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WWII Articles
USS North Carolina vs Bismarck
Operation Compass
Book Review: APc-48
Agent 110: An American Spymaster
Rudolf Hess/Tancred Borenius
Soviet Rifle Corps of WWII
The Morality of Okinawa
The First Class at RAF No. 31 Radio School
Operation Dragoon and Invasion of Southern France
Battle of Buna-Gona
The Silent Service and the Turkey Shoot
Published works on WWII OOB for land forces
Flying Tiger, Hidden Eagle
SAARF – Special Allied Airborne Recon Force
Force at la Difensa
Sabotaging Hitler’s Heavy Water
Soviet Offensive in the Arctic
The Failure of Strategic Bombing
Dutch Harbor: Unraveling of Japan’s Pacific Strategy
Ed Ramsey, 26th Cav Reg (Philippine Scouts)
US Army in Czechoslovakia '45: An Operational Overview
Strategic Culture of the IJN
Battles of Luneville: September 1944
Visual Guide to US Fleet Subs Pt 1
Lodge Act Soldier
The Fate of the Kido Butai
Air Recon in WWII
Turning East: Hitler's only option
Resupply Operations to Malta, 1942
WWII Veteran Interview
Why Arnhem?
Hell Ship - From the Philippines to Japan
The Battleship USS Oregon
US Army in Czechoslovakia '45 to '48
Jewish Resistance in WWII
Battle for Seaports
Banzai Attack on Attu
End of the Battle of the Java Sea
Texas National Guard in WWII
How Arnhem was Lost
Saga of Ormoc Bay
Silent Service of the Pacific
USS Wahoo
Polish Cavalry: A Military Myth Dispelled
Confucian Martial Culture
Operation Market Garden
Legacy of WWII Sub Veterans
Lausdell Crossroads
Kasserine Pass
Arnhem Startline
Bushido: Valor of Deceit
British Offensive Operations
Sir Winston Churchill
American Stubbornness at Rimling
The OSS in Greece
Strategy of Blitzkrieg
Breaking Seelow Heights
The Rape of Nanking
Small Battle: Big Implications
Harris Class APA's
Aerial Defense of East Indies
Why the Bulge Didn't Break
American Forces in WWII
Shadow Warriors
Battle of Surigao Strait
Panzer Brigades
Adolf Eichmann
Interview of a WWII Veteran
Failure and Destruction
Winter Warfare
Operation Rusty: The Gehlen-U.S. Army Connection
Was Hitler right to invade Russia?
Hitler, Germany's Worst General
Surface Actions of World War II
MacArthur's Failures in the Philippines
Japan's Monster Sub
Popski's Private Army
The Soviet Formula for Success
Japan's TA Operation
Hitler Youth: An Effective Organization
After Midway: The Fates of the Warships
Barbarossa: Strategic Miscalculation
The Story of a "Go Devil"
Long Range Desert Group
Island of Death
The Failure of Operation Barbarossa
The Liberation of Czechoslovakia 1945
Only the Admirals were Happy
Bicycle Blitzkrieg - Singapore
Good Grief Sir, We're in Trier!
Thermopylae, Balaklava and Kokoda
How Hitler Could Have Won
The Battle of Midway
Waffen SS - Birth of the Elite
Nomonhan and Okinawa
Der Bund Deutscher Mädel
Rulers of the World: Hitler Youth
Breakout From the Hedgerows
Memories of D-Day
Motivation of the Einsatzgruppen
Pearl Harbor and Midway
Amphibious Assaults during WWII
The 9th SS Panzer Division
The Warsaw Uprising
Sea Lion vs. Overlord
Maginot Line
Battle of Bastogne
Battle of the Barents Sea
Anzio: The Allies' Greatest Blunder
US Army in WWII
Battle of Mers-el-Kebir
Hitler's Ultra-Secret Adlerhorst
The Wilhelm Gustloff Disaster
The 88th Infantry in Italy

Holly Senatore Articles
Cyberwar in the 21st Century
The influence of Neurotechnology on Just War
Confucian Martial Culture
Bushido: Valor of Deceit

Recommended Reading

Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes In World War II

Knights of Bushido: A History of Japanese War Crimes During World War II

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Bushido: The Valor of Deceit
Bushido: The Valor of Deceit
by Holly Senatore

"When the Japanese troops
are facing hardships…
there is no need to pamper POWs."[1]

Sleep my son, your duty done…
For Freedom's light has come
Sleep in the silent depths of the sea
Or in your bed of hallowed sod
Until you hear at dawn, the low
Clear reveille of God[2]
As the historian Yuki Tanaka asserted, "The extreme ill-treatment of POWs by the Japanese in World War II was a historically specific phenomenon that occurred between the so-called 'China-Incident' and the end of World War II."[3] According to Tanaka, the cruelty committed by Japanese soldiers during World War II towards Allied POWs was an effect of the subordination and the corruption of the Code of Bushido to the emperor ideology and the 'new' military ideology.[4] The strategic and political demands of the Japanese militarists in the early twentieth century superseded the rigid moral and ethical imperatives of the Code of Bushido, which listed seven distinct qualities for a warrior to exhibit. [5]

The aforementioned statement argues that the behavior of the Japanese during World War II was unique and did not occur prior to that time nor could it occur afterwards. Alleging that there was a corruption of the warrior code also implies the Code was rigid enough for a measure of illegality and unlawful manipulation of it to occur. In truth, the term "bushido" is a nebulous concept that constitutes a vast amount of space for interpretation. The importance in exposing the illusive context of bushido is to show that within this flexible doctrine, almost any action can be interpreted as just or moral as long as it fulfills the end goal. For a law or a doctrine to be corrupted, and illegal action to ensue, the laws must be clearly defined, which the code of bushido was not. Secondly, since bushido emphasized obedience above all other aspects of conduct, while remaining contractual, obedience was only required as long as it served the motives of the individual, therein giving the individual the freedom of unrestricted action.

"The atrocities of World War II were the result of behavior codes fostered by the military for their own ends, codes such as 'eight sides and corners of the World,' and 'the way of the emperor,' based upon the old code of the warriors (bushido)." Japanese conduct in the Pacific Theater in World War II stemmed from this deeper, unwritten collective code, bushido, making their behavior part of a continuous pattern of martial culture. As an ideal construct, bushido emphasized honesty, filial piety, honor, selflessness, indifference to pain, loyalty, and above all, unquestioning obedience to one's superiors.[6] What if though, the long-standing debate between historians as to whether Japanese conduct in WWII reflected a corruption of the Bushido Code or reflected a continuation of it, has been searching for the answer to this question by using the wrong explanation. What if the true explanation involves the Japanese concept of Just War? The link between bushido and the component of just war that stresses hierarchy is clear.

Japanese brutality was not unique to World War II. The stoical behavior and aggression towards the enemy POWs was only unique in its scope and in its magnitude. What was unique to World War II was that the goal of creating a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere proved to be incommensurate with the lack of manpower that Japan needed to attain such a goal. This uniqueness was further exacerbated by the fact that Japanese brutality during the conflict did not lead to ultimate victory. What made the brutality the Japanese Military ordered and exhibited so pervasive was that it fit the criteria of serving their temporary strategic and political goals, and was, in effect, a means to an end. The scale of the brutality committed against the Allied POWs was unique but only from the sense that the Japanese had not been engaged in a war with the same military ability (total war) prior to World War II, thus making World War II the first total war for the Japanese Military. This makes the scale of brutality circumstantial. If the Japanese had been a recognized 'World Power' in the years preceding the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) or in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), they would have conducted themselves with the same disregard for human life. World War II was the first conflict in which the United States and Japan were enemies. Since Japan was defeated in World War II, it made their conduct with-in the war, unjust whereas every war prior to that had been a Japanese victory making their action therein just as well.

The society in which Japanese warriors were raised held no equivalent standard or procedures for the treatment of prisoners of war unlike Western Europe, which acted through the set parameters of Jus ad Bellum (Just cause for war) and Jus en Bello (Just action in war). The founding fathers of the Western concept of "Just War", Aristotle, Cicero, Gratian, and Saint Augustine, established the act of warfare is not as an end it itself but as a means to an end after all diplomatic measures to establish a greater peace had been exhausted. The act of a just war was only considered honorable if it was precluded by a declaration of war and if it was conducted by the state. According to Saint Augustine, Christians could only, "engage in violence if their actions met these criteria: right authority, just cause, right intention, proportionality, last resort, and the end being a greater peace."[7]

These ideas were designed within the context of universal human importance. They were to be followed by every level of society with the acknowledgement that humans were all equally important despite their social standing. Another dominant regulation and code of ethics innate to Western medicine, including the practice of medical ethics in a wartime environment, is the establishment of the Hippocratic Oath – 'Physician, do no harm.' However, there is no equivalent to it in Japanese society.

Religiously, starting in the fifth century, Chinese Confucianism influenced the Japanese view of just war. Within the context, a just war was any undertaking that the ruler sought to fulfill since the sovereign represented an "…earthly agent and custodian of the cosmic order." [8] The Confucian precept of hierarchy emanating down from the supreme ruler, effectively inculcating the virtue of obedience with it at the same time, also heavily influenced the Japanese. One could not question the valor and the legitimacy of any martial undertaking unless it was in retrospect. The success and victory of a military action itself though, was proof of its legitimacy and a just cause. If a force was victorious in warfare, it was because it had been in accord with the cosmic order, by default making any means of attaining victory just. Conversely, if a martial force became defeated, their goal, intent, and behavior during a war, in retrospect, was deemed as unjust and their behavior was judged as criminal action. The notions of 'saving face' and the avoidance of shame have also been an integral part of Japanese culture. To admit one's wrong-doings, or worse the wrongdoings of an ancestor, would be a disgrace according to the belief in filial piety.

The Confucian precepts also set the parameters for a samurai's unquestioning obedience to his daimyo. Within the Confucian context, a "Just War" was any undertaking that the ruler sought to fulfill. While stating that warfare should only be used as a last resort by the state, the "right intention" of a war, "right conduct in a war," and proportionality were all parameters that were subject to the personal desires of the ruler in charge at the time. They could not be questioned by anyone because that would demonstrate disrespect for authority and a questioning of the authority's divine judgment.

In Samurai, Warfare, and the State, Karl Friday elaborates on the Japanese concept of just warfare; any military action undertaken to enhance or to preserve the imperial order whereas anything else, was by default, selfish and particularistic. [9] The Japanese notion of just warfare taught that just or ethical conduct in warfare was flexible and was amenable to the interpretation of the emperor. If the emperor stated that an action was just or ethical, it became so by default. This was because the emperor was the 'State,' unlike in the West where an executive or a government was also accountable to overriding rules or principles. [10]

The prevailing explanations that have circulated throughout academia and formal texts explain the roots of Japanese brutality during WWII in terms of the two reinforcing concepts dominant in Japanese society in the early twentieth century: nationalism and militarism. While these two elements contributed to the mass torture and murder of Allied Prisoners of War in the Pacific Theater, they were not necessarily the cause. This is because Japanese national fervor was also expressed during the period encompassing the Russo-Japanese War and World War I. In post-World War I Japan, national fervor was in the form of a rejection of martial culture. The necessary cause of the large-scale brutality by the Japanese towards Allied POW's in World War II was the Japanese vision of "just action in war."

Since the end of World War II, the Japanese have systematically denied their brutality and conduct during the War. Because the Japanese have refuted all allegations of cruelty during World War II, one is firstly only able to deduce from such a deeply ingrained cultural denial that the notion of just and unjust action still resides within their culture. Just as the losing martial force were judged as criminals in Medieval Europe as were the Japanese during the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, held from 1946-1948. Secondly, that saving face and the perception of honor is more valuable to them than is the truth. A society is able to learn through education the mistakes of the past in order to prevent their reoccurrence. If Japanese actions during World War II truly were unique, and were the result of a particular combination of nationalism and militarism of the 1920s and the 1930s as the accepted conventional wisdom argues, why have they dedicated decades to denying the truth? The answer is because such an admittance of a purported "wrong" would be shameful and considered disgraceful. More importantly, if their action in World War II truly reflected a corruption of a greater warrior code, it would give their nation greater impetus to admit that their actions in World War II were wrong and unjust instead of denying them while teaching false history.

Prior to World War II, the Japanese had not been defeated in battle since 663 A.D. when Yamato forces lost the decisive Battle of Baekgang (Paekch' on River), making each martial undertaking since then, just causes. If the Japanese were the victors, any acts of impropriety, cruelty, or atrocity towards enemy combatants would have been legitimized and considered honorable because these acts contributed to military success. Since bushido in early samurai warfare also emphasized obedience and honor over all other traits, it made even the most brutal acts justifiable because they served to expedite the process of victory. Hence, these acts would not be classified as "war-crimes." The defeat in war entailed an outside source and victor judging the actions of the defeated as shameful, or unjust, and therefore too dishonorable to record for history.

During World War II, the brutality committed against Allied POWs by the Japanese was a result of a systematic and deliberate policy of terror. [11] [12] Bushido had no definition nor any recourse for what constituted a war-crime nor were Japanese soldiers held accountable for misconduct or cruelty against an enemy by their own military. Within the Japanese culture, the emperor, being an earthly agent of divine origin, in essence, was the 'State.' His decisions and judgments were, by default, moral and legal.

The scale and the severity of the brutality is an ineluctable truth that Japanese society cannot deny or avoid. In regards to the treatment of Allied POWs on the Bataan Death March, it was stated in retrospect by an anonymous Japanese guard, "Those who committed the crimes never expected that retribution would follow, for as one of them said, 'we shall be the victors and not have to answer questions." [13] That sentiment fell in line with the notion of just warfare. It was only during the waning years of World War II, once defeat and judgment became a likely probability that the Japanese High Command, including the senior officers, began to intervene in the treatment of the POWs. They knew that retribution for their negligence would be harsh even though they had been originally apprised of the condition and treatment of the POWs on the Bataan Death March. [14]

Approximately 66,000 Filipino soldiers and 12,000 American soldiers surrendered to the Japanese on the Bataan Peninsula. The Bataan Death March was a nine day, sixty-five mile journey that that Japanese had originally thought would only be nineteen miles. In accordance with the estimates of enemy troop strength, made by General Homma's Intelligence Officer, Hikaru Haba, the Japanese made provisions for the evacuation of only 25,000 prisoners north from Mariveles, Bataan to Camp O'Donnell, near San Fernando on the Western coast of Luzon. The actual number of POWs, already in very poor physical condition and nearly starved, amounted to three times that number. [15] During the early years of World War II, it is possible that the Japanese suffered from poor military intelligence. [16]

The "Death March" was in reality a series of marches whereby the distance that a captive had to travel varied according to where the guards started him out on the march. In World War II, the Japanese had no literal central administration of POW management and, as a result, individual guards had great flexibility. POWs on the March were the responsibility of individual field commanders. Since these field commanders had considerable autonomy within the Japanese way of war, it was assumed by the Japanese Government that atrocities would occur and were permitted, yet the central authority was not concerned enough to prevent them. [17]

Ideally, the transit of the Allied POWs would have been the responsibility of the Prisoner of War Information Bureau, and the Prisoner of War Management Office, not established until 1942, in accordance with the terms of the 1907 Hague Convention. Prior to 1944 though, before the Japanese Military knew that it would lose the war and be accountable for its treatment of POWs, the Bureau did not maintain systematic records of POWs within Japanese control. The Japanese Imperial Army, which managed the Prisoner of War Information Bureau, kept it on the perimeter of affairs and relegated the Bureau to an almost non-existent situational position during the war. [18]

Two indirect or more appropriately apologetic explanations for the causes of the brutality towards the Allied and Filipino POWs include a miscalculation on the number of probable surrendered troops, and that the cruelty inflicted upon the POWs was a mere representation of the training of the individual guards. "In the ladder of oppression, beneath the Japanese rank and file, came the POWs, and by the time that transferred brutality had touched them, it had become magnified to a terrible intensity." [19] Officers were allowed to strike non-commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers routinely struck the enlisted ranks. In the grand hierarchical scheme, prisoners of war were the lowest form of existence. Those prison guards in charge of managing their movement were the social equivalent of the burakumin during the Tokugawa Shogunate. The prison guards were drunks, sadists, and even criminals- thus lacking honor. Because the Japanese had miscalculated the number of Allied troops, there was also a major lack of food and medical supplies causing many POWs to starve to death. In many instances, the guards withheld food and water from the POWs or would shoot them if the POWs attempted to retrieve water from a nearby puddle. [20]

The Allied POWs further angered the Japanese prison guards because the POWs did not embody a sense of shame for surrendering. Two additional reasons Allied and Filipino POWs did not submit to the authority of their Japanese guards was that most of the Filipinos on the March were dedicated to General MacArthur. He had ties to each. After General MacArthur retired from the United States Army in 1937, he served as Field Marshall of the Philippine Army until his recall to active duty in July of 1941. Philippine soldiers fought for their own country as part of the US Army. [21]

For the Japanese, the subjugation of the white POWs served another purpose. It would demonstrate to the civilian populace in the Philippines, that the Japanese were the dominant race. "By treating white POWs inhumanely in front of Asian onlookers, the Japanese hoped to flaunt their superiority over whites…"[22] Ironically, the white POWs viewed the Japanese prison guards as inferior 'yellow sons of bitches' and vermin and therefore did not mentally capitulate to the Japanese aggressors. On the Bataan Death March, the field commanders in charge of the Allied POWs became more aggressive as time elapsed. This was due to the extreme number of POWs taken on as well as the resilience of the POWs. When brutalized or beaten, the POWs rarely submitted to the authority of their captors. The brutality inflicted against the Allied POWs on the Bataan Death March is also attributable to racial discord during the Pacific War. The Japanese flaunted their own superiority and their role as the victor over the white subjugated POWs. Since the Allied POWs did not submit to such antagonism and cruelty, displaying what the guards saw as defiance, the guards became even more brutal towards them. Their behavior towards the surrendered Allied POWs paralleled the martial samurai wisdom offered by Miyamoto Musashi's, The Book of Five Rings, "When your enemies have lost heart, you do not have to pay attention to them anymore…otherwise as long as enemies still have ambitions, they will hardly collapse. The main point is to see that enemies feel defeated from the bottom of their hearts."[23] The antagonism between the Allied POWs and the Japanese was heightened further because the Allied POWs also viewed the Japanese race as inferior. As a testament to their own personal superiority, the Japanese preferred to brutalize the American POWs to impress their comrades that the bigger the POWs were, the harder they fell. This included brutalizing the POWs as a form of personal entertainment such as practicing judo on the men. [24]

Although an anonymous Japanese general had assured Brigadier General Brougher that, although the Japanese fight very hard, they had no vindictiveness towards a defeated enemy. Even so, the Japanese soldiers were trained to never surrender and "the Western virtue of mercy had no place in his training and way of life." [25] The Japanese offered the prisoners no water on the March and almost no food. In one instance when the Japanese guards did distribute handful-size rations of rice to the POWs, they would indiscriminately throw rice in various directions to the ground. As the POWs would kneel down to retrieve some of the rice, the guards would bayonet them. [26] Nor did the Japanese offer medical aid to the sick or wounded POWs, who were often the victims of the greatest brutality. Lethargy caused by their illness or wounds slowed down the march, which for the guards justified their cruelty towards them. Conceptually as well, the Japanese did not have anything that resembled the Western Hippocratic Oath, which governed the ethical treatment of medical patients. Thus, the guards not only saw no incentive to care for the sick and infirm POWs, but this care would have also slowed down the march. [27]

On the Bataan Death March, the collective will of the Japanese guards was to treat the POWs with no mercy. Superior officers overlooked the actions of subordinates. In defense of his own actions and decisions during the Tokyo War Crimes trials, General Tojo stated, "It is the Japanese custom for the commander of an expeditionary army to be given a specific mission in the performance of which he is not subject to the specific orders from Tokyo. This only meant that according to the Japanese method of waging war, considerable atrocities were expected to occur… while the Japanese government was not concerned to prevent them." [28] Nor was the Japanese government concerned with the caliber of Japanese soldier who managed the movement of the POWs on the Bataan Death March. In individual circumstances, certain Japanese guards were kind to the POWs but these guards had to be secretive and sparing with their humanity so as not to be caught. [29]

General Homma's immediate subordinate, who was responsible for the movement of the Allied POWs on the Bataan Death March, was Colonel Masanobu Tsuji. He sought to provoke a movement among all of the staff officers under General Homma's command that no mercy be shown to the Allied POWs. He verbally issued an order that all of the POWs were to be executed, yet because these orders had not been given as written instructions by General Homma, the staff officers did not comply. Ironically, the Code of Bushido that they also followed was verbal, just as were Colonel Tsuji's orders. While the staff officers did not consent to the execution order, seven to ten thousand POWs died because of their treatment and outright murder to expedite the process of the march. [30] This process demonstrated direct opposition to the 1907 Hague Convention on the treatment of POWs, which stated, "An effective agreement on the treatment of POW's must operate not only at the state level but also at the individual level. Soldiers…. kill those attempting to surrender for a variety of reasons, including an immediate concern not to be bothered with the care and maintenance of prisoners." [31]

Prime Minister Hideki Tojo was well aware of the physical condition of the POWs as well of the number of soldiers. At bi-weekly meetings of the Bureau Chiefs in the War Ministry, the condition of the POWs and the protests made by the U.S. Government in response to this treatment had been discussed. Tojo admitted this fact after the atrocities against the men on the Bataan Death March had taken place. His subordinate officers had apprised him of their condition and the numerous fatalities that had occurred along the way. No action was taken at the central level though because, in the words of Tojo, "It is the Japanese custom for the commander of an expeditionary army in the field to be given a mission in which he is not subject to specific orders from Tokyo, but has considerable autonomy." [32] Tojo's statement is in direct opposition to the section of the Geneva Convention that dealt with POWs.

The samurai tradition influencing Japanese soldiers did not forbid cruelty towards enemy combatants, nor was it specifically condoned. Within a decentralized government, the Japanese did not have any established regulations or organized doctrine as to what constituted a just war, nor did the Samurai of the medieval era have a uniform set of principles that dictated just action in warfare. These types of constructs would belong to a centralized/ national military structure. Without these constraints, such ambiguity allowed a Japanese soldier to justify almost any action and conduct against an enemy. "Early bushi customs and expectations concerning prisoners of war were considerably less consistent than the received wisdom on this issue would suggest." [33] The treatment of a captured soldier became subjective and unique to his particular circumstances of capture. Western notions of absolute right and wrong did not exist in Japan, nor did the notion of a warcrime as previously mentioned.

During the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), as well as the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), the Japanese were applauded for their tolerance of POWs. Examination into these areas provides the insight into the motives that precipitated such purported benevolence when enemy combatants (wounded or healthy) were captured and were not executed. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Japanese had not yet been recognized as a World power. In order to gain recognition as a modern and civilized nation, the Japanese state had to observe the dictates of international law, especially with regard to the treatment of POWs. Japan would not need to adhere to restraints on POWs once its status of a Great Power became acknowledged. This implies that Japan used international law only as a device for realizing its ambition. International law was not a norm to them to be consistently observed. [34] In the words of General Tojo in World War II, "…in Japan we have our own ideology concerning prisoners of war, which should make their treatment more or less different from that of Europe or of America." [35] It is important to understand the antecedents of Tojo's sentiment in the context of the Japanese view of just war. The Japanese notion of what constituted moral or just action in warfare was amenable to changing circumstances and what the current leadership considered right action.

The Japanese "Code of Battlefield Conduct," (Senjin Kun) issued in 1941, did not cite specific or rigid guidelines to describe how a warrior should behave. It did state that the requisition, confiscation, and destruction of the enemy's property is governed by regulations. Above anything else, the Senjin Kun emphasized obedience to the orders of a superior officer, which in itself was very Confucian in nature. It did not discuss behavior towards enemy combatants, however, but it did emphasize that one who allows himself to become a POW has lost all honor. It did not address elements such as restraint towards enemy combatants or the notion of self-control when faced with a threat. Its criteria of sanctioning an act that serves the greater good and its goal implicitly includes the murder of POWs to speed up the process, such as on the Bataan Death March.

The Japanese soldiers responsible for guarding POWs were junior officers considered too unreliable for any greater task than a position as dishonorable as managing POWs. [36] To their Japanese guards, Allied POWs were both moral failures as well as cowards who did no more than consume resources that could be utilized by the Japanese Imperial Army. [37] The Japanese frowned upon brutality for the sheer sake of inflecting pain on the enemy. However, within the realm of their martial culture, they have displayed both preemptive brutality and retaliatory brutality in each modern war and have justified this type of behavior in that it fulfills the end goal of victory. Thus, the guise of military objectives has made brutality towards a foe virtuous by default, especially when the Japanese were fighting against an enemy with superior combat forces. When they did not resort to such cruel methods, it was because they were guided by ulterior motives.

Even before the United States government officially declared war against Japan on December 8, 1941, the Japanese in previous conflicts had used preemptive brutality against what they called 'captives of war.' The Japanese Imperial Army labeled Allied POWs on the Bataan Death March "captives" until they became formally detained in POW camps. According to the Regulations for the Treatment of POWs, at that point, they would be given the official title of a "prisoner" but prior to that point, the Minister of the Army was not responsible for the conduct of field commanders who were responsible for transporting the 'captives' to the camps. [38] The Bataan Death March falls within the category of preemptive brutality. Japanese martial forces used this type of brutality over the centuries to hide their own weakness. The rationale has been that preemptive brutality prevents threats or uprisings from conquered forces. [39] During the course of the Pacific War, the systematic and indiscriminate murder, torture, illtreatment, and willful neglect of Allied prisoners of war by the Japanese military continued unabated. [40]

On April 9, 1942, Major General Edward King, the commander of Allied forces on Bataan, surrendered more than 78,000 soldiers, including 12,000 Americans, to the Japanese. Major King first assured his troops, "You men remember this. You did not surrender…you had no alternative but to obey my order." [41] His men were sick and in weakened condition and General King surrendered them to save them from continued suffering. The waning defense of Bataan was the most affected by the shortage of food rations reaching the defenders. The starvation rations that reached the defenders mounted significantly and lowered their physical resistance making them easily vulnerable to diseases such as malaria. [42] Little did King understand that in surrendering his forces, they would then be subjected to one of the worst atrocities in U.S. History. [43] According to Major General Ernest King, "The Japanese told me that they would handle the movement of prisoners as they desired, that I would have nothing to do with it, and that my wishes in that connection would not be considered." [44]

In 1942, from the moment of capture through the process of transportation to a camp site, POWs were deemed as "captives." [45] The rationale behind labeling the captured combatants as "captives" instead of "prisoners of war" was because many of the Japanese officers who oversaw the movement of the POWs intended to exterminate the captives en route to the POW camps. The POWs were exterminated en route to the POW camps to quicken the pace of the March and attain the goal of the mission. An unknown prison guard also addressed the prisoners by saying, "You are no longer prisoners of war. You are sworn enemies of Japan and treated as captives." [46] The Japanese commander responsible for this design was Colonel Tsuji, who issued the orders to kill the Allied POWs in the name of General Homma. [47] Japanese command structure allocated greater individual responsibility to unit commanders, which therefore gave Colonel, Tsuji's orders absolute justifiability in the Japanese mentality of the era.

According to Lord Russell of Liverpool, "The uncivilized ill-treatment of prisoners of war by the Japanese in WW II was the natural outcome of the Code of Bushido…"[48] The type of warrior ethic expressed by the Japanese towards Allied POWs on the Bataan Death March was known as Shido, and was espoused by Neo-Confucian philosophers. Shido was calculated and rational, stressed non-attachment to the present, and focused one's mind on the end goal.

Prior to the Bataan Death March, General Homma's goal was to capture the fortress of Corregidor (the Headquarters of American Command) in the shortest amount of time possible. He could not do this, however, with an obstacle in his way in the form of approximately 100,000 Filipino and American defenders. [49] General Homma's immediate concern was not the humane treatment of the enemy POWs but was instead more far-reaching. His end goal superseded any thought to benevolence towards the Allied enemy who constituted a barrier between him and his goal. Therefore, the Allied POWs had to be disposed of and removed in the most expeditious way possible.

Yuki Tanaka argues that the Japanese behavior exemplified in World War II was a corruption of the Code of Bushido. From this stance, one can only interpret the warrior code to be a rigid and concrete set of values (a construct comparable to the Ten Commandments) in which deviation from the original construct is acute. This, however, is an erroneous interpretation of the Code of Bushido, which had no single author and whose tenets were flexible enough to legitimize the political goals of whoever was the current ruler.

The majority of writings that articulated what the Code of Bushido espoused were written during the Edo Period (1600-1868) - Japan's "Age of Peace." During this era, the samurai elite were administrators and bureaucrats whose intention was to describe the proper role of the samurai warrior in a peaceful society. The writings during these centuries, and the conduct of samurai warriors and the future Japanese military were not in 'sync' with pre-modern or pre-1868 behavioral norms of the warrior tradition in Japan. [50] "It is a classic mistake to assume that a system of normative ethics describes an actual field of behavior." [51] As samurai literacy flourished, so did the works that addressed the morality of the nobility. The lack of rigidity in the Code of Bushido is attributable to the environment in which it was born. During the Edo Period, the establishment of several hundred, armed independent domains by different lords necessitated that each lord establish codes of behavior to regulate his own fighters. Works varied widely in style, in that some articulated moral philosophy while others specified proper warrior behavior for those living in a certain domain. [52] The most consistent tenets of bushido were: obedience to superiors, loyalty, simplicity, self-discipline, and courage. Bushido also stressed respect for others, however, the term others was very illusive and often manipulated to mean almost anyone or only a select few. The flexibility of the Code of Bushido was demonstrated throughout the Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, and through World War II.

Starting with the Edo Period, it became a common conception that the lower orders were considered morally inferior to those who were in power. [53] The enemy judged mercy towards captured or surrendered enemy combatants as weakness and prisoners, including the sick and the wounded, were routinely killed. Any leniency could and did induce the inferior conquered foe to rebel against their Japanese oppressors. Culturally, this explains why the ramifications of the Hague treaties were not integrated into the enlisted rank and file of the Japanese military during the twentieth century. It is plausible, yet not factual, that ethical and moral considerations were not integrated into the enlisted field manual of the Japanese Imperial Army because that would possibly interfere with orders from a higher authority. In Western armies though, soldiers held themselves to a greater transcendent moral authority that superseded their direct chain of command. If they considered an order to be immoral or unjust, such as torture or withholding medical attention, their sense of right and wrong from God allowed them to refuse seeing an order through.

Japanese society was hierarchical and stratified, which placed a great deal of emphasis on the importance of elitism. In turn, their society believed that the enlisted soldier from the lower classes did not have the mental capacity to be capable of self-restraint, humane, or ethical treatment of the enemy, nor should they be allowed the choice to weigh right and wrong decisions.

During the post Russo-Japanese War period in Japan, the two thousand Japanese veterans, who were former POWs of the Russians, were subjected to official courts of inquiry, with punishments imposed over a wide spectrum. By 1939, the belief that only cowards would surrender had developed into an extreme ideology. Even with the elapse of time, the veterans who had served in the Russo-Japanese War, and who had surrendered, were still admonished for their disgraceful behavior and were forced to commit suicide. [54] Ironically, the warning "…Benevolence indulged beyond measure sinks into weakness" [55] is applicable in these circumstances. Because the disgracefulness of surrender was not stressed enough at the turn of the twentieth century in Japan, many more Japanese became POWs of the enemy than they did later during World War II.

While Bushido left room for the honorable surrender of the enemy, it was not protocol, nor was warfare on a major scale with foreign forces at this time. The Samurai belief was that only a man with no honor would allow himself to be taken as a prisoner by his enemy. In Medieval Japan, when wars were fought between daimyos, the samurai warriors who did surrender "were held in contempt, which made it easier for their captors to rationalize cruelty towards them." [56] Those who fought and died on the field of battle were viewed as extremely courageous, demonstrating their sacrifice to their superiors. During the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, as the scale and frequency of warfare increased, POWs became viewed as liabilities, were tortured for information, and were then executed. [57]

During the Tokugagwa Shogunate, there was not one distinctive school of thought when it came to what bushido itself actually meant. The ideas that comprised proper warrior conduct during these centuries drastically differed in comparison to Japan's "Age of the Country at War." There were very few texts during this period, which actually used the term bushido as a warrior behavioral pattern. Instead, the majority of the texts described house laws or precepts. During this period of relative peace and stability, the samurai were forced to change their entire lifestyle and instead of living as warriors trained for war, these men were forced to surrender to the constraints of a peaceful society. During these two centuries, the experts who wrote on the meaning of the Code of Bushido all sought the same goal: to describe what the proper role was for a samurai in a world without war. [58] The feudal lords during these peaceful centuries needed educated administrators instead of trained warriors. The underlying motive of all writings within the environment where the samurai warriors were unemployed was to shape the samurai as both warriors and as scholars. [59]

These unemployed samurai, such as Yamamoto Tsunetomo, also prided themselves on the fact that the meaning of bushido was an ideal code of conduct specifically for the warrior elite. The warrior code is what separated these elite from the miscreants or the "untouchables" of Japanese society who were considered too lowly to have a code of conduct. [60] In modern Japan, these men would be considered "cannon-fodder" in which training and breeding a code of conduct into these men, would be considered wasteful. The purpose of an ethical code of conduct was not for the individual soldiers to judge the rightness or the wrongness of their own actions. In the words of one of the Tokugawa's chief advisors, "Morality is nothing but the necessary means for controlling the subjects of the empire and may be regarded as a device for governing the people." [61]

Because Japanese society was based on a class structure, the moral and ethical underpinnings within the Bushido Code only applied to the noble samurai class. This gave them distinctive qualities that raised their status above the common rabble of Japan. In the ideal sense, the Code of Bushido emphasized honesty, filial piety, selflessness, honor, indifference to pain, obedience, and loyalty to one's superiors. The reality of samurai action often fell short of the ideal.

Two ways about which bushido was written included the style portrayed by Neo-Confucian thinkers, Shido, which was concerned with results. Yamamoto Tsunetomo's Hagakure (1710), however, emphasized purity of motive and differed radically in tone from the broader spectrum of Confucian ideals of the time. [62] The text, The Book of Five Rings (circa 1645), also fits into this compendium of literature. Modern Western audiences have become very familiar with the texts, the Hagakure as well as The Book of Five Rings, yet neither source was widely read before the modern era. More importantly, neither text represents samurai warrior beliefs inclusively. The traditional martial minds of the Tokugawa Shogunate did not embrace the values espoused by Yamamoto Tsunetomo since his beliefs were more aligned with the environment of the Sengoku Era (Warring States Period). While the Hagakure emphasized loyalty, courage, and duty as the other few Tokugawa works that explicitly mention bushido did, mainline Confucian thinkers disagreed with the meaning and application of these values, especially the idea of a reckless death or ritual suicide (seppuku). [63] Seppuku became a last resort for Japanese warriors who knew that the alternative was to be captured, tortured, and executed. [64]

The peers of Yamamoto Tsunetomo did not support the precepts of his text. Because the last military campaign, the Shimabara Rebellion, had been sixty years prior, by the time that Yamamoto Tsunetomo wrote the Hagakure, many men disagreed with his martial pronouncements. Most samurai of the period believed that ritual suicide was wasteful even though they did agree with his pronouncements about courage and loyalty. Although Yamamoto Tsunetomo never served in combat, his thoughts on bushido influenced the Japanese military up through World War II. [65] "In committing dreadful acts of cruelty, and violence against others, many of the soldiers of the Imperial Army were taking revenge for their own imminent deaths." [66] This same theme is prevalent in the Hagakure's "With martial valor, if one becomes like a revengeful ghost and shows great determination, though his head is cut off- he should not die." [67]

The principles that are consistent throughout the Hagakure include loyalty, duty, revenge, and courage. These factors, according to Yamamoto Tsunetomo, culminate in the search for a reckless death. The most famous line from the Hagakure is, "The way of the samurai is found in death." For the Japanese samurai, an honorable death was preferable to capture since torture was expected if one chose to live. The Hagakure also contains a directive on how to deal with criminal offenses, such as theft. In reference to a robber's misdeed, Yamamoto Tsunetomo stated that, "he should be tortured to death due to the extremity of the crime." [68] During the Tokugawa Shogunate, Japanese law did not make sharp distinctions between police and military functions (both using the same personnel and procedures), which also led to the notion that the Japanese did not conceptualize internal and external enemies differently. Nor is there much room in the samurai ethos toward battlefield behavior to make distinctions between enemies. "Prior to the modern period (when samurai were no longer fighting), 'bushido,' was entirely concerned about winning, with the ends justifying any means. Since there was virtually nothing samurai were prohibited from doing when fighting one another, there's not much that could have been added to conflicts with foreign enemies." [69] The ideals of the Hagakure, which go against mainline Confucian precepts, demonstrate there was neither one single code of ethics for the samurai, nor one for the Japanese populace. [70]

The Japanese notion of just warfare, as well as morality in warfare, was variable and dependent upon the current circumstances. I would argue that, within this context, the Code of Bushido was a nebulous and flexible construct that could easily be manipulated to fulfill the goal of any military undertaking. As an example, respect, and reverence for others in combination, while not abusing another person, could be overridden militarily from the purview of breaking the will of the enemy. Abuse or cruelty towards an enemy was condoned from the perspective of leading to military victory with no apparent signs of actual hatred for the enemy. I have found no evidence within any of the writings on the Code of Bushido similar to what would equate to modern day notions of enforcement or any set parameters for what constituted a war crime. I suspect that I have not found such thoughts because these ideas belonged to overriding contractual agreements between belligerents whereby their conduct was judged by a higher aesthetic power. For the Japanese though, the final moral authority was the current emperor, making just war anything that fulfilled his goals.

In a discussion of improvements made by Meji Japan (1866-1912), one must first examine Japan's effort to seek recognition by foreign governments. During the Meji Era, the Japanese sought recognition by the Great Powers as a modern and civilized nation. For this reason, the Japanese agreed to abide by various international agreements with overarching rules of conduct in a wartime environment. Starting in the mid nineteenth century, a corpus of internationally agreed upon contracts, dictating human rights in a wartime environment and including the laws of war, was established by the Western powers. Japan agreed to the international contracts that dictated rigid rules of war so as to be perceived a modern and civilized nation. These contracts began with the First Geneva Convention in 1864, and were followed by the Brussels Declaration, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and the International Hague Conventions in 1899 and 1907. Each contract progressively established and refined the legal definition of what constituted a war crime, how a prisoner of war is classified, how a POW should be treated, and the responsibilities of a POW. Although the Japanese agreed to the Geneva Convention of 1929 under the terms mutatis mutandis, [71] they had already agreed to the Hague Treaty making them liable for their conduct in World War II. Regardless, the provisions on the treatment of POWs were not incorporated into the rank-and-file of the Japanese military.

Civilized[72] nations agreed that established rules and regulations in wartime environments were deemed crucial and it was decided that the "employment of arms which uselessly aggravates the suffering of disabled men or renders their death inevitable" [73] should be considered a criminal act of war. A state of war must exist between two or more belligerents for a combatant to be classified as a prisoner of war and to expect certain rights and treatment as such. Until a state of war is declared, the capture of an enemy combatant would break international law. The Prisoner of War aspects of the Brussels Declaration, the Geneva Convention, and the Hague Treaties all contain aspects of "enforcement" of the required treatment towards POWs. Each of these provisions also contains information on how to deal with those who abuse POWs. In contrast, the previously stated aspects of accountability within the Western military, leads me to believe that the Code of Bushido did not contain any such enforcement of regulations nor was there any accountability for conduct unbecoming within its teachings. I would secondly argue that, it did not state how to deal with a breach of conduct (such as a war crime). Its teachings could be interpreted to expedite the goals of any situation.

Although Japan was a signatory nation of the Hague Convention, the provisions that specified the humane treatment of POWs were not incorporated into Japanese military training manuals. A major explanation for this is that the Japanese did not believe in answering to a higher transcendent authority greater than the emperor. [74] The Christian West espoused a doctrine of natural rights, soul, and equality before God. In Japan however, "…people were considered to be unequal members of a hierarchical society where the interests of the state took precedent over the safety of the individual members within it." [75]

When Japan agreed to adhere to the terms of the Geneva Convention of 1929 under the terms of mutatis mutandis, the Japanese government also included the loophole that when provisions could not literally be complied with, Japan would comply with the nearest possible equivalent to literal compliance. [76] "For the Japanese Ministry of the Army, mutatis mutandis was interpreted not as western jurists would understand the term but to the effect that 'we shall apply it with any necessary amendments' and not strictly." [77] This flexibility was expressed later during World War II by Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who was quoted as telling the guards in charge of the Allied POWs that, "international law should be interpreted from the viewpoint of executing the war according to our own opinions."[78] At the 1907 Hague Convention, however, the Ambassador to Japan had formally agreed to the "Regulations Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land," making the Japanese liable for their conduct in World War II even though they had signed the 1929 Geneva Convention mutatis mutandis. The Japanese government representatives did not formally ratify it since surrender was dishonorable and because reciprocity was a burden. Additionally, captured combatants would expect good treatment and Japan would be required to treat POWs better than their own soldiers.[78] This explanation makes it more conceivable why the Japanese did not establish the Prisoner of War Information Bureau until 1941 and the Prisoner of War Management Office until 1942. It also helps to explain why these two branches of the government were kept on the perimeter of state affairs and were relegated to bare existence on paper.

Japan's Foreign Minister Tojo, however, assured the representatives of the participating Western nations, that although Japan was not legally bound by the document, its terms would be applied mutatis mutandis. This meant that Minister Tojo agreed to abstain from allowing his government from using the following: 'corporal punishment, imprisonment in quarters without daylight and any form of cruelty whatsoever.' The Geneva Prisoner of War Convention also banned collective punishment for individual acts and specified that individual commanders could not decide what an appropriate means of internment was for a POW. [80]

Although Japan agreed to these generalized terms and because the term, mutatis mutandis, was attached to the Japanese Military's agreement of the contract, Tojo felt it gave them a certain flexibility to interpret the terms according to a current situation. It also implied that the necessary changes could be made by the Japanese in order to fit the goals of a certain situation. In 1943, a regulation was issued that stated, 'In case a prisoner of war is guilty of insubordination, he shall become subject to imprisonment or arrest, and any other measure deemed necessary for the purpose of discipline may be added.' [81] The representation of the Japanese at the Geneva Conference in 1929 was because Japan was judged as a civilized nation in the eyes of the international community. The man responsible for helping to bridge the gap between Japanese culture and Western curiosity of the Japanese was Inazo Nitobe.

Inazo Nitobe's text, Bushido: The Soul of Japan (1899), did little to nothing to dilute the inertia of racism at the grassroots level of society as he had hoped to do. It did, however, evoke a greater Western grand political curiosity about Japan. Even Theodore Roosevelt was reported to have a copy of Bushido: the Soul of Japan. As previously stated though, the Japanese at this time were regarded with intrigue and a certain measure of respect but this was from a distance.

Four years prior to the release of Bushido: The Soul of Japan, the Japanese won the first Sino-Japanese War. Throughout the course of the war, when Western correspondents had access to the front lines, they reported the brutality inflicted against both Chinese combatants and non-combatants. These reports became a stain upon the reputation of the Japanese but with the release of Inazo's text in 1899, the Japanese had the opportunity to regain international political admiration.

Inazo's objectives were to demonstrate to the Western powers that Japan's Code of Bushido was very similar in nature to the Code of Chivalry and he sought to prove this by documenting a normative and systematic code of moral and ethical values that pre-modern Japanese samurai adhered to. When Nitobe Inazo wrote his magnum opus in 1899, he was ignorant of the fact that bushido already existed in Japan. Inazo believed that he had invented the concept on his own volition. What makes Inazo's text flawed in its description of the Code of Bushido is that Inazo was well versed in Western history and literature yet very unfamiliar with the cultural foundations of his own country. One can understand that he confused the rigidity of the Code of Chivalry with the flexibility of the Code of Bushido. "To my shame, I cannot discuss with confidence, literature of the East." [82] e of the East." [82] The Western Code of Chivalry demanded that a defeated enemy be given quarter and that captured belligerents be treated as gentlemen. Political, social, and technological circumstances were substantially different in Japan from those in Europe. [83] "The Japanese developed no comparable cannon of ethics for dealing with prisoners. Instead, the fate of a captured bushi depended entirely on the particulars of his case."[84] Inazo Nitobe had a much greater knowledge of Western European history than knowledge of Japanese history.

According to Inazo Nitobe, "Bushido, then, is the code of moral principles which the knights were required or instructed to observe. It is not a written code; at best, it consists of a few unuttered or unwritten maxims… handed down from mouth to mouth or coming from the pen of some well-known warrior. It fills the same position in the history of ethics that the English Constitution does in political history; yet it has had nothing to compare with the Magna Charta or the Habeas Corpus Act." [85] What Inazo Nitobe sought to describe with great certitude in the previous thought is a concrete moral system that is rigid and not subject to interpretation. In this, his estimation is wrong. Inazo Nitobe, being well versed in Western history, understood that there were specific and unwavering rules of war (Jus ad Bellum and Jus en Bello) that were not flexible yet were very specific.

Inazo's Christian upbringing isolated him geographically and culturally from mainstream Japan. Inazo, grew up in Hokkaido, which was a particularly westernized, Christian, and segregated part of Japan. Inazo argues that humanity and compassion towards all humans were fundamental to the Code of Bushido but these elements were the ideal and most often not the reality. Realistically, humanity or compassion extended towards an enemy belligerent was judged as a sign of weakness and had the potential to incite an uprising or a rebellion against a victorious army.

The essence of Inazo's text clashed with the traditional samurai or martial values of previous centuries. The samurai originally owned pure bushido in a hierarchical society where the mere right of having a code belonged to only the nobility. In such a society, the importance of a man's life was based on his station in society and not on the fact that he was owed inalienable human rights, as Christianity espoused. "During the incessant clan wars of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and for some time thereafter, POWs in Japan's internal wars were treated with utmost harshness." [86] In medieval Japan as well, when wars were fought between daimyos, the samurai warriors who did surrender, "were held in contempt because they had lost their valor, which made it easier for their captors to rationalize cruelty towards them." [87] A unilateral and consistent system of normative ethics to restrain a Japanese warrior's behavior did not exist in pre-modern or in modern Japan. in modern Japan. A strength of Nitobe's convoluted magnum opus, however, is that a significant portion of the underlying basis of a greater civilian and military, through common bonds, served the country well as a growing sense of nationalism grew with the victories in both the first Sino-Japanese War and in the Russo-Japanese War. I have concluded that after Nitobe's book was published, it helped to promote Japanese modernity to foreign countries by demonstrating Japan's modernized and civilized society to the outside world. The Great Powers were able to gain a more clear understanding of Japanese culture through Inazo's text, which in itself helped to provide a basis for the diplomatic and political understanding of the Japanese culture. [88]

There are few known examples of Japanese brutality during the first Sino-Japanese War. However, the example illustrated in this examination (the attack on Port Arthur) demonstrates that Japanese martial conduct showed no signs of humanity towards the enemy as stressed by the Code of Bushido unless it served their strategic and political goals and thus fell in line with their view of just warfare. The temporary strategic goal of the modern Japanese state was to gain recognition from the international community as a civilized country. This meant that the enemy combatants, (when captured) had to be treated well. [89] Thus, the Japanese manipulated the perception that the Western European powers had of Japan in order to "insert itself into the upper level of the international pecking order." [90]

According to Yuki Tanaka's Hidden Horrors, throughout the course of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, within the purview of the Imperial Proclamation of War, Japan made every effort possible to abide by the terms of the only existing international agreement, which outlined the treatment of prisoners of war. Their treatment of POWs from 1894-1895 was thus much more humane than it was in World War II. At the conclusion of the first Sino-Japanese War, all 1,795 Chinese POWs were released "…on the battlefield without first being held in detention camps" [91] under the condition that they would not take up arms against the Japanese ever again. What is odd about the number of reported Chinese POWs is that after eight major battles, the Japanese had only accumulated 1,795 Chinese POWs. Unlike the Allied POWs who surrendered to the Japanese during World War II in April 1942, who were not labeled as POWs until they reached the prison camps, the Japanese regarded these Chinese combatants as such while still on the battlefield.

Two points must be made as a reply to Tanaka's assertion. Firstly, the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters was not established until 1894 and throughout the war, central command military authorities allowed their field commanders to exert a significant amount of independence. [92] The tradition of allowing field commanders significant autonomy carried over into World War II as well. [93] Secondly, Japanese mentality in the field was that prisoners were a burden and captured and taken only into custody when necessary. [94] The Japanese preferred to execute the Chinese combatants instead of taking them captive. "According to a military analyst, 'The Chinese were most frequently found shot or wounded in the back, as a rule, without weapons. Diaries of Japanese soldiers suggest the Japanese forces were not interested in taking prisoners of war since they would have further burdened Japan's already attenuated supply lines…"[95] An example of this behavior occurred during the summer of 1894 during the Battle of Songhwan. As the Japanese entered the Chinese base camp, they attacked the three-hundred Chinese soldiers guarding the perimeter, and took no prisoners. [96] prisoners. [96]

In a similar light, one reason for the increased killing of enemy POWs in warfare in medieval Japan was that just as quickly as the combatants were released, they would return to battle. Taking into account the statements of Japanese officers in regards to taking POWs, their actions at Port Arthur, and Tanaka's observations, one can only infer that a mid-war POW policy change occurred. If this is not the case, the 1,795 Chinese POWs then is only a slight representation of Chinese casualties. One could easily surmise that the Japanese had held true to the belief that POWs were a burden throughout the war and killed most of them, yet for reasons pertaining to public relations, have taken prisoner a small quantity of Chinese troops along the way to represent their humanity to other nations.

To support my argument, I calculated the number of Chinese combatants to the number of Chinese POWs taken by the Japanese military. Over a two year time span, the Japanese and the Chinese engaged in eight major battles. While the number of belligerents facing one another varied, the average number of Chinese soldiers in each battle was four thousand men. By the end of the war in 1895, after eight major battles, there were 35,000 Chinese casualties out of a total strength of 630,000 men. Yet, there were only 1,790 to 1,795 Chinese POWs. That amounts to five percent of the total number of Chinese casualties listed. This evidence supports the contention that the Japanese soldiers preferred to execute the Chinese soldiers versus taking them as POWs. Even though the 1864 Geneva Convention outlined that one must aid enemy wounded soldiers and that the wounded soldiers could no longer be considered combatants, the Japanese killed them anyway. Even though the Japanese Government was not a signatory body, they agreed to abide by the terms of the Convention, which the Japanese Military broke during the first Sino-Japanese War.

Japanese brutality in the first Sino-Japanese War, and specifically, during the Battle of Port Arthur, falls under the purview of reciprocity and of retaliatory brutality. The Japanese defended their brutality against both the noncombatants and combatants in Port Arthur by claiming that because the Chinese did not abide by the terms of the Geneva Convention that excused the Japanese from having to do so as well. The Japanese legal advisor to the Japanese Second Army at Port Arthur, General Ariga, explained that 'prisoners are a burden and strain the supply lines' and that the massacre of the town was legitimized under the conditions of reciprocity and because the Japanese had been provoked into doing so. [97] The Japanese Army had also been taxed because the Army had already captured six hundred Chinese POWs at the Battle of Pyongyang (1894), who were then transferred to Tokyo. The Japanese used the Battle of P' Pyongyang as a public relations coup to gain political leverage with the Western powers. There, the POWs received medical care and excellent treatment, of which the Japanese made sure that the Western powers were well aware. The Japanese found it very draining on their military supplies and resources to aid the POWs, which meant decreasing the funds for the Japanese soldiers. After learning such an expensive lesson, the Japanese decided not to take any more Chinese POWs during the war. "Once Japan achieved its initial aim of entering into the European international system, the political and psychological restraint which prompted Japan to observe international law could easily disappear." [98] [99]The main reason that the Japanese displayed their excellent treatment of Chinese POWs was because the Japanese government had received international criticism for its failure to rescue victims of the Kowshing one year earlier. Prior to the Japanese declaration of war against China, the Japanese Navy had torpedoed the British vessel, which was in the midst of transporting one thousand Chinese soldiers to Korea. After the Battle of Pyongyang, there is no Japanese documentation of the treatment of Chinese POWs. Nor was any more information released about the existence of or efficiency of POW camps in Japan. The most likely reason for the lack of information pertaining to the treatment of Chinese POWs is that the surrendered Chinese combatants were not captured after the Battle of Pyongyang but were instead simply "mowed down."[100] The observations of one of the foreign correspondents in 1895 after the Battle of Tianzhuangtai corroborated such speculation. His reports indicated that there were no surviving Chinese combatants after the battle. Interestingly, he himself viewed 2030 deceased soldiers, aside from having bullet wounds, also had slit throats, or had been stabbed by bayonets. [101]

There was also a major difference between what the Japanese espoused as the honorable treatment of the enemy and their action during warfare. The Japanese concept of honor itself was amendable and could suit the needs of a specific situation in order to rationalize almost any sort of behavior. [102] As an example of this, in 1894, the Japanese Minister of War, Marshal Oyama Iwao, lectured to the Japanese Army about its humanitarian responsibilities towards the enemy. He said, "Japanese soldiers must never forget that however cruel and vindictive the foe may allow himself, he must nevertheless be treated in accordance with the acknowledged rules of civilization." [103] Yet, the massacre at Port Arthur in 1894 was a direct reflection of the Japanese motive for revenge against a few of their slain comrades. Jeremy Black stated, "When Japanese infantry units overran Port Arthur in 1894, they rounded up and executed hundreds, if not thousands, of Chinese POW's, civilians, and deserters, allegedly in retaliation for the Chinese mutilation of the Japanese soldier's corpses. According to an unnamed military analyst, most often the Chinese were found shot in the back, half-clothed, and without weapons or dis-membered. " [104] The pattern of Japanese written thought on conduct and actual conduct is reflective in their behavior during the Sino-Japanese War. "The unfair act of seeking out an opponent who is unable to resist is not the deed of a valiant warrior. The man who loves to do things a valiant warrior hates, is said to be a coward." [105] A reporter for the Japanese Weekly Mail excused the apparent murders as a rational response to the Chinese, who tended to empty their final rounds into the nearest Japanese. [106] The Japanese justified their brutality towards the Chinese in that if they (the Japanese) had sought to exchange the wounded combatants so that they could receive sufficient medical treatment, it would be too hazardous to risk.

Cruelty inflicted upon enemy combatants was at all times condoned by the Japanese Government, which failed to impose any or adequate punishment on those whom they knew to be responsible. It was considered to be an unavoidable hazard of war. Western correspondents, including James Creelman and Thomas Villiers, who were refused access to the front lines originally, and who had relied on the Japanese for information pertaining to the treatment of Chinese POWs, gained access to them in 1895. James Creelman, who witnessed the battle observed no Chinese wounded soldiers on the field, only those who were dead. Many were observed to have slit throats and bayonet stabs in the back in addition to the many bullet wounds that had killed them. These findings made it clear that the Japanese had killed the wounded instead of making sure that they received proper medical treatment as outlined in the 1864 Geneva Convention. Although Japan was not a signatory government, it had agreed to abide by the rules, yet clearly demonstrated that by killing wounded soldiers instead of offering them medical treatment, their main priority was victory and not humanity. [107] humanity. [107]

James Creelman and Thomas Villeiers, horrified by the spectacle and lack of morals among the individual soldiers, left the Japanese army at this time. American public opinion, until then friendly to Japan, changed overnight when this was reported. [108] As quickly as the world learned about the Japanese attack against the defenseless town of Port Arthur though, it forgot about the massacre. "A consistent goal of the Meji generation had been to change Western perceptions of Japan. The victory at Port Arthur, even including the massacre went a long way towards achieving this." [109] Civilized nations legitimized moving on from the brutality exhibited by the Japanese military, by labeling it as a singular occurrence and a blotch of imperfection stacked against a reputation of civility.

The Japanese defended their actions in Port Arthur because of the threat that the Chinese posed to them. This threat motivated the Japanese to strike at the Chinese by using preemptive brutality. Such an attack was fully warranted, according to the Japanese, and no apology was issued for the brutality. According to "The International Features of the Prisoner of War Treaties," 'Member states of the treaties must hold individuals accountable for their laws of war, must monitor units, and must hold individuals accountable for violations of the treaties. ' [110] The Japanese government did not hold those responsible for the massacre at Port Arthur accountable for their conduct but instead justified their actions against the Chinese inhabitants of the town. On December 16, 1894, the Japanese Foreign Ministry issued a formal statement to the international press addressing the Japanese massacre of Chinese soldiers and civilians at Port Arthur. The statement asserted, "The Japanese Government desires no concealment of the events at Port Arthur. While the Government deplores the excessive violence, it formally protests excessive exaggerations in the foreign press reports. The slain victims were almost without exception, soldiers wearing the stolen clothes of civilians." [111] One could surmise that Japan's status as victor allowed suppression of the actual scope of the brutality. If Japan had lost the first Sino-Japanese War, as the country lost World War II, it is suspected that the Japanese government would have sought deceitfully to conceal its actions at Port Arthur because they would have been regarded as unjust.

During the years 1894-1895, the Japanese stressed the fact that the inhabitants of Port Arthur were indeed combatants to refute legitimately the allegations of atrocities. At the turn of the twentieth century, Japan's ultimate objective was political and to be recognized by the Great Powers as a modern and civilized nation. In accordance with the general characteristics of the Code of Bushido, the soldiers upheld their actions not just for their own personal honor but also because they did not want their country to be shamed. Any allegation of misconduct had to be refuted instantly because a life without honor or valor was not worth living for a Japanese soldier. [112]

The Foreign Minister, Munemitsu Mutsu, addressed the motivation for Japan to abide by International Law after the first Sino-Japanese War. Japan had to behave as a Western power in order to gain recognition by them, including observing the dictates of international law. Tadashi Tanaka argues that the observance of international law was nothing but a "smoke-screen to conceal its forceful conquest of weaker countries…Japan deceitfully manipulated international law as a tool for realizing its ambition, not as a norm always to be observed." [113] Japanese humanity was not a reflection of kindness but was a result of their political and strategic long terms plans. The long-term reason for this recognition was for the purposes of one day being able to challenge the Western powers. Once the Japanese gained acceptance into the international body, the strategic and military restraint it had demonstrated previously, could easily disappear. [114] There is no other documentation of systematic and deliberate brutality committed by the Japanese from 1894-1895 aside from their attack on Port Arthur. After the Western World became aware of the events that occurred there, the Japanese maintained self-restraint yet showed no formal or informal remorse for the event. The Japanese realized that each of the Great Powers had well-established interests in China and the Japanese deduced that excessive measures against the Chinese would provoke either suspicion or retaliation by the Western Powers. Because Japan was not strong enough militarily to challenge the Great Powers, her military had to act with caution and patience. [115] Foreshadowing future events, the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tadasu Hayashi, prophesized, "During this time, the foundations of national power must be consolidated and we must watch and wait for the opportunity in the Orient that will surely one day come. When this day comes, Japan will be able to decide her own fate, put in their place the powers that seek to meddle in her affairs and possibly even, meddle in their affairs." [116]

In the time-period between the first Sino-Japanese War and the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, strategic and political circumstances changed in Japan. While the Japanese took very few prisoners during the war in 1894-1895, during the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese took on so many Russian POWs that they had to create twenty-nine POW camps. Traditionally, the Japanese did not hold large quantities of POWs because they were viewed as liabilities. However, in the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese made a deliberate attempt to capture but not execute enemy combatants because the Japanese still sought international approval. The Japanese believed that to be taken prisoner by an enemy either through surrender or through being captured, was the ultimate act of dishonor. If one was disgraced on the battlefield, it not only stripped him of his honor, but it also disgraced his family. This belief was fundamental to Japanese martial culture.

During the Russo-Japanese-War (1904-1905), according to official conclusions made by both Russian sources and Japanese sources, the Japanese treatment of POWs followed the policies outlined in the 1894 provision, "Regulations Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land." The provision allocated specifically humane treatment towards the POWs and stated that the guards must maintain self-control at all time. While physical brutality was forbidden by the provision, there was nothing that forbade psychological torment of the prisoners. The twenty-nine POW camps were all designated "shelters" by the Japanese and consisted of either intermediate camps or maintenance camps. The POWs were given relatively hospitable living conditions, which included tents or barracks, a routinely distributed Russian newspaper, and access to medical care. After eleven major engagements, all Russian POW's were released unharmed. I would argue that the substantially higher number of Russian POWs (79,367) than that of Chinese POWs (1,795) in the first Sino-Japanese War, taken during a period extending over eight major engagements, shows a readily apparent disparity in Japanese motives to capture and hold enemy combatants.

The Russian POWs allegedly desired for the Russo-Japanese War to last longer so that they could remain in captivity because the living conditions were better than what they were used to under regular circumstances. The legitimacy of this claim is doubtful, because it came from a press release in 1905 by Japanese newspapers and was most likely propaganda. It is impossible to ascertain the actual treatment of Russian POWs in the Russo-Japanese War, because whatever records of atrocities that the Japanese committed would have been destroyed since the Japanese won the war. Similarly, the newspapers circulated throughout the Russian POW camps, which purported to be authentic, were actually artificial propaganda devices conceived of by the Japanese to lower the morale of the Russian POW's by running articles citing corruption back in Russia, widespread revolts, and social revolution. When the Russian soldiers were repatriated, they were extremely shocked to find their towns and society in relatively good, functioning condition. [117]

Accurate and current Russian documentation and descriptions of the POW camps, to corroborate independently Japanese claims of adequate conditions, remains almost impossible to ascertain. According to Elena Koloskova, the data addressing POW camps and the treatment of Russian prisoners is incomplete. Through information that I have assembled, my hypothesis is that during the War, under the Czar of Russia, Nicholas II, the Russian military system did not have a systematic means of tracking or documenting the number of combatants who become the prisoner of an enemy. Nor did they have had a means of gathering pertinent information about the treatment of all of the Russians in the twenty-nine POW camps through a central military agency. The possibility of a Russian facility such as a POW management office whose specific duty would be to track the movement or location of its own POWs did not exist. Any abuses of the Russian POWs, if they did occur, would have gone unreported and undocumented.

The majority of Russian data on the Russo-Japanese War concentrates on the technical aspects of the battles and the strategies of the opposing belligerents with too little information focused upon the quantity of Russian POWs, the circumstances of their capture, the condition of the maintenance camps, and their relations with the Japanese prison guards. [118] Japanese accounts from 1904, however, also state that, in Matsuyama, where six thousand Russian POWs were held, they were able to walk around the town freely and communicate with local residents. [119] Independent corroboration, though, of this information has been impossible to ascertain. There were cases of indiscriminate abuses at two of the POW camps but that was the exception and not the norm. Because attacks against POWs in the Russo-Japanese War were indiscriminate, the attackers were not held accountable for their cruelty by the state as they were after World War II during the war crimes trials when the Allies defeated the Japanese.

The Japanese-Russo War was the first ordeal in which Japan fought a foreign white enemy. Humane treatment of the captured could have been deemed strategically and politically crucial since otherwise, as the Japanese feared, the Western powers would unite against what they would later call the "Yellow Peril" in the 1920s and the 1930s during the decades of growing Japanese militarism. [120]

The Japanese abided by the terms of the Geneva Convention of 1899 for reasons pertaining to tolerance but not humanity towards Russian POWs. Tolerance of the Russian POWs served the Japanese on a grand political scale: "…they were animated by the desire to obtain the utmost benefit from the clauses of the treaty providing for the beneficent activity of the bureaus of information. The Japanese government was especially interested in the successful operation of the new instrumentality and remitted no endeavors that were calculated to secure its efficient operation." [121] This does not make sense on the superficial level. Why would Japan seek the approval of Western nations that were considered inferior and impure? The only reason would be for political and military advantage. In the wars against China and then against Russia, the ratio of enemy to Japanese POWs had been fifteen-to-one and then forty-to-one. In World War II, the head of the POW Information Bureau, Lieutenant General Mikio Uemura, explained, 'we treated the POWs humanely (in the former two wars) so to gain recognition as a modernized country yet this purpose was no longer needed in 1942.' [122] The Japanese, however, who surrendered to the enemy, were held in contempt by their peers just as they were in medieval Japan. The two-thousand Japanese veterans who were former POWs of the Russians were subjected to official courts of inquiry and then forced to commit suicide during the post Russo-Japanese era in Japan. [123] Ironically, the warning that 'excess benevolence can be perceived as a sign of weakness,' is applicable in these circumstances. This ushered in the strategic nature of gyokusai. [124] Given the Japanese soldier's mentality of gyokusai, which espoused that a soldier should fight to the end for the emperor, surrender became shameful and unquestionable. The strategic nature of gyokusai similarly influenced Japanese perceptions of an enemy who surrendered to them. The Japanese treated enemy POWs more humanely than their own soldiers were treated, making the Japanese feel that their own surrendered soldiers had acted cowardly. In 1942 though, during the Bataan Death March, Japan was already a recognized world power. According to Prime Minister Tojo, the need to abide by international standards of conduct in war was no longer necessary since the goal of recognition as a modernized power had already been achieved.

The mercies exemplified by the Japanese military to Chinese POWs in the first Sino-Japanese War and later to Russian POWs, during the Russo-Japanese War, were purely for temporary strategic and political motives. Once the Japanese gained recognition as a modern and civilized nation, the previous tolerance of POWs was no longer an issue because the Japanese had already become an accepted member of the international powers. A major difference between the Russo-Japanese War and World War II is that the latter was a total war and required that the Japanese use their resources and supplies dominantly for their armed forces. The scope of World War II in the Pacific Theater required that the Japanese utilize all of their manpower and resources to achieve their goal. Surrender, and the gradual loss of soldiers, would diminish their overall cohesion and forcefulness as a martial entity. Thus, even a small unit of Japanese soldiers bent on fighting to the death, could distract a larger Allied unit. If the Japanese surrendered though, it would free up the Allied unit for combat elsewhere. One could argue that the scale of conflict in World War II also made it more difficult to balance the ratio of supply and demand. In certain cases, the lack of sufficient supplies and medical care caused suffering to captured POWs. Such suffering was viewed as an unavoidable aspect of large-scale warfare, even though it was also harmful. s also harmful.

During the Russo-Japanese War, which lasted for two years, the Japanese were prepared to shelter eighty thousand Russian POWs in twenty-nine POW camps. Yet in World War II, on the Bataan Death March, the Japanese only expected to take approximately 25,000 Allied POWs but instead became responsible for roughly 78,000 men. In the environment of total war, the Japanese were ill-equipped to take roughly the same number of prisoners of war during the height of their military power that they did in the Russo-Japanese War. In regards to the Japanese treatment of POWs, there is ample evidence to prove that the atrocities committed against Allied POWs were the result of a systematic and deliberate policy of terror. [125] During the Tokugawa Period, the of idea loyalty to the point of death and seppuku were counterproductive in lieu of the current environment. Confucian moralists argued that the custom of eagerly sacrificing one's life for his lord was "…an evil custom of the Sengoku age." Miyamoto Musashi wrote from a battlefield perspective, and as Karl Friday elicits, "…he had little demonstrable influence on posterity until modern times." [126]

In medieval Japan, because bushido emphasized obedience above all other aspects of conduct, yet at the same time, remained contractual, where obedience was only required as long as it served the motives of the individual, it gave the individual the freedom of unrestricted action and became a gateway for brutality to occur. [127] The then modern emperor-system also served as a gateway for atrocities to occur if a superior ordered the brutality, or if they contributed to victory. uted to victory. The same type of flexibility and nebulous regard for martial ethics is apparent in the text, Captives of War, written by Japanese historian, Hasegawa Shin (1884-1963). The text focuses on the POWs in the Sino-Japanese War and in the Russo-Japanese War. As a witness to the Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, and World War II, Hasegawa concluded that the Japanese treatment of prisoners of war in each conflict remained varied, reflecting the varied attitude to the captured. [128] The explanation for the flexibility in such treatment is because the fate of the POWs in each war was based upon Japanese strategic, political, and economic, convenience instead of international regulations governing the treatment of POWs. [129] According to Hasegawa, during the Sino-Japanese War, brutality towards enemy combatants was classified as retaliatory, and during the Russo-Japanese War, cruelty towards enemy combatants was indiscriminate, and in World War II, Japanese brutality was systematic and preemptive. I would argue that the flexibility innate to the modern Japanese way of war has an established parallel in the way that the samurai dealt with their prisoners in medieval Japan when the fate of an individual bushi was left up to the circumstances of his capture.

The treatment of Russian POWs in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), in comparison to the treatment of Allied soldiers in World War II, and in comparison to the treatment of both combatants and noncombatants in the first Sino-Japanese War, and the quarter, or lack of that, each received was vastly different. The Russo-Japanese War was the only conflict that modern Japanese military forces had fought in which they had prepared an abundance of POW camps. During the Russo-Japanese War, according to official conclusions, the Japanese treatment of POWs followed the policies outlined in the 1894 provision, "Regulations Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land." The way in which the Japanese military treated Russian POWs during the Russo-Japanese War went against the Japanese martial culture, in which "…the custom of capturing and holding large quantities of POWs had not developed." [130] According to Geo, B. Davis, in The Prisoner of War, "The Hague Treaty requires that each prisoner of war shall receive the same quarters, rations, and other similar allowances to which enlisted men are entitled in the army of the captor." [131] The fundamental weakness of the Hague Convention's allocation of resources for enemy POWs was that it could not take into full measure, the plausible cultural differences between two belligerents, and therefore, their interpretation, of an "adequate" ration.

In the Russo-Japanese War, the Russian soldiers received rations from their own military that differed vastly in both quantity and nutritional value from the rations the Japanese enlisted received from their military. Russian captives who did not have adequate medical treatment, shelter, or rations presented valid concerns. [132] I would argue that, the treatment accorded to Russian POWs, and the random distribution of rations, medical supplies, and uncertainty of housing, all served to lower the morale of the Russian soldiers and was a form of cruelty in the form of unpredictable negligence. Whether the denial of necessities was deliberate or a factor of happenstance, its function still had the same effect of diminishing the fighting capacity of the Russians. In spite of prepared camps, the Japanese military did not have a consistent distribution system of food or medical supplies. dical supplies.

The preamble of the Hague Convention (1907), states: "the powers declared, realizing that it was not possible at the time to concert regulations covering all circumstances that might arise in practice, that they did not intend that unforeseen cases should be left to the arbitrary judgment of military commanders. Until a more complete code should be issued, in cases which had specifically not been dealt with in the Regulations, the belligerents remain under the protection and principles of the laws of nations as they resulted from the usages of civilized peoples, the laws of humanity, and the dictate of public conscience." [133] The actions and conduct of the Japanese military in World War II were subject to criticism because the Japanese had participated in the 1907 Hague Convention. It was therefore useless for the defendants at the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, held from 1946-1948, to allege that because they had not ratified the 1929 Geneva Prisoner of War Convention, they were not obligated to treat their prisoners properly. [134]

It is logical to deduce that pressure exerted from international agreements or even sweeping changes made from current reforms did little to mitigate an established cultural perception of military strength and authority. For diplomatic reasons, Japan agreed to sign the Hague Treaty as well as the other contracts but these motives were a reflection of the strategic and political goals of the government in power. They were not a reflection of a changing political attitude in Japan. Foreign countries sought to place restrictions and defined parameters upon the treatment of prisoners of war despite who the enemy was and despite who the political leader was at the time. These rules conflicted with the flexibility innate to the Code of Bushido, which had been in place in Japan since the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Historians have shown little sign of questioning what the Japanese motive was in treating POWs relatively humanely during the Russo-Japanese War. Their motive for tolerance of enemy POWs in the Russo-Japanese War was political power and acknowledgement by the Great Powers that they were a civilized nation. Thus, it is legitimate to argue that the Russo-Japanese War was a watershed in international relations. Japanese treatment of POWs in the Russo-Japanese War was unique and isolated.

The concept of "individual rights" in Japan was a foreign concept and in its place was a collective mentality where the individual carried out his responsibilities for the greater welfare of the state. The Japanese populace was less concerned with individual rights and was more concerned with concepts such as duty and loyalty to the state in the form of collective duty or responsibility. While this mentality was not a particularly modern concept for the Japanese, it did develop into a highly organized structure of governance during the Meji Restoration. The Restoration occurred in 1867, but the Meji Constitution was not promulgated until February, 1889. The Constitution was a collective body of civil law, commercial law, civil procedure, criminal procedure, and criminal law. The Meji Constitution imposed a body of laws on society in which, importantly, a demand for such laws had not developed from the society itself. Consequently, the understanding of moral conduct according to the populace and codified law remained blurred. Instead, the organization of the Meji Constitution, while acknowledging societies' political or civil rights, was designed so that the government could override legislation protecting human rights for the greater welfare of the state. [135]

A collective sense of trust and fealty was placed in superior elements while a concept such as "individual rights" was judged as destructive and egocentric. The principles of common duty to ones nation and responsibility overrode notions of personal rights or more importantly, accountability for one's actions. Moral conduct or ethics in Japan were measured in terms of how well they matched the emperor's wishes instead of stemming from a collective cultural base. Japanese soldiers did not contemplate their own individual treatment, which made it counterintuitive to contemplate humanity towards POWs. While this mentality was not a particularly modern concept for the Japanese, it developed into a highly organized structure of governance during the Meji Restoration.

The Meji Restoration was put into effect as the power of the Tokugawa forces had collapsed in 1868. This period had a transformative affect on the Japanese social structure in that, the status of the emperor came to embody nationalism and unity. With the establishment of the Meji Restoration, measures were taken to revive Japan's indigenous religion of Shinto. State-Shinto became a way to unify Japan. Much like Confucian China, the emperor was viewed as a conduit between the Sun goddess, Amaterasu, and those on earth. [136] The inherent flexibility of the Japanese view of just war is also apparent in the Japanese rationale for the beating of Allied POWs during World War II. Lord Russell of Liverpool's, Knights of Bushido stated, "During the war, the Japanese Prisoner of War Regulations were amended so as to permit an escaping prisoner to be punished in the same way as a deserter from the Japanese Army." [137]

In Hidden Horrors, Yuki Tanaka's inductive logic is invalid. While presenting the discrepancy between the treatment of enemy POWs in the first Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War in comparison to World War II, he assumed that the Japanese were tolerant of the Chinese and later the Russians for reasons relating to humanity and compassion and respect for human life. He does not take into account that the Japanese did not view an individual's importance with the same regard as did Western civilization. The Meji Constitution makes this perfectly clear. It would therefore be illogical to assume that within the period of one generation and the accession of the Meji Restoration that the new belief in the importance of individual rights superseded centuries of values that espoused the opposite. Tanaka was also guided by inductive logic in concluding that the Japanese treated enemy combatants with tolerance until the World War II era out of humanity. He does not consider the possibility that the Japanese considered it to be politically and strategically advantageous for them to treat the enemy with respect. [138]

By the turn of the twentieth century, Japan had not become a First World military power but was instead still a weak martial power seeking political advancement. After Japan defeated Russia in 1905, however, the Western powers acknowledged the expansionist and military potential of the Japanese Empire. It would have been strategically and politically disadvantageous for the Japanese to use similar types of brutality (preemptive or systematic) against foreign belligerents in the early twentieth century that the Japanese military did in World War II. The plausibility of countries, including Japan's ally since 1902, Great Britain, and the United States, isolating the Japanese would have been too great had the Japanese implemented a policy of systematic or preemptive brutality during the first Sino-Japanese War or during the Russo-Japanese War. so-Japanese War. There is irony in the way that the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II embraced Bushido: The Soul of Japan for two reasons. Firstly, Nitobe Inazo was a civilian, and by Japan's societal structure of military supremacy of civil society, it is ironic that his view would have been given any merit. Secondly, his religious denomination (Christianity) had only gained cursory acceptance in Japan in the 1850s.

In 1871, the samurai class was officially disbanded, and with it, so was the feudal structure of the empire. Modern bushido unified the Japanese nation and inculcated the same characteristics in every tier of the new conscript army. In the Tokuho, (Soldiers Code) issued in 1872, the Japanese government selectively emphasized certain aspects of the Code of Bushido. The unifying measure, that gave the Japanese a sense of national identity as a whole was The Imperial Rescript to the Military in 1882. "The Rescript proclaimed that bushido should be viewed as a reflection of the whole of the subjects of Japan and that warrior values (loyalty, decorum, courage, faith, and frugality), originally a right of the nobility, should represent all Japanese." [139] The early authors of the samurai tradition would have rejected this new concept specifically because "bushido," as a code of conduct, is what set the nobility apart from the rest of the population of Japan, including the burakumin. [140] The "untouchables," by virtue of their very livelihoods, were considered the least valuable in the hierarchy of Japanese society. [141] Secondly, the institutional and direct relationship between a noble samurai and his lord was vastly different from the abstract relationship being forged between conscripts from all levels of society and a transcendent loyalty to the emperor. [142]

Much like the Imperial Rescript to the Military in 1882, Inazo Nitobe sought to describes key warrior values relatable to the entire Japanese population. Nitobe listed seven distinct virtues that defined the samurai warriors: traits including loyalty, benevolence, honor, courage, rectitude, right, reason, etc. However, in truth, samurai warriors did not adhere to, nor did they have an explicitly well-defined construct of values. Nor was there a set of precepts that they memorized as a code of conduct. [143] Instead, samurai warriors concentrated either on the end goal, which emphasized results and non-attachment or warriors followed another style, which concerned itself more with the motives of actions. More importantly, the entire population of Japan did not adhere to a single code of ethics. [144] ethics. [144] During the Meji Restoration, Arimoto Yamagata was the foremost Japanese soldier responsible for constructing a modern, Western-style, national army in Japan. In 1878, he issued the directive an "Admonition to Soldiers and Sailors," which emphasized the same Confucian traits that the Hagakure did: bravery, loyalty, and obedience. It also criticized compassion towards the enemy because it could be interpreted as a sign of weakness and it subverted absolute loyalty to the emperor. [145]

Yamagata believed in the strength of the trinity: government, army, and people. Yamagata and his supporters argued that any modern nation should be able to radiate military strength provided by the soldiery strength of all citizens. [146] The rural population of Japan saw conscription and the duty of national service as a burden, however, and not an honor, and in extreme circumstances men relied on self-mutilation to evade the call to service. Citizens disliked the idea of conscription because it bled the country dry of able-bodied men drafted for military service. This was wholly different from the environment in which the samurai existed during feudal Japan where their action and their barbarity was uncontrollable and where military service reflected one's station in society. on in society.

The expansion and modernization of the Japanese military through conscription strained the moral integrity of its reputation. Conscription in the latter half of the nineteenth century included recruiting the "untouchables," who were the rabble of society and adjudged mentally inferior to the warrior nobility. Conscription became a turning point in the effect that it had on the Code of Bushido and therefore on the Japanese Imperial Army; it took away the notion of the noble warrior and it forced unwilling men into combat. This went against the principles of honor, courage, or valor that the Code upheld as its main pillars. Japan resorted to conscription and a national modern military to gain recognition as a legitimate martial entity. Conscription equated massive military training and propaganda. How-ever, the training of the military was very brutal. After military service fell out of favor due to reports of atrocities committed by superior officers towards lower ranking officers, the military resorted to utilizing the tenants of loyalty and obedience of the Hagaukure. Ironically, the World War II generation built its structure upon these same ideals. What made their usage so ironic was that Yamamoto Tsunetomo had specifically sought to describe a behavioral ideal for a warrior elite and not a construct for citizens representing every tier of society.

The Japanese soldiers of the World War II generation were inculcated with the mentality that the most honorable action in a losing battle was to perish fighting, or to charge the enemy in a suicidal banzai charge, instead of surrendering to the enemy. The noblest deed that a modern Japanese warrior could accomplish was to sacrifice his life in battle for the emperor and therefore surrender to the enemy was an act of dishonor. [147] honor. [147]

The modern Japanese admonition that forbade surrender was a way for Japan to compensate for its lack of manpower resources. During World War II in the Pacific, small contingents of Japanese soldiers were able to drain the manpower resources of the Allies because the Japanese were willing to fight to the last man. If they had surrendered though, it would free up enemy troops to be used elsewhere. [148] This also pertains to why the Japanese did not ratify the 1929 Geneva Convention concerning the treatment of POWs. Because Japanese soldiers would not surrender, they considered it a unilateral agreement and saw no need to agree on such terms. When the Japanese ministry agreed to the terms of the Geneva Convention mutatis mutandis, for them it meant 'we shall apply it with any necessary amendments: not, we shall apply its terms strictly.' [149] One can easily see that the Japanese goal of creating a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere did not match the qualitative amount of manpower that Japan had in order to fulfill it. The country had far too few soldiers to accomplish the goal of the "unification of the eight corners of the World under one roof" or hakko ichiu. [150]

In Japan, Inazo Nitobe's work stimulated a great popular interest in bushido and his ideas were built upon by other Japanese authors and were even linked to national defense capabilities. After World War I, in July, 1918, after witnessing the power of the mass mobilization of the civilian and military components of society to secure ultimate victory, General Giichi Tanaka of the Imperial Military Reservist Association stated, " The outcome of wars in the future will not be determined by the strongest army, but by the strongest populace.." World War I witnessed the mobilization of entire nations, which fought a war of attrition. [151] The national fervor ignited by World War I, though, had little effect on the Japanese populace. Ironically, the Japanese military lost support during this era. Although Japan had to compete with the World Powers as a legitimate military power, Japan could not shirk the stigma of the belief in a hierarchal structure. The participation of the "untouchables" in the military led to resentment by the officer corps. After World War I, public support in Japan turned against the Japanese Imperial Army due to unsubstantiated rumors of atrocities. The brutality was not against the POWs, instead it was the brutality of the Japanese officers on their non-commissioned officers and the NCOs on their soldiers. [152] That in turn, made the Japanese soldier very ferocious, motivating him to take his aggression out on the enemy. In the hierarchy of human importance, a POW was considered the lowest form of human life and at the bottom rung of the ladder. f the ladder.

It is not clear whether the Japanese believed that soldiers of lesser ranks were mentally inferior, and therefore incapable of making complex moral and ethical decisions in a wartime situation. It is clear though, that the twin influences of Confucianism and Shinto created a negative effect on the Japanese Imperial Army. The Confucian notion of hierarchy inculcated a sense of dominance in each tier of the Japanese military. Subordinate ranks were not treated with the same reverence and respect that their superiors demanded. Nor were they taught the same ethical considerations with which officers were instructed. Within such an authority-based system of morality, the worth of individuals was conceived of in terms of their proximity to the emperor. Despite the fact that the Constitution ostensibly guaranteed equality to citizens beneath the emperor, the everyday reality was that those who carried out his wishes represented the most worthy and valuable citizens.

It is known that during World War II, as the Allies began to win the war, senior Japanese officers and prison guards began to fear retribution from the Allied powers and apologized for prior cruelty directed at the Allied POWs. [153] Fifty years earlier, it is highly possible that Japan used restraint after the Port Arthur incident because of suspected retribution by a Western power since they also had vital interests in China.

During World War II, Japanese soldiers argued, "It was impossible for the laws of war, established in peace, to operate once war has started. There is no way for human beings caught in it to avoid doing cruel things." [154] Realistically, the Japanese military perceived the Allied POWs to be arrogant as if they felt that they were a superior race. The perception of such rebelliousness angered the Japanese prison guards. The Allied POWs did not capitulate mentally and accept their roles as inferior prisoners caught by their superior enemy, but instead remained scornful and defiant towards the Japanese.

In World War II, General Tojo issued an order to the commandants of the prisoner of war camps that was reminiscent of Inazo's teaching about the danger of excess humanity towards an enemy. In the letter, Tojo made it clear that while the Japanese should make every effort to abide by the laws of humanity, the prison guards should not become overly obsessed with the notion of humanitarianism nor swayed by personal feelings towards the prisoners. Such an attachment could thoroughly call into question the disciplinary reputation of the Japanese military. [155] According to one of the prison guards, "We were warned against indulging in indiscriminate charity, without seasoning it with justice and rectitude." [156]

The Japanese command structure was lacking in that individual officers and company commanders were allowed to carry out their own will, without the oversight of a greater authority. The assurances made by General Homma and his two officers to the prisoners concerning humane treatment did not matter. Even though the instructions may have been passed down through the rank-and-file, the individual Japanese appeared to have an insatiable barbaric appetite that bordered on inhumanity and sadism.

Propaganda and staged demonstrations were disseminated throughout the Japanese newspapers and through films that displayed the excellent treatment of Allied POWs. During World War II, British, Dutch, and Australian POWs were forced to act in these films against the backdrop of beautiful libraries for the POWs, modern hospital care, and stocked kitchens supplied with food for the captured men. [157] Whenever the Japanese disseminated deceitful propaganda eliciting the humane treatment of the enemy, Allied forces rejected such fallacious sentiments. From the very outset of the war until Japan's unconditional surrender, the murder, torture, and willful neglect of POWs continued unceasingly. Those who knew of these crimes and those who committed them never anticipated that Japan would be defeated. Once defeat was apparent, a systematic attempt was made to destroy all evidence pointing to cruelty directed at the Allied POWs. In 1946, the official report, Prisoner of War Information Bureau of Operations, concluded that at the outset of the Pacific War, fifty officers staffed the Japanese Prisoner of War Information Bureau. These included an executive, four administrators, and twenty officers. The size of the staff was not increased until the Japanese government realized in 1944 and in 1945 that they would most likely face surrender. In 1941, fifty personnel staffed the Bureau while in 1945 the Bureau contained 117 staff officers. The number of staff was increased as a direct result from fear of Allied reprisals against Japan's treatment of POWs. [158]

The Japanese have denied such action in World War II because World War II it is the first war that the Japanese have lost in two thousand years and thus, their actions and behaviors have only been judged from the perspective of what was effective. Because they have established a premise of just war, their honor, valor, and virtue have been maintained. Yet for them, their action was just because it was effective, not because it was moral. The loss of World War II was the first time that their actions and decisions had been called into question as being dishonorable and immoral by a superior foe.

Japan has repudiated the claims of torture and brutality in World War II because historical truth and objectivity have been judged as destabilizing factors to the foundations of honor, reputation, and the notion of "saving face." The Japanese did not ever develop their own concrete corpus of thought pertaining to just warfare but instead adapted the Confucian Chinese philosophies. The effect of such flexibility was further demonstrated to a varied degree in the twentieth century when the Japanese government applied the terms of the Geneva Convention (1929) mutatis mutandis.

In answering my initial question, 'Why have the Japanese denied their actions against the POWs in World War II?,' my conclusion is that if the Japanese had won World War II, they would not have denied their actions because they would have been defended from the purview of fulfilling a just war. Because the Japanese lost the war though, their behavior and their action within the war, which did not lead to victory, became too shameful to record. Many Japanese servicemen, even directly after the war, did not understand the alleged brutality of their actions nor did they understand the concept of individual responsibility. The statement, "Because the Japanese Military Forces are under strict discipline…originating from the emperor, the primary duty of every man is absolute submission to an order. Among thousands of Japanese servicemen, has there ever been one person who thought that he could be charged with his own acts which he has committed pursuant to an order? It is beyond the understanding of the Japanese that such things could be penalized," reflects the disbelief of many Japanese servicemen that their own actions were wrong. [159] Responsibility for any cruelty thus emanated down the hierarchy of command from the emperor, and the morality of the action itself could not be considered when carrying out orders. If the systematic brutality used against Allied POWs had been a principle desideratum, contributing to Japanese victory in World War II, it would have fallen within the same formula of fulfilling the means to the end and Shido as their action at Port Arthur had been judged as acceptable. Defeat in World War II made these actions and decisions unjust and not worthy of recording but instead worthy of denying.

According to G. Cameron Hurst's discussion of Bushido, the Japanese attack on Port Arthur would typify what he defined as Shido taught by neo-Confucian thinkers, which was concerned with results. The neo-Confucian view of Bushido was demonstrated explicitly by the words of a professor at Tokyo University, Fujioka Nobukatsu. He stated that Japan's motive to secure the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" was a just motive making any action to secure it, virtuous by default. [160] To achieve a systematic plan of a 'Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere' necessitated dedication and loyalty from the soldiers that focused solely on the ending transcendent moral imperatives and not the questionable nature by which they got there.

To empirically state that the Russian POWs during the Russo-Japanese War, were treated more humanely than the Allied POWs in World War II is inaccurate. Such is the case because the two cases have not been judged according to the exact same criteria. Current evidence is lacking in regards to any available documentation pertaining to the treatment of the Russian POWs en route to the POW camps to compare it to the treatment of Allied POWs en route to the POW camps as in the Bataan Death March. How did the Japanese miscalculate the number of surrendered soldiers so drastically? Is this because of the inefficiency of the POW Management Office? There is also the possibility that it was burdensome for the Japanese soldiers to guard Allied POWs and that the Japanese guards preferred to torture and then execute them instead as in the first Sino-Japanese War. no-Japanese War.

Traditionally, Japanese warriors were virtually never merciful, in the modern understanding of the term. The concept of mercy did not develop internally in Japan but instead was a Confucian virtue inherited from the Chinese, and was often included in early modern treatises on proper warrior behavior, i.e. the Code of Bushido. However, one would be very hard-pressed to identify a single incident in which it was put into practice. In stories and incidents in which warriors sparred either, there are always very clear ulterior/practical motives for doing so. [161] In modern Japan, any instances in which the Japanese used self-restraint or benevolence towards an enemy, there were strategic and political motives precipitating such behavior. [162] Once this goal was attained, as well as a substantial military powerbase, mercy and benevolence towards the enemy turned into weakness.

The Code of Bushido was not a concrete set of martial ethics subject to corruption but instead was a vague set of characteristics meant for the warrior nobility during Japan's Age of Peace. Since there was more than one author who wrote on bushido, as a construct, it could be interpreted in several ways. Yet the precepts of bushido were unwritten and were variable according to the current strategic and political situation. Although the Japanese did distinguish between right and wrong, the demands of a specific situation could easily override the distinction between right and wrong. Within this context, combined with the lack of an overriding moral authority, individual conscience became irrelevant. In conclusion, the Japanese treatment of POWs has been indiscriminate throughout the pre-modern and the modern age because of the combined influence of the flexibility of the Code of Bushido and their view of just warfare. Yet, the conduct of the Japanese in each modern war until World War II in which the Japanese fought, would be considered just and virtuous because it led to a Japanese victory. In medieval Japan, the fate of individual POWs varied according to the individual case and circumstance of capture. As the frequency and severity of war escalated, however, POWs became uniformly viewed as liabilities, with most of the captured soldiers being interrogated, tortured for information, and lastly, executed. The varied treatment accorded to surrendered or captured enemy soldiers was a direct effect of the flexibility innate to the Code of Bushido. Because a current authority or emperor was judged as divine, the policy dictated during his rule could not be questioned or overridden by a higher aesthetic moral or political authority. All military action undertaken by the pre-modern Japanese martial forces and the modern Japanese forces operated through the attitude that the means justify the end. By default, within this environment, Japanese action in World War II could not have been a corruption of the Code of Bushido because the code itself was developed and written about over a period of centuries by a number of Japanese authors who served the current strategic and political goals of the government in power at the time.

The restraint shown by the Japanese in both the first Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War was purely to gain acceptance into the International community. However, it was apparent as early as the first Sino-Japanese War that the Japanese preferred to kill the enemy instead of to aid them, therein diminishing their own supply lines or military capability. It was only after the Japanese came under harsh scrutiny by Western nations for their action at Port Arthur in 1894 that they began to capture and hold Chinese POWs (and even then, they took a very small percentage of the actual enemy combatants). By World War II, Japan had become an international martial power, unconcerned with retaliation by foreign powers for their treatment of POWs. Because the goal of creating a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" was not accomplished and the Japanese suffered defeat at the hands of a greater martial power, they have obdurately denied any brutality during World War II because it was an unjust war. If Japanese military conduct in World War II truly was a corruption of a greater rigid code of moral and ethical values, one would think that the government would seek to purge themselves of this stigma, admit the scale of their brutality, and more importantly, publish truthful accounts of World War II in Japanese history textbooks. That the Japanese government has sought to deny their actions in World War II and, secondly, teach false history only lends credence to the belief that the notion of just and unjust war is still prevalent with the Japanese culture. For over the past sixty year, since the end of World War II, the Japanese government has either been ashamed the actions of its military during the World War II era or that these actions did not lead to ultimate victory and in the Confucian scheme of just war were just by default. "The success of any military venture was in itself, proof that the campaign had been in accord with the cosmic order and was therefore right and just." [163]

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Copyright © 2009 Holly Senatore

Written by Holly Senatore. If you have questions or comments on this article, please contact Holly Senatore at:

About the author:
Holly Senatore was born and raised in San Francisco, California in a military household. Her goal is to teach U.S. Naval History or Modern Japanese Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD after she finishes her PhD in History. She has always had a passion for World War II in the PAC theater and in recent years, that interest has expanded to include relations between America and Japan since the mid-nineteenth century.

Published online: 03/29/2009.
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