The Soldiers who died twice: Japanese POWs and Cowra Japanese Cemetery

Over 300 Japanese POWs who died in Australia have been interred with about 200 civilian internees in the Cowra Japanese Cemetery, which was established in 1964. They all died during the Pacific War and their remains were never retrieved and returned to the home country, contrary to the Japanese government’s long-standing policy of repatriating the war dead. Numerous commemorations were held at the well-maintained cemetery, and Cowra is now known as a place of reconciliation between Australia and Japan. It is surprising to realise, however, that the true identities of Japanese POWs who were buried there have never been officially investigated, and their families were not notified of the fact that their loved ones had died in Australia and their graves marked in Cowra. In this talk, I will explore why this has been so in the context of Japan’s gradual recognition of the consequences of the Pacific War.