Lt. Bunji Kanto was one of four officers of the Imperial Japanese Army charged with war crimes committed in Batangas and Laguna. The others were Mikio Taneichi, Taichi Yamada and Yuzo Sakata. In this signed document, used as an exhibit during the war crimes trials before the United States Military Commission, gave details of the massacre mostly at Calamba, Laguna. However, his statement is still rich with information about Japanese movements in Batangas (as well as Laguna and Tayabas or Quezon) as well as about the flow of authority leading to the massacres elsewhere in southern Luzon.
The pages contained herein are now declassified and were part of compiled documentation1
of war crimes trials conducted by the United States Military Commission after the conclusion of World War II. This transcription has been corrected for grammar where necessary by Batangas History, Culture and Folklore. The pagination is as it appeared in the original document containing the statement.
STATEMENT OF 2nd Lt. KANTO, BUNJI
NAME: 2nd Lt. KANTO, BUNJI – 51J 97902 (Engineering)
AGE: 33 yrs.
MARITAL STATUS: Married; one (1) child.
WIFE’S NAME: KANTO, CHIEKO
HOME ADDRESS: Yamagata Ken, Kitamurayama, Gun, Miyasawamura
Arrived at North San Fernando 11 August 1944 from Manchuria 8th
Engineer Regt. (attached to the 8th
Div.) We went by train to Tanauan and arrived there about 3rd
of Sept. 1944 (this the 2nd
Company under Capt. MATSUMOTO, KATSUTARO). Then, went to Talisay – staying there four (4) days constructing roads. Then, went to Caruccan [likely Caloocan, a barrio of Talisay] (? Sept.) – between Tagaytay and Talisay and stayed there about five days opening up pack roads. Then, we went to Mt. Sangai [Sungay] to build auto roads. Stayed there about two weeks. Then, on 1st
November, the company went to Santo Tomas, where the Regt. Hdqts. were located. There, my platoon, the 2nd
platoon of the 2nd
Eng. Regt., was attached to the 17th
Regt., Fujishige Regt., and went to San Juan (strength 27 men) and was there till 18th
December – constructing roads and bridges.
The 1st Battalion of the 17th Regt. was there and we were attached to this group (1st Batt. – Capt. Takahashi Bn.). Then, we were attached to the Kamii Detachment (Lt. Col. Kamii – the detachment was a little larger than a Regt.) at Candelaria and were there till 3 Jan. 1945. On this date, the Kamii Detachment was deactivated, so I was put back into the Takahashi
Bn. with my platoon of engineers. A company of [the] anti-tank unit also joined the Takahashi Bn. – but they were not under my command. We went up to Tiaong and [stayed] there till 4 Feb. The Takahasi Bn. was there, too. We were constructing positions and demolition work. Then, we came up to Tanauan and stayed overnight there and arrived in Calamba on the 8th of Feb. My platoon of Engineers was the only unit that came up from Tiaong. There, I was attached to 1st Lt. Sakata, Yuzo. (We came under the command of the Saito Bn.) There, we were building anti-tank defenses as well as intelligence work. We were at Calamba till [the] 24th of Feb. when the U.S. forces entered. We were in combat with the U. S. forces there. We kept withdrawing and reached Malipunyo [Mt. Malepunyo] on 3rd March ’45. While in combat, the Fujishige Regt. became the Fujishige Group. After reaching Malipunyo – I was no longer under the command of the Saito Bn. From Malipunyo, we went to Mt. Banahao – 11 May 1945. Then, on 10 June, we went out towards the eastern shore of Luzon near Camp Mayapis and reached there about the first part of July. Then, we went to a place near Luisiana and surrendered on 18th August 1945.
Q - Who were the participants of Calamba?
1. Capt. Saito, Ginsaku (dead)
2. 1st Lt. Sakata, Yuzo
3. 1st Lt. Yamada, Taichi
4. 1st Lt. Yamada of air corps
now dead, was in charge
of defense of Tanauan.
5. 2nd Lt. Kanto Bunji
These I found later were participants:
6. Capt. Taneichi, Mikio
7. ? W/O Shotaro Sato (I think Sato came with Taneichi)
8. 2nd Lt. Muramatsu, Seizeh
Q - Tell us that the story of Calamba was, what each of the abovementioned men did?
A - There was an order from the Fujishige Regt. ordering Sakata, Yamada and me to carry out a punitive expedition on Calamba. However, we requested that the expedition be postponed, for if we did undertake an expedition, we would not be able to do do any intelligence work. (This was before one of my men was killed while building anti-tank defenses.) For asking for a postponement, we were reprimanded by the Regt. and they said that they did not have much trust in us. Then, early one morning of the 12th of Feb., Capt. Saito appeared and ordered the punitive expedition. (I think Capt. Saito came on orders from the Fujishige Regt.) On that date – I had 12 men and leaving 4 of them at the quarters, I took 8 of my men and participated. Since I understood the Tagalog language, I was ordered to go near the church in Calamba and gather the men living near the church. My troops only gathered 7 or 8 men. Lt. Yamada and I were ordered to march our troops in – Yamada to guard the outer perimeter and my troops to do the work I have already mentioned. Before we left, 3 trucks (3 loaded with troops and one on which Capt. Saito was on) went into Calamba. While in town, one of my men came and said that about the only ones around were sick persons, women and children and asked me what he should do. I ordered him
not to gather any of the sick, women and children. I was in a house in front of the church most of the time. While there, a girl there asked me why the Japanese troops were gathering the populace, so I told her to go ask Capt. Saito, since Saito had ordered us not to tell anyone the purpose of our gathering the populace together. The girl told me that there were some unfortunate people in the church and asked that they be released. So, I asked her to give me that person’s name and when Capt. Saito wasn’t around, I went to the church and released that person. The girl also asked me my name (she spoke in Japanese) and one of the soldiers standing nearby told her that my name was Suzuki, so I let it pass as such. About 20 minutes later, I released a dentist, his son and uncle who were in the church. I released them because the dentist’s wife brought some food, and I figured that no wife of a guerrilla would do such a thing, so I released the above 3 without Capt. Saito’s knowledge. I also was caught carrying a bucket of water into the church for those who had been rounded up by Capt. Saito, and was reprimanded.
About lunch hour, Lt. Yamada appeared (not the Air Corps Yamada), and since I was asked to lunch at this girl’s house, I invited Yamada, but he did not feel like eating and went to rest in the shade of a nearby tree, so I ate alone. After lunch, I noticed a passenger car came near the church and I thought I saw Capt. Saito in it. I do not know where he came from. Since
I was in this girl’s house most of the time, I do not know the movements of Capt. Saito. Then, I took a short nap at the girl’s house. Neither Yamada, Taichi; Sakata nor I were interested in carrying out the punitive expedition. Saito found out that I had been taking a nap at this girl’s house, so he called me to him and he reprimanded me. I was pretty much disgusted, so I went back to the house, anyway, and met Sakata and Yamada there. They asked what they should do. I told them that there’s nothing they could do. Yamada said that he was going back to where his troops were deployed and that later, on our way home, I met up with Yamada and he told me that he was hiding behind the walls of a ruined building next to the church. All afternoon, I continued to stay and the girl’s house and stayed to have supper there. On our way home, Yamada and I noticed a fire out near Yamada’s quarters, so we went over to see the fire. I noticed about 8 houses aflame. I figured that there were about 200 dead persons in the houses. I don’t know who killed them or who set the houses on fire. According to my guess, it could have been done by anyone outside of Lt. Yamada, Taichi, Lt. Sakata, and myself. The fire was only about 200 meters from our quarters, so the three (3) of us – Yamada, Sakata and I, agreed that it would be dangerous to be living so close to a place where atrocities were committed, so we decided to move near the cemetery of Calamba. The next day, I went into the
town of Calamba with 2 of my men and looked over the situation in town and found that things seemed quite saddened. It was while I was in town that I ran across the dentist’s family and wrote for them a certificate saying that they were good people and that the Japanese troops should not molest them. Lt. Yamada was very much against the punitive expedition.
Units attached to the 17th
Regt. were really treated ill by the members of the 17th
Regt. When I landed with the 8th
Regt. in N. San Fernando, we were warned not to mistreat the populace and extended this warning to my men. However, it seemed that the 17th
Regt. didn’t follow their policy. I noticed that their orders towards the natives were really harsh.
At Tiaong – I received the following order: “All the inhabitants are enemies – includes all women and children. Kill an average of 3 inhabitants per soldier a day. If one soldier kills 10, report it to the battalion commander. If a soldier kills 30 – report it to the Regt. Commander. The regimental commander will assume all responsibilities. All persons (soldiers) not carrying out this order will be killed.”
I heard this order at a meeting where all unit commanders were gathered by the Bn. Commander who said that the above orders came from the Regt.
However, Capt. Takahashi was a very good man, and though he was told repeatedly to carry out punitive expeditions, he
was against them and did not carry out punitive expeditions. Capt. Takahashi was respected by his men and I regret the fact that he was killed in action.
I do not know the movements of Taneichi, Sato, Muramatsu, or Yamada of the air corps. I only met Yamada (air corps) that one night when I stayed in Tanauan. I never knew Taneichi, Sato or Muramatsu. After coming to the POW camp, I found out that they were there and that they participated. By the time my men got into the town of Calamba, the trucks that carried the other soldiers were coming back empty from the Lake Laguna side. I heard light machine gun fire out in the direction of Lake Laguna. I don’t know if anyone was killed, for I had not heard.
I do not believe that any other units (besides those that went on the punitive expedition) came in to kill the men and set fire to the houses which I saw that evening. I think they were done by troops and their commanders that came in by trucks.
The reason why my men couldn’t gather many persons is because people were starting to flee as soon as they heard the machine gun fire and by the time my men started to round up the men, most of them had fled.
I am sorry I cannot help you out as to the organization and disposition of units in that area, for I was being
transferred from one command to another and from one place to another and I do not know what the setup was.
The foregoing statement having been interpreted and read to me by T/4 Naomi Iwasaki, I, KANTO, BUNJI, have initialed each of the 8 pages, including all corrections, and signed this last page as evidence that I fully understand the contents thereof, that I made such statements voluntarily, without hope of reward or fear of punishment, and with full realization that same may be used in court against me. I solemnly affirm that the information contained therein is true.
/s/ Bunji Kanto
/s/ T/4 Naomi Iwasaki
/s/ Mr. Myron Buttram
Notes and references:
|Photo taken during the war crimes trials in Manila. Image credit: U.S. National Archives.|
“Statement of 1st
Lieutenant Taiichi Yamada,” part of the U.S. Military Commission compilation of war crimes documentation, online at the Internet Archive.