Wednesday, Nov 23, 2011, 08:25:22

Reconciling matusalem POW's with young expats.

Yonjuzuri sensei at Tempel University is at it again.

This newborn Christian McTempel Sunday School turned University Japan Campus, arranged a weird meeting between veteran grandfathers and young gaijin/gringos. The aim was to convince the foolish youngsters that Japan is not all Roppongi, comfortable English-sensei life and sexy young easy to get hot pants, but a collectively guilty, war-criminal nation, with a sadistic track record of POW treatment. Unfortunately one of the "genki" granddad POW's on the panel got out of line when he was asked about his opinion about the Japanese. "The ladies....The ladies are just so beautiful."

It is evident that being a POW is not a vacation anywhere; we do not need the Temple gaijins to tell us that, as well as POW treatment records are very relative.

Exempli gratia, Malaysia and Camp O'Donnell was heaven compared to the Karaganda lead mines in Siberia or Eisenhower's death-camps in Germany.

The truth is, that just like the German surrender at Stalingrad, the American surrender at Bataan of 76.000 diseased, starving, malaria-ridden soldiers, was irresponsible by the cynical commander not securing minimal supplies of his troops. (Paulus in Stalingrad and MacArthur in Bataan.)

Already in January 1942, McArthur ordered his forces to be fed one-half daily rations because the USAFFE food-stocks on Bataan were insufficient for a long siege. Still, without adequate food, medicine, ranks ravaged by malaria, dysentery, malnutrition and Japanese attacks, the battling bastards of Bataan held out for over four month looking more like living corpses of Bataan when Major General Edward King surrendered on April 9, 1942, transferring the responsibility for his dying troops to the Japanese.

Of the 70.000 POW's 54.000 arrived at Camp O'Donnel, about 10.000 died on the way, the rest 6.000 escaping into the jungle. From September through December 1942, the Japanese gradually released Philippino soldiers to their families and home towns. In comparison, of the 91.000, German POW's at Stalingrad only about 5.000 survived.

US General Eisenhower in Europe was the most creative when it came to dealing with large numbers of POW's. He simply redefined them to be DEF's (disarmed enemy forces) instead of POW's which meant that the Geneva convention did not apply, resulting in an estimated 1-1.7 million dead POW's.

Maybe Temple University could arrange some reconciliation including those surviving POW's.

By Gabor Fabricius



Myths about POW treatment in Malaysia:

- The POW's were herded into a prison. 
- Wrong.
They were sent to British Army barracks located in rubber plantations with no barbed wire, and when later barbed wire was introduced the POW's could go outside regularly, almost nightly with no problem. Only attempted escape from Singapore island was punishable. The Japanese guards turned a blind eye to POW's leaving the camp for errands or black market visits. Some sold the clothes they were waring for beef or other food and items smuggled into the camp were not confiscated.

- The POW's were often beaten.
- Not by the Japanese.
According to reliable reports from people who were there, the Sikh guards, recruited by the Japanese, did do some beating and terrorising, but the abuses of power was stopped by the Japanese quickly.

- The POW's were deliberately starved.
- Wrong.
The prisoners were placed on Japanese military ration scales consisting of mainly rice, un- familiar and unwelcome, especially to the Australians who were used to meat rations that was twice of what even the British Army got. As the war progressed, and resupply from outside Malaya/Singapore became more difficult due to the British, Australian and US navy activities, ration scales were reduced even for the Japanese. Some Japanese front line troops were actually starving at the time in New Guinea, due to zero resupply by the sea. It could not be expected that the Japanese feed the prisoners better than their own troops. Many creative prisoners cut down the rubber plantations and grew their own vegetables, potatoes and cabbage.

- The POW's were worked to death.
- Not true.
Boredom was the biggest problem so construction work parties were sent out to keep them occupied, but the prisoners suffered from poor nourishment and not hard labour.

- The Japanese did not distribute Red Cross parcels.
- Wrong.
There were no Red Cross parcels.

- The POW's had to live in overcrowded conditions.
- Yes by Australian standards, and no by Asian standards. In 1970's Australian troops in Malaysia bunked 8 man to one room, the British 16 to the same room and the Malaysian 20 to a room, and this was not POW's.

- The POW's were regularly executed.
- Not true.
Some executions did take place for escaping attempts, which were few.


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