Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
The readjustment problems that were encountered by the prisoners-of-war (POWs) were caused by their identification problems, the chief aspect of which was their defensive isolationism. These problems produced further difficulties for the individual POW in the behavioral category and for the entire POW group in their underlying distrust of the outside world. These also produced confused reactions, paranoid syndromes, and a lack of participation in military and civilian affairs, and were expressed in the POWs as fearful withdrawal and belligerent negation with anti-social overtones. These problems were more marked in the case of the Korean War prisoners than in the case of the prisoners of the Japanese in World War II because of the complex and confusing pressures to which the Korean War POWs were subjected.
The prisoner-of-war identification syndrome was exaggerated by the repatriates and used as a rationalization for all the adjustment problems the men faced. If a POW could not identify with his community, he fell back and identified with his prisoner-of-war group and showed more interest and enthusiasm for meetings and reunions with them than his own occupational or social peers.
The psychological effects of imprisonment were very damaging. They could be handled, however, by qualified people and successful readjustments could be made back into civilian life. If the POWs problem stemmed from a definite psychiatric disability, the Red Cross or Veteran's Administration or one of the local psychiatric or mental hygiene clinics usually provided the only source of help. The local Family Welfare Society or Family Service Societies provided some help for problems that affected family relationships but were not psychiatric in nature.
On the personal level, rehabilitation began with a realization on the part of everyone that each POW's case was distinct and he reacted differently to his military and prison experiences, based largely upon his emotional maturity before he entered the service. His treatment, therefore, usually began with a psychiatrist or social worker compiling a case history which included many of the experiences of his early life. The most important objective for the person who wanted to help the POW to readjust was to secure the best possible understanding of his complex problems. This helped to create the intelligent and sympathetic atmosphere the returning POW needed in his first difficult months at home. All that was really required was the use of common sense and patience.
Readjustment was not accomplished without many heartaches, and even today, some POWs remain emotionally and physically crippled by their experiences. Perhaps they will never completely recover, but a genuine understanding by the family and friends of the prisoner was invaluable in hastening the readjustment process and sometimes averting chronic invalidism.
Hanegan, Allen, "Resettlement Problems of Prisoners-of-War of the Japanese in World War II and the Chinese Communists in Korea" (1978). Masters Theses. 3230.
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