I came across a file in the National Archives of Australia that contained a translation of a captured Japanese document that recorded information about crimes committed by Japanese during the early occupation of the Philippines.
The translation was made by the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section, a joint Australian-American intelligence agency that was given the responsibility of translating captured Japanese documents.
What the document shows is that there was an effort on the part of the Japanese military authorities to discipline soldiers for crimes in an effort to prevent other soldiers and Japanese civilians in the Philippines from doing the same thing so that the Filipinos would not become resentful of the presence of the Japanese.
As for the crimes, there were several men convicted of rape, such as the following case:
“Defendant took part in the PHILIPPINE campaign and saw action in several place. Subsequently during a long halt in TARURAKKU [Tarlac], he went out with a party of 14 under the leadership of a certain sgt [sergeant] to requisition food. This was on 11 Jan ’43 [I think this is a typo and should be 1942, as the other crimes in this document were committed in the first half of 1942].
“As he was passing alone through an inhabited locality he noticed a woman of about 23 years of age hiding in a sugar cane plantation. Prompted by his lower instincts, [the] defendant pursued the girl, knocked her down in the middle of the plantation and there committed the office.”
There were also cases of looting and plundering, such as this case which involved a Japanese civilian who was living in Manila when the war broke out:
“The accused had a hair-dressing establishment in the city of MANILA; but at the outbreak of the war he was interned and his household effects were stolen. When the Japanese Army occupied MANILA, the accused partly through a desire for revenge, and partly in order to support himself decided to take advantage of the resultant panic of the inhabitants to relive some of them of their money and belongings.
“On Mar 3 and Mar 4 ’42, he entered native houses in the disguise of a Japanese soldier ordering the occupants to surrender firearms, money and other articles. In this way, he obtained five pistols, ten clocks, seven rings, ¥ 160 in cash and one camera.”
Finally, there was one case of desertion.
“The accused took part in the PHILIPPINE campaign, landing with his unit at Ringaen [Lingayen] Bay in LUZON Island. After taking part in various engagements, during a long halt at BIGAA in the province of BURAKAN [Bulacan], LUZON, he was upbraided by a certain sgt [sergeant] for slackness in the performance of his duties and for his unsatisfactory attitude. The sgt went so far as to strike him.
“This took place on 5 Jan ’42, but on several previous occasions the same sgt had assaulted him on similar grounds with the result that Army life had become distasteful to him and he felt it would be better to desert.
“Thereupon, at a time when he was not under supervision he seized the opportunity to make off and having left his unit he wandered about in various localities until finally, at about 6 pm on 16 Jan, he was arrested by the military police while hiding in a native house at PURARUDE [?] in the said province of BURAKAN.”
Each of the reports about these crimes is followed by a section called “observations relative to the prevention of this crime.” In the case of the deserter, the observation is that “The accused seems to have been incapable of carrying out his tasks to perfection owing to congenital stupidity,” but that the crime could have been prevented it the sergeant had managed the situation better.
Nonetheless, the sergeant was not penalized. Instead, the deserter was imprisoned for six months. The looter, meanwhile, received a sentence of 1 year and 8 months of hard labor, while the man convicted of rape was sentenced to 2 years of hard labor.
I wonder how many more documents like this still exist? Although this document only contains information about a few cases, it nonetheless provides a view of some aspects of the Japanese occupation that people have certainly talked about, but which are at times difficult to document.