Japanese POWs during World War II - Gilbert-CHSS

By Joe Dalesandro
In ‘the western world’, surrender can be seen as honorable. The
Japanese saw surrender as the ultimate shame. Their brutal treatment
toward POWs during World War II reflected this philosophy.
The Japanese
often violated the
rules of treatment
for POWs found in
the Geneva
A British POW
is pictured
here about to
be beheaded
by a Japanese
Prisoners of the Japanese were kept in
huts such as these in Malaysian POW
The Japanese would
force the POWs to sign
non-escape clauses in
order to justify
executing them if they
tried to escape,
despite the fact that
the Geneva
Convention made this
illegal. The open
nature of this hut is
deceiving, as it
actually encouraged
POWs to attempt a
futile escape.
Over 140,000 Allied Prisoners of War were held captive in
Japanese Camps.
Of these, one in three died from
starvation, work, punishments or
from diseases for which there were
no medicines to treat.
POWs of the Japanese were
forced to work on the SiamBurmese Railroad.
The conditions in the jungle
were horrible and facilitated
the spread of cholera, wet
beriberi, tropical ulcers,
malaria and more.
A map of the
Railroad is
pictured on the
left. The
construction of
the railroad
was very
important to
the Japanese
military in
order to
On the right is a picture of POW
Han Samethini’s leg taken in
January, 1944. Samethini was
taken to the Chungkai POW camp
in Thailand after suffering from
malnourishment and tropical
ulcers in his leg while working on
the Burma Railroad. Han also
contracted Malaria, and only
survived due to the kindness of
fellow POWs who managed to
scrounge up enough quinine and
food to keep him healthy.
Pictured on the left
are Prisoners of War
at a Japanese Camp in
Sumatra. There were
21,580 American
POWs held captive by
the Japanese during
World War II. 7,107
(33%) of them died in
Pictured on the right is the
infamous Bataan Death
March. On April 9th, 1942,
after over 3 months of
brutal fighting, 76,000
Filipino and American
soldiers surrendered at the
Battle of Bataan. 64,000
Filipino soldiers and 12,000
Americans - then were
forced to endure a 60 mile
hike of torture as they were
moved into captivity.
While there is no way to
know exactly how many
people died on the march,
historians approximate that
roughly 1 out of every 4
(25%) POWs died.
The POWs were deprived of food and water,
beheaded, shot, stabbed with bayonets,
beaten with rifle butts, disemboweled, and
were killed for helping other struggling POWs.
Prisoners of the Japanese
were taken aboard
“hellships,” like the Arisan
Maru, and transported to
Japan. The Japanese would
not mark the prisoner vessels
intentionally. As a result,
allied forces would
unknowingly sink ships with
their own troops aboard.
According to Japanese
figures, of the 50,000 POWs
they shipped, 10,800 died at
sea. Of all POWs who died in
the Pacific war, one in every
three was killed on the water
by friendly fire.
The Arisan Maru
was torpedoed by
an American
submarine on
October 24,
1944. There were
1,800 POWs aboard
and 1,795 died.
This Hell Ship sank in the South
China Sea making it the worst
naval disaster in the history of
the United States.
Title Slide 1:
Maps of World.com. (Designer). (2000). Japan flag. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.mapsofworld.com/flags/japanflag.html
Slide 2:
pow-wwii.com, . (Photographer). (1998). Execution of a pow. [Web]. Retrieved from
Slide 3:
Erickson, James W. (Designer). (2009). POW hut. [Web]. Retrieved from
Slide 4:
History on the Net.com. (Designer). (2000). Japanese prisoner of war camps. [Web]. Retrieved from
Daws, Gavan. (1994). Prisoners of the Japanese: Pows of World War II in the Pacific. New York, NY: William Morrow &
Slide 5:
Han Samethini Remembered, . (Producer). (1998). Green hell. [Web]. Retrieved from
Han Samethini Remembered, . (Producer). (1998). Burma railway. [Web]. Retrieved from
Slide 6:
www.perthone.com/1pow.htm, Initials. (Designer). (1998). Burma railway. [Web]. Retrieved from
Slide 7:
Han Samethini Remembered, . (Producer). (1998). Tropical ulcer. [Web]. Retrieved from
Slide 8:
Han Samethini Remembered, . (Producer). (1998). Sumatra pows. [Web]. Retrieved from
Daws, Gavan. (1994). Prisoners of the Japanese: Pows of World War II in the Pacific. New York, NY: William Morrow &
Slide 9:
PBS, . (Producer). (2007). Bataan death march. [Web]. Retrieved from
Himchak, Elizabeth M. (1999). Bataan project. Retrieved from
Slide 10:
Tarver, Paul. (Producer). (2010). Hellship map. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.paultarver.com/index.php/aprisoner-of-japan-a-pows-own-story/#
Daws, Gavan. (1994). Prisoners of the Japanese: Pows of World War II in the Pacific. New York, NY: William Morrow &
Slide 11
Jorgensen, Ruth E. (Producer). (2008). Arisan maru. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.westpoint.org/family/adbc/hellship_files/nissyo.jpeg

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