Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Prisoners of the Japanese: POWs of World War II in the Pacific

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Prisoners of the Japanese: POWs of World War II in the Pacific

Article excerpt

Prisoners of the Japanese: POWs of World War II in the Pacific by Gavan Daws. William Morrow 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York 10019,1994, 441 pages, S25.00.

As the World War II generation gets older, and less numerous, we have seen an explosion of personal memoirs of their experiences. Amongst the more recent trends has been memoirs of prisoners of war relating detailed experiences of their years in captivity. Prisoners of the Japanese is among the better of these efforts. Readers will find it useful, whether as anecdotal documentation of events, personal study of human tragedy, or simply as moving tribute to the ability of the human spirit to survive.

While the anecdotal style of the work requires the reader to scrutinize the effects of time and memory on the events that are recorded here, the importance of prisoners relating their experiences, even after half a century, is relevant to military personnel. This particular work concentrates on the experiences of less than a half dozen prisoners of the Japanese in World War II, mostly of men who were captured very early in the war and who were prisoners for extended periods of time, in various locations throughout the Pacific and later in Japan itself. However, their stories are supplemented by other stories and events relating to a larger number of prisoners, in less detail. The memories are both of significant details of treatment during the Bataan Death March and other major incidents of maltreatment of Allied prisoners, and of tiny, personal, details of daily life and the mental and physical tricks and techniques the prisoners used to survive and sometimes to outwit their captors. Especially significant in this work is the fact that these stories cover the experiences of a wide variety of individuals, including enlisted soldiers and officers, civilian defense construction workers and medical doctors. While what stands out in their minds may vary, each adds an additional facet to the POW knowledge base. …

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