50 Jap dead for each captive [27 March 1945]

[Editor: An article outlining the problems the Allies faced with the Japanese military’s “No Surrender” creed during World War Two. Published in The Argus, Tuesday 27 March 1945.]

50 Jap dead for each captive

From J. B. Davies, Special Correspondent of The Argus in New York

The Allies are killing 50 Japanese to every prisoner taken in the Pacific fighting, according to latest compilations. In striking contrast, two Germans are surrendering to every one killed.

The unparalleled ratio of Japanese dead to Japanese prisoners is causing concern to Allied military strategists. They are beginning to believe that it may be necessary to kill off virtually all of Japan’s 4 million regular army soldiers before Japan is finally defeated. The Japanese Army’s “No Surrender” creed has cost them over 300,000 killed, but less than 6,000 captured, in the series of decisive battles on the road to Tokyo.

At Buna and Gona (New Guinea) there were 14,000 Japanese killed and no prisoners. In the Marianas and the Palaus 66,000 were killed and about 330 taken prisoner. On Attu 2,500 were killed, but no prisoners. In Luzon and Leyte over 150,000 were killed and about 1,500 prisoners taken. On Iwo Jima the tally was 21,000 killed and about 100 prisoners.

In Burma the British killed 50,000 Japanese and took 600 prisoners.

An astonishingly small percentage of Japanese wounded are picked up after battles. In the American Army the wounded account for 60% of all casualties. But the Japanese wounded falling into Allied hands average less than 2% of the Japanese dead. In many instances bandaged and critically wounded Japanese have been found manning guns in the firing line. In some cases the Japanese have killed their own wounded before evacuating a battlefield. In other cases injured Japanese have blown themselves up to avoid capture.

With very few exceptions, all the Japanese forces encountered so far have lived up to their win or die doctrine. They are taught that they will be rewarded by heaven if they die fighting, and will be disgraced at home and hereafter if they surrender.

Allied strategists do not believe that Japan’s “No Surrender” doctrine will indefinitely prolong the Pacific war. On the small, heavily fortified areas, such as Tarawa and Iwo Jima, the Japanese were able to take heavy toll of the invaders before they were overwhelmed. But in the open areas, where tanks and guns have space to manoeuvre, even vast numbers of fanatical Japanese have not a chance. That was proved on Luzon and Leyte, where the Americans lost only 7,000 killed, compared with 150,000 Japanese killed.

The magazine, United States News, says: “Why so few Japanese are taken prisoner is turning out to be number one question of the Pacific war. If they really prefer death to surrender, and hold to such preference to the last, that war is due to prove one of the bloodiest in history.”

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Tuesday 27 March 1945, page 16

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