Beasts of Bushido

Author: Michael Owen
Publisher: Scripts
Published: 1967
Book No: 13

I have not actually read this book, which I picked up in a second hand shop last year. But I have a fascination with the strange sub-genre of war action adventure books that came out in Australia in the mid 1960s.

Rather than being stories about heroes routing the Japanese in a series of fierce encounters, these stories are more about survival. The heroes are men captured by the Japanese and imprisoned. They prove their courage and worth by being the most resilient – or even giving their lives for a just cause.

In Australia, at that time, there was a lot of resentment towards the Japanese for their treatment towards Australian (and other) P.O.W.s in WWII. As such, and I am guessing because I am too young to truly know (and understand), the popularity of these books was in part, because they celebrated those that never came back. As the blurb says, as you can read below, Of more than 2,500 men who slaved for the Bushido in Borneo only 16 survived. This is the story of one of them…

So in a sense, the books are a celebration of death. As I have mentioned before, my great uncle Jim, died working on the Burma Railway. The family has few details of what happened. I guess a book like this offers an insight into what many of the ‘boys’ went through – an ultimately a sense of closure (for some).

When I first picked up a few of these books, my first reaction was that they were slightly distasteful; exploitative; trading in human misery. But I think I was wrong – or at least that was not the writer’s intention. The Kent and Slater Nazi and Japanese romances may be an exception. But that is a discussion for another day.

Front:

An Australian P O W struggles for survival against inhuman odds in the hell camps of Malaya and Borneo.

Back:

“Saito ordered the Warrant Officer to execute the first prisoner.”

The W.O. stepped forward, raised he is sword and brought it down hard across the man’s neck. Cole closed his eyes quickly, hearing only the swish of the long sword and the dreadful hard as a connected with the prisoners neck. He tried to keep his eyes closed but some appalling force over which he had no control forced him to open them. The stroke had not severed the man’s head…”

Private James “King” Cole thought wall was hell, until he was taken prisoner by the Japanese in the fall of Singapore… And from then on and he found out what the hell was really like!

Of more than 2,500 men who slaved for the Bushido in Borneo only 16 survived. This is the story of one of them…

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Beasts of Bushido

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