Japanese Veteran Rues Atrocities In China

By: Daniel WU; Source: The Japan Times
CND, 2/10/96

Yasuji Kaneko, 76, holds graphic memories of the terror he inflicted on the Chinese people more than 50 years ago when he was a front-line infantryman.

In October, 1941, Kaneko, was stationed in Shandong Province, where his unit attacked a village.

The troops had a hard time because the village was protected by a Sturdy wall, he recalls. So the Japanese troops took out their secret weapon - poison gas.

As the smoke of the poison gas filled the village, the Chinese soldiers and civilians staggered into the streets in pain.

"We riddled them with bullets, They fell to the ground in a bunch." Kaneko told the Japan Times at the recent Poison Gas Exhibition in Tokyo, where the chemical arms where used as part of Japan's "sanko" policy - "kill all, rob all and burn all".

After the gas was released the victims were mowed down, Kaneko and his superior went into the village.

"I was told to kill everyone left, including women and children, because women give birth and their boys would grow up to fight us in the future," Kaneko said.

He remembers finding a middle-aged woman and her little child hinging in the back of a house. His superior raped the woman, and Kaneko dumped her into a well and threw a hand grenade into it.

Kaneko also saw a middle-aged Chinese man tied up in a village square. A Japanese soldier took his sword and chopped the man's head off.

The severed head turned blue, Kaneko recalls, and rolled on the ground. A young woman who appeared to be the man's daughter ran out, held the head and wailed.

About 130 people were killed in that operation, Kaneko recalls.

In August, 1945, Soviet troops captured many of the Japanese units. Kaneko was among those sent to Siberia, and later transferred to Fushun in China's Liaoning Province and imprisoned as a war criminal for six years.

It was during those years behind bars, however, that he started feeling remorse over his wartime actions.

The prison guards, many of whose parents were killed by the Japanese, treated the prisoners exceptionally well, feeding them white rice three times a day while the guards themselves endured poor diets, Kaneko recalls.

"China's generous treatment gradually melted our hardened minds," Kaneko said. "We started thinking how the victims felt, and realized we have to repay their generosity."

After his return to Japan, Kaneko and other former war criminals formed the group Chugoku Kikansha Renraku Kai, or China Returnee's association.

The group, which has 500 members throughout Japan, has been telling the public about the atrocities its members committed so postwar generations will not repeat their atrocities.

"I killed more than 100 people myself," Kaneko said. "Such a thing should never be repeated."

A Japanese Veteran Recalls the Atrocities in China

The Japan Times, 96/08/13

For Hajime Kondo, 76, war is nothing more than a machine that dehumanizes soldiers to the point that they commit atrocities without feeling a thing.

Kondo, who fought in China and Okinawa during World War II as an Imperial Japanese Army soldier, says, "It is absolutely impossible to say the war Japan waged was for justice and for saving the Japanese nation and race."

He not only witnessed atrocities by Japanese soldiers but also took part in such acts himself.

"I can't get over my remorse that I became a fallen man who killed Chinese in a cruel way. At the same time, I cannot be free from a sense of self-reproach deriving from the fact that I survived the Battle of Okinawa while many fellow soldiers were killed. Saying a prayer to Amitabha every morning in front of a household Buddist altar is the only way I can ease my agony," Kondo says.

He was drafted in December 1940 and sent to Shaanxi Province, China. Although the man task of the unit he was assigned to was defending a railway line between Shijiazhuang and Taiyuan, it also carried out punitive expeditions against the Eighth Route Army, Chinese Communist Party in Hebei and Henan provinces. Some campaigns lasted four to six months.

About two months after basic training started, the new conscripts were told to bayonet a Chinese tied to a tree as part of the training, Kondo recalls.

"I was the seventh of eighth person to bayonet. When we were told to do it. I felt a shock and my legs trembled. But when my turn came, I had lost any sense of sin. And I learned what it felt like to bayonet a living human being," Kondo says.

At another point, noncommissioned officers gathered the new conscripts and in a demonstration, used swords to chop off the heads of two Chinese who were forced to sit on the ground, Kondo recalls.

"The moment when the head was struck, I felt repulsion. But the next moment, I had no feeling toward the person who was killed. It was just a gushing of blood, a head falling off and rolling on the ground."

"At first, I asked why the Japanese army did such a thing. But having seen old soldiers commit atrocious acts several times, new conscripts became like them."

Kondo confesses that he himself later proposed and carried out an atrocity, which never leaves his mind.

He proposed making 10 Chinese stand in single file and firing a Japanese army standard rifle to see how many people one shot could penetrate.

"The rifle was fired from a point about 10 meters from the first person. All 10 people fell. But the bullet actually pierced through just two people and the third person was groaning. We repeated the same act a few times until we killed the 10th person,"

"We threw the bodies, including those only half-dead, into a stone-walled pool where human waste was dumped as feed for pigs. We dumped earth and stones in to cover the bodies."

"We did what human beings should not do. It was not that we suppressed our conscience. Rather, we felt that to kill Chinese was the right thing. We thought that by killing one more Chinese, we contributed more to the Japanese state and the Emperor."

Kondo says that because he believed in the Japanese state led by Emperor Showa when he was a soldier, his hatred toward the late emperor is all the stronger.

"Because Emperor Showa did not say Japan's war was wrong and did not take responsibility for some 3 million Japanese deaths and 10 million to 20 million people of other Asian countries who were killed in the war, various problems in the postwar Japan, such as erosion of the war-renouncing Constitution, have developed," he says.

"I may be criticized for saying this. But if the U.S. forces had landed in Kyushu or Honsu, instead of Okinawa, the Japanese people would have correctly learned about the problems of war, including Japan's war responsibility."

Now a member of Fusen Heishi no Kai (Veterans Against War), Kondo devotes his free time to lectures, sharing his experiences and thoughts with the public. (Daniel WU, CND)

Chinese place names standarized by the Hall Maintainer.

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