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Primary Sources: Kill-All Policy

Intercepted and decoded by the Allies, this message from the Japanese Vice Minister of War to the Commanding General of Military Police in Taiwan explains the conditions under which Japanese commanders could execute prisoners of war without formal orders from Tokyo.

Author Linda Goetz Holmes, author of Unjust Enrichment: How Japan's Companies Built Postwar Fortunes Using American POWs, points out that it was not a military order, but a policy clarification, since the author in the war ministry did not have the authority to issue orders. Still, according to Holmes, the message was "transmitted to every POW camp commander in Japanese-occupied territory as well as the home islands," and widely known among former Japanese soldiers and former POWs. This memo was introduced into evidence at the post-war trials of Japanese war criminals.

1. (entries about money, promotions of Formosans at Branch camps including promotion of Yo Yu-Toku to 1st Cl Keibiin - 5 entries)

2 The following answer about extreme measures for P.O.W.'s was sent to the Chief of Staff of the 11th Unit (Formosa P.O.W. Security No. 10).

"Under the present situation if there were a mere explosion or fire a shelter for the time being could be had in nearby buildings such as the school, a warehouse, or the like. However at such time as the situation became urgent, and it be extremely important, the P.O.W.'s will be concentrated and confined in their present location and under heavy guard the preparation for the final disposition will be made.

The time and method of this disposition are as follows:

  • The Time.

    Although the basic aim is to act under superior orders individual disposion may be made in the following circumstances.

    (a) When an uprising of large numbers cannot be suppressed without the use of firearms.

    (b) When escapees from the camp may turn into a hostile fighting force.

  • 2. The Methods.

    (a) Whether they are destroyed individually or in groups or however it is done, with mass bombing, poisonous smoke, poisons, drowning, decapitation, or what, dispose of them as the situation dictates.

    (b) In any case it is the aim not to allow the escape of a single one, to annihilate them all, and not to leave any traces.

  • 3. To: The Commanding General
    To: The Commanding General of Military Police

    Reported matters conferred on with the 11th Unit, the Kiirun Fortified Area H.Q., and each prefecture concerning the extreme security in Taiwan P.O.W. Camps.

    3. (The next entry concerns the will of a deceased P.O.W.).

I hereby certify that this is a true translation from the Journal of the Taiwan P.O.W. H.Q. in Taiwan, entry 1 August 1944.

STEPHEN H. GREEN [American cryptographer]

From the Journal of the Taiwan P.O.W. Camp H.Q. in Taihoku, entry 1 August 1944.

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