Sent in by Lyndon Wright (extracted from James Mckay's book "Betrayal in High Places")
Nakashima Katsuji. Interrogated by Capt J G Godwin
I assisted Sergeant A.H. Weston in the re-interrogation of former Lieutenant-Commander lsamu Miyake who is presently confined in Sugamo Prison. This was a particularly horrific and sadistic massacre - almost satanic, and which is a further indictment on uncontrolled Japanese depravity.
Because of its impact upon the sensitivities of normal decent people, it is not proposed to extemporize the genocidal and depraved excesses discovered. It is quite apparent that sexual lust dictated the behaviour of many hate-motivated Japanese soldiers who relished the opportunities to humiliate and ravish prisoners, particularly women and girls of European origin. In this regard and upon sworn testimony supplied, this reprehensible conduct included selected boys held as prisoners in special Boys 'Camps' in the former Dutch East Indies.
Perhaps, General MacArthur was aware of this widespread Japanese conduct and realising the enormity of what would be exposed if investigations proceeded - particularly concerning Imperial Japanese Army Brothels, of which there were hundreds in conquered countries, the order not to continue with investigations into these widespread atrocities was issued to spare Japan the odium and contempt of the world. However, a separate (CC) Report will be filed in the appropriate Prosecution Index. A report on this interrogation, minus the (CC) classification, will be filed by Sergeant Weston in his own weekly summary.
File 851-1. 851. 85K EXECUTIONS OF AUSTRALIAN AND DUTCH POWs, LAHA AIRFIELD, AMBON ISLAND, February 1942
Considerable time has been consumed in tracking down witnesses who clearly were deliberately evading apprehension 1) Reinte. because of the nature of this atrocity and their probable Malay involvement. Of four witnesses (suspects) arrested, two are unhelpful and hostile.
File 85H. 851, 85K EXECUTIONS OF AUSTRALIAN AND DUTCH POWs, LAHA AIRFIELD, AMBON ISLAND,
1) 4 February 1942 I Re-interrogated former civilian interpreter (Dutch and Malay language) Saburo Yoshizaki of Kure No.I SNLP. Yoshizaki was stationed at Laha Airfield from the morning of 3 February, until the morning of 10 February 1942. In regard to the first executions at Laha Airfield (9 February 1942), Yoshizaki admitted he, another civilian interpreter by the name of Terada Okada, and Ist Class P0 Tasuki Yamashita 1st Class visited the scene of the execution on their own accord, the time of their arrival there being about I800 hours.
According to Yoshizaki there were two prepared graves (holes - 'A' and 'B' ) both circular in shape and of similar dimensions, namely six metres in diameter and about three metres deep.Grouped around the sides of each grave were one or two officers and about twenty odd marines and soldiers including petty officers and NCOs.
He states that just prior to the commencement of the executions, a marine (rank and name unknown) came over to where he and some companions were standing and requested the loan of his sword. Yoshizaki states he loaned his sword to the marine whereupon the latter disappeared among a group of marines standing about hole 'B'. Yoshizaki then described the execution of the first Australian prisoner at grave 'A'; this decapitation being carried out by Warrant Officer Kakutaro Sasaki. He recalls that after the fourth prisoner had been beheaded by individual marines keenly waiting their turn (ranks and names unknown) at grave 'A', several battery torches were procured to light the backs of the necks of each successive victim. After the seventh or eighth Australian had been decapitated at grave 'A'. the marine who had borrowed the sword, returned it to Yoshizaki commenting that it was blunt and the blade had unaccountably bent when he had beheaded a giant of a fellow.
On receipt of his sword and scabbard. Yoshizaki stated he and his companions departed the scene of the killings and returned to their barracks. Yoshizaki denied having witnessed the executions of prisoners at grave 'B' as his attention was concentrated on the macabre drama at grave 'A'. Yoshizaki claims that he learned later that in addition to Dutch mortar unit personnel (about thirty prisoners). Fifty-five Australian soldiers had also been beheaded on the night in question.
2) Concerning the second executions. Yoshizaki states that on his return to Ambon township on 23 February 1942 (he had been absent on interpreting duties at Paso) he heard from, he believes, Ist Class Petty Officer Tasuki Yamashita that between 15-20th February 1942 (exact date not recalled) all the remaining prisoners ( Australian) at Laha Airfield had been decapitated, some eighty odd as related to him by Yamashita. Yoshizaki avers that he was told that this second execution at Laha had been carried out by crew members of a Japanese minesweeper that had been sunk previously by an enemy mine in Ambon Bay. It was an act of reprisal and retaliation for the loss of their ship.
(3 ) Re-interrogated former 1st Class Seaman Miyataro Ichio who has been identified as having been present and to have participated in the mass execution of Dutch and Australian prisoners at Soeakodo in early February 1942 He denied having been present at these executions. Claiming to having been suffering from recurring malaria indisposition, at that particular time and all efforts to budge him from this dubious explanation proved futile.. He was certain that his former officer commanding, Warrant Officer Kyusuke Yamashita, had named him as being one of the dozen or so marines present at the said executions as he. Ichio, thought that the latter believed him dead and as such would not inconvenience other members of his platoon who did participate.
JGG: BMP REPORT OF INVESTIGATING OFFICER
Capt. J G Godwin
File 125M sworn statement in Japanese characters was obtained from former Lt Yoshiro Tsuda. formerly Second in command of a forced labour camp on the island of Sado. This POW camp was the only one on the island and was based at Aikawa. To compound investigative difficulties in this inquiry it has been found that POW Camp 109 at Aikawa was an unlisted labour prison and of which records appear to have been wilfully destroyed. The following information was extracted from Tsuda after three days of close interrogation at Sugamo Prison.
(A) Yoshiro Tsuda though evasive throughout his interrogation answered most questions sufficiently helpful to enable this investigating officer to piece together the reason and cause the disappearance of 387 Allied prisoners of war and including the date of their mass executions. (B) Tsuda maintains his innocence of complicity in the formulating of superior orders that was designed by higher authorities to appear like an accident. Because of the complexity of this investigation it is deemed best to recount Tsuda's own version of events leading up to the disposal of all the POWs.
'On the morning of the 2nd August 1945, I was ordered by Major Masami Sadakichi the camp commandant, to detail the usual working parties at the nearby mine but with special instructions to ensure that every prisoner entered the mine. Usually fifty prisoners remained on top of the mine to empty the rakes of laden steel bins into nearby hoppers.
I pointed out this need to Major Sadakichi, but he dismissed my concern with the comment that the mine was no longer viable and would be abandoned that day. Superior orders decreed that all prisoners of war were to be ordered to the deepest part of the mine, some 400 feet. Major Sadakichi further impressed on me that the guard detail were to carry out their duties in the normal manner, and not to alarm the prisoners.
I further advised Major Sadakichi that a demolition detail had set concealed explosive charges inside the mine at depths of 100, 200, and 300 feet. This task had been carried out during the previous night. After the prisoners had been set hewing the ore from the marked areas . I was ordered to instruct Sgt Major Mitsonobu Sakamoto the NCO in charge of the guards, to ensure their discreet exit out of the mine. The toiling prisoners were to be left to their obvious fate.
Between 8-45 and 9 am on the morning of the 2nd August 1945 All of the guards emerged from the mine tunnel whereupon a number of steel ore bins were pushed to the mines downward entrance and allowed to gather speed into its depths. At 9.10 am and with no further bins to dispose of , a signal was given to blow up the mine. I was watching from a distance of 100 yards and witnessed a rush of smoke and dust from the mines entrance. While waiting for the smoke and dust to clear, every available guard was set to work dismantling the steel narrow gauge track , and then carrying portions of it to the mines entrance .
By 10-30am or thereabouts all traces of the steel track had been removed. From what I can recall the demolition detail then entered the mine to set more explosives just inside the mine entrance. It was while returning to the prison camp that I heard a very loud explosion. Looking back I saw an avalanche of rock and earth was completely covering where the mines entrance had been. Knowing that the mine had been collapsed in three separate places, I was certain that the prisoners were doomed.
Upon returning to the camp I immediately reported to Major Sadakichi that the mine had been totally destroyed and all 387 POWs entombed in its depths.
Because of the lateness of the hour questioning was discontinued until the following morning.
File I 25M EXECUTION OF POWs, AIKAWA, SADO ISLAND, 2 August 1945
Resumed interrogation of former Lieutenant Yoshiro Tsuda. the former second in command of Aikawa POW Camp, Sado. Tsuda was again closely questioned regarding his suspected complicity in the formulating of averred superior orders. He did not deny the Imperial Army Extermination Order of an earlier date that specifically provided for the swift disposal (massacre) of Allied POWs if the home islands were threatened with invasion or Japan with military defeat. Sado Island is the fifth largest island in Japan and only a few miles west of Niigata, Honshu.
It was elicited from Tsuda that all of the Aikawa Camp POWs were European and comprised a mixture of American, Dutch, Australian and British Servicemen who had been transported to the island for slave labour from 1942 onwards. Tsuda claimed that because of the earlier Army Extermination Order he had no misgivings with regard to the disposal of such a large number of prisoners of war. Supporting this explanation Tsuda pointed out that this Imperial Army Order had not been cancelled so far as Sado Island was concerned. Therefore he, like Major Sadakichi, was merely following superior orders. Yoshiro Tsuda reluctantly revealed under further close interrogation that following the murder of the POWs and for the next few days considerable activity took place in dismantling the POW camp and removing all signs of its previous occupancy. Close upon the heels of this atrocity came the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan and finally its unconditional surrender. Tsuda avers in his testimony that immediately following the dropping of the second bomb, all of Aikawa's camp guards and officers received official permission to return to their homes and await Army Transfer Orders. Because of the enormity of this secret atrocity and with the War Ministry's full knowledge, the Imperial armed forces Records Section subsequently issued notices purportedly stating prior transfers of all of Aikawa's military personnel to active service in the Kwantung Army, officers were posted as missing or killed in action.
While this investigating officer seeks authority to proceed with this investigation including an inspection of Sado Island. I have asked Yoshiro Tsuda to pencil a close sketch of the prison camps former location and particularly the approximate area of the nearby gold mine. In the meantime Tsuda will be held in custody
J G Godwin (Capt)
2nd Australian War Crimes Section
16th December 1949
This deception has endured for well over four years. To launch a full investigation and obtain evidence ( the prisoners remains) is a daunting but necessary task. It could take months
With no guarantee of success, Major MacKay opinions, upon General Willoughby learning of this atrocity he could well prohibit any further investigation on the grounds that with Japanese/ American reconciliation it is no longer the time to revive or exacerbate public feeling on such evil.
File 85 H. 851 Execution of Australian and Dutch P0Ws. Laha Airfield Ambon 1942 Continuation of investigating a second massacre
I have completed the interrogation of former Warrant Officer Keigo Kanamioto, the Officer Commanding (L) Repair and Construction Unit of Kure No. I. SNLP Special Navy landing party. Kanamoto was the O C during February 1942. Kanamoto states that on or about 24 February 1942 and while stationed at the captured Victoria Barracks at Ambon. He learned From a fellow officer that a further 220 prisoners would be executed 1800 hours that evening. Only he, Kanamoto, was wearing a samurai sword. He recalls that 1st Class Seaman Shikao Nakamura and lst class Seaman Teruji Ikezawa were two of the volunteers who accompanied him.
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. He and his subordinates made their way to the garrison office (Laha Airfield) where he met Warrant Officer Rinnosuke Fukuda who was the relieving OC of the garrison unit of Kure No. 1, SNLP that was stationed at Laha at that particular time.
Kanamoto avers that he admitted, when asked by W.O. Fukada if he had beheaded any of the POWs, that he had. Conversely and to this investigating officer, Kanamoto pleaded that this false admission to Fukada was to avoid losing face in front of the latter. Kanamoto then stated that he and his subordinates returned to the Victoria Barracks at Ambon by launch at about 2230 hours.
During luncheon the following day, Kanamoto heard that all the POWs (amended to 227) had been punished (executed) and that the incident was not completed until 0130 hours in the ensuing morning. He admitted, to avoid confusion, that though the two massacres paralleled each other at Laha Airfield, the dates were different and so far as the second massacre was concerned, the number of prisoners executed were far greater. Kanamoto was unable to provide the names of any of the executioners (there were so many of them), except those of his two subordinates. However, he did know that the crew of a destroyed Japanese minesweeper (No. 9) were responsible for slaughtering the majority of the Australian and Dutch POWs as an act of vengeance.
Kanamoto strongly denied the adverse allegations made against him by other surviving members of Kure No.I , SNLP and contributed such mendacity to their malevolent spite because it was known by them that he had broken the code of silence about the incidents. It is accepted by this investigating officer that Kanamoto is no doubt genuinely correct in his assertion, but the opinion is also held that Kanamoto may be deceitful in his denials of having taken no part in the beheading of prisoners which, by no stretch of the imagination, should be described as punishments or incidents. It is also noted that Kanamoto answered most questions in a paraphrastic and circumbagious manner. This investigating Officer appends his name to this report for the final time and for reasons known to -
Lt Colonel DLB Goslett,.
and Legal Officer Major A D MacKay .
Quod Erat Demonstradum Captain J G Godwin
James Oglethorpe, Webmaster 3 Squadron RAAF Association, Sydney claims that the above account regarding Ambon, taken from the book "Betrayal in High Places, by author James McKay, is completely inaccurate
COFEPOW cannot say or prove for certain which account is correct and which is not, but feel we should publish Mr Oglethorpe's account of what he claims is the truth, (below) in order that the viewer can read both versions of this account regarding Ambon and Sado Island and following further research they can then judge the truth for themselves.
I have edited Mr Oglethorpe's account but he wrote as follows:-
No Allied POWs were ever taken to Sado Island. No massacre occurred. The Tokyo-based war crimes investigator J. G. Godwin did not investigate Sado Island on 16 December 1949, or on any other dates. Sado Island in Japan is 5,000 kilometres from Ambon, Indonesia.
Concerning Ambon itself; my own research shows that Godwin never investigated Ambon. (The Laha Massacres). He worked on war crimes investigations only in Tokyo, several years after the Laha massacres had already been investigated (in Indonesia, not Japan) and the perpetrators executed and imprisoned. The purported quotation of Godwin is a forgery. The details of the account of Ambon, lack any historical veracity when compared with the Australian War Crimes Trials documents compiled on Ambon, other than having the main town-name and a very small proportion of the Japanese perpetrator names correct. The above account only mentions two of the four actual massacres, and it gets the dates, identities, numbers of POW victims, and even times of day, wrong.
The UCLA Berkley account of Ambon by D. C. S. Sissons (a highly respected Australian historian), gives an accurate account of Ambon that does not in any way underplay the brutality of those appalling acts. More particularly, the Sissons account lays the blame squarely on the correct individuals, rather than the fictional names in the account above
I should point out that in Australia, the Sado Island story has unfortunately been linked with the worst POW disaster in Australia's history, the sinking of the Hellship 'Montevideo Maru'. A national TV program in 2003 carried a combination of rumour and speculation that some of the POWs survived the sinking, ended up in Japan, were sent to Sado Island where they perished.
Originally this caused great consternation amongst families of more than 1,000 'Montevideo Maru' men, and despite efforts to publicise the truth about Sado Island many family members still have lingering, but thoroughly undeserved, doubts about how their loved ones perished.
James Oglethorpe RAAF Association Sydney