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January 12, 2010

[SSJ: 6014] Japanese History Group, University of Tokyo (Tue., January 19)

From: Michael Burtscher
Date: 2010/01/08

The next meeting of the Japanese History Group (JHG) at the Institute of Social Science (ISS), University of Tokyo, will be held on Tuesday, January 19 at 6:00 PM in Conference Room 1 (Dai-ichi kaigishitsu) of the Institute of Social Science Building.

Presenter: Euan McKAY (Ph.D. Candidate, University of

Title: Allied Use of Japanese Surrendered Personnel in Post-war South East Asia, 1945-1947

Discussant: Tomoki KUNIYOSHI (Associate Professor, Waseda University)

There were more than five million Japanese troops overseas at the end of World War Two, and lack of shipping, destruction of infrastructure, instability and the emergence of cold war tensions ensured that it would be some time before many of them would return to Japan. Instead of becoming prisoners of war (POWs), they were termed Japanese Surrendered Personnel (JSP) and denied the rights accruing to POWs under international law.

Rather than being repatriated immediately, about 80,000 JSP were interned by the British in South East Asia until the end of 1947, 13,500 by the Dutch in the Netherlands East Indies until May 1947, and 80,000 by the Americans in the Philippines until December 1946. They were used as labour on a range of works projects connected with food production, infrastructure rehabilitation and military construction and removal of wartime military infrastructure.

My research focuses on the JSP held by the British, mostly in Malaya and Burma, but also on those held by the Dutch, largely in Java. I have conducted interviews with former JSP held by the British and the Dutch, and examined both British and Japanese government and private documents, and American and Australian government documents that are available online.

Initial planning for the war in Asia did not foresee the sudden capitulation of the Japanese after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but rather a gradual recovery of the Asian colonies by force of arms. Japanese troops were to be repatriated as soon as possible, as they were seen as a destabilising factor. However, at the conclusion of the war in Asia and before their repatriation, the Allied powers all made extensive use of the JSP in general work. There was also a precedent in the Allied decision to use German troops in Europe as reparations labour. Their usefulness and cooperative attitude, the Japanese treatment of Allied POWs and racial attitudes towards the Japanese, as well as their status as JSP instead of POW, all conspired to indicate to the Allies the utility and desirability of the JSP as a labour force. It is against this background that the British made the decision to employ the JSP.

In this presentation, I will focus on the decision to keep Japanese troops in South East Asia, and outline the discussions that took place between Britain, America and Japan concerning the repatriation of the JSP. I will also summarise the conditions of the JSP in South East Asia.

6:00 P.M., Tuesday, 19 January 2010.
University of Tokyo (Hongo Campus)
1st floor, Institute of Social Science Bldg.
Conference Room 1 (Dai-ichi kaigishitsu) For directions, please see:

The JHG is a a forum for scholars to present their research on topics related to Japanese history and culture in a bilingual English/Japanese environment. In the interest of promoting dialogue, the forum will provide a discussant chosen for his/her familiarity with the theme or approach of the presenter's research. The JHG is open to the public. For more information, please contact Michael Burtscher (mburtscher@iss.u-tokyo.ac.jp) or Naofumi Nak mura (naofumin@iss.u-tokyo.ac.jp).

Approved by ssjmod at January 12, 2010 02:35 PM