine I-8
Wake Island massacre – see Battle of Wake Island
Bataan Death March
Shinyo Maru Incident
Sulug Island massacre
A ditch full of dead chinese civilians.
Chinese prisoners being buried alive.
Japanese Human Experimentation
There were many different experiments conducted on Chinese POWs by military units. One of the most infamous was Unit 731 under Shirō Ishii established by order of Hirohito himself. Victims were subjected to experiments including but not limited to vivisection and amputations without anesthesia and testing of biological weapons. Anesthesia was not used because it was believed that anesthetics would adversely affect the results of the experiments.
To determine the treatment of frostbite, prisoners were taken outside in freezing weather and left with exposed arms, periodically drenched with water until frozen solid. The arm was later amputated; the doctor would repeat the process on the victim's upper arm to the shoulder. After both arms were gone, the doctors moved on to the legs until only a head and torso remained. The victim was then used for plague and pathogens experiments. Prisoners were also injected with inoculations of disease, disguised as vaccinations, to study their effects. To study the effects of untreated venereal diseases, male and female prisoners were deliberately infected with syphilis and gonorrhea, then studied. Prisoners also were repeatedly subject to rape by guards.
The number of people killed by the Imperial Japanese Army germ warfare and human experiments is around 580,000. According to other sources, "tens of thousands, and perhaps as many as 400,000, Chinese died of bubonic plague, cholera, anthrax and other diseases ...", resulting from the use of biological warfare.
Many written reports and testimonies collected by the Australian War Crimes Section of the Tokyo tribunal, indicate that Japanese personnel in many parts of Asia and the Pacific committed acts of cannibalism against Allied prisoners of war. In many cases this was inspired by ever-increasing Allied attacks on Japanese supply lines, and the death and illness of Japanese personnel as a result of hunger. According to historian Yuki Tanaka: "cannibalism was often a systematic activity conducted by whole squads and under the command of officers." This frequently involved murder for the purpose of securing bodies. For example, an Indian POW, Havildar Changdi Ram, testified that: "[on November 12, 1944] the Kempeitai beheaded [an Allied] pilot. I saw this from behind a tree and watched some of the Japanese cut flesh from his arms, legs, hips, buttocks and carry it off to their quarters ... They cut it [into] small pieces and fried it." In some cases, flesh was cut from living people: another Pakistani POW, Lance Naik Hatam Ali testified in New Guinea and stated: "The Japanese started selecting prisoners and every day one prisoner was taken out and killed and eaten by the soldiers. I personally saw this happen and about 100 prisoners were eaten at this place by the Japanese. The remainder of us were taken to another spot 50 miles away where 10 prisoners died of sickness. At this place, the Japanese again started selecting prisoners to eat. Those selected were taken to a hut where their flesh was cut from their bodies while they were alive and they were thrown into a ditch where they later died."
A Prisoner in a Prison camp
Construction of Burma-Thai Railroad
In Burma and Thailand, British and Australian prisoners of war of the Japanese were engaged in a horrendous project performing extremely hard labor of building the Thai-Burma railway in 1943, a.k.a the death railway, that would give Japan access to India. They worked in literally murderous conditions. Most, if not all, prisoners were malnourished and were forced to work under extreme conditions while being fed starvation wages. Recently, cholera had emerged as an additional threat. The prisoners worked until dead. One case is recounted in Lieutenant Colonel E.E. Dunlop's diary: "This soldier suffering from fever collapsed on the way to work; unable to carry on, he made his way back, reported his condition and was sent to hospital. He was diagnosed as having malaria and enteritis. On his own voluntary decision, he lined up with the other men who did not reach the railway that day and shared the sadistic punishment meted out as already described. He was mercilessly beaten up by the Nippon Engineer Sgt ‘Billie the Pig’. He was returned to hospital deadly pale, face swollen, neck and chest contused, abrasions to the knees and legs and a sprained right ankle. [He] died in the early morning." During the construction, about 90,000 of the laborers and about 16,000 Allied prisoners died.
R. J. Rummel, a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, estimates that between 1937 and 1945, the Japanese military murdered from nearly 3 to over 10 million people, most likely 6 million Chinese, Indonesians, Koreans, Filipinos and Indochinese, among others, including Western prisoners of war. Others say that the figure is more like 30 million slaughtered. According to Rummel, "This democide [i.e., death by government] was due to a morally bankrupt political and military strategy, military expediency and custom, and national culture." Japanese starved, murdered, experimented, and committed acts of cannibalism towards their POWs. They also recruited prisoner women into forced sexual slavery, known as "comfort women". Japanese also created many horrendous projects for the POWs, one being the Burma-Thai Death Railway. They also looted the captured cities and tortured the civilians there. Japanese committed many war crimes during World War 2 and were later found guilty of violating the agreements of Geneva Convention and Hague Convention. Japan treated it's Prisoners of War very harshly but weren't punished as severely as they should have been. Japan and how it treated it's Prisoners of War.