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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: Sawamura, Masatoshi, Sergeant, Headquarters POW Camp;Taisho POW Camp (No. 10 Branch Camp); and Yokkaichi POW Camp (No. 17 Branch Camp or Nagoya No. 5 POW Camp), all in Osaka Area, Honshu, Japan

Docket No./ Date: 136/ April 14 - 29, 1947, Yokohama, Japan

Charge: Violation of the laws and customs of war: 1. Did willfully and unlawfully mistreat and abuse PWs (spec 1-5, 13-15, 20, 22, 23, 26, 27) 2. Did willfully and unlawfully mistreat and torture PW (spec 6-8, 16-18, 21, 24, 25)

Specifications: beating using among others hands, sword scabbard, saber belt, belt buckle, bamboo sticks, rifle butts; kicking; subjecting PWs to ju-jitsu; forcing PW to stand at attention for a long period of time, sometimes in cold weather without sufficient clothing and on one occasion, in the nude; throwing a bucket of ice cold water over PW in cold weather;water treatment which entailed forcing water down PWs throat and nostrils using among others a hose, tubes; picking up and throwing PW to the ground; banging head against a wall; raising and lowering a sword on a PWs neck in an effort to make him give information.

Verdict: 30 years CHL

Reviewing Authority's Recommendations: Accused, at times brutally, beat and tortured PWs for minor infractions of camp regulations (failing to salute, stealing, being slow or failing to execute orders, accepting food from civilians outside of the camp, accepting cigarettes from a Japanese guard that they would not name, eating foodstuffs not given to them) and for no reason at all ("beaten, humiliated and pestered by Sawamura constantly"). Accused was known as the most brutal of all the Japanese in the camps, often inflicting brutal beatings and torture for anything that he did not find to his liking (the manner of reporting attendance, for mistakes made while reporting attendance or issuing commands in Japanese, not marching "to suit" the accused)

Reviewing Authority: Accused admitted to beating PWs mentioned in spec 1 and 7 but not to the degree alleged: he was reluctant but he was ordered to do so by his superior in those cases. In another occasion, accused struck PWs once or twice each, who were about to be reported to the camp commandant for stealing and then returned them to their rooms: had they been reported, the prisoners would have been severely punished (s5). He admitted to slapping and striking and throwing water on PWs (s. 13, 14, 16). Many of these events happened while he was at Taisho Camp, under a superior that ordered him, on threat of beatings, to strike prisoners. He was told during his entire time in the army that an order from a superior was like an order from the emperor: so, he obeyed due to the threat of being beaten himself. There was no way to complain about a superior; he never reported directly to the Main camp commandant. Besides the events mentioned, he never participated in any beatings or torture of PWs. The defense, then submitted evidence that another Japanese in a different trial was being charged for the same acts alleged in this case. The defense then submitted the official Japanese "REgulation for the Treatment of Prisoners of War."**

Prosecution Arguments: The Reviewer stated that in the issue of the other Japanese accused being charged with the beatings and torture of the same victims: that he is being charged does not "establish the fact nor does it absolve Sawamura of guilt." Furthermore, the reveiwer stated that the defense of superior orders was "not a defense" but could mitigate the punishment. The reviewer found that the evidence was sufficient to justify the sentence of the commission: "the beatings, tortures and abuses perpetrated by the accused were not isolated instances but were repeated time after time. Where there were alleged breaches of regulations by the prisoners, the beatings and tortures were out of all proportion to the offenses" and could have caused grave internal injuries to the victims. As for the "Regulation for the Treatment of Prisoners," the reviewer found that the accused also violated these "Japanese ARmy regulations pertaining thereto."

Defense Arguments: Cyril E. Morrison, Reviewer


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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