Sunday, April 05, 2015

And what of the fate of the torturers

Award-winning newsman Bob Simon died this past National Foundation Day, Japan's holiday to remember its Empire and the establishment of the Imperial family. One of his most inspiring stories for 60 Minutes was on Louis Zamperini. It won an Emmy.

For the segment, Simon went to Japan to track down Mitsuhiro WATANABE the torturer of Zamperini and hundreds of others who passed through the Omori and Naoetsu POW camps where Watanabe was a psychotic guard.

Simon found him. The interview is above. Zamperini had wanted to meet Watanabe and Simon want to film the encounter. Watanabe, an unrepentant former Imperial Army captain and now insurance salesman, refused.

Watanabe had escaped arrest by going into hiding during the American Occupation of Japan. He escaped prosecution when Washington suspended the arrest warrants of suspected war criminals after the San Francisco Peace Treaty went into effect on April 1, 1952.  With this, Watanabe was free to emerge from hiding and become a typical Japanese salaryman--an insurance salesman to be exact.

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Watanabe severely beat and psychologically tortured Zamperini and was reviled among the other POWs, American and Allied. Yet, frankly and sadly, Watanabe was not the exception. Imperial Japan's fascist state had forged beasts from simple peasants and school boys.

Legendary war historian Max Hastings wrote in Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 about the shocking Japanese treatment of POWs that has horrified and “fascinated” Westerners ever since. He noted that the POW’s “liberators were stunned by the stories they heard: of starvation and rampant disease; of men worked to death in their thousands, tortured or beheaded for small infractions of discipline.” He said that “It seemed incomprehensible that a nation with pretensions to civilisation could have defied every principle of humanity and the supposed rules of war.”

1 comment:

  1. If Max Hastings wrote it, you should read it. Period. End of statement.


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