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Japanese treatment of allied prisoners during the Second World War: Evaluating the death toll

Sturma, M. (2019) Japanese treatment of allied prisoners during the Second World War: Evaluating the death toll. Journal of Contemporary History . In Press.

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The high death rate of Allied prisoners of war in the Pacific compared with those in Europe is commonly used to signify the barbarous way in which the Japanese fought the Second World War. This study examines the extent to which ‘friendly fire’ inflated the death rate of Allied prisoners under the Japanese, and evaluates more broadly the perceived disparity between Japanese and German treatment of Allied prisoners of war (POWs). Four broad conclusions are drawn. First, that while Allied submarine and air attacks elevated the deaths rate of Allied prisoners held by the Japanese, even if these are excluded the POW death rate remains significantly higher than for those held by Germany. Second, in some respects, POW death rates under the Japanese can be more productively and favourably compared to Germany's treatment of Soviet prisoners on the Eastern front than its treatment of Western captives. Third, the death rates mask the diversity of prisoners’ experience under the Japanese. Finally, it is suggested that perhaps the single most important difference between German and Japanese treatment of Allied prisoners was the latter's failure to adequately distribute Red Cross supplies.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Publisher: SAGE
Copyright: © 2019 by SAGE Publications
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