Friday, November 13, 2009

The Tol plantation massacre

I've read a lot of history over the years, but I'd never heard of the Tol plantation massacre until Wednesday night. It's something that I should have known about as an Australian, particularly as there is a connection to my own family.

The story was told in a new and well produced documentary on the Foxtel history channel. In January 1942 the Japanese attacked Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. The 1400 Australian defenders were hopelessly outnumbered and withdrew inland. Suffering from disease and hunger, they were invited to surrender by the Japanese with the promise of good treatment as prisoners of war.

A contingent of Australian soldiers who did surrender were taken to the Tol plantation. They were given a meal and then had their hands tied behind their back. They were then taken out in groups and either shot or bayoneted.

At least 130 were massacred, but six survived to reveal what had happened. (There is a list of names of those who were killed here.)

The massacre was not conducted in the heat of battle; nor had the Japanese suffered heavy casualties in the campaign. The Japanese were mostly able to walk ashore unopposed into Rabaul and the Australians surrendered some time after the battle had ended. The massacre was a deliberate, cold-blooded killing of Australian troops who had been promised fair treatment as prisoners of war.

Worse was to follow. Many of those captured in and around Rabaul were put in the hold of a ship, the Montevideo Maru. The Japanese did not identify this ship as a prisoner of war transport. It was sunk by a US submarine with the loss of over 1000 Australian POWs and civilians. One of those who perished was my great uncle.

There have been times in history when Australians have suffered at the hands of other races and other nations. We haven't always been in a position of strength, as much as those who follow the "white oppressor" template would have us believe so. The Tol plantation massacre is one of the more shocking examples of this fact, but it's not unique - some Australian readers would be aware, for instance, of the infamous Bangka Island massacre of Australian nurses.

16 comments:

  1. I think a leftist would spin this as follows:

    Civilization makes people do evil things. White men were responsible for civilization (not true, but close enough). Therefore white men created the conditions that caused the Japanese to do these dispicable acts.

    Once again, it's Whitey's fault.

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  2. Robert (a different person from Rob)Saturday, 14 November 2009 at 17:07:00 GMT+11

    Another factor contributing to the public ignorance of the Japanese atrocities which Mr Richardson mentions, and rightly deplores, is this: As every Hollywood mogul knows (and goodness knows 99% of the West's population gets its historical "knowledge" from Hollywood), the only significant crime in world history was the Nazi Holocaust. You can point out until you're blue in the face that Stalin and Mao killed more than twice as many as Hitler did. It just does not register.

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  3. I highly recommend Gavin Daws "Prisoners of the Japanese":

    http://www.amazon.com/Prisoners-Japanese-Pows-World-Pacific/dp/0688143709

    Anytime you hear the Japanese whining about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you should reread this book.

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  4. Robert, and then there are Imperial Japan's wacky adventures in China which make the Nazis look like saints in comparison.

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  5. As every Hollywood mogul knows (and goodness knows 99% of the West's population gets its historical "knowledge" from Hollywood), the only significant crime in world history was the Nazi Holocaust.

    Now why would that be?

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  6. --You can point out until you're blue in the face that Stalin and Mao killed more than twice as many as Hitler did. It just does not register.--

    Man made famines were hallmark of communist states. Ukranian famine killed 6 million and chinese one killed about 15 million.

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  7. I don't think any historian, left or right, denies that the Japanese committed atrocities in WWII. Rob's comments are therefore idiotic. The Overland journal has some leftist takes on Japan in WWII as a starting point. The best-known atrocities are arguably those committed against the Chinese, which remain a touchy point in China to this day.

    The claims about death tolls under Mao and Stalin vs. Hitler are tenuous, since Hitler's were caused through death camps and invasion of other countries, whereas Mao's were caused mostly by famine. Stalin presided over famine and concentration camps, but there's no way that the number of people murdered directly by Stalin's henchmen would equal that of Hitler.

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  8. Anon @ 6:04 PM:

    This is a red herring. Whether a man starves to death as a prisoner of Auschwitz or as a prisoner of the "workers' commune" is a difference in propaganda. Either way, he's a dead man.

    Apologists for Mao seem to think that it's only murder if you admit to it. Since Mao, unlike Hitler, didn't state his intention to kill millions of people, Mao must not have intended to kill millions of people. And since it's the Intention/Thought that Counts, well then Mao must only be criticized for his incompetence.

    Hogwash. Mao wasn't incompetent (i.e. stupid); he was evil. He knew what he was doing, and he, apparently unlike Hitler, knew it was bad enough he ought to lie about it. Being a better liar is hardly grounds for acquittal.

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  9. Robert (a different person from Rob)Monday, 16 November 2009 at 10:51:00 GMT+11

    "Anonymous" wrote:

    "The claims about death tolls under Mao and Stalin vs. Hitler are tenuous..."

    I don't know who you are, Anonymous, since you won't give any name, but I suggest you might study Robert Conquest's books on Soviet terror, R. J. Rummel's Death By Government, and (most relevant of all) The Black Book of Communism. You can then come back and report your findings. Of course most Australians (I don't know the nationality of "Anonymous") are too ignorant, too lazy, and too enslaved to Hollywood / "university" trash culture to be aware that such books even exist. But they're there, and in the age of Amazon there's no excuse for a literate person not to know about them.

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  10. The claims about death tolls under Mao and Stalin vs. Hitler are tenuous, since Hitler's were caused through death camps and invasion of other countries, whereas Mao's were caused mostly by famine.

    Bzzzzzzt, wrong.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laogai

    "It is estimated that in the last 50 years more than 50 million people have been sent to laogai camps... In Mao: The Unknown Story, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday estimate that perhaps 27 million people died in prisons and labor camps during Mao Tse-tung's rule. They claim that inmates were subjected to back-breaking labor in the most hostile wastelands, and that executions and suicides by any means (like diving into a wheat chopper) were commonplace."

    That makes Hitler look like a piker!

    Stalin presided over famine and concentration camps, but there's no way that the number of people murdered directly by Stalin's henchmen would equal that of Hitler.

    Bzzzzzt, wrong.

    http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/COM.ART.HTM

    I should clarify the term democide. It means for governments what murder means for an individual under municipal law. It is the premeditated killing of a person in cold blood, or causing the death of a person through reckless and wanton disregard for their life. Thus, a government incarcerating people in a prison under such deadly conditions that they die in a few years is murder by the state--democide--as would parents letting a child die from malnutrition and exposure be murder. So would government forced labor that kills a person within months or a couple of years be murder. So would government created famines that then are ignored or knowingly aggravated by government action be murder of those who starve to death. And obviously, extrajudicial executions, death by torture, government massacres, and all genocidal killing be murder.

    The Soviet Union appears the greatest megamurderer of all, apparently killing near 61,000,000 people. Stalin himself is responsible for almost 43,000,000 of these. Most of the deaths, perhaps around 39,000,000 are due to lethal forced labor in gulag and transit thereto.
    ...
    n sum the communist probably have murdered something like 110,000,000, or near two-thirds of all those killed by all governments, quasi-governments, and guerrillas from 1900 to 1987. Of course, the world total itself it shocking. It is several times the 38,000,000 battle-dead that have been killed in all this century's international and domestic wars. Yet the probable number of murders by the Soviet Union alone--one communist country-- well surpasses this cost of war. And those murders of communist China almost equal it.

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  11. "I suggest you might study Robert Conquest's books on Soviet terror, R. J. Rummel's Death By Government"

    Crack open "Gulag Archipelgo" while you're at it too.

    Still defending the Reds *shakes head*.

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  12. I no longer live in Australia, but was pleased to learn from your blog that a documentary has been made on the Tol Plantation massacre. Some of us have known about it, and other atrocities, for years but I suspect it's often been expedient to play these events down.

    The reason I know about it is because a maternal cousin, I've also had letters from one of the soldiers who helped collect the remains at the end of the war.

    Another cousin was killed on the Sandakan death march. And an uncle survived horrific experiences as a PoW of the Japanese.

    I've also known people who survived Auschwitz, the Spanish "purification" camps, a Vietnamese re-education camp, the Cambodian Killing Fields, and a Soviet gulag.

    What I've learned from all of them is that no one group of people has a monopoly on cruelty and depravity in the name of their particular cause. The worst thing is that it doesn't seem to take much to turn Mr Next Door into a sadistic monster.

    And when you're arguing about issues like this: remember that the victims of atrocities were real people with family and try to be respectful. Some of us have very long memories.

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  13. Apologies, part of my comment appears to have been cut.

    It should have read: "The reason I know about it is because a maternal cousin was among those bayoneted to death by the Japanese at Tol Plantation."

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  14. The Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society has a goal of dedicating a national memorial at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, 1 July 2012. The memorial is for all those who died in Rabaul and the surrounding New Guinea islands after the invasion of 23 January 1942, including those at Tol and over 1000 Aussie troops and civilians on the Montevideo Maru. To commission an artist we need donations, which are eligible for tax deductibility, as soon as possible. If you can help, and all help is appreciated, please go to: www.memorial.org.au

    Many thanks.

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  15. I lost my father, Thomas Webb NX45161 at Tol. Since the end of the war we have believed that he was in a mass grave on Tol Plantation. My mother died in 1999 believing that to be the case, now I have just found out that all the men were removed to Bita Paka War Cemetry. Can anyone tell me when that move took place,please? Norma

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  16. I have only just learnt that 2 of my Great Uncles also died in Tol. I would love to know more about where they are now. :(

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