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Remembered Today:

What Are We To Do With Them?


Jack Marquardt

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Jack Marquardt

In stark contrast to the often brutal mistreatment of Allied POWs by the Japanese in World War Two, the treatment of those who surrendered during the First World War at the German naval base of Tsingtao in China and on the German island colonies throughout the Pacific was an unparalleled model of humanity.  The primary reason for this being that Germany was a nation with which Japan had maintained extremely friendly relations since 1861, and whose people they greatly admired and respected.  Moreover, much of Japan’s dramatic modernization during the Meiji Era (1868-1912) was founded on German (i.e., Prussian) models.  These included Japan’s parliamentary form of government headed by a hereditary monarch, its national constitution, legal system and the systems of medicine and higher education.

 

Japan’s military was also greatly influenced by Germany.  At the start of the Meiji Era in 1868, the Imperial Army had initially turned to France as is role model but after France’s defeat two years later in the Franco-Prussian War, the Japanese military began to look towards Germany for its organization, training and tactics.  Major General Jacob Meckel was sent to Tokyo in 1885 and spent three years as an advisor to the Japanese General Staff, as well as an instructor at the Army War College.  Meckel had great influence on Japan’s rising military leaders and after his death in 1906, a bronze stature of him was erected at the War College.

 

Naval affairs were quite a different matter though.  Japan’s first modern warship was the former Confederate ironclad “CSS Stonewall” which it purchased from the United States following America’s War Between the States.  By the end of the Nineteenth Century, however, the Imperial Navy realized that newer and much more powerful types of battleships were required.  For this, Japan turned to Great Britain where, from 1900 to 1906, eight formidable battleships, including the flagship “Mikasa,” were built at British shipyards and their crews trained by British officers.  Therefore, Japan’s naval policies, politics and tactics up to the start of the Great War were were strongly influenced by the British.  It was also the British Admiralty under Winston Churchill that was in large part responsible for persuading Japan to help the Allies take action against the German Pacific Fleet.  At the time of World War One, the almost autonomous Imperial Navy was far more powerful politically than the Army.   For two decades the Navy had been the virtual ruler over Japans’s possession Formosa and was most eager to establish additional bases on China’s Shandong Peninsula, as well as on Germany’s string of island colonies.

 

Badly outnumbered, the war in Asia ended quickly for the Central Powers, with less than a thousand killed in action on both sides and almost five thousand prisoners of war, mainly German, brought to Japan for internment at twelve camps throughout the country.  One of the shining examples of humane treatment was Camp Bando in Tokushima Prefecture on Japan’s fourth major island of Shikoku where over a thousand prisoners were held.  There, under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Toyohisa Matsue, the well-treated Germans were able to set up a bakery and a sausage factory, as well as organize an orchestra that performed concerts for the local residents.  These included the first Asian performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,  a piece that has since become a New Year’s tradition in Japan.  The prisoners also interacted with the area residents in various ways, were allowed to swim in the nearby sea and were even taken on tours to other parts of Japan.   

 

After the War most of the Germans returned home, but a number married Japanese and remained in the country to start their own businesses.  At the end of  World War Two, when I was with the U. S. Military Police in Tokyo during the Occupation,  I met a few of those former German POWs.  One was Helmuth Ketel, a signalman aboard the cruiser “Emden,”  who opened a German restaurant in the Ginza area of Tokyo in 1927 that was run by his family until 2006.  Another was August Lohmeyer, a petty officer on a river gunboat at Tsingtao, who also opened a restaurant in Tokyo, as well as a meat processing business, both of which are still in operation.  A third was Karl Juchheim who had gone to Tsingtao as a civilian in 1909 to establish a bakery and restaurant.  After his capture and release, Juchheim set up similar enterprises in Yokohama and Kobe . . . and his brand of baumkuchen is still a popular favorite in Japan.  A distant relative of mine who returned to Germany after the War, Emil Marquardt from East Prussia, had been a Navy yeoman at the Tsingtao base and was interned in the camp at Narashino in Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo.   Like Bando, the Narashino camp also held over a thousand prisoners and was equally noted for its orchestra and the humane treatment of its internees.

 

The moral being that not all in war need be Hell.

 

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  Tow comments on this:

 

1) The Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902.  A defensive alliance, defending primarily aginst the Russians, whereby each power agreed to help protect the other one's interests in China,Korea,etc. From the British point of view this was a realisation that China and the Pacific represented a form of imperial over-reach The subject is well covered by Ian Nish in his book of that name.  The naval aspects of the alliance-and its ending in the early 1920s is again well covered by Arthur Marder in his "Old Friends,New Enemies"

 

2) Treatment of POWs.  A matter highly coloured by 2 factors- the disproportionate amount writtenby officer prisoners and by  film. Officers were not usually required to work, Other Ranks were. Thus, German treatment of British POWs in 1917-1918 was not good- in a counntry of declining foodstuffs-the Potato Winter- and forced labour, then a good many Other Ranks died. The jolly hockey sticks aspect by officers being promoted by such works as "The Tunnlers of Holzminden". Of course, the romanticized notion of  POW treatment has been propagated by "La Grande Illusion" for the Great War and,of course, "The Great Escape" for the second. 

   A good example of differing treatment is that of one of the Central Powers, Bulgaria- British and French POWs from the front at Salonica were well treated-even to the extent of being able to cash cheques on their home back accounts in the UK.  But POWs from the other Balkan states-especially Serbia endured very inhumane treatment- the Great War being a continuation of the rather nasty First and Second Balkan Wars whcih were not marked by much humanity by any participant.

Edited by voltaire60
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2 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

  Tow comments on this:

 

1) The Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902.  A defensive alliance, defending primarily aginst the Russians, whereby each power agreed to help protect the other one's interests in China,Korea,etc. From the British point of view this was a realisation that China and the Pacific represented a form of imperial over-reach The subject is well covered by Ian Nish in his book of that name.  The naval aspects of the alliance-and its ending in the early 1920s is again well covered by Arthur Marder in his "Old Friends,New Enemies"

 

2) Treatment of POWs.  A matter highly coloured by 2 factors- the disproportionate amount writtenby officer prisoners and by  film. Officers were not usually required to work, Other Ranks were. Thus, German treatment of British POWs in 1917-1918 was not good- in a counntry of declining foodstuffs-the Potato Winter- and forced labour, then a good many Other Ranks died. The jolly hockey sticks aspect by officers being promoted by such works as "The Tunnlers of Holzminden". Of course, the romanticized notion of  POW treatment has been propagated by "La Grande Illusion" for the Great War and,of course, "The Great Escape" for the second. 

   A good example of differing treatment is that of one of the Central Powers, Bulgaria- British and French POWs from the front at Salonica were well treated-even to the extent of being able to cash cheques on their home back accounts in the UK.  But POWs from the other Balkan states-especially Serbia endured very inhumane treatment- the Great War being a continuation of the rather nasty First and Second Balkan Wars whcih were not marked by much humanity by any participant.

 

  And a third point-there is a very marked difference in all regimes at war bewteen the treatment of POWs and the treatment of civilians as interned.  There seems to be some mixing of the two concepts in what you write.

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That's fascinating, thanks for posting Jack - it's not a subject I'm familiar with, and it's quite thought-provoking. What a stark contrast to Japanese treatment of prisoners (and civilians) 20-odd years later in WW2, after the development of a Bushido-boosted super-nationalism and militarism.

 

Treatment by rank as well as by nationality seems to have been often differentiated in WW1, as Voltaire60 says - and I suddenly realise I have no idea what the British stance was in these respects. I have read that British PoWs believed the Germans strongly favoured French prisoners at their expense in the early years of the war, on the grounds that the French soldiers were essentially civilians in uniform, but the BEF were mercenaries. My grandfather was a British corporal made PoW by the Germans in 1914; his subsequent treatment, which was in no way unusual, seems to have been harsh enough to give the lie to some of those light-hearted officers' reminiscences of jolly escapades, etc. So it's interesting to learn that NCO/Other Ranks German PoWs appear to have been treated humanely by Japan in WW1, as presumably attested by the likes of Helmuth Ketel staying on in Tokyo after the war.

 

Cheers, Pat.

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Another fascinating read is looking into the Japanese Naval Second Special Squadron based out of Malta that acted as troopship escorts in 1917/18. My own maternal grandfathers troop convoy was escorted by Japanese destroyers as they moved from Egypt to France in 1918. At this time they/we were allies of the highest order. To quote Admiral G.C. Dickens

 
“whereas Italians are inefficient, French are unreliable, Greeks are out of the calculation, and Americans are too far away, the Japanese are excellent, but small in number.” 

 

Popular allies, highly thought of in Malta at the time.

 

Totally out of sync with the later popular view of the derogatory "die before surrender" school of thought that I was taught growing up. That given my own paternal grandmother's brother died on the Burma railway. Have never been able to connect the disparity between the two wars. 

 

Confess I know nothing about the end of the alliance between Britain and Japan in 1921 outside passing remarks I have read on the integration of war prize u-boats into the IJN. Something I should read up on I guess.

 

Regards

Dave

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Jack Marquardt
17 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

 

  And a third point-there is a very marked difference in all regimes at war bewteen the treatment of POWs and the treatment of civilians as interned.  There seems to be some mixing of the two concepts in what you write.

 

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Jack Marquardt

The 1902 treaty did, of course, lay the diplomatic groundwork for Japan’s entry into World War One, but the guiding force behind the pact remained the Imperial Navy.

 

The creator of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in 1902 was Baron Tadasu Hayashi, a well-know Anglophile who had been educated in England and in 1905 became Japan’s first ambassador to the Court of Saint James.  In 1869, Hayashi had served under Admiral Takeaki Enomoto, the founder of the Japanese Imperial Navy, and had maintained close ties with Enomoto when the latter became Navy Minister in 1880.  A decade later, when then Viscount Enomoto was made Foreign Minister, Hayashi was named as his vice-minister.  In 1900, prior to the establishment of the Japanese Embassy in London, Hayashi had been dispatched to Great Britain as minister, and it was during this period that he worked with British foreign secretary Lord Lansdowne to create the initial alliance.  The pact was strengthened and renewed in 1905 while Hayashi was the Japanese ambassador.  Then, in 1911, Ambassador Takaaki Kato, who had previously worked on the original document in London, oversaw the renewal and further expansion of the treaty.  Kato returned to Japan in 1912 to assume his new post as foreign minister and when the war started two years later, he, along with the Navy’s representatives in the cabinet, saw entry into the war on the Allied side as a doorway to Japanese expansion in China and the Pacific.  While others in the cabinet, as well as the group of Japan’s elder statesmen known as “genro,” wished to keep Japan out of the war, the Kato faction prevailed.

 

 

 

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Thanks Jack.

 

Any ideas on how to get a better grounding on the Japanese war contribution ?

 

As per above my primary interest lies in the 2nd Special Squadron but am intrigued with their contribution in general. The Asia contribution in general is hard. I live in China and outside the passing ref's to the Chinese Labour Corps and the Hong Kong and Singapore Battery material is almost non existent.

 

regards

Dave

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Jack Marquardt
On 27/08/2020 at 11:59, Jack Marquardt said:

Dave,

 Perhaps the following May 2017 item in the Japan Times might be of interest to you.

Japan's little-known, but significant, role in World War I

Naval dispatch to aid U.K. in Mediterranean proved to be a lifesaver

  • A World War I-era photograph from Malta's National War Museum shows Imperial Japanese Navy officers sitting on a beach on the island in the Mediterranean Sea. | KYODO A World War I-era photograph from Malta's National War Museum shows Imperial Japanese Navy officers sitting on a beach on the island in the Mediterranean Sea. | KYODO
  •  
  •  
  • May 9, 2017

OSAKA – In the midst of debates about whether the Self-Defense Forces should be dispatched to the far corners of the globe to assist a military alliance partner, an obscure episode involving the Imperial Japanese Navy a century ago in the Mediterranean Sea offers key lessons for today’s politicians, bureaucrats and military leaders.

In August 1914 at the outbreak of World War I, Japan, deciding to honor the terms of its 1902 alliance with Great Britain, declared war on Germany despite deep misgivings among many in the government and army, who felt Germany would prevail. The war in Europe quickly became a stalemate along the Western Front, with both sides dug into trenches, unable to achieve a decisive victory.

By spring 1917, in a war that European politicians originally thought would be over by Christmas 1914, millions had died and there was no end in sight. In Japan, however, what was then called the “Great War” barely registered with the public. Japan had captured the German colony of Tsingtao, in China, in autumn 1914 and had chased the German East Asiatic Squadron out of the Pacific Ocean. The Imperial Japanese Navy had patrolled the South China Sea and had gone as far as the Indian Ocean, but there were no more major battles.

Japan had not sent troops to the Western Front and had not yet sent the navy as far as Europe. That, however, changed in April 1917. After Great Britain requested more assistance, Japan decided to initially send eight (and eventually 14) destroyers and a flagship cruiser to assist British ships in the Mediterranean Sea.

This task force, named the Second Special Squadron, was based at Malta. Its main mission was to escort British ships traveling between Marseille, France, and Malta; Taranto, Italy, and Malta; and Alexandria, Egypt, and Malta to protect them from German submarines. U-boats had inflicted heavy losses since the war began and had declared unrestricted warfare in February 1917 (a decision that would help end the neutrality of the United States, which officially declared war against Germany that April). Britain’s Royal Navy was operating in the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, and its resources were stretched thin.

“Initial requests by Great Britain for naval cooperation were often declined,” says Garren Mulloy, a British associate professor at Daito Bunka University and an expert on the history of the Self-Defense Forces. “Requests to coordinate activities with Royal Navy squadrons in the Pacific and South Atlantic appeared to be high risk ventures for the Japanese, and detached from Japanese interests. The eventual 1917 deployment of destroyers was a display of solidarity, and also a concession to constant appeals from the Royal Navy, which was being worn down in escort vessels by the resumed unrestricted U-boat campaign in the North Atlantic.”

The Second Squadron was officially independent but received its duty orders from the British commander at Malta. By the war’s end in November 1918, it had been dispatched on 348 escort missions, escorting 788 Allied warships and transport ships and about 750,000 personnel around the Mediterranean.

During that time the squadron engaged in 34 combat operations and a rescue mission. In his 2015 paper for the National Institute of Defense Studies, Tomoyuki Ishizu notes several episodes. One was when a German U-boat sank the transport ship Transylvania in May 1917. Two Japanese destroyers helped rescue the majority of the 3,300 personnel on board, a feat of bravery that ended with 27 Japanese officers and sailors receiving awards from King George V.

Then there was the sinking of the Japanese destroyer Sakaki by an Austrian U-boat in June 1917 off Crete. A total of 59 were killed, including Cmdr. Taichi Uehara, the ship’s captain. The ship would be salvaged and repaired.

“With these Japanese activities in the Mediterranean, Adm. G.C. Dickens, commander in chief of the British Mediterranean Fleet reported back to the Admiralty that ‘whereas Italians are inefficient, French are unreliable, Greeks are out of the calculation, and Americans are too far away, the Japanese are excellent, but small in number,’ ” Ishizu writes.

The contribution in the Mediterranean a century ago is all but forgotten in Japan. But in Malta, there is a memorial at the Commonwealth War Graves to 78 Japanese sailors who perished, including those from the Sakaki. The site still draws some Japanese visitors, especially people with SDF connections.

The dispatch itself was a minor footnote in the tragedy of World War I. But historians and military experts say that today’s leaders in Japan looking at an expanded role overseas for the SDF can learn much from it.

“The Japanese were highly efficient. But the primary role of destroyers had long been seen as offensive and defensive against large enemy vessels and torpedo boats. Little thought had been given to countering submarines, and the Imperial Japanese Navy made little effort to learn from the bitter British experience in the Mediterranean against U-boat attacks. The navy eventually took on board some Royal Navy anti-submarine warfare practices locally, but these were never absorbed into the Japanese naval doctrine, with tragic results in the Pacific War,” Mulloy says.

From a political point of view, he adds, the lesson is do not give the appearance of not wanting to take part in a military operation and then concede the point after much arm-twisting and delay.

Ishizu also notes that the lessons learned by the navy in the Mediterranean a century ago, especially submarine and anti-submarine warfare, were neither properly learned nor implemented as policy by the navy as a whole.

 

 

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Thanks Jack.

 

Regards

Dave

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