Taiichi Yamada was one of four officers of the Imperial Japanese Army charged with war crimes committed in Batangas and Laguna. The others were Mikio Taneichi, Bunji Kanto and Yuzo Sakata. In this signed document, used as an exhibit during the war crimes trials before the United States Military Commission, Yamada gave a detailed account of the sequence of events leading the unfortunate massacre of innocent non-combatant civilians in the two provinces mentioned. Most of the details of Yamada’s statement had more to do with the so-called “subjugation” of Calamba, but he did make mention of Japanese movements in Batangas and provided rich information about decision-making in the Japanese Army leading to the massacres.
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 TAIICHI YAMADA
TAIICHI YAMADA ARMY 1ST
LT. 40 years old No. 51J - 84176
NIIGATA-KEN, NISHIKANBARA-GUN, KOYOSHI-MURA, OAZAROKU-BUN
WIFE - KIYO. Children: 2 boys and 3 girls
I was engaged in farming at the above address until drafted. I was called on September 16, 1944, and inducted in the 24th
Unit of the Eastern Army, and appointed 1st
Platoon leader of the 2nd
Company (Commander 1st
Lt. Taketsugu Fujii) of the 116th
Fishing Battalion (Commander Capt. Yasushi Sazawa). On Oct. 5 of the same year, I left Japan (Ujima Harbor), landed on Rabok in northern Luzon on Oct. 28, arrived in north San Fernando about November 11, left there by train at the end of November, reached Manila about the 29th
of November, left Manila by truck on Dec. 1, and on the same day I arrived in Anirao [most likely “Anilao”] ahead of the main unit. We were there till the latter part of January, 1945. My duties while here were to dig caves for housing liaison crafts.
I believe it was the night of January 31 that we received orders to retreat and together with the unit departed marching towards Los Baños. (The company commander had gone ahead by truck.) At the same time as we reached Los Baños in the early morning of Feb. 5, we received company orders to go immediately to Calamba with the subordinate platoons and set up defense around that vicinity. So, without rest or sleep, we left at once and arrived in Calamba about 0700 hrs the same day. Immediately, we reconnoitered the area and occupied a position in the vicinity of a hill on the east side (bananas were abundant on this hill and there was a graveyard on the west slope). We called it “Banana Mountain,” and carried out our mission. The strength at this time, aside from myself, was 45 men and our duties were: (1) defense for [the] vicinity of Calamba; (2) gathering of intelligence; and (3) lead [the] natives into collaborating with [the] Jap army. Thereafter, we decided the terrain was not suitable for
it and moved to Bukaru [most likely Bucal or Bukal], about 2 kilometers east of Calamba and carried out the aforementioned duties. I think it was about Feb. 7 that we moved to Bukaru. The evening of the next day, the 8th, and officer I didn’t know came to my place and said, “I am 1st Lt. Sakata of the 17th Regiment. According to the regimental commander’s order, you will come under my command.” Since I had no knowledge of such a thing, I said, “I have no such orders or instructions. Let’s wait till the orders come.” Then, Sakata said, “The situation is extremely urgent.” So I said, “If that’s the case, let’s go to the company commander and receive instructions” — and together with Sakata, rode on the truck to the company commander’s place in Los Baños. We explained the situation and awaited instructions. He said, “It is just as Lt. Sakata says, there is no mistake. As of now, you are detached from my command and will come under the command of 1st Lt. Sakata.” Accordingly, I came under the command of 1st Lt. Sakata. That night, we again returned to Bukaru and parted, after having promised to go with my subordinates to his billeting area early the following morning. Early the next morning, the 9th, we went to Sakata’s place and moved into the quarters delegated to us. It was west of Calamba near a forked-road, and nearby was a manufacturing firm. Sakata’s strength seemed to be about 20 men. I was instructed to the engineer platoon leader under him, 2nd Lt. Kanto, and ordered off-hand said, “Hereafter, the Yamada unit will cooperate closely with the engineer platoon and carry out anti-tank defense warfare.” I believe it was noon of the 10th that I was introduced to Capt. Ginsaku Saito at Sakata’s quarters, and at the same time ordered that it was the aim to place the Sakata unit under the command of battalion commander Saito. In the afternoon of the same day, we (Saito, Sakata, Kanto and myself) reconnoitered the terrain to decide how the anti-tank defenses would be carried out, and studied it. In the evening of the same day, Capt. Saito departed.
Later, based on the results of our research, the suicide anti-tank section (commander with 16 men, 8 engineers and 8 from my platoon) was placed at a point approximately 4 kilometers north of Calamba. With the remaining force, I crossed the bridge in the vicinity of the Y in the road (Calamba - Manila road) and engaged ourselves in the construction of positions for the purpose of tank protection. Meanwhile, the suicide section which was sent forward was attacked by a guerrilla force which numbered several hundred, and it was mentioned that one anti-tank engineer was killed.
One day (I believe it was on the night of the 10th), I was summoned by Lt. Sakata and when I reported to his quarters, Kanto was also present.
Sakata said that “the subjugation of Calamba was ordered to be executed immediately,” and he asked what we should do. (It appeared that this order came directly from the Regiment.) I inquired, “What is the gist of it?” “The male folks must, of course, be rid of and the female folks must be rid of with thoroughness so that Calamba will be a deserted city,” he replied. I was surprised. Then asked, “Isn’t that rather a severe order? That is not subjugation, that is murder, I could do no such thing, could you?” Sakata replied, “I am of the same feeling, however, if this order is not carried [out], we will receive punishment from the devils, Reg. commander and Chief of Staff Uyohara. That is the reason why I called this 3-man meeting to see if we can find an excellent plan.” The decision of the 3-man meeting was that they could not execute the order, and we would not tell the Regimental Commander whether we executed it or not. If, however, he did inquire about it and they decided to tell him that the preparation for the anti-tank defense combat, which was their chief duty, was a handful in itself and it was to a point where they could almost use assistance themselves, so being engaged in the subjugation was out of the question, and they parted.
Early the morning of the 12th, I was awakened and requested to report immediately to Lt. Sakata. It was still rather dark
outside and the men’s faces were still hazy, so it must have been 0530 hrs. When I arrived in front of Sakata’s quarters, there were 3 trucks (it appeared as though there were from 60-70 soldiers in them) and a passenger car parked. Immediately in front of his quarters, there was a group of 6 or 7 men who seemed to be the leaders, talking. I walked over to observe and saw that Sakata, Kanto, Captain Saito and others whom I did not know were there. Just as I was going to say “hello” to the battalion commander, he said, “1st Lt. Yamada, a weakling like you cannot carry out subjugation, from now on, I will carry out the subjugation of Calamba myself.”
Order: Yamada platoon will surround and guard Calamba (verbal order). At that time, I said, “Please leave the women and children alone,” and his reply was, “Whether they will be left alone will be up to me. I won’t take any orders from you. Just carry out the orders you received efficiently. Don’t say unnecessary things and carry out your disposition immediately.” With that scolding, I assembled my subordinates to execute the subjugation.
The platoon ordered to guard and surround Calamba immediately began preparations. One (1) squad (10 men) in the vicinity of Banana Mountain, 1 squad (7 men) in the vicinity of our quarters on the road to Tanawan. Guarding our quarters. The remaining force (19 men) will be responsible for the security of the left bank of the river flowing on the north side of Calamba.
Remarks on security:
1. Do not allow civilians to enter the town under any circumstances.
2. Arrest the males attempting to escape from the town, however, allow the females escape, especially the women and children and do not harm them.
3. Carry weapons and if there is any resistance, you may kill them.
(This was in a summary of a verbal order to my units.)
It was around 6:30 when I took my 19 men and guarded the left bank of the river.
Around 11:30, Lt. Yamada received a verbal order to the effect that he was to send one squad immediately to the church. So, I took one squad of men with me and proceeded towards the church. During that time, we met many civilians going towards the city, however, we chased them back. That was but a very short period during that morning however, after that, not a single person came. Then, again, we saw 10 or more men escaping from the city. I just let them go. Following that, we went by Banana Mt., the vicinity of our quarters and encountered the small incidents and that was all. When I reached the church, it was about 1200. There were about 5-600 civilians within the church (only male) and they were chattering noisily. In the vicinity of the church, there were trucks and passenger cars parked. There were 50 or 60 soldiers there, who I could not recognize, also 3 or 4 officers. Capt. Saito and 1st Lt. Sakata were there. There, one element of the Yamada Platoon received orders from Captain Saito to take charge of the supervision of the civilians within the church. Moreover, the security unit now in preparation would complete this present mission by 1500 hrs.
Accordingly, one accompanying squad was ordered the assignment of surveillance by posting sentinels, alternating their duties with other units on guard at that time. Just when this disposition was completed, a soldier approached me and said, “2nd Lt. Kanto is calling you.” When I accompanied this soldier, I discovered Kanto eating his meal in a house by the side of the church. He asked me, “Won’t you have some?” but I could not get in the mood to eat, and declined. After resting for a while on the chair in the house, I went to the church a second time. When I went back to the church, I believe I saw soldiers from other units whom I do not know and my squad and also 1st Lt. Sakata was there, but there was no trace of any other unit or officer. I sent a message through a messenger telling my subordinates on guard at that time, “When it is 1500 hrs, withdraw and come to the church.” Subsequently, I remained in the
vicinity until all the inhabitants who had been gathered in the church had left. During that period, I saw the following things:
(1) When a truck pulled up in front of the church, the inhabitants within the church were led out, loaded into the trucks and were driven away westward.
(2) Prior to loading into the trucks, a sort of simple interrogation was carried out, and there were many people who seemed happy being released from there and going home, but there were those who were loaded onto the truck with no interrogation whatsoever. It seemed that the interrogation was carried out chiefly by Kanto, but it seemed Sakata was also interrogating at times.
(3) It seemed that 3 trucks had arrived simultaneously and there were 2 entrances and exits from the church, but the inhabitants were being taken out from the west exit.
(4) At times, an automobile would make its appearance, and then disappear again. There were instances of Captain Saito who alighted from the car giving instructions to the men who were working at the place the inhabitants were being loaded on the trucks. At times, Sakata would be in the automobile with him, at times an officer I do not know would be in the car with him, and it seemed at times Captain Saito rode alone.
(5) There was a considerable number of people who tried to pass in food and bananas to the people in the church only to be stopped and dispersed by the guards. I remember that I advised the sentinels, “Just as long as the men in the church don’t escape, it’s alright. Allow them to receive food stuffs. It is not necessary to be so strict.
(6) When it was around 1530 hours, the security unit arrived according to the order and selecting 10 men from the entire personnel to remain as necessary sentinels, I sent the rest of the unit back to their quarters ordering them, “Go quickly and make preparations for supper.” When it started getting dark, transportation was ended for a while, so I withdrew the sentinels and started back together with the soldiers. I think this was about 1830
hours. When we approached the edge of the town, there were 2 or 3 persons in front of us who looked like soldiers, so we challenged them, discovered it was Kanto, and walked home from there together. Just as we left the edge of the town, we saw what appeared to be a fire in the direction of our quarters and thinking it might be our quarters burning, we rushed back to find nothing amiss in the quarters but houses about 2 or 3 hundred meters back of the quarters burning furiously. When we went there, about 10 houses were on fire. I could see by the illumination of the fire that there were about 20-30 corpses in the first house. “Alas, have they killed the inhabitants hauled here in trucks? They’ve done a distressing thing. It seems that they did not have to kill them right near one’s quarters when there were other places. They are really cruel rascals,” I thought, but there was nothing that could be done. “It is something that’s already done with. There’s nothing we can do.” Just the sight of the first house nauseated me, so I said, “2nd Lt. Kanto, let’s go back” to which he said, “They’ve done a distressing thing” while leaving with me. I told Kanto to tell Sakata that I would go see him after supper and [we] separated in front of my quarters. After supper, the three of us, including Kanto, talked over yesterday’s happenings.
The chief items were the following three points:
(1) I asked Sakata, “What is the name of the unit and commander which came in from the outside and executing those subjugations? And where did they come from?” “I only know 1st Lt. Yamada of the Air Unit and W/O Sato of the Rapid Fire Gun Unit. It seems they came from Tanawan. The rest of them, I do not know well. Anyway, it was such a sudden occurrence,” he answered. They really came quite unexpected like that, put everything in a bedlam and evacuated. The Sakata I saw in the vicinity of the church was truly a busy man and I thought at that time it was not unreasonable and didn’t especially pay any attention but at the present, after countless numbers of interrogations, when I think quietly back on my memories of that time, I wonder if it was not
Captain Ito from the Regiment who came in that automobile. Others who came included Taneichi, Muramatsu, and Kusanagi.
(2) Judging from the results of today’s subjugation, we three have come to turn in our opinion report. Absolutely no women and children were killed it seemed, and at least 200 of the men gathered in the church were saved. Of course, there might have been some good inhabitants among those killed and I feel very sorry for them, but it couldn’t be helped. However, while we were scolded by our battalion commander, we did our utmost. We could do nothing more. God will certainly acknowledge this point. If we had not put forth our utmost endeavors, no doubt the subjugation would have been executed under far worse conditions. (Even at the present time, I think that the number of inhabitants who were killed does not exceed about 400 men. The other day, I heard that over 800 persons had been killed and I was surprised. However, no matter what, I cannot believe those figures.)
(3) Without considering our inconvenience, they executed the people near our quarters; so we decided to move to another camping area on the eastern side of Calamba, along the vicinity of Mt. Banana. Our main duty was to construct our positions; so we devoted on that task. After staying here for 4 or 5 days, the conditions were becoming critical that we decided we could no longer stay here, and so we moved approx. 2 Km. southwest to the terrain on the eastern side of the Tanawan Highway (since the hill resembled that of a ¾ moon, we called it such) and started continuing with our task we started out to do. In the early morning of 23 Feb., during our construction, we commenced our first battle with the American forces. In the evening of the same day, 1st Lt. Sakata said, “My job was finished, so I’m going back to Regt.” And with about 10 of his subordinates, he left us a went toward Santo Tomas. We stayed in this vicinity with the engineer unit fighting against the American forces. On
the night of the 24th, our objective was to meet the company in Los Baños; so we departed for Makiling Mountain, but on our way, we took the wrong road, and we wandered around in the mountain for several days, therefore, we weren’t able to go to Los Baños. When we finally came out of the mountains, we were [on] Alaminos Highway, and met a group of staff officers. Then, we were ordered to go immediately to approach the bridge structure on the road of Santo Tomas and Calamba and establish a desperate defense; so, late that same night, we reached the bridge that was indicated to us. I believe all this incident occurred during 4th March. Next day, we were freed from our duty and were ordered back to the company; so, in the evening of 5 March, we arrived in the vicinity – 4 kilometers eastward of [the] “Y” road sign in Santo Tomas. There, I separated from 2nd Lt. Kanto’s unit after staying in that vicinity one night, I went into Makiling Mountain the next night so that I might be restored back to my company. In the early morning of 9th March, I met the company in Los Baños. On that day at this place, I was severely wounded on the hip portion and right hand by an artillery shell. I was taken in by the Field Rescuing Section of the Saito Battalion.
Since then, I left my platoon and life with the orderly had begun.
Here, I received the treatment from medical officer – 1st Lt. Ohno and 1st Lt. Tsuruoka and later, I was hospitalized in the No. 4 Field Hospital which was situated in SANFUAKEN [San Joaquin?] at that time. It was about 15th March when I was hospitalized. Soon after, the hospital began to move from place to place because of the bombardment and finally settled down on the northern foot of Mt. Malipunyo [Malepunyo]. I stayed here until 18th April and before I was completely well, I was ordered to leave the hospital because of the critical situation. Unable to find my unit, I went to Fujii Army Group Headquarters which was located in the space west of the hospital at that time and stayed there until 29th April. I had no particular duty there. By the order of changing positions, we
left the said place and proceeded toward Banahao on the night of the 29th of April. I believe it was about 13th May when we reached Banahao. Thereafter, I had no particular duty and later commanded the men of the 116th Fishing Battalion that came in from time to time and stayed in Banahao Mountain until we surrendered to [the] American forces on 25th September at RKUBAN [likely Lucban].
Rumors I heard regarding to the subjugation:
1. San Pablo. I heard in the tent that about 200-300 people including females and children were killed and it was carried out by the KASAMA Unit within he SAZAWA Unit commanded by Staff Officer Ohno of the Fujishige Army Group.
2. Bai [Bay]. I heard in the tent that about 200 people were killed by the Yamamoto platoon of the Fujii Unit.
3. Los Baños College. I heard from 1st Lt. Fujii that the executions were carried out by the KUDO Unit, Fujii Unit and others under the command of battalion commander Saito and at that time the battalion commander was wounded.
4. St. Tomas [Santo Tomas] I heard in the tent that many inhabitants were killed.
5. Tanawan. I heard in the tent that many inhabitants were killed by the Air Unit of 1st Lt. Yamada.
6. Lipa. When I was in Calamba, I heard that several hundred inhabitants including females and children were killed by the air unit stationed in Lipa.
7. Cuenca. When I was in Calamba, I heard that several hundred inhabitants were killed by the Ichimura Battalion of the 17th Regiment.
Who was responsible for regarding to the subjugations?
Of course, I believe that Col. Fujishige, who was the group commander, was the one. He summoned various unit commanders and heard he made the following statements, “The execution of the subjugation of the Fuhiishige Army Group security area will be done thoroughly. There’s no question about the men and even to the women and children in the least who walks with two legs, kill
them all. For this reason, if you are punished, I will take over all responsibility and make an apology by committing “Hara Kiri.” I will never trouble you performing the punitive expeditions, and do it until you are told you have over done such expeditions.
I do not recollect the right date and number of personnel, however, I made this statement with the best of my knowledge. There may be some mistakes, but I think there are no great errors.
The foregoing statement has been interpreted and read to me by T/4 NAOMI IWASAKI and I have initialed each of the 11 pages, including all corrections, and signed this, the last page, as evidence that I fully understand the same, that I made such statement voluntarily, without hope of reward or fear of force or punishment, and with the full realization that it may be used against me in court.
I solemnly affirm that the information contained therein is true.
17 January 1946.
/s/ Taichi Yamada
/t/ Taichi Yamada
/s/ Mr. Myron Buttram
/t/ Mr. Myron Buttram
/s/ T/4 Naomi Iwasaki
/t/ T/4 Naomi Iwasaki
Notes and references:
|Photo taken during the war crimes trials in Manila. Image credit: U.S. National Archives.|