Ambon

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Ambon, Indonesia was the site of a massacre of Australian prisoners, conducted by Japanese soldiers during World War 2. Following the surrender of the poorly-supplied and -supported Allied forces in 1942, some 300 Australian and Dutch servicemen were selected at random and killed near Laha airfield, in four separate massacres between 6 and 20 February 1942. This was apparently in revenge for the sinking on a Japanese minesweeper of 1 or 2 February.

Interestingly, a Court of Inquiry convened in Melbourne May 1942, to investigate the fall of Ambon found, amongst other things: "there was no evidence of any acts of terrorism or brutality practiced by the Japanese against Australian troops, nor of any breaches of international law or rules of warfare committed by Japanese forces."[1]. It was not until Australian forces re-occupied the area that the truth came to light.

The prisoners on Ambon and Hainan were subjected to some of the most brutal treatment experienced by POWs anywhere during World War II. Over three-quarters of the Australian prisoners there died in captivity.[2]

The perpetrators of the atrocities were tried and convicted in one of the largest post-war war crimes trials. A total of 93 Japanese personnel were put on trial for war crimes by an Australian military tribunal, which was convened at Ambon.

The man who actually ordered the massacre, Rear Admiral Hatakeyama died before standing trial, but the camp commander, Kunito Hatakeyama, who oversaw the massacres, was sentenced to death by hanging. In addition, Lieutenant Kenichi Nakagawa was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and three other Japanese officers were executed for mistreatment of POWs or civilians during the occupation[3][4]

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