View Full Version : How did the Japanese servicemen get home?

04-07-2018, 06:31 PM
At the height of it's power, the Japanese Empire extended pretty far. They were in China, India, New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands. After the cessation of hostilities, how did they get back home? Was it the responsibility of their home country, or a joint effort with the Allies. Also, how well did the Japanese servicemen make the adjustment to civilian life?


Rising Sun*
04-08-2018, 10:11 AM
At the height of it's power, the Japanese Empire extended pretty far. They were in China, India, New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands. After the cessation of hostilities, how did they get back home? Was it the responsibility of their home country, or a joint effort with the Allies. Also, how well did the Japanese servicemen make the adjustment to civilian life?


Japan started its Pacific War with too little shipping to sustain its Pacific ambitions and, inevitably, ended the war with almost none, so the shipping to repatriate its troops had be supplied mostly by the Allies, predominantly America.

See https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/MacArthur%20Reports/MacArthur%20V1%20Sup/ch6.htm

As for New Guinea, the demand for repatriation was a lot less than it might have been as Japan lost over 200,000 troops there, on an island that was at the outset of Japan's Pacific War just a provisional target and foolishly taken as part of the Victory Disease ambitions and expansions in 1942.

In a way, for three years the Pacific war really took place in New Guinea. It was an important side theatre that for the length of the war conveniently pinned down 350,000 elite Japanese troops as MacArthur island-hopped his way to Tokyo.

In New Guinea, Japan lost 220,000 troops.[46] In a land that was never imagined to become a battlefield, not by late-Tokugawa southward advance protagonists who envisaged the Philippines as a possible war theatre, not by Meiji intellectuals who saw the prize in Malaya and in Indonesia, not even by the General Staff at the outbreak of war.

It is an irony of Pacific war history that several other islands come to mind immediately when we speak of action in the Pacific, but not New Guinea. The many battles there are little known, except to specialists who study that place and period and to people in Australia, although the war on that island was the most drawn out and frustrating of battles in the Pacific war.

See http://ajrp.awm.gov.au/ajrp/ajrp2.nsf/WebI/Chapters/$file/Chapter7.pdf?OpenElement for another aspect post-surrender handling and repatriation of Japanese troops from Rabaul.

The repatriation issue from the Pacific was much wider than just Japanese troops. For example, the Japanese took Indian troops captured in Malaya / Singapore to New Guinea, Rabaul and elsewhere as slave labour. It is little known that most of these Indian prisoners of war even existed, and much less known that they could have avoided their fate by joining the pro-Japanese / anti-British Indian National Army, but they remained loyal to their enlistment oaths and to Britain and suffered as bad as and often worse treatment than many other Allied prisoners in Japanese captivity.

Over sixty thousand Indian troops were among the Indian units captured by the Japanese in south-east Asia in 1941-42. Though up to 40,000 joined the pro-Japanese Indian National Army, about 20,000 endured a captivity as bad as that suffered by the better-known European prisoners of war.

More Indians were transported by the Japanese to New Guinea than anywhere else. They reached New Guinea and its islands by various routes. Most were shipped in mid-1943 to Wewak or New Britain and dispersed from there. Others came from Banjermasin via Batavia to Surabaya and to Biak, others continuing to Hollandia. Some went from Singapore to Palau and on to Hollandia. It seems that up to 8,000 Indians were been sent to New Guinea, New Britain and Bougainville, with smaller parties in the Admiralties, Timor and New Ireland. A small party was sent to Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands, where they were used as labourers. An account of these men's experience as prisoners remains overwhelmingly concealed in the primary sources, mainly compiled shortly after their liberation. It is barely treated by the histories of their units. Some simply omit reference to those captured, others dismiss three-and-a-half years of captivity in a few lines: "disease, privation, and inhuman cruelty took a heavy toll".[1] The history of the Frontier Force Rifles, for example, merely records that "the Sikhs and Dogras were sent to New Guinea, where most of them perished". [2]

Conditions for Indian prisoners of war were at least as severe as those encountered by Allied prisoners of war elsewhere in the Japanese empire. On Bougainville, for example, Naik Gopal Pershad Jha, a clerk and storeman of the Indian Army Ordnance Corps, carefully documented the diminution in rations. In Malaya in 1942 he had received 16 oz of rice or wheat a day. On his arrival on Bougainville in mid-1943 he had received 14 oz. From November 1943 the ration gradually fell, to 9 oz in May 1944, 4 oz in July, 2 oz in August until in 1945 the prisoners were surviving on plants they could forage from the jungle. [3]

Unlike most European prisoners, Indians faced particular religious constraints. Men observing strict religious dietary rules endured particular distress under such a regime. Indeed, Japanese guards were alleged to have deliberately violated religious scruples, such as cutting the beards of Sikh soldiers. [4] Objections to these infringements brought brutal retribution. In an army organised along communal lines with a quartermaster system specifically catering to dietary preferences and prohibitions, the impact of captivity could be profound. Instances occurred where guards offended caste or Q'ranic rules. Naik Khuda Baksh of the Bahawalpur Infantry, for example, described how at Hollandia in April 1944 a Lance Corporal KOBAYASHI ordered a group of Moslem prisoners to pick up some pork. They refused, "saying it was against their religion". KOBAYASHI beat them, striking Naik Baksh until he fell unconscious. [5] Just as captivity threw prisoners of different nationalities together, so Indian prisoners became mixed up. Gopal Pershad Jha's list of 240 prisoners on Bougainville includes men of more than twenty units, evidently including Sikhs, Moslems and Hindus and from a dozen ethnic backgrounds. How such mixtures affected men's ability to survive remains to be investigated. For example, were the few men of the 2/10th Baluchis at a disadvantage compared to the large contingent of the Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Artillery? On who could the single member of the 2/16th Punjabis depend? These and many other questions deserve to be investigated, offering significantly different challenges to investigations of relatively homogenous groups of, for example, Australian prisoners of war.

By November [1944], the numbers of Indian prisoners of war recovered in the Australian area of operations in south-east Asia numbered 6,344. The great majority (5,674) had been concentrated at Rabaul. Australian units also recovered Indian prisoners of war in both British and Dutch Borneo and the remainder were mainly in the Netherlands Indies (390 on Morotai and 190 at Balikpapan) with 90 on Labuan in British Borneo. [13] All of these men were to return to India. They were brought from temporary camps in the islands to detachments of the Indian Recovery of Allied Prisoners of War and Internees organisation (RAPWI) Mission. The Mission's tasks were to document and re-equip liberated prisoners and despatch them to India "rehabilitated both mentally and physically to the utmost extent in the time available". Many Indians from New Guinea and the islands passed through a depot in Brisbane before being repatriated by sea. With shipping in such demand in south-east Asia (and indeed, across the world) the transport of Allied troops, liberated prisoners, surrendered Japanese and displaced civilians presented huge problems. In the case of prisoners of war, liberated Australians needed to be transported south-eastwards, while Indians in New Guinea needed to be carried north-westwards. Accordingly, some of the shipping used to repatriate Australian prisoners to Australia was then used to carry Indians home on the return journey.

Rising Sun*
04-08-2018, 10:31 AM
At the height of it's power, the Japanese Empire extended pretty far. They were in China, India, New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands. After the cessation of hostilities, how did they get back home? Was it the responsibility of their home country, or a joint effort with the Allies. Also, how well did the Japanese servicemen make the adjustment to civilian life?


The Japanese never got very far into India and, after the Kohima / Imphal defeat by the Allies, were driven back. I don't think any Japanese remained in India to be be repatriated after that defeat.

Separate issue, but IIRC, India actually provided the largest number of Allied troops of any nation during WWII. They fought in most land theatres of the Western Allies and consistently distinguished themselves as great soldiers, as exemplified by the many Victoria Crosses (highest British bravery award) awarded them.

04-08-2018, 04:30 PM
Thanks for the great info RS. I never realized how much the country of India actually contributed to the war effort. Very informative. My other question is how did the Japanese adjust to a conquering enemy overseeing their country?

Rising Sun*
04-10-2018, 09:18 AM
My other question is how did the Japanese adjust to a conquering enemy overseeing their country?

That's different to your original question in your first post, which was "Also, how well did the Japanese servicemen make the adjustment to civilian life?"

I don't know enough to answer your original question so far as it affected the average returned serviceman but, given the general lack of resistance to the Allied military occupation in Japan, I'd guess that from the subjective viewpoint of the Japanese it was much the same as in Germany where thoroughly defeated armed service people and civilians became at worst grudgingly obedient or more usually obsequiously obedient to or even fawning upon the all powerful conqueror. The Japanese also had the edict of their Emperor to surrender, unlike the Fuhrer who carefully avoided the consequences of his actions by committing suicide and leaving his destroyed nation leaderless.

The answer to your other question "How did the Japanese adjust to a conquering enemy overseeing their country?" includes the answer I've just given but, more importantly, in Japan as in Germany the Allies pretty much re-instituted parts of the old regime in many respects as this was necessary to get the country operating again under Allied control. Part of this was an immediate necessity after surrender and occupation to manage defeated and destroyed nations and to feed, house and control their people, but once that was done there was no necessity to allow bad people to remain unpunished. It's a matter of opinion whether Allied denazifiction in Germany was more vigorous than MacArthur's Allied control in Japan so far as rooting out the elements which took those Axis countries to war and perpetrated countless atrocities as in both countries a lot of the old Axis regime survived in various government, political and other posts, perhaps none more surprising than the Gehlen intelligence organisation staffed by a good number of Nazis recruited by the CIA.

Nonetheless, Germany was more harshly dealt with than Japan, apart from some war crimes trials which in at least one case possibly dealt unfairly with an alleged Japanese war criminal and carefully avoided dealing with others who went on to become prominent in post-war Japan, e.g. Tsuji Masanobu http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/T/s/Tsuji_Masanobu.htm and Masaji Kitano https://ww2db.com/person_bio.php?person_id=537 , which if the same applied in Germany would have seen Josef Mengele run Bayer by 1960. MacArthur's administration ensured that the main pre-war and pro-war elements of militarism and nationalism endured in Japan which enabled those elements to maintain denial of war guilt even now, while the Germans have quite possibly endured more war guilt for longer than is necessary to the present day. To what extent that is the product of differences in European and Japanese culture and thinking I cannot say. However, despite MacArthur's many readily avoidable disasters created and or prolonged by his arrogance, self-interest and military incompetence in the period from Pearl Harbor to his sacking in 1951, Japan's determined denial of war guilt preserved by the people who ran its Pacific War and whom MacArthur kept in power post-surrender stands out as his crowning achievement still infecting the world today.

A major advantage for the post-war Japanese was that they were not invaded or occupied by the Soviets, the frantic desire to avoid which was one of the significant reasons which encouraged Japan to surrender as the Soviets rampaged through Manchuria in their short but massive campaign in August 1945. Compare this with the conduct of Soviet troops in Germany as they advanced upon Berlin and eventually occupied it and much of eastern Germany. The Japanese had a soft occupation by Western Allies compared with the Germans occupied by the Soviets.

It's instructive that crushing defeats upon Germany and Japan in WWII resulted in docile occupations and changing the world for the better. Compare that with the lack of a crushing defeat of Germany in WWI which led to WWII and the inconclusive ends to wars in Korea; Vietnam (although it was a crushing defeat by the North, which demonstrates again that an occupation in such circumstances is successful for the victor); Iraq 1 and II; Afghanistan; and Syria now, along with countless other conflicts by various nations and actors. There is no point going to war unless the aim is to crush the enemy. No war succeeds in changing the enemy's attitude to conform with the aggressor's unless the enemy is subjected to a crushing defeat. The West has been spectacularly successful in ignoring these principles since the end of WWII, and has lost far too much blood and treasure in idiotic conflicts with no clear aim beyond, at best, fighting with one hand tied behind its back and not going beyond a certain line as in Korea and Vietnam and at worst just nibbling at the edges of conflicts such as Syria now.

04-10-2018, 02:52 PM
Thanks again, R/S. You're the BEST! :D

Rising Sun*
04-11-2018, 07:35 AM
Thanks again, R/S. You're the BEST! :D

Very kind of you, but undeserved. I just look good because nobody else is posting. In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. :D

I omitted from my last post that there was a significant but generally overlooked factor which helps explain the harsher treatment of the Germans compared with the Japanese, being the Western Allies' notions of their and European / Western racial superiority and Japan's racial inferiority.

Put simply, the Western Allies expected better of the Germans as members of the same Western culture and heritage than they did of the Japanese, so the Western Allies were less tolerant of the bad conduct of the Germans as the Germans had offended Western values, where the Japanese hadn’t because of their inferior and primitive values as exemplified by the bastardised Samurai code and the, to the Western mind, incomprehensible view that POWs were a worthless disgrace to their family and nation. (That the USA started, and to a fair extent ended despite much evidence to the contrary during WWII in various services, the war believing that its Negros were incapable of military service on the front line equivalent to whites and Britain had an empire of subjugated peoples is somewhat ironic when both nations were, supposedly, going to war to defend democracy and human rights.)

It’s notable that the Chinese, who suffered vastly more under the Japanese and, depending on how you want to calculate it, ran their war against Japan for two to three times as long as the West and suffered many times more armed forces and civilian deaths and casualties and destruction of their homes and land, weren’t given any power in post-war Japan, despite the fact that the Western Allies would have had a much longer war if the Chinese hadn’t tied up the bulk of Japan’s land forces 1941-45. Popular and much academic Western history ignores the massive and sustained Chinese contribution in favour of the more spectacular (not least because it is better recorded in film and word by Western correspondents in Western archives) Western advance on Japan. Where did Westerners suffer anything remotely like the scale of atrocities in the Rape of Nanking? Where did America, Britain or Australia suffer in their homelands anything vaguely equivalent during the war to what the Chinese endured in theirs? The Japanese massacres in Singapore and Hong Kong, primarily of Chinese, don't begin to equate to China's suffering.

Yet the Western Allies largely ignored the endless appalling conduct of the Japanese towards the Chinese in the post-war war crimes trials. This is consistent with the Western notion of racial superiority that Western lives matter more than Asian and other lives and that Asians can't be expected to conform to Western standards so that Japanese murdering countless Chinese might be appalling, but it's what Asians do where Westerners wouldn't by, for example, intentionally firebombing Japanese cities and killing tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of civilians as Westerners are morally superior and not that primitive.

The Western Allies’ racial superiority attitudes were ingrained and went back to the West arrogantly forcing Japan to trade with the West in the mid-19th century for the West’s advantage.

Despite Japan being a crucial if minor Ally in WWI the Western Allies, notably the USA and Australia, refused to accept Japan as racially equal to them in rejecting Japan’s proposal for racial equality at the Versailles Treaty negotiations after WWI. This was a grave insult to Japan but reflected exactly the sort of Western racial superiority attitude which existed up to Japan’s Pacific War and during the Occupation, and indeed for many years afterwards. https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmXoypizjW3WknFiJnKLwHCnL72vedxjQkDDP1mXWo6uco/wiki/Racial_Equality_Proposal.html

This sort of unthinking assumption of Western superiority was reflected in many post-war attitudes to other wars, racial oppression and genocide. For example, contrast the mounting outrage for several decades in the West about South Africa's apartheid regime which, compared with the continuing post-colonial wars and black on black atrocities in black Africa during the same period and since, was fairly mild. The white South Africans were held to a European standard of moral and humane conduct which has not been applied to black Africa, including post-Mandela South Africa. The same with Western attitudes to various Asian wars, atrocities and genocides.

Had the West, notably the USA and Australia, accepted the Japanese as people of equal worth before, during and after WWI and not applied discriminatory immigration, trade and defence policies to them it is quite likely that Japan’s Pacific War would have been avoided.

The same could apply now to avoidance of future harm to many peoples around the globe.

04-13-2018, 02:53 PM

Japanese repatriation vessels:

Several surviving IJA and IJN Military vessels were used as repatriation ships postwar. These ships were later either handed over to other countries as war bounty or scrapped.


IJA Escort Carrier Kumano Maru:

http://www.ww2technik.de/Bilderchen/japmarine/armeeschiffe/jap%20army%20aircraft%20carrier%20kumano%20maru%20 2.jpg

IJN Light Carrier Hosho:


IJN Destroyer Yukikaze:


IJN Destroyer Hibiki:


IJN Minelayer Wakataka:


IJN Destroyer Escort Maki:


IJN Hei-Class Patrol Ship No. 67:


IJN T. 1 -Class Landing Ship T. 13:


IJN Hospital Ship Hikawa Maru:



tom! ;)

Rising Sun*
04-14-2018, 04:46 AM

Japanese repatriation vessels:

Several surviving IJA and IJN Military vessels were used as repatriation ships postwar. These ships were later either handed over to other countries as war bounty or scrapped.


tom! ;)

Thanks for that info.

It raises the question about whether Japanese repatriation ships loaded Japanese troops in the same way they did in some offensive operations at the start of Japan's Pacific War?

One of Japan's big advantages in the invasion of Malaya was that it put a lot more troops aboard its ships than the Western Allies would have put on their ships, so that Japan could land a lot more troops for a given tonnage of troop transports than the Allies. IIRC the Malaya loading scale allocated space on the basis of one tatami (sleeping) mat per soldier.

Do you know if the same loading was used in Japan's repatriation ships?

04-14-2018, 11:22 AM

The following link


indicates that the transports were made with maximum possible loading capacity. Therefore I think the ships were carrying even more troops as there was no need to load weapons and equipment making more space available. In addition several ships were equiped with additional housings on deck (see pics of T. 13 and No. 67) for more space.


tom! ;)