Chronic. One hundred thousand deaths from Covid-19 in France, one million in Europe, three million in the world … To the mourning of families is added what economists call, with a distancing suspected of calculating cynicism, the “loss of human capital”. Any loss of human life implies a loss of labor power, professional competence, potential creativity – and therefore of factors of production and economic enrichment.

Japanese labor market specialist Ryo Kambayashi, professor at the Institute for Economic Research at Hitotsubashi University (Tokyo), and Kentaro Asai, doctoral student at the Paris School of Economics, had the idea of ​​combining data on the reconstruction and economic development of each of the Japanese “prefectures” (departments) after the Second World War with data on the military losses suffered by each of these departments, measured by the evolution of the ratio between men and women (” Consequence of Hometown Regiment ”, presentation at the economic history seminar of the Paris School of Economics, March 31, unpublished).

2 million soldiers dead out of 7 million mobilized

Indeed, like France and Great Britain at the start of the First World War, Japan recruited its military units on a geographical basis: all the men of the same community (village, town, district) were found in the same regiment. Consequently, if he was sent to the front line and wiped out, it was the entire male population aged 18 to – more or less – 35 years of the same community that disappeared. To avoid this disaster of “Pals regiments” (regiments of buddies), the Allied armies of the First World War soon “turned” the units on the front and their recruitment zones in the rear, but this was not the case for the Japanese army during the Second World War. world, which lost 2 million soldiers out of 7 million mobilized, or 2% of the total population and… 12% of men of working age.

Also read our archive: Imperial Japan from conquest to conquest

The losses were therefore very unevenly distributed: if the regiments garrisoned on the Pacific Islands, which were the targets of the annihilation battles launched by the Americans, or in Manchuria, faced with the Soviet offensive of August 1945, disappeared almost entirely, those who were on the atolls bypassed and isolated by the American “leapfrog” strategy or who were fighting in China were partially spared. This undermines the myth, widely shared in Japan, of the nation’s equality in the face of the disasters of war …

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