There Were Children on the Battleground: Japanese and Filipino Youth in the Second World War


There Were Children on the Battleground project graphic

War was a horrible experience for nearly everyone in the Pacific, regardless of nation, race, or age. This is why many Pacific nations created their own “victim” narratives. Many western nations and Asian nations alike criticize Japan for maintaining a victim narrative when the Japanese were perpetrators of many Pacific atrocities such as the Rape of Nanjing, the Manilla Massacre, and Unit 731. Still, Japan’s victim narrative is valid as many children and other civilians suffered from the war wrought by the hands of their superiors. Yet other countries suffered at the hands of the Japanese.

Before the war, the Philippines was a U.S. territory just as Hawaii was. Many Americans are familiar with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor but know little of the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines. As one Filipino author put it: “When American children were playing genteel parlor games amid dolls and tea sets, or baseball outdoors, Filipino children were dealing most intimately with the articles of war–foxholes and air raid shelters, bullets, bombs, and bayonets.”[1]

This digital exhibit will place the experiences of Japanese and Filipino youth side by side, showing that World War II in the Pacific was a similar experience for youth that transcended national borders. In both countries, not even children could escape the terrors of war as both Japanese and Filipino youth faced similar levels of indoctrination, violence, and starvation.

Exhibit Credits:

Tommy Chau (Scanning Technician)

Alyson Griggs (Exhibit Curator)

Shay Larsen (Graphic Design)

Marnie Nelson (Scanning Technician)

Darcy Pumphrey (Digital Team)

Branson Roskelley (Digital Team)

[1] Joan Orendain, “Children of War” in Under Japanese Rule: Memories and Reflections, ed. Renato Constantino (Quezon City: Foundation for Nationalist Studies, 1992), 254.