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Already written in 2002, but gives a good  idea, what it is all about.

D+C Development and Cooperation (No. 6, November/December 2002, p. 28-30)

„Only Bullets Don't Differentiate between Blacks and Whites“
The Third World in World War Two
Rainer Werning

A group of independent German journalists based in Cologne have ventured 
into an exciting research project: to work up the unwritten history of the 
millions of people in the former colonies who served, suffered and died in 
World War Two. Project research began in 1997 and shall be completed in 
2004. During various trips, extensive interviews were already conducted 
with historians, contemporaries, and war veterans from former colonies in 
Africa, the Near & Middle East, Asia, Oceania and in Australia. This 
ambitious study shall be complemented by additional research in archives 
in Paris, London, Amsterdam and Berlin. 

Most standard history books on World War II contain lists of casualties: 
They read, for example, "55 million victims" and proceed to count: "Soviet 
Union: 20 million, Germany: 6.5 million, Poland: 5 million, Japan: 2.5 
million, Yugoslavia: 1.7 million, France: 635,000, Italy: 500,000, Great 
Britain: 386,000, United States: 273,000." The only victims who have never 
been included are those from Africa, Asia and Oceania. Some statistics 
even fail to mention the "approximately 5 million people" who died in 
China during World War II. If civilians were to be included, the number of 
Chinese victims alone may even surpass 10 million. 
To this date, the number of victims from the Third World that this war 
caused has nowhere been investigated systematically, the main reason being 
that most of the countries concerned were then still under European, 
American, or Japanese tutelage or control. Their casualties were lumped 
together with the victims of the colonial powers (and thus reduced 
significantly), or they were simply never counted. This is all the more 
appalling since World War II was fought in many Third World countries. 
European and American historians at best mention black soldiers in World 
War II as exotic footnotes - be they "Senegalese bowmen" from West Africa 
or Australian Aborigines. Usually, veterans from the colonies are not 
invited to attend V-Day celebrations. And until today, they normally do 
not receive veterans' pensions, or if they do, they just make up a 
fraction of "white" soldiers' pensions. The French government still pays 
the equivalent of ten U.S. dollars per month to an ancien combatants from 
Dakar, Senegal, who had been fighting for four years in the French army in 

Africa and the War

At the outset of the war, the French colonies in Africa were divided into 
four sectors: North Africa, West Africa, Equatorial Africa, and 
Madagascar. After the Franco-German armistice in 1940, the collaborators 
of the pro-German Vichy Regime controlled these colonies. This meant that 
the native troops, commanded by French officers, were not fighting for the 
anti-Hitler coalition. Only gradually did they follow General de Gaulle's 
call in 1940 "For a Free France". 
Towards the end of the war, more than half a million Africans from the 
French colonies were fighting on de Gaulle's side. At times, they made up 
fifty to sixty per cent of the soldiers in his ranks. But when it came to 
marching into Paris, African troops were allegedly replaced by Whites 
because the French commanders did not want Africans to free their capital. 
320,000 soldiers in the French army came from the North African colonies. 
In return for fighting the Germans, Algerians were promised independence. 
However, when they demonstrated for that cause, waving Algerian flags, on 
May 8, 1945, the French army massacred 45,000 people. Worldwide, May 8, 
1945, the day of Germany's capitulation, came to be known as the day of 
liberation from fascism and war. In Algeria, this day was one of the 
darkest in the nation's history. 
During World War II, the French army committed another massacre, murdering 
soldiers from Senegal. In 1944, at the outskirts of Dakar, "Camp de 
Thiaroye" housed "Senegalese bowmen" who had come home exhausted from 
European battlegrounds. When they were not paid the promised wages, they 
revolted. The French swiftly moved in military trucks and fired at the 
crowd, killing many Senegalese soldiers. Ousmane SembËne, the most 
prominent contemporary Senegalese writer and film director, saved this 
incidence from sinking into oblivion by turning it into a movie called 
"Camp de Thiaroye." 
The British recruited 372,000 soldiers in their African colonies. Tens of 
thousands of them from Ghana, Cameroon and other West African countries 
were shipped to Asia (via South Africa) to fight against the Japanese in 
the jungles of Burma. After the bombardment of London, the British urged 
their African colonies to collect goods for homeless and orphaned children 
in England. Africans, themselves lacking basic goods, donated rice and 
contributed millet, goats and money. The Masai provided 40,000 heads of 
cattle for British soldiers on the frontlines. 

Asia and the War
Besides Europe, Asia was the second most important battleground in World 
War II. Part of the time of the war, Japan occupied Korea and China, 
Vietnam and Burma, Thailand and Malaysia (formerly Malaya), Indonesia 
(formerly Dutch India), Timor, New Guinea and the Philippines as well as 
some of the Pacific islands. In Asia, too, native soldiers fought in 
colonial armies on both sides of the front. For example, the Ambonese and 
the Minahassians made up 80 per cent of the Dutch Indian army. In Burma, 
native Karen, Chin and Kachin troops fought against the Japanese. The 
British deployed Indian divisions and the Chinese supported the 
anti-Japanese battles with hundreds of thousands of soldiers. 
In the Philippines, prior to the Japanese invasion, US General Douglas 
MacArthur had at his command ten divisions comprising 19,000 Americans and 
160,000 Filipinos. After the US troops had withdrawn, the Filipino 
resistance movement Hukbalahap kept fighting alone against the Japanese 
occupation from 1942 to 1944. The Japanese, in turn, forced Koreans to 
join their ranks for the Philippine campaign. When the U.S. Air Force 
"liberated" Manila, they bombed and destroyed the capital regardless of 
the civilians living there. 100,000 people died, one tenth of the city's 
population. Hardly any other city in Asia - except for Hiroshima - 
suffered from the war as much as Manila. (In comparison, 60,000 people 
died during the bombardment of the German city of Dresden.) Women from the 
Philippines and other Asian countries are still demanding an apology and a 
compensation from the Japanese - in vain. These so-called "comfort women" 
were detained and raped in brothels which the Japanese military authority 
had installed for their soldiers' "rest & recreation". At least a million 
so-called "romusha" were drafted by the Japanese Imperial Army as forced 
laborers in Indonesia to logistically support its troops. Almost one 
fourth of the victims of the atomic bomb inferno of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 
on August 6 and 9, 1945 were Koreans, most of them impoverished peasants, 
who were made to work in Japanese factories. 
In Indochina, native resistance movements kept combating the Japanese army 
after the French Vichy Regime had left their former colonies. In Vietnam, 
Ho Chi Minh announced national independence in 1945 for the first time. 
However, after the War the French returned as a colonial power and 
triggered the first Vietnam (or Indochina) war. On the Asian 
battlegrounds, the British as well as the French deployed African 
soldiers, frequently at the frontlines and in most dangerous and atrocious 
combats. Colonies of politically "neutral" European powers were drawn into 
the conflict as well - e.g., the Portuguese colonies Macao and Timor. 
Australia's Aborigines did not enjoy civil rights until 1967. They were 
administered by the government's Department for Natural Resources and 
Wildlife and were banned from voting. However, they served as cannon 
fodder for the British or Australian army, respectively, from World War I 
to the Vietnam War. In World War II, Aborigines fought in North Africa, 
Asia and Europe. 
In 1994, Australia showed the first exhibition ever dealing with 
Aborigines in war times - "from the Somme to Vietnam" - which carried the 
title "Forgotten Heroes." In 1992, Jack Davis, the most prominent 
Aboriginal author, wrote a play called "In Our Town." It tells the story 
of a black soldier who returns from the war, decorated as a 'war hero', 
but finds that in his white-dominated hometown he is not even allowed to 
buy a house; the area needs to be kept "clean and white." 

The war in the Pacific
Many archipelagos in the Pacific were turned into fierce battlegrounds 
during World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, martial law was in 
effect in Hawaii for eight years. All around the Solomon Islands, decisive 
battles between Japanese and US American troops took place. Thousands of 
islanders served as scouts or coast guards. In Samoa and Vanuatu, gigantic 
military bases were built. 
The islanders in the Pacific region, too, fought on opposite sides. Most 
joined the U.S. Army, others were forcefully drafted by the Japanese. In 
New Caledonia and Polynesia, the French recruited soldiers whom they 
lumped together into a special "Bataillon du Pacifique." As had been the 
case during World War I, this battalion was deployed to other continents 
as well. New Caledonia was an island with merely 50,000 inhabitants. In 
1943, after the defeat of Vichy France, 200,000 US soldiers were stationed 
After the war, when the Pacific islands were liberated from Japanese 
occupation, the United States took over many of these islands and turned 
them into military bases or test areas for nuclear weapons, e.g. 
Kwajalein, Johnson or the Marshall Islands. Most of these islands were 
given to the US as trust territories by the United Nations immediately 
after the war. The UN, however, had issued explicit orders to grant the 
islands independence as soon as possible. But these areas remained US 
colonies for decades, due to their strategic location and military 
importance to the US during the Korean and Indochina wars. 
After the World War, the French government also secured control over "her" 
colonies in Polynesia (including the nuclear test site on Mururoa) and New 

South and Central America
Most of the countries of South and Central America had gained their (at 
least formal) independence much earlier than other parts of the world. By 
1945, the majority of the Latin American governments had officially 
declared war on Germany, partly out of conviction, partly under pressure 
from the United States. As early as in the Spanish Civil War, a Mexican 
brigade supported the Republicans against rising fascism. And in World War 
II as well, soldiers from Mexico and Brazil stood by the Allies. 
The French recruited soldiers from their colonies (Guadeloupe, Martinique 
etc.) for the war in Europe, as they had done earlier during World War I. 
In Jamaica, the British hired volunteers for jobs essential to the 
armament industry. The British naval bases on the Falkland Islands 
(Malvinas) off Argentina's coast were of crucial importance to maritime 
warfare in the Atlantic. At the mouth of the Rio de la Plata River close 
to Montevideo, a naval battle took place in the course of which the German 
battleship "Graf Spee" was sunk. The "Graf Spee" had endangered the 
commercial shipping routes off the Latin American coasts. At this time, 
Uruguay was politically "neutral" which explained why German battle ships 
were still admitted to anchor in its harbors and to stock up supplies. 

Research into the history of the "Third World during World War II" is 
still going on and could be aided by D+C readers. While historians in the 
North have neglected the subject, written and oral information may be 
available in former colonial countries which needs to be tapped before the 
participants in and victims of the War may have passed away. 
The project team, recherche international e.V., the core-group undertaking 
the research, which in turn is assisted by the collective of 
the Cologne-based Rheinisches JournalistInnenbuero, therefore invites 
readers to make comments, suggestions, and send informations, 
bibliographical or otherwise. You may contact us under the following 
recherche international e.V.
c/o Karl Rössel
Kuenstr. 35
D - 50733 Köln
Tel: + 49 (0)221 23 97 14
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Though scientific accuracy and historic verification are indispensable, 
our main focus is on presenting the findings in a way most attractive to 
as large a public as possible. Lecture tours will be arranged once the 
book is out in print in 2005. 
This project is an undertaking of recherche international e.V. which was 
founded in 1999 and actively encourages the dialogue between Europe and 
countries of the so-called Third World in all fields of life. The bulk of 
the work already completed was done by the free-lance journalists and 
authors of Rheinisches JournalistInnenbuero which, in turn, spans two 
decades of in-depth reporting. Their work is broadcast on public radio 
stations and occasionally on TV. 

Dr. Rainer Werning, political scientist and member of Rheinisches 
JournalistInnenbuero (Cologne, Germany), has been doing extensive research 
in South East and East Asia since 1970. 

D+C Development and Cooperation,
published by: InWEnt - Internationale Weiterbildung und Entwicklung gGmbH, 
Capacity Building International, Germany 
Editorial office, postal address:
D+C Development and Cooperation, P.O. Box, D-60268 Frankfurt, Germany.
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Copyright © 2002, InWEnt, November 3, 2002


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