Great Raid, The - REASONS TO FEAR

This image depicts part of the "Kill All" policy—an intercepted Japanese message which caused Allied military officials grave concerns about the well-being of war prisoners. The policy allowed commandants of POW camps to decide whether to execute their prisoners of war. The document was admitted into evidence—as Exhibit 2015—during the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. Image online via the U.S. National Archives.


At Tokyo War Crimes Trial, the two-page document known as the “Kill-All Policy” (Exhibit 2015) was admitted by the court into evidence on 9 January 1947. Its English translation, in pertinent part, is as follows:

The time and method of this disposition are as follows:

• The Time.

Although the basic aim is to act under superior orders individual disposition [decisions by local prison-camp commandants] may be made in the following circumstances.

(a) When an uprising of large numbers [of POWs] cannot be suppressed without the use of firearms.

(b) When escapees from the camp may turn into a hostile fighting force.

• 2. The Methods.

(a) Whether they [the POWs] are destroyed individually or in groups or however it is done, with mass bombing, poisonous smoke, poisons, drowning, decapitation, or what, dispose of them as the situation dictates.

(b) In any case it is the aim not to allow the escape of a single one, to annihilate them all, and not to leave any traces.

Beyond such a policy (where local commandants could decide whether to execute Allied prisoners of war), photographs taken by liberating troops (or captured from defeated soldiers) reveal other atrocities.

Beheading prisoners, bayoneting Filipinos and their families, and torturing people (including women) were part of the occupiers’ wartime strategy of fear and intimidation:

One hundred fifty Cabanatuan prisoners, serving as slave laborers, were transferred to the Puerto Princesa prison camp on Palawan Island. For 2½ years they worked to build an air strip.

On 14 December 1944, after Americans landed on Mindoro (the next large island north of Palawan) - and two days before other American forces, fighting in Europe, were surprised by a major German offensive known as "Battle of the Bulge" - Japanese commanders at the Palawan prison camp decided to brutally execute all the prisoners.  Eleven escaped.

On 7 January 1945, Private First-Class Eugene Nielsen (one of the eleven escapees) briefed an Army intelligence officer on the massacre. Horrified, the officer heard the gruesome story:

Hundreds of men died after they were forced into subterranean air-raid trenches, doused with gasoline and torched while still alive.

Most of those who escaped the incineration were shot or bayoneted. Nielsen, after jumping from the pit, hiding in garbage and dodging bullets aimed at him, swam nearly nine hours to safety.

To prevent another Palawan Massacre, elite Allied forces (Alamo Scouts and members of the 6th Ranger Battalion) cooperated with local Filipinos to undertake World War II’s most daring prisoner-of-war rescue: “The Great Raid.”

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Aug 01, 2005

Updated Last Revision: Jul 07, 2019

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"REASONS TO FEAR" AwesomeStories.com. Aug 01, 2005. Feb 29, 2020.
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