Japanese War Crimes -- Wewak Trial

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Japanese War Crimes -- Wewak Trial

Post by David Thompson » 06 May 2003 22:32

From the London Times 5 Nov 1945:
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Post by David Thompson » 06 May 2003 22:47

From the London Times, 20 Nov 1945 and 3 Dec 1945:
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Dan W.
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Post by Dan W. » 07 May 2003 00:03

I remember hearing about the crew of the B-29 shot down over Japan that were taken to a medical facility for some kind of gruesome medical experiments. The pilots liver was removed and cooked, and was eaten by some of the top Japanese brass at a nearby POW camp.

Extremely bizarre behavior, almost unbelievable it could have happened.

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Post by michael mills » 07 May 2003 04:35

There were instances of cannibalism by Japanese soldiers in New Guinea.

There were also instances of cannibalism by prisoners in concentration camps, and by Soviet POWs.

All these instances of cannibalism had the same cause; the persons who committed them were starving.

They resorted to cannibalism for the same reason that the survivors of a plane crash in the Andes in the early 1970s ate the bodies of those who had been killed; to save their own lives.

I do not think any reasonable person would judge a starving concentration camp inmate or a Soviet POW in a German camp for eating flesh taken from the body of a fellow prisoner who had died.

It seems to me that the death sentence given to the Japanese officer who ate flesh from the body of an Australian soldier who had been killed in battle was unjustified. It was not even alleged that the soldier was killed for the purpose of eating him. However, I am not at all surprised by the sentence; at that time my countrymen were consumed by a virulent fear-based racial prejudice against all Asians, particularly the Japanese.

The allegations that the Japanese deliberately killed and ate Indian prisoners fall into a different category, but are unlikely to be true. The fact that the Japanese authorities imposed a punishment on Lieutenant Tazaki for cannibalism shows that they regarded it at a crime, despite the fact that that punishment was minimal due to the exreme conditions of starvation that had induced it.

I note that none of the newspaper articles quoted made any attempt to relate the sensational charges of cannibalism to the objective situation at Wewak in which it occurred, namely that the Japanese garrison was cut off and suffering from starvation.

The material posted by Dan Weakley sounds like an urban myth. No doubt Americans of the Second World War period believed that the Japanese practised cannibalism as part of their culture. Of course, it is quite possible that medical experiments related to chemical or biological warfare were conducted on POWs.

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Post by David Thompson » 07 May 2003 05:08

Dan and Michael -- The charges involved in this Wewak trial are by no means a typical war crime, in the Pacific theater of war or anywhere else. These articles, hopefully, are the start of more material to be posted on the general subject of war crimes trials in the Far East. As it happens, this trial was the earliest one for which I had a complete newspaper report. (The articles were off to the side of microfilm copies I had made of news reports of European war crimes and collaborator trials).

Like Dan, I have read of a few instances (less than 5) in which Japanese officers indulged in recreational cannibalism, and were not driven to the practice by necessity. For example, Colonel Masanobu Tsuji, IJA, and some of his fellow officers allegedly dined on the liver of an executed allied airman -- the incident is recounted at: http://www.danford.net/tsuji.htm

For myself, I do not believe that these incidents represent anything more than the deranged behavior of a very, very small number of grossly aberrant criminals.

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Post by michael mills » 11 May 2003 06:13

I read the article about Col. Masanobu Tsuji to which the link was provided.

(I read Tsuji's book about the fall of Singapore many years ago).

It appears that the cannibalism story was told to a group of war correspondents who did not actually attend the macabre feast. Obviously they passed the story on, which led to the post-war investigation of Tsuji.

But whether the incident of cannibalism actually took place is a matter of conjecture. It may have been a story invented by one of Tsuji's enemies, of which he appears to ahve had many in the Japanese Army. according to the article. Or else it may have been a macabre joke by Tsuji himself; he seems to have been the sort of person who would enjoy telling such tales about himself.

Whatever the case may have been, the article does not definitely say that the cannibalism story was true, and leaves it at "allegedly". Certainly there appears to be no definitive proof.

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Post by David Thompson » 11 May 2003 06:25

Michael -- The war correspondent version was not the only version of the Tsuji recreational cannibalism story. As you correctly note, the war correspondents didn't make it to the dinner. Their story is necessarily second-hand. However, the war correspondent version is preceded in the linked story (at http://www.danford.net/tsuji.htm) by this quote:

"The same story was told by a Japanese army officer, Major Mitsuo Abe of the 49th Division who was actually present at the macabre meal; according to him, the pilot was an American lieutenant named Parker. In this version, the banquet was spontaneous. Parker was shot down in a raid, questioned by Abe and Tsuji, and refused to give any useful information. Another air-raid killed two Japanese soldiers and persuaded the officers that they must pull back from Mangshih. There was a clamor for Parker's execution, both for revenge and for the practical consideration that there was scarcely enough transport for the Japanese staff, without taking the American along. The two officers supposedly refused to have him executed. Instead, Parker was killed while they were at dinner, "while trying to escape." It was then and there, in this version, that the pilot's liver was brought in."

For what it may add to this discussion, here are the other incidents of which I have heard:

Apparently US military tribunals at Truk and Guam convicted Japanese officers of recreational cannibalism. The Truk convictions are mentioned at:

http://www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/h ... crimes.htm

The Guam conviction and another case of the same character, location unknown, are described as:

Lieutenant General Joshio Tachibana, Imperial Japanese Army, and 11 other Japanese military personnel were tried for the beheadings of two American airmen in August, 1944, on Chichi Jima in the Bonin Islands.[5] They were beheaded on Tachibana's orders. One of the executed airmen, a U. S. Navy radioman third class, was dissected and his "flesh and viscera" eaten by Japanese military personnel. The U. S. also tried Vice Admiral Mori and a Major Matoba for murder in the deaths of five U. S. airmen, in February, 1945. Major Matoba confessed to cannibalism. However, military and international law had no provisions for punishment for cannibalism per se. They were accused of murder and "prevention of honorable burial."

These trials are mentioned at:

http://www.ijnhonline.org/volume1_numbe ... al.doc.htm

Supposedly the Chichi Jima Incident is also mentioned in Sherrod, Robert Lee. 1952. History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II. Combat Forces Press.

The B-29 liver eating story referred to by Dan was part of the charges in a war crimes trial held by a US military tribunal at Yokohama beginning 11 Mar 1948. While this charge was apparently dismissed for lack of evidence, there were convictions based on the vivisection murders of several air crew members of that particular B-29. There is more information on this at:

http://www2.gol.com/users/winjerd/Page05.htm

There is a photograph, from that site, showing the members of the air crew, some of whom were killed, and at least one of whom survived the war.

Currently there are claims pending against the Japanese government, some of which involve cannibalism practised on indigenous victims, for which the inhabitants of the former Japanese Pacific Islands Trust Territories are seeking reparations. These claims are mentioned at:

http://www.pressbox.co.uk/Detailed/6574.html

Finally, there is a documentary film, which I have not seen, "Japanese Devils" in which 14 former Japanese soldiers are interviewed and at least one of whom relates another cannibal story. I don't know what the circumstances of the incident or incidents were. This film is mentioned at:

http://www.abcifer.com/nov02/
Last edited by David Thompson on 11 May 2003 07:51, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Caldric » 11 May 2003 07:44

Yuki Tanaka wrote a book that deals with cannabilism and the Japanese Military. According to him not all of it was from starvation stand point but the majority however was.


Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes in World War II, Yuki Tanaka

Here is a interesting website on the subject also link to the book at Amazon.

Click:
[url=http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0813327180/qid=1052635089/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/104-7212068-0111932?v=glance&s=books&n=507846]
Image[/url]

Here is example of Starvation:

This is a terrible thing to remember. There was absolutely nothing to eat, and so we decided to draw lots. The one who lost would be killed and eaten. But the one who lost started to run away so we shot him. He was eaten. You probably think that many of us raped the local women. But women were not regarded as objects of sexual desire. They were regarded as the object of our hunger. ... All we dreamt about was food. I met some soldiers in the mountains who were carrying baked human arms and legs. It was not guerillas but our own soldiers who we were frightened of. ...
... Ogawa Shoji noted that toward the end of the war, Japanese soldiers referred to the Allies as "white pigs" and the local population as "black pigs." (Japanese army lieutenant higher above in Tanaka, 1996, p. 114)




It is clear from these reports that the widespread practice of cannibalism by Japanese soldiers in the Asia-Pacific War was something more than merely random incidents perpetrated by individuals or small groups subject to extreme conditions. The testimonies indicate that cannibalism was a systematic and organized military strategy, committed by whole squads or by specific soldiers working within the context of a larger squad. This is particularly so in the case of the Indian POWs and Formosan workers, who had outlived their usefulness as laborers and were now regarded by their captors as human cattle, as a food supply. The moral and psychological bearings of the Japanese soldiers and guards were transformed to such a degree that the act of cannibalism and even the murder of prisoners for the purpose of cannibalism became a normal occurrence rather than an extreme and grotesque activity. The fact that such activities were committed by whole groups, working within the normal military structures, resulted in a situation in which the act of cannibalism ceased to be horrific and became instead a part of everyday life. As was noted in the account of the cannibalistic consumption of Australian and American soldiers killed in battle, the gaining of bodies for this purpose was often carried out in the midst of battle, with one section of the Japanese squad continuing the fighting while another section removed the bodies from the battlefield to a safe area where they could be prepared for consumption. (Tanaka, 1996, p. 126)
Last edited by Caldric on 11 May 2003 08:10, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by michael mills » 12 May 2003 11:51

Caldric wrote:

Yuki Tanaka wrote a book that deals with cannabilism and the Japanese Military. According to him not all of it was from starvation stand point but the majority however was.


Who is Yuki Tanaka and what is his background?

Cannibalism is so contrary to Japanese culture and civilisation that I find it very difficult to believe that it occurred except under the most extreme conditions of starvation.

It is unfortunate that the subject of Japanese war crimes is now, and has been for a long time, more a matter of political controversy between Left and Right factions in Japan than of rational analysis, such that both sides tend to exaggerate or minimise respectively. Accordingly, accounts by Japanese authors need to be treated with caution, with due allowance made for the respective political bias.

That the Japanese made a practice of executing capture Allied prisoners, in particular downed airmen, is not in doubt. In some cases, the organs of executed prisoners may have been taken for medical experiments.

But the notion that some Japanese officers made a ritual of eating the body parts of executed prisoners sounds to me like a variant on the "Yellow Peril" myth. Americans and Australians, with no knowledge of Japanese civilisation, obviously believed the Japanese capable of anything.

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Post by michael mills » 12 May 2003 12:08

Re Truk:

I note that the link provided, while it states that the Japanese personnel were convicted of cannibalism, does not give any details of the alleged cabnnibalism.

The details given all relate to medical experiments, ie taking body organs and preserving them in bottles.

it is also stated that the bodies of executed prisoners had the flesh boiled off as part of the process of medical experimentation. it may well have been that process that gave rise to a rumour among the Korean labourers or the Trukese that the bodies were being cooked for consumption.

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Post by michael mills » 12 May 2003 12:28

Re the "documentary" "Japanese Soldiers of the Devil".

It was shown on television here in Australia about a year ago.

In my opinion, it is a work of Chinese propaganda rather than an honest documentary. It seems to have been produced by Chinese-Americans, or at least by sources in the United States with links to Chinese groups (perhaps in Taiwan or Singapore, I am not sure).

The basic theme is that the Japanese have been committing atrocities against Chinese since the late 19th century. However, it completely ignored the historical context. Thus, Japanese soldiers are shown beheading captured Chinese rebels during the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900; but the film ignores the fact that the Japanese were part of an international force. In fact, the beheadings took place before an appreciative audience of United States marines!

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Post by David Thompson » 06 Jun 2003 17:02

Here's a little more detail on the Guam trial, taken from the US Supreme Court opinion in In re [Tomoyuki] Yamashita, on-line at:

http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/WCC/yamashita6.htm

"A charge entitled Neglect of Duty in Violation of the Laws and Customs of War was brought against Lt.-General Yoshio Tachibana and Major Sueo Matoba of the Imperial Japanese Army and against Vice-Admiral Kunizo Mori, Captain Shizuo Yoshii and Lt. Jisuro Sujeyoshi of the Imperial Japanese Navy, in their trial by a United States Military Commission at Guam, Marianas Islands, in August, 1946. The Specifications appearing under this charge alleged that various of the above accused unlawfully disregarded, neglected and failed to discharge their duty, as Commanding General and other respective ranks, to control members of their commands and others under their control, or properly to protect prisoners of war, in that they permitted the unlawful killing of prisoners of war, or permitted persons under their control unlawfully to prevent the honourable burial of prisoners of war by mutilating their bodies or causing them to be mutilated or by eating flesh from their bodies. The Prosecution
p.87
claimed that there had been an intentional omission to discharge a legal duty. All of the accused mentioned above were found guilty of the charge alleging neglect of duty, and although a sentence of life imprisonment was the highest penalty imposed by the Commission on an accused sentenced on this charge alone, the trial does serve as further proof that neglect on the part of a higher officer of a duty to restrain troops and other persons under his control can render the officer himself guilty of a war crime when his omission has lead to the commission of such a crime."

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Post by Caldric » 06 Jun 2003 17:32

michael mills wrote:Caldric wrote:

Yuki Tanaka wrote a book that deals with cannabilism and the Japanese Military. According to him not all of it was from starvation stand point but the majority however was.


Who is Yuki Tanaka and what is his background?

Cannibalism is so contrary to Japanese culture and civilisation that I find it very difficult to believe that it occurred except under the most extreme conditions of starvation.

It is unfortunate that the subject of Japanese war crimes is now, and has been for a long time, more a matter of political controversy between Left and Right factions in Japan than of rational analysis, such that both sides tend to exaggerate or minimise respectively. Accordingly, accounts by Japanese authors need to be treated with caution, with due allowance made for the respective political bias.

That the Japanese made a practice of executing capture Allied prisoners, in particular downed airmen, is not in doubt. In some cases, the organs of executed prisoners may have been taken for medical experiments.

But the notion that some Japanese officers made a ritual of eating the body parts of executed prisoners sounds to me like a variant on the "Yellow Peril" myth. Americans and Australians, with no knowledge of Japanese civilisation, obviously believed the Japanese capable of anything.


I missed these post.

I do not know what his background is, I did not check it. I just seen the book during a search and gave it for informational purposes only. It looks interesting. I also find it interesting that the Allied Command chose to keep such information from the troops. Contrary to the "propaganda" theory they did not want them knowing about the accusations coming out of Far East.

Discussing Japanese culture, after 10 plus years of war for some of these men their whole outlook on life has transformed into something completely different. The years of horror and stress could most likely make people do things that may not seem normal to most. I do not find the culture part to be a viable reason for dismissing these issues. If anything some of the ritualistic customs may very well lead to such acts.

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Post by zstar » 16 Dec 2004 15:28

michael mills wrote:Re the "documentary" "Japanese Soldiers of the Devil".

It was shown on television here in Australia about a year ago.

In my opinion, it is a work of Chinese propaganda rather than an honest documentary. It seems to have been produced by Chinese-Americans, or at least by sources in the United States with links to Chinese groups (perhaps in Taiwan or Singapore, I am not sure).

The basic theme is that the Japanese have been committing atrocities against Chinese since the late 19th century. However, it completely ignored the historical context. Thus, Japanese soldiers are shown beheading captured Chinese rebels during the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900; but the film ignores the fact that the Japanese were part of an international force. In fact, the beheadings took place before an appreciative audience of United States marines!


Excuse me?

Firstly the documentary was produced by a Japanese and never even shown in China.

Secondly the documentary is called "Japanese devils" which is a direct translation of the Chinese insult coined at the Japanese "Riben Guizi".

Please get your facts right before dismissing anything as "Chinese propaganda".

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Post by Barry Graham » 31 Dec 2004 02:41

The following extracts are from the book "Sandakan - A conspiracy of Silence" by Lynette Ramsay Silver: Sally Milner Publishing - Reprint 2002.

Ms. Silver carried out the research for the book between 1996 and 1998.
She is the official historian of the 8th Division Association.

The event described below, (page 235), occurred at Sandakan POW Camp near the end of June 1945 after the departure of the 3rd Death March.
The informant was Wong Hiong a 15 yr old chinese who worked along with 4 others as a kitchen hand in the Japanese barracks.
"Honcho" was later identified from the informants earlier description as Capt. J. Mills of the British Army.

Honcho had been placed in the cage after Nishikawa, a Formosan civilian investigating the disappearance of a pig from the sty, had discovered pieces of pork in the prisoner's cup and plate - evidence which had given Honcho no option but to admit he had killed the pig and distributed it among his fellow prisoners.
When Hiong went to the latrines at about 6.30am on the day after Honcho's arrest he saw the prisoner, smoking a cigarette, sitting on a chair outside the Japanese office, flanked by guards Hinata Genzo and Fukuda Nobtio, About 20 minutes later, as Hiong returned, he saw that Honcho, dressed only in a loin-cloth and very weak, was being helped along by the same two guards. Moritake, carrying a hammer, brought up the rear. Hiong watched as the small procession stopped at a large wooden cross, erected about 75 metres from the cookhouse and 30 metres from the office.
Hinata supported the prisoner firmly against the upright while Moritake mounted a small stool which Nishikawa had brought from the office. Then, while Hinata pressed his body against the victim to hold him still, Mortitake drove a long nail into the palm of the prisoner's outstretched right hand. He ordered Hinata to stuff a piece of rag into Honcho's mouth to stifle his screams. Moritake repeated the process with the left hand, then nailed both the prisoner's feet to a horizontal board on which he was standing. Finally Moritake drove a 20-centimetre-long nail through the centre of Honcho's forehead. He then took a butcher's knife and cut two pieces of flesh from the prisoner's abdomen, which he set aside on a wooden board brought especially for the purpose.
Donning a rubber glove, he slit the torso from neck to navel, removing the liver and the heart, which he cut in two. He had just finished slicing away more flesh from the thighs, arms and abdomen when, Hiong, hiding under the barracks, heard the Japanese cook calling him from the kitchen.
When Hiong emerged ten minutes later, on the pretext of wanting to urinate, he heard Moritake, still at the cross, shout for Nishikawa who then hurried off in the direction of the Number 2 Compound. He returned about 30 minutes later with two POWs who were ordered to pick up the board and its grisly exhibits.
The prisoners, escorted by Moritake and his three henchmen, were marched back across the road to the camp where the other prisoners had been lined up. The remains of the corpse were left hanging on the cross to decompose.
In the middle of July, Moritake piled wood faggots around the remains, saturated everything with kerosene and set it all alight, destroying all physical evidence of his appalling crime. The prisoners, of course, were of no consequence as Moritake had no intention of leaving any witnesses.


This was not the act of a starving Japanese private coming across the fresh corpse of a enemy soldier - it was ritual butchery by a relatively well fed Japanese Officer within a POW camp.

Nor is the account the result of post-war racial hatred.
The author compiled the story of the event from the war crimes testimony of Wong Hiong (reference to the source of this testimony is provided in the appendices to the book).
Unfortunately Moritake did not live to face the War Crimes Tribunal.

Lt. Moritake was correct in his assumption that no POW witnesses would remain. By the 13th of July 1945 only 48 prisoners remained at Sandakan.
23 Australians were executed on this day. Deaths due to disease continued to reduce the number of the prisoners that remained until by the 15th of August only one prisoner was alive.
The last prisoner J.F. Skinner AIF was beheaded on this day 5 hours before the Japanese surrender.

As further evidence that the Japanese were not starving and that the prisoners were denied even the simplest medical treatment can be derived from the following quote from page 219 of the same book.

Cpt. Hoshijima was the Japanese Engineer Officer who was in charge of the POW camp and also of the construction of the Sandakan airstrip using the forced labour of prisoners.
He was relieved of his command on the 26th of April 1945.

It was later claimed that the shortage of food was a result of Sandakan being cut off from the rest of the South-East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, and that medical supplies were unprocurable.
Yet the Japanese had no trouble amassing huge stockpiles of commodities. Under Hoshijima's house were no less than 90 tonnes of rice and 160 000 quinine tablets, while at the Japanese barracks, stacked in the barber shop and a bomb-proof store, were at least another 54 tonnes of rice. Also on hand were 786 000 quinine tablets, 19 600 vitamin A and D tablets, large numbers of vitamin B and C tablets, hundreds of Red Cross parcels and an enormous amount of medical supplies and surgical equipment.
Despite this abundance of food and drugs, not a single tablet or bandage or grain of rice was given to the prisoners.

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