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Item title: Self-immolation as a factor in Japanese military psychology
Title (kanji)
Location:Australian War Memorial (AWM55 12/53 part 1)
View information about obtaining a copy of this document
AJRP details
AJRP module: Australian War Memorial official records
AJRP series: Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) publications
AJRP sub-series: ATIS research reports
AJRP folder:
Location details
Institution: Australian War Memorial
Call number: AWM55 12/53 part 1
Inst. series: AWM55
Inst. sub-series: AWM55 12/-
Item: RR-76
Item qualities
Quantity / desc: 45 pages
Access: Open
Item type: Unpublished, Official
Category: Information report
Item content
Creation date (d/m/y): 4/4/1944
Conflict code: Pacific War (1941-1945)
Australian unit names:
Allied unit names:
Japanese unit names:
Names: UCHIYAMA Takeshi, Pte
Languages: English
Attu Island [North Pacific, Aleutian Islands, Near Islands]
Melanesia (PNG, Irian Jaya & Solomon Islands)
Content: This is an Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) research report issued on 4 April 1944 on Japanese attitudes towards suicide and their influence on military conduct, and forms part of a 6-part series intended to give a documented exposition of Japanese psychology. Based on interrogation reports, letters and captured publications, this report contains information on terminology ("seppuku" and "hara-kiri"), suicide methods, ceremonial customs surrounding suicide, the influence of Japanese culture and environment, the influence of religion, shrines and memorials, the importance of tradition, attitudes towards responsibility and duty, official instructions regarding self-sacrifice, fear of dishonouring family, fear of punishment post-war, fear of treatment by Allies, observation of so-called "shock-induced hysteria" on the part of Japanese soldiers, suicide charges, the effect of illness and starvation. The report also indicates that many Japanese soldiers had surrendered and did not commit suicide. It suggested that the cultural forces which "press down upon the Japanese soldier" did not always remove the desire to live and that poor morale and dissatisfaction with commanders sometimes made soldiers more restive and unwilling to blindly follow tradition.

The Japanese national character and attitudes towards suicide were of immediate interest to Allied forces as they endeavoured to find an insight into how the Japanese would behave on the battlefield. As the report states, "knowledge of the deep-rooted Japanese attitude towards self-immolation to expiate failure under responsibility may be powerfully exploited in propaganda to effect morale, and possibly cause the suicide of many leaders". The ATIS researchers concluded that because Japanese soldiers were instructed to kill themselves on capture they had not been given training in security after capture. Therefore a captured soldier was considered more likely to cooperate withan Allied interrogator. The report also recommended that steps needed to be taken to overcome obstacles to surrender: fear of mistreatment by Allied troops and fear of eventual punishment at home.

The appendix includes an extract from a Japanese school reader called "Tales of Hara-kiri (Suicide tales)", an army lecture entitled "The Army of the Gods", a "Time Magazine" article entitled "The guardian deities of Attu" dated 14 February 1944, an extract from an account called "The front line in the South Seas" by Private UCHIYAMA Takeshi published in the magazine "Fuji" in October 1943, extracts from speeches and interrogation reports about the Japanese doctrine of responsibility, and an account of Japanese soldiers fighting to the death at Attu Island.
Other information
Last modified:03/05/2009 09:05:41 AM
Source:AJRP staff

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