EXECUTIONS OF AUSTRALIAN AND DUTCH PRISONERS
LAHA AIRFIELD - AMBON ISLAND
Considerable time has been consumed in tracking down witnesses who clearly were deliberately evading apprehension 1) Reinte. Because of the nature of this atrocity and their probable Malay involvement. Of four witnesses (suspects) arrested, two are unhelpful and hostile.
File 85H. 851, 85K EXECUTIONS OF AUSTRALIAN AND DUTCH POWs, LAHA AIRFIELD, AMBON ISLAND,
1) 4 February 1942 I Re-interrogated former civilian interpreter (Dutch and Malay language) Saburo Yoshizaki of Kure No.I SNLP. Yoshizaki was stationed at Laha Airfield from the morning of 3 February, until the morning of 10 February 1942. In regard to the first executions at Laha Airfield (9 February 1942), Yoshizaki admitted he, another civilian interpreter by the name of Terada Okada, and Ist Class P0 Tasuki Yamashita 1st Class visited the scene of the execution on their own accord, the time of their arrival there being about I800 hours.
According to Yoshizaki there were two prepared graves (holes - 'A' and 'B' ) both circular in shape and of similar dimensions, namely six metres in diameter and about three metres deep.Grouped around the sides of each grave were one or two officers and about twenty odd marines and soldiers including petty officers and NCOs.
He states that just prior to the commencement of the executions, a marine (rank and name unknown) came over to where he and some companions were standing and requested the loan of his sword. Yoshizaki states he loaned his sword to the marine whereupon the latter disappeared among a group of marines standing about hole 'B'. Yoshizaki then described the execution of the first Australian prisoner at grave 'A'; this decapitation being carried out by Warrant Officer Kakutaro Sasaki. He recalls that after the fourth prisoner had been beheaded by individual marines keenly waiting their turn (ranks and names unknown) at grave 'A', several battery torches were procured to light the backs of the necks of each successive victim. After the seventh or eighth Australian had been decapitated at grave 'A'. the marine who had borrowed the sword, returned it to Yoshizaki commenting that it was blunt and the blade had unaccountably bent when he had beheaded a giant of a fellow.
On receipt of his sword and scabbard. Yoshizaki stated he and his companions departed the scene of the killings and returned to their barracks. Yoshizaki denied having witnessed the executions of prisoners at grave 'B' as his attention was concentrated on the macabre drama at grave 'A'. Yoshizaki claims that he learned later that in addition to Dutch mortar unit personnel (about thirty prisoners). Fifty-five Australian soldiers had also been beheaded on the night in question.
2) Concerning the second executions. Yoshizaki states that on his return to Ambon township on 23 February 1942 (he had been absent on interpreting duties at Paso) he heard from, he believes, Ist Class Petty Officer Tasuki Yamashita that between 15-20th February 1942 (exact date not recalled) all the remaining prisoners ( Australian) at Laha Airfield had been decapitated, some eighty odd as related to him by Yamashita. Yoshizaki avers that he was told that this second execution at Laha had been carried out by crew members of a Japanese minesweeper that had been sunk previously by an enemy mine in Ambon Bay. It was an act of reprisal and retaliation for the loss of their ship.
(3 ) Re-interrogated former 1st Class Seaman Miyataro Ichio who has been identified as having been present and to have participated in the mass execution of Dutch and Australian prisoners at Soeakodo in early February 1942 He denied having been present at these executions. Claiming to having been suffering from recurring malaria indisposition, at that particular time and all efforts to budge him from this dubious explanation proved futile.. He was certain that his former officer commanding, Warrant Officer Kyusuke Yamashita, had named him as being one of the dozen or so marines present at the said executions as he. Ichio, thought that the latter believed him dead and as such would not inconvenience other members of his platoon who did participate.
A working party of Japanese POWs excavates
Australian and Dutch remains from a mass grave
at Tawiri, Ambon, under the direction of the
Australian War Graves Maintenance Unit,
Four Japanese servicemen were executed for war crimes committed on Ambon. Commander Hatakeyama Kunito, the officer who commanded the execution parties, was convicted and hanged but Rear Admiral Hatakeyama Koichiro, who ordered the massacre, died before his trial.