The Japanese in World War 2- the mindset.

Trying to understanding the reasons behind the Japanese treatment of prisoners and their military code.

The Japanese had been a very militaristic nation for centuries. The Japanese lived, up till the end of the Second World War, by Bushido (or Way of the Warrior). Bushido was the honour code of the Military ruling class, the Samurai. The Samurai developed this code over the Centuries; but the worthy point of note that is relevant to the Far East in World War 2 was the literal taking on sacrifice and Honour.
Often romanticisised, war was an honour and to die in battle brought glory to the family name. for the westerner, it is harder to comprehend, but it would be the equivalent of our modern moral repunjance of a man treating a woman as a sub-human slave. That same feeling may be expressed towards a prisoner of war, why be captured? Where is the honour to the family name? This could lend itself part way to why the Japanese felt such vehnemant hatred towards their captives.
But like everything, it is morally and factually worng to sterotype. It is well known that some prisoners of war were treated moderateley by their Guards, especially in contrast with some of the other treatment metted out.

Bushido could be loosely connected to the Medievil European code of Chivalry. There was a specific part of Bushido that lowered the FEPOW's in the Japanese eyes, and that was the rite of Seppuku (ritual suicide.) To die a good death and with one's honor intact a Samurai, or warrior, had to die on the battlefield, or die at his own hand at failure, to retain his honour by showing strength enough to at least end their own life then shame the family. There was such an emphasis on dying in battle or committing suicide, that many hundreds, if not thousands complied. However, during WW2 practically very few airmen or naval personel committed suicide at capture, the overall majority was Imperial Army. At Cowra in Australia, for example some prisoners had never even heard of the honour code to commit suicide.

Bushido was designed to evolve over the ages, as it has to form a honour code that is traditional, yet never barbaric in thought process. It still exists today.
This is an excerpt of James Williams' article "Virtue of the sword":

"The warrior protects and defends because he realizes the value of others. He knows that they are essential to society and, in his gift of service, recognizes and values theirs... take the extra moment in dark parking lots at night to make sure that a woman gets into her car safely before leaving yourself. "

A satisfactory modern evolution of bushido.
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Mr Andrew McAulay says...
A very interesting article which seeks to examine the background to the Bushido and puts some of this into the wider context of treatment of prisoners of war in the Far East. It is still very much an area of contention amongst veterans today - especially when they feel they belong to the 'forgotton war'. What about films such as 'Bridge on the river Kwai' and how this distorts the real history of the prisoner of war situation which existed in WWII?
Well done on producing a balanced set of points.
07 May 08
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