At the end of July 1945, the Allies promised “prompt and utter destruction” if the Japanese failed to surrender. The Japanese military hierarchy decided to call the Allies’ bluff and the result was the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. They were now aware that “prompt and utter destruction” was not an empty threat. Yet, aware of the sufferings and deaths of their own people as a result of the bomb, they still refused to surrender – thus inviting the dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki. They still dug in their heels – and it took the intervention of the emperor Hirohito himself before the surrender was declared.
While it is now accepted that there would have been a loss of many millions of lives if the war had continued and the Japanese mainland invaded, it is generally unknown that plans had been made to execute all PoWs and civilian internees if Japan or any of its territories was invaded.
By the time the bombs were dropped, all the PoWs in North Borneo had been killed and preparations were at an advanced stage elsewhere. Deep ditches had been dug around many of the PoW camps: explosives had been set into mine tunnels and, in some places, PoWs were already occupying extermination camps in remote locations.
My father was one of those PoWs. He weighed just 5½ stones when he was liberated. Over the course of three and a half years, he had been beaten and brutalised and had seen many of his comrades die from starvation, cruelty and overwork. His time as a PoW of the Japanese overshadowed the remainder of his life.
While many said the Japanese should be obliged to pay compensation to the PoWs, he disagreed, saying that no amount of money could make up for what the PoWs had suffered.
As I said, there are two sides to every story.