This book examines the large ‘outbreak’ by Japanese POWs from the Cowra Camp from a new perspective.
It traces the story of a Japanese junior officer captured in New Guinea who was incarcerated at Cowra. It tells the story of Lieutenant Maseo Naka’s military training, his capture, transport to Australia and imprisonment. His life at Cowra follows, including his court martial for attacking a prison guard. His experience is seen within the context of rising resistance by the POWs leading to their futile escape attempt- less of a breakout than an effort to inflict casualties on their Australian guards as small contribution to the Japanese war effort.
There is little doubt that the moral code adhered to at the time by the Japanese-bushido – had a key influence on soldiers as a whole but particularly on prisoners of war. The shame they felt was enormous. They believed that they were rejected by their families and considered to be dead already. They also expected that, if ever they returned to their homeland, they would be executed.
In a well-researched book, careful attention is paid to the Japanese war ethos and the interrelationships between the prisoners. Apthorpe, the Director of Corporate Services at Cowra Shire, has ferreted out the extensive documentation in archives relating to the camp and the escape and interpreted it most intelligently. His book adds much to the earlier accounts (such as Harry Gordon’s Die Like the Carp! and Hugh Clarke’s Escape to Death). It is soberly and dispassionately written in an easy-to-digest-style. If you are interested in the Cowra escape, this is the book to consult.
Reviewed for RUSIV by Mike O’Brien, September 2019
Contact Royal United Services Institute about this article.