By John Ostapkovich
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Being a prisoner of war can result in great acclaim (as with Senator John McCain) or silent suffering with wounds nobody else can understand. A new book sheds light on some of those latter stories.
Counting the Days by Craig B. Smith follows six people imprisoned during World War II on both sides of the hostilities. While being a Japanese prisoner in US hands was no picnic, he says the rigid “no surrender” mindset of the Japanese Army made their treatment of captives especially tough.
“The early victories the Japanese had in the Pacific War, they were inundated with prisoners, both Allies and Asians. So, these people were considered dishonorable because they had allowed themselves to be captured and had not commited suicide.”
Then, there was the crewman on an ill-fated midget submarine wrecked on its way to attack Pearl Harbor.
“He ended up on the beach in Hawaii, and was arrested by the shore patrol the next day. And then he was the only Japanese prisoner of war we had for the next seven months and then was repatriated to Japan after the end of the war and eventually went on to become president of Toyota/Brazil.”
Smith says the probability of dying in a Japanese POW camp was 10-20 times higher than dying in combat.