It is August 1945 and World War 2 is over. Japan has surrendered. As the Western world rejoices, deep in the jungles of British North Borneo the small number of remaining Australian and British prisoners of war are massacred. Of the 2434 prisoners incarcerated by the Japanese at the Sandakan POW camp, only six, all escapees, have survived. The POWs, sent from Singapore in 1942 – 1943 to work on airfield construction, endured frequent beatings and were subjected to other, more diabolical punishment. Sustained only by an inadequate and ever-diminishing rice-ration and with little medical attention, many died of malnutrition, maltreatment and disease. In 1945, in response to an order from the Japanese High Command that no prisoners were to survive the war, those still able to walk were sent on a series of death marches into the interior. Anyone unable to keep up was ruthlessly murdered. Those left behind were systematically starved to death, or massacred. In late 1944 the Allies, aware that POWs were being ‘eliminated’, had evolved a plan for their rescue, a rescue which, after months of bungling, was finally cancelled in April 1945, in the erroneous belief that the camp had been evacuated. Gross incompetence and faulty intelligence were to blame for the failed rescue attempt. When it was realised that mistakes and stupidity were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of men, those at the highest level shifted the blame to others, before embarking upon a policy of willful and deliberate suppression. Desperate to obtain information, grieving relatives wrote to newspapers, begging for information and asking the reason for the secrecy. ‘The story of the greatest tragedy in Australian military history remains to be written’, wrote one, in 1946. ‘Who will undertake the task?’. pp. vii, 483 Illustrated #0417R/0418/0519 Third Revised and Updated Edition (prev ownership on fpd).
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