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Title: Narratives of a fallen army : Japanese veterans' concepts of defeat and war crimes responsibility in World War Two
Author: Otsuka, Aiko
ISNI:       0000 0004 7968 3659
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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The Japanese military experienced different types of defeat in World War Two (WWII) both during and after the war, including loss in battles and war crimes trials. This dissertation analyses Japanese veterans' postwar narratives in relation to the concepts of defeat and addresses the issue of war crimes responsibility, particularly for civilian massacres during WWII. My thesis focuses on former Japanese infantry regiments whose members committed civilian massacres in the Malaya Peninsula, the Philippines, and Burma and were tried by the British and US/Philippine forces between 1946 and 1948. My dissertation examines group narratives of these regiments, utilising war crimes trial records and postwar regimental histories (rentaishi) and war memoirs (rentaisenki) compiled from the 1970s to the 1990s. Despite the different times of compilation, these regiments present similar recurring themes in their narratives, including glorious deeds, operational justification, rectification of the Allied trials, sacrificial dedication to their country, living through the deadly battleground, and glorious ends of regiments. Behind these narratives was the continuation of wartime military values into the postwar period, which had helped to justify war crimes both during and after the war. This thesis shows that different types of defeat shaped their postwar narratives in such a way as to alleviate negative sentiments resulting from defeat and, for some group narratives, avoid accepting responsibility for war crimes. My research contributes to the cultural history of military defeat by illustrating Japanese veterans' responses to the issue of responsibility for war crimes. Analysis of their postwar narratives in the frame of the military defeat can provide a deep understanding of the inadequacy of some Japanese veterans in acknowledging atrocities as groups.
Supervisor: Kushner, Barak Sponsor: European Research Council ; Sasakawa Foundation ; British Association for Japanese Studies
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: cultural history of military defeat ; Japanese veterans ; World War Two ; narratives ; war crimes ; war responsibility ; Imperial Japanese Army