Graham Apthorpe’s account of the Cowra outbreak is superb. Narrated in a fresh way, in elegant and original prose, and with a wonderful gift for taking the unexpected angle, it does great service to this astonishing Australian-Japanese event, and will have a honoured place in the canon of fascinating works on the incident. Thomas Keneally
The War in the Pacific has turned; thousands of the previously invincible Japanese soldiers are now being captured in New Guinea and interned at the Cowra Prisoner of War Camp. Unlike other POWs, the traditional Japanese Bushido Code and their fanaticism leaves them ill-equipped for surrender and imprisonment. Ashamed, subdued and sullen, one man, Second Lieutenant Maseo Naka is an exception. Obstructing the Australian authorities at every turn, he was the first Japanese soldier to escape from Cowra. This action becomes the precursor for the more than 1000 Japanese prisoners who escape in the bloodiest Breakout of World War II that ultimately saw 234 Japanese and four Australian guards killed. His escape and the defiance, guilt, and shame that motivated it, led to his court-martial.
Naka nevertheless stands-out as very human, another tragic victim of the global inferno that was World War II. Adhering to the Samurai Code of Bushido, he doggedly undertakes actions that he views as necessary for the maintenance of his “honour”. Through the insights of those around Naka, together with new research including the personal accounts of Australian interrogators, the author shows how this handsome loner provided the impetus for the dramatic events in the early hours of August 5, 1944 where hundreds of Japanese soldiers stormed the Camp defences for honour, or death!
Graham Apthorpe (MBA) is a researcher and author and a 30-year resident of Cowra. His first work, the acclaimed A Town at War details how Cowra, site of Australia’s largest POW camp, was more heavily-involved and immersed in the spirit, sacrifice, and values of World War II than any other Australian community. Graham has published a number of articles and has also assisted other authors and researchers with their projects.