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World War II Pacific Theater Case Synopses from Judge Advocate's Reviews Yokohama Class B and C War Crimes Trials

Defendant: Hirano, Ryuma, 1st Lieutenant, Japanese Army, Hokodate Main PW Camp, Hokkaido, Japan

Docket No./ Date: 127/ May 1 - 9, 1947, Yokohama, Japan

Charge: Violation of the laws and customs of war: 1. Did willfully and unlawfully mistreat and abuse POW (spec 1,2)

Specifications: beating; imprisoning POW in unheated guard room in below freezing weather without food, water, blankets or adequate clothing; imprisoning POWs in guard room without food or clothing;

Verdict: 7 years CHL

Reviewing Authority's Recommendations: Although the dates of the incident alleged in spec 1 differed between the 2 affidavits and witness, accused was responsible for this action which was in punishment for having two handfuls of beans in the victim's possession. Accused beat, slapped and put POWs in the guardhouse on no rations and/or reduced rations for minor infractions of the rules (being unable to work, failure to bow, spitting in the accused's presence, gambling, disobedience of orders). The accused made POWs work longer because he decided they were working too slowly in 14 degrees below weather; he required sick and physically unfit POWs to go to work; Accused ordered guards to beat the POWs for little or no reason.

Reviewing Authority: The camp commandant stated that the practice of not giving food to POWs in the guardhouse was a Japanese Army Regulation handed down in Feb. 1945. He went against this command and stated that only for the first day would POWs in the guardhouse get no food. Thereafter, they would get a restricted diet. The working hours and conditions were contracted between the government and the company and the accused had no control over it. Accused, furthermore, had no control over who was put on sick call; it was the duty of the Japanese and Allied medical officer. When the commandant was not present in the camp, accused stated that he confined POWs in the guardhouse, not as punishment but for detention pending the commandant's return and decision. Accused denied that he ever hit a POW and denied ever ordering guards to hit POWs and denied ever witnessing a PW being hit. There was no complaints received about beatings despite the multiple channels available to POWs to directly report to the camp commandant.

Prosecution Arguments: The record fails to reveal any error which injuriously affected the substantial rights of the accused or any failure to accord him a fair trial in every respect. There are some "unfortunate variations in the date of several incidents as testified to by different witnesses…the logical presumption, from all the evidence, is that the victim himself best knows the date on which he was beaten, which evidence, if accepted, establishes the commission of the offense as alleged." The evidence given was sufficient to sustain the findings of guilty. There is no evidence that accused was not sane at the time the alleged acts were committed and at the time of trial.

Defense Arguments: Mac Alan Freitag, Reviewer

Judge Advocate's Recommendations: No Comment Made

Child Testifying in Court in Manila.
Photo: U.S. Army, courtesy of Bob Harmon

The trial records of Japanese War Criminals Tried at Yokohama, Japan, between 1946 and 1949 is broken into 2 sets:

  1. 59 reels - Records of Trials and Clemency Petitions for Accused Japanese War Criminals Tried at Yokohama, Japan (1946-1948)
  2. 5 reels - Reviews of the Yokohama Class B and C war crimes Trials by the 8th Army judge Advocate (1946-1949)

The following is a summary of the corresponding case found in the latter group (5-reel set of Judge Advocate's Reviews). Analysis Prepared by Stella Lee Researcher, War Crimes Studies Center

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