‘An End to a War — a Japanese soldier’s experience of the 1945 death marches of North Borneo’ was written by the now deceased Ueno Itsuyoshi. The book includes an introduction by Dick Braithwaite, an Adjunct Professor at Southern Cross University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management.
Professor Braithwaite is the son of one of only six Australian prisoners-of-war (POW) who survived the horrors of the death march from Sandakan to Ranau. After discovering the Japanese memoir he contacted the author’s family and, with help from the University’s Japan-Australian Centre, organised for Mika Reilly to do the translation.
Professor Braithwaite said the book was an important addition to the stories already told about the death marches, which took the lives of 1787 Australian and 641 British POWs. It is also estimated more than 8500 Japanese died in the movement of troops across Borneo.
“It is clear that the most terrible atrocities were visited upon Allied POWs and many local people by the Japanese forces of occupation in northern Borneo,” Professor Braithwaite writes in his introduction.
“We must never forget or sugar-coat what happened. However, I believe it is important for Ueno Itsuyoshi’s memoir to be made available to an English-speaking audience. When we exclusively focus on the terrible things that are visited upon our own people, it is too easy to retain our hatred and hinder our healing from the terrible events of that time.”
Drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1944 at the age of 29, Ueno was sent to northern Borneo at a time when the Japanese army was collapsing. In early 1945, eight Japanese battalions and all the POWs were ordered to march from the eastern side of Borneo to the west.
Ueno provides a detailed account of the death marches and an insight into the workings of the Japanese Army.
“The Japanese military is a strange institution,” Ueno writes. “Once the officers issued an order, whether it was reasonable or not, any objection or opinions raised by the lower ranks were rejected, even if they were more appropriate and practical. That must be how they keep their dignity in the higher ranks. This attitude, which led to the abandoning of emergency rations, reflected the impossibility of the death march.”
His account also provides a glimpse of the difficulties he faced on his return home after the war — an experience shared by many surviving POWs.
In remembering his mother Ueno writes:
“All my purpose in life after coming back from the war was to give her some return for all her great efforts over such a long time. I lost my purpose for living when I lost her. But my terribly war-torn heart was gradually brought back to a normal state because of the need to survive in a ruthless post-war society. Time has overcome the pain. Now, more than forty years has passed since my wartime drama.
“Looking back at my life, I have nothing to say but ‘how cruel war is’.”
The book ‘An End to War’ is published by Opus Publications, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. For information visit www.nhpborneo.com
Photo: Professor Dick Braithwaite at the launch of 'An End to War' in Kota Kinabalu.
Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University, head of Communications and Publications, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.