Friday, June 02, 2006

Captives of Empire A new book out in June 2005 - Greg Leck

The Japanese Internment of Allied Civilians in China and Hong Kong, 1941-1945

Now in Print - available June, 2006 On the morning of December 8th, 1941, thousands of American, British, Dutch, and other civilians of the Allied nations living in China awoke to find their countries at war with Japan. A hemisphere away from their homelands, they were cut off, isolated, and faced an uncertain future. The Japanese advance created an empire from the Aleutian Islands in the far north to the southern regions of New Guinea, and from western Burma to the mid Pacific Ocean.

Japan soon held some 125,000 civilian prisoners, approximately ten percent of which were in China and Hong Kong. Their prisoners included the first American civilian to be captured on American soil since the War of 1812, and Britons in China became the single largest British contingent under enemy occupation outside of the Channel Islands. As the rigors of life under the occupation increased, they were eventually herded into internment camps known as Civil Assembly Centres. There, accommodation was overcrowded, frequently squalid, and with few amenities. Poor treatment and lack of food contributed to the death rate, and internees suffered many privations, as well as occasional cruelty, torture, and execution. Yet despite an absolute lack of many of the essentials of civilized life, the internees rose to meet the challenge of survival. They organized kitchens and hospitals, started libraries, engaged in subtle forms of resistance, educated their children, and placed their hope in the future. In internment, they were an example of the strength of human endeavor in the face of adversity.

Between 1941 and 1945, Japan held over 13,500 civilian men, women, and children as captives in China and Hong Kong. Each one has a story to tell. Captives of Empire is their story.

Captives of Empire: The Japanese Internment of Allied Civilians in China, 1941-1945 fills a major gap in the annals of World War II and that of prisoners of war. Here for the first time is a definitive history of the internment of Allied civilians in China. Private papers, diaries, letters, and official reports, many long hidden, were utilized to bring a complete picture of internment to light. In preparing to write this book, Greg Leck combed through thousands of pages of documents from archives located in Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Japan. In personal interviews he listened to scores of internees describing their experiences. He researched, in depth, the histories of each camp, as well as the stories of many internees. Through first hand accounts and photographs, paintings, sketches, newspapers, cartoons, entertainment programs, maps, bulletins, posters, and other illustrative materials, a portrayal of what daily life was like for internees under the Japanese emerges. Common themes of the internees struggle are reviewed.

Together with Desmond Power, an Old China Hand and ex internee himself, information was organized and sorted to produce a database of the over 13,500 internees held in China and Hong Kong. An overview of each camp and a nominal roll completes the picture. The result is a revealing and immensely fascinating look at the world of the internees.

Captives of Empire gives you an inside look at the internment experience. From the idyllic life of the expatriate, to the shock and surprise of the Japanese victories and rule, to imprisonment and eventual liberation, it covers the panoply of this little known chapter of the Pacific war. Utilizing internees own voices, we see the food, the housing, the work, as well as the entertainments, games, escapes, births, lives, and deaths of the camp. Profusely illustrated with maps, photographs, drawings, and scarce and rare internment camp related ephemera, this is a monograph that will serve as the definitive reference work on the subject.

Greg Leck is one of the foremost experts on Japanese internment camps in China. The grandson of an Old China Hand who served in the Chinese Maritime Customs, and the son of a woman who was one of the last Britons to leave Shanghai, he grew up hearing stories of China and internment.

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