Journeyman History week 6: Prisoners of War, Rules of War, and Japanese Holdouts

As long as there has been war, there have likely been prisoners of war. Experiences recorded by some of these individuals during the twentieth century give us a look into real life examples of the brutal circumstances and inhumane treatment they endured. Countless soldiers died at the hands of their captors, due to injuries sustained, starvation, mental breakdown, or other challenges.

Recognizing the need to better prepare soldiers for such circumstances, survival training became a bigger focus. Use this link to learn more (see the note after the link before starting). Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training. (Note: this is a long document. The following two sections are required; read more if you choose.

  • Beginning to section titled “A change in focus” (at the bottom of the image on the right with SURVIVIAL in all caps)
  • Scroll down (or use the menu on the left of the page) to locate the section titled “Evasion, Resistance and Escape” (read to “Code of Conduct training levels)

So how did these soldiers cope with their circumstances? Read the following, looking for examples of what may have prepared them or activities they engaged in to deal with these challenges.

The Great Escape

The Bataan POWs

Read or review chapters 19 and 20 of the Young Adult version of Unbroken.

What are the rules of war? What are war crimes? Watch this video and this video to learn about these two concepts.

Familiarize yourself with the history and purpose of the Geneva Conventions with this video. Also, learn about the role of the Red Cross in relation to prisoners of war here.

The poor treatment of prisoners of war during World War II led to updates in the 4th Geneva Convention. Watch this video to learn more.

While this may seem unrelated, learning about the extreme situations can often shed light on some of the challenges we encountered in this conflict.

One of the challenges of war is that of pitting contrasting cultures against each other. Japanese soldiers were steeped in the concept of “bushido” or way of the warrior. In over-simplified terms, this became a mindset that it was better to die honorably in battle or even by suicide than to surrender. Even though Japan formerly surrendered in 1945, a significant number of Japanese holdouts were found, even as much as three decades later, who refused to believe that the war had ended. Learn about two such instances below. What is admirable about these men? Can devotion to a cause be taken too far?

Hiroo Onoda

Shoichi Yokoi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *