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Sado Island And Ambon Massacres

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#1 PaulV



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Posted 05 April 2007 - 01:55 PM

Apparently the History Channel just did a show on this.

Sado Island


Capt. J G Godwin

File 125M
A 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 follow 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.
(:D Tsuda maintains his innocence of complicity in the formulating of superior orders that was designed by higher 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.
© 'Tsuda's testimony". 'On the morning of 2 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 opon 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 to work hewing the ore from the marked areas, I was ordered to instruct Sgt Major Mitsunobu Sakamoto, the NCO in charge of the guards, to ensure their discreet retreat out of the mine. The toiling prisoners were to be left to their obvious fate.

Between 8:45 and 9:00 am on the morning of the 2nd August 1945, all of the guards emerged from the mine tunnel whereupon a number of wheeled ore bins were pushed to the mine's 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 mine's 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 mine's 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 its entrance. It was while returning to the prison camp that I heard a loud explosion. Looking back I saw an avalanche of rock and earth was completely cover where the mines entrance had been.

Knowing that the mine had been collapsed in three separate places, I felt 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.


(A) 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. Deceivingly, officers were posted as missing or killed in action.

(D) 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 camp's 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)
Investigating Officer
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 exerbate 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]

(1) 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 OC during February 1942.
2) Kanamoto states that on or about 24 February 1942 and whilst stationed at the captured Victoria Barracks at Ambon, he learned from a fellow officer that a further 220 prisoners would be executed later that same day. Upon hearing that volunteers were invited to participate in this forthcoming mass execution, Kanamoto and three of his subordinates who had promptly volunteered, left Ambon by launch for Laha at about 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.

(3) 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.
(4) 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 POWs 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.

(5) 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 positively that no soldiers or marines stood around grave B.

(6) 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.

(7) 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, hut he could not interfere in the punishments that had been ordered by the Japanese High Command in the area.

(8) 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. Kanarnoto claims that he then recovered his sword which, upon inspection by torchlight, was found to be nicked at several places and slightly bent.

(9) 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.

(10) 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 Amhon by launch at about 2230 hours.

(11) 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.

(12) 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.

(13) 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 he described as punishments or incidents.

(14) 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 D.L.B. Goslett,. Major Williams and Legal Officer Major A.D. MacKay.

Quod Erat Demonstradum [The thing that was to be done Q.E.D.]
J G Godwin (Capt)
Investigating Officer
2nd Aust. War Crimes Section
3,10 February 1950
Meiji Building: SCAP
Supreme Command Allied Powers
Tokyo, Japan

#2 Dixie-Dan



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Posted 05 April 2007 - 07:52 PM

The Australians made a movie in 1991 "Prisoners of the Sun" about the Ambon massacre. Excellent.

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