The Department of State to the Spanish Embassy


The Department of State refers to memorandum No. 156, Ex. 119.01 dated June 21, 1944, from the Spanish Embassy97 in charge of Japanese interests in the continental United States requesting all possible details and circumstances relating to the suicide of a group of Japanese prisoners of war in New Caledonia.98

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Immediately following the suicide of the Japanese prisoners of war, a board of officers was appointed by the American military authorities to investigate and report on the facts and circumstances preceding and concerning the cause of death of these prisoners of war. The board of officers was also ordered to include in its report findings of the adequacy or inadequacy of the nourishment and the general treatment of the prisoners prior to their death.

The board having carefully considered the evidence, the following findings were established:

Seventeen Japanese prisoners of war committed suicide by hanging in the prisoner of war stockade at approximately 9:00 p.m. on January 9, 1944. Their names are as follows:
Saburo Ishii
Jihei Kanahara
Teiichi Kaneko
Tatsumi Kanie
Tokuichi Kumaki
Korito Naga
Toshio Nishimura
Takashi Matsui
Harumi Minami
Masakichi Saita
Tsutomu Sato
Sumio Sato
Yasuhiko Sato
Gimpu Takamura
Toshio Tomizawa
Shigehiro Yamazakei
Narakazu Yasuda
Two Japanese prisoners of war committed suicide by cutting their throats in the prisoner of war stockade at approximately 9:00 p.m. on January 9, 1944. Their names are as follows:
Shigeru Hagino
Mizue Sato
Interrogation of Japanese prisoners of war and American personnel in the prisoners’ stockade disclosed that no general dissatisfaction existed with regard to the treatment which prisoners of war received in the stockade and that there was no evidence prior to the death of the prisoners that they were developing a mentally depressed state. Inspection of the mess halls and kitchens and interrogation of prisoners and mess attendants revealed that the physical conditions under which the prisoners were held also were satisfactory, that an adequate supply of palatable provisions had been regularly furnished to the prisoners and that quarters and general surroundings were clean, orderly, and well maintained.
Careful examination of the bodies of the deceased prisoners revealed no marks of violence externally or internally. The bodies were well nourished and well developed. Investigation disclosed that there had been an average increase per man of at least ten pounds in weight from the time of entry into the prisoner of war stockade until the time of death.
The mass suicides were the outgrowth of a premeditated plan on the part of the prisoners. It was the general consensus of opinion among prisoner witnesses that the fundamental motive for the suicides was a desire to redeem the shame which Japanese soldiers feel at being taken prisoner. The suicides were prompted by this sense of shame which the prisoners attached to their status and were not prompted by any mistreatment on the part of the personnel supervising the stockade in which they were held.
Three other prisoners attempted to commit suicide, one by strangulation and two by cutting their throats, but were frustrated in the attempt. Their names are as follows:
Yoshiji Tokuda
Yutaka Yamane
Shinnosuke Azuma.

[In a memorandum of September 9 to the Spanish Embassy, the Department advised of the suicides on January 23 and February 4 of four additional Japanese prisoners of war in New Caledonia and stated that they “were apparently part of the same pact by which the other nineteen Japanese nationals earlier took their lives, and were brought about by the feeling on the part of the prisoners that they were in a shameful status because they had been taken prisoner.” (711.94114/9–244) The Department, in notes of November 22, 1944, and January 4, 1945, advised the Spanish Embassy of the circumstances of the deaths of two other Japanese prisoners of war, both episodes occurring at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. They involved Ichiro Yamashita, whose death on October 16 resulted from the explosion of a “dud” rocket smuggled into barracks by Mr. Yamashita and struck by him against the metal part of a bunk, and Shonzo Kobayaski who committed suicide by hanging on November 28. (711.94114/11–344, 12–1844)]

  1. Not printed.
  2. The Spanish Embassy had transmitted the Japanese Government’s first request for such information in its memorandum No. 95, Ex. 119.01, of May 10. The Department’s acknowledgment was sent on June 28 and stated that “If the Japanese Government so desires, the Department is further prepared on a reciprocal basis to endeavor to obtain from the appropriate French authorities permission for a neutral observer to enter New Caledonia to visit camps where Japanese nationals are held in American custody.” (711.94114/37)