20 Forgotten Atrocities Committed by the Allies During World War II
20 Forgotten Atrocities Committed by the Allies During World War II

20 Forgotten Atrocities Committed by the Allies During World War II

Steve - October 20, 2018

20 Forgotten Atrocities Committed by the Allies During World War II

A group of 307 Japanese POWs who surrendered during the last 24 hours of the Battle of Okinawa, June 1945. Wikimedia Commons.

2. Allied soldiers often refused to accept the surrender of Japanese troops, instead of engaging in the widespread and unlawful executions of POWs

Whilst the atrocities committed by the Japanese against POWs during the Second World War is common knowledge, the conduct of Allied soldiers towards Japanese prisoners is less so. Due to the horrific nature of the combat which occurred in the Pacific theater, front-line Allied troops grew to intensely hate their Japanese adversaries, which, in conjunction with propaganda exploiting the belief that Allied soldiers got little mercy from the Japanese, resulted in the mass preference to ignore their government’s stated commitments to uphold the Geneva Convention and to execute rather than accept the surrender of Japanese troops; it has also been suggested this was a strategic choice among U.S. senior officers, who “opposed the taking of prisoners on the grounds that it needlessly exposed American troops to risks” from Japanese soldiers feigning surrender to launch suicide attacks.

As a result of this attitude, by late 1944 the ratio of Japanese prisoners to dead reached 1:100 and despite efforts, including an extensive educational program and offers of ice cream by the U.S. military to encourage adherence to international law, at the Battle of Okinawa in April-June 1945 it remained a repeatedly observed practice to refuse quarter. By the end of the war the Japanese Government’s POW Information Bureau estimated just 42,543 Japanese had successfully surrendered to the Allies, contrasted with military deaths amounting to 2.1-2.3 million; to place this figure in context, 93,941 Americans were POWs just under German control in Europe during World War II.

Not isolated to American soldiers, historian Mark Johnson has detailed how “the killing of unarmed Japanese was common” at the hands of Australians fighting in the Pacific. In spite of attempts by Australian military command to take prisoners, “it often proved difficult to prevent [the soldiers] from killing captured Japanese before they could be interrogated” and the 1943 diary of Eddie Stanton, stationed at the time at Goodenough Island, near Papua New Guinea, reported that “Japanese are still being shot all over the place…Nippo soldiers are just so much machine-gun practice”. Major General Paul Cullen subsequently detailed how the killing of Japanese prisoners during the Kokoda Track Campaign was not uncommon, accounting that at the battle of Gorari “the leading platoon captured five or seven Japanese and moved on to the next battle. The next platoon came along and bayoneted these Japanese.”

20 Forgotten Atrocities Committed by the Allies During World War II
A B-29 releases incendiary bombs on Yokohama, May 1945. Wikimedia Commons.

1. The indiscriminate American bombing campaign against mainland Japan resulted in catastrophic civilian casualties and suffering

Whilst Allied air raids on the Japanese home islands were untenable for the majority of the Second World War and limited to small-scale missions such as the Doolittle Raid of April 1942, by mid-1944, with the deployment of the B-29 Superfortress, the strategic bombing campaign begun in earnest; the campaign expanded considerably from February 1945, after the Mariana Islands became available as a launch base for said bombing operations. Designed to soften up mainland Japan for the planned ground invasion, scheduled to begin October 1945, between January 1944 and August 1945 the U.S. dropped 157,000 tons of bombs on Japanese cities.

Whilst responsible for the successful annihilation of Japanese industrial output, crippling an already diminished armament production, the bombing campaign was also responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. An estimated 300,000-900,000 civilians were killed in U.S. bombing raids on Japanese mainland cities, a figure including the nuclear bombings which this author believes should be regarded as a separate issue to the wider bombing campaign. Moreover, the use of incendiaries, such as napalm, resulted in catastrophic and lasting damage to the targeted cities, with approximately 40 percent of the urban areas of the 66 cities subjected to Allied bombing destroyed and resulting in 15 million Japanese homeless from a population of 70 million.

Worthy of particular mention as a singular atrocity, the firebombing of Tokyo on March 9, 1945, far surpasses the more infamous bombing of Dresden a month prior. Dropping napalm combined with petroleum jelly, the raid resulted in the destruction of more than 40 square kilometers of the capital city and the deaths of more than 100,000 civilians; some of these victims were literally melted by the resultant inferno, with General LeMay later remarking that had the Allies lost the war he would have been charged with war crimes for authorizing the operation.

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“A Terrible Revenge”, Alfred De Zayas, St. Martin’s Press (1994)

“Orderly And Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War”, R.M. Douglas, Yale University Press (2012)

“We Were Each Other’s Prisoners: An Oral History of World War II American and German Prisoners of War”, Lewis Carlson, Basic Books (1998)

“Midnight Massacre”, Time Magazine (July 23, 1945)

“The Marquis: A History of the French Resistance Movement”, Claude Chambard, Bobbs Merrill Company (1976)

“In Search of the Marquis”, H.R. Kedward, Clarendon Press (1993)

“The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemunde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era”, Michael Neufeld, The Free Press (1994)

“Target America: Hitler’s Plan to Attack the United States”, James Duffy, Greenwood (2004)

“REFUGEES”, Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.



“Malmedy Massacre”, Richard Gallagher, Paperback Library (1964)

“The Secret Betrayal”, Nikolai Tolstoy, Charles Scribner’s Sons (1977)

“Soldiers of Misfortune: Washington’s Secret Betrayal of American POWs in the Soviet Union”, James Sanders, Mark Sauter, Cart Kirkwood”, National Press Books (1994)

“Mask of Treachery”, John Costello (1988)

“The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 1939-1945”, Alfred de Zayas, University of Nebraska Press (1989)

“Gamp VC: The Wartime Story of Maverick Submarine Commander Anthony Miers”, Brian Izzard, Haynes Publishing (2010)

“Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program to Bring Nazi Scientists to America”, Annie Jacobsen, Little, Brown, and Company (2014)

“Secret Agenda: The United States Government, Nazi Scientists, and Project Paperclip, 1945 to 1990”, Linda Hunt, St. Martin’s Press (1991)

“War Crimes in Sicily: Sergeant West, Captain Compton, and the Murder of Prisoners of War in 1943”, Fred Barch, The Army Lawyer (March 2013)

“Atrocities, Massacres, and War Crimes: An Encyclopaedia Volume 1”, Alexander Mikaberidze, Santa Barbara (2013)

“Massacre at Biscari: Patton and an American War Crime”, James Weingartner, The Historian (November 1989)

“Remembering Rape: Divided Social Memory and the Red Army in Hungary 1944-1945”, James Mark, Past and Present (2005)

“They raped every German female from eight to 80”, Anthony Beevor, The Guardian (July 9 2010)

“The Forgotten Victims of WWII: Masculinities and Rape in Berlin, 1945”, James Messerschmidt, University of Southern Maine

“1945: The Year of Liberation”, Stephen Goodell, Kevin Mahoney, Sybil Milton, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (1995)

“Scorched Earth: Stalin’s Reign of Terror”, Jörg Baberowski, Yale University Press (2016)

“Japan’s Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution During World War II and the U.S. Occupation”, Yuki Tanaka, Routeledge (2002)

“Race and American Military Justice: Rape, Murder, and Execution in Occupied Japam”, Terese Svobada, The Asia-Pacific Journal (2008)

“Rape and War: The U.S. Experience”, The Phora

“Trophies of War: U.S. Troops and the Mutilation of Japanese War Dead, 1941-1945”, James Weingartner, Pacific Historical Review (February 1992)

“Skull Trophies of the Pacific War: Transgressive objects of remembrance”, Simon Harrison, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (2006)

“Fragments of War: Stories from Survivors of World War II”, Joyce Hibbert, Dundum Press (1985)

“Yugoslavia: Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity”, Dinah Shelton, Gale Cengage (2005)

“A Histroy of Strategic Bombing”, Lee Kennett, Scribner (1982)

“The B-29 Superfortress: A Comprehensive Registry of the Planes and Their Missions”, Robert Mann”, McFarland (2009)

“Wings of Judgement: American Bombing in World War II”, Ronald Schaffer, Oxford University Press (1988)

“Were Americans As Bad as the Soviets?”, Klaus Wiegrefe, Spiegel Klaus Wiegrefe, March 2015

“Allied soldiers, including Canadians raped thousands of German women after Second World War”, Heidi Matthews, The National Post, May 08, 2018