If you were educated in the U.S., as I was, then you probably did not learn much about World War II besides the “greatest hits” of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the American homefront, and maybe a key battle such as Iwo Jima. Most Americans know little about the thousands of Allied citizens (British, Australian, Canadian, and Dutch) who became prisoners of the Japanese. There are two main reasons for this omission: 1) few American civilians were imprisoned, and 2) this story is one of defeat, and therefore does not fit into the larger narrative of victory in this war that is so much a part of U.S. identity. NOTE: There is terrific scholarship on Allied nations’ refusal to recognize their formerly imprisoned citizens when they tried to repatriate after the war — Christina Twomey has done great work on the marginalization of Australian nurses who found that their status as ex-captives and women left no place for them when they returned to Australia.
“British Civilians Interned by the Japanese in World War II.” by Ron Bridge, a child internee of the Japanese at Weihsien, China