Japanese war crimes occurred in many Asian countries during the period of Japanese imperialism, primarily during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. Some of the incidents have also been described as an Asian Holocaust and Japanese war atrocities. Some war crimes were committed by military personnel from the Empire of Japan in the late 19th century, although most took place during the first part of the Shōwa Era, the name given to the reign of Emperor Hirohito, until the military defeat of the Empire of Japan, in 1945.
Historians and governments of some countries hold Japanese military forces, namely the Imperial Japanese Army, the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Imperial Japanese family, especially Emperor Hirohito, responsible for killings and other crimes committed against millions of civilians and prisoners of war. Some Japanese soldiers have admitted to committing these crimes.
Since the 1950s, senior Japanese Government officials have issued numerous apologies for the country's war crimes. Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that the country acknowledges its role in causing "tremendous damage and suffering" during World War II, especially in regard to the IJA entrance into Nanjing during which Japanese soldiers killed a large number of noncombatants and engaged in looting and rape. However, some members of the Liberal Democratic Party in the Japanese government such as former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi and current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have prayed at the Yasukuni Shrine, which includes convicted Class A war criminals in its honored war dead. Some Japanese history textbooks only offer brief references to the various war crimes, and members of the Liberal Democratic Party such as Shinzo Abe have denied some of the atrocities such as the use of comfort women. In addition to Japanese military and civil personnel, Allied authorities found that Korean and Taiwanese serving in the forces of the Empire of Japan also committed war crimes.
War crimes have been defined by the Nuremberg Charter as "violations of the laws or customs of war," which includes crimes against enemy civilians and enemy combatants. Military personnel from the Empire of Japan have been accused or convicted of committing many such acts during the period of Japanese imperialism from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries. They have been accused of conducting a series of human rights abuses against civilians and prisoners of war (POWs) throughout East Asia and the western Pacific region. These events reached their height during the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937–45 and the Asian and Pacific campaigns of World War II (1941–45). In addition to Japanese civil and military personnel, Koreans and Taiwanese who were forced to serve in the military of the Empire of Japan were also found to have committed war crimes as part of the Japanese Imperial Army.
International and Japanese law
Japan did not sign the 1929 Geneva Convention on the Prisoners of War (except the 1929 Geneva Convention on the Sick and Wounded), though in 1942, it did promise to abide by its terms. The crimes committed also fall under other aspects of international and Japanese law. For example, many of the crimes committed by Japanese personnel during World War II broke Japanese military law, and were subject to court martial, as required by that law. The Empire also violated international agreements signed by Japan, including provisions of the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907) such as protections for prisoners of war and a ban on the use of chemical weapons, the 1930 Forced Labour Convention which prohibited forced labor, the 1921 International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children which prohibited human trafficking, and other agreements. The Japanese government also signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact (1929), thereby rendering its actions in 1937–45 liable to charges of crimes against peace, a charge that was introduced at the Tokyo Trials to prosecute "Class A" war criminals. "Class B" war criminals were those found guilty of war crimes per se, and "Class C" war criminals were those guilty of crimes against humanity. The Japanese government also accepted the terms set by the Potsdam Declaration (1945) after the end of the war, including the provision in Article 10 of punishment for "all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners."
In Japan, the term "Japanese war crimes" generally only refers to cases tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also known as the Tokyo Trials, following the end of the Pacific War. However, the tribunal did not prosecute war crimes allegations involving mid-ranking officers or more junior personnel. Those were dealt with separately in other cities throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Japanese law does not define those convicted in the post-1945 trials as criminals, despite the fact that Japan's governments have accepted the judgments made in the trials, and in the Treaty of San Francisco (1952). This is because the treaty does not mention the legal validity of the tribunal. Had Japan certified the legal validity of the war crimes tribunals in the San Francisco Treaty, the war crimes would have become open to appeal and overturning in Japanese courts. This would have been unacceptable in international diplomatic circles. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has advocated the position that Japan accepted the Tokyo tribunal and its judgements as a condition for ending the war, but that its verdicts have no relation to domestic law. According to this view, those convicted of war crimes are not criminals under Japanese law. This view may have been accepted by Japanese courts.
Historical and geographical extent
Outside Japan, different societies use widely different timeframes in defining Japanese war crimes. For example, the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910 was enforced by the Japanese military, and Society of Yi Dynasty Korea was switched to political system of Empire of Japan. Thus, North and South Korea refer to "Japanese war crimes" as events occurring during the period of Korea under Japanese rule.
By comparison, the Western Allies did not come into military conflict with Japan until 1941, and North Americans, Australians, South East Asians and Europeans may consider "Japanese war crimes" to be events that occurred in 1941–45.
Japanese war crimes were not always carried out by ethnic Japanese personnel. A small minority of people in every Asian and Pacific country invaded or occupied by Japan collaborated with the Japanese military, or even served in it, for a wide variety of reasons, such as economic hardship, coercion, or antipathy to other imperialist powers.
Japan's sovereignty over Korea and Formosa (Taiwan), in the first half of the 20th century, was recognized by international agreements—the Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895) and the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty (1910)—and they were considered at the time to be integral parts of the Japanese Empire. However, Under the international law of today, there is a possibility the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty was illegal, as the native populations were not consulted, there was armed resistance to Japan's annexations, and war crimes may also have been committed during the civil wars.
Japanese military culture and imperialism
Military culture, especially during Japan's imperialist phase had great bearing on the conduct of the Japanese military before and during World War II. After the Meiji Restoration and the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Emperor became the focus of military loyalty. During the so-called "Age of Empire" in the late 19th century, Japan followed the lead of other world powers in developing an empire, pursuing that objective aggressively.
Unlike many other major powers, Japan had not signed the Geneva Convention—also known as the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva July 27, 1929—which was the version of the Geneva Convention that covered the treatment of prisoners of war during World War II. Nevertheless, Japan ratified the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907) which contained provisions regarding prisoners of war and an Imperial Proclamation (1894) stated that Japanese soldiers should make every effort to win the war without violating international law. According to historian Yuki Tanaka, Japanese forces during the First Sino-Japanese War, released 1,790 Chinese prisoners without harm, once they signed an agreement not to take up arms against Japan again. After the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05), all 79,367 Russian Empire prisoners were released, and were paid for labour performed, in accordance with the Hague Convention. Similarly the behaviour of the Japanese military in World War I (1914–18) was at least as humane as that of other militaries, with some German POWs of the Japanese finding life in Japan so agreeable that they stayed and settled in Japan after the war.
The events of the 1930s and 1940s
By the late 1930s, the rise of militarism in Japan created at least superficial similarities between the wider Japanese military culture and that of Nazi Germany's elite military personnel, such as those in the Waffen-SS. Japan also had a military secret police force, known as the Kempeitai, which resembled the Nazi Gestapo in its role in annexed and occupied countries. Perceived failure, or insufficient devotion to the Emperor would attract punishment, frequently of the physical kind. In the military, officers would assault and beat men under their command, who would pass the beating on to lower ranks, all the way down. In POW camps, this meant prisoners received the worst beatings of all, partly in the belief that such punishments were merely the proper technique to deal with disobedience.
The Japanese military during the 1930s and 1940s is often compared to the military of Nazi Germany during 1933–45 because of the sheer scale of suffering. Much of the controversy regarding Japan's role in World War II revolves around the death rates of prisoners of war and civilians under Japanese occupation. The historian Chalmers Johnson has written that:
It may be pointless to try to establish which World War Two Axis aggressor, Germany or Japan, was the more brutal to the peoples it victimised. The Germans killed six million Jews and 20 million Russians (i.e. Soviet citizens); the Japanese slaughtered as many as 30 million Filipinos, Malays, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indonesians and Burmese, at least 23 million of them ethnic Chinese. Both nations looted the countries they conquered on a monumental scale, though Japan plundered more, over a longer period, than the Nazis. Both conquerors enslaved millions and exploited them as forced labourers—and, in the case of the Japanese, as (forced) prostitutes for front-line troops. If you were a Nazi prisoner of war from Britain, America, Australia, New Zealand or Canada (but not the Soviet Union) you faced a 4% chance of not surviving the war; (by comparison) the death rate for Allied POWs held by the Japanese was nearly 30%.
According to the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal, the death rate among POWs from Asian countries, held by Japan was 27.1%. The death rate of Chinese POWs was much higher because—under a directive ratified on August 5, 1937 by Emperor Hirohito—the constraints of international law on treatment of those prisoners was removed. Only 56 Chinese POWs were released after the surrender of Japan. After March 20, 1943, the Japanese Navy was under orders to execute all prisoners taken at sea.
R. J. Rummel, a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, estimates that between 1937 and 1945, the Japanese military murdered from nearly 3 to over 10 million people, most likely 6 million Chinese, Indonesians, Koreans, Filipinos and Indochinese, among others, including Western prisoners of war. According to Rummel, "This democide [i.e., death by government] was due to a morally bankrupt political and military strategy, military expediency and custom, and national culture." According to Rummel, in China alone, during 1937–45, approximately 3.9 million Chinese were killed, mostly civilians, as a direct result of the Japanese operations and 10.2 million in the course of the war. The most infamous incident during this period was the Nanking Massacre of 1937–38, when, according to the findings of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, the Japanese Army massacred as many as 300,000 civilians and prisoners of war, although the accepted figure is somewhere in the hundreds of thousands.
In Southeast Asia, the Manila massacre of February 1945 resulted in the death of 100,000 civilians in the Philippines. It is estimated that at least one out of every 20 Filipinos died at the hand of the Japanese during the occupation. In the Sook Ching massacre of February 1942, Lee Kuan Yew, the ex-Prime Minister of Singapore, said during an interview with National Geographic that there were between 50,000 and 90,000 casualties, while according to Major General Kawamura Saburo, there were 5,000 casualties in total.
There were other massacres of civilians, e.g. the Kalagong massacre. In wartime Southeast Asia, the Overseas Chinese and European diaspora were special targets of Japanese abuse; in the former case, motivated by an inferiority complex vis-à-vis the historic expanse and influence of Chinese culture that did not exist with the Southeast Asian indigenes, and the latter, motivated by a racist Pan-Asianism and desire to show former colonial subjects the impotence of their Western masters.
Historian Mitsuyoshi Himeta reports that a "Three Alls Policy" (Sankō Sakusen) was implemented in China from 1942 to 1945 and was in itself responsible for the deaths of "more than 2.7 million" Chinese civilians. This scorched earth strategy, sanctioned by Hirohito himself, directed Japanese forces to "Kill All, Burn All, and Loot All." Additionally, captured Allied service personnel were massacred in various incidents, including:
- Laha massacre
- Banka Island massacre
- Parit Sulong
- Palawan Massacre
- SS Tjisalak massacre perpetrated by Japanese submarine I-8
- Wake Island massacre – see Battle of Wake Island
- Bataan Death March
- Shinyo Maru Incident
Human experimentation and biological warfare
Special Japanese military units conducted experiments on civilians and POWs in China. One of the most infamous was Unit 731 under Shirō Ishii. Unit 731 was established by order of Hirohito himself. Victims were subjected to experiments including but not limited to vivisection and amputations without anesthesia and testing of biological weapons. Anesthesia was not used because it was believed to affect results.
To determine the treatment of frostbite, prisoners were taken outside in freezing weather and left with exposed arms, periodically drenched with water until frozen solid. The arm was later amputated; the doctor would repeat the process on the victim's upper arm to the shoulder. After both arms were gone, the doctors moved on to the legs until only a head and torso remained. The victim was then used for plague and pathogens experiments.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the experiments carried out by Unit 731 alone caused 3,000 deaths. Furthermore, according to the 2002 International Symposium on the Crimes of Bacteriological Warfare, the number of people killed by the Imperial Japanese Army germ warfare and human experiments is around 580,000. According to other sources, "tens of thousands, and perhaps as many as 400,000, Chinese died of bubonic plague, cholera, anthrax and other diseases ...", resulting from the use of biological warfare. Top officers of Unit 731 were not prosecuted for war crimes after the war, in exchange for turning over the results of their research to the Allies. They were also reportedly given responsible positions in Japan's pharmaceutical industry, medical schools and health ministry.
One case of human experimentation occurred in Japan itself. At least nine out of 11 crew members survived the crash of a U.S. Army Air Forces B-29 bomber on Kyūshū, on May 5, 1945. (This plane was Lt. Marvin Watkins' crew of the 29th Bomb Group of the 6th Bomb Squadron.) The bomber's commander was separated from his crew and sent to Tokyo for interrogation, while the other survivors were taken to the anatomy department of Kyushu University, at Fukuoka, where they were subjected to vivisection or killed.
On March 11, 1948, 30 people, including several doctors and one female nurse, were brought to trial by the Allied war crimes tribunal. Charges of cannibalism were dropped, but 23 people were found guilty of vivisection or wrongful removal of body parts. Five were sentenced to death, four to life imprisonment, and the rest to shorter terms. In 1950, the military governor of Japan, General Douglas MacArthur, commuted all of the death sentences and significantly reduced most of the prison terms. All of those convicted in relation to the university vivisection were free after 1958. In addition, many participants who were responsible for these vivisections were never charged by the Americans or their allies in exchange for the information on the experiments.
In 2006, former IJN medical officer Akira Makino stated that he was ordered—as part of his training—to carry out vivisection on about 30 civilian prisoners in the Philippines between December 1944 and February 1945. The surgery included amputations. Ken Yuasa, a former military doctor in China, has also admitted to similar incidents in which he was compelled to participate.
Use of chemical weapons
According to historians Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Kentaro Awaya, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, gas weapons, such as tear gas, were used only sporadically in 1937, but in the spring of 1938 the Imperial Japanese Army began full-scale use of phosgene, chlorine, Lewisite and nausea gas (red), and from summer 1939, mustard gas (yellow) was used against both Kuomintang and Communist Chinese troops.
According to Yoshimi and Seiya Matsuno, Emperor Hirohito signed orders specifying the use of chemical weapons in China. For example, during the Battle of Wuhan from August to October 1938, the Emperor authorized the use of toxic gas on 375 separate occasions, despite the 1899 Hague Declaration IV, 2 - Declaration on the Use of Projectiles the Object of Which is the Diffusion of Asphyxiating or Deleterious Gases and Article 23 (a) of the 1907 Hague Convention IV - The Laws and Customs of War on Land. A resolution adopted by the League of Nations on 14 May condemned the use of poison gas by Japan.
Another example is the Battle of Yichang in October 1941, during which the 19th Artillery Regiment helped the 13th Brigade of the IJA 11th Army by launching 1,000 yellow gas shells and 1,500 red gas shells at the Chinese forces. The area was crowded with Chinese civilians unable to evacuate. Some 3,000 Chinese soldiers were in the area and 1,600 were affected. The Japanese report stated that "the effect of gas seems considerable".
In 2004, Yoshimi and Yuki Tanaka discovered in the Australian National Archives documents showing that cyanide gas was tested on Australian and Dutch prisoners in November 1944 on Kai Islands (Indonesia).
Torture of prisoners of war
Japanese imperial forces employed widespread use of torture on prisoners, usually in an effort to gather military intelligence quickly. Tortured prisoners were often later executed. A former Japanese Army officer who served in China, Uno Shintaro, stated:
The major means of getting intelligence was to extract information by interrogating prisoners. Torture was an unavoidable necessity. Murdering and burying them follows naturally. You do it so you won't be found out. I believed and acted this way because I was convinced of what I was doing. We carried out our duty as instructed by our masters. We did it for the sake of our country. From our filial obligation to our ancestors. On the battlefield, we never really considered the Chinese humans. When you're winning, the losers look really miserable. We concluded that the Yamato race [i.e., Japanese] was superior.
Execution and killing of captured Allied airmen
Many Allied airmen captured by the Japanese whether on land or at sea were executed as official policy. During the Battle of Midway in June 1942, three American airmen who were shot down and landed at sea were spotted and captured by Japanese warships. After brief interrogations, two airmen were murdered then tied to five-gallon kerosene cans filled with water and dumped overboard from Nagara (or destroyer Makigumo, sources vary) while another was murdered and dumped overboard from Arashi.
On August 13, 1942, Japan passed the Enemy Airmen's Act which stated that Allied pilots who bombed non-military targets in the Pacific Theater and captured on land or at sea by Japanese forces were subject to trial and punishment despite the fact there was no international law that contained provisions regarding aerial warfare. This legislation was passed in response to the Doolittle Raid which occurred on April 18, 1942, when Tokyo and other Japanese cities were bombed by American B-25 bombers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle. According to the Hague Convention of 1907 (which was the only convention Japan ratified regarding the treatment of prisoners of war), any military personnel captured on land or at sea by enemy troops was entitled to be treated as a prisoner of war and cannot be punished for simply being a lawful combatant. However, eight Doolittle Raiders who were captured upon landing in China (and unaware of the existence of the Enemy Airmen's Act) were the first Allied pilots to be put before a kangaroo court in Shanghai under the act, charged with allegedly (but never proven) strafing Japanese civilians during the Doolittle Raid. The eight pilots were forbidden to give any defenses and, despite the lack of legitimate evidences, were found guilty of participating in aerial military operations against Japan. However, five others were instead commuted to life imprisonment while the other three were taken to a cemetery outside Shanghai where they were executed by firing squad on October 14, 1942.
The Enemy Airmen's Act contributed to the deaths of hundreds of Allied airmen throughout the Pacific War. It is estimated that 132 Allied airmen who were shot down during the bombing campaign on Japan in 1944–45 were summarily executed after short kangaroo trials or drumhead court-martials. 33 American airmen were deliberately killed by IJA personnel at Fukuoka, including 15 who were beheaded shortly after the Japanese Government's intention to surrender was announced on August 15, 1945.[full citation needed] Mobs of civilians also killed several Allied airmen before the Japanese military arrived to take the men into custody.[full citation needed] Another 94 airmen died from other causes while in Japanese custody, including 52 who were killed when they were deliberately left in a prison during the bombing of Tokyo on May 24–25, 1945.[full citation needed][full citation needed]
Many written reports and testimonies collected by the Australian War Crimes Section of the Tokyo tribunal, and investigated by prosecutor William Webb (the future Judge-in-Chief), indicate that Japanese personnel in many parts of Asia and the Pacific committed acts of cannibalism against Allied prisoners of war. In many cases this was inspired by ever-increasing Allied attacks on Japanese supply lines, and the death and illness of Japanese personnel as a result of hunger. However, according to historian Yuki Tanaka: "cannibalism was often a systematic activity conducted by whole squads and under the command of officers". This frequently involved murder for the purpose of securing bodies. For example, an Indian POW, Havildar Changdi Ram, testified that: "[on November 12, 1944] the Kempeitai beheaded [an Allied] pilot. I saw this from behind a tree and watched some of the Japanese cut flesh from his arms, legs, hips, buttocks and carry it off to their quarters ... They cut it [into] small pieces and fried it."
In some cases, flesh was cut from living people: another Indian POW, Lance Naik Hatam Ali (later a citizen of Pakistan), testified in New Guinea and stated:
the Japanese started selecting prisoners and every day one prisoner was taken out and killed and eaten by the soldiers. I personally saw this happen and about 100 prisoners were eaten at this place by the Japanese. The remainder of us were taken to another spot 50 miles [80 km] away where 10 prisoners died of sickness. At this place, the Japanese again started selecting prisoners to eat. Those selected were taken to a hut where their flesh was cut from their bodies while they were alive and they were thrown into a ditch where they later died.
Perhaps the most senior officer convicted of cannibalism was Lt Gen. Yoshio Tachibana (立花芳夫,Tachibana Yoshio), who with 11 other Japanese personnel was tried in August 1946 in relation to the execution of U.S. Navy airmen, and the cannibalism of at least one of them, during August 1944, on Chichi Jima, in the Bonin Islands. The airmen were beheaded on Tachibana's orders. As military and international law did not specifically deal with cannibalism, they were tried for murder and "prevention of honorable burial". Tachibana was sentenced to death, and hanged.
The Japanese military's use of forced labour, by Asian civilians and POWs also caused many deaths. According to a joint study by historians including Zhifen Ju, Mitsuyoshi Himeta, Toru Kubo and Mark Peattie, more than 10 million Chinese civilians were mobilised by the Kōa-in (Japanese Asia Development Board) for forced labour. More than 100,000 civilians and POWs died in the construction of the Burma-Siam Railway.
The U.S. Library of Congress estimates that in Java, between 4 and 10 million romusha (Japanese: "manual laborer"), were forced to work by the Japanese military. About 270,000 of these Javanese laborers were sent to other Japanese-held areas in Southeast Asia. Only 52,000 were repatriated to Java, meaning that there was a death rate of 80%.
According to historian Akira Fujiwara, Emperor Hirohito personally ratified the decision to remove the constraints of international law (Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)) on the treatment of Chinese prisoners of war in the directive of 5 August 1937. This notification also advised staff officers to stop using the term "prisoners of war". The Geneva Convention exempted POWs of sergeant rank or higher from manual labour, and stipulated that prisoners performing work should be provided with extra rations and other essentials. However, Japan was not a signatory to the 1929 Geneva Convention on the Prisoners of War at the time, and Japanese forces did not follow the convention, although they ratified the 1929 Geneva Convention on the Sick And Wounded.
The terms "comfort women" (慰安婦 ianfu ) or "military comfort women" (従軍慰安婦 jûgun-ianfu ) are euphemisms for women in Japanese military brothels in occupied countries, who were often recruited by deception or abducted and forced into sexual slavery.
In 1992, historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi published material based on his research in archives at Japan's National Institute for Defense Studies. Yoshimi claimed that there was a direct link between imperial institutions such as the Kôa-in and "comfort stations". When Yoshimi's findings were published in the Japanese news media on 12 January 1993, they caused a sensation and forced the government, represented by Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Koichi, to acknowledge some of the facts that same day. On 17 January Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa presented formal apologies for the suffering of the victims, during a trip in South Korea. On 6 July and 4 August, the Japanese government issued two statements by which it recognised that "Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military of the day", "The Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women" and that the women were "recruited in many cases against their own will through coaxing and coercion".
The controversy was re-ignited on 1 March 2007, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mentioned suggestions that a U.S. House of Representatives committee would call on the Japanese Government to "apologise for and acknowledge" the role of the Japanese Imperial military in wartime sex slavery. However, Abe denied that it applied to comfort stations. "There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support it." Abe's comments provoked negative reactions overseas. For example, a New York Times editorial on March 6 said:
These were not commercial brothels. Force, explicit and implicit, was used in recruiting these women. What went on in them was serial rape, not prostitution. The Japanese Army's involvement is documented in the government's own defense files. A senior Tokyo official more or less apologized for this horrific crime in 1993 ... Yesterday, he grudgingly acknowledged the 1993 quasi apology, but only as part of a pre-emptive declaration that his government would reject the call, now pending in the United States Congress, for an official apology. America isn't the only country interested in seeing Japan belatedly accept full responsibility. Korea, China, and the Philippines are also infuriated by years of Japanese equivocations over the issue.
The same day, veteran soldier Yasuji Kaneko admitted to The Washington Post that the women "cried out, but it didn't matter to us whether the women lived or died. We were the emperor's soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance."
On 17 April 2007, Yoshimi and another historian, Hirofumi Hayashi, announced the discovery, in the archives of the Tokyo Trials, of seven official documents suggesting that Imperial military forces, such as the Tokeitai (naval secret police), directly coerced women to work in frontline brothels in China, Indochina and Indonesia. These documents were initially made public at the war crimes trial. In one of these, a lieutenant is quoted as confessing having organized a brothel and having used it himself. Another source refers to Tokeitai members having arrested women on the streets, and after enforced medical examinations, putting them in brothels.
On May 12, 2007, journalist Taichiro Kaijimura announced the discovery of 30 Netherland government documents submitted to the Tokyo tribunal as evidence of a forced massed prostitution incident in 1944 in Magelang.
In other cases, some victims from East Timor testified they were forced when they were not old enough to have started menstruating and repeatedly raped by Japanese soldiers.
A Dutch-Indonesian "comfort woman", Jan Ruff-O'Hearn (now resident in Australia), who gave evidence to the U.S. committee, said the Japanese Government had failed to take responsibility for its crimes, that it did not want to pay compensation to victims and that it wanted to rewrite history. Ruff-O'Hearn said that she had been raped "day and night" for three months by Japanese soldiers when she was 19.
Only one Japanese woman published her testimony. In 1971 a former "comfort woman", forced to work for showa soldiers in Taiwan, published her memoirs under the pseudonym of Suzuko Shirota.
There are different theories on the breakdown of the comfort women's place of origin. While some Japanese sources claim that the majority of the women were from Japan, others, including Yoshimi, argue as many as 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, and some other countries such as the Philippines, Burma, the Dutch East Indies, Netherlands, and Australia were forced to engage in sexual activity.
On 26 June 2007, the U.S. House of representatives Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution asking that Japan "should acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its military's coercion of women into sexual slavery during the war". On 30 July 2007, the House of Representatives passed the resolution, while Shinzo Abe said this decision was "regrettable".
Many historians state that the Japanese government and individual military personnel engaged in widespread looting during the period of 1895 to 1945. The stolen property included private land, as well as many different kinds of valuable goods looted from banks, depositories, temples, churches, mosques, museums, other commercial premises and private homes.
Sterling and Peggy Seagrave, in their 2003 book Gold Warriors: America's secret recovery of Yamashita's gold—report that secret repositories of loot from across Southeast Asia, were created by the Japanese military in the Philippines during 1942–45. They allege that the theft was organised on a massive scale, either by yakuza gangsters such as Yoshio Kodama, or by officials at the behest of Emperor Hirohito, who wanted to ensure that as many of the proceeds as possible went to the government. The Seagraves also allege that Hirohito appointed his brother, Prince Chichibu, to head a secret organisation called Kin no yuri (Golden Lily) for this purpose.
Throughout the Pacific War, Japanese soldiers often feigned injury or surrender to lure the approaching American forces then stab or shoot them or throw grenades or call for a medic then stab or blow them up with a grenade. One of the most famous example of this was the "Goettge Patrol" during the early days of the Guadalcanal Campaign in August 1942. After the patrol saw a white flag displayed on the west bank of Matanikau River, Marine Corps Lieutenant colonel Frank Goettge assembled 25 men, primarily consisting of intelligence personnel, to search the area. Unknown to the patrol, the white flag was actually a Japanese flag with the Hinomaru disc insignia obscured. A Japanese prisoner earlier tricked the Marines by telling them that there were a number of Japanese west of the Matanikau River who wanted to surrender, knowing full well they would be ambushed. The Goettge Patrol landed by boat west of the Lunga Point perimeter, between Point Cruz and the Matanikau River, on a reconnaissance mission to contact a group of Japanese troops that American forces believed might be willing to surrender. Soon after the patrol landed, a group of Japanese naval troops ambushed and almost completely wiped out the patrol. Goettge was among the dead. Only three Americans make it back to American lines in the Lunga Point perimeter alive. News of the killing and treachery by the Japanese outraged the American Marines:
This was the first mass killing of the Marines on Guadalcanal. We were shocked. Shocked ... because headquarters had believed anything a Jap had to say ... The loss of this patrol and the particularly cruel way in which they had met death, hardened our hearts toward the Japanese. The idea of taking prisoners was swept from our minds. It was too dangerous.
Second Lieutenant D. A. Clark of the 7th Marines told a similar story while patrolling Guadalcanal:
I was on my first patrol here, and we were moving up a dry stream bed. We saw 3 Japs come down the river bed out of the jungle. The one in front was carrying a white flag. We thought they were surrendering. When they got up to us they dropped the white flag and then all 3 threw hand grenades. We killed 2 of these Japs, but 1 got away. Apparently they do not mind a sacrifice in order to get information.
Samuel Eliot Morison, in his book, The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War, wrote:
There were innumerable incidents such as a wounded Japanese soldier at Guadalcanal seizing a scalpel and burying it in the back of a surgeon who was about to save his life by an operation; and a survivor of the Battle of Vella Lavella, rescued by PT-163, pulling a gun and killing a bluejacket in the act of giving a Japanese sailor a cup of coffee.
These incidents, along with many other perfidious actions of the Japanese throughout the Pacific War, led to an American tendency to shoot the dead or wounded Japanese soldiers and those who were attempting to surrender and not take them as prisoners of war easily. Two Marines of Iwo Jima told cautionary tales. One confided: "They always told you take prisoners but we had some bad experiences on Saipan taking prisoners, you take them and then as soon as they get behind the lines they drop grenades and you lose a few more people. You get a little bit leery of taking prisoners when they are fighting to the death and so are you." The other reported, "Very few of them came out on their own; when they did, why, usually one in the front he'd come out with his hands up and one behind him, he'd come out with a grenade."
War crimes trials
Soon after the war, the Allied powers indicted 25 persons as Class-A war criminals, and 5,700 persons were indicted as Class-B or Class-C war criminals by Allied criminal trials. Of these, 984 were initially condemned to death, 920 were actually executed, 475 received life sentences, 2,944 received some prison terms, 1,018 were acquitted, and 279 were not sentenced or not brought to trial. These numbers included 178 ethnic Taiwanese and 148 ethnic Koreans. The Class-A charges were all tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also known as "the Tokyo Trials". Other courts were formed in many different places in Asia and the Pacific.
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East was formed to try accused people in Japan itself.
High-ranking officers who were tried included Koichi Kido and Sadao Araki. Three former (unelected) prime ministers: Koki Hirota, Hideki Tojo and Kuniaki Koiso were convicted of Class-A war crimes. Many military leaders were also convicted. Two people convicted as Class-A war criminals later served as ministers in post-war Japanese governments.
- Mamoru Shigemitsu served as foreign minister both during the war and in the post-war Hatoyama government.
- Okinori Kaya was finance minister during the war and later served as justice minister in the government of Hayato Ikeda. However, these two had no direct connection to alleged war crimes committed by Japanese forces, and foreign governments never raised the issue when they were appointed.
Hirohito and all members of the imperial family implicated in the war such as Prince Chichibu, Prince Asaka, Prince Takeda and Prince Higashikuni were exonerated from criminal prosecutions by MacArthur, with the help of Bonner Fellers who allowed the major criminal suspects to coordinate their stories so that the Emperor would be spared from indictment. Many historians criticize this decision. According to John Dower, "with the full support of MacArthur's headquarters, the prosecution functioned, in effect, as a defense team for the emperor" and even Japanese activists who endorse the ideals of the Nuremberg and Tokyo charters, and who have labored to document and publicize the atrocities of the Showa regime "cannot defend the American decision to exonerate the emperor of war responsibility and then, in the chill of the Cold War, release and soon afterwards openly embrace accused right-winged war criminals like the later prime minister Nobusuke Kishi." For Herbert Bix, "MacArthur's truly extraordinary measures to save Hirohito from trial as a war criminal had a lasting and profoundly distorting impact on Japanese understanding of the lost war."
Between 1946 and 1951, the United States, the United Kingdom, China, the Soviet Union, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, the Netherlands and the Philippines all held military tribunals to try Japanese indicted for Class B and Class C war crimes. Some 5,600 Japanese personnel were prosecuted in more than 2,200 trials outside Japan. Class B defendants were accused of having committed such crimes themselves; class C defendants, mostly senior officers, were accused of planning, ordering or failing to prevent them.
The judges presiding came from the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, France, the Soviet Union, New Zealand, India and the Philippines. Additionally, the Chinese Communists also held a number of trials for Japanese personnel. More than 4,400 Japanese personnel were convicted and about 1,000 were sentenced to death.
The largest single trial was that of 93 Japanese personnel charged with the summary execution of more than 300 Allied POWs, in the Laha massacre (1942). The most prominent ethnic Korean convicted was Lieutenant General Hong Sa Ik, who orchestrated the organisation of prisoner of war camps in Southeast Asia. In 2006, the South Korean government "pardoned" 83 of the 148 convicted Korean war criminals. One hundred-sixty Taiwanese who had served in the forces of the Empire of Japan were convicted of war crimes and 11 were executed.
Post-war events and reactions
The parole-for-war-criminals movement
In 1950, after most Allied war crimes trials had ended, thousands of convicted war criminals sat in prisons across Asia and across Europe, detained in the countries where they were convicted. Some executions were still outstanding as many Allied courts agreed to reexamine their verdicts, reducing sentences in some cases and instituting a system of parole, but without relinquishing control over the fate of the imprisoned (even after Japan and Germany had regained their status as sovereign countries).
An intense and broadly supported campaign for amnesty for all imprisoned war criminals ensued (more aggressively in Germany than in Japan at first), as attention turned away from the top wartime leaders and towards the majority of "ordinary" war criminals (Class B/C in Japan), and the issue of criminal responsibility was reframed as a humanitarian problem.
On March 7, 1950, MacArthur issued a directive that reduced the sentences by one-third for good behavior and authorized the parole of those who had received life sentences after fifteen years. Several of those who were imprisoned were released earlier on parole due to ill-health.
The Japanese popular reaction to the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal found expression in demands for the mitigation of the sentences of war criminals and agitation for parole. Shortly after the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect in April 1952, a movement demanding the release of B- and C-class war criminals began, emphasizing the "unfairness of the war crimes tribunals" and the "misery and hardship of the families of war criminals." The movement quickly garnered the support of more than ten million Japanese. In the face of this surge of public opinion, the government commented that "public sentiment in our country is that the war criminals are not criminals. Rather, they gather great sympathy as victims of the war, and the number of people concerned about the war crimes tribunal system itself is steadily increasing."
The parole-for-war-criminals movement was driven by two groups: those from outside who had 'a sense of pity' for the prisoners; and the war criminals themselves who called for their own release as part of an anti-war peace movement. The movement that arose out of 'a sense of pity' demanded 'just set them free (tonikaku shakuho o) regardless of how it is done'.
On September 4, 1952, President Truman issued Executive Order 10393, establishing a Clemency and Parole Board for War Criminals to advise the President with respect to recommendations by the Government of Japan for clemency, reduction of sentence, or parole, with respect to sentences imposed on Japanese war criminals by military tribunals.
On May 26, 1954, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles rejected a proposed amnesty for the imprisoned war criminals but instead agreed to "change the ground rules" by reducing the period required for eligibility for parole from 15 years to 10.
By the end of 1958, all Japanese war criminals, including A-, B- and C-class were released from prison and politically rehabilitated. Hashimoto Kingorô, Hata Shunroku, Minami Jirô, and Oka Takazumi were all released on parole in 1954. Araki Sadao, Hiranuma Kiichirô, Hoshino Naoki, Kaya Okinori, Kido Kôichi, Ôshima Hiroshi, Shimada Shigetarô, and Suzuki Teiichi were released on parole in 1955. Satô Kenryô, whom many, including Judge B. V. A. Röling regarded as one of the convicted war criminals least deserving of imprisonment, was not granted parole until March 1956, the last of the Class A Japanese war criminals to be released. On April 7, 1957, the Japanese government announced that, with the concurrence of a majority of the powers represented on the tribunal, the last ten major Japanese war criminals who had previously been paroled were granted clemency and were to be regarded henceforth as unconditionally free from the terms of their parole.
The Japanese government considers that the legal and moral positions in regard to war crimes are separate. Therefore, while maintaining that Japan violated no international law or treaties, Japanese governments have officially recognised the suffering which the Japanese military caused, and numerous apologies have been issued by the Japanese government. For example, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, in August 1995, stated that Japan "through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations", and he expressed his "feelings of deep remorse" and stated his "heartfelt apology". Also, on September 29, 1972, Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka stated: "[t]he Japanese side is keenly conscious of the responsibility for the serious damage that Japan caused in the past to the Chinese people through war, and deeply reproaches itself."
However, the official apologies are widely viewed as inadequate or only a symbolic exchange by many of the survivors of such crimes or the families of dead victims. On October 2006, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed an apology for the damage caused by its colonial rule and aggression, more than 80 Japanese lawmakers from his ruling party LDP paid visits to the Yasukuni Shrine. Many people aggrieved by Japanese war crimes also maintain that no apology has been issued for particular acts or that the Japanese government has merely expressed "regret" or "remorse". On 2 March 2007, the issue was raised again by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, in which he denied that the military had forced women into sexual slavery during World War II. He stated, "The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion." Before he spoke, a group of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers also sought to revise Yohei Kono's 1993 apology to former comfort women. However, this provoked negative reaction from Asian and Western countries.
On 31 October 2008, the chief of staff of Japan's Air Self-Defense Force Toshio Tamogami was dismissed with a 60 million yen allowance due to an essay he published, arguing that Japan was not an aggressor during World War II, that the war brought prosperity to China, Taiwan and Korea, that the Imperial Japanese Army's conduct was not violent and that the Greater East Asia War is viewed in a positive way by many Asian countries and criticizing the war crimes trials which followed the war. On 11 November, Tamogami added before the Diet that the personal apology made in 1995 by former prime minister Tomiichi Murayama was "a tool to suppress free speech".
Some in Japan have asserted that what is being demanded is that the Japanese Prime Minister or the Emperor perform dogeza, in which an individual kneels and bows his head to the ground—a high form of apology in East Asian societies that Japan appears unwilling to do. Some point to an act by West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who knelt at a monument to the Jewish victims of the Warsaw Ghetto, in 1970, as an example of a powerful and effective act of apology and reconciliation similar to dogeza, although not everyone agrees.
On 13 September 2010, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada met in Tokyo with six former American POWs of the Japanese and apologized for their treatment during World War II. Said Okada, "You have all been through hardships during World War II, being taken prisoner by the Japanese military, and suffered extremely inhumane treatment. On behalf of the Japanese government and as the foreign minister, I would like to offer you my heartfelt apology."
On 29 November 2011, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba apologized to former Australian POWs on behalf of the Japanese government for pain and suffering inflicted on them during the war.
There is a widespread perception that the Japanese government has not accepted the legal responsibility for compensation and, as a direct consequence of this denial, it has failed to compensate the individual victims of Japanese atrocities. In particular, a number of prominent human rights and women's rights organisations insist that Japan still has a moral or legal responsibility to compensate individual victims, especially the sex slaves conscripted by the Japanese military in occupied countries and known as "comfort women".
The Japanese government officially accepted the requirement for monetary compensation to victims of war crimes, as specified by the Potsdam Declaration. The details of this compensation have been left to bilateral treaties with individual countries, except North Korea, because Japan recognises South Korea as the sole legitimate government of the Korean Peninsula. In the Asian countries involved, claims to compensation were either abandoned by their respective countries, or were paid out by Japan under the specific understanding that it was to be used for individual compensation. However, in some cases such as with South Korea, the compensation was not paid out to victims by their governments, instead being used for civic projects and other works. Due to this, large numbers of individual victims in Asia received no compensation.
Therefore, the Japanese government's position is that the proper avenues for further claims are the governments of the respective claimants. As a result, every individual compensation claim brought to Japanese court has failed. Such was the case in regard to a British POW who was unsuccessful in an attempt to sue the Japanese government for additional money for compensation. As a result, the British Government later paid additional compensation to all British POWs. There were complaints in Japan that the international media simply stated that the former POW was demanding compensation and failed to clarify that he was seeking further compensation, in addition to that paid previously by the Japanese government.
A small number of claims have also been brought in US courts, though these have also been rejected.
During the treaty negotiation with South Korea, the Japanese government proposed that it pay monetary compensation to individual Korean victims, in line with the payments to Western POWs. The Korean government instead insisted that Japan pay money collectively to the Korean government, and that is what occurred. The South Korean government then used the funds for economic development. The content of the negotiations was not released by the Korean government until 2004, although it was public knowledge in Japan. Due to the release of the information by the Korean government, a number of claimants have stepped forward and are attempting to sue the government for individual compensation of victims.
There are those that insist that because the governments of China and Taiwan abandoned their claims for monetary compensation, then the moral or legal responsibility for compensation belongs with these governments. Such critics also point out that even though these governments abandoned their claims, they signed treaties that recognised the transfer of Japanese colonial assets to the respective governments. Therefore, to claim that these governments received no compensation from Japan is incorrect, and they could have compensated individual victims from the proceeds of such transfers. However, others dispute that Japanese colonial assets in large proportion were built or stolen with extortion or force in occupied countries, as was clearly the case with artworks collected (or stolen) by Nazis during World War II throughout Europe.
The Japanese government, while admitting no legal responsibility for the so-called "comfort women", set up the Asian Women's Fund in 1995, which gives money to people who claim to have been forced into prostitution during the war. Though the organisation was established by the government, legally, it has been created such that it is an independent charity. The activities of the fund have been controversial in Japan, as well as with international organisations supporting the women concerned. Some argue that such a fund is part of an ongoing refusal by the Japanese government to face up to its responsibilities, while others say that the Japanese government has long since finalised its responsibility to individual victims and is merely correcting the failures of the victims' own governments. California Congressman Mike Honda, speaking before U.S. House of Representatives on behalf of the women, said that "without a sincere and unequivocal apology from the government of Japan, the majority of surviving Comfort Women refused to accept these funds. In fact, as you will hear today, many Comfort Women returned the Prime Minister's letter of apology accompanying the monetary compensation, saying they felt the apology was artificial and disingenuous."
The term "intermediate compensation" (or intermediary compensation) was applied to the removal and reallocation of Japanese industrial (particularly military-industrial) assets to Allied countries. It was conducted under the supervision of Allied occupation forces. This reallocation was referred to as "intermediate" because it did not amount to a final settlement by means of bilateral treaties, which settled all existing issues of compensation. By 1950, the assets reallocated amounted to 43,918 items of machinery, valued at ¥165,158,839 (in 1950 prices). The proportions in which the assets were distributed were: China, 54.1%; the Netherlands, 11.5%; the Philippines 19%, and; the United Kingdom, 15.4%.
Compensation under the San Francisco Treaty
Compensation from Japanese overseas assets
|Japanese overseas assets in 1945|
|Country/region||Value (1945, ¥15=US$1)||2022 US dollars|
|North East China||146,532,000,000||$128 billion|
|North China||55,437,000,000||$48.4 billion|
|Central South China||36,718,000,000||$32.1 billion|
Japanese overseas assets refers to all assets owned by the Japanese government, firms, organization and private citizens, in colonised or occupied countries. In accordance with Clause 14 of the San Francisco Treaty, Allied forces confiscated all Japanese overseas assets, except those in China, which were dealt with under Clause 21. It is considered that Korea was also entitled to the rights provided by Clause 21.
Compensation to Allied POWs
Clause 16 of the San Francisco Treaty stated that Japan would transfer its assets and those of its citizens in countries which were at war with any of the Allied Powers or which were neutral, or equivalents, to the Red Cross, which would sell them and distribute the funds to former prisoners of war and their families. Accordingly, the Japanese government and private citizens paid out £4,500,000 to the Red Cross.
According to historian Linda Goetz Holmes, many funds used by the government of Japan were not Japanese funds but relief funds contributed by the governments of the USA, the UK and the Netherlands and sequestred in the Yokohama Specie Bank during the final year of the war.
Allied territories occupied by Japan
|Japanese compensation to countries occupied during 1941–45|
|Country||Amount in Yen||Amount in US$||2022 US dollars||Date of treaty|
|Burma||72,000,000,000||200,000,000||$1.76 billion||5 November 1955|
|Philippines||198,000,000,000||550,000,000||$4.77 billion||9 May 1956|
|Indonesia||80,388,000,000||223,080,000||$1.82 billion||20 January 1958|
|Vietnam||14,400,000,000||38,000,000||$307 million||13 May 1959|
Clause 14 of the treaty stated that Japan would enter into negotiations with Allied powers whose territories were occupied by Japan and suffered damage by Japanese forces, with a view to Japan compensating those countries for the damage.
Accordingly, the Philippines and South Vietnam received compensation in 1956 and 1959 respectively. Burma and Indonesia were not original signatories, but they later signed bilateral treaties in accordance with clause 14 of the San Francisco Treaty.
The last payment was made to the Philippines on 22 July 1976.
Debate in Japan
Until the 1970s, Japanese war crimes were considered a fringe topic in the media. In the Japanese media, the opinions of the political centre and left tend to dominate the editorials of newspapers, while the right tend to dominate magazines. Debates regarding war crimes were confined largely to the editorials of tabloid magazines where calls for the overthrow of "Imperialist America" and revived veneration of the Emperor coexisted with pornography. In 1972, to commemorate the normalisation of relationship with China, Asahi Shimbun, a major liberal newspaper, ran a series on Japanese war crimes in China including the Nanking Massacre. This opened the floodgates to debates which have continued ever since. The 1990s are generally considered to be the period in which such issues become truly mainstream, and incidents such as the Nanking Massacre, Yasukuni Shrine, comfort women, the accuracy of school history textbooks, and the validity of the Tokyo Trials were debated, even on television.
As the consensus of Japanese jurists is that Japanese forces did not technically commit violations of international law, many right wing elements in Japan have taken this to mean that war crimes trials were examples of victor's justice. They see those convicted of war crimes as "Martyrs of Shōwa" (昭和殉難者 Shōwa Junnansha ), Shōwa being the name given to the rule of Hirohito. This interpretation is vigorously contested by Japanese peace groups and the political left. In the past, these groups have tended to argue that the trials hold some validity, either under the Geneva Convention (even though Japan hadn't signed it), or under an undefined concept of international law or consensus. Alternatively, they have argued that, although the trials may not have been technically valid, they were still just, somewhat in line with popular opinion in the West and in the rest of Asia.
By the early 21st century, the revived interest in Japan's imperial past had brought new interpretations from a group which has been labelled both "new right" and "new left". This group points out that many acts committed by Japanese forces, including the Nanjing Incident, were violations of the Japanese military code. It is suggested that had war crimes tribunals been conducted by the post-war Japanese government, in strict accordance with Japanese military law, many of those who were accused would still have been convicted and executed. Therefore, the moral and legal failures in question were the fault of the Japanese military and the government, for not executing their constitutionally defined duty.
The new right/new left also takes the view that the Allies committed no war crimes against Japan, because Japan was not a signatory to the Geneva Convention, and as a victors, the Allies had every right to demand some form of retribution, to which Japan consented in various treaties.
However, under the same logic, the new right/new left considers the killing of Chinese who were suspected of guerilla activity to be perfectly legal and valid, including some of those killed at Nanjing, for example. They also take the view that many Chinese civilian casualties resulted from the scorched earth tactics of the Chinese nationalists. Though such tactics are arguably legal, the new right/new left takes the position that some of the civilian deaths caused by these scorched earth tactics are wrongly attributed to the Japanese military.
Similarly, they take the position that those who have attempted to sue the Japanese government for compensation have no legal or moral case.
The new right/new left also takes a less sympathetic view of Korean claims of victimhood, because prior to annexation by Japan, Korea was a tributary of the Qing Dynasty and, according to them, the Japanese colonisation, though undoubtedly harsh, was "better" than the previous rule in terms of human rights and economic development.
They also argue that, the Kantōgun (also known as the Kwantung Army) was at least partly culpable. Although the Kantōgun was nominally subordinate to the Japanese high command at the time, its leadership demonstrated significant self-determination, as shown by its involvement in the plot to assassinate Zhang Zuolin in 1928, and the Manchurian Incident of 1931, which led to the foundation of Manchukuo in 1932. Moreover, at that time, it was the official policy of the Japanese high command to confine the conflict to Manchuria. But in defiance of the high command, the Kantōgun invaded China proper, under the pretext of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. However, the Japanese government not only failed to court martial the officers responsible for these incidents, but it also accepted the war against China, and many of those who were involved were even promoted. (Some of the officers involved in the Nanking Massacre were also promoted.)
Whether or not Hirohito himself bears any responsibility for such failures is a sticking point between the new right and new left. Officially, the imperial constitution, adopted under Emperor Meiji, gave full powers to the Emperor. Article 4 prescribed that "The Emperor is the head of the Empire, combining in Himself the rights of sovereignty, and exercises them, according to the provisions of the present Constitution" and article 11 prescribed that "The Emperor has the supreme command of the Army and the Navy".
For historian Akira Fujiwara, the thesis that the emperor as an organ of responsibility could not reverse cabinet decisions is a myth (shinwa) fabricated after the war. Others argue that Hirohito deliberately styled his rule in the manner of the British constitutional monarchy, and he always accepted the decisions and consenses reached by the high command. According to this position, the moral and political failure rests primarily with the Japanese High Command and the Cabinet, most of whom were later convicted at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal as class-A war criminals, apart all members of the imperial family such as Prince Chichibu, Prince Yasuhiko Asaka, Prince Higashikuni, Prince Hiroyasu Fushimi and Prince Takeda.
As with investigations of Nazi war criminals, official investigations and inquiries are still ongoing. During the 1990s, the South Korean government started investigating some people who had allegedly become wealthy while collaborating with the Japanese military. In South Korea, it is also alleged that, during the political climate of the Cold War, many such people or their associates or relatives were able to acquire influence with the wealth they had acquired collaborating with the Japanese and assisted in the covering-up, or non-investigation, of war crimes in order not to incriminate themselves. With the wealth they had amassed during the years of collaboration, they were able to further benefit their families by obtaining higher education for their relatives.
Non-government bodies and persons have also undertaken their own investigations. For example, in 2005, a South Korean freelance journalist, Jung Soo-woong, located in Japan some descendants of people involved in the 1895 assassination of Empress Myeongseong (Queen Min). The assassination was conducted by the Genyōsha, perhaps under the auspices of the Japanese government, because of the Empress's involvement in attempts to reduce Japanese influence in Korea. Jung recorded the apologies of the persons.
As these investigations continue more evidence is discovered each day. It has been claimed that the Japanese government intentionally destroyed the reports on Korean comfort women. Some have cited Japanese inventory logs and employee sheets on the battlefield as evidence for this claim. For example, one of the names on the list was of a comfort woman who stated she was forced to be a prostitute by the Japanese. She was classified as a nurse along with at least a dozen other verified comfort women who were not nurses or secretaries. Currently, the South Korean government is looking into the hundreds of other names on these lists.
Sensitive information regarding the Japanese occupation of Korea is often difficult to obtain. Many argue that this is because the Government of Japan has gone out of its way to cover up many incidents that would otherwise lead to severe international criticism. On their part, Koreans have often expressed their abhorrence of human experimentations carried out by the Imperial Japanese Army where people often became fodder as human test subjects in such macabre experiments as liquid nitrogen tests or biological weapons development programs (See articles: Unit 731 and Shiro Ishii).
Today cover-ups by Japan and other countries such as the United Kingdom are slowly exposed as more thorough investigations are conducted. The reason for the cover-up was because the British government wanted to end the war crimes trial early in order to maintain good relations with Japan to prevent the spread of communism.
Tamaki Matsuoka's documentary "Torn Memories of Nanjing" includes interviews with Japanese veterans who admit to raping and killing Chinese civilians.
List of major incidents
- Dower, John W. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. New York: New Press, 1999.
- Blumenthal, Ralph (March 7, 1999). "The World: Revisiting World War II Atrocities; Comparing the Unspeakable to the Unthinkable". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B05E6DB153FF934A35750C0A96F958260&sec=&spon=&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
- "World | Scarred by history: The Rape of Nanking". BBC News. 1997-12-13. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/in_depth/39166.stm. Retrieved 2013-07-21.
- Sanger, David (October 22, 1992). "Japanese Edgy Over Emperor's Visit to China". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE1D81439F931A15753C1A964958260. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
- "Japanese War Criminals World War Two". The National Archives (U.K.). http://yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php?title=Japanese_War_Criminals_World_War_Two.
- "Japanese War Crimes". The National Archives (U.S.). http://www.archives.gov/iwg/japanese-war-crimes/.
- "Pacific Theater Document Archive". War Crimes Studies Center, University of California, Berkeley. http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~warcrime/PT.htm. [dead link]
- Kafala, Tarik (October 21, 2009). "What is a war crime?". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1420133.stm.
- "Bibliography: War Crimes". Sigur Center for Asian Studies, George Washington University. http://www.gwu.edu/~memory/research/bibliography/warcrimes.html.
- Tabuchi, Hiroko. "Japan's Abe: No Proof of WWII Sex Slaves". The Associated Press. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/01/AR2007030100578.html. Retrieved March 1, 2007.
- "Historical Issues Q&A". Foreign Policy. Tokyo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan). January 2006. http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/q_a/faq16.htm. Retrieved October 2, 2011.
- Kasahara, Tokushi. "Reconciling Narratives of the Nanjing Massacre in Japanese and Chinese Textbooks". Tsuru Bunka University. http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/file/kasahara.pdf.
- "Japan's Abe Denies Proof of World War II Sex Slaves". Associated Press. March 1, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Japan-Sex-Slaves.html?ref=world. Retrieved March 1, 2007.
- Nuremberg Tribunal (October 1, 1946). "Judgment: The Law Relating to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity". Yale Law School. http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/judlawre.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
- Harmsen, Peter, Jiji Press, "Taiwanese seeks payback for brutal service in Imperial Army", Japan Times, 26 September 2012, p. 4
- Breen, Michael. "Truth Commission Should Be Truthful". The Korea Times. Archived from the original on 2007-02-16. http://web.archive.org/web/20070216020355/http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/opinion/200611/kt2006111619251454330.htm.
- "Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armies in the Field. Geneva, 27 July 1929.". International Committee of the Red Cross. http://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/States.xsp?xp_viewStates=XPages_NORMStatesParties&xp_treatySelected=300. Retrieved July 6, 2013.
- "World War Two - Geneva Convention". Historyonthenet.com. 2013-02-25. http://historyonthenet.com/WW2/geneva_convention.htm. Retrieved 2013-07-21.
- See, for example: Wai Keng Kwok, 2001, "Justice Done? Criminal and Moral Responsibility Issues In the Chinese Massacres Trial Singapore, 1947" (Genocide Studies Program Working Paper No. 18, Yale University), p. 27. Access date: April 23, 2007.
- Chang, Maria Hsia; Barker, Robert P. (2003). "Victor's Justice and Japan's Amnesia". In Peter, Li. Japanese War Crimes: The Search for Justice. Transaction Publishers. p. 44. ISBN 0-7658-0890-0.
- Margaret Stetz and Bonnie BC Oh, ed (August 2001). The Legacies of the Comfort Women of World War II. M. E. Sharpe. pp. 154–156. ISBN 0-7656-0543-0.
- Lippman, Matthew (January 1, 2004). "The history, development, and decline of crimes against peace". p. 25. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5433/is_200401/ai_n21362456/pg_1?tag=artBody;col1. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
- "Under Japanese law, 14 at Yasukuni not criminals: Abe". The Japan Times. October 7, 2006. Archived from the original on 16 December 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20110606013109/http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20061007a4.html. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
- See, for example: Craig Symonds, "War, Politics, and Grand Strategy in the Pacific, 1941–1945", Air University Review, November-December 1979 (Access date: February 15, 2007): "most American historians, date the war from December 1941". See also Edward Drea, "Introduction", in Edward Drea, Greg Bradsher, Robert Hanyok, James Lide, Michael Petersen & Daqing Yang, 2006, Researching Japanese War Crimes Records (National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.; p. 15): "The atrocities at Nanjing occurred four years before the United States entered the war. At that time, the U.S. government did not have a large military or diplomatic intelligence network in China. A handful of trained military or embassy personnel reported on events, sometimes second-hand; compared with the sensational press coverage, the official U.S. documentation was scant. As a result, with the exception of the records produced during the postwar Class A war crimes trial of the commanding general of Japanese forces deemed responsible for the Rape of Nanking, there are few materials on this subject at the National Archives." See also, Ben-Ami Shillony, "Book Review, Book Title: A History of Japan, 1582–1941 Internal and External Worlds, Author: L. M. Cullen Professor of History, Trinity College, Dublin", (Institute of Historical Research, February 2004) (Access date: February 15, 2007); Grant K. Goodman, "Review 'The Kempei Tai in the Philippines: 1941–1945' by Ma. Felisa A. Syjuco" Pacific Affairs, v. 64, no. 2 (Summer, 1991), pp. 282–283 (Access date: February 15, 2007); United Nations Human Rights Committee, "Fifty-Ninth Session, 24 March - 11 April 1997, Decisions, Communication No. 601/1994" (April 3, 1997) (Access date: February 15, 2007);Gary K. Reynolds, 2002, U.S. Prisoners of War and Civilian American Citizens Captured and Interned by Japan in World War II: The Issue of Compensation by Japan(Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress, December 17, 2002)[dead link] Access date: February 15, 2007.
- de Jong, Louis (2002). The collapse of a colonial society. The Dutch in Indonesia during the Second World War. Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 206. translation J. Kilian, C. Kist and J. Rudge, introduction J. Kemperman. Leiden, The Netherlands: KITLV Press. pp. 40, 42, 45, 203–204, 305–307, 311–312, 328, 373–374, 386, 391, 393, 429, 488. ISBN 90-6718-203-6.
- Yutaka Kawasaki, "Was the 1910 Annexation Treaty Between Korea and Japan Concluded Legally?" Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, v.3, no. 2 (July 1996) Access date: February 15, 2007. Note: "This article attempts to examine the arguments of both sides in regard to their legal validity. Hence, full historical analysis is not within the scope of this paper."
- "ICRC databases on international humanitarian law". Cicr.org. http://www.cicr.org/ihl.nsf/WebSign?ReadForm&id=305&ps=P. Retrieved 2013-07-21.
- Kevin Blackburn and Karl Hack, ed (October 13, 2011). Forgotten Captives in Japanese-Occupied Asia (Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia). Routledge. p. 12. ISBN 0-415-69005-6.
- Tanaka Hidden Horrors pp 72–73
- "German-POW camp reveals little-known history of Japan". Kyodo News. January 31, 2000. Archived from the original on 2012-07-14. https://archive.is/sot3. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- "Japanese POW camp was a little slice of home". Agence France-Presse. March 23, 2004. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2004/03/23/2003107480. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- Lamong-Brown, Raymond. "Kempeitai: Japan's Dreaded Military Police". Sutton Publishing, 1998.
- John Toland, The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936–1945 p 301 Random House New York 1970
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