Asian Labor in the Wartime Japanese Empire

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Edited by Paul H. Kratoska

During the Pacific War the Japanese government recruited hundreds of thousands of workers for military construction projects throughout the occupied territories. Mistreatment of workers was widespread, and the number of deaths arising from beatings, malnutrition and disease was enormous, rivalling the holocaust in Europe. The victims were primarily unskilled laborers drawn from cities and rural areas across occupied Asia. Most were men, but women and children also found their way to the worksites, and perished there. Because most victims were illiterate, and the Japanese destroyed nearly all records relating to labor recruitment throughout the occupied territories, the story of their experiences has not previously been told.

In this book, an international group of specialists on the Occupation period examine Japan's wartime labor needs, and the recruitment and use of workers (whether forced, military or otherwise) throughout the Japanese empire. Based on documents drawn from archives throughout Asia, in the United States and United Kingdom, their accounts draw on fragmentary materials to provide careful reconstructions of events. The first study to look at Japanese labor policies comparatively across all the occupied territories of Asia during the war years, this collection provides a graphic context for examining Japanese colonialism, and relations between Japan and the territories occupied by its military forces.


"This is an impressive work on a major and unheralded subject in East Asian history...[there is] no one volume has been devoted to the Japanese exploitation of the labor of their fellow Asians from 1937 to 1945. Asian Labor in the Wartime Japanese Empire admirably fills that gap. Paul Kratoska has brilliantly led a team of Asian specialists in the meticulous investigation of labor exploitation under the pressures of wartime military expediency across ten Asian countries. It is a landmark work which will arrest the attention of historians of modern Japan, East Asia, the Pacific War, and Asian labor." -Mark R. Peattie

Paul H. Kratoska is the Publishing Director of NUS Press, the academic publishing unit of the National University of Singapore.

Publication Year: 2006
440 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-333-6, Paperback

NUS Press and ME Sharpe