Prisoners were routinely beaten, starved and abused and forced to work in mines and war-related factories in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. Of the 27,000 Americans taken prisoner by the Japanese, a shocking 40 percent died in captivity, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service.
As the Allied liberation of the Philippines was underway, Japanese commanders acted on orders to annihilate American POWs rather than allow them to assist enemy efforts, and in December 1944 cruelly executed 139 American POWs on Palawan.
Believing themselves to be of divine origin, they treated all other races as inferior; therefore, the POWs suffered cruelties as sub-humans. The Japanese inflicted punishment and torture in the name of their emperor, believing that they did so through divine instruction.
Unprepared for coping with so many captured European prisoners, the Japanese held those who surrendered to them in contempt, especially the women. The men at least could be put to work as common laborers, but women and children were "useless mouths." This attitude would dictate Japanese policy until the end of the war.
The reasons for the Japanese behaving as they did were complex. The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) indoctrinated its soldiers to believe that surrender was dishonourable. POWs were therefore thought to be unworthy of respect. The IJA also relied on physical punishment to discipline its own troops.
Crucifixion was a form of punishment, torture and/or execution that the Japanese military sometimes used against prisoners during the war.
The UK military was probably the most humane on the Allied side. German and other Axis POWs brought to the US were also treated extremely well, and those camps were regularly visited by the Red Cross and other organizations.
Recognizing that some prisoners had escaped the last inferno, Japanese soldiers were ordered to pursue. The POWs they found among the rocks were cruelly killed. Some were shot or bayonetted in the stomach and left to slowly die. Wounded men were buried alive or set on fire as the guards laughed and cheered.
The POWs who were accused of committing serious crimes or those who tried to escape were prosecuted at the Japanese Army Court Martial and sent to prison for Japanese criminals, many were executed in front of their fellow POWs.
Starting in late 1946 the USSR began to repatriate the POWs, freeing 625,000 in the following year alone. The Stalin regime declared in the spring of 1949 that just 95,000 Japanese prisoners remained in Siberia and they would be sent home by year's end (many would not actually return until well into the 1950s.)
In the Japanese POW camps, they survived on a meager diet of rice and vegetables and illness was common. Prisoners suffered from malnutrition, ulcers and cholera. Around 61,000 prisoners were put to work on the railroad. Of those 13,000 died.
Most prisoners of war (POWs) existed on a very poor diet of rice and vegetables, which led to severe malnutrition. Red Cross parcels were deliberately withheld and prisoners tried to supplement their rations with whatever they could barter or grow themselves.
Large numbers of the Russian prisoners ended up in special sections of German POW camps. Held by the Nazis to be racially and politically inferior, they were starved and brutalised. The appalling suffering of these POWs was witnessed by British and Commonwealth prisoners held in separate compounds.
In addition to the central Tokyo trial, various tribunals sitting outside Japan judged some 5,000 Japanese guilty of war crimes, of whom more than 900 were executed.
These stereotypes served to conflate Nikkei-Australians with the soldiers in the Japanese military that Australia witnessed during wartime, who were regarded as “subhuman beast[s]” and “vermin” (Saunders 1994, 325–27). Moreover, they were thought of as being absolutely loyal to Japan (Oliver 2002, 275).
Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention.
At least initially, Germans regarded British and American soldiers (especially Americans) as somewhat amateurish, although their opinion of American, British, and Empire troops grew as the war progressed. German certainly saw shortcomings in the ways the Allied used infantry.
Prisoners had friendly interaction with local civilians and sometimes were allowed outside the camps without guards on the honor system (Black American guards noted that German prisoners could visit restaurants that they could not because of Jim Crow laws.
France's treatment of prisoners of war was at times ruthless during the conflict – it was prepared to use reprisals in reciprocity if Germany did. However, its combatant prisoner of war camp systems remained under civilian state surveillance and did not become military fiefdoms as occurred in Germany.
The Chichijima incident (also known as the Ogasawara incident) occurred in late 1944. Japanese soldiers killed eight American airmen on Chichi Jima, in the Bonin Islands, and cannibalized four of the airmen.
A number of firsthand accounts, including those of American servicemen, attest to the taking of body parts as "trophies" from the corpses of Imperial Japanese troops in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
Nearly 400 prisoners managed to escape to the surrounding countryside but within nine days all had been recovered. In total, 231 Japanese prisoners were killed or committed suicide during the breakout and 108 were wounded.
The Japanese treated these POWs, and civilian internees, with at best indifference and, at worst, considerable brutality. They were forced into hard labour, many shipped in dangerous conditions to work in Japan.