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David Milne. POWs in Japanese Camps: an annotated bibliography: Books in English, 1939-1999.

The Jungle Room, PO Box 308, East Melbourne 3002, 2002. ISBN 0 9581412 0 7. Hardcover, 273 pp., 4 b&w illustrations, 22 x 16 cm.

More than 140 000 Allied service personnel became prisoners of the Japanese who--with perhaps half as many civilian internees--were held in camps all over eastern Asia. Most were captured during the disastrous campaigns of the first six months of the Pacific war and, since that time, there has been a steady stream of books recounting 3 1/2 years of what has become known as the POW `experience'. These range from official histories to personal narratives, by authors from professional writers to private soldiers; consequently, the quality and breadth of coverage varies tremendously. The sheer volume of material is immense (reflecting the on-going and increasing interest in this subject), and a comprehensive reference such as this is long overdue for the benefit of both veterans and researchers alike.

And comprehensive it certainly is--the 273 pages are packed with nearly 1,200 entries, from official despatches and unit histories to art catalogues, novels and collections of poetry. All of the well-known references are included, plus an amazing number of more obscure books--many produced by small presses or self-published by the authors.

Each entry contains at least basic bibliographic details (author, title, publisher, place and date of publication), with many also having explanatory notes and a list of other publications in which the item has been cited. The compiler has been very diligent in seeking such information, having "noted down the details as he came across every book within his field both from the physical book and from notices and reviews when he was unable to trace a copy. He even wrote to authors for details of books he could not find. As well as the main entries, the bibliography also includes cross-references, appropriate photographs, a useful list of abbreviations and a disturbingly long list of diseases endemic to Japanese prison camps.

Perhaps inevitably in a bibliography such as this, the coverage is rather wider than one would expect from the title. Many entries also deal with events preceding or following the period of imprisonment, while others have a broader focus and contain only a few lines on prisoners of war and/or internees. However, this diversity clearly illustrates the range of contexts--personal, organisational, historical, political and social--into which the PoW `experience' fits.

The one disappointment of the work is the indexing. Entries are arranged alphabetically by author then, where appropriate, chronologically. This arrangement limits the usefulness of the work, but is helped by the inclusion of a separate index of titles. This reviewer considers those likely to use this book would be most interested in a particular camp or area of imprisonment (as well, perhaps, in a specific action or battalion), and that such topic headings would be a better basis for the primary index. However, the difficulty in producing such an index without the compiler's personal reviewing all the included items is acknowledged.

Nevertheless, Mr Milne has contributed a major research tool to the study of Allied prisoners of war in Japanese hands and is to be congratulated for taking on so challenging a task. If you're interested in this subject, his bibliography is a valuable addition to your bookshelf at around $45.00.
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Author:Sinfield, Peter
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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