WASHINGTON - U.S. trials of Class B and C war criminals in the Pacific began on Guam before the end of World War II, according to a declassified U.S. document.
The U.S. Navy began the trials of islanders employed by the Imperial Japanese Army as well as Japanese immigrants to Guam in February 1945. They began under a decree issued in August 1944 by Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, shortly after the capture of Guam.
A trial that began in October 1945 in Manila of Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, who commanded Japanese troops in the Philippines, was previously believed to have been the first war-crimes trial in the Pacific area.
The U.S. Navy document on the Guam trials was found by Kanto Gakuin University professor Hirofumi Hayashi at the U.S. National Archives in College Park, Md. Hayashi is also a senior member of the Center for Research and Documentation on Japan’s War Responsibility in Tokyo.
Before the Yamashita trial began shortly after the end of World War II in August 1945, the U.S. Navy indicted 13 Chamorro inhabitants — 11 from Saipan and two from Rota — and eight Japanese immigrants in the Guam trials.
The U.S. Navy charged no Japanese soldiers during the war, given the possibility of retaliatory harm to American prisoners of war held by the Japanese.
The indicted Chamorro inhabitants were taken by the Imperial Japanese Army from Saipan and Rota to Guam, where they served as policemen and translators.
In one case, a policeman from Saipan was indicted for torturing a person to death during an investigation. He initially faced the death penalty but his sentence was reduced to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Among the Japanese immigrants brought to the Guam trials, one person was sentenced to death for forcing local women into prostitution for Japanese military officers.