Rebuttal of the Defense
Let us, for the moment,
consider the justification or defense for the actions of the Japanese army
presented by some writers and researchers in Japan .
of the major points is that the Chinese volunteer forces, such as the
Dalforce, fought fiercely and caused many casualties among the Japanese.
This is supposed to have inflamed Japanese anger and led to reprisals
against local Chinese. 
Most of the British volunteers, such as the Straits
Settlements Volunteer Forces (SSVF), Federated Malay States Volunteer
Forces (FMSVF), were not in fact thrown into battle but stayed back in
Singapore. As for the Dalforce, about 600 personnel of four companies from
among the 1,250-strong nine companies were sent to the battle front.
Around 30 per cent of the Dalforce personnel either died in action or were
later killed during the Purge through Purification.
It is generally said in Singapore that
the Dalforce personnel fought fiercely.
Although I do not question their bravery, their role
seems much exaggerated. The volunteers of Dalforce were equipped only with
outdated weapons. Japanese military histories make no reference to Chinese
volunteers during the battle of Singapore, and report that the opposition
put up by British forces was weaker than expected. The
greatest threat to the Japanese was artillery bombardment.
During the second half
of the 1940s and during the war crimes trial of 1947, no Japanese claimed
that losses suffered by Japanese forces at the hand of Chinese volunteers
contributed to the massacre. As noted above, the 25th Army had planned the
mass screening even before the battle of Singapore . This sequence of
events clearly rebuts the argument.
A second point raised
is that the Chinese in Malaya were passing intelligence to the British and
that Chinese guerrillas were engaged in subversive activities against
Japanese forces during the Malayan campaign, for example by flashing
signals to British airplanes. The Kempeitai of the 25th Army was on the
alert for such activities during the Malayan campaign, but made only two
arrests. Kempeitai officer Onishi Satoru said in his memoirs that they had
been unable to find any evidence of the use of flash signals and that it
was technologically impossible. Thus, this line of
argument is refuted by a military officer directly involved in the events.
A third explanation
offered for the massacre is that anti-Japanese Chinese were preparing for
an armed insurrection, and that the law and order situation was
deteriorating in Singapore. They claim that a purge was
necessary to restore public order, and this point was raised at the war
crimes trial in Singapore. 
One piece of evidence cited by the defense during the
trial was an entry in Kawamura’s personal diary for 19 February that
ostensibly said looting still continued in the city. The same evidence was
presented to the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. However, the
diary actually says that order in the city was improving.
The extract used during the trials was prepared by a
task force of the Japanese army set up to take counter-measures against
war crimes prosecutions by the Allied forces. It is clear that the
evidence was manipulated.
Otani Keijiro, a
Kempeitai lieutenant colonel in charge of public security in Singapore
from the beginning of March 1942, also rejected this line of defense,
rebutting Japanese excuses and severely criticizing the
Japanese atrocities in Singapore. 
Onishi likewise stated that he had not expected hostile
Chinese to begin an anti-Japanese campaign, at least not in the short
term, because public security inSingapore was getting
The fourth argument is
that staff officer Tsuji Masanobu was the mastermind behind the massacre,
and that he personally planned and carried it out.
Although Tsuji was a key figure in these events, I believe that
researchers have overestimated his role. At the time of the war crimes
trials, Tsuji had not been arrested. As soon as the war ended, he escaped
from Thailand to China , where he came under the protection of the
Kuomintang government because he cooperated with them in fighting the
communists. He later secretly returned to Japan in May
1948 where he was protected by the US military, namely G2 of GHQ.
In this situation, the defense counsel attempted to pin all
responsibility on Tsuji alone. This point will be discussed in more detail
Reasons for the
Let us now examine the
reasons why such atrocities were carried out by the Japanese in Singapore
. I limit the discussion to internal factors of Japanese military and
In the first place, it
should be noted that the Japanese occupation of Singapore began ten years
after the start of Japan ’s war of aggression against China . After the
Manchurian Incident in 1931, Japan invaded and occupied Manchuria, setting
up the puppet state of “ Manchukuo ” (State of the Manchus) in 1932. The
Japanese army faced a strong anti-Japanese campaign and public order, as a
result, remained unstable and to which it responded by conducting frequent
punitive operations against anti-Japanese guerrillas and their supporters.
Under normal circumstances, those arrested in these operations should have
been apprehended and brought to trial for punishment. However, Japan
forced Manchukuo to enact a law in September 1932 that granted authority
to army officers, both Japanese and Manchurian, and police officers to
execute anti-Japanese activists on the spot without trial. This method of execution was usually called Genju Shobun (Harsh
Disposal) or Genchi Shobun (Disposal on the Spot) by the Japanese
Once this law was in place, the Japanese military and
military police killed suspects on the spot during punitive operations
without trial or investigation. Those killed included not only guerrillas
but also civilians, including children, women, and aged people unable to
bear arms. Such inhuman methods were made legal in Manchuria .
Further, such methods prevailed among the Japanese
military, and Genju Shobun was regularly used throughout China
during the war.
25th Army commander directing the invasion of Malaya , played an important
role in the evolution of the Genju Shobun method. As chief of staff
of the North China Area Army in 1938-1939, he formulated an operational
plan for mopping-up in northern China that made use of Genju Shobun
in Manchuria by way of the Provost Marshal, China who had been stationed
in Manchuria as a Supreme Adviser to the Military Government Section of
At the time, the Chinese communists had a number of
strongholds in northern China . After Yamashita was transferred, the plan
undertook an intensive cleanup operation called the Sanguang (Kill
All, Loot All, and Burn All; the Chinese character for Sanguang is used as
a Japanese word that literally means three lights) Operations in 1940;
which involved unbridled killing, looting, and burning during which
numerous people were massacred and deported. Yamashita was the link that
connected Japanese atrocities in Manchuria and North China with those in
During the final phase
of the war, Yamashita was appointed commander of the 14th Area Army in the
Philippines , where he surrendered to US forces at the end of the war.
While he had trouble with anti-Japanese guerillas in the Philippines , he
commented to the deputy chief of staff that he had dealt harshly with the
local population in Singapore , so they became docile.
The army order that
began the “Purge through Purification” in Singapore and Malaya was issued
to the Singapore Garrison Commander, Kawamura by Army Commander Yamashita.
When Kawamura presented Yamashita a report of the operations on 23
February, Yamashita expressed his appreciation for Kawamura’s efforts and
instructed him to continue the purge if needed.
Yamashita was not a puppet of Tsuji but an active
instigator of the Singapore Massacre.
A third important point
is that the headquarters of the 25th Army included other hardliners aside
from Tsuji and Yamashita. A notable example was the deputy chief of the
military government ofSingapore and Malaya , Colonel Watanabe Wataru.
He was the mastermind behind the forcible donation of
$50 million and the “Implementation Guidance for Manipulating
Overseas Chinese”, which set out the fatal consequences of non-compliance.
His earlier career included time spent as chief of a secret military
agency in both Beijing and Harbin . He delivered a speech at the Army
Academy in 1941 advocating the use of strong pressure against those who
"bent their knees" to the British and thereby betrayed East Asia . The
lesson he derived from his experience in China was that Japan should deal
harshly with the Chinese population from the outset. As a result, the
Chinese population of Singapore was regarded as anti-Japanese before even
the Japanese military landed.
In a sense, Japanese
aggression in Southeast Asia was an extension of the Sino-Japanese War.
Fourth, among Japanese
military officers and men there was a culture of prejudice and
discrimination toward the Chinese and other Asian people. These attitudes
had deepened following the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 and were deeply
embedded within the Japanese population as a whole by the 1930s.
A final consideration
is the notion of “preventive killing”. In Japan , preventive arrest was
legalised in 1941 through a revision of Chian Iji Ho [Maintenance
of Public Order Law], which allowed communists and others holding
dangerous thoughts to be arrested and held in custody even if no crime had
been committed. A number of detainees were tortured to death by the
police, in particular the Tokko special political police. The
Singapore Massacre bears a close parallel to this method of preventive
arrest and summary execution.
It is clear that the
Singapore Massacre was not the conduct of a few evil people, but rather a
product of a long period of Japanese aggression against China and other
Go to Page 3
This claim is prevalent among researchers in Japan
. It is believed even by those who are not right-wingers. I have not
clarified who put forward this reason for first time.
 The Dalforce file
in “British Military Administration, Chinese Affairs, 1945-1946” (National
Archives of Singapore).
 There are
numerous books with such assertion, in particular, books in Chinese.
 Rikujo Jieitai
Kanbu Gakko [ Ground Staff College , Ground Self-Defense Force], Mare
Sakusen [The Malay Campaign] (Tokyo: Hara Shobo, 1996), pp. 240-1.
 Onishi, Hiroku
Shonan Kakyo Shukusei Jiken, pp. 87-8.
Furyo Kankei Chosa Chuo Iinkai [Central Board of
Inquiry on POWs], “Singaporu niokeru Kakyo Shodan Jokyo Chosho” [Record of
Investigation on the Execution of Overseas Chinese in Singapore ], 23 Oct.
1945 (Reprinted in Nagai Hitoshi (ed.), Senso Hanzai Chosa Shiryo
[Documents on War Crimes Investigation] ( Tokyo : Higashi Shuppan, 1995).
 See Hayashi
Hirofumi, Sabakareta Senso Hanzai, p. 224.
 Otani Keijiro, Kenpei [The Military
Police] (Tokyo: Shin-Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1973), p. 189.
 Onishi, Hiroku Shonan Kakyo Shukusei Jiken,
The intelligence files on Tsuji are preserved in Boxes 457 and 458,
Personal Files of the Investigative Records Repository, Record Group 319
(The Army Staff), US National Archives and Records Administration.
Asada Kyoji and Kobayashi Hideo (eds.), Nihon
Teikokushugi no Manshu Shihai [Administration of Manchuria by the
Japanese Imperialism] (Tokyo: Jicho-Sha, 1986), p. 180.
 See Onishi, Hiroku Shonan Kakyo Shukusei
Jiken, pp. 88-92.
Boeicho Boei Kenkyusho Senshi-bu [Military History
Department, National Defense College , Defense Agency], Hokushi no
Chian-sen, Part 1 [Security Operation in North China ] (Tokyo: Asagumo
Shinbunsha, 1968), pp. 114-30.
Kojima Jo, Shisetu Yamashita Tomoyuki[Historical
Narrative Yamashita Tomoyuki](Tokyo: Bungei Shunjusha, 1969), p. 325.
Kawamura’s diary. See also Hayashi, Sabakareta Senso
Hanzai, p. 220.
See Akashi Yoji,
“Watanabe Gunsei”[Military Administration by Watanabe], in Akashi Yoji
(ed.), Nihon Senryoka no Eiryo Mare Shingaporu [Malaya and
Singapore under the Japanese Occupation, 1941-45] ( Tokyo : Iwanami