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Thread: Navy War Crimes Trials After WW II - w/o a rope

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    Default Navy War Crimes Trials After WW II - w/o a rope

    Without a Hangman, Without a Rope:
    Navy War Crimes Trials After World War II


    Jeanie M. Welch,
    University of North Carolina at Charlotte


    Little has been written about the trials of accused Japanese war criminals that were conducted by the U. S. Navy after World War II. Trials were held on Guam and Kwajalein by the War Crimes Branch of the Pacific Fleet from 1945 through 1949. These trials were part of over 2,000 war crimes trials held under the aegis of SCAP--the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. Major war criminals (political and military leaders) were tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo in Tokyo. Other war crimes trials were held throughout the areas invaded and occupied by the Japanese. Trials were held for the mistreatment of prisoners of war and for the executions of captured Allied airmen (including beheading and cannibalism.). The Navy also investigated alleged war crimes committed at sea and interrogated “holdouts” (stragglers)—Japanese military personnel who had gone into hiding and did not surrender until long after Japan’s official surrender. There were over 100 convictions in trials of Imperial Japanese Navy personnel and other Japanese military personnel (including members of the Imperial Japanese Army). Defendants were provided with defense counsel, a provision made for all accused war criminals tried by Allied war crimes tribunals and commissions. The Navy conducted executions or sent convicted war criminals sentenced to incarceration to Sugamo Prison in Tokyo to serve their sentences. Some accused and convicted war criminals chose suicide rather than face trial, imprisonment, or execution. This paper discusses the organization of Navy trials, several Navy trials conducted on Kwajalein and Guam, evaluations of the Navy’s conduct of war crimes trials (including the philosophical questions of practicing “victor’s justice” and the legal questions of the status of such trials in international law), and the availability of official records on these trials compiled by the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Navy).
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    Senior Member Para's Avatar
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    What you fail to mention is the number of Japanese that did not stand trial for war crimes. Many of the the people that Britain wanted to try as war criminals were blocked by the Americans. The Americans had done a deal with Japanese that many of the high level people would not be tried, on the understanding that they handed over all their research and development of weapons and assisted in civil changes of Japan.

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    Member onefast93z28's Avatar
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    isn't genral Homma the general that was in charge of Bataan Death March?

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    Member onefast93z28's Avatar
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    okay, wasn't sure about the whole story.

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    The Death March's were as a direct result of Homma's orders. End of story. No amount of revision of history will change that fact.

    Mailman

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    Hellfish Junior gaijinsamurai's Avatar
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    Actually, Hitler DID order the killing of Jews. Are you an idiot, marmot?

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    Senior Member Mark Sman's Avatar
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    In the context of the time and place, Homma was reasonably expected to know how his orders would be carried out. Homma was informed by the comander of the prisoners that the prisoners were in extremely poor health after the siege. This was ignored by Homma.

    Also the march lasted a week. It was during that time that Homma would have been responsible to relieve his subordinates for their conduct.

    However the practice of issuing beating to straggling prisoners was a recognized procedure in his command. Thousands of prisoners died in Japanese hands. Theft of prisoners property was endemic. Executions for disobedience such as attempted escape were standard practice.

    It leaves little doubt that the privations suffered by prisoners were not the result of a select few brutal guards. It was, in fact, policy.

    A policy Homma upheld which reslted in many deaths.

    If Homma did not know of the many deaths that resulted under his command, then it was gross negligence and deriliction of duty that resulted in death. In actuality he did know, as he was not an inefficent officer.

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    Hellfish Junior gaijinsamurai's Avatar
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    I'll concede that the plans for the evacuation of the POWs was poorly carried out, but it is in dispute as to what Homma actually knew regarding the health of the prisoners. According to testimony at the trial, the prisoners were to be fed after the first day's march. My main criticism of Homma in this matter is negligence regarding his assumptions. He assumed that the prisoners would have provisions of their own to last the first day, and assumed they would be able to march the same distance as the average Japanese soldier (19 miles on the first day, to trucks which were waiting to transport them the rest of the way). As far as provisions go, it should be noted that they were in short supply, and the Japanese troops themselves were not able to eat properly. It should also be noted that the Japanese forces were handling the evacuation of more than 100,000 American and Phillipino soldiers and civilians, a size more than double that of the Japanese force and nearly four-fold what the Japanese had expected.
    Homma's orders to his subordinates were specific that captured POWs be treated "in a friendly spirit".
    Satisfied that transport, food, rest points, and medical aid were being provided according to the Geneva Conventions, Homma turned his attention towards the remaining US forces, which were still fighting.
    It was shortly thereafter that the plan to evacuate the POWs unravelled. 200 trucks proved inadequate for the huge numbers of unexpected prisoners, and although Japanese troops had their rations cut in half to make up for the shortfall, food and medical supplies were also short. Some American and Filipino prisoners were in fact treated very well, and beatings and shootings were far from the norm.
    In fact, it was NOT POLICY, as Mark Swan asserts, but individual actions by incompetent, criminally negligent, and sadistic Japanese soldiers which led to what was later referred to as "the Bataan Death March."
    I can agree with the fact that Homma should have been more aware of the conditions the POWs faced, but at the time, the fighting was far from over, and his attention was directed to capturing Wainright's forces, which were still holding out in Corregidor.
    As Homma was still focused on the mission of defeating the remaining US forces, he was unaware of the atrocities until after the war.
    Before the war, General Homma had been a liason officer with the British Army in the UK. He was known as the leader of the pro-Anglo faction of the Japanese Army, and in fact, a political opponent of Tojo. After the fighting in the Phillipines, he was relieved of his command, relegated to a minor command of reserve forces in Japan for the remainder of the war, and accused of being "too soft" on the Americans and Filipinos.

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    Senior Member Mark Sman's Avatar
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    In fact, it was NOT POLICY, as Mark Swan asserts,
    It was, in repeatedly proven fact, policy in the Imperial Army to mistreat prisoners. Killiing was a recognized form of POW punishment under Homma's command and many other commands in the Imperial Army.

    100 POW killings could indicate isolated brutality. 1000 POW KIA could indicate a lower field commander going "off the reservation."

    10,000 is either command sanctioned POW murder, negligence, indifference or a combination of the three.

    And in all likelyhood the actual number was higher than 10,000. I've seen a pretty reasonable count putting it at 14,000 KIA out of 70,000 POWs just on the march alone.

    Just the fact that the Imperial Army failed to get an accurate count of their POWs is a scary indication of where they expected that treatment to go.

    After capture those POWs stood about a one in three chance of living to the end of the war. Even more died outside of Homma's command. Policy, yeah sounds like policy to me.

    As a matter of fact, POW abuse was so widespread inside the Imperial Army, that you could make the claim that Homma was compasionate by comparisson. But "by comparrison" is not a defence.

    You do not lose contact with 70k enemy POW within 10-65 miles of your battle area. If you do, that is, again, incompetent.

    You also do not lose contact with those POWs and the formation guarding them. That is way to large a logisitics chunk to plead ignorance to. No way.

    Too many orders have to be signed allocating food, transport, movement. We are talking about a formation around 5 divisions in size! And this group just goes off your radar behind your lines? Yeah right.

    If somewhat more than 10,000 POWs went KIA under this guys command, and he didn't know about it, he got what he deserved.

    As to whether abuse of POWs was policy in the Imperial Army. Please lets not kid ourselves. The US, the Filipinos, the Chinese, the Koreans, the UK, the Australians, the Burmese all made these abuse stories up? It was policy.

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    Hellfish Junior gaijinsamurai's Avatar
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    Over 10,000 killed? Or up to 14,000, as you claim to have seen? Where did you get your information?
    I'm not even going to try to defend the culture of the Imperial Japanese Forces in WWII. To say it was brutal towards prisoners would be an understatement. On that point, there is no disagreement.
    But Homma was not a typical Japanese officer. He had spent considerable time with the British Army, was opposed to the right-wing faction led by Tojo, and was an honorable officer and human-being.
    Japanese intelligence grossly underestimated the number of Americans and Filipinos defending the Phillipines, just as MacArthur grossly overestimated the size of the Japanese invasion force. In addition, supply ships carrying provisions to the Japanese force failed to reach their destination and Wainwright's forces on Corregidor held out much longer than HQ in Tokyo expected, leaving Homma's troops terribly short of food, fuel for transportation, and medical supplies.
    Homma's resources were stretched way too thin. He did what he thought was the best he could for the POWs, and focused his attention on the campaign.
    Some of the officers, NCOs, and soldiers tasked with escorting the POWs away acted humanely, and others carried out or failed to stop atrocities. But, this was not POLICY. It was a result of CULTURE. The culture of Bushido said that to surrender was dishonorable, and prisoners were treated as less than human. This was inexcusable, but as usual with cultural things, there were lots of exceptions. The same thing happened at Nanking. When the city in China was being raped, many Japanese officers actually tried to put a stop to it, and some were successful. Atrocities were condoned in many commands, but it was hardly policy throughout the Japanese Army.
    Life was not easy for allied POWs, but many who succumbed did so from disease and malnutrition. In the case of Bataan, I point the finger at Tokyo, for not giving Homma adequate supplies to carry out his mission and care for the prisoners. He could hardly give them 3 square meals per day, let alone one or two, when his own troops were going without food.
    As far as POLICY being blamed for the deaths of the POWs, I see it as a result of a combination of unfortunate circumstances, logistical errors, and individual brutality.
    If the Bataan POWs were to be compared to the German survivors of Stalingrad, for example, they had a much better chance.
    As far as Homma "losing contact" with the POWs, of course he did! He was fighting a war, and the POWs were leaving the area of hostilities! You can hardly expect their well-being was the #1 priority for him. His task was to win the campaign. He issued orders to subordinates to provide medical attention, food, places of rest, and transportation, ordered that the POWS be treated humanely, and tried to see that this was carried out TO THE BEST OF HIS ABILITY.

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    Senior Member Mark Sman's Avatar
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    Over 10,000 killed? Or up to 14,000, as you claim to have seen? Where did you get your information?

    http://www.bataan.navy.mil/history.htm They make the number a little higher than 14K

    http://www.wfu.edu/users/gonzvw1/asi...onclusion.html they go 5k to 11k

    http://newman.baruch.cuny.edu/digita...1997.htm#japan Make it 16,000

    http://www.us-japandialogueonpows.org/glossary.htm Make it at 11,200

    I'm actually not at home right now. When I get there I can follow my saved links. Just had to google this stuff up on the spot. Its not the best. What I was reading earlier was a balanced review of the event, and the trial. Wish I had that link.

    The most convincing numbers I saw put it around 14k. Haven't seen much that puts it under 10k.

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    Hellfish Junior gaijinsamurai's Avatar
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    Okay, well maybe our numbers differ. My source, which is American, with many reputable Americans sources in agreement, lists 7,000 as having died from either exhaustion, disease, wounds suffered in combat before the surrender, or brutality by guards on the march. Whatever it was, 1 soldier's death was 1 too many.
    We may never agree on this issue, and we could go on and on beating this horse to death, so to speak.
    I stand by my assertion that General Homma was dealt a bad hand by Tokyo, played it to the best of his ability, and was accused, sentenced, and executed unjustly.
    What can I say? I spent most of my adult life in uniform, and have a strong attachment to soldiers, whatever their flag, or even if they are the enemy. I'll sit down and have a drink with them over my own country's politicians any day. This is my bias! Homma's life was sacrificed when a lot of politicians screwed him and got away with it.
    Your opinion obviously differs.
    We can go on and on with this, posting conflicting stats from what we each consider as reputable sources, and if you wish to do it this way, I can play along. If you can convince me that Homma deserved the firing squad, I'll admit I was wrong, but I doubt that will happen.
    But maybe it is best that we just "agree to disagree". Let the others read our posts and decide for themselves. Better yet, they can do their own research if they wish, and form an educated opinion.
    By the way, I like your avitar! I'm a Bren fan myself!

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    Senior Member Mark Sman's Avatar
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    OK, I'm going to go the agree to disagree route too. I wish I could find the link I was talking about. It was written by a group of laywers from JAG, and it reviewed the facts and the trial procedures.

    They were pretty harsh on the trial procedures, and I can see why.

    The avatar was made from a photo promo tour of the Long Branch factory in Canada during WWII. There was a whole set of these pics, and I selected this "Smokin" lady with the Bren for an avatar.

    And, as you say, if anyone is still interested, they can do their own reading and research on the details of this event.

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