Testimony of Saburo Owari in War Crimes Trial for Atrocities Committed in Batangas in 1945 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Testimony of Saburo Owari in War Crimes Trial for Atrocities Committed in Batangas in 1945 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Testimony of Saburo Owari in War Crimes Trial for Atrocities Committed in Batangas in 1945


This page contains the transcription of the testimony of Saburo Owari for the defense in U.S.A. v Shumpei Hagino, et al., one of the trials of personnel of the Imperial Japanese Army for war crimes involving atrocities committed in the Province of Batangas. 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 was contained in the original document for citation purposes.

Manila War Crimes Trial US Army
Photo taken during the war crimes trials in Manila.  Image credit:  U.S. National Archives.

[p. 195]


a witness for the defense, being first duly sworn, testified as follows through Interpreters Nishihara and Taccad:


Q What is your name?
A Saburo Owari.
Q How old are you?
A Thirty-eight.
Q What was your rank with the Imperial Japanese Army?
A First Lieutenant.

MR. GUTHRIE: Will counsel stipulate that the fact is that this witness is a prisoner of war at the present time?

MR. BERNARD: I’ll have to ask him the question.

Q Are you a prisoner of war at the present time?
A Yes.
MR. GUTHRIE: Owari, I will state to you that as a witness in these proceedings, you have certain rights. One of those rights is that you cannot be required to answer any question, the answer of which might tend to degrade or incriminate you. I will further advise you that in each case, you must, and in each instance, you must claim that right from the Commission or else you will waive it. Do you understand what I have just explained to you?
(Interpreter Nishihara interpreted to the witness.
A I do.
Q To what organization do you belong?

[p. 196]

A I belonged to the Ichimura unit. (I-C-H-I-M-U-R-A)
Q When you say “Ichimura unit,” are you referring to Captain Ichimura?
A Yes.
Q Where were you stationed during February 1945?
(Witness left the witness stand and walked to the map on the north wall of the courtroom.)
MR. BERNARD: Let the record show that the witness, Saburo Owari, pointed to the town of Cuenca on the map.
A I was stationed in the province of Batangas, town of Cuenca, Barrio Dita.
Q What was your position with the Ichimura unit?
A I was the battalion adjutant.
Q As battalion adjutant, what were your duties?
A I acted as an aide to the battalion commander.
Q Who was your immediate superior officer?
A Captain Ichimura.
Q As adjutant, did orders regarding guerrillas pass through your hands?
A Do you mean orders regarding punitive expeditions?
Q Yes.
A Yes.
Q From whom did these orders come?
A There were times when they came to my hands and there were times when they never passed me. They came from Colonel Fujishige.
Q To whom were these orders directed?
A They were orders to the Ichimura battalion.

[p. 197]

Q What were they, do you remember?
COLONEL HAMBY: At this time, the Commission will take a short recess.
(Short recess.)

[The rest of this page was left blank.]

[p. 198]

COLONEL HAMBY: The Commission is in session.

MR. BERNARD: Will the interpreter please remind the witness that he is still under oath?

(Interpreter Taccad translated to the witness.)
Q What were they? Do you remember?
A They were orders to kill all guerrillas and those who cooperated with them.
Q Who executed these orders?
A First Lieutenant Takemoto.
Q Against what towns or barrios did he proceed?
A He operated pursuant to those orders in the vicinity of the towns of Bauan and Taal.
Q As adjutant for Ichimura’s unit, do you know how many men Captain Ichimura had in his command?
A Yes, I know the strength under Captain Ichimura.
Q What was that strength?
A At the time the battalion was organized, it had a strength of about 600 men. However, about the early part of February, it was only about 300 men.
Q As a result of these expeditions, did the command suffer deaths or wounds?
A Yes.
Q What was the number of casualties?
A As far as I can remember, about thirty to forty men being casualties as a result of the guerrilla actions.
Q Who was in charge of these punitive expeditions?
A First Lieutenant Takemoto.
Q Who put him in charge?
A Captain Ichimura.

[p. 199]

Q Did you know Lieutenant Takemoto personally?
A Yes.
Q Will you describe him.
A He was rather tall for a Japanese. He was about five feet seven or eight inches. He had a long face and he resembled very closely Second Lieutenant Hagino.

MR. GUTHRIE: I move that the last portion of the answer be stricken. It is an opinion of this witness as to whether or not Takemoto looked like Hagino or not. He may have looked like Hagino to this witness, but to other persons, he may not have looked like Hagino. People don’t always look the same. That is merely his opinion as to what Takemoto looked like and is of no value to this Commission.

COLONEL HAMBY: The record will stand as it is.

Q Were Hagino and Takemoto mistaken for one another by some people as you saw them?

MR. GUTHRIE: Objected to on the ground that this is immaterial, not relevant.

COLONEL HAMBY: The Law Member will rule.

COLONEL POBLETE: Objection overruled. The witness may answer.

A Yes, during evenings, that is, when it was rather dark, there were times when I mistook Hagino for Takemoto and I called him “Takemoto.”
Q And so, in a large room as large as this, if you stood at a distance that I stand from the Commission, would it be easy to distinguish Hagino from Takemoto?

[p. 200]

A How will the lighting be, noontime?
MR. BERNARD: I will hold that question in abeyance and lead up to it after the next question or two, with the permission of the Commission.
Q Did you accompany any of the expeditions, namely those to Taal and Bauan?
A Yes.
Q Were you and Lieutenant Hagino present in the church at Bauan?
A I was not there, but I had gone to that church twice.
Q In a church of that size, and under lighting conditions that they had there, would a distance like that between you and me make those two men distinguishable?

MR. GUTHRIE: Objected to as calling for a conclusion of this witness. There is no evidence before this Commission as to what the condition of this witness’ eyesight is and the question has not laid a foundation for any particular hour of day for the test that it proposes or any condition of lightness or darkness.

MR. BERNARD: I will withdraw that question.

Q Were you present on the expedition to Taal?
A I was not in the expedition. However, I once went to Taal in a car. We carried some luggage.
Q As adjutant, did you receive the reports of the expeditions to Taal and Bauan?
A No.
Q Who received these reports?
A After returning from the expedition, Lieutenant Takemoto

[p. 201]

called up the regimental headquarters and reported by telephone. Then later on, Lieutenant Takemoto sent a written report to regimental headquarters concerning the condition of the battle, the report of casualties and detailed reports about the whole expedition.
Q As a Japanese officer, stationed where you were, what was your greatest problem during the month of February, 1945?
A When the American forces landed in Nasugbu, the guerrilla activity increased to such an extent that our greatest problem was thinking of the fact that with the guerrilla situation as it was, it was impossible to face the American forces.


Q You did not go on the expedition to Taal, did you?
A I did not go on that expedition.
Q You don’t know yourself anything that happened there?
A That is right.
Q Now, on this detailed report that was made after the expedition, did the report state how many Filipinos had been killed?
A I think the report stated that the number was about 170 or 180.
Q At what town?
A Taal area.
Q Did this particular report about Taal... tell the ages of the Filipinos whom they killed?
A Right now, I don’t remember.

[p. 202]

Q Did the report state whether or not the persons who were killed were guerrillas or non-combatant persons?
A The report stated that they were guerrillas.
Q That they were all guerrillas?
A Yes, that is what I remember.
Q Name all the officers that went on the Taal expedition from the 2nd Battalion.
A The expedition commander was First Lieutenant Takemoto. The others were from the Battalion Headquarters, Second Lieutenant Hagino; and from Battalion Artillery, Second Lieutenant Fukuoka. That is all I remember.

[p. 203]

Q Did Hosaka go to Taal on that expedition?
A Yes, it appeared in that order.
Q Did Kimura go?
A Yes.
Q Did Kato go?
A Yes, Kato’s name also appeared in that order.
Q And Kobayashi?
A Kobayashi did not go on the expedition, his name was not in the order, as far as I remember, he did not go.
Q Did Monma go?
A Monma went under Lieutenant Fukuoka with the battalion artillery.
Q And did Ito go?
A Yes.
Q Do you know whether or not Hagino had ever received any wounds from Filipinos in that area?
A Yes.
Q And he was pretty mad about that, wasn’t he?

MR. BERNARD: I object, he does not know how Hagino felt.

MR. GUTHRIE: He knows it just as well as —

COLONEL HAMBY: The Law Member will rule.

COLONEL POBLETE: Objection sustained.

Q Did you ever hear Hagino say anything about that incident?
A Yes.
Q What did he say?
A Hagino related to me that about the 14th or 15th of

[p. 204]

February, he went to Bauan because he had some business there. He left Bauan about nighttime and he was riding by car. Midway between Bauan and Alitagtag, the car in which he was riding was fired upon. One soldier who was with him was killed and Hagino received a wound in the leg. I saw that soldier, he was still wounded and he was brought to the hospital where he died.
Q Hagino also told you he wanted to get some revenge for that incident and to kill some Filipinos, didn’t he?
A No, he never said such a thing.
Q Hagino is a good friend of yours, isn’t he?
A I wouldn’t say that we were very good friends, but since we were in the same unit and worked together, we couldn’t help but become good friends.
Q Where was this Takemoto that you referred to in your previous testimony?
A When I last saw him, he was in good health and when I became a prisoner, I was of the belief that he was alive in good health; however, I learned just before the end of the war [that] Takemoto was killed in action and I thought it was a regrettable thing that he was killed.
Q Did you also think that it would be a good idea to put the blame for these incidents at Bauan and Taal on Takemoto because you knew he was dead?

MR. BERNARD: I object to the question because the witness has not put any blame on Takemoto.

COLONEL HAMBY: The Law member will rule.

COLONEL POBLETE: Objection sustained.

[p. 205]

Q Isn’t it a fact that after you became a prisoner of war and you knew that personally you and the other officers of the Second Battalion would be held accountable for the incidents at Bauan and Taal, that all of you together, got together and agreed to say that Takemoto was the commander of the expedition?
A No.
Q But you did get together on an agreement with these persons concerning evidence in the Fujishige case, though, didn’t you?

MR. BERNARD: Object, there is no evidence that these men got together. As a matter of fact, these men are kept apart.

MR. GUTHRIE: This is cross-examination.

COLONEL HAMBY: The Law member will rule.

COLONEL POBLETE: Objection sustained.

Q During the month of February, what area was under the jurisdiction of the Second Battalion?
(Witness left the witness stand and went to the map standing on the north wall of the courtroom.)
A It was the area including Taal up to this river here, Pansipit River. And to Lake Taal including Cuenca and a line from Mt. Macolod to Ibaan and up to the Calumpang River including Batangas. This should not include the Calumpang Peninsula because it was full of guerrillas.
Q And the Second Battalion was the only Japanese Army operating in that area during the month of February 1945?

[p. 206]

A No, there were other units.
Q What were they?
MR. GUTHRIE: I’ll withdraw that question. Let’s proceed.
Q But as far as you know, the only Japanese unit that participated in the Taal expedition and the Bauan expedition that has been testified to, was the unit from the Second Battalion?
A In the expedition to Taal, the artillery also participated. Warrant Officer Hosaka of the artillery participated in that expedition.
Q But at that time, he was attached to the unit from the Second Battalion?
A No.
Q Under whose orders was Hosaka acting at Taal?
A An order from Colonel Fujishige to Sato who was the chief of artillery, he was the artillery commander. The order was for Warrant Officer Hosaka to come under the command of Lieutenant Takemoto to participate in the expedition.
Q And was Hagino on the expedition to Bauan?
A Yes.
Q And Fukuoka?
A Yes.
Q And the same was true of Mogami?
A Yes.
Q And the same was also true of Kobayashi?
A Yes.

[p. 207]

Q Was Kato at Bauan?
A Yes.
MR. GUTHRIE: The prosecution has completed its cross-examination of this witness.


Q Were all these officers you just mentioned under the command of Lieutenant Takemoto?
A Yes.

MR. BERNARD: That is all.

MR. GUTHRIE: The prosecution has no further questions.

COLONEL HAMBY: Questions by the Commission? There appearing to be none, the witness is excused.

(Witness excused.)
Notes and references:
1 “Transcription of the Testimony of Saburo Owari in U.S.A. v Shumpei Hagino, et al.,” part of the U.S. Military Commission compilation of war crimes documentation, online at the Internet Archive.
Next Post Previous Post