Japanese Atrocities in Malaya

Although I am familiar with the bloody massacre of millions of Chinese by the Japanese during the Japanese occupation of Northern China beginning in the early 1930s, and subsequent seizure of more Chinese territory during World War Two, I was less familiar with this same behavior by Japanese troops in Malaya. Once the Japanese ran the British out, they co-opted a number of the Malays and there wasn’t very much internal resistance to the Japanese by the Malays, according to Freddie Chapman. However, there was a large Chinese population in Malaya and they did resist and suffered terribly for it.

The Chinese throughout Malaya, especially in the country districts, were filled with a most bitter hatred of the Japanese…

Many guerrilla bands sprang up to attack the Japanese. As time went on, most of these groups came to be controlled by the Communist Chinese even though much of their military equipment and training came from the British who had left behind a number of officers to do this. The Chinese guerrilla units conducted active resistance against Japanese including blowing up bridges, rail tracks, rail cars and locomotives, and killing collaborators. If the Japanese military and police simply suspected one or two active guerrillas had come from a specific Chinese village, they exacted bloody retribution. Writes Chapman in The Jungle is Neutral:

The Japanese were in the habit of collecting all the people of a suspected kampong (Chinese village) into one house. They would then give them lectures and afterwards, in their capricious way, either tommy-gun or bayonet them, or let them go free.

The Japanese also would seize entire Chinese families which included everyone from the grandparents to the children, force them to dig a long trench and stand on the ledge. Japanese troops then opened fire and the Chinese toppled into the grave dug by their own hands. Memories of Japanese atrocities still taint the foreign relations of Japan and the nations in which the Japanese Army committed so many heinous crimes.

As much as the Chinese Communists did to make life difficult for the Japanese during their occupation of Malaya, and as many arms as they received from the British, it is an irony of history that shortly after the end of World War Two, the British would fight an eight year long battle with Chinese Communists for control of Malaya in what is known as the “Malay Emergency.” (There is a terrific movie on this era called The Seventh Dawn starring William Holden as a British officer.)

[Source: The Jungle is Neutral: A Soldier’s Two-Year Escape from the Japanese Army by F. Spencer Chapman.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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