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Bangka Island: The WW2 massacre and a 'truth too awful to speak' (bbc.com)
63 points by rmason on April 19, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments

In my late teens, in the late 90s I attended university in the United Kingdom. In my first year, the Japanese Emperor visited the Queen. And was met by British WW2 soldiers on the Mall, who in photos in the papers, were respectable old men, wearing their regimental berets and ties, and stood with their backs to the royal procession, Japanese flags burning. They were protesting Japanese atrocity, still without apology.

My great uncles had fought against the Japanese during the war, and I grew up listening to stories of their time in Burma. In fact we had a number of war souvenirs at home, including samurai swords pulled from the bodies of soldiers who had committed suicide rather than surrender.

Airbrushed from history is the fact that the battles against the Japanese were won by soldiers from around the world: Kings African Rifles, Rhodesian African Rifles, Karen militia who fought the Japanese whilst living in trees.

I don’t know why we don’t tell these stories more often.

Here is a rarity, an Al Jazeera documentary about a Nigerian boy soldier, left for dead and nursed back to health by locals. It’s an excellent documentary for anyone interested.


Horrifying, but atrocities like this were known to have happened in quite a lot of places and were pretty much condoned by the Japanese high command. I'm also not sure what the HN specific angle is?

Rape of Nanjing, invasion of Manchuria.

I believe the notion that states are driven to war by resources seeking, which can result simply from incompetent government, poor tax collection, or natural catastrophe. So global prosperity is the best deterrent to war.

The notion also guides which states you should assess are security or war threats -- the ones with that have economic capacity to meet their own growth, or the failed ones, with a large dissatisfied population easily roused to anger at a fabricated external scapegoat.

Genghis Khan neutralized his powerful competitors by making them rich. Perhaps, and this is possibly quite a reach, Japan's war mongering was driven quite a lot by its self-imposed trade isolation that depleted the state coffers, than by inherent expansionist rhetoric which was simply mobilized to motivate.


Economic prosperity and co-dependence is absolutely not a barrier to war. This line of thinking was an extremely popular explanation of why something like World War I couldn't happen.

And then it did,

Is it possible for something to be a barrier but for other factors to overcome the barrier? One shouldn't call it an absolutely unbreakable barrier, but there are less absolute barriers.

Interesting thanks for the share.

>I believe the notion that states are driven to war by resources seeking, which can result simply from incompetent government, poor tax collection, or natural catastrophe. So global prosperity is the best deterrent to war.

This is assuming the definitions of resources line up. Some things that should be treated as a resource based on historic evidence of human behavior are not, thus they aren't included in global prosperity guidelines and thus the potential for them to create conflict and human right abuses (even if they don't escalate to war) persists even when optimizing for prosperity.

As an example, consider the gender disparity in China that is driving a massive and growing human trafficking problem despite an increase in prosperity.

Poorer women and men from poorer countries have forever traveled to rich lands in search of partners and opportunities.

The "left behind" (say the surplus of men in Vietnam, far greater than in China, in any case) are obviously unhappy about the situation and blaming "China" or "America" is an easy scapegoat, but the issues are less foreign and more domestic and economic.

It's always easier to blame foreigners, but looking within the country and taking responsibility is the only way to better the situation of its inhabitants. When emotive issues like sex and marriage are involved people understandably get confused and forget that.

A great positive for China is the equality of gender opportunity has created the situation where many hard working, intelligent women choose a career, business or personal focus over relationships.

And a female-heavy workforce is actually a boon for national security, and more men able to work more hours a boon for the economy. It's those other countries, those with many young and angry youth, but without the strong economies to put them to work, and easily angered by issues such as blaming foreign states, that are more security risks for creating war.

>The "left behind" (say the surplus of men in Vietnam, far greater than in China, in any case) are obviously unhappy about the situation and blaming "China" or "America" is an easy scapegoat, but the issues are less foreign and more domestic and economic.

Regardless of the root cause, these tensions can give rise to issues that can push countries to war, or to the current day equivalent in this era of MAD.

not really. countries go to war not because their populations are aggrieved, but because it economically makes sense for war. agrievments of the population are simply tools to motivate people, rouse and direct their energies towards the goal. if war is not the goal but rather peace, an interacting mesh of these tensions can be used to stabilize the population. direct their energy towards each other rather than towards creating change, for instance. I think you misunderstand the Dynamics.

It is a peculiar aspect that states which are driven to war by resources seeking usually tend to fight war through forced military drafts of young and often poor men.

More than just “condoned.” The Japanese systematically forced some 400K women from their colonies into sexual slavery, most of whom died over the course of the war.

Atrocities like this were committed by all sides. The australians weren't any better. The US nor the brits weren't any better. The soviets and the germans weren't any better. Neither were the chinese.

WW2 is all atrocity. There was nothing noble about it. All sides pretended they were fighting to "save the world". The japanese claimed they were fighting to liberate asia from european colonizers. The germans claimed they were trying to save the world from soviets/etc. We claimed we were trying the world. It's all nonsense. Everyone was fighting over wealth and money.

Had the japanese won ww2, they would have framed it like they were trying to liberate australia from genocidal europen invaders oppressing the aborigines all the while raping the land for resources. Similar to what the british did to australia when they conquered it. Just like we pretend we "liberated" the philippines from the japanese when in actuality, we had invaded and colonized the philippines for 50 years before the japanese decided to play empire.

The point of ww2 should be that everyone is capable of and has committed evil and we shouldn't have another war like that. But of course the winning side gets to write the history and naturally, the winning side twists history to for their benefit. In japan's case, even the losing side twists it to their benefit.

As sherman said, "War is hell". There aren't any saints in hell.

>>Everyone was fighting over wealth and money.

The evidence shows that after the war, the Allies gave lots of money to their defeated enemies.

This is certainly one way to look at it. Personally I see a lot of difference between the Axis and Allies, but I have a sense of proportion.

Ms Silver now wants the Australian War Memorial (AWM), which already includes the story of the massacre, to tailor its tours to include this account of the alleged sexual assaults.

I wonder how much this matters in terms of shaping contemporary public perception of Japan especially in comparison with China?

I think that depends on the perspective of the audience.

Just as a point of comparison, a generation ago Koreans would reserve quite a bit of animus toward Japanese, newer generations know the history and are drilled propaganda but yet don’t have the same animus against Japanese. Inter-ethnic marriage was a no-no couple of generations ago; today only grandparents might scoff.

I would hope that most folks are smart enough to realize that the people who perpetuated these atrocities are all (almost?) dead now. Modern Japanese folks had nothing to do with it, most of them weren't even born yet.

I doubt it. You have people in the US pushing the atrocities of slavery on to others even though that was several generations ago and who may not even had relatives in the US at the time due to the massive immigration surge of the late 1800s

I think it wise to acknowledge as a cautionary tale about how good people can turn bad in the wrong circumstances.

You can contrast what you see in Japan - good people behaving well with the evidence of past bad deeds. And come to the horrible conclusion that you may very well have acted badly if you found that you had the same circumstances.

In my opinion, the lesson isn't "Japanese are bad people" but "I could be a bad person if I don't act courageously in the face of evil"

1 Corinthians 15:10 "For I am the least of the apostles... because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am...".


Do you have any sources for this? I find it hard to believe.


The identity of sexual assault victims is still often kept secret, is this also an awful government cover up?

Why does everything have to be an outrage/conspiracy theory?

The media does still self censor, ask a cop for real stories compared to the media reports if you want a downer of a day. Avicii killed himself with a broken wine bottle, most media have not reported this for instance, this is a nice story compared to what no media will report.

In this case, I also see little purpose in telling this story.

It's not even clear to what extent it's true. Some obscure bullet through a shirt shows they were raped? This is a troubling 'fun' who-dunnit.

It's also a pointless exercise, since there's no reason to think the weren't raped, there's documentation it happened elsewhere. Besides which tens of millions were killed, the war was horrific, we already know this, what's the story here other than salacious tabloid material?

Sells books I guess.

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