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5. Sook Ching Massacre
“Purge through cleansing” – Sook Ching, was a Japanese military operation directed towards the “hostile elements” in Singapore after the fall of the city to Japanese rule. The massacre lasted from 18 February to 4 March 1942 and claimed the lives of as many as 30,000 to 100,000 people.
The exact number is murky due to insufficient evidence, but all sides agree that the purge happened and that it was extremely bloody. The operation was led by the Japanese secret police, Kempeitai. The secret police used a web of informants who would often sell information, accusing innocent people for their own gain.
Those who survived the inspection walked with “examined” stamped on their faces, arms or clothing.
4. Changjiao Massаcre
During WWII, the Japanese Imperial Army imposed a scorched earth strategy on China. It was called “The Three Alls Policy” – “kill all, burn all, loot all”. In just four days (9-12 March 1943), the Changjiao Massacre claimed the lives of 30,000 people and was infamous for it’s Army approved mass rape campaign which affected thousands of women.
It was conducted under the command of Field Marshall Shunroku Hata, who was at the time the head of the China Expeditionary Force.
The testimony of a Japanese Kempeitai officer, Uno Shintaro, who participated in the massacre, gives us a truly chilling feel:
“I personally severed more than forty heads. Today, I no longer remember each of them well. It might sound extreme, but I can almost say that if more than two weeks went by without my taking a head, I didn’t feel right. Physically, I needed to be refreshed.”
3. Manilla Massacre
In the Battle of Manila from February to March 1945, the United States Army and the Philippine Commonwealth Army advanced into the city to drive out the Japanese.
During lulls in the battle for control of the city, the Japanese under the command of General Yamashita took out their anger and frustration on the civilians, demonstrating the true madness of war and defeat. Mutilations, rapes and massacres occurred in schools, hospitals and convents. A local hotel was used as a “rape center”.
These women, many of them 12 to 14 years old, were then taken to the hotel, where they were raped. The estimated total number of civilian casualties was over 100,000, and the city was left utterly destroyed.
2. Burma Railway construction
Forced labour was a common practice during WWII, whether it was in Europe or in Asia. During the construction of the Burma Railway, which was a vital Japanese supply route at the time, 80,000-100,000 of the local Malayan population and more than 13,000 of Allied POWs (British, Dutch, Australian and American) lost their lives in a year-long period from 1943 to 1944.
The workers were molested, malnourished, refused medical care and executed in the most brutal ways.
In popular culture this event was immortalised by Pierre Boulle in his 1952 book (and later a film) “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, but it sparked controversy depicting the working camps in a very unrealistic way and therefore, diminishing the suffering of the victims and the survivors.
1. Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign
In 1942 the American Air Force was planning to construct clandestine airstrips on Chinese territory that wasn’t under full control of Japan. These airstrips were to serve as a landing pad for US bombers after bombing missions on Japanese mainland conducted from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier during the Doolittle raid.
Because the raid had to be launched earlier than planned, and because the Japanese Army was already in the process of locating and destroying the Chinese airbases, most of the aircraft ran out of fuel and crash-landed in the provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangxi.
Surviving airmen parachuted and hid among the Chinese civilians who provided them shelter. Out of 64 that managed to bail out, eight were captured and executed almost immediately by the Japanese. In the search for the remaining US airmen, the Japanese conducted a thorough search, executing, pillaging and burning entire villages as an act of retribution for aiding the Americans.
The result was a devastating trail of 250,000 dead Chinese civilians. The Commander-in-Chief at the time was Field Marshall Shunroku Hata, the man behind the Changjiao Massacre.
After the war, in 1948, he was sentenced to life in prison but was paroled only six years later, in 1954. Until his death in 1962, he was a respected public figure and a head of the charitable organisation “Kaikosha”, established to aid the Japanese war veterans.