My father's work with the War Crimes Investigation Committee

My late father, born into a poor family, walked to school through tiger-infested jungles and completed his high school at St. Aloysius College High School, Mangalore. He said he was, a couple of times, kicked out of class for being late with his school fees.

Joining the British Indian Army and being taken prisoner in Singapore by the Japanese, my father underwent 3 1/2 years of horrific captivity in Rabaul, New Britain (now part of Papua New Guinea), during which time his mother had no news of him and thought he might be dead. Back in India, almost as an act of therapeutic release, this high-school educated man, with little exposure to literature, wrote down his story on the letter-pad stationery of his brothers' footwear shop. He wrote it in pencil, in 1946, and the manuscript lay unattended for 50 years until I read it and decided it had to be published. It was presented to him on December 27, 1997, less than two years before his death.

I give below an excerpt from his memoir, which has received 8 reviews on Amazon UK, including "Loved this book. Moving." It is from the period after he had been liberated from the Japanese POW camp:

Excerpt from Eaten by the Japanese: The Memoir of an Unknown Indian Prisoner of War, by John Baptist Crasta:

On 1 October 1945, I was taken on the staff of the War Crimes Investigation Committee. Capt. McLillian and Capt. Foster of Auxiliary (India) Force, Capt. Munro, 1st Hyderabad Infantry, and I, comprised the staff. We were asked to investigate charges against the Japanese under the War Crimes Act, hold courts of Enquiries, collect evidence, et cetera and submit the proceedings to 11th Division HQ. This work kept me busy the whole day.

About one hundred and sixty proceedings were submitted, the most notable among them being a case of cannibalism. I give a precis.  .....
The prisoners in New Guinea had fared a worse fate. Out of a total of three thousand men, only two hundred had survived. Most of them died of starvation, fatigue, and disease. Some had been eaten by the Japanese. In New Britain, out of a total of eleven thousand men, five thousand three hundred were alive, including nearly one thousand hospital cases.

My comment: A very high casualty rate indeed--2800 dead out of 3000. My father was lucky to be in the group that had a mortality rate of only 50%, and to be one of the lucky 50%. Had it been otherwise, you would not be reading this blog today. Also, it was solely my decision to publish the book, with my funds, and an extraordinary amount of time--that included missteps, cheating by printers and other middlemen, badly produced books, until, learning from my mistakes, I came out with 1,500 copies of a classy, professionally produced paperback (most of which were destined to rot in various storage locations, partly because of India's difficult distribution system) in late 1999. Until, thanks to Createspace, I produced a new paperback in 2013, and yet another improved edition (with a few mistakes corrected, library quality) later.

For your convenience, here are a few links to the book:

Eaten by the Japanese (latest edition):


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