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12 February 2010


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Thanks to Harumi, the embarrassing 1955 file is now available to public view:

The Japanese Researcher Harumi Sakaguchi deserves a lot of praise for making this discovery in the Tokyo archives, and for bringing it to the attention of Australian POW researchers.

It is extraordinary that Australia was the only country out of ten Allied nations to refuse to take delivery of the POW cards. For instance, America received over 25,000 cards, Britain received nearly 57,000. I have seen one of the American cards and it includes details of name, address, family contact, the katakana characters used to represent the prisoner's name in Japanese, date of capture and name and date of POW camps where the prisoner was confined, and official stamps indicating details of movements between camps. They even provided a post-war English-translation slip for the card to assist family and other researchers.

It is unknown at present whether the cards for the Australian POWs still exist in the Japanese Archives, but Mr. Sakaguchi is hopeful that this may be so.

We should all be pressuring the Australian Government in this election year to reverse the 1955 refusal and to finally take delivery of these valuable POW records, if this is at all possible.

I can see two files in the National Archives of Australia in Canberra which appear to be relevant. The first of these has never been examined since the 30-year closure expired:

1) File Title: Prisoners of War - Japanese in Australia - Exchange of records.
Series number: A1838. Control symbol: 1496/3/8
Contents date range 1953 - 1955
Access status: Not yet examined
Location: Canberra. Barcode: 568197

2) File Title: [Australian War Memorial registry file:] War of 1939-45. Correspondence regarding the collection of enemy records - Japanese.
Series number: AWM93.
Control symbol: 50/2/3/1 PART 2.
Contents date range: 1952 - 1957.
Access status: Open.
Location: Australian War Memorial.
Barcode: 647675

It will be interesting to see whether the Australian Government refusal to accept the records was just an example of bureaucratic laziness, or whether this is related to the refusal of the government to hold a Rabaul Inquiry.

Or if there is some link to the 1946 public statements by the Montevideo Maru Investigator, Major H. S. Williams, that the records had been "burnt".

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