POWs in Japan

From the Telegraph - I am impressed that someone is doing this:

Japanese uncover fate of PoWs who died in camps
By Colin Joyce in Yokohama
(Filed: 25/02/2005)

Sixty years after the end of the Second World War, Japanese researchers have compiled a comprehensive database detailing the fate of the 3,526 Allied prisoners of war who died in Japan between 1941 and 1945.

Until now, the information was often incomplete or inaccurate, and efforts to uncover more have been hampered by the destruction of records by the Japanese at the end of the war.

But painstaking research by Japanese volunteers has yielded new details on where the men were held and forced to work and how they died. The database is now on the internet in English.

It enabled Richard Brooker to trace his grandfather, Gunner Wilson Thomas of the Royal Artillery, who served in Java and was held in Tanoura camp, south-western Japan. From north London, he was 32 when he died of beri beri in March 1944.

"The Japanese researchers are brilliant. I spent three years trying to find out about my grandfather with little success," said Mr Brooker, who lives in Warwick. "There is nowhere else in the world that has the information the Japanese researchers have published. I was in tears when I first found my grandfather's details on their website.

"We knew he had died a few days after his best friend in the camp, but only now have we been able to find who that friend was and go on to trace his family.

"My mother was just a toddler when my grandfather went off to war and this has helped her to fill the huge gap in knowledge about her father."

Mr Brooker will visit his grandfather's grave next month with his mother.

More than 30,000 Allied PoWs were made to work in appalling conditions in factories and mines at 130 sites across Japan. About one in 10 died from illness, their bodies weakened by malnutrition and beatings from guards. Some were survivors of the Burma railway. Many died en route to Japan on "hell ships", a journey that could take up to two months under constant threat of attack from Allied submarines and planes.

The database was created by the PoW Research Network Japan, a group of independent researchers who built on the records of the Commonwealth Graves Commission. A breakthrough came with the discovery in the National Diet Library in Tokyo of a forgotten microfiche, almost illegible in places, of records made by the post-war Allied occupation authorities, who had garnered details of the fate of PoWs by questioning camp survivors and former guards.

Yoshiko Tamura, one of the researchers, became interested in the PoWs after she moved near to the Yokohama Commonwealth War Cemetery outside Tokyo, which is where more than 1,000 British servicemen - including Gunner Thomas - are interred.

"I found the cemetery very beautiful. But there were graves of all these men who had died no older than I was then. I knew they must have had girlfriends and wives and I was so saddened I just had to find out what had happened to them," she said.

Taeko Sasamoto, who co-founded the research network, last year, published a book revealing details of the lives of PoWs - the first of its kind in Japanese.

The group helps to organise visits to Japan by former PoWs and relatives, guiding them to the places where the men worked, lived, died and are buried.

"Often relatives are shocked to find out how their loved ones died but there is also great relief that at last they know what happened," said Mrs Sasamoto.

The researchers say their work is also for the Japanese. "Japanese don't know about this tragic history but they should know," said Mrs Sasamoto. "There are people who hate Japan and the Japanese have a responsibility to know why that is.

Link is: http://homepage3.nifty.com/pow-j/e/index.html
Good find Mr C_H.

Wonder if they'll get around to doing this for the rest of their 'Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere'.

The Burma Railway gets a lot of press but there was in fact another one on Java which was probably worse, not to mention the far-flung camps which had a death rate approaching 50%.

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