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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: Murai, Masaaki, Corporal, Japanese Army, Clerical Non-commissioned officer at Fukuoka POW Camp No. 2, Fukuoka, Japan

Docket No./ Date: 160/ Mar 24-26, 1947, Yokohama, Japan

Charge: 1. Did willfully and unlawfully mistreat and torture PWs (spec 1,3) 2. Did willfully and unlawfully mistreat and abuse PWs (spec 2,5)

Specifications: beating using among others belt, stick, clogs; typing to a pole; forcing PW to kneel with a pole behind his knee; suspension by his hands from a pole;

Verdict: 8 years CHL

Reviewing Authority's Recommendations: There was only one Murai in the camp and that was the accused. PWs were caught in violation of camp regulations (possession of contraband mess tins, circulating news to PWs, smoking in the toilet) or caught "doing something on Japanese time"; accused beat and tortured PWs for this.

Reviewing Authority: The accused had no authority to administer punishment for violations of camp rules by PWs; accused was kind to the PWs. Superior Orders: in spec. 1 & 5, he was ordered to beat the prisoners who had violated camp rules, by the camp commander, and he had to obey. But, he did not beat them with a belt or any other item; he only used his open hand. During investigation of news being brought into camp, accused admitted to having slapped the guilty party two or three times but that was it. He did none of the others things attributed to him.

Prosecution Arguments: There are no errors or irregularities which injuriously affect any substantial rights of the accused; the Commission, "notwithstanding an overwhelming abundance of competent, compelling evidence," acquitted the accused of the omnibus specification and erred favoring the accused. Other irregular procedures of the Commission did not prejudice the rights of the courts (prosecution attempt to discredit defense witnesses, finding about the spelling of the Japanese name, request for amendment of the specification) There is no evidence that the accused was not sane at the alleged time of the offenses or at the time of trial. There is sufficient competent evidence in the record to support the findings and sentence of the Commission. Reviewer discounted the defense of superior orders because the acts inflicted by the accused "were of such a nature that any man of ordinary understanding should have seen that they were illegal" and "members of the armed forces are bound to obey lawful orders only." Furthermore, the accused was in a position to know that the orders were illegal as a graduate of law school.

Defense Arguments: F. R. Undritz, Lt. Col., INF, Asst. Staff Judge Advocate

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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