© The Boston Globe 2001. Used by permission.
The Secret History of World War II
PART III: CALLING JAPAN TO ACCOUNT
by Mark Fritz / Globe Staff / May 31, 2001
Page 4 of 7
Continued from page 3
A spy's-eye view
While the commission has been preoccupied with Nazis, the CIA has been stuffing into the same boxes of declassified Third Reich records hundreds of thousands of pages of raw field reports ripped from the rice paddies of the Pacific war.
A cruise through these Asian archives re-creates an unvarnished, spy's-eye view of a war best known for the humiliating surprise attack that drew America into it and the portentous pair of mushroom clouds that ended it. They show in minute detail how Imperial Japan was almost entirely dependent on forced labor in the nations it occupied, not only to process the raw materials needed to maintain a war machine capable of defending an expanding empire, but to feed its own army and people back home.
One dossier compiled from a visit by Swiss and Swedish envoys to five POW camps in Formosa, now Taiwan, painted a relatively rosy picture. ''Many of these soldiers mainly complained [about] the lack of comfort and scarcity of food,'' wrote the author, an American agent traveling undercover with the fact-finding team. He then quoted an officer who said that enlisted men are chronic complainers. A Japanese colonel told the delegation that the POWs ate as well or better than Japanese troops. An envoy countered that the American standard of living is ''infinitely superior'' to that of the Japanese, so they should eat better than their captors.
Some of the earliest accounts of brutality arrived when Japan and the United States exchanged expatriates in late 1942. The returnees turned out to be enormous intelligence assets for the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA.
Dr. Hugh Robinson, a missionary physician en route from China when the outbreak of war stranded him in the Philippines, told OSS officials in New York that three British men who escaped a prison camp were caught and then abruptly executed.
Before the Americans surrendered the Philippines, some of them hid in the hills and led guerrilla groups that staged raids on Japanese installations. ''Every few weeks the Japanese would capture a few white officers who lead the guerrillas, bring them into the city and make them broadcast over the radio,'' Robinson told the agents. ''They are never seen or heard from again.''
Robinson spoke with US Army nurses who said an Army master sergeant of German extraction was apparently collaborating with the Japanese. The sergeant turned in to the Japanese an American doctor who was withholding drugs from the enemy in order to treat ailing Allied internees. The doctor was seized, bound, and never seen again.
While many veterans paint the enemy with broad strokes, mistreatment clearly varied from guard to guard and location to location. All Allied journalists in Shanghai were imprisoned on the assumption they were spies, Shanghai newspaper editor Frederick Opfer told his OSS debriefers, but abuse was indiscriminate.
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