Teaching soldiers to murder defenseless prisoners is horrifyingly easy

Now 88, Ichiro Koyama served as a Japanese army soldier in Jinan, China during Japan’s World War II occupation of China, beginning when he was just 20. He tells his story hoping younger generations will avoid his generation’s mistakes. His story makes sickeningly clear how willingly most of us — men at least — will join in even as those around us murder countless defenseless prisoners:

One day, Koyama saw seven or eight Chinese men from a village in Zaozhuang, Shandong Province, blindfolded and tied to trees. They were being punished because they would not reveal the location of the Chinese Red Army. Seasoned soldiers ordered the green recruits to execute them for not cooperating.

“I was scared to kill a man at first,” Koyama said. “I felt much guiltier killing someone with a bayonet than with a pistol from 100 meters away.”

With his comrades, he tried to pierce a man’s heart, but was unable to because the victim kept squirming to avoid being stabbed.

Koyama eventually bayoneted the man in the stomach and shoulders. After his first killing, he said he was unable to eat. But eventually he started training new recruits to also execute their prisoners, justifying his actions by arguing he had no choice because it was war.

“It was hell,” he said. “I still cannot forget their blood spraying.”

Koyama said the new recruits, by this process, also got used to killing.

Posted by James on Thursday, April 09, 2009