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AAF Prisoners of the Japanese

Japan was not a signatory of the Geneva Convention and so was not bound to humane treatment of prisoners of war (POWs). Furthermore, surrender to an enemy was unacceptable in Japanese military tradition. Consequently, life in a Japanese POW camp was severe. Food was scarce and of poor quality, brutality was common, and medical and dental services were often nonexistent. Only 2,879 of the 5,436 AAF personnel captured by the Japanese were alive at war's end. Of the remaining 2,557, 667 had been killed by air bombardment or shot while trying to escape, 43 had died of wounds or injuries received in combat, and 1,847 had died of non-battle causes such as diseases contracted during captivity. Those imprisoned in Japanese POW camps had few possessions and little desire to remember endless days they had spent as POWs. They kept few souvenirs when they were finally liberated by Allied forces. (U.S. Army and Navy female nurses captured by the Japanese were confined in civilian internee camps rather than POW camps. They endured disease, inadequate food and other hardships, but no apparent brutality.)

Click here to return to the WWII Prisoners of War Overview.