Featherston 1943

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Peter H
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Location: Australia

Featherston 1943

Post by Peter H » 11 Feb 2005 11:03

Some details on the Japanese POW mutiny in New Zealand in 1943.


It appears that the NZ guard who fired the most on the Japanese POWs may have had a personal grudge to settle:his brother was among the Tarawa Massacre victims of October 1942:

Nineteen weeks later, on February 25, 1943, came the bloody conflict at Featherston army camp, serving as a camp for Japanese prisoners of war. Jack Owen was stationed there.

Dave Gillies, an officer at the camp, says the army had sought to move two Japanese officers from one compound to another. The prisoners resisted.

After a two-hour standoff while the seated prisoners refused to move, Lieutenant James Malcolm fired a warning shot and then a second shot, apparently aiming to wound an officer, which he did. The same bullet killed a man behind him. The Japanese moved; some said they were attacking the guard, others that they were scattering. The armed guard surrounded the prisoners. Thirty seconds later, 31 Japanese were dead and 91 injured. Seventeen died of their wounds. A New Zealand soldier was killed.

An investigation showed that most of the Thompson sub-machinegun rounds were fired by Corporal Jack Owen, whose nickname "Drag" came from a Hollywood Western character who was always drawing his six-shooter.

"I think Jack Owen probably helped in speeding up the Japanese wish to die for their emperor, while getting some satisfaction in avenging the ill treatment and execution of his brother, and his brother's associates," Mr Gillies says. He believes that Jack knew his brother was dead.

"Whether the corporal's contribution at Featherston was a vengeance one is a matter for conjecture in the riot," Mr Gillies says. But Japanese prisoners sensed that Jack Owen's action had been a reprisal, he says.

Guard Len James told Mike Nicolaidi in The Featherston Chronicles that Jack Owen fired on the prisoners; from behind, "mowing, them down".

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