Fergal Keane a senior BBC correspondent said that many Japanese are in denial about the atrocities committed during campaigns in China, Burma and India.Consequently, he said, the teaching of history in the country “profoundly” needs to be changed.
Speaking at the Hay Festival in Thiruvananthapuram, the veteran war reporter said that the Japanese reputation for savage treatment of enemy troops captured alive was well deserved.
“The brutality was not a myth,” he said.
His new book – Road of Bones: The Siege of Kohima 1944 – chronicles a little-remembered battle in India where a tiny number of British and Indian troops managed to repel a much larger Japanese force in what Keane dubs the ‘last great battle of Empire’.
The book catalogues a series of atrocities committed by the Japanese in battles before the siege including beheading enemy troops or tying them to trees and using them for bayonet practice while they were still alive.
“What you have to remember about the Japanese Army in the war was it was an army in which brutalisation existed at every level,” Keane told the audience. “The general slaps the colonel, the colonel slaps the major, the major beats up those under him.
“The idea of compassion or mercy was alien. The idea of surrendering was unheard of.”
It was because of the Japanese reputation for brutality that the British and Indian troops who fought them at Kohima were so desperate not to be captured alive, he said.
“They knew it was either being tied to a tree and bayonetted or sent off for slave labour,” he said, recounting how the fiercest battles were fought over a tennis court, with trenches at either end.
Since the war, Keane said, many Japanese had been unable to confront the truth about what had happened and had chosen to ignore the behaviour of their troops.
Those who took part in war should not be judged too harshly with hindsight for the way they behaved at the time, he suggested. “After all these years in war zones, I tend to be more forgiving,” he said.
The above article sourced from ‘The Telegraph‘