Australian Prisoners of War during World War 2

Essay by lil_choccie_mandyHigh School, 10th gradeB+, March 2009

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Explain why many prisoners died at the hands of the JapaneseTo admit defeat, to surrender, or to forfeit a battle was a sign of cowardice to the Japanese. The Japanese believed that if someone died fighting for their country they would immediately have a seat reserved for them in heaven. There is of course no evidence to back up this vague belief however many Japanese men still fought to the death. The Australian soldiers captured in World War 2 by the Japanese, in the eyes of the Japanese, did not have the right to live. To the Japanese the Australian POWs were human garbage and deserved to die, this is the reason why the POWs captured by them were treated so atrociously.

Over 31,000 Australians became prisoners of war during World War 2. Of the 8600 held captive by the Germans, 8358 were released alive or had escaped by the end of the war in 1945.

Of the 22,000 Australian troops captured by the Japanese (including 71 women), over one-third ended up dying from starvation, disease, etc, or ended up being killed. It was not uncommon for prisoners to be worked to death or to be beaten, starved and denied adequate medical treatment. One of the most horrendous projects the POWs were forced to undertake was the construction of a rail link from Thailand to Burma. “The reason why most men died is simple: they starved. The Australian army ration in 1941 had given the men a daily intake of 4220 calories; they could survive and do some work on 3000; in Changi they had been getting just over 2000 calories, and at that level they had been losing weight and suffering from deficiency diseases.” [1]The conditions of living were horrific for the POWs. “The ground turned to...