LETTER : Japanese crimes in a colonial context

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The Independent Online
rom Mr Don Schofield

Sir: As we mark the end of the war against Japan and honour the survivors of the prisoner of war camps, I deeply hope that the younger generation can grasp how much we owe to these men.

As a young reporter on a local newspaper in the north of England, I had the task of interviewing many ex-Japanese PoWs who had survived the disgusting cruelty of the Japanese soldiers and the sadistic Korean guards.

Of the dozen or more men I interviewed, whose spirit had kept them going, at least half of them died within a year of arriving home. I remember the haunted eyes of these men as I talked to them, propped up in their bed or sitting, like skeletons, in a homely, humble kitchen, being fussed over by their loved ones.

Most of the stories they told me were too sickening to put into print. Being made to stand out in the burning sun holding a brick in each outstretched hand was a common punishment. Every sleeper on the railway of death from Siam to Bangkok cost the life of a prisoner who died the most sickening death or just went mad.

These facts were recounted to me in calm, sad voices, often breaking with emotion. These men and their surviving comrades surely deserve our tributes, and we can best honour them by making this less of a grab-and- greed materialistic society, which seems to have taken over in the country which they served with pride.

Yours etc,

Don Schofield

18 August

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