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Authors Note: This book began as an exhibition script for the Ford Motor Company gallery with its focus on the Japanese Occupation of Singapore. At the same time, I felt a need to understand what brought about the Occupation and the context in which the Occupation of Singapore was set. One question led to another and they all grew into a book as I tried to iron out the inconsistencies found in various accounts of the Malaya Campaign and the Japanese Occupation itself. The book became an opportunity to present a Singaporean and ultimately an Asian view of the Occupation. It was a chance to tap the many oral history accounts of the Occupation compiled by the Oral History Centre of the National Archives of Singapore.
Oral history is very fluid and needs a firm anchor to be useful as history. Thus, came the days and weeks of burying myself in Syonan Shimbun which yielded a surprising amount of information on the expectations of the Japanese rulers, propaganda though it may have been. The book also became an attempt to present or gather together numerous little known facts about the occupation. And there are thousands, just as there are still several relatively unexplored areas of the period such as the activities of Unit 731 in Syonan.
Many of the little known facts came from the collection of copies of relevant documents that the National Archives has been building up through purchases from Australian and British archival centres. Many of the pictures also came from its collection of purchased Japanese pictures. Of all difficulties, keeping track of numbers was the hardest. In the heat of battle who has the time to keep count? Thus, figures for massacres, war dead and casualties are approximations, especially given the casual Japanese attitude to killings.
Even “official” figures vary but preference has been given to figures pulled out by academics and where variations may stem from hidden agendas, the variations have been stated. A preference has also been given to later rather than earlier publication because many documents became available to more recent researchers. Dates and times have also varied, in the case of time partly because of Japanese use of Tokyo time which was one and a half hours ahead of pre-war Malayan time. Thus, the actual remains an educated guess.
Note that Japanese names have been given with the family name first as is traditional throughout East Asia rather than the anglicised form of personal name followed by family name. Chinese names are also given with the family name first as is till the practice in Singapore. In the case of Tamil and Malay names, the personal name is in front with the name of the father at the end and reference is usually to the personal name.
Where there is the possibility of confusion and if it helps to speed comprehension, names are given in full. The period spanned turned out to be long, not just the three years and eight months of Japanese Occupation, and the facts and figures to be tracked and kep in mind prodigious. I ask for your indulgence and apologise for any errors that you that you may find here. Notwithstanding this, I hope that this book will serve its aim of educating the young through the painful experiences of their elders, and that by knowing history; they can prevent its repetition.
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