Japanese Atrocities Make Tale Of Horror

Jack Percival
Our War Correspondent in the Philippines


  Published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 13 April, 1945  


Officially investigated and legally attested reports of Japanese atrocities in the Philippines prepared for the U.S. War Crimes Authority at Washington show that Nazi death camps in Europe can show nothing to compare with the horrors of Manila's torture chambers and houses, and massacre fields and plazas.

An official report is being prepared on the burial alive of Blakey Borthwick Laycock, of Sydney, after his "execution " with three British mariners, following savage torture.

Father Francis J. Cosgrave, of the Redemptorists, Pennant Hills (Sydney)Superior of the Redemptorist fathers Manila, has supplied a statement to the War Crimes Authority.

Father Cosgrave says in his affidavit: "Just after we had eaten lunch, all of us being gathered for protection from the shelling at the foot of the staircase in the southern wing (La Salle College), a Japanese officer, accompanied by 20 soldiers, entered and took, away two of the houseboys

Five minutes later they returned these two boys, whom they had badly wounded. Then the officers gave a command, and at once the soldiers began bayoneting all of us, men, women, and children alike.

Killed inside Chapel

"Some of the Brothers managed to escape up the stairs. These were pursued by the soldiers, some being bayoneted at the entrance to the chapel, others within the chapel itself. If anyone resisted the officer would fire at them with his pistol or cut them with his sword.

"Some of the children were only two or three years old a few were even younger and these were given the same treatment as their elders. When the Japanese had finished bayoneting us they pulled and dragged the bodies and threw them into a heap at the foot of the stairs, the dead being thrown upon the living. Not many were killed outright by the bayoneting, a few died within one or two hours, the rest slowly bled to death

"The soldiers retired and we heard them drinking outside. Frequently during the afternoon they came in to watch us and laughed and mocked at the sufferings of their victims.

About 10 o'clock that evening I was able to extricate myself (Father Cosgrave received three bayonet thrusts in the body) from the dead bodies that were on top of me and to anoint some who were dying. I was more than edified to see the patience and the resignation with which these people met their death some of them actually praying to God to forgive those who had put them to death.

"I remained that night behind the High Altar of the chapel, in the morning I was joined by eight or ten others who were still living. There we remained until Thursday afternoon, being unable to leave the building "

Captured Japanese note-books, diaries and orders bear testimony to the premeditated atrocities.

Frank Confessions

One note-book presumably belonging to a member of the Akasuki Force, says:"February 7 1945. One hundred and fifty guerillas were disposed of tonight.  I personally stabbed and killed 10. February 8: Guarded over 1,184 guerillas which were newly brought in to-day. February 9. Burned 1,000 guerillas to death to night. February 10: Guarded approximately 1,660 guerillas. February 13. Enemy tanks are lurking in the vicinity of Banzai Bridge (Jones Bridge, Manila). Our attack, preparation has been completed. Iam now on guard duty at guerilla internment camp. While I was on duty 10 guerillas tried to escape. They were stabbed to death. At 16.00, all guerillas were burned to death.

This note-book was captured in Manila by the 14th Corps on February 24.

A bound mimeographed and handwritten file of the Manila. Navy Defence Force and South-western Area Fleet Operations Orders dated December 23 1944. to February. 1945, classified secret and presumably belonging to the Okada Unit, captured by the 14th Corps says :

"February 8, battalion order 1200 hours. If the enemy infiltrates be careful not to lose the opportunity of demolishing and burning buildings. When Filipinos are to be killed, they must be gathered into one place and disposed of with the consideration that ammunition and man-power must not be used to excess. Because the disposal of dead bodies is a troublesome task, they should be gathered into houses which are scheduled to be burned or demolished. They should also be thrown into the river."

A message book belonging to the Kobayashi Group, containing operation orders, says: "All people on the battlefield, with the exception of Japanese military personell, Japanese civilians, and special construction units will be put to death."

In his affidavit one of the highest ranking Catholic priests in the Philippines whose name cannot be published for fear of retaliation , estimates that a total of 82 priests and brothers were killed. He list's their names.

He adds- "More than 90 per cent, of the Spanish convents churches and religious houses have been destroyed by the Japanese, notwithstanding there were no military objectives at all in these places.

This havoc caused by sheer wantonness and for no good military reason, has left the greatest part of Intramuros in ruins. The religious artistic, and cultural monuments (the libraries of all these institutions have been burned) that made of Intramuros a miniature Rome in the Far East have been obliterated. 

"It has been impossible to determine how many Spaniards were killed . In Looban there were more than 1,000 refugees mostly women and children, when the Japanese fired the convent. In Concordia. College there were more than 2,000 refugees, including babies, orphans, and foundlings, sick people, and the insane. On firing the building the Japanese closed the doors with chains and surrounded it with machine-guns in order to prevent anyone from leaving the premises alive.  

At the town of Calamba 5,000 men women and children were killed. 

Headquarters of the 145th lnfantry reports: "The area east of Juan Luna, and south of Mariones is an open level tract. Scattered at various points in this area in the grass, on concrete pavement and in ditches of water, a number of bodies was observed totalling 48. Approximately one-third were bodies of babies or young children, and about one-third were women Most of the bodies were found with hands tied behind their backs.

Shot and Bayoneted   

David V. Binkley a major in the U S Army, and witnesses swear: On February 7 the bodies of 115 men women, and children were found on the grounds of the Dy-Pac Lumber Co near the rail-way station. Many of the men and women and some or the older children had their hands tied behind then backs. At the edge of the concrete above the water the concrete was covered with human blood.

The Japanese had shot and bayoneted some 85 men, women and children on this spot. The ages of the children were from two years to ten years. 

A woman lay face down with an arm around each child. This woman had been slashed to death by a sabre-like weapon.

One child had part of its skull sliced off. 

On February 13 at the De La SalleCollege, the bodies of 76 men, women, and children of various ages were found scattered. . . The breasts had been cut off one woman . Beside a fence covered with a lattice lay a mother holding a small boy. The mother lay in a position as though attempting- to shield the child. . .

"At Fort Santiago, within the Walled City, approximately 600 Filipinos' were discovered in three dungeons. One hundred bodies of men, women, and children were found within one thick-walled dungeon, and 500 bodies were found within a nearby dungeon having inner doors of massive iron bars, and outer doors of iron-plate on wood. The appearance of the bodies suggested starvation and possibly suffocation.

"At Plaza McKinley, near the ruins of the Manila Cathedral, 40 priests from the Manila Cathedral were found murdered.... All of these men still wore their priests' clothing."

Death By Fire

Dr. Walter K. Funkel. Lecturer of History of Medicine at the University of the Philippines, testifies:

"The murder of 16 people happened in the afternoon around 4.15 to 4.30.. .

Only my sister, a chemist, and I escaped . . . All the people were driven out together by Navy personnel, three of them being officers, some with guns, some withspears. . . . Without saying a word our hands were tied behind our backs. . . .There were six Europeans, Including  mywife . . . The moment we were bound it became clear to me that they would murder us, so, without tears my wife and I kissed each other farewell. ... In a half circle at a distance of two metres they put furniture round us, heaped cushions, pillows ,and straw bags on it, and poured gasoline over the pile from bottles. Two of them did that, and the third, a sergeant, who was smoking a cigar, observed their work.

"The sergeant took from his breast pocket a small hand-grenade and threw it, not directly at the heap of people, but more to the right side. . . . My wife, who was lying on her left side, came up nearer to me and was immediately  shot through the neck . . . Her blood flowed over me in streams ... I was thankful in my heart that my beloved wife was spared from being burned alive. ..."

It will never be possible to secure an accurate estimate of the number of civilians butchered in the Philippines. There is hardly a family in Manila which has not suffered the loss of a relative. The newspapers are crammed with advertisements seeking missing husbands, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters.









Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 23 February 1945














A charming Art Deco building with Filipino nuances, the  Metropolitan Theater was one of the most beautiful buildings of Manila in any era.





La Salle University and Rizal Memorial Sports Stadium in the distance with Taft Avenue on the left looking south east. Manila, Philippines, Feb. 15, 1945

The Japanese perpetrated one of the worst massacres in the Battle of Manila in La Salle, where civilians and the Christian Brothers who sought shelter in the chapel were systematically killed. A tank and flamethrower battle took place in Rizal Memorial. 

This photo is dated February 15, 1945.