Do POWs feel guilty for helping the enemy

I know they didn’t have a choice, if it comes down to slow torture and helping the enemy the vast majority of reasonable humans will do the latter.

But do POWs feel guilt for this? what about concentration camp victims who built weapons for their enslavers so they could fight the war, or americans who were helping the Japanese build railroads to keep supply lines open, or the political prisoners in the USSR who helped build the empire through slave labor?

does the fact that they helped make their oppressors stronger cause them long term emotional damage, or do they just accept that it was a part of slavery?

You will have to wait for a POW who helped the enemy for an answer. However, I know that the standard response of “Name, Rank, and Serial No.” was highly modified as a result of the Korean War and further modified for Vietnam. I think quite a bit of that modification came as a result of a recognition that a person can only take so much and there isn’t any reason to make them feel guilty if that “so much” is exceeded and they cooperate.

During WWII that were some interesting psychological effects on the aircrews who force-landed in Switzerland and were interned. Many of them were not at all sure that they had made a determined effort to get back of the right side of the line. I think that all such occurences were thoroughly investigated by the US. Was the plane really so badly damaged that a landing was the only course? And that sort of thing.

I don’t know of any formal studies but I’ll be there is information available on the net.

A grunts a grunt, the world over. An American PFC, Viet Cong, whatever nationality, in this one respect they are the same: they don’t know squat. They have no secrets to divulge, only the wild, ocassionally factual, rumors common to every nation’s enlisted. At most, the “comfort” they might give the enemy is psychological and perhaps propagandistic.

To hold them to a standard of stoicism that grossly exceeds necessity would be needlessly cruel.

Oh, I don’t know about that. When I was in the bomb group we second lieutenants could hold forth for hours on how the Squadron and Group Commanders were full of it. And if General Vandenberg had dropped by we could have given him a few tips on how to improve the 9th AF too.

I’m referring to labor, not information. Concentration camp victims who built rifles so the Germans could win the war, Americans who built railroads in Thailand so the Japanese could win the war, stuff like that.

Does it matter much what war it is, or whose side you were on?

If you’re a POW and you cooperate with the enemy while most of your buddies don’t, I should think it is inevitable that you will feel profound guilt. And probably til the day you die.

I realize that the extent of the intended debate has been narrowed to post-immediate combat situations in the form of labor and such, but… even the lowliest PFC knows time sensitive information. From Cornelius Ryan, A Bridge Too Far describing the advance of British XXX Corps against heavy German defenses in the Netherlands at the outset of Operation Market-Garden in 1944 during World War II, where tanks of the Irish Guards were being turned into flaming coffins by German antitank guns and the infantry was taking heavy casualties trying to clear the road:

What was just described is, of course, by the books a violation of a number of international agreements regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. At the same time, it is the unfortunate and understandable manner in which people will treat each under the duress of the horrible ugliness of war. All the more reason, to me at least, to avoid wars unless they are patently unavoidable. Japanese prisoners in World War II were particularly apt to spill the beans on anything they knew upon capture, as they had already disgraced themselves to the ultimate limit by allowing themselves to be taken alive.

Says Dissonance

Japanese prisoners in World War II were particularly apt to spill the beans on anything they knew upon capture, as they had already disgraced themselves to the ultimate limit by allowing themselves to be taken alive.


My uncle prosecuted Japanese war criminals while stationed in Guam just after WWII.

He got the goods on one defendant - a Japanese officer - just by being polite to some low level POW grunt in the camp. My uncle happened to follow his act of courtesy (something inconsequentioal and utterly forgetable) with a question about the case in progress. And this soldier poured out all he knew.

This officer and some of his colleagues beheaded a couple of American pilots, and then ate their hearts.

The perps were found guilty and hung.