Nagasaki – The Forgotten Prisoners, John Willis

Nagasaki – The Forgotten Prisoners, John Willis

One little known aspect of the nuclear bomb attack on Nagasaki was the presence of Allied POWs in work camps in and around the city. These men had suffered in Japanese hands for several years by the time the bomb dropped, and were then witnesses to the most powerful bomb yet dropped.

Instead of focusing on the POWs time in Nagasaki, the author has chosen to cover their entire experience, from failing into captivity, through their time in camps in Singapore, on the infamous ‘death railway’, the hellships that took them to Japan and their experiences in the work camps. Their experiences were as ghastly as one might expect, but there are occasions where they found people who were being treated even worse – south-east Asian workers and Chinese prisoners in particular.

The horrors that the POWs had been through on their way to Nagasaki helps put their attitude to the bomb and its aftermath in some context. Some were sympathetic to the suffering around them, but understandably some were not. In the immediate impact of the bomb most found themselves briefly at liberty, before the Japanese authorities began to regain control but the Japanese surrender came soon afterwards and with it their liberation.

When we do reach the bomb and its aftermath the focus widens to include some of the Japanese civilian experiences, most notably those of Sumiteru Taniguchi, who was badly injuring in the blast but survived. 

This is a thought provoking and compelling account of some of the darkest moments of the Second World War, bringing to the fore the experiences of an almost forgotten group.


1 – Malaya
2 – Singapore
3 – Prisoners
4 – Java
5 – Changi
6 – The River Kwai Railway
7 – F Force
8 – Hellship to Japan
9 – Ben’s Busters
10 – Rescue
11 – Camp 14b, Nagasaki
12 – Camp 2b, Nagasaki
13 – Before the Bomb
14 – Bock’s Car
15 – Fat Man
16 – After the Bomb
17 – Surrender
18 – Homecomings
19 – Aftermath
20 – Return to Nagasaki

Author: John Willis
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 384
Publisher: Mensch
Year: 2022

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