Monday, July 18, 2011

The Numbers

Over 500 Japanese POW camps and civilian internment camps for American and Allied nationals stretched from Rangoon (Burma-Myanmar) down through Malaya, Singapore, Sumatra, across Indonesia (Netherlands East Indies, NEI) as far east as Rabaul in the Solomon Islands. Hundreds of camps stretched north through the Celebes, Borneo, the Philippines, Hainan Island, Taiwan and Korea.

In Japan alone, over 160 POW slave labor camps existed at the time of surrender. Camps were located in many areas of mainland China including notorious camps in the Hong Kong and Shanghai areas. Prisoners were used mainly for mining coal, ore, ship building, airfield construction, and military defense bunkers. The most notorious were a camp in Palawan (massacre by fire of 150 Americans), Sandakan 2,200 British and Australians died in a forced march in Borneo), and a series of camps along the Burma-Thailand Death Railway (an estimated 15,000 Allied POWS perished, along with almost 180,000 civilians impressed into slavery).

During the Japanese occupation of the NEI, two large groups of people were deprived of their freedom: prisoners-of-war and detained civilians. These groups ended up in different camps. Both groups consisted of many more people than the Japanese had expected as well as the allies had expected at the liberation.

It has been calculated that 42,233 European servicemen in the Indies had become prisoners-of-war: 3,847 servicemen of the Royal Dutch Navy, 36,869 of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) and 3,847 servicemen of the KNIL auxiliary corps.

Around 8,200 of them lost their lives, about one out of every five. Besides, many native servicemen of the KNIL fell into the hands of the Japanese army. The Javanese and Sundanese were soon set free, but most of the Menadoese, Amboinese and Timorese, the Christian natives were held. Except on Borneo, most prisoners-of-war did not stay on the islands where they were captured, but were transported elsewhere, especially to be put to work.

The number of civilians interned by the Japanese is estimated to have been 125,000. The largest group concerned civilians from the Netherlands East Indies. Dutch scholars believe as many as 96,300 civilians ended up in Japanese camps or which 13,120 (13.6%) died. During the war the Japanese reported to the Red Cross that there were 98,000 detainees, of whom 16,800 died (17%). Though the precise figures are not known, we may assume that about 100,000 civilians from the Indies were in Japanese camps, of whom one in six died.

The Burma-Thailand Death Railway - Lives lost and percentages of total POWs
3,098 Dutch (19%)
6,904 English (29%)
2,646 Australians (31%)
131 American (23%)
180,000 Asiatic (90%)
Source: Dutch National War Memorial Museum[sic] (National War and Resistance Musueum)

Overall description of the POWs - Number of Americans, other nationalities
Americans: 36,260 Military of whom 13,381 died as POWS (38.2%) plus 13,996 civilians of whom 1536 died (11%) [American Ex POW Assn]
Australians: 21,000+ Military of whom 8031 died as POWS (39%) [AWM)
British: 50,000+ Military of who 12,433 died as POWS (25%) plus over 25,000 Indian troops (death rate unknown) [IWM]
Dutch: 100,000+ Military of whom an estimated 25% perished
Civilians: Estimated 250,000 Dutch civilians and other westerners in the Netherlands East Indies. Civilian death rate estimated at 15%.
Thirteen ships were sunk while transporting 15,712 POWs from Southeast Asia to Japan. Some of the ships sunk had no survivors. An estimated 10,720 prisoners died on these unmarked Hell Ships on the way to Japan.
A quick look at the State of Residence for American POWs shows the Top 5 States as: California, Texas, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois.
To read the rest of this analysis see HERE.

Blackburn, Kevin, and Hack, Karl, Forgotten Captives in Japanese-Occupied Asia, Series: Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia, Routledge, New York, New York, 2007.

 Waterford,  Van (Willem Wanrooy), Prisoners of the Japanese in World War II: Statistical History, Personal Narratives and Memorials Concerning Pows in Camps and on Hellships, Civilia, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1994.

van Velden, Doetje, De Japanse Interneringskampen voor burgers gedurende de tweede wereldoorlog (Japanese Civilian Internment Camps during Second Wolrd War), Groningen: J. B. Wolters, 1963.

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