Prisoners, Diplomats, and the Great War: A Study in the Diplomacy of Captivity

Prisoners, Diplomats, and the Great War: A Study in the Diplomacy of Captivity

Prisoners, Diplomats, and the Great War: A Study in the Diplomacy of Captivity

Prisoners, Diplomats, and the Great War: A Study in the Diplomacy of Captivity

Synopsis

Military and civilian captivity practices by four major European powers and the United States during World War I are explored in this book. Speed details the traditional way of handling prisoners of war as practiced by Western Europe and the United States. He also surveys the radical tradition of captivity that emerged in the Soviet Union-a tradition still carried out in the late twentieth century by Vietnam and North Korea. Aside from a few scholarly journal articles, there is no other scholarly work which focuses on captivity during World War I.

Excerpt

It is widely recognized that mistreatment of war prisoners has become steadily more common during the twentieth century. The brutal treatment of prisoners on Germany's eastern front and in the Pacific theater during the Second World War is well known. Numerous German and Japanese officers were tried and convicted of war crimes for their part in these events. It is common knowledge that prisoners were brainwashed during the Korean War and that propaganda statements were extorted from downed pilots then and during the subsequent conflict in Vietnam. It was widely reported during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s that Iranians made strenuous efforts to convert Iraqi prisoners to their Shiite fundamentalism in an attempt to turn them against their homeland. With all this in mind, most observers would agree that there is little prospect for improvement in the near future.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, many Americans believed that the Japanese deserved the devastation wrought by history's first atomic bombings because of the pain they had inflicted on American prisoners in the Philippines during and after the Bataan "death march." Tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Britons, Australians, and Asians retain bitter memories of Japanese mistreatment of war prisoners during the Second World War. Consequently when, forty-five years after the conclusion of the war, Japanese Emperor Hirohito died, thousands of British subjects voiced indignation that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher would attend the funeral. In the same manner, millions of Americans cannot forget how American airmen captured by the North Vietnamese were treated, nor the several thousand who remain missing in action, possibly in captivity. Popular movies continue to capitalize on American anger over this issue fifteen years after the conclusion of the conflict.

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