Japanese POWs of World War II
By Ulrich A. Strauss
From Kim Hornyak, Publicity & Publishing Consultant Independent Publisher Online.
Traverse City, MI (May 2005) - The first Japanese prisoner of World War II was taken on December 8, 1941, and by the end of the war some 35,000 were in Allied prison camps. With a thorough understanding of the Japanese, their language and their culture, American linguists were able to extract valuable intelligence from the prisoners, in spite of the fact that the Japanese soldiers had been indoctrinated to choose between victory and a heroic death – being taken prisoner was not to be an option.
Some of the best interrogation results in the war against Japan came from skilled Japanese-American intelligence personnel who “looked like” their prisoners and eased their anxieties to spur conversation. Before attempting to gain intelligence it was essential to understand the enemy’s mind and to establish a personal relationship. By contrast, there is no indication that large numbers of Arab-Americans deal with prisoners in Iraq. Indeed, some of those guarding and interrogating prisoners have been mercenaries from American corporations, motivated primarily by profit and poorly prepared for the difficult task of conducting interrogations according to the rules of international law.
“Beatings, humiliation or intimidation rarely produce results,” says Straus. “If sufficiently scared, a prisoner may talk, but under duress he is more likely to invent information than to tell the truth.” Straus further stresses that the humane treatment of Japanese prisoners induced some of them to provide American interrogators with vital intelligence.
While The Anguish of Surrender recounts stories that are 40-years old, the book holds relevance today with its important lessons. As noted by Straus, “The Japanese POWs were treated decently and the results speak for themselves. The occupation of Japan was entirely peaceful, and there was not a single armed confrontation like the daily human tragedies wrought by the continuing resistance in today’s Iraq.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ulrich “Rick” Straus was born in Germany, grew up in Japan, and became a U.S. citizen in 1945. As a Japanese Language Officer he served on General MacArthur’s GHQ in the Occupation of Japan, including service at the Tokyo Trial. A career Foreign Service Officer, Straus served at Embassy Tokyo, on the State Department’s Japan Desk and as Consul General on Okinawa. His last State Department assignment was as faculty member at the National War College. Following retirement in 1987, Straus has taught adult education courses on Japan and the U.S.-Japan relationship. He now lives in northwestern Michigan where he makes commentaries on foreign policy on PBS radio and selects speakers for the World Affairs Council of Traverse City.