By Priscilla Kluge McMullen
August 6 & 9, 1945 – Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
While the world mourns and modern historians might accentuate the horrific deaths and devastation caused by these two atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese people over seventy years ago, we should not forget that the ultimate effect of these horrific events saved the lives of hundreds of thousands. They were the Allied Prisoners of War (POWs) of Asian, Australian, New Zealand, US, English and European descent, who were on death’s door in Japanese concentration camps throughout Asia.
“CW” Content Warning: This article contains World War 2 images.
These POWs included many of our grandfathers, fathers, uncles, and brothers. The treatment of American and Allied prisoners by the Japanese is one of the abiding horrors of World War II. Prisoners were routinely beaten, starved, abused and forced to work in mines, on railways, and war-related factories in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions and in some cases experimented on. The dropping of these two atomic bombs ultimately brought the Japanese to their knees after causing an Asian Holocaust that killed more than twice as many people as the Nazis did (video).
These POWs were little more than skeletons clad in rags; skin stretched over bone. The scars they bore told the story of some of Japan’s most brutal World War II prison camps. My father was one of those POWs in Japan. Because of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki almost eighty years ago, my father and his fellow POWs in Japan received a second chance at life.
As we memorialize these two important dates, let us not forget to commemorate the end of Japan’s use of Comfort Women as well. These were the captured women forced into prostitution. Japan’s military applied the euphemism “comfort women” to describe women of conquered countries who were forced into sexual slavery and raped by Japanese soldiers. Historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi found incontrovertible evidence that the Japanese built about 2,000 “comfort stations” around Asia where Japanese soldiers could rape native women. These 2,000 rape centers held as many as 200,000 women from Korea, the Philippines, and other countries.
Personal Note from Author
This is my father, Friedrich W. Kluge, who was taken as a Japanese prisoner of war while serving in the Royal Dutch Indies Army alongside the Allied Forces in WWII in Asia. He was a prisoner of war for more than three years. He and many others like him were freed from the terrible fate awaiting them because of the atomic bombs. He was fortunate, while broken in body, he was able to build a new life after the war and give me life as his daughter.
I write this article in his memory and in honor of all who suffered, were scarred for life, and those who were forced to make the ultimate sacrifice during WWII.