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Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes in World War Ii [Paperback]

Yuki Tanaka
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 26 1997 Transitions--Asia and Asian America
This book documents for the first time previously hidden Japanese atrocities in World War II, including 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. Another chapter traces the fate of 65 shipwrecked Australian nurses and British soldiers who were shot or stabbed to death by Japanese soldiers. Thirty-two other nurses, who landed on another island, were captured and sent to Sumatra to become “comfort women”—prostitutes for Japanese soldiers. Tanaka recounts how thousands of Australian and British POWs died in the infamous Sandakan camp in the Borneo jungle in 1945. Those who survived were forced to endure a tortuous 160-mile march on which anyone who dropped out of line was immediately shot. Only six escapees lived to tell the tale.Based on exhaustive research in previously closed archives, this book represents a landmark analysis of Japanese war crimes. 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—without denying individual and national responsibility.

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From Publishers Weekly

In a shocking brief that's as much an intellectual artifact as a work of scholarship, Japanese historian Tanaka challenges the idea of Japan as a victim in WWII. The core of his thesis is that in the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, an "Emperor ideology" based on the "family state" came to dominate Japan. Responsibility was seen as unlimited, while rights existed only in a collective context; this set the stage for various tragedies and atrocities. Tanaka offers several case histories to prove his point. They cover the massacre of more than 2500 Australian prisoners in a Borneo camp, widespread cannibalism by Japanese troops in New Guinea, the shooting of 21 Australian nurses in cold blood and the sexual enslavement of Asian women for the pleasure of Japanese fighting men. Also surveyed are the premeditated murder of 32 civilians, including German missionaries, in 1943; Japanese plans for bacteriological warfare; and the use of prisoners as medical guinea pigs. Tanaka insists that the perpetrators of these brutalities were "ordinary" men enmeshed in a criminal system; he also asserts that people of all nationalities commit atrocities in war. He depicts this era as a definable, relatively brief period during which Japan lost its way and ran amok. This seems no more intellectually acceptable than describing the Third Reich as a historical accident. In fact, Tanaka's study resembles German efforts during the 1950s to come to terms with the immediate past. As such, it is a beginning?no less and no more. Maps and photographs not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A scholar's harrowing if pedantic briefing on largely unpunished and long-ignored atrocities committed by Japan's military during WW II. Drawing on hitherto untapped archives, Tanaka (Unmapped Territories, 1991) documents a series of appalling war crimes that, with few exceptions, have escaped notice in standard histories of the global conflict. In notably dispassionate detail, for example, he recounts the massacre of more than 2,500 Australian and British POWs in a camp called Sandakan on North Borneo, the gratuitous slaughter of 21 nurses on the Indonesian isle of Banka, and the mass murder of civilians (including German missionaries) in the Bismarck archipelago as Allied forces closed in during the spring of 1944. Covered as well is the widespread cannibalism practiced by Japanese soldiers in New Guinea and elsewhere in East Asia. In addition, Tanaka sheds new light on the infamous Unit 731, which conducted horrific medical experiments on helpless prisoners throughout the Pacific theater. He goes on to disclose that US officials unilaterally granted the responsible Japanese physician and his staff immunity from prosecution in return for the information they could provide on Dai Nihon's plans and capacity to wage bacteriological warfare, data that were never shared with other Allied powers. After reviewing the frightful particulars of his case studies, moreover, the author offers anecdotal evidence of similar behavior by other belligerents, eventually concluding, however, that Japanese barbarity was sui generis. In a concluding chapter, Tanaka attempts to explain without excusing the aberrant conduct of imperial troops on and off the front lines, citing among other factors the authoritarian basis of Japanese morality. Shocking annals that bear gruesome witness to the darker realities of what historian John W. Dower (who contributed a thoughtful foreword to the American edition) called a war without mercy. (photos, not seen; maps) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback
Japanese ex-pat professor (he lives in Austrailia) desribes in stomach turning detail the crimes of Imperial Japanese forces in WWII. While I knew some of the things done, I had no idea the extent and depth of the crimes committed.
Tanaka describes in pages NOT FOR THE TIMID READER the Japanese high command's plan for using cannabalism to feed their troops in the southern arc of their conquest plans. It wasn't just enemy troops who were on the menu, but low-ranking Japanese ground-pounders. I will spare the detail, but Tanaka doesn't, so be warned.
I give this book only 4 stars because it has one serious flaw. Tanaka makes the laughable, morally unsustainable claim that the atomic bombings are morally equivalent to Japanese crimes. This will rightly outrage every American, but it doesn't tarnish the overall effort.
Professor Tanaka is to be congratulated for his courage in revealing the worst things committed by his people. Things that many in Japan, especially school textbooks, refuse to admit. I don't think it coincidence that the good professor lives in the Land Down Under.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is an important book to read to further an understanding of the magnitude of Japanese war crimes in WWII. The author touches on the fact that these war crimes were part of a pattern of inhumanity; not simply isolated incidents of criminality, but an artifact of Japanese culture which demanded subservience of the individual for the sake of "social harmony". Individual morality or even a desire for morality can play no role in such a regime. Interestingly, even the author provides names of officers , but for the most part treats the enlisted men who carried out the barbarous orders not as men but as mere cogs.
The scary thing is that what was previously demanded is still encouraged as socially desirable -- still for the sake of "social harmony." This means that there is an unwillingness to broach ugly topics like grandpa's inhumanity, thus it is unlikely that books such as this will ever provoke the soul searching that has taken place in other countries that have thrown off fascism or otherwise confronted their past.
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1.0 out of 5 stars The wider context matters Jan. 18 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
It is important to record historical events accurately. It is also important to place and understand them in a wider context of the time.
Japan was fighting one of the bloodiest wars in modern history against Western colonial powers in East Asia. She was trying to defend her interest in the region that had been so brutally conquered by the West. She was trying to liberate the region from many years of colonialism. She was also trying to replace the West as a new colonial master ...
There is little doubt that many civilian lives were lost throughout East Asia. However to view Japan's action as an "atrocity" and/or a "war crime" is one-sided and misleading.
It is true there could be a more open discussion of the war in Japan. However again we must remember that the US itself is only slowing coming to terms with its shameful past such as the genocide of Native Americans and the Africa-America slave trade.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A History that the Japanese will never Face July 29 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book can be rated as good by virtue of the fact that it is a Japanese Historian writing about the excesses his people committed in the name of the Emperor. For most Japanese WWII began and ended with Hiroshima & Nagasaki. Japanese often cite these twin events as the US moral equivolent to the Japanese soldiers chasing down men, women and children and killing them at the point of a bayonet, or watching them starve slowly to death. Most people in Japan (and I have lived there for over 10 years and read their literature on the subject in Japanese)still find it difficult to criticise their country.
Kudos to Tanaka who was brave enough to write about a subject which can still bring around the boys in the blue vans (the ultra-rightists), and a knock on the door, or a bullet through the window in the middle of the night.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Analysis Of War Atrocity Jan. 8 2000
Format:Paperback
Yuki Tanaka does a good job of broaching this unpleasant subject. He details many of the war crimes perpetrated by the Japanese military during WWII against their enemies and also against innocent women and children.He postulates what caused the Japanese militery to behave this way. All in all, Hidden Horrors is a good analysis of how low humanity can sink when people become desensitized to human dignity and worth. People sometimes forget that prior to the rise of Japanese militarism in the 1920's that Japan behaved properly towards its adversaries, and I invite people to read Robert B. Edgerton's "Warriors Of The Rising Sun" to gain more insight into Japanese military history.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Book Contains Great Facts, but Lame Excuses Feb. 24 2003
Format:Paperback
The most outstanding attribute of this book is its honest depiction of Japan's atrocities. The description of these horrific onslaughts surpasses similar titles in some portions of the book.
But the downside is the author's attempt to explain why the Japanese acted as they did, as if doing so will somehow make us view the Japanese army as something more than the monsters they were. Though Tanaka probaly doesn't mean to, he comes across as making excuses for the Japanese military's barbarism. Nevertheless, when he moves beyond fact description and into analysis, his intentions seem ambiguous at best. But overall, a good read.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars OK
Interesting info, but author seems to try and make the point the Japanese did nothing worse than others have done thru out history.
Published on April 8 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Why is this such a controversial subject?
If the reader from Massachusetts had written what he did about Nazi Germany he'd be mercilessly ridiculed. Read more
Published on May 25 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately this is only little part of the japanese crime
First of all,I give unstinted praise this book writer.Almost japanese are not accept their crime,Because their textbook and high ranking government officials are to teach lie. Read more
Published on April 9 2000 by hong-seong han
1.0 out of 5 stars Some true history but questionable
This book gave me ideas of how the history is revised. Cannibalism is a custom of China; a lot of example of Chinese history have showed that they ate human whenever they lacked... Read more
Published on Dec 1 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
By looking at possible motives behind Japanese war crimes committed in WWII, Yuki Tanaka clearly separates himself from other authors writing on this disturbing subject. Read more
Published on June 29 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars "Reader From Massachusetts (above)posts propaganda...
to all Anti-Japanese books at Amazon. Check the identical posting at "Rape of Nanking". Don't be deceived by Japanese Nationalist lies.
Published on Feb. 24 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars There is no excuse for sub-activity.
HIDDEN HORRORS reflects the inhuman and unpunished sub-human activities of a sub-cultural existence. Read more
Published on Feb. 21 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars A good un-biased view of warfare that is "Behind the Scene"
A very good historical view on a part of warfare that the press, television, and general public do not dare venture or publish/document. Read more
Published on Feb. 20 1999
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