Sunday, December 07, 2008

Imperial Japanese Navy Slaughtered Leprosy Victims In 1943

The former Imperial Japanese Navy slaughtered 39 Hansen’s disease sufferers in Nauru in the Micronesian South Pacific in July 1943, according to court documents found by a Japanese scholar last month in the National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial. It appears that the documents discovered by Hirofumi Hayashi, professor of modern history at Kanto Gakuin University, are the first public documents that disclose details of the killings during World War II, although they had been mentioned by local residents and others. The documents concerning the trials of Class B and C war criminals include the record of the court testimony by a soldier who was involved in the killings and was later sentenced to life in prison. The documents shed light on discrimination against sufferers from leprosy as well as war crimes against civilians.According to the documents from the trial, held in Hong Kong from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, 1948, a leader of the Sea Defense Branch of the navy, who was executed on a separate charge, ordered one of his subordinate officers around July 9, 1943, to kill the Hansen’s disease victims, who were quarantined due to the disease, to prevent them from escaping during possible air raids by U.S. forces. The officer concocted a plan, telling the people that they were going to be transferred to a newly built facility by boat. Four navy personnel and eight civilian employees boarded a naval vessel and led a boat carrying the victims offshore, and then opened fire on the boat and sank it. They shot and killed those who managed to escape from the sunken ship. Most of the 12 personnel involved in the killings died in battle during the war, but three were brought to trial, two of whom were sentenced to life in prison.

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