When you mention Japanese War crimes in World War Two, you’ll often get different responses from different generations. The oldest among us will talk about the Bataan Death March. Younger people, coming of age in the 1990s, will mention the Rape of Nanking or the comfort women forced into service by the Japanese army. Occasionally, someone will mention biological warfare.
Frank Jacob has offered a valuable service by surveying Japanese mistreatment of civilians and soldiers comprehensively. His book, Japanese War Crimes during World War II: Atrocity and the Psychology of Collective Violence
(Praeger, 2018), is short and doesn’t treat any event or issue in depth. But he offers a lucid and thorough evaluation of the literature and nuggets of additional insight. And he frames it with a thoughtful attempt to explain the conduct about which he is writing.
If you’re looking for a deep dive into a particular topic, you’re not the audience Jacob had in mind. But this is a good place to come to grips with the broad picture of Japanese misconduct during the war.
Kelly McFall is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Newman University. He’s the author of four modules in the Reacting to the Past series, including The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994, published by W. W. Norton Press.