When Germany lost the Marshall Islands, the...

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Kamerad06
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When Germany lost the Marshall Islands, the...

Postby Kamerad06 » 03 Aug 2009 00:51

...Caroline Islands, the Marianas and Palau to the Japanese Navy in the autumn of 1914, there were no battles. The Germans on those islands were all civilians: administrators, planters, traders and missionaries.

The book Nan'yo: The Rise and Fall of the Japanese in Micronesia, 1885-1945 describes in detail the way the Japanese Navy planned and executed the invasion, but says very little about the way the German population was treated, except to say that by the end of October, 1914, "all the Germans had been banished".

Where were they banished to?

What transport arrangements were made for them?

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Re: When Germany lost the Marshall Islands, the...

Postby Kamerad06 » 03 Aug 2009 03:37

I have also posted these questions, in a slightly different form, on the "Japan at War 1895-1945" branch.
viewtopic.php?f=65&t=156049

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Chris Dale
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Re: When Germany lost the Marshall Islands, the...

Postby Chris Dale » 03 Aug 2009 23:29

There were small armed forces on these islands in the form of units of Polizeitruppe, led by German Police NCOs. But as you say there were no battles. The forces were not strong enough to put up a fight, and also they were covered under Haber/Holmes New Guinea capitulation, stating that no parts of the colony of German New Guinea would offer further resistance to the allies- http://www.awm.gov.au/cms_images/histor ... ers/06.pdf . Though I'm not sure if all the islands or even the Japanese had been informed of it. Do you know if the Japanese knew of it?

It's only a guess, but I would have thought the German prisoners would have gone to the same Japanese POW camps as thoese from Tsingtao. This Japanese website will probably know - http://homepage3.nifty.com/akagaki/

Hope that helps a little,
Cheers
Chris

The taking of Micronesia has also been mentioned here- viewtopic.php?f=31&t=77918&start=15 . Does your book shed any more interesting light on the invasions, not already mentioned?

Kamerad06
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Re: When Germany lost the Marshall Islands, the...

Postby Kamerad06 » 04 Aug 2009 12:19

Thanks for that reply.

The book in question mentions some background information and a couple of brief anecdotes (I'll paraphrase for the sake of brevity) :

In the autumn of 1914 Japanese forces were ordered to retain any and all existing German institutions, laws and practices as long as they were not prejudicial to Japanese order and sovereignty. This last word is significant, because officially Japan's position was that it did not seek sovereignty over these islands, but was merely occupying enemy territory as part of its naval treaty with Great Britain. In reality it was setting itself up for eventual permanent occupation and annexation of these islands.

At Ponape the initial landing party from the cruiser TSUKUBA (from the 1st South Seas Squadron) behaved in an exemplary fashion. They were led by Lt-Cdr MATSUOKA Shizuo, an unusually academically-inclined navy man. He later resigned his commission and became a cultural anthropologist and author of several books on Micronesia. Matsuoka spoke German, having served four years as Japan's naval attache in Vienna. The Catholic bishop of Micronesia, Salvator Walleser, later wrote:

A few days after the seizure [which occurred on October 7], the chief of the occupying forces appeared and with polite excuses explained that Japan had conquered the island and would henceforth administer it. For the present everything was to remain as it was. Private property was [to be] respected and religious and intellectual freedoms guaranteed ... We were left in peace to perform our usual work ... By and large the conquerors - officers and troops - acted with decorum during and after the takeover of the island. Although the troops had gone through everything [searching all buildings, including the church and convent, looking for weapons but finding none] and had ample opportunity to steal whatever they wanted, not the least little thing was missing after they left.


Most of the landing party soon reembarked and continued on to other islands. Matsuoka was ordered to stay behind
with a small naval garrison to administer Ponape until a permanent administrator could be assigned. He appropriated a few buildings for accommodation and a headquarters office, but generally allowed the small German community to go about its business without restriction or interference.

Frustratingly, the book says nothing about the eventual fate of these Germans on Ponape.

In another incident:

But at least one of the commanders who led his men ashore in Micronesia in October 1914 had little of Matsuoka's cultural sensitivity and tact. In Palau, the Japanese occupation began in a more threatening manner. Incensed at learning that German authorities had incarcerated Japanese nationals on the island [mainly copra traders] at the outset of the war, the landing party commander threatened to execute all Germans in Koror [the town], including the Catholic missionaries. But he was dissuaded from doing so by the now-released prisoners themselves. Soon after, he ordered all the Germans to be tried by a Japanese naval court on a charge of having attempted to incite the Palauans against the Japanese occupation, but the charge was dropped for lack of evidence.By the end of the month, however, all Germans had been banished from Palau.


Again, no information on what the Japanese government did with them.

(((o)))

Two other comments:

(1) I posted this on the Japan at War 1895-1945 branch, and one response there was that it was possible the Japanese arranged for the Micronesian Germans to be repatriated under the protection of the United States. Apparently the Japanese nationals in Germany when war broke out were eventually repatriated through Switzerland under American protection. Something similar could have been arranged here, I suppose, since the US controlled the nearby Philippines as well as Guam, the closest neutral territories to Japan.

Would there be any way to verify this?

I don't read Japanese well enough to get all the details from that link about Greman POWs in Japan, but my first impression is that those POWs were all described as coming from the German garrison in China. I didn't see any reference to Germans from 南洋 (the South Seas, which is how the Japanese described Micronesia).


(2) That link you gave led to some photos of the Japanese occupying Micronesia. (Thanks for that, by the way.) Picture 3 includes in the caption something like, "the Germans from Chuuk were taken away in a Japanese ship". (Incidentally, Chuuk is spelled "Truk" on some maps.) But what I'd really like to know is: taken away where?. And for how long? And under what conditions?

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Peter H
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Re: When Germany lost the Marshall Islands, the...

Postby Peter H » 05 Aug 2009 07:46

There is no mention of released Germans arriving in the Dutch East Indies anytime during the war.In fact,the Dutch themselves were worried by a Japanese landing in Java if they were seen as too pro-German or such.They had enough problems with 'trapped' German merchantmen and colonists as it was.Refer Kees Van Dijk's The Netherlands Indies and the Great War 1914-1918.

The Australian Official History also mentions that some interned German civilians (in Australia) was "paroled" and released to US custody in 1915/1916,arriving at Los Angeles.

The Australian history also mentions that 3,300 Germans were interned in China in 1917,when China declared war on Germany.One plan was to move them to Australia,but they subsequently were interned in Chinese camps.

A summary of possibilities of what happened to the German Micronesians:

(1)held in Japan
or
(2)released,paroled,shipped to the United States
or
(3)released,paroled to neutral China(until 1917) where a large German community still existed.Then interned by the Chinese in 1917.
or
(4)even passed into British hands,that at one time held interned German civilians at both Singapore and Calcutta

Kamerad06
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Re: When Germany lost the Marshall Islands, the...

Postby Kamerad06 » 05 Aug 2009 08:56

Thank you, yes those suggestions are all distinct possibilities in this case. I didn't know about the Dutch East Indies authorites' concerns about possible Japanese activity in their territory.

In the meantime I'll keep poking around to see if any documented information comes to light, and check in from time to time to see if anybody out there in Axis Forumland has anything to add.

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Chris Dale
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Re: When Germany lost the Marshall Islands, the...

Postby Chris Dale » 05 Aug 2009 15:33

Thanks for those anecdotes, Kamerad, that's just the kind of small history I like.

Have you seen the Micronesia Over the Years website http://www.micsem.org/photos.htm ? There's some photos of the Japanese occupation there.

The Japanese Flag unfurled album-
http://www.micsem.org/photos/jpn_flag/index.htm

An album showing German and Japanese police-
http://www.micsem.org/photos/police/thumbs.htm

A Japanese Dentist at work-
http://www.micsem.org/photos/healing_art/05.htm

Cheers
Chris

Kamerad06
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Re: When Germany lost the Marshall Islands, the...

Postby Kamerad06 » 07 Aug 2009 13:30

Thanks.

There's one other incident mentioned in the book ((Nan'yo: The Rise and Fall of the Japanese in Micronesia, 1885-1945, by Mark. R. Peattie) which is worth retelling. It's slightly later that the German colonial period, but is interesting nonetheless.

In August and September of 1914 the Japanese Foreign Ministry had repeatedly assured the British that Japan had no interest in acquiring the German territories in the Pacific north of the equator as colonies. Britain never admitted it, but there may have been a desire to acquire these islands as British territories, in order to limit Japan's increasing imperial expansion (it had just annexed Korea a few years earlier).

However, after occupying Micronesia and establishing an official administration run by the Navy,Tokyo's position became increasingly contradictory: on the one hand Japan would patiently await any postwar decision made by an international tribunal on the ultimate fate of these ex-German possessions and would relinquish them if so requested, but on the other hand Japan reserved the right to keep these territories as a reward for its considerable efforts in ousting the enemy from them and depriving Germany of potential bases in the Pacific (even though Japan's victories in German-controlled Micronesia were totally bloodless and Germany was in no position to mount military offensives in that distant part of the world anyway).

After Britain finally accepted Japan's right to remain in Micronesia (London had more pressing concerns), and the Japanese were awarded a League of Nations Mandate to administer these islands, there were still some legal questions left unresolved. These arose for various reasons, too complicated to address here. However, as the years passed no one at the League of Nations contested in any serious way Japan's right to control the ex-German territories. Japan left the League in 1933 anyway, so was no longer bound by its rules from that point. But by leaving the League of Nations Japan risked losing its legal right to rule Micronesia, a right that had been granted by the League of Nations in the first place.

At the same time there was increasing suspicion about the secrecy surrounding Japan's policies in the islands, especially after Japan prevented or seriously limited foreign access to the islands.The United States was particularly troubled by all this secrecy. The United States Navy anticipated an eventual Pacific war against Japan in which the Micronesian islands - between Hawaii and the US-held Philippines - would play a key role. Washington therefore started questioning Japan's continued presence in the former German territories.

In Tokyo various ideas to establish Japan's legitimacy of its control of the ex-German colonies once and for all were proposed. The strangest plan was this:

There is reason to believe ... that even after their withdrawal from the League of Nations the Japanese were still vexed by world opinion considering the legitimacy of Japan's position in Micronesia. One recent researcher has claimed that, as Japan's relations with Germany became closer in the 1930s, the Japanese government...seriously considered the idea of returning the islands to Germany, then buying them back again, in order to settle Japan's claim once and for all. The idea was discussed ... among the war, navy and foreign ministries ... in 1938 to enter into such an arrangement, but nothing ever came of it.
(italics added)

If nothing else, the fact that such an idea was discussed at such a high level in 1938 reveals that senior Japanese officials - in the initial stages of discussion, at least - must have had a very naive trust in the Nazi leadership to honour such a deal. Perhaps, though, as they saw Germany's aggressive foreign policy unfolding in Europe, the Japanese simply decided the risk of being doublecrossed by Hitler and von Ribbentrop was simply too great. Or maybe they simply decided they didn't want to have to pay for something that was already theirs.


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