Unjust Enrichment: How Japan's Companies Built Postwar Fortunes Using American Pows

Linda Goetz Holmes

Published by Stackpole Books, 2001
ISBN 10: 0811718441 / ISBN 13: 9780811718448
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Synopsis: During World War II, 32,260 Americans were held as prisoners of war of the Japanese. Thousands were shipped to do forced labor in the factories, shipyards, and mines of Japan-at the specific request of major Japanese companies. For more than fifty years, this story has gone untold-until now. Combining investigative research, personal interviews with more than 400 ex-POWs, excerpts from POW diaries, and samples of the more than 300 recently declassified documents, Pacific War historian Linda Goetz Holmes reveals the brutal and exploitative practices of Japanese companies during World War II. Her research forms the basis of a landmark class-action lawsuit against five of the Japanese companies filed on behalf of 500 former POWs in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on September 13, 1999.

From the Publisher: Exclusive Author¹s Essay for Amazon.com February 22, 2001 UNJUST ENRICHMENT:
How Japan's Companies Built Postwar Fortunes Using American POWs

After interviewing over 100 Allied ex-prisoners of war who had survived building the infamous Burma Railway for my 1994 book, 4000 Bowls of Rice: a prisoner of war comes home, I began to wonder how the companies of Japan had been allowed to use so many of these prisoners, along with thousands of survivors of the Bataan Death March, as slave laborers in their factories, mines and shipyards.

By using white prisoners as unpaid skilled laborers during World War II, the mega-corporations of Japan were able to keep producing -- and profiting -- throughout the war, positioning themselves to build on those profits enormously in the postwar years, a benefit their shareholders are still enjoying.

Meanwhile, our prisoners were being beaten daily, starved and worked mercilessly by company employees. How was this allowed to happen, and why weren't the industrialists of Japan tried as war criminals after the war? It seemed to me that their command responsibility for what happened on company property was the same as that of military commanders who did stand trial. Over 7,000 Americans died on Japanese company property, and another 3,600 died at sea in their voyages to Japan, on merchant ships operated by some of these same companies. So my question was: how did the companies of Japan literally get away with the murder of over 10,000 Americans and thousands of other Allied POWs? Nine out of ten military prisoners who died in World War II perished in Japanese, not Nazi custody.

By gaining first access to over 300 newly-declassified Japanese and Swiss messages intercepted by our intelligence agencies during the war, by studying Japanese government regulations about the treatment and deployment of POWs, and by in-depth interviews with several hundred ex-POWs, I believe I have been able to answer these questions in Unjust Enrichment.

For example, I found that the companies wrote monthly reports indicating that they were paying our POWs, as their government had ordered them to do; that they were providing adequate housing, medical and sanitary facilities; and that food for the POWs was adequate. In fact, none of these things were happening. Americans died every day on Japanese company property, and the only thing all of them came home with was a lifetime of health problems and unrelenting nightmares about their brutal captivity.

This is a story that needed to be fully told, and it has taken fifty years for the necessary data to become available. The debt which the companies of Japan still owe to our ex-POWs is the great unresolved issue of the Pacific War. It¹s time for some soul-searching and honorable actions to emerge from the boardrooms of corporate Japan. Time is running out for these gallant veterans who endured so much in the service of their country, and who unwillingly contributed so much to the enrichment of Japan¹s corporations.

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Unjust Enrichment: How Japan's Companies ...
Publisher: Stackpole Books
Publication Date: 2001
Book Condition: Fair
Edition: illustrated edition.

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