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by Yukiko Tanaka
Westview Press  1998
304 pages
Index, photos
ISBN: 0813327180
Cover Price: $38.00
Language: English

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Hidden Horrors
Japanese War Crimes in World War II

This is an outstanding work about the largely unknown Japanese War Crimes during the Pacific War. The brutality and horror of the Japanese wartime actions are indisputable. The book begins with an introduction by author John Dower, author of War Without Mercy.

The first two chapters include the Sandakan POW Camp and march on Borneo. Mostly commonwealth troops were imprisoned and used for labor and tortured. Near the end of the war, while the prisoners were at their weakest, they were forced on a death marches across the island.

The next chapter deals with rape and war - including sections on 'comfort women', women pressed into service as prostitutes for the Japanese military. Also, cases of rape and brutality against female non-combatants and missionaries in captured areas. Sadly, most of these crimes were never prosecuted and to this day have never been acknowledge by the Japanese, despite undeniable evidence from survivors and documentation.

As the war turned against the Japanese, and large garrisons isolated in remote areas, cut off from resupply. Starving, the Japanese resorted to cannibalism of their own dead and Allied soldiers, POWs and native people. Chapter four documents cannibalism cases.

Chapter five covers the Japanese biological warfare development, plans and experimentations on POWs, largely by Japanese Army's Unit 731 that tested biological agents in China and planned, but never used them against other Allies. Also, documented medical experimentation on Allied POWs. Research reveals how American forces agreed to suppress these activities in exchange for the data the Japanese collected from these horrible experiments and tests for American biological programs and prevention.

The final chapter deals with the execution of civilians captured at Kavieng and killed aboard the Akikaze, when the Navy was instructed to dispose of women and children, many missionaries by machine gunning them systematically on the stern and tossing the bodies overboard.

The book ends with conclusions, based on the case precedents from these war crime cases and the Japanese wartime concepts of human rights and corruption of Bushido, and further research required for the future.

Well written and researched, this is book is a must for anyone interested to learn the truth about this topic. Also, it is interesting because it covers cases that are largely unknown to readers, and does not attempt to cover all cases of atrocities. The truth about many of these atrocities, and what lessons can be learned today are largely unknown.

Review by  Justin Taylan  

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Last Updated
September 21, 2023

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