COWRA, AUSTRALIA – A ceremony was held in Cowra, Australia, on Saturday to commemorate those who died during a breakout of Japanese prisoners from a WWII detention camp 73 years ago.
In the early hours of Aug. 5, 1944, a group of 1,104 Japanese POWs attempted to escape from the camp.
More than 230 of the POWs were shot dead or committed suicide, while four Australian guards also died. No one managed to escape.
The incident, known as the largest prison escape of WWII, demonstrated the Japanese wartime principle of dying with honor rather than surrendering in disgrace.
After the end of the war, the Cowra city government turned the camp into a historical site that now includes a Japanese cemetery, garden and 5-km row of cherry trees.
Residents have carefully maintained the site as citizens consider the incident part of Cowra’s history, a city official said.
Cowra’s future-oriented efforts to preserve the site helped Japan and Australia foster friendly ties after the war.
“It is wonderful that Japanese and Australian people have continued to interact with each other since the incident provided opportunities,” said Japanese Ambassador to Australia Sumio Kusaka, who attended the ceremony.