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The fall of the West

“It is hard to overstate the trauma suffered by more than 100,000 American, British, Australian and Indian servicemen taken prisoner during the early Allied defeats. They had been conditioned by their culture to suppose that surrender was a misfortune which might befall any fighting man, especially those as poorly led as had been the Allies in the early Far Eastern campaigns, and as lamentably supported by their home governments. As crowds of disarmed personnel milled around awaiting their fate in Manila or Singapore, Hong Kong or Rangoon, they contemplated a life behind barbed wire with dismay, but without the terror which their real prospects merited. ‘In the beginning,’ said Doug Idlett, a twenty-two-year-old USAAF enlisted man from Oklahoma captured in the Philippines, ‘we thought: “A couple of months and our army will be back.” ’ In the weeks which followed, however, as their rations shrank, medicines vanished, and Japanese policy was revealed, they learned differently. Officers and men alike, dispatched to labour in sweating jungles, torrid plains or mines and quarries, grew to understand that, in the eyes of their captors, they had become slaves.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

Published inMax HastingsThe Second World War

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