B-29 CREWS TORTURED BY THE JAPANESE - Page 5

Comfort women

The term comfort women (or military comfort women was a euphemism for women in Japanese military brothels in occupied countries, many of whom were recruited by force or deception and regard themselves as having been sex slaves. The extent to which individuals were forced to become comfort women has been disputed. Some sources claim that virtually all comfort women consented to becoming prostitutes and/or were paid, but others have presented research establishing a link between the Japanese military and the forced recruitment of local women.

In 1992, historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi published material based on his research in archives at the National Institute for Defense Studies. Yoshimi claimed that there was a direct link between imperial institutions such as the Kôa-in and "comfort stations". When Yoshimi's findings were published in the Japanese media on January 12, 1993 they caused a sensation and forced the government, represented by the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Kato Koichi, to acknowledge some of the facts that same day. On January 17, Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa presented formal apologies for the suffering of the victims, during a trip in South Korea. On July 6 and August 4, the Japanese government issued two statements by which it recognized that "Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military of the day", "The Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women" and that the women were "recruited in many cases against their own will through coaxing and coercion".

On March 1, 2007, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mentioned suggestions that a U.S. House of Representatives committee would call on the Japanese Government to "apologize for and acknowledge" the role of the Japanese Imperial military in wartime sex slavery. However, Abe denied that it applied to comfort stations. "There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support it."

However, it provoked negative reaction from Asian and Western countries, for example, The New York Times editorial on March 6, “These were not commercial brothels. Force, explicit and implicit, was used in recruiting these women. What went on in them was serial rape, not prostitution. The Japanese Army’s involvement is documented in the government’s own defense files. A senior Tokyo official more or less apologized for this horrific crime in 1993. Yesterday, he grudgingly acknowledged the 1993 quasi apology, but only as part of a pre-emptive declaration that his government would reject the call, now pending in the United States Congress, for an official apology. America isn’t the only country interested in seeing Japan belatedly accept full responsibility. Korea and China are also infuriated by years of Japanese equivocations over the issue.”

The same day, veteran soldier Yasuji Kaneko admitted to The Washington Post that the women "cried out, but it didn't matter to us whether the women lived or died. We were the emperor's soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance."

A Dutch-Indonesian "comfort woman", Jan Ruff-O'Hearn, who gave evidence to the U.S. committee, said the Japanese Government had failed to take responsibility for its crimes, that it did not want to pay compensation to victims and that it wanted to rewrite history. Ruff-O'Hearn said that she had been raped "day and night" for three months by Japanese soldiers when she was 21.

There are different theories on the breakdown of the comfort women's place of origin. While some sources claim that the majority of the women were from Japan, others, including Yoshimi, argue as many as 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, and some other countries such as the Philippines, Taiwan, Burma, Netherlands, Australia and the Dutch East Indies were forced to engage in sexual activity.

Looting


General Yamashita charged with looting and sentenced to death

General Tomoyuki Yamashita (second right) was responsible for hiding the loot known as Yamashita's gold. He was tried in Manila between October 29 and December 7, 1945, by a U.S. military commission, on charges relating to the Manila Massacre and earlier occurrences in Singapore, and was sentenced to death. The case set a precedent regarding the responsibility of commanders for war crimes, and is known as the Yamashita Standard. The legitimacy of the hasty trial has been called into question.

Many historians state that violence by Japanese personnel was closely tied to looting. For example, Sterling and Peggy Seagrave, in a 2003 book on "Yamashita's Gold" — secret repositories of loot from across Southeast Asia, in the Philippines — argued that the theft was organized on a massive scale, either by yakuza gangsters such as Yoshio Kodama, or by officials at the behest of Emperor Hirohito, who wanted to ensure that as many of the proceeds as possible went to the government. The Seagraves allege that Hirohito appointed his brother, Prince Chichibu, to head a secret organisation called Kin no yuri (Golden Lily) for this purpose.

Post-1945 reactions

The Tokyo Trials

The Tokyo Trials, which were conducted by the Allied powers, found many people guilty of such crimes, including three former (unelected) prime ministers: Koki Hirota, Hideki Tojo, and Kuniaki Koiso. Many military leaders were also convicted. Two people convicted as Class-A war criminals later served as ministers in post-war Japanese governments.

  • Mamoru Shigemitsu served as foreign minister both during the war and in the post-war Hatoyama government.
  • Okinori Kaya was finance minister during the war and later served as justice minister in the government of Hayato Ikeda. However, these two had no direct connection to alleged war crimes committed by Japanese forces, and foreign governments never raised the issue when they were appointed.

Emperor Showa and all members of the imperial family implicated in the war such as prince Chichibu, prince Asaka, prince Takeda and prince Higashikuni were exonerated from criminal prosecutions by Douglas MacArthur. Many historians criticize this decision. According to John Dower, even Japanese activists who endorse the ideals of the Nuremberg and Tokyo charters, and who have labored to document and publicize the atrocities of the showa regime "cannot defend the American decision to exonerate the emperor of war responsibility and then, in the chill of the Cold war, release and soon afterwards openly embrace accused right-winged war criminals like the later prime minister Nobusuke Kishi." For Herbert Bix, "MacArthur's truly extraordinary measures to save Hirohito from trial as a war criminal had a lasting and profoundly distorting impact on Japanese understanding of the lost war."

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