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Four Japanese servicemen were executed for war crimes committed on Ambon. Commander Hatakeyama Kunito, the officer who commanded the execution parties, was convicted and hanged but Rear Admiral Hatakeyama Koichiro, who ordered the massacre, died before his trial.
Acording to Kamamoto he and his said three companions did not arrive at the scene of the executions until about 1900 hrs by which time it was almost dark. Several bonfires had been lit and cast dancing shadows on a spectacle reminiscent from the pits of Hell. A large group of Dutch and Australian prisoners of war, all with their their arms and hands securely bound behind them and heavily guarded stood waiting in the shadows to be executed.
The punishment site was situated in the same wooded area where the first mass execution of POW s at Laha had been earlier carried out. Kanamoto states that there were two large holes of similar dimension and situated about five metres apart, hereinafter referred to as grave 'A' and grave 'B'.
Grave 'A' was encircled by about thirty marines many of whom were carrying borrowed swords. Among them Kanamoto perceived one officer and a couple of NCOs whose names he could not recall. He was able to state positivcly that no soldiers or marines stood around grave 'B'.
Kanamoto then provided a harrowing description of what followed. He recalls witnessing the beheading of a young prisoner who shouted desperately and despairingly before being decapitated on the nearest side of grave 'A', followed seconds later by the beheading of another prisoner on the opposite side of the said grave. The flickering light from nearby bonfires was insufficient to properly illuminate the carrying out of the punishments (executions), consequently battery torches were produced and used to light the necks of each victim.
After about twenty decapitations, curiosity impelled Kanamoto to step forward and peer into grave 'A'. Some corpses were headless but several bodies with heads half-attached were .jerking feebly and making faint gurgling moans. Kanamoto avers that a feeling of revulsion mixed with pity swept over him, but he could not interfere in the punishments that had been ordered by the Japanese High Command in the area.
A little time later and with about forty executions carried out, subordinate 1st Class Seaman Nakamura borrowed Kanamoto's sword following which he beheaded four Dutch in quick succession on the nearest side of grave 'A' . A short time later 1st Class Seaman Ikezawa took Kanamoto's sword and similarly beheaded three more prisoners, this time Australians. According to Kanamoto, Ikezawa then passed his sword to another subordinate (name not recalled) to behead more prisoners on the far side of grave 'A'.
Two further decapitations were successful, but the third attempt required two sword strokes, a strange sound and sparks concluded the sword's use. Kanamoto claims that he then recovered his sword which, upon inspection by torchlight, was found to be nicked at several places and slightly bent.
After watching a dozen more beheadings and feeling somewhat uncomfortable witnessing such mass butchery, Kanamoto avers that the constant shouts of jubilation from watching marines mixed with ribald scorn as some prisoners begged for their lives. became too much for him...
This was never more true of eight civilians, among them two women and a six-year-old boy, captured by invading Japanese troops in Papua in the last week of July 1942. What happened to this small group is told, in all its grimness, in Retreat from Kokoda, the celebrated account of the Kokoda campaign written by ABC war correspondent Raymond Paull and acknowledged as "a classic military history" by The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. Paull died in 1972. His book was published in 1958. In it he wrote of the missionary group:
"The rapid [Japanese] advance inland trapped many of the Europeans at the hospitals, missions and plantations on the Buna coast [of east Papua]. Few succeeded in eluding the enemy and crossing the [Owen Stanley] mountains to the south coast. Lieut Louis Austin and an Anglican mission party travelling from Ioma to Tufi were betrayed to the Japanese by the natives of Perembata village. [The group consisted of] Miss Margaret Branchley, Miss Lillian Lashman, the Rev Henry Holland, the Rev Vivian Hedlich, Mr John Duffill, two half-caste mission workers, Louise Artango and Anthony Gore, and Gore's six-year-old son.
"At Buna, on 12th August, 1942, outside the headquarters of the Sasebo No 5 Special Naval Landing Party, the entire group was beheaded one by one with the sword, the boy last of all. The self-appointed executioner of the Christian mission workers was Sub-Lieut Komai, a company commander. Komai was identified also as the 'Bushido' executioner of Flight-Lieutenant William Ellis Newton, VC, at Salamaua [in Papua] on 29th March, 1943. An Australian War Crimes investigation team traced Komai to the point where his death was established beyond doubt. The natives responsible for the betrayal of the mission party were hanged."
The shadow of enemy activity, looming towards the few miles of swampy [Papuan] coastline, fell upon a handful of civilians still engaged in normal peacetime occupations. Some, like the Reverend James Benson, Miss May Hayman and Miss Mavis Parkinson at the Anglican Gona Mission, stayed from a strong sense of Christian duty, with some foreboding perhaps but without fear…"
Later, after the invasion and the beheading of the Buna group, Paull recounted: "A traitorous guide betrayed Miss Hayman and Miss Parkinson from the Gona Mission [along the coast from Buna]. After a night under guard at Popondetta, the Japanese took the two women to a spot where graves had been dug and repeatedly bayoneted them. Their bodies, recovered some months later, received Christian burial at Sangara Mission. Father Benson alone survived captivity."
In September 1943..native policemen and ANGAU officers gathered the villagers of Higaturu together so they could witness..the hanging of seventeen men,including the original traitor Embogi..and as a large group of village women and men wailed,the job was done..
'Mavis was the first to die',wrote Dr Tony Matthews.'A Japanese soldier grasped her from behind and attempted to embrace her:she struggled,almost managed to break free,but the soldier took a step backwards and plunged his bayonet deep into her side.She screamed and sank to the ground.May was ordered to cover her face with a towel;as she was doing so she was bayonted in the throat'....many Japanese troops witnessed these events..yet no war Crimes Tribunal punished the perpetrators..One reason is that those responsible were part of the unusually brutual Sasebo 5 Special Naval Landing led by Tsukioka Torashigo,most of whose troops later died in the Pacific War,making identification of the culprits difficult..
Imperial Japanese Navy slaughtered leprosy victims in 1943: documents
TOKYO, Dec. 6 (AP) - (Kyodo)—The former Imperial Japanese Navy slaughtered 39 Hansen's disease sufferers in Nauru in the Micronesian South Pacific in July 1943 according to court documents found by a Japanese scholar last month in the National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial.
It appears that the documents discovered by Hirofumi Hayashi, professor of modern history at Kanto Gakuin University, are the first public documents that disclose details of the killings during World War II, although they had been mentioned by local residents and others.
The Republic of Nauru, an island nation in the South Pacific that Japan seized in 1942, established independence in 1968 with a population of about 10,000.
The documents concerning the trials of Class B and C war criminals include the record of the court testimony by a soldier who was involved in the killings and was later sentenced to life in prison. The documents shed light on discrimination against sufferers from leprosy as well as war crimes against civilians.
According to the documents from the trial, held in Hong Kong from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, 1948, a leader of the Sea Defense Branch of the navy, who was executed on a separate charge, ordered one of his subordinate officers around July 9, 1943, to kill the Hansen's disease victims, who were quarantined due to the disease, to prevent them from escaping during possible air raids by U.S. forces.
The officer concocted a plan, telling the people that they were going to be transferred to a newly built facility by boat.
Four navy personnel and eight civilian employees boarded a naval vessel and led a boat carrying the victims offshore, and then opened fire on the boat and sank it. They shot and killed those who managed to escape from the sunken ship.
Most of the 12 personnel involved in the killings died in battle during the war, but three were brought to trial, two of whom were sentenced to life in prison.
The victims, 24 men and 15 women, were aged between 11 and 69.
The Australian government, which once ruled the area, earlier conducted an investigation based on testimonies from local residents but was unsuccessful in discovering how much senior-level officers of the former Japanese military knew about the killings.
Sattleberg in November 1943...'The singing out we heard yesterday was coming from one of our chaps who was wounded,he had been laying out all night,the Japs[sic] kicked him,slashed his face with a knife and left him for dead'...in describing the same incident [its] said that up to ten wounded Australians were bashed and killed.
In March 1945,a signalman on Bougainville reported that Australian provosts caught in a jeep by the Japanese had been tied to their vehicle and set alight.
The entire group was housed in a small mine bungalow intended to accomodate two people...the following evening the sleeping occupants of the bungalow were awken by the blasts of hand grenades.Japanese guards then entered the chaos,dragged out some Indian prisoners who had recently joined the group and executed them.Another guard climbed underneath the raised bungalow and sprayed bullets up through the floor.When he had finished,other Japanese guards procedded to shoot and bayonet those whom they thought still alive.Believing their work finished,the guards left the bungalow and drove away in trucks.Those who had survived,by pretending to be dead,fled into the nearby jungle.
This resulted in a four month detention in a prison in southern Siam,where Scott-Settle's ribs and all his fingers were broken.He was confirmed to a cage and received more than 200 bayonet wounds.In an act of astonishing cruelty,a sword was inserted in his arm at the elbow and pushed beneath his skin until it emerged at his shoulder.The sword remained lodged in his arm for four days.Despite such torture ,Scott-Settle's life was spared and ultimately he was transferred to Changi prison.
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