This landmark book documents little-known wartime Japanese atrocities during World War II. Yuki Tanaka’s case studies, still remarkably original and significant, include cannibalism; the slaughter and starvation of prisoners of war; the rape, enforced prostitution, and murder of noncombatants; and biological warfare experiments. The author describes how desperate Japanese soldiers consumed the flesh of their own comrades killed in fighting as well as that of Australians, Pakistanis, and Indians. He traces the fate of sixty-five shipwrecked Australian nurses and British soldiers who were shot or stabbed to death by their captors. Another thirty-two nurses were captured and sent to Sumatra to become “comfort women”—sex slaves for Japanese soldiers. Tanaka recounts how thousands of Australian and British POWs were massacred in the infamous Sandakan camp in the Borneo jungle in 1945, while those who survived were forced to endure a tortuous 160-mile march on which anyone who dropped out of line was immediately shot. This new edition also includes a powerful chapter on the island of Nauru, where thirty-nine leprosy patients were killed and thousands of Naurans were ill-treated and forced to leave their homes. Without denying individual and national responsibility, the author explores individual atrocities in their broader social, psychological, and institutional milieu and places Japanese behavior during the war in the broader context of the dehumanization of men at war. In his substantially revised conclusion, Tanaka brings in significant new interpretations to explain why Japanese imperial forces were so brutal, tracing the historical processes that created such a unique military structure and ideology. Finally, he investigates why a strong awareness of their collective responsibility for wartime atrocities has been and still is lacking among the Japanese.
Yuki Tanaka was research professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University until his retirement in 2015. He is the author of Japan’s Comfort Women and the co-editor of Bombing Civilians.
How can we understand the inhumanity of war? Yuki Tanaka’s book remains the most searingly honest attempt to make sense of the cruelty of the Japanese military forces during the Asia-Pacific War. Drawing attention to the relationship between atrocity and the everyday lives of ordinary people, it is a warning to us all.
— Joanna Bourke, Birkbeck College, University of London
Yuki Tanaka writes with compelling authenticity and refreshing candor on Japanese atrocities during World War II. His eagerly anticipated second edition of Hidden Horrors provides a seminal and authoritative analysis. This scholarly contribution is welcome and constitutes compulsory reading for any who take the subject matter seriously.
— Tim McCormack, Melbourne Law School and Special Adviser on International Humanitarian Law to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, The Hague
For years, Yuki Tanaka’s book has been essential, harrowing reading on the effects of Japanese imperialism on Asia in the mid-twentieth century. This revised edition draws on new thinking and research to make its powerful case with even more clarity.
— Rana Mitter, University of Oxford
List of Illustrations
Foreword by John W. Dower
Preface to the Second Edition: Crime and Responsibility: War, the State, and Japanese Society
Introduction: The War Crimes Tribunals and POWs
Chapter 1: The Sandakan POW Camp and the Geneva Convention
Chapter 2: The Sandakan Death Marches and the Elimination of POWs
Chapter 3: Rape and War: The Japanese Experience
Chapter 4: Judge Webb and Japanese Cannibalism
Chapter 5: Japanese Biological Warfare Plans and Experiments on POWs
Chapter 6: Japanese Atrocities on Nauru during the Paciﬁc War: The Murder of Australians, the Massacre of Lepers, and the Ethnocide of Nauruans
Chapter 7: Massacre of Civilians at Kavieng
Conclusion: Japanese Atrocities in the Asia-Pacific War