An elderly Japanese veteran’s recollection of how he ordered his men to use a Chinese prisoner as a target for bayonet drill, reasoning that the soldiers needed to develop some “backbone,” is proving highly controversial online.
The 90-year-old man, a resident of Wakayama prefecture, recounts how he served in the Imperial Japanese Army and was dispatched to Jiangxi in southern China in 1941, aged 20.
The men forced Chinese to provide them food, but he recalls doubts – “We were taught that this was a holy war to save the people of China, but I wondered if this was really right.” He was not told of the laws of war.
He experienced bitter fighting on the frontlines, and recalls that when not fighting he spent his time being beaten and whipped by superiors.
By 1943 he was a corporal, and in command of 5 conscripts himself. He tells how, in order to put some backbone into his men, he ordered them to bayonet a Chinese prisoner – a man in his mid twenties.
His hands were tied and the corporal ordered his men to charge the man one by one with fixed bayonets, each running 10m and then stabbing him in the chest. The prisoner screamed as he realised what his captors were about to do, but the soldiers had soon killed him.
After returning home he did not speak of the incident, though his recollection of the events never faded – “I did an inhuman thing.”
“My ignorance [of international law] caused me to give that order. We lost our reason in that kill or be killed world back then.”
Despite speaking about his war experiences repeatedly, only in 2010 did he reveal he ordered the murder – “If we don’t tell people, I fear the world may again descend into war.”
As ever, the 2ch response is instructive:
“More leftist fabrication?”
“Like that fake ‘Contest to behead 100 men‘ Mainichi reported.”
“You won’t instil any backbone in anyone by killing dirty Koreans or whatever anyway. Maybe if you killed hundreds like in the Nanjing massacre, but that was faked anyway.”
“He’s a B-class war criminal – he admits it. There should be no problem executing him – Mainichi did for the two officers in that contest.”
“This old man is not to be believed. He has no proof and it is all subjective. This biased newspaper probably made it up anyway.”
“International law is just an excuse – what about America’s indiscriminate bombing and nuclear attacks?”
“Prisoners of war were considered despicable cowards in Imperial Japan, and the feeling seems to be they didn’t deserve to live in case they committed further acts of treachery. And all human lives were treated like disposable trash in that period…”
“Maybe in Japan, but other countries treated PoWs well.”
“There’s no statute of limitations for war crimes is there? Won’t he be tried?”
“There are no laws against war crimes in Japan. As a result there are no war criminals in Japan. The A/B/C class war criminals were just a farce made up by the UN.”
“They should really try him. The death penalty is only fitting.”
“They had 3 million troops in China so it probably did happen here and there. The net right wingers are always babbling about their horrible delusions that Nanjing, comfort women and Unit 731 were all made up.”
“It was just him being an idiot. I wish he’d stop saying the whole army was bad just because of what he did. At least, I wouldn’t have killed a prisoner.”
“If he really was ashamed of what he did, why didn’t he tell the Chinese and accept their punishment? This is a clear war crime. He didn’t think the prisoner was even a human being, and just used him as an object for his men to train on as he thought they needed it, and ordered it all. But when he lost the war he ran off.
It can hardly be called sincere for him not to confess for all this time. He should have apologised to the prisoner by taking his own life. What a spineless coward.”
“Wasn’t the prisoner a guerilla? You don’t have to treat them as PoWs…”
“For doing something so atrocious you just want to tell him to go and slice open his own belly, don’t you? This old fool is busy shifting the blame for his actions – I hope he dies soon. And to think this guy is probably getting a war pension…”
“Note – ‘he thought it necessary’ – it wasn’t the army’s fault, this was just one crazy soldier’s decision!”
“All responsibility lies with the Showa Emperor. As he has inherited the responsibility, executing the Heisei Emperor is fine too.”
“Japan took relatively good care of its prisoners. This was just one man’s actions.”
“The net rightist filter:
Q1. Is he alive?
YES→ to Q2
NO→An honoured spirit of Yasukuni
Q2. Did he say something?
YES→ to Q3
NO→A Hero of the Empire
Q3. Was it favourable to the Imperial Army?
YES→ A Hero of the Empire
“Another fanciful lie. There’s no way a mere corporal could have decided what to do with prisoners. You underestimate the Imperial Army.”
“They don’t even give his name – just another fake.”
“They should turn him over to China.”
“You guys, denying anything inconvenient to your point of view is really bad. Scepticism is important, but denying everything based on ideology is the same level as those dirty Koreans.”