Britain’s “Operation Nipoff”
Posted by ampontan on Saturday, March 17, 2007
JAPAN IS repeatedly reminded by the Western media of its sins and brutal behavior during the Second World War. The comfort women story is just the latest of these; the stories of the Nanking Massacre in China and the Bataan Death March in the Philippines have been told for decades.
These were the stories told by the victors. We know some of the stories that have gotten glossed over in the West, such as the one about the Japanese prisoners held in equally brutal conditions in the Soviet Union for 11 years after the war. But what stories have the victors neglected to tell?
Some of the tales are starting to come out now. Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper have just published a book in Britain called Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire. The book is 674 pages long; they must have forgotten a lot of them. For example:
Two years after Japan surrendered in 1945, there were still some 80,000 Japanese prisoners of war in the hands of British South East Asia. General Douglas MacArthur wanted to repatriate them and dissolve Japan’s broken army, but Britain refused. It preferred cheap conscript labour and seemed to enjoy humiliating these legions of the lost. They existed on only half a normal PoW diet; men were routinely forced to kneel and beg their captors for food. Nearly 9,000 of them died of malnutrition or disease. The last remnants of ‘Operation Nipoff’, as it was malignly known, didn’t get home until as late as 1948.
One might try to excuse British behavior by arguing that they were just getting back at the Japanese for the earlier cruelties they suffered. But that is, after all, just an excuse; Japan had been literally flattened and burnt out in defeat and unconditionally surrendered. Revenge and the pound of flesh had already been taken.
Even more remarkable is the book’s tacit admission that despite its utter defeat, Japan managed to attain one of its war objectives:
The core of the Empire that seemed to make Britain great began at the end of the Suez Canal and ran as a gigantic arc through Asia. Japan’s aggression fractured that arc. But in 1945, London wanted to put the old world back together again….It thought we could go back to colonial business as usual. Even Attlee’s sainted government took time to realise that there could be no going back, that years in the shadow or grip of Tokyo control had changed hearts, minds and ambitions forever.
The Japanese started out with the intention of ending the European colonization of Asia (albeit replacing it with their own). Bayly and Harper seem to think they ultimately succeeded in ending European rule. The tragedy for everyone is the means by which that success was achieved.
NOTE: I read this review in the print edition of the Japan Times. It is not online at that site, because it originally appeared in The Observer. The review is available on the website of The Guardian, Britain’s premier newspaper of the Left. Unfortunately, however, the complete text is not on line. The link to The Guardian’s review is here. Please note that the book is about Britain’s involvement with Asia as a whole; there is not much more in the review about Japan specifically.