08 March 2006

Three Views of the Purge of Singapore Chinese, 1942

A member of the Japanese Kempeitai:
The Military Police had no power to change or even protest the order for a purge of the Overseas Chinese, although they opposed it from the outset. At the Military Police Academy they had studied various national legal systems as well as international law and were, accordingly, more knowledgeable than staff officers in matters of trial and penalty. To the police it was difficult to believe that those glorious warriors, who had just gained a stupendous victory, those prominent staff officers who had received the highest military education, would talk and behave so erratically, at a time of busy operations and when Malaya was in an unsettled state immediately after the stupendous British surrender.

Without influence and lacking assertiveness, Lt. Onishi returned to his Headquarters and conveyed the liquidation order to the captain of his auxiliary Military Police. The cruel task would fall on his company of auxiliary police. Neither the auxiliary forces nor the military police were eager to massacre the Chinese. A company at that time consisted of around 60 soldiers equipped with rifles or light machine guns. They hauled the victims away in lorries and slaughtered them down by the beaches. One of his auxiliary Military Policemen, Yamaguchi, carried out the executions with the help of the others, near Changi Road. The number of victims is not known. The figure given by the Japanese was 6,000. The highest Chinese figure was 50,000.
A Chinese survivor:
Yap Yan Hong was one of those who went to Onishi's Jalan Besar checkpoint for screening. On the morning of the radio announcement, he put on a pair of new shoes and his best shirt. They were told to bring food and drink for three days. At the packed Jalan Besar Stadium he had a harrowing time, suffering from heat during the day, from exposure to cold at night, never knowing what to expect from one moment to the next. On the third day the women and children were told to go home. But the men were lined up and paraded before a high-ranking officer. As they passed him he flicked one index finger. If it was his left it meant the person must be detained; a flick of the right finger was a sign to go home. The fate of many thousands of people hung on the whim of a single person, on the wagging of a finger.

When asked by the military policeman at the third interrogation point where he had worked since the outbreak of war, young and naive Yap Yan Hong thought of the most innocent occupation. "In the map drawing business," he replied. This could be a spy, the policeman thought. So Yap was detained for two days. Then he was tied with a rope as part of a group of six and made to mount a truck with two other groups. They were taken past Changi prison to the end of the island. It was already evening when his group was made to wade into the sea and was shot by the Japanese auxiliary military police forces. Yap was lucky. When his rope made contact with the sea water, it loosened and Yap, miraculously, was able to swim away, and survived to tell his story.
An Indian Independence League member:
On the afternoon of 21 February, Mr. Royal Goho, leader of the Singapore branch of the Indian Independence League, visited Maj. Fujiwara Iwaichi, who at his liaison agency (the Fujiwara-kikan) was successfully recruiting Indians to join the Indian National Army.

"Major, do you know that the Japanese soldiers are indiscriminately detaining Overseas Chinese and massacring them? One can barely face such cruelty. Has the Japanese Army lost its mind? The British had already surrendered and the war was supposed to be over!"

Busy overseeing the surrender of the 55,000 Indian POWs, Fujiwara was unaware of the incident.

Goho pleaded:
The residents of Singapore and Malaya respected the Japanese soldiers' bravery and their fine policy to liberate and protect the natives. It is true that Indians and Malays were deeply hostile towards those Chinese who had been exploiting them to their hearts' content under the British. And it is true that some even rejoiced in the massacre of Overseas Chinese. However, upon witnessing horrifying scenes, their regard for the Japanese Army has turned into fear. This is a sad thing for the Japanese Army. Can't you do anything to stop it?
Fujiwara dispatched some members of his agency to investigate the situation. The result of the investigation was even worse than what Mr. Goho had recounted. Shocked by the seriousness of the matter, Fujiwara immediately went to see Chief-of-Staff Sugita at Army Headquarters, and inquired if this really was an order from the Army.

With a pensive expression, Sugita lamented that his moderate position had been overruled by staff officers holding extreme opinions, and an order to carry out the massacres had been issued much against his wishes. Fujiwara countered that the result of this purge was a disgrace for the Japanese Army ....
SOURCE: Guns of February: Ordinary Japanese Soldiers' Views of the Malayan Campaign & the Fall of Singapore 1941-42, by Henry Frei (Singapore U. Press, 2004), pp. 153-154

See also British accounts of the fall of Malaya and Singapore (via Wikipedia).

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