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Long Night’s Journey into Day

Prisoners of War in Hong Kong and Japan, 1941-1945

By Charles G. Roland
Subjects History, Medical, History Of Medicine, Military History
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Paperback : 9780889203624, 449 pages, May 2001
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554587766, 449 pages, October 2010
Ebook (PDF) : 9780889209428, 449 pages, January 2006

Table of contents

Table of Contents for Long Night's Journey into Day: Prisoners of War in Hong Kong and Japan, 1941–1945 by Charles G. Roland
Illustrations and Tables
Hong Kong Chronology
1. Hong Kong before 8 December 1941
2. The Eighteen-Day War: 8–25 December 1941
3. The Prisoner-of-War Camps and Hospitals
4. Prisoner-of-War Life in Hong Kong
5. Trying to Cope with Too Little Food
6. In Sickness, Rarely in Health: Life and Death in the Camps and Hospitals
7. The Overseas Drafts
8. POW Camps in the Japanese Home Islands
9. Less than Perfect Soldiers
10. The Journey Ends—But It Never Does


Sickness, starvation, brutality, and forced labour plagued the existence of tens of thousands of Allied POWs in World War II. More than a quarter of these POWs died in captivity.
Long Night’s Journey into Day centres on the lives of Canadian, British, Indian, and Hong Kong POWs captured at Hong Kong in December 1941 and incarcerated in camps in Hong Kong and the Japanese Home Islands. Experiences of American POWs in the Philippines, and British and Australians POWs in Singapore, are interwoven throughout the book.
Starvation and diseases such as diphtheria, beriberi, dysentery, and tuberculosis afflicted all these unfortunate men, affecting their lives not only in the camps during the war but after they returned home. Yet despite the dispiriting circumstances of their captivity, these men found ways to improve their existence, keeping up their morale with such events as musical concerts and entertainments created entirely within the various camps.
Based largely on hundreds of interviews with former POWs, as well as material culled from archives around the world, Professor Roland details the extremes the prisoners endured — from having to eat fattened maggots in order to live to choosing starvation by trading away their skimpy rations for cigarettes.
No previous book has shown the essential relationship between almost universal ill health and POW life and death, or provides such a complete and unbiased account of POW life in the Far East in the 1940s.


This is a story of disease and starvation, and its direct impact on POW survival rates. It is a gruesome story, punctuated with moments of comedy and pathos. Above all, it is a story of unstinting dedication by the medial officers and the hospital orderlies who performed heroic tasks in such demanding environments. The array of primary sources fomr Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Hong Kong, and the United States is indeed impressive. Of particular note, is the vast amount of hitherto unknown or unused clinical analyses produced in the immediate postwar period, which provide invaluable insights into the medical side of POW lfe. Another useful source that Roland should be congratulated on are the scores of interviews he has conducted with ex-POWs and civilian internees over the past twenty-five years. For these accounts provide a raw edge to a growing litany of horrifying POW experiences.

- Geoffrey Gill, Liverpoool School of Tropical Medicine, Military History, Vol 66 No 2, April 2002, 2002 October

This is a meticulously researched book using interviews, archives, libraries and other writings. The mammoth task of collecting this scattered material and sifting it was conducted over twenty years....Roland's simple story of the common man, coping with adversity, shows that humanity at its best will always overcome its common frailties.

- C.P.W. Warren, University of Manitoba, Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, Vol 19 No 2, 2002, 2003 October

A welcome and excellent addition to the small literay resource available....Considering the extraordinarily difficult circumstances in which these [prisoners] lived, these records are a tribute to their fortitude and determination.

- Geoffrey Gill, Liverpoool School of Tropical Medicine, Medical History, Vol 46 No 4, October 2002, 2002 October

Roland draws upon hundreds of interviews with former POWs, as well as archival material from around the world to detail and document the extreme conditions that the prisoners were compelled by their captors to endure. Long Night's Journey into Day is an essential, core title for any serious World War II studies reference collection.

- Liverpoool School of Tropical Medicine, Wisconsin Bookwatch, October 2001, 2002 October