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Australian POWs and the sinking of the Rakuyo Maru: The politics of repatriation

Sturma, M. (2016) Australian POWs and the sinking of the Rakuyo Maru: The politics of repatriation. Australian Journal of Politics & History, 62 (3). pp. 353-368.

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On 12 September 1944, a U.S. submarine sank the Japanese transport ship Rakuyo Maru in the South China Sea which was carrying over a thousand Australian and British prisoners. Several days later, nearly a hundred Australian survivors from the ship were rescued by American submariners, and they later returned to Australia in October 1944. Analysis of this unanticipated repatriation provides some insight into attitudes toward prisoners of war as well as Australia's relationship with its allies at the time. Other historians have highlighted the ambiguous status of POWs relative to the Anzac legend. In the case of the Rakuyo Maru survivors, it is argued that ambivalence about their return had less to do with the Anzac legend than control of the information they brought back about the treatment and fate of other Australian prisoners in Japanese hands. Under pressure from both the United States and British governments, Australia wrestled with the issue of whether to publicise reports by the returned prisoners of Japanese atrocities. At the same time, the government came under pressure from relatives of prisoners still in captivity to disclose knowledge about their fate obtained from the Rakuyo Maru survivors.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Inc.
Copyright: © 2016 The Author. Australian Journal of Politics and History
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