Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Records of the Former Japanese Army concerning the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Records of the Former Japanese Army concerning the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines

Article excerpt

The primary problem any researcher is going to encounter in conducting research on the Japanese occupation of the Philippines is the lack and/or inaccessibility of the records of the former Japanese army. This is mainly due to the fact that many of these records were destroyed intentionally by the Japanese military towards the end of the War and right after the War. However, even the surviving materials, most of which have been preserved at the Military Archives of the National Institute for Defense Studies, the National Defense Agency of Japan (Boeicho Boei Kenkyujo Toshokan), located at Meguro, Tokyo, are not effectively utilized by researchers.(1)

It is well-known that the Military Archives has an enormous collection of documents on military history, but only a few researchers are aware of its contents. The collection is open to the general public in principle, yet its accessibility is limited due to lack of adequate finding materials. There is no comprehensive bibliography or check list available to the public. Therefore, those who wish to avail themselves of the collection have to go through card catalogues placed in the reading room.(2) There are no catalogues or other finding materials in English.

A General View of the Records of the Former Japanese Army

The records of the former Japanese army concerning the Japanese occupation of the Philippines are those documents which were written in preparation for, and during the course of, Japanese military operation in the Philippines, and the subsequent occupation of the country, between 1941 to 1945. They concern various bureaus, headquarters and units of the Japanese army, and consist of correspondence, orders, notifications, proclamations, reports, regulations, diaries etc., issued or received by the War Ministry (Rikugun sho), the General Staff Headquarters (Sanbo honbu), the 14th and the 35th Armies (Dai juyon gun, Dai sanjugo gun)(3) and other relevant units and headquarters, including the Military Administration (Gunsei kanbu) and the Military Police (Kenpeitai).

The bulk of the military history collection of the Military Archives consists of routine materials concerning military operations such as field diaries (Jinchu nisshi) and detailed reports of the course of the battle (Sento shoho). Materials which throw light on the Japanese military administration of the Philippines are relatively few.

The military history collection of the Military Archives is only a very small part of all the records produced by the Japanese army. Numerous files are entirely absent and many existing files are incomplete. When Japan surrendered in August 1945, the Japanese army burnt practically all the important documents in order to prevent the Allied Forces from obtaining them. According to a publication of the National Institute for Defense Studies, there was continuous fire and smoke for several days at Ichigaya-dai where the General Staff Headquarters of the Japanese Army was located at the time.(4) Furthermore, the overseas units also burnt their documents. It was the general rule of the Japanese army to burn all the documents in their possession when they were no longer able to take responsibility for them, as is the case with all armies.(5)

Although this rule seems to have been observed faithfully in general, some documents somehow escaped flames and finally found their way to the stacks of the Military Archives of the National Institute for Defense Studies in Tokyo.

History and Significance of the Records of the Former Japanese Army

Both Japanese and Americans have taken an interest, and found significance, in the former Japanese army records, although in a different sense and out of diverse motivations. The shift of the significance and interest attached to the records may be explained by dividing the process into three stages.

The First Stage

The first stage covers the period from 1945 to 1955. This period is characterized by the seizure of the Japanese army records by the United States government. …

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