Māori Members of the armed forces performing the Haka in the Western Desert, Egypt, July 1941. Formed in 1940 as part of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF), the 28th Battalion were the most decorated New Zealand battalion in WWII.
The Empire of Japan, which had signed but never ratified the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, did not treat prisoners of war in accordance with international agreements, including provisions of the Hague Conventions, either during the Second Sino-Japanese War or during the Pacific War because the Japanese viewed surrender as dishonorable. Moreover, according to a directive ratified on 5 August 1937 by Hirohito, the constraints of the Hague Conventions were explicitly removed on Chinese prisoners.
Prisoners of war from China, the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the Philippines held by the Japanese armed forces were subject to murder, beatings, summary punishment, brutal treatment, forced labour, medical experimentation, starvation rations, poor medical treatment and cannibalism. The most notorious use of forced labour was in the construction of the Burma–Thailand Death Railway. After 20 March 1943, the Imperial Japanese Navy was under orders to execute all prisoners taken at sea.
According to the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal, the death rate of Western prisoners was 27.1%, seven times that of POWs under the Nazis and Italians. The death rate of Chinese was much higher. Thus, while 37,583 prisoners from the United Kingdom, Commonwealth, and Dominions, 28,500 from the Netherlands, and 14,473 from the United States were released after the surrender of Japan, the number for the Chinese was only 56 in total. Of the 27,465 United States Army and United States Army Air Forces POWs in the Pacific Theater, they had a 40.4% death rate. The War Ministry in Tokyo issued an order at the end of the war to kill all surviving POWs.