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Rising Sun*
05-04-2009, 08:35 AM
I'm reading a book (Gerald F. Linderman The World Within War - America's Combat Experience in World War II , Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.), 1999, pp. 219-25) at the moment which gives appalling personal accounts of the collapse of discipline and officer authority, and officer care for men and the men's completely absent respect for officers, in American forces captured by Japan. The author attributes this to American individualism to which the enlisted men reverted in captivity, but that's no different to a similar attitude among British Dominion troops who remained disciplined.

The indiscipline and individualism (or, simply, selfishness) gets down to the level of Americans on ships to Japan fighting for spaces to lie down and killing each other for various reasons, including killing men who were howling in pain or distress to avoid the Japanese exacting retribution on the others; a man having his throat cut and his blood drunk by his comrades; and cannibalism.

Officers generally abandoned their men and did not intercede with the Japanese on their behalf.

I have never heard of anything like that for Australian and associated British forces in the same conditions, although their officers were sometimes lousy examples of selflessness and leadership. The author notes that even on the Burma railiway and the 'hell ships' the British remained disciplined and officers insisted on access to senior Japanese officers to voice protests on behalf of their men. British discipline on the ships avoided the problems Americans experienced.

"In the holds, spacing schemes permitted some to sleep because others stood, confident of their turn to lie down. When one hell ship sank ... the British formed into queues and climbed out in perfect order. Seldom did they surrender to bedlam. In the hold of that vessel on which GI prisoners took the lives of howling campatriots, Knox remembered were "about fifty English troops who had survived the building of [the] railroad in Burma. They were put right in the center, under the hatch, and during the entire voyage not one of them died."

This is compared by the author with the maintenance of discipline by British forces under similar circumstances and the contempt American POWs had for the British for maintaining military conduct in captivity. Yet the British policed their own people without loss while the Americans were set against each other by the Japanese and Americans offered up offenders to the Japanese for torture and death.

I've read a lot about Australian POWs under Japan and know a little from personal contacts; less about the British and then almost always related to Australian experience; and virtually nothing about Americans.

I've never heard of anything like the above descriptions of American forces in captivity.

I suspect that the author tends to fasten on the sensational particular and generalise from it on other aspects of Americans' experience of the war, but the fact remains that he quotes a number of people who were there for the points I have outlined, and others, so even if it wasn't general there was clearly a very different approach to captivity by many American men and officers to the British Commonwealth approach.

Anyone who's studied American POWs under Japan know what's a fair view of them?

Any ideas on why this breakdown in discipline which, even if not universal, appears to have been widespread occurred?

pdf27
05-04-2009, 09:34 AM
No idea on WW2 cases, but at least one reference (This Kind of War, T.R. Fehrenbach) cites very similar cases happening with US troops in Korea. His hypothesis was rather that US citizens of the time were raised to believe that nobody else was any better than they were, and that if there was a major problem someone would always make it all right.
The "nobody else is better than I am" one is particularly corrosive in this sort of situation - it leads to individuals looking out for themselves at the expense of the group. Clearly, this radically diminishes the chances of survival in such a situation, but getting someone raised with that attitude to make sacrifices on behalf of a group in a situation where there is no externally imposed discipline just isn't going to happen.

Interestingly, Fehrenbach contrasts the US behaviour particularly with that of Turkish troops in Korea, whom he cites as exhibiting pretty much the best possible behaviour for survival in that sort of situation, and generally running rings around the North Korean authorities.

Rising Sun*
05-04-2009, 10:07 AM
No idea on WW2 cases, but at least one reference (This Kind of War, T.R. Fehrenbach) cites very similar cases happening with US troops in Korea. His hypothesis was rather that US citizens of the time were raised to believe that nobody else was any better than they were, and that if there was a major problem someone would always make it all right.
The "nobody else is better than I am" one is particularly corrosive in this sort of situation - it leads to individuals looking out for themselves at the expense of the group. Clearly, this radically diminishes the chances of survival in such a situation, but getting someone raised with that attitude to make sacrifices on behalf of a group in a situation where there is no externally imposed discipline just isn't going to happen.

That's pretty much what Linderman says about the American WWII POWs under Japan.

He takes the line that the strong individualism which made citizen soldiers good as soldiers in various respects was also their downfall as POWS.

He doesn't cite Fehrenbach in his bibliography, so perhaps he's come to the same view independently.

Nickdfresh
05-04-2009, 10:42 AM
I was going to use the Korean example too - citing examples from The Korean War by Max Hastings, but also providing some additional stuff I was made aware of.

Firstly, the only place any number of American POWs could have come from, as the only mass surrenders of them I am aware of, would have been the Philippines and possibly Wake Island (which would have been probably less than 500 marines IIRC). I have no idea as the the context of the US POWs on the prison barges or of their inexcusable behaviors in captivity, but one should bear in mind that the US prisoners would have fought for far longer than most of either their British, or many of their Australian POW comrades fighting in Malaya and Singapore, at that time. And they suffered deprivations even while in constant combat prior to their surrender as many were already emaciated or sick.

American forces on the Philippine peninsula were then put through the hell of the Bataan Death March and were emaciated and broken certainly by the Autumn of 1942. Their behaviors would certainly not be inconsistent with those who inhabited the concentration camps of Europe. That is no excuse for their behavior, but I can guess that the US POWs may have been in far worse of a physical, and hence, psychological state in contrast to those that were imprisoned at Singapore for instance, which collapsed relatively quickly while its garrisons were still comparatively well fed and healthy overall.

The Korean War also showed weaknesses in the conduct of US POWs (for the most part, with some notable exceptions), the biggest factor being attributed to the main devil that haunted the overall early US conduct of the War - deficient training in conventional military tactics as well as a lack of any sort of communicated expectations as too how soldiers were to behave in captivity. Nor what they were to expect if captured since it seemed unlikely any number would be captured. The problems here were the massive and haphazard decommissioning of the WWII-era US military from about seven million soldiers in 1945 to just over 500,000 by 1949 (IIRC), the resources drained by command and control of nuclear weapons, the thought of conventional forces as obsolete in the face of nuclear weapons, and massive budgets cuts coupled by a seemingly rudderless conceptualization as to how US ground forces should be trained and deployed - or if they were even useful at all!

I think Hastings makes a clear distinction between the actions of US Army officers, NCOs, and enlisted, both in fighting and internment after capture, and their US Marine Corp counterparts. Mainly, the marines tended to fight far better in the darker days of 1950 to early 1951 (when most US servicemen were taken prisoner) with not only a greater esprit de corp, but with much more skill as the US Army seemingly dropped any sort of pretense of serious infantry training in favor of occupation constabulary duties, and instructed soldiers that combat was essentially little more than a rapid mechanized assault. Their unpreparedness probably had little to do with innate "individualism" as it had to do with the "push-button" mentality/concept of soldiers being little more than "trip-wire" forces, and a complete lack of conceptualization of the coming techniques the Red Chinese would employ in their camps to break down the will and corrode conventional military structure. It was also found that US Marines tended to hold up far better and more cohesively during the Korean POW experience largely because of their greater psychological indoctrination and beliefs of what was "special" about being a marine over a typical soldier. And this translated to a far superior (initial) battlefield performance over US Army troops who tended to collapse, break and run when the North Koreans, and later Chinese "Volunteers" turned their flanks - as they had received almost no training on defense, and certainly none on defense-in-depth. The UK by contrast, and I am certainly no expert on the post War British military, still continued rigorous training and still had to contend with small, bushfire wars around the globe keeping its conventional forces somewhat vigilant.

A marked change took place almost overnight in US Army soldiers when command passed from Gen. Douglas MacArthur to Gen. Matthew Ridgeway and he again intensified basic infantry training and oversaw a retraining program in Korea that instilled a remarkable increase of both competence and confidence of US troops in Korea. I think the axiom is that "we went into Korea with a bad army, and came out with a good one." There was a good deal of study after Korea on this that was used to develop many schools and course such as the SERE Course. Unfortunately, much of this Cold War research was also (wholly inappropriately) used to develop the torture techniques the US applied during Rendition and at various prisons for terrorists around the world...

Schuultz
05-04-2009, 11:41 AM
American forces on the Philippine peninsula were then put through the hell of the Bataan Death March and were emaciated and broken certainly by the Autumn of 1942. Their behaviors would certainly not be inconsistent with those who inhabited the concentration camps of Europe.


Well, but the author also mentioned that the British POWs on the boat, who were a part of the building of the railway in Burma didn't experience such a breakdown of discipline either. And they had already gone through a lot.

It would be interesting to know how the discipline of American or Russian prisoners in German captivity, or German prisoners in Russian captivity held up by comparison...

Nickdfresh
05-04-2009, 11:57 AM
Well, but the author also mentioned that the British POWs on the boat, who were a part of the building of the railway in Burma didn't experience such a breakdown of discipline either. And they had already gone through a lot.
...


The difference being that the British and other POWs building the railway were considered somewhat useful by the Japanese. Whereas the US and Filipino POWs were considered a drain on resources, and whose provision for was never even considered by the Japanese...

Schuultz
05-04-2009, 12:29 PM
The difference being that the British and other POWs building the railway were considered somewhat useful by the Japanese. Whereas the US and Filipino POWs were considered a drain on resources, and whose provision for was never even considered by the Japanese...

What made the Japanese consider the Britons valuable but the Americans worthless?

Nickdfresh
05-04-2009, 01:16 PM
What made the Japanese consider the Britons valuable but the Americans worthless?

I don't know exactly other than the circumstances of their capture and use and am not all that familiar with what happened after the Battle for Singapore. But the Britons were in proximity of Burma and Malaysia and I think still had significant stores in the city itself. The Americans were in the midst of a complete, rapid collapse of the sieges of the Bataan and Corregidor Peninsula largely because they had exhausted almost everything. The Japanese logistics were almost nonexistent and the US forces and the numerous refugees to the Bataan area had used up all of the stores leaving an emaciated army to be fed by a Japanese Army that could barely feed itself...

Rising Sun*
05-05-2009, 05:04 AM
I have no idea as the the context of the US POWs on the prison barges or of their inexcusable behaviors in captivity, but one should bear in mind that the US prisoners would have fought for far longer than most of either their British, or many of their Australian POW comrades fighting in Malaya and Singapore, at that time. And they suffered deprivations even while in constant combat prior to their surrender as many were already emaciated or sick.

Linderman makes that point about the Americans (or at least those who weren't wounded) generally being in worse physical condition than the British when they were captured. Which of course was in large part due to MacArthur putting much of his food supply where it could be captured by the foraging and surprised Japanese instead of where the Americans (and Filipinos, who are too often forgotten) could use it when they had retreated to the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor. So the American forces starved before they surrendered, which led to them having to surrender. What sort of numb nuts puts his reserve food supply outside his redoubt?

However, the British Commonwealth troops who survived the Burma Railway were in at least as bad a condition as the Americans captured in the Philippines, but their discipline didn't break down even on, for example, the 'hell ships' when they were being transported to Japan after building the railway.

Well, maybe Commonwealth discipline did break down a bit after one sinking of a transport by an American sub. Some Australian survivors spent their time paddling around on flotsam and bashing and drowing Japanese survivors to death. Although I don't know if they had been ordered not to do this, so perhaps it was just individual initiative.


I think Hastings makes a clear distinction between the actions of US Army officers, NCOs, and enlisted, both in fighting and internment after capture, and their US Marine Corp counterparts.

Linderman makes a distinction between US Army and USMC in their attitudes to authority and discipline, although not directly related to the breakdown of discipline as POWs which focuses on the Army. His view is that the Marines had a much higher standard of corps and personal discipline which was in part because training and discipline was related to combat cohesion and survival (and where every Marine of every rank was primarily a rifleman even if not appointed to such roles) where the Army was much more concerned with 'Chicken Shit', being trivial form over substance, especially in the way Army officers treated their troops. He attributes much of the Army NCOs and enlisted men's breakdown of discipline to lack of respect for their officers, and also to the continuation of civilian attitudes of independence and equality which made the ORs resentful of many of their officers. I didn't get the impression that Linderman thought Marines would be expected to behave the same way as the Army in Japanese captivity.

Rising Sun*
05-05-2009, 05:20 AM
The difference being that the British and other POWs building the railway were considered somewhat useful by the Japanese.

The British Commonwealth forces only became useful long after their surrender, which was in mid-February 1942, and after Japan conquered Burma and needed their labour to build a railway to it through Thailand, which didn't start until mid-1942.

However, at the time of their capture the British Commonwealth forces were just as useless to the Japanese in Singapore as were the Americans in the Philippines.

Rising Sun*
05-05-2009, 05:35 AM
It would be interesting to know how the discipline of American or Russian prisoners in German captivity ...

American discipline in Europe held up as well as any other Allied POWs, as far as I'm aware.

That might be in part because the troops who were captured in the Philippines were pre-war enlistments who might have been less well motivated than those who volunteered after Japan attacked, and also because there was a fair proportion of air crew as prisoners in Europe who might have been different in their attitudes to the Army soldiers captured in the Philippines.

The maintenance of discipline in Europe may have something to do with the absence of the brutality, starvation and working prisoners to death routinely employed by the Japanese, and the generally much better conditions in German camps, at least until the closing stages of the war when the long marches began.

It's impossible to compare the Russians, or strictly the Soviets, with Americans or other Allied POWs as they were segregated and treated abysmally by their German captors, who denied them the same standards of nutrition, accommodation, hygiene and medical care given to the other Allied prisoners. There are endless accounts of non-Soviet Allied prisoners trying to aid their Soviet allies, whether by trying to supply food or medical care. There is also no shortage of accounts of desperate Soviet prisoners fighting each other mercilessly for food tossed over the wire to them by their allies, which in some cases so distressed the people trying to assist that they didn't do it again.

Nickdfresh
05-05-2009, 03:31 PM
Linderman makes that point about the Americans (or at least those who weren't wounded) generally being in worse physical condition than the British when they were captured. Which of course was in large part due to MacArthur putting much of his food supply where it could be captured by the foraging and surprised Japanese instead of where the Americans (and Filipinos, who are too often forgotten) could use it when they had retreated to the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor. So the American forces starved before they surrendered, which led to them having to surrender. What sort of numb nuts puts his reserve food supply outside his redoubt?

Well, Gen. Mac was certainly a numbnuts on many occasions. And I think you may be partially correct about this but possibly just wide of the mark. The reason that MacArthur ****ed up so wasn't so much leaving his food supply out as it was that he failed to follow the proper pre-WWII "War (OPLAN?) Plan Orange" in which I believe his forces, the core of which being about 15,000 US Army and Marine combat forces that were augmented by the better trained, organized, and led parts of the Filipino Army, were to have immediately retreated to Bataan and Corregidor to hold out indefinitely. In his arrogant and callous disregard for the operational planning of others, he tried to make his stand in urban areas of Manila against forces that were better supported and superior -even if they were numerically inferior- to his own.

I think there were in fact large stores of nonperishable foodstuffs in both aforementioned fortresses. But as the front collapsed and Mac tried to follow the plan post haste, what should have been an organized tactical withdrawal protected by a series of rear guard actions turned into a route and a headlong retreat. Many civilian refugees as well as the lessor parts of the Filipino military bloated the garrisons and drained the resources, IIRC. This shortened the time they could withstand the siege and made relief impossible, as did Pearl harbor.


However, the British Commonwealth troops who survived the Burma Railway were in at least as bad a condition as the Americans captured in the Philippines, but their discipline didn't break down even on, for example, the 'hell ships' when they were being transported to Japan after building the railway.

True. But I think I've read that at least some of the Japanese commanders, including the infamous one depicted in the "Bridge over the River Kwai," were reasonably humane and realized that without relatively well fed prisoners, their projects would never get done...

But I in no way mean to imply that Commonwealth prisoners were treated with kit gloves, as they too were equally subject to atrocities, including the infamous Singapore hospital massacre...


Well, maybe Commonwealth discipline did break down a bit after one sinking of a transport by an American sub. Some Australian survivors spent their time paddling around on flotsam and bashing and drowing Japanese survivors to death. Although I don't know if they had been ordered not to do this, so perhaps it was just individual initiative.

That's discipline at its finest! :D I recall reading about US POWs in the Korean War that were used as drivers and whatnot on long Chinese supply trains. Sometimes, while in the mountains, they used to 'accidentally' nudge their individual captors off the sides of cliffs when none of the other guards were looking...


Linderman makes a distinction between US Army and USMC in their attitudes to authority and discipline, although not directly related to the breakdown of discipline as POWs which focuses on the Army. His view is that the Marines had a much higher standard of corps and personal discipline which was in part because training and discipline was related to combat cohesion and survival (and where every Marine of every rank was primarily a rifleman even if not appointed to such roles) where the Army was much more concerned with 'Chicken Shit', being trivial form over substance, especially in the way Army officers treated their troops. He attributes much of the Army NCOs and enlisted men's breakdown of discipline to lack of respect for their officers, and also to the continuation of civilian attitudes of independence and equality which made the ORs resentful of many of their officers. I didn't get the impression that Linderman thought Marines would be expected to behave the same way as the Army in Japanese captivity.

This is probably a much more salient point, as this was reflected throughout the War. Many enlisted in the Army felt that there was an artificial, ironic, and unnecessary classicist mentality in the US Army that gave officers inordinate privileges in rear areas and assumed that even seasoned, senior NCOs should be treated a cattle that would desert at the first chance. This is reflected in a lot of writing, and I can't imagine the absolute control that was maintained on the US enlisted in the pre-and-early-war Army. One example would be the necessity of getting a pass for even an off-duty weekend to leave post for even a senior NCO whereas even a recently drafted 2nd lieutenant enjoyed much greater autonomy than say a sergeant first class that had been in the army before the war for almost a decade. This did build resentment. But, it never really manifested itself in the European theater as much. The pre-War US Army also had problems with ineffective careerist officers that were useless in the wartime military and in combat, and it took a while for them to be weeded out. I think such things were poisonous to morale in rear areas, but certainly disappeared in combat conditions where officers often were killed in higher proportions than the enlisted and NCOs...

I do recall reading in Ambrose's "Citizen Soldiers" that many units in the US Army were often stunned that they were treated better when under British command in Northern Europe. The irony being that although Britain was said to be a classist society, it often seemed that the senior British officers would show up and check on their US Army charges and make them feel far more human that did the ranking US officers. The US soldiers often felt that their British senior officers, in their chain of command, seemed to genuinely take interest and care more about them. Plus, they enjoyed the rum ration and actually got the supplies such as chocolate bars and beer at the front that tended to be pilfered from the US supply system by the "Milo Minderbenders" in supply.: :)


The British Commonwealth forces only became useful long after their surrender, which was in mid-February 1942, and after Japan conquered Burma and needed their labour to build a railway to it through Thailand, which didn't start until mid-1942.

However, at the time of their capture the British Commonwealth forces were just as useless to the Japanese in Singapore as were the Americans in the Philippines.

Right. But it should be remembered that according to Wiki, the Japanese command in the Philippines only realized that the American and Filipino holdouts were collapsing in relatively short order and only made provisions for 25,000 prisoners when they took three times as many. The Bataan Death March is I think a bit unprecedented by the Western Allies and Commonwealth forces however, as this was the beginning of the degradations and wanton murder of inconvenient Allied prisoners for the Japanese, and was a blatant effort to get rid of excess men they simply had no use for and had little esteem for after their mass surrender...

Rising Sun*
05-06-2009, 05:40 AM
I think there were in fact large stores of nonperishable foodstuffs in both aforementioned fortresses. But as the front collapsed and Mac tried to follow the plan post haste, what should have been an organized tactical withdrawal protected by a series of rear guard actions turned into a route and a headlong retreat. Many civilian refugees as well as the lessor parts of the Filipino military bloated the garrisons and drained the resources, IIRC. This shortened the time they could withstand the siege and made relief impossible, as did Pearl harbor.

The Filipinos and Americans probably were never going to win in the Philippines, but they could certainly have held out much, much longer on Bataan and Corregidor if MacArthur had followed the intended plans. Had they done so, they just might have altered to course of the war as Gen Homma's advance stalled badly in January 1942 and he failed badly to meet Japan's timetable for the conquest of the Philippines. This put him under pressure from Japan while he lost forces diverted to the NEI invasion and made various mistakes which hampered his advance. By the end of February the under-supplied defenders had nonetheless mauled and blunted his forces to the extent that


The 14th Army was indeed, as Homma remarked at his trial in Manila four years later, "in very bad shape." Altogether Homma had in his army at that time, he estimated, only three infantry battalions capable of effective action. Had MacArthur chosen that moment to launch a large-scale counterattack, Homma told the Military Tribunal which sentenced his to death, the American and Filipino troops could have walked to Manila "without encountering much resistance on our part."[9]

The Japanese failure in the offensive against the Orion-Bagac line raised American morale and led to an upsurge of optimism. So jubilant were the troops that they accepted unquestioningly, as did MacArthur's headquarters, the report that General Homma had committed suicide because of his failure to take Bataan. To heighten the dramatic effect, or for some obscure reason attributable to Oriental psychology, Homma was thought to have selected General MacArthur's apartment in the Manila Hotel for the act. The fictitious funeral rites were reported to have been held there also.[10]

Officers were unanimous in their judgment that morale was never higher and the troops never imbued with a more aggressive spirit. "The morale of our front line troops," wrote Lt. Col. Nicoll F. Galbraith to his chief, Col. Lewis C. Beebe, G-4 on MacArthur's staff, "appears very high and they want to take the offensive. At the moment there appears to be nothing on our right except dead Japs and tons of abandoned equipment, which is being collected. . . . Prisoners give the impression that Jap morale is away down."[11] Wainwright, too, My bold. http://ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-P-PI/USA-P-PI-19.html p.350

Even so, the damage to Japan's pride by the holdout in the Philippines ensured that whatever forces were necessary to win were sent there, so it's unlikely that a breakout by the defenders would have altered the eventual result. Then again, if the USN had arrived in time .... (and if Mac had the bombers he lost on Day One ...) ....


But I think I've read that at least some of the Japanese commanders, including the infamous one depicted in the "Bridge over the River Kwai," were reasonably humane and realized that without relatively well fed prisoners, their projects would never get done...

"Relatively well fed" is a very relative term, at least as far as anything I've read. The overall Japanese attitude was that they regarded the POWs, and the much greater number of Asians who laboured and died on the railway, as an expendable labour force to be maintained at minimum cost and discarded if they couldn't keep up the literally killing work pace.

I'm not aware of any Japanese who overall were reasonably, or even slightly, humane towards Australian POWs on the railway. The Japanese always made sick men work; denied them even the most basic medical resources; fed them on minimal and bad rations; and beat and tortured them mercilessly and often over the most trivial issues. It was all part of the Japanese expression of hatred for the Westerners who oppressed them, which one of the main Japanese sentiments which led to the war, along with Japanese convictions of racial superiority. Apart from the bits that were Korean guards at the bottom of the Japanese pecking order taking out their anger on the prisoners, which constituted a large part of the mistreatment as the Koreans were often the ones in direct control of the working parties.



I do recall reading in Ambrose's "Citizen Soldiers" that many units in the US Army were often stunned that they were treated better when under British command in Northern Europe. The irony being that although Britain was said to be a classist society, it often seemed that the senior British officers would show up and check on their US Army charges and make them feel far more human that did the ranking US officers. The US soldiers often felt that their British senior officers, in their chain of command, seemed to genuinely take interest and care more about them.

That reflects the Australian officers’, and what I expect was the British officers’, obligation to put the welfare of their troops ahead of their own, as summarised in the Australian officers’ motto of WWI and WWII on feeding: “Horses first, men next, officers last.”

That doesn’t mean that Australian officers couldn’t be a bunch of selfish *****s who, for example, if very senior brought their wives over and (quite possibly the same officers) corralled their army nurses* for officers only in the Middle East and gave themselves privileges they denied their men, but generally there was nothing like the resentment and hostility towards arrogant officers which Linderman records.

*I read a memoir by an digger who served in the Middle East in WWII, and in the thick of it. At one stage he was used as a guard for an officer’s function in some base city. It was a fine old night for the officers and nurses with lots of grog and other activity. As dawn approached a drunken and dishevelled nurse stumbled towards the guard (then still only about seventeen and quite innocent) , stopped, fixed him with a drunken stare and asked something like: “Do you want to **** me? You might as well. Everyone else has.”

Deaf Smith
05-12-2009, 11:01 PM
The Japanese culture at the time considered surrender beneath contempt. As a result their treatment of prisoners was very harsh. Starvation was quite common and death at the whim of a guard not unusual. And escape very doubtful. Any attempt would lead to death.

The Germans were far far more humane. This is reflected in the fact that 25 percent of the captives under Japan died, while something like 2 percent died under the Germans.

I have no doubt the American individuality played a part in breakdowns of authority. But I wonder if it was a common occurrence or just at certain places.

Deaf

Schuultz
05-13-2009, 12:01 AM
The Germans were far far more humane. This is reflected in the fact that 25 percent of the captives under Japan died, while something like 2 percent died under the Germans.


I assume those 2 percent are Western Allied only... Eastern Front POWs had a much worse fate...

Rising Sun*
05-13-2009, 07:50 AM
The Japanese culture at the time considered surrender beneath contempt. As a result their treatment of prisoners was very harsh.

That's the popular explanation, established during WWII and unchallenged in popular discourse since, but it's far from the full picture.

The Japanese leadership and many Japanese people hated the West and Westerners for humiliating and oppressing Japan in the years between WWI and WWII. The military leadership, which was also effectively the civilian leadership, fanned that hatred in its military and civilian people.

Combined with the racial superiority inherent in the Japanese leadership and mainstream attitudes at the time, the treatment meted out to Western POWs came from the same sort of attitudes that the Nazis had towards the Russians as untermensch as objects of both contempt and hatred.

The Japanese leadership and people had similar attitudes towards the Chinese, with similar but even more appalling results for Chinese civilians.

It should also be remembered that a good deal of the brutality inflicted upon POWs of the Japanese, certainly on the Burma railway, was in fact inflicted by Koreans who were at the end of the line of brutality within the Japanese forces and who were either or both brutalised themselves by the Japanese military system or taking out their anger, or fear of punishment by those above them if their prisoners failed to perform or behave, on the only group below them.

Deaf Smith
05-13-2009, 07:55 PM
I assume those 2 percent are Western Allied only... Eastern Front POWs had a much worse fate...


True!

And the Germans paid the price when they lost. The Russians got even.

The Japanese, for all the fanatical excess, got paid back to. If we had thought they would act like Germans or Italians, we would not have used the A bomb. But their own fanatical tactics came back to haunt them. They convinced us they would fight to the last man. And we acted accordingly.

Deaf

Schuultz
05-13-2009, 08:20 PM
The Japanese, for all the fanatical excess, got paid back to. If we had thought they would act like Germans or Italians, we would not have used the A bomb. But their own fanatical tactics came back to haunt them. They convinced us they would fight to the last man. And we acted accordingly.


I wouldn't say that. The only thing that saved Germany from the Bomb was time. If, by the time the nukes were ready to be deployed, it hadn't already been obvious that Germany was going to collapse very soon and without too much trouble, it would have been bombed.

In fact, many of the people who worked on the Manhattan Project, such as Oppenheimer or Einstein (He didn't work on it, but he supported it), started to protest against its use only after it was obvious that it wasn't going to be deployed against Germany anymore.

Chevan
05-14-2009, 07:04 AM
True!

And the Germans paid the price when they lost. The Russians got even.

Not true.
The GErmans were the absolute winners in bad treating of pows.
The Death-rate of Easter POWs ( not just Soviets, but poles also) were about 50-60% in Germans camps.
Russians may envy to fate American POWs in Japane Camps.The ONLY 25% of Americans died there.

Nickdfresh
05-14-2009, 07:10 AM
Not true.
The GErmans were the absolute winners in bad treating of pows.
The Death-rate of Easter POWs ( not just Soviets, but poles also) were about 50-60% in Germans camps.
Russians may envy to fate American POWs in Japane Camps.The ONLY 25% of Americans died there.

Yes. But to be fair, US and Allied POWs would have been massacred had Japan been invaded...

Chevan
05-14-2009, 07:29 AM
I
In fact, many of the people who worked on the Manhattan Project, such as Oppenheimer or Einstein (He didn't work on it, but he supported it), started to protest against its use only after it was obvious that it wasn't going to be deployed against Germany anymore.
I did never hear that Oppenhaimer protested against to use the A-bomb.
It was a comitte in Los Alarmos in head with Oppenhaimer/Groves who specially recommended to drop the bomb on Japane.
http://www.dannen.com/decision/scipanel.html
The Oppenhaimer, Fermi and Lawrence ALLtogether were for "immediate military use" of a-bomb.

Chevan
05-14-2009, 07:34 AM
Yes. But to be fair, US and Allied POWs would have been massacred had Japan been invaded...
Lucky Yankees.:)
Russkies have been massacred for long time before invasion to GErmany, immediately since june 1941.

Schuultz
05-14-2009, 08:06 AM
I did never hear that Oppenhaimer protested against to use the A-bomb.
It was a comitte in Los Alarmos in head with Oppenhaimer/Groves who specially recommended to drop the bomb on Japane.
http://www.dannen.com/decision/scipanel.html
The Oppenhaimer, Fermi and Lawrence ALLtogether were for "immediate military use" of a-bomb.

My bad, you are, in fact, right about that. I was thinking about the Franck report, and somehow I imagined that Oppenheimer was a part of it.
He was not.

But several other important scientists were, such as James Franck and Leo Szilard.

Rising Sun*
05-14-2009, 08:22 AM
Lucky Yankees.:)
Russkies have been massacred for long time before invasion to GErmany, immediately since june 1941.

I was going to say something like that in response to Nick's comment, but today must be one of the special days they have the electricity turned on in Russia ;) :D so Chevan got in first.

It is difficult to compare German and Japanese treatment of Russian and Western POWs respectively.

The Germans generally didn't engage in the routine brutality towards their Russian POWs like the Japanese did with their Western (and Indians in British service) POWs once they were in camps.

While the Germans certainly worked some POWs and other prisoners to death in a manner not all that different to the Japanese, it was also the case that in many cases the Germans simply herded the Russians and other Slavs together in camps and pretty much left them to exist on less than starvation rations in conditions which ensured the spread of diseases such as typhus. In static camps such as Changi, as distinct from slave labour situations like the Burma railway and the coal mines in Japan, the Japanese were perhaps more benign captors.

However, there may be other factors which partly explain the different death rates.

The Australians were fortunate to have some outstanding, dedicated, skilful and brave army doctors among them in the Japanese camps and on the Burma railway. This was a consequence of most of a division and support elements being captured on Singapore. Their medical and surgical work saved many, but many more were saved by their attention to field hygiene.

I wonder if Slav POWs were in the same position? Did their military establishments have the same level of medical staff? Were medical staff captured in the same proportions? Did their medical staff have the same opportunity as the Australians to improvise medical equipment and drugs, and sometimes to trade with the locals for needed items?

Chevan
05-14-2009, 08:49 AM
My bad, you are, in fact, right about that. I was thinking about the Franck report, and somehow I imagined that Oppenheimer was a part of it.
He was not.

But several other important scientists were, such as James Franck and Leo Szilard.
you right , it were Szilard and Franck who ONLY care about radioactive and humanitarian consequences of using atomic weapon.

Chevan
05-14-2009, 09:04 AM
I wonder if Slav POWs were in the same position? Did their military establishments have the same level of medical staff? Were medical staff captured in the same proportions? Did their medical staff have the same opportunity as the Australians to improvise medical equipment and drugs, and sometimes to trade with the locals for needed items?
How can one to improvise medical equipment and drugs, mate?
Especialy if the even primitive food were the rarity.
The certain discipline among Russian POWs supported them, and if GErman commander was enough kind ( God, save his soul) not to order immediately execute all the POWs who can't move- then i heard some of them got the chance to survive.
The Bataane Death march was exceptional in Asia, but it was a regular in East in 1941-42.
Many wounded POWs simply have been killed right on the road by guard.
Later Germans even had organized the something kinda hospitals for POWs right on Camps.
But again, i heard some of such hospitals has been later burned ( sometimes with all the personal inside) during the GErman retreat in 1943.

Nickdfresh
05-14-2009, 09:15 AM
I did never hear that Oppenhaimer protested against to use the A-bomb.
It was a comitte in Los Alarmos in head with Oppenhaimer/Groves who specially recommended to drop the bomb on Japane.
http://www.dannen.com/decision/scipanel.html
The Oppenhaimer, Fermi and Lawrence ALLtogether were for "immediate military use" of a-bomb.


I never heard of his protests at that point. I believe it was well after WWII ended that Oppenheimer began decrying things. This was based on the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the escalating arms race and Cold War paranoia...

Nickdfresh
05-14-2009, 09:23 AM
I was going to say something like that in response to Nick's comment, but today must be one of the special days they have the electricity turned on in Russia ;) :D so Chevan got in first.

Everyday between 12:00am and 6:00am before the rolling blackouts begin. ;) :D


It is difficult to compare German and Japanese treatment of Russian and Western POWs respectively.

...
I wonder if Slav POWs were in the same position? Did their military establishments have the same level of medical staff? Were medical staff captured in the same proportions? Did their medical staff have the same opportunity as the Australians to improvise medical equipment and drugs, and sometimes to trade with the locals for needed items?

I think the main death rates of Soviet POWs was that the initial camps in the winter of 1942-43 were basically pens or fenced in areas often with no shelter...

Later in the War, when the lucky Soviets POWs actually got to camps, their plight lessened somewhat. Though, I recall reading just recently that Western Allied prisoners of war were often appalled at their treatment and condition and sometimes attempted to throw them food over fences and faced punishment for this. But their punishments were still probably generally better than the Soviet POWs' best days...

Rising Sun*
05-14-2009, 10:58 AM
How can one to improvise medical equipment and drugs, mate?

By using what's available.

Australian doctors and their support staff on the Burma Railway cleaned out ulcers with sharpened teaspoons; distilled drugs from local plants in stills made of local materials;and made medical implements from local items such as bamboo and other scavenged things such as food tins. They worked with what they had, as Albert Coates did in just one of many examples of such conduct.


Coates reflected later that his interest and knowledge of the history of surgery, of Pare, Hunter and of Lister, enabled him to perform the surgery and minimise infection in such primitive conditions. He adopted the Listerian circular amputation, taught to him by Hamilton Russell, a circular cut around the leg, then coning out of remnant flesh and bone. A boiled piece of the patient’s pants was inserted into the hole and the skin stitched loosely with cotton. Ox-gut sutures were used for ligating arteries. This was surgery from the days of Nelson and Wellington, and the only effective method when asepsis was not possible. It was reputed that his fastest amputation was completed in 8 minutes.
At this camp, there was one other doctor to help, initially Dr John Higgin, then Dr Claude Anderson from Western Australia who assisted at 60 amputations. There were some other key people like the Dutch chemist, Capt Van Boxtel, who developed a cocaine local anaesthetic from some cocaine tablets given to Coates by a dentist POW, Capt Stewart Simpson in Tavoy. Van Boxtel experimented to make a form which could be given as a spinal, allowing good pain relief for the operation, but allowing the muscles to move. Many a patient helped during their own operations. He also contributed to the extraction of emetine, a drug used for treating amoebic disease, from ipecacuanha tablets. This saved lives too.
Saline was made with distilled water and some baking soda, and given to cholera cases through fine bamboo cannulae to prevent dehydration. In certain severe cases, intraperitoneal injection was used.
Australian sapper Edward Dixon proved to be very inventive and devised a range of medical tools and devices to allow the surgery to be done, including the still to make some alcohol for washing the skin, and the surgeon’s hands, as well as water for the saline infusions. Dixon also made the surgical needles from the darning needles.
In late 1943, 2000 of the worst cases from up the railway were sent back to a new camp at 50 kilo mark at Tanbaya, and Coates inspected. Two Australian doctors, Maj Bruce Hunt and Capt Frank Cahill were looking after these men and had no equipment at all. Of the 2000 men, one in three died. Many of these men were victims of the “speedo” period, when in a hurry to complete the railway, the Japanese increased the workloads and introduced a “no work-no food” policy. Those who could work gave up one third of their meagre rations to feed those who could not work at all. The Japanese strategy of working the POW to death was hastened by the denial of food, clothing, shelter or medical care. During his time at 55 kilo camp Coates had the opportunity to inspect a Japanese hospital nearby and noted it to be lavishly stocked with medical supplies and equipment. It was around this time that Coates met with another revered medico, Dutchman Capt Henri Hekking, KNL.

When the 415 km of railway was joined in late 1943, moves began to shift the POW to a new camp to be made in Nakhon Pathom in Thailand. The Burma camps and hospitals were dismantled and the journey into Thailand was done by train. Coates recalled getting into a crowded railway truck and sitting on someone’s leg. On enquiring whose leg it was, the digger said “ It’s mine sir and that’s one leg your not going to take off!”
They traversed to Tamarkan camp where Coates met with Maj Arthur Moon, and then to Chungkai. Chungkai was just like 55kilo camp had been, and the hospital there was served by a British physician, Lt-Col Barrett, and Canadian surgeon, Capt Jacob Markowicz. At Chungkai, Coates first saw the blood transfusion method developed by Markowicz. Defibrination to prevent the clotting was done by stirring for 10 minutes with a bamboo switch, and proved to be very effective. The defibrinated blood was given through bamboo cannulae and rubber tubing taken from stethescopes.

In Nakhon Pathom, Coates, was appointed Chief Medical Officer, and was charged with developing the new hospital, and with Krantz and Capt McNeally to help he supervised as many of the POW arrived and they constructed a hospital of up to 10,000 beds. By January 1944, 50 large huts for up to 200 men were built, and separate medical huts were constructed. There were 1500 in the dysentery block alone. A general purpose medical committee was formed by Coates as CMO, Lt-Col Malcolm (British), and Lt-Col Larsen (Dutch), to direct medical policy.
They developed the blood transfusion service on a large scale by May, a device connected to bicycle pedals was made for stirring the blood, and over the next fourteen months, 1500 transfusions were given. Blood grouping was checked by eye, rhesus groups were unknown, but very few reactions were noted. They commenced weekly medical meetings. At the first meeting, 18 POW doctors were present, and they were joined by the arrival of Dunlop and 3 others in June. Dunlop was in charge of rehabilitation and physiotherapy of the hospital in addition to his surgical duties. Throughout 1944 combatant officers were gradually separated. By early 1945, the doctors were the senior ranks and COs of the camps. At its peak in 1945, Nakhon Pathom camp had 7353 POW and 35 doctors. It is interesting that the Australians asked to celebrate ANZAC day in 1944 and were surprised to be given permission by the Japanese. It is 60 years since that very service conducted by those still incarcerated in honour of the sacrifices in WWI.

The doctors now acted as a team and the burden of illness was still very great, as the men had survived to date more than two years of starvation and hard labour. Groups of survivors from up the line would arrive still in need of great care. The operating theatre remained busy, and a wide range of surgery was done, including 5 craniotomies, 3 laminectomies, 3 nephrectomies and 3 splenectomies. Some general anaesthesia was available with chloroform and an improvised mask, but all surgery below the nipple was done with spinal anaesthesia. This was not without potential problem too, and lessons were learned about this important technique. Red Cross ‘cutocaine’ was available from July 1944. Surgical alcohol was being made on a larger scale, sutures were still made from the gut of water buffalo. A suction device was made from an old Ovaltine tin, some leather from an ox and some stethescope rubber tubes. Instruments were still fashioned from bits and pieces, and rehabilitation equipment was devised under the guidance of Dunlop. Bamboo was used to make orthopoedic beds and even a dental chair. TB was treated with pneumothorax, and a laboratory for basic pathology work was developed. No x-ray was available so diagnosis relied on classical bedside symptoms and clinical signs.

Nakhon Pathom Hospital 1944.
Chief Medical Officer Lt-Col AE Coates operating on a POW, with Lt-Col EE Dunlop supervising the “anaesthetic”. Using spinal anaesthesia, the patient is awake. An interested POW looks on from outside. In total, 896 operations were performed here.
Photo courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Collection


Three important improvisations were of particular note, all with Sapper Dixon’s contributions. First, an autoclave, for sterilising instruments was made from an old petrol drum and proved effective. Second,
proctoscopes, for examining the rectum, were made from tin with a small attached mirror for shining the sun where it normally would not.
Thirdly, Dixon made a circular saw with a treadle machine, and this was put to use for craniotomy. Coates performed this procedure on an American POW who had signs of a brain tumour, using bits of spoons for clips and dental forceps for bone nibblers. The unfortunate soldier survived the war, had further surgery in the US, and had several weeks with his family before succumbing to his illness.
Of 896 operations done at Nakhon Pathom camp hospital, there were only 18 deaths.

Of this time, Frank Foster described in his 1946 book about the railway, “Comrades in Bondage”:
“ The camp was commandered by a leading Melbourne surgeon, Lt-Col A E Coates, who had the happy knack of fusing medical men of all nationalities into a happy working clan. He was almost worshipped by the patients. Many of them with a leg or arm missing bore witness to his outstanding surgery in the Burmese jungle camps. ….. his work stands as a monument to skilled surgery under primitive jungle conditions. His operations, together with surgeons like Lt-Col Dunlop, Major Krantz, and Capt McConachie (British), astounded laymen as well as doctors at Nakhon Pathom. Removal of tumours, colostomy, and many other complicated operations held the Japanese spellbound, and won a respect for their skill. So human were these surgeons that they were not averse to any of us who were interested coming into the surgery and looking on”


http://pows-of-japan.net/articles/37.htm

Coates returned to Australia after the war and resumed medical pratice.

I had a little knowledge of him when I was starting out as a lawyer. His history was well known to his generation, many of whom were senior lawyers and judges, and to many of us who were the next generation. If Coates gave a medical report in a court case that a man was unfit for work, and his standards for being unfit for work were based on harsher standards than most of his colleagues had ever experienced, his opinion was accepted by the court, without question.

Rising Sun*
05-14-2009, 11:17 AM
I think the main death rates of Soviet POWs was that the initial camps in the winter of 1942-43 were basically pens or fenced in areas often with no shelter...

That was pretty much it in some cases, on my understanding. Or just awful overcrowding in camps with huts, with the same result, albeit taking longer.

Some argue that the Germans couldn't cope with the large number of prisoners. (Well, of course they couldn't. They were flat out rounding up Jews and working up to getting rid of them at the time. :evil: )

There is a serious argument that the Bataan deaths came more from poor organisation and unpreparedness for the number of prisoners http://www.philippine-scouts.org/Articles/TheCausesoftheBataanDeathMarchRevisited.doc , but I think that while there is some validity in that argument (and ignoring the efforts of Col. Tsujii, the everywhereman of atrocities) it fails to explain why the Japanese did so badly in preserving POWs when the Allies (i.e. British at that stage) did so well in preserving Italian POWs in North Africa when they were captured in much greater numbers than the Allies could cope with.

The only difference is in the attitude of the captor to the prisoner.


Though, I recall reading just recently that Western Allied prisoners of war were often appalled at their treatment and condition and sometimes attempted to throw them food over fences and faced punishment for this.

Are you on the piss again?

I posted that somewhere recently.

Which, as I'm on the piss and have the mind of a cunning fox, occurred to me that it could be at #11 in this thread. ;)

(Okay, it didn't occur to me with that precision, but after trawling through a few threads for my pearls of wisdom I found them at #11. :()

Nickdfresh
05-14-2009, 11:34 AM
That was pretty much it in some cases, on my understanding. Or just awful overcrowding in camps with huts, with the same result, albeit taking longer.

Some argue that the Germans couldn't cope with the large number of prisoners. (Well, of course they couldn't. They were flat out rounding up Jews and working up to getting rid of them at the time. :evil: )

There is a serious argument that the Bataan deaths came more from poor organisation and unpreparedness for the number of prisoners http://www.philippine-scouts.org/Articles/TheCausesoftheBataanDeathMarchRevisited.doc , but I think that while there is some validity in that argument (and ignoring the efforts of Col. Tsujii, the everywhereman of atrocities) it fails to explain why the Japanese did so badly in preserving POWs when the Allies (i.e. British at that stage) did so well in preserving Italian POWs in North Africa when they were captured in much greater numbers than the Allies could cope with.

The only difference is in the attitude of the captor to the prisoner.



Are you on the piss again?

I posted that somewhere recently.

Which, as I'm on the piss and have the mind of a cunning fox, occurred to me that it could be at #11 in this thread. ;)

(Okay, it didn't occur to me with that precision, but after trawling through a few threads for my pearls of wisdom I found them at #11. :()

Ha! Pissed on too much coffee! :D

Chevan
05-15-2009, 12:19 AM
By using what's available.

Australian doctors and their support staff on the Burma Railway cleaned out ulcers with sharpened teaspoons; distilled drugs from local plants in stills made of local materials;and made medical implements from local items such as bamboo and other scavenged things such as food tins. They worked with what they had, as Albert Coates did in just one of many examples of such conduct.

.

It was really amazing.To clean out uncers with sharpened teaspoons.
I don't know did the soviet doctors the same in Camps, but i hope yes, coz our so called "people's medicine" know the recipes of a drug , made from local plants.

Chevan
05-15-2009, 12:32 AM
today must be one of the special days they have the electricity turned on in Russia ;) :D

It's all right with electricity.
I was a bit busy , wathcing as our cripples ( with help of God, though ) have
won the World Ice Hokkey champioship AGAIN.:)
They executed both North Americans ( US and Canada).
Canada fought to the most end. it was brilliant game.
Amazing, it seems the Red Machine is back:)

Nickdfresh
05-15-2009, 08:05 AM
It's all right with electricity.
I was a bit busy , wathcing as our cripples ( with help of God, though ) have
won the World Ice Hokkey champioship AGAIN.:)
They executed both North Americans ( US and Canada).
Canada fought to the most end. it was brilliant game.
Amazing, it seems the Red Machine is back:)

You can thank us for that, we gave you our boundlessly great coach Lindy Ruff which no doubt contributed to your victory. :D

Actually he's been a pretty good hockey coach for the Buffalo Sabres, but he's been here far too long and his style is stale on lost on the players (here). I sort of wish Canada would keep him...

muscogeemike
02-08-2011, 03:32 PM
Being a career US Soldier and spending some time with the British Army on the Rhine in the ‘70’s I observed differences between US and British NCO’s. Honestly, at that time, I think the Brits were more “professional” the we, and the enlisted men had a different attitude towards them (then the US GI’s had for us).
I would venture that this “professionalism” is a long tradition and the Brit. Leadership could explain much of the disparity between the WWII POW’s conduct.

pdf27
02-08-2011, 04:47 PM
Probably more to do with the fact that British NCOs tend to have been in the army for much longer than their US equivalents at the same rank.

Nickdfresh
02-08-2011, 06:55 PM
It should also be said that NCO's of the early to late 1970s would have been underpaid. I sure that this combined with the Vietnam hangover thereby thinned the ranks of some, though certainly not all, of the better qualified men who may have sought other careers...

muscogeemike
03-31-2011, 08:13 PM
For a Soldier there arn't very many other careers.