Richard Overy

Kill, Kill, Kill’

Writing War: Soldiers Record the Japanese Empire


Harvard University Press 378pp £33.95 order from our bookshop

During the Second World War soldiers kept diaries. Not all soldiers did, and not necessarily all the time, since superior officers often frowned on the practice and tried to regulate it. Japanese soldiers during parade inspections tied their small diaries round their thighs to conceal them from the inspectors. American officers in the South Pacific did not always enforce the order not to write on the front line, since they had much else on their mind. Diaries full of patriotic exhortations printed on each page were even handed out by the military to the rank-and-file, but this did not stop soldiers from filling theirs with ambiguous reflections on the cruel nature of war.

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