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Japanese War Crimes in the Pacific: Australia's investigations and prosecutions

5 Postwar investigations

Image 15: Lithographic copy of the Instrument of Surrender signed by General Thomas Blamey at Morotai,  9 September 1945

Image 15: Lithographic copy of the Instrument of Surrender signed by General Thomas Blamey at Morotai, 9 September 1945
NAA: A6238, 2
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The Australian Army's interest in investigating war crimes was ongoing throughout the war with Japan. One of the Army's earliest actions was, in May 1942, to establish a Court of Inquiry into the landing of Japanese Forces in New Britain, Timor and Ambon.181 The Court of Inquiry found, for example, that the Tol massacre in New Britain earlier that year had been established 'beyond all possible doubt' and that '[n]o excuse whatever existed for this outrage', which was a 'clear' and 'most flagrant' breach of international law.182 By December 1942, instructions had been issued to Army commands for reports 'verified where possible by signed statements, on any allegations of breaches of the rules of warfare' to be despatched to Army Headquarters (AHQ) in Melbourne.183 When Sir William Webb's first inquiry was set up in 1943, the Army cooperated and 'masses' of information was eventually forwarded to Webb from 1943 onwards.184

Throughout the war, recovered Allied prisoners of war and civilians were regarded as a prime source of information on war crimes, although only small numbers were recovered in the early years. Policies and procedures were first put in place in early 1944 to deal with the broader issues around recovered Allied personnel, including their interrogation regarding atrocities.185 Various forms were distributed to recovered personnel for this purpose, including:

  • 'Statement of Recovered PW and Civilian Relating to His or Her Self', which contained a section on 'general remarks with particular reference to treatment by the enemy, and brief outline of any known enemy atrocity'.
  • 'War Crimes Questionnaire' or 'Q' form from the Australian War Crimes Commission, which was often separately filled out.

Other Allied personnel went through a British Combined Services Details Interrogation Centre (CSDIC), one of which was located in Brisbane, and completed Atrocity-Maltreatment Reports. Captured Japanese personnel were also interrogated on a range of topics, often by personnel from the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS).186

With Japan's 'sudden collapse' in August 1945, it became clear to the Army that there would have to be 'certain local improvisation' to deal with the multitudes of Allied personnel now recoverable across the Pacific theatre and in Japan.187

The Army established Prisoner of War Contact and Inquiry Units (PWCIU) and Reception Units to assist with personnel recovery matters.188 Now, however, the Army's task was not limited to taking reports of atrocities and dealing with recovered personnel but quickly came to encompass the extremely difficult tasks of identifying and apprehending war crimes suspects.

Moreover, with the end of the war in August 1945, the geographical area in which war crimes investigations could now take place broadened immensely. By the end of 1945, the Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees (DPW&I) had effectively taken over the central role in investigating war crimes, relegating to the sidelines Webb's third inquiry conducted together with Justice Mansfield and Judge Kirby, as discussed in Chapter 2.

Policy and procedures for investigating war crimes

The Army's Adjutant-General and the Director of Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees issued a large number of administrative instructions from late 1945, instructing forward commands and units on war crimes policies and the investigation and prosecution procedures to be followed.189 For instance, a memorandum on 'Investigation of War Crimes' was distributed to forward commands such as the First Army, Morotai Force and Line of Communication areas within Australia in January 1946. The memorandum opened by stating that:

The responsibility for conducting investigations into war crimes committed by the Japanese is vested in the Allied Forces who, subsequent to the Japanese capitulation, have occupied areas previously occupied by the Japanese.190

The memorandum envisioned that the majority of war crimes investigations would take place in the area where the alleged crime was committed but further investigations might have to be made by interrogation of 1) former Allied prisoners of war or serving and discharged personnel; or 2) Japanese prisoners of war or surrendered personnel.191 Although it was never likely to be an achievable goal, investigative thoroughness was set as a firm policy:

It is the policy of the Australian and Allied Governments that no stone should be left unturned in bringing ALL Japanese war criminals to justice.192

Unfortunately, the directorate never went so far as to issue all its administrative instructions on war crimes in a helpful manual, as did the United Kingdom.193

The directorate's War Crimes Investigation Section was responsible for obtaining and examining evidence of war crimes, selecting and organising appropriate evidence for the prosecution of charges and arranging for searches for suspects. Several officers held the position of Deputy Assistant Adjutant General of the War Crimes Investigation Section over time, including Major Ernest Stanley Elliot, Major Herbert Francis Dick, Major John Kevin Lloyd and Major Douglas John McBain. Although the Deputy Assistant Adjutant General and the section's personnel were based in Melbourne, the bulk of the actual investigatory work took place in the field across South-East Asia, the Pacific and in Japan.

Once established, war crimes investigation cases were meant to be given an individual case number, with blocks of case numbers being centrally issued to the various war crimes sections for this purpose.194 In practice, however, each war crimes section or investigator often had their own system of case numbers or nomenclature, which can make it difficult to keep track of investigations over time. As investigations proceeded, they were also supposed to be classified into one of the following classes:

  • 'W' class – war crimes for which sufficient evidence is held and suspects are in custody
  • 'T' class – war crimes for which insufficient evidence is held but suspects are in custody
  • 'Y' class – war crimes for which sufficient evidence is held but suspects are not in custody
  • 'Z' class – war crimes for which insufficient evidence is held and suspects are not in custody.

Once identified and taken into custody, war criminal suspects were supposed to be given an Australian War Criminal (AWC) number, even though they had not yet been charged or convicted. General Imamura Hitoshi, who commanded the Japanese forces in New Guinea, for instance, was allocated AWC 2121. In practice, however, not every suspect was allocated a number. While Captain Shirozu Wadami, who was tried in the Morotai M45 trial, was allocated AWC 1257, many of his co-accused in that trial have no AWC number.

Indeed, the practice of allocating an AWC number to each suspect seems to have broken down within a year or so, as most accused in the Singapore, Hong Kong and Manus Island trials have no reported numbers. Researchers are cautioned that the AWC number system should not be confused with the different war criminals' 'serial' number system, which is discussed in Chapter 7.

In addition to an AWC number, the war criminal suspects were themselves to be classified into categories 'A', 'B' and 'C':

  • 'A' category – those suspected of or charged with the commission of a war crime solely against Australian nationals
  • 'B' category – those suspected of or charged with the commission of a war crime against both Australian and Allied nationals
  • 'C' category – those suspected of or charged with the commission of a war crime solely against Allied nationals.

An integral part of the investigatory process was to produce evidence that could be used in court. Many types of evidence were gathered or produced, including the war crimes questionnaire forms, statements (both sworn and unsworn), affidavits, official reports by recovered Allied senior officers, interrogation reports of Japanese suspects and witnesses in custody, translations of captured documents and, in due course, information provided by Japanese authorities after Japan's surrender and the proceedings from the war crimes trials. As the official history of the Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees pointed out in 1951, the task of progressing war crimes cases 'through the stages of investigation, tracing, apprehension and prosecution was an extremely difficult and sometimes an impossible one'.195

Gathering evidence from Australians

While many recovered Allied personnel filled out the war crimes questionnaires and forms, investigating officers often complained about the unsuitability of these standardised documents. Captain John Myles Williams, the legal officer for Headquarters 33rd Infantry Brigade, who was the sole investigating officer on Ambon, observed:

In many cases they were quite useless because they contained vague generalisations and accusations and most inadequate identification of the Japanese officers and officials concerned with prisioner [sic] of war affairs.196

Indeed, gathering written evidence from Allied victims and witnesses in an appropriate form for use at the war crimes trials proved to be an ongoing problem. The Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees issued various memoranda about how witnesses were to be handled and how written evidence was to be prepared. One instruction, for example, was that affidavits were to be drawn so as to clearly and consistently identify war crimes suspects, as 'Defending Counsel look for every opportunity of casting doubt on the bonafides [sic] of a deponent, particularly in matters of identification'.197 Quite a number of affidavits were returned from the directorate to investigators, together with correspondence identifying certain flaws that made them unsuitable for use in prosecutions, so that fresh affidavits could be prepared. 

Finding suitable personnel who were trained in taking evidence for use at trial also proved difficult. In some areas in Australia, civilian solicitors were paid by the Army to assist ex-service personnel (such as former prisoners of war) in drawing up affidavits suitable for use at trial, with the going rate being based on Victorian law costs of two shillings per folio of 72 words.198 The ongoing problem of relatively legally unskilled investigators taking evidence led to a recommendation in the Report on the Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees at Army Headquarters, Melbourne, 1939–51 that, in the future, the personnel allocated to the investigation of war crimes 'if they have not already legal experience, receive some special training in this work'.199

Image 16: Newspaper clipping from July 1949 kept by External Affairs suggesting the Japanese police were uncooperative in locating suspected war criminals

Image 16: Newspaper clipping from July 1949 kept by External Affairs suggesting the Japanese police were uncooperative in locating suspected war criminals
NAA: A1838, 3103/10/13/2 PART 1
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Identifying and locating Japanese suspects

The task of sufficiently identifying and locating Japanese suspects proved to be one of the ongoing problems facing war crimes investigators. While very early on the Army issued preliminary directives to detain all commandants, staff and guards of Japanese prisoners of war camps and seize all camp records, many suspects slipped through the net.200 Many lists of Japanese sought for questioning or prosecution were produced and circulated widely throughout the Allied powers, including lists drawn up by the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC) and by individual nations (including Australian lists, as discussed later in this chapter).

In Australia, names on these suspect lists were compared with the directorate's Registry Section lists of Japanese prisoners of war and civilians held in Australian custody. However, in many cases, the extremely limited amount of identifying information known about a suspect – often just a surname – meant that the comparison effort was futile. For example, a comparison search for a war criminal suspect named 'Tanaka' – one of the most common Japanese names – in early 1946 discovered that 50 Japanese persons with that name were held in Australian camps alone: 24 at Hay, 14 at Murchison, 1 at Cowra, 1 at Gaythorne, 5 at Lae and 5 at Morotai.201

In a few cases, questioning of a Japanese detainee in Australia led to a confirmed match in identity. For instance, Yunome Kunio, who was held in the Murchison Camp in Victoria, was tried in the Rabaul R143 trial for the murder of an Ambonese native at Rabaul in June 1946.202 Similarly, Horikoshi Hiroshi, who was also held in Murchison Camp, was transferred via Sydney to the custody of the United States at Manila for trial as a war criminal.203

Once Japanese suspects or witnesses were in custody, gathering evidence from them was often simply a matter of asking questions, as many Japanese interrogated by war crimes investigators freely disclosed information about atrocities, including information that incriminated themselves in the commission of war crimes. Even as early as January 1946 the Army pointed out that:

experience has shown that Japanese will in many cases, if carefully questioned, admit their complicity in a crime and give information to implicate some other Japanese.204

Other Japanese, however, were not so forthcoming. Indeed, Japanese perpetrators and witnesses concocted and maintained for years several false stories designed to conceal war crimes  until investigating officers 'broke' the stories. As the instructions on investigating war crimes urged:

Every effort must be made to try and obtain the necessary information from the Japanese by a process of cross examination and by astuteness, and determination on the part of the interrogating officer.205

Captain John Myles Williams observed about his investigations on Ambon:

The toughest nut to crack was the Laha executions. Among the Japanese whom we interrogated there was at first a complete conspiracy of silence, but we found one man who finally gave a pretty full account of the first series of executions [there of Australian prisoners of war] early in Feb 42.206

The Japanese Government and military authorities were also often less than forthcoming with information, to the extent that some thought there was an unofficial policy of non-cooperation in relation to war crimes. As Lt Col Duncan LB Goslett, commanding officer of
2 Australian War Crimes Section in Tokyo (2AWCS), commented in December 1946, the Japanese authorities had a 'proven reluctance … to furnish information required' and used 'delaying tactics in making available for interrogation suspects, witnesses, and other informants'. He advised that this 'suspected policy of non-cooperation' had 'virtually halted progress of several important investigations', including 'clarification' of the Tol massacre in New Britain in 1942.207 By 1948, Goslett was so convinced that the concealment of war crimes information was a deliberate policy, he contributed a statement entitled the 'Wide-Scale Concealment of Evidence by Japanese Charged' to a Supreme Commander for Allied Powers press release on the subject.208

Production of lists

As evidence of war crimes and alleged perpetrators was gathered, periodic lists of suspected and convicted war criminals were produced. The Department of External Affairs, for instance, took the lead in producing two lists of Major Japanese War Criminals and Those Holding Key Positions. The process for preparation of the first of these lists by officials from the Departments of External Affairs and Information, and later approval by Webb, is quite well documented.209 The Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees Registry Section produced other periodic lists, including:

  • Suspected Japanese War Criminals Not Yet in Custody
  • Suspected Japanese War Criminals Held in Custody
  • Japanese War Criminals Implicated in War Crimes Against Australians, and Held in SEAC or SCAP Areas
  • Japanese War Criminals Charged under the War Crimes Act 1945 by Australian Military Authorities.210

Various similar lists were produced by the other Allied powers. The British series of South East Asian Command (SEAC) Reproduction Lists in particular can be quite useful, as they reproduced other national lists in full. For example, SEAC Reproduction List no. 3 in October 1945 reproduced a list of suspected war criminals prepared by the War Crimes Branch, Judge Advocate Section of the United States Army Forces, Pacific in August 1945.211

Image 17: Letter suggesting inquiries be made with the Netherlands in relation to one Arai Shoko

Image 17: Letter suggesting inquiries be made with the Netherlands in relation to one Arai Shoko
NAA: A1838, 1550/9 PART 1
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Exchange of suspects with other Allied powers

Australia was, of course, not the only Allied power 'helping' themselves to Japanese war crimes suspects in this period. Considerable interchange of correspondence on war crimes policies with the other Allied powers soon produced a general agreement regarding the exchange of suspects between nations, where necessary. The basic agreement was that:

  • If the Allied nation with custody of the suspect did not want the suspect for trial and only one other nation was concerned in an alleged crime (that is, its nationals were the victims), the suspect was handed over to that nation.
  • If the Allied nation with custody of the suspect did not want the suspect for trial and more than one other nation was concerned in an alleged crime, the suspect was handed over to the nation which was unanimously agreed by all nations concerned to be the most suitable to take custody.
  • When the Allied nation with custody of the suspect desired to prosecute the suspect and other nationals were concerned in an alleged crime, the governments of those other nations were to be invited to be represented on the court.
  • When the Allied nation with custody of the suspect had prosecuted the suspect, and another nation still wanted the suspect for trial, the suspect was handed over to the other nation, even if a conviction had already been secured.
Image 18: The Royal Netherlands Legation's advice that the Netherlands was about to return Takasaki  Masamitsu to Australian custody, after he was unsuccessfully prosecuted by the Dutch for war crimes

Image 18: The Royal Netherlands Legation's advice that the Netherlands was about to return Takasaki Masamitsu to Australian custody, after he was unsuccessfully prosecuted by the Dutch for war crimes
NAA: A1838, 1550/9 PART 1
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Australia handed over a number of suspected and convicted war criminals to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States over time, including a number of high-ranking officers. For example, after General Imamura Hitoshi was convicted in the Rabaul R175 trial in May 1947 and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment, he was handed over to the Netherlands in June 1948 for trial. After an unsuccessful trial, the Netherlands handed Imamura back to Australia and he was returned to the Australian War Criminals Compound to serve out his sentence.

The official history of the Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees concluded in 1951 that '[n]o particular difficulties were experienced' in the exchange of suspects between Allied powers.212 However, this does not mean that there were no difficulties. When suspects were held by nations such as the Soviet Union, instead of the United Kingdom or the United States, the situation was certainly more complicated.

For example, 2AWCS was anxious in 1947 to locate and try Major Orita Masaru, who was allegedly in charge of the Japanese responsible for the Banka Island massacre of Australian nurses in February 1942. There was evidence to suggest that Orita was being held in the Soviet Union, so the Australian Legation in Moscow wrote to the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs asking that Orita's whereabouts be investigated and that he be surrendered to Australia for trial. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded, however, that 'the competent Soviet organs have made enquiries but are unable to trace the war criminal Orita Masaru'. The Australian Legation in Moscow was instructed, therefore, 'not to press the matter further'. Yet, Orita was repatriated from the Soviet Union to Japan in 1948, at which point he was arrested and detained in Sugamo Prison in Tokyo to await trial.213

Closure of investigations

While some war crimes investigations moved to the prosecution stage at the Australian trials or elsewhere, many other cases investigated by Australia were closed for a variety of reasons, including:

  • failure to sufficiently identify a suspect
  • inability or failure to locate an identified suspect, such as when the suspect had gone missing during the war or had died during or after the war or was simply unable to be located
  • insufficient evidence to form a prima facie case of a war crime having been committed
  • the suspect had already been convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment
  • the case had been passed off to another Allied power for investigation/prosecution.

As Lt Col RC Smith, commanding officer of 1 Australian War Crimes Section (1AWCS) in Singapore advised in June 1946, his section's case files had been reviewed:

so that those in which there is little or no hope of success [of prosecution] may be closed off and efforts concentrated on those cases where there is a reasonable prospect of bringing the responsible war criminal or criminals to trial.214

For example, case C6/2, which concerned the shooting of a Private Merritt at Ubon in March 1945, had been 'fully investigated' but the 'evidence is such that it is considered impossible to prove that the shooting amounts to a War Crime'.215

Even if an identified suspect was able to be taken into Australian custody, and there was evidence of a war crime, this did not mean that a trial would occur. For example, although Australia had finally detained Orita Masaru in 1948, he committed suicide two days after being admitted to Sugamo Prison and before he could be interrogated about the Banka Island massacre. Lt Col Goslett, the commanding officer of 2AWCS, advised that he thought that Orita's suicide would 'hamper to some extent, but not seriously, the investigation of the crimes in which he and other Japanese were implicated'.216

The end of investigations

Although official war crimes investigations by the Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees and its sections ended on 13 January 1950,217 investigations into war crimes did continue. For example, the RAAF was still recovering bodies of airmen from graves in Rabaul in mid-1950, which revealed that some of the men had been mistreated and executed there, disproving the local Japanese commander's claim that the men had been transferred to Japan on a ship that was later sunk.218 After the war crimes trials held on Manus Island in 1950–51, however, no further Australian war crimes trials were held.

Overview of the records


There are hundreds of files on atrocities and war crimes investigations, across several (principally Army) series. They are not indexed and, as mentioned in the Using National Archives of Australia research guides, agencies creating the files did not name them systematically or with details that would necessarily assist future researchers.  A number of files are simply titled 'War Crimes Investigation', which obscures their specific subject matter.219 However, the majority of investigation files did not have file covers and titles, and so Archives staff, as resources allowed, allocated more specific titles which give more information about their contents.

Firstly, some investigation files are titled in relation to the officer who had charge of the investigation(s). For example, many of the files in MP742/1, 336/1/1949 PARTS 1–20B and 336/1/1965 PARTS 1–13 contain the investigating officer's rank and surname in the title, for example 'Investigating officer Flt Lt LC Conduit' or 'Reports of investigations by Capt. M B Tindale'. These files usually contain correspondence and other documents on multiple investigations over time, so the files have to be reviewed in full to ascertain their contents.

Secondly, some investigation files are titled in relation to the victim(s). For example, several files on the well-known execution of Sergeant Leonard G Siffleet contain his name:

  • Statements concerning the execution of Sgt Leonard George Siffleet (NX143314). Statement of Lt Commander Nakayama Hiroomi [reference copy].220
  • War crimes – Execution of Sergeant Leonard George Siffleet (NX143314) and two natives at Aitape, New Guinea [file consists of main file in two parts and two attachments – the titles are: Part 1; Part II; Photographs – execution of a European by Yunome; Duplicates] [Part 1 includes 18 photographs; first attachment includes 3 photographs].221

Although personal names are often used in investigation file titles, the person's service number is not usually included.

Thirdly, some investigation files are titled after a service unit or a class of victims or after prisoner-of-war camps or ships:

  • [2/40 Battalion – Sparrow Force – correspondence re fate of personnel].222
  • Atrocities against Nauruan natives.223
  • War Crimes committed by the Japanese at Kinkaseki mining camp Formosa.224
  • "Rakuyo Maru" Correspondence concerning the torpedoed Japanese transport carrier, related newspaper cuttings and some statements of interrogation by rescued Prisoners of War.225

Fourthly, many of the investigation files are titled after a specific geographic area, sometimes rather broadly, such as 'Thailand. War Crimes'226, 'Suspected Atrocities Wewak area'227 or 'Japanese Atrocities at Hong Kong'.228 Some areas have multiple investigation files. For example, searching for 'war crimes' and 'Timor', will locate the following files:

  • War Crimes - Timor - (Murder of Lt Wilkins Fitzallen (TX3482 ) and L/Sgt Bertram John West (TX3397) near Koepang June 1942) [supplementary search terms: Namasain, American Liberator 44-40398, Herbert D W (RAAF 433297); 4 photographs; 4 components; 8cm].229
  • Timor 5: War crimes Timor (Torture of Services Reconnaissance Department personnel) [Supplementary search terms: Dili, Baucau; 109 folios; 3 components].230
  • War crimes – Timor Asia (general).231

The Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees maintained a list of investigation files by geographical area,232 which includes the following categories:

Aroe Island
Ballale Island
Banka Island
Burma/Siam Railway
Dutch New Guinea

French Indo-China
Gilbert and Ellice Islands
Hainan Island
Halmahera Island
Kai Island
Marshall Island

Nago Island
New Britain
New Guinea
New Ireland
Ocean Island
Tanimbar Island

The category 'miscellaneous' includes, for example, the various atrocities committed at sea and the investigation files for the senior officer trials at Rabaul, among others. Where a file number is scored through in this directorate list, then the file has been destroyed. There are two additional comprehensive indexes to directorate files (which include investigation files) held at the Australian War Memorial.233 Many of these files can be located in series MP742/1, however, a number of these appear to have been destroyed.

Finally, researchers need to be aware that investigation files do not always have 'war crimes' or 'atrocity' in their title. For instance, more than 20 files deal with the Japanese sinking of the hospital ship Centaur off Queensland in May 1943 but none at all have either 'Centaur' and 'war crime' or 'Centaur' and 'atrocity' in the title.

Researchers looking for information on a specific person from the armed services are recommended to first look at the person's military record, to ascertain their unit and movements during the course of the war and, if they were taken prisoner of war, particularly in which camps they were held and how they were transported. Searching the Australian War Memorial's database of 23,000 prisoners of war and missing personnel from the Far East and South West Pacific may be helpful.234

Alternatively, there are a number of comprehensive alphabetical prisoner-of-war lists or prisoner-of-war camp lists,235 including several large reports published at the time which attempted to list, locate and provide information on all Japanese prisoner-of-war camps.236 The Australian Red Cross archive of missing, wounded and prisoner-of-war enquiry cards, now digitised at the University of Melbourne Archives, may also be helpful.237 Published unit histories or general military histories can also be useful to fill in gaps about the fate of certain Allied units, which may have been taken prisoner of war en masse. Researchers are cautioned that:

  • Personal names of both Western and Japanese persons were sometimes incorrectly recorded or recorded with variants, so a wildcard search can be useful.
  • Japanese terms are often incorrectly recorded, for example 'Kemkei-Tai' for kempeitai or, more correctly, kenpeitai (military police).238
  • Spellings and abbreviations of terms do vary. For example:
    • while prisoner of war is generally abbreviated to either PW or POW, the plural can be PWs, POWs, PoW's or PsW;
    • prisoner-of-war camps can have variant spellings of their name: Tan Toey camp on Ambon is also referred to as Tantoei or Tan Tui.
  • Geographical place names can be different, as the Japanese military and civilian administrations sometimes renamed places in occupied territories. For example, the islands of Truk were renamed with Japanese names: Dublon Island was known to the Japanese as Natsushima (Summer) Island.
  • Geographical place names have changed since the war, for example Jesselton, British North Borneo is now known as Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Similarly, Dublon Island in Truk is now Tonowas Island in Chuuk State, Federated States of Micronesia.
  • Many investigation files in some series are divided into multiple parts or components. A wildcard should be used alongside the principal item control symbol to ensure that all parts or components are located. For example, 336/1/1177* will locate all 49 components of that item in series MP742/1, each of which is individually titled.

Films, sound recordings and photographs

Unfortunately, there is very little film and sound record of war crimes investigations, probably due to the technology of the period and the challenging conditions and poor climate at many of the locations. The known films, held at the Australian War Memorial, are:

  • 1 minute 2 seconds of silent black-and-white footage showing an identification parade of Japanese at Rabaul in November 1945. Although brief, it shows Japanese being lined up, being pulled out of line, saluting and being photographed.239
  • 41 seconds of silent black-and-white footage of an identification parade at Wewak, New Guinea in November 1945, where liberated Indian prisoners of war identify Japanese who had committed crimes against them. Identities were then checked against a photograph board.240
  • 1 minute 45 seconds of silent black-and-white footage showing interrogations being conducted at Cape Wom, New Guinea in October 1945. The first Japanese being interrogated is Lt Tazaki Takehiko, who was later tried and convicted of cannibalism at the Wewak MW1 trial.241

In addition, the National Film and Sound Archive holds:

  • a brief Fox Movietone newsreel entitled Thailand Prisoners Identify War Criminals from October 1945.242

There are considerably more photographs of investigations, locations of interest (such as prisoner of war camps), and of suspected war criminals, much of which is in the collection of the Australian War Memorial. This chapter sorts records into several sections:

  • Australian prisoners of war in Japanese custody
  • interrogation of recovered prisoners of war and internees
  • official inquiries and reports into atrocities
  • Army investigation and evidence files
  • other investigation and evidence files
  • Australian lists of war criminals
  • photographs of suspected war criminals.

Files held at the Australian War Memorial are listed separately at the end.


181 See the proceedings of the Court of Inquiry with Reference to Landing of Japanese Forces in New Britain, Timor and Ambon, Australian War Memorial (AWM): AWM226, 1/1.

182 ibid, p. 23. Other Courts of Inquiry were also held over time and occasionally formed the basis of a prosecution. See, for example, the Court of Inquiry proceedings into the death of NX10420 Pte RS Goulden in Burma in July 1942, which are held with the trial proceedings of the Manus Island LN18 trial, NAA: A471, 81959.

183 'Statement Concerning Action Taken to Apprehend Japanese War Criminals', NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/980.

184 'Report on the Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees at Army Headquarters, Melbourne, 1939–51', part V, p. 401, NAA: A7711, VOLUME 1.

185 Although mostly an Army issue in practice, the discussion about how to deal with recovered personnel reached the level of the War Cabinet in 1945, see agendum 214/1945 in NAA: A2671, 214/1945.

186 For an example of an ATIS Interrogation Report, see NAA: B6121, 179K.

187 Adv LHQ Administrative Instruction no. 58, 17 August 1945, NAA: B3856, 144/2/13.

188 HQ 1 Aust Corps, Aust PW Contact and Inquiry Units, 1 September 1945, NAA: B3856, 144/2/13.

189 For a brief index of the administrative instructions, see NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/1143.

190 Memorandum from Brig WJ Urquhart for the Adjutant-General, 'Investigation of War Crimes', 11 January 1946, p. 1, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/217.

191 ibid.

192 ibid, p. 3.

193 See, for example, ALFSEA (Allied Land Forces South East Asia) War Crimes Instruction No. 1, 2nd edition, May 1946, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/636 PART 25.

194 See the system explained in a memorandum from Col EA Griffin, Director, DPW&I to 1AWCS and 2AWCS, 20 June 1946, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/1446 PART 1

195 'Report on the Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees at Army Headquarters, Melbourne, 1939–51',
part V, p. 416, NAA: A7711, VOLUME 1.

196 Draft article 'War Crimes Trials' for the Newcastle Morning Herald, circa late 1947, held in Papers of John Myles Williams, 1927–89, State Library of New South Wales, MLMSS 5426, Box 3, Folder 5.

197 Memorandum of Col EA Griffin, Director, DPW&I, 'War Crimes Investigations – Preparation of Affidavits', 25 November 1946, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/1452 PART 2.

198 Letter from Capt WF Brown, War Crimes Section, HQ N/Comd to Mr H Huggins, 1 March 1948, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/1634.

199  'Report on the Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees at Army Headquarters, Melbourne, 1939–51', part V, p. 418, NAA: A7711, VOLUME 1.

200 As reported in letter from Mr Norman Makin, Acting Minister for External Affairs to Mr Frank Forde, Minister for the Army, 6 October 1945, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/980.

201 Memorandum for the Director of DPW&I, 14 January 1946 attaching reports, NAA: B3811, 70/1/571.

202 For the trial proceedings, see NAA: A471, 81041.

203 Memorandum from the Adjutant-General, 'Transfer of PWJA (USA) 147100 Horikoshi, Hiroshi to Manila as War Criminal', 10 January 1946, NAA: SP196/1, 22 PART 1.

204 Memorandum from Brig WJ Urquhart for the Adjutant-General, 'Investigation of War Crimes', 11 January 1946, p. 2, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/217.

205 ibid.

206 Letter from John Myles Williams to Capt John Charles Van Nooten, 21 February 1946, Papers of John Myles Williams, 1927–89, State Library of New South Wales, MLMSS 5426, Box 3, Folder 3.

207 'Report for Monthly Summation December 1946 from Australian Division Legal Section SCAP by Lt Col DLB Goslett Chief of Division', p. 1, attached as appendix 'A' to Aust Division Checknote (33) WC 561, 24 December 1946, AWM: AWM226, 10.

208 For Goslett's statement, see NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/1559.

209 See NAA: A6238, 8.

210 Seven successive lists of this list were produced, which were later consolidated into a master list entitled 'Japanese War Criminals Charged under the War Crimes Act 1945 by Australian Military Authorities 30 Nov 1945 to 9 Apr 1951 against Whom Findings and Sentences were Confirmed', a copy of which is in NAA: A1838 3103/10/13/2 ANNEX.

211 For SEAC Reproduction lists, see NAA: A10953, 13.

212 'Report on the Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees at Army Headquarters, Melbourne, 1939–51',
part V, p. 431, NAA: A7711, VOLUME 1.

213 See the correspondence in NAA: A1838, 1550/9 PART 1.

214 Memorandum from Lt Col RC Smith, O.C. 1AWCS to AHQ Melbourne, 17 June 1946 attaching list of Files Closed by 1 Australian War Crimes Section (SEAC), NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/1452 PART 2.

215 ibid, Files Closed, p. 4.

216 Reported in memorandum from Patrick Shaw, Head of Australian Mission in Japan to the Secretary, Department of External Affairs, 13 September 1948, NAA: A1838, 1550/9 PART 1.

217 See 'Trials of Japanese Suspect Minor War Criminals', AWM: AWM166, 5.

218 Memorandum to the Secretary, Department of External Territories, 'War Crimes – Rabaul', 3 July 1950, NAA: A518, DB16/2/1 PART 2.

219 For instance, files in series MP385/3 – all of which are titled 'War Crimes Investigation' – generally relate to investigations into prisoner-of-war camps in Japan, Korea and on Hainan Island but one of them concerns the infamous Banka Island massacre of Australian nurses and includes the evidence of Vivien Bullwinkel, see NAA: MP385/3, 156/19/20.

220 See NAA: B4162, 6.

221 See NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/1210.

222 See NAA: B3856, 142/1/74.

223 See NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/735.

224 See NAA: MP1049/5, 1951/2/94.

225 See NAA: B3856, 144/1/128.

226 See NAA: A5019, 100/27/1.

227 See NAA: B3856, 146/1/27.

228 See NAA: MP729/6, 22/401/397.

229 See NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/973.

230 See NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/1213.

231 See NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/1724 PARTS 1-7.

232 This file is NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/2125. Another index to DPW&I investigation files can be found in NAA: B3925, 1.

233 See AWM: AWM226, 36 and 37.

234 Search AMF Prisoners of War and Missing in the Far East and South West Pacific Islands: This search engine is a digitisation of records in AWM: AWM232, 1, which are now fragile.

235 See, for example, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/1588 Parts 1–3.

236 See, for example, 'Allied Prisoners of War in Japanese Hands', ATIS Research Report No. 86, August 1944, NAA: A4311, 745/3; and its update 'Allied Prisoners of War in Japanese Hands', ATIS Research Report No. 86 (Suppl No. 1), November 1945, NAA: B6121, 182Y.

237 See Australian Red Cross Society, National Office, Missing, Wounded and Prisoner of War Enquiry Cards 1940-1973, reference 2016.0049, University of Melbourne Archives. The database can be searched by surname at and the individual cards can be viewed online.

238 See 'War Crimes Borneo Ill-treatment of Prisoners of War by Kemkei-Tai at Sandakan', NAA: MP897/1, 156/19/152.

239 AWM: item F07362.

240 AMW: item F07378.

241 AWM: item F07377.

242 National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), item 90557.


Chapter 5
Postwar investigations