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Attitudes to the war
Australian Second World War veterans post-war attitudes to the Japanese
In the immediate aftermath of the end of the war Australian hatred of the Japanese actually increased, if anything, due to the widespread publicity given to the numerous war crimes trials of former Japanese officers and men. As the years went by some Australian veterans softened their opinions of the Japanese or at least the post-war generations of Japan. However others still harboured a suspicion, if not outright hostility, towards Japan and its people. At the time that these interviews were conducted in the late 1980s the post-war Japanese 'economic miracle' had reached its peak and Japanese investment in Australia was at an all time high with Japanese goods dominating many areas of the Australian domestic market and Japanese tourists present in larger numbers than ever before. The overwhelming success and prosperity of their former enemy appears to have been particularly galling for many veterans.

At Rushworth internment camp, Victoria, after the Japanese surrender 1946:

Sergeant Alex Lochhead, 2/2nd Battalion AIF:
How did the Japanese civilians, how were they seen by other Army personnel or even local Australian civilians? Were they regarded with suspicion?

I believe so, early in the piece, yes.

But by that stage?

By that stage - no, no. They were quite nice people actually because all of them had been born in Australia. A lot of them were mixed marriages, either married a Japanese one way or the other, and a lot of them couldn't understand why they were interned. They were a bit upset because they had been interned during the war but, no, they were friendly towards us and we were friendly towards them and there was no animosity at all.

How did you feel, looking at these people, though, who were related by race, as it were, with people who just before had been not only your deadly enemies but had done dastardly things to men that you had known?

Well, I was not very happy when I first went there, I was thinking along those lines but when you got there and you met them and discovered that they were equally upset when they heard about it and they considered themselves Australians anyhow because they were born here. They had never been to Japan - or back to Japan from the time they left - they considered themselves Australian too and they were upset. They didn't believe what they heard. They said the Japanese wouldn't do those sorts of things. None of them were military types at all; they were all civilians and [Honin] businessmen.

Captain Fred Field, 2/22nd Battalion AIF:

After [the Japanese surrender]... I came back and then I was on the war trials up in Darwin.

In what capacity were you with the war trials?

I was a senior member of the court.

On the actual tribunal?

On the court, yes.

Hearing the cases?


Which cases - how many cases did you ...?

We only had two cases, both of - in Timor.

The charges against these men involved in Timor?

Actually some of our fellows had been dropped in Portuguese Timor and the first trial concerned the treatment which they were give by the Japanese there. Unfortunately the only evidence that was available to us, to the court, were extracts from unsworn statements and that made it extremely difficult to - what shall I say? - to assess the problems that occurred.

But I thought that under the Act you could accept testimony that would not be accepted in a normal court of law, was that right?

Well you do, but we did not have - I say they were extracts from unsworn statements. And no - what shall I call them?

Under the normal rules of evidence you wouldn't ...

Yes, but we had no-one to give evidence. They were not available. However there was a certain amount of controversy there and the court made the ruling on the evidence they had available to it. The other trial was in - concerned the members from the 2/40th Battalion up in Koepang which necessitated the court actually going over to Timor and of course penalties were given to the ones concerned. There was Colonel Yutani and he was - well some of them got eight years, some of them got five years, whatever the case may be. Colonel Yutani was shot.

Do you remember what those - of those 2/40th fellows for instance, Private Terry was killed - which was the particular case, do you remember what they were?

No these were two lads were taken prisoner and they were to the best of our knowledge, they were beheaded.

Captain Donald Simonson, 39th Battalion and 25th Battalion AMF:

Well yes, I returned to the family business. We continued and - oh I accepted a greater responsibility of the family show as the years rolled by, but subsequently found myself as the first member of the organisation sent to Japan for the purpose of establishing relationships there. We were a firm of importers and in 1956, I think it was, it was decided by our board that we would establish relationships with Japan and import from Japan quite a number of fittings which were going to be of value to us in our business in Australia.

What was the nature of the business?

We were a firm of importers and manufacturers' agents representing a lot of local firms and also importing from United Kingdom, subsequently Germany, United States, Japan, Taiwan, and ...

Industrial supplies and so on or what?

Supplies for use of manufacturers in the manufacturing of furniture. From Japan now we get velvet materials used for the upholstery of chairs, PVC materials, plastics, metal fittings and quite a range of products used by furniture manufacturers in Australia. That's what we're occupied in now and I went to Japan with a view to finding out who in Japan was manufacturing these sort of things who would like to export them to Australia.

You'd indicated before that even toward wars end you really didn't know much about the fate of so many Australian soliders but certainly you would have by the time that you were to go to Japan. Was it a strange feeling to go to Japan?

Well again I was asked to go by the company to carry out this responsibility and had done quite a bit of homework in Australia here as to how to go about it and had some means of getting into various places which we thought would be of value to us and there was nothing much that I could do. I was the only one in the family that had had any experience with these sort of people and it was thought that I'd probably be the most suitable one I would have thought, to get involved in trying to find some way of assisting the firm in this matter.

It sounds like it wasn't an easy thing to accept?

Well I found them to be very approachable as far as business is concerned. It was quite obvious to me at that time those that were new in the business and were most anxious to talk and find out something about Australia and learn something about life in another country and then there were those about my own age and older who were retired in their thinking, in their talk, and would never talk direct to you but would always to through an interpreter to you and they were, on the other hand, not difficult, but very retiring in their approach to you and I thought made life twice as long to get anything out of than the young person who were coming up in the junior ranks of the firms that I was involved in anyway.

Would you find yourself looking at people and wondering where were they and what had they done and could ...

Yeah, yeah, although I never bought up the question at all as to the war or where they had been or where we had been. War was never raised in my three trips to Japan that I probably did over a matter of ten years, twelve years.

Did it seem strange to you to be resuming this sort of relationship after the bitterness and the terrible costs in terms of suffering and so on?

Although I, as I mentioned, had had a period of time in Rabaul I think I - I won't say I'd mellowed - but I'd certainly appreciated a little better their attitude towards life. It was quite interesting to see in these camps, this camp in Rabaul, how they cared for and how they carried out the administration in a most efficient manner, how they hospitalised and cared for without any - or with about as much Weary Dunlop might have had for instance, and I got to think of how very efficient they were and this followed on through the rest of dealings with the Japanese from a business point of view, that out of all the countries we import from, I'd say fifteen around the world, the Japanese were the most efficient and the most reliable of the lot today and have been for the last twenty years as far as I'm concerned.

It sounds like you respect that, but you don't necessarily particularly like the Japanese?

No. I go further and point out that the 39th Battalion to our knowledge is the only unit where, through diplomatic sources, the Japanese regiment that was facing us at Kokoda contacted their embassy here and asked could they meet some members of the 39th Battalion who were against them at Kokoda. They would like to meet them, they would like to talk to them, they would like to give them some gifts, they would like to bring their wives with them, and generally it appeared they wanted, to my way of thinking, to make face. They wanted to improve their relationships a little bit and ease their thinking possibly. Um, this was done and at Cowra - I don't know why they'd go to Cowra, I don't know - anyway our Unit association met up with their group of some forty odd and enjoyed a happy weekend together. Well we had forty or fifty I think of our unit association, they had thirty or forty and no way could I go to that, even though I was asked to go.


Don't know, don't know. I don't know if I could come face to face with someone that I knew would have been there. Even though I can deal with them from a business point of view, those that I would have thought could have been in action and destroying those that might have been close to me at the time, I didn't feel as if I ever wanted to or will want to get close to them again.

Lance-Corporal Norman Coady, 53rd/54th Battalion AMF:

What about the Japanese, the people you'd been fighting for four years? How do you feel about them ... well, how did you feel about them at the end of the war and how do you feel now?

I suppose I've mellowed a bit towards them over the years in so far as this generation is concerned. But generally towards the Japanese I don't feel any different today than what I did in 1946. There is only one good Jap and that's a dead bastard. ... But this generation, they're like our own generation - our own children - I suppose. They can't be blamed for what their parents did.

You never felt that they were conscripts who just had to do what they were told by the government?

No, no, no, I didn't. We never ever thought that. They were the enemy and we were going to fight them sort of thing, you know. I don't know whether they were conscripted or not. But subsequent history showed they were bloody fanatics. No, but, you know, you mellow towards them but I think, you know, they couldn't beat us with guns and force in '46 but they're beating us with money today.

Sub-Lieutenant Bill Wreford, RAN:

What do you think of the Japanese now, after forty years of that peace you've just spoken of?

I think that their ambition is still inevitable conquest of the Pacific. I interviewed a Captain Takahashi, his sword is over there in the corner. I interviewed him, I took his sword, I accepted his surrender, in the Gulf of Tomini, shortly after the official Singapore surrender, in my last ship, Hawkesbury, a frigate. And we had in the ship an Australian-born Chinese, allegedly a Japanese interpreter. Takahashi shrugged his shoulders and savvied nothing. And I said to the interpreter `Are you speaking the correct dialect?' And he said `I'm quite certain he understands sufficient of what I'm saying, sir, to be able to answer.' And I said `Well, tell the so-and-so and so-and-so I'll be likely to knock his bloody head off unless he starts answering you.' And the Jap turned to me, and in perfect English - he'd been in a NYK's Line Sydney office as a senior shipping clerk pre-war, he knew Sydney backwards - and he turned to me and said `That would avail you to no good purpose at all, sir. Japan has lost this round of the Pacific war, but Japanese conquest of the Pacific and greater Southeast Asia is inevitable, the Yamanaka Plan calls for it. It might take thirty, forty, fifty years, but it is inevitable.' That's always stuck in my mind. I wouldn't trust a Jap further than I could throw him. I get really crapped off when I see people ... I mean, Japanese tourists; can you imagine Australian people going to Japan and buying real estate? That just doesn't happen, it can't happen, it's not allowed to happen. Yet here we are, throwing the place open to them. No way! I mean, a great friend of mine, one of my old ship mates, has a Japanese son-in-law, and he says he's a very fine kid. (a laugh) Well, I'd find it very hard.

Do you think that Japan has changed at all in that respect? Do you think you ... Are you saying we are still looking at the same drive to do the same thing that was done forty years ago?

I think the Bushido caste clan doctrine would re-emerge like that, when the opportunity presented itself.

Printer version

Australian Attitudes
Pre-war perceptions
Fighting Ability
Japanese POWs
Atomic Bomb

Attitudes links
Australian Attitudes
Tamura diary
Southern Cross
Midget Submarine

Click images to enlarge. A Japanese sergeant stands between two Australian military policemen as he is put on trial for the murder of 46 Australian, British and Indian POWs, Labuan Island, Borneo, 3 December 1945.  A total of 924 Japanese were charged with war crimes by Australian military courts of whom 148 were sentenced to death and executed while 496 others were imprisoned.  The wartime prejudices held by most Australians towards the Japanese were reinforced in the immediate post-war period as the full scale of Japanese atrocities were revealed by these and other Allied trials.
AWM 122768
A platoon of the Australian 65th Battalion marches on to the grounds of the Imperial Palace during the changing of the guard, Tokyo, Japan, April 1947.  Australia contributed a number of units to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) and despite orders forbidding fraternisation with the locals many Australian servicemen developed a more sophisticated, if not sympathetic, understanding of Japanese society.
AWM 132753
An Australian sergeant and his Japanese bride leave the garrison chapel after their wedding, Kure, September 1952. By the time that the Korean War broke out the new post-war generation of Australian soldiers exhibited little animosity towards the Japanese and a number of those stationed in Japan married local Japanese women.  Despite the intensity of wartime feelings, these Japanese brides were also accepted in to the wider Australian community of the 1950s with surprising ease.
AWM 148123

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