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Massacred at Laha
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A piece of signal wire was
taken from the wrist bones of an Australian body found buried in a mass grave at Ambon.
[AWM REL/20480.001]

Fall of Ambon
Massacred at Laha ...
photo
A working party of Japanese POWs excavates
Australian and Dutch remains from a mass grave
at Tawiri, Ambon, under the direction of the
Australian War Graves Maintenance Unit,
December 1945.
[AWM 03038.06]

In May 1942, Brigadier A R Allen, 3rd Infantry Brigade, was appointed President of a Court of Inquiry held in Melbourne in order to 'report and inquire on the facts and conditions associated with the landing, of Japanese forces and events subsequent ... in New Britain, Timor and Ambon.

Through interviews with men who had escaped and returned to Australia, the Court discovered that the men in Gull Force had separated into two groups on the north and the south sides of the bay. The two forces were only able to communicate by boat and after the Japanese landing they operated quite independently. They had no air support after 7 January.   The only survivors were from the Amboina side of the island and none of the witnesses were able to give any evidence about the men in the two companies on the north side in the vicinity of Laha airfield.

The Court concluded that although nothing definite was known about the troops in the Laha area,

there was no evidence of any acts of terrorism or brutality practised by the Japanese against Australian troops, nor of any breaches of international law or rules of warfare committed by Japanese forces.

[Clause (g) in the Report of the Court of Inquiry Report. AWM 54 Item 229/1/7 Part 1]

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document
Summary of Japanese massacres of Australian POWs in Ambon
6-20 February 1942.
[NAA A 705/15 Item 166/43/989]

Three years later when Australian troops reoccupied Ambon in September 1945, they discovered mass graves containing Australian bodies. Indonesian and Japanese witnesses supplied some details of their massacre. About 300 of those men who surrendered at Laha airfield on Ambon were killed in four separate massacres around the airfield. They were bayoneted, clubbed to death or beheaded. Not one of them survived.

Four Japanese servicemen were executed for war crimes committed on Ambon. Commander Hatakeyama Kunito, the officer who commanded the execution parties, was convicted and hanged but Rear Admiral Hatakeyama Koichiro, who ordered the massacre, died before his trial.

 

 

Australia at war 3 September 1939
Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941
Greece and Crete April-May 1941
Syria and Lebanon June 1941
Malaya December 1941 to Moresby May 1942
Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945
Australia at war 3 September 1939
Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941
Greece and Crete April-May 1941
Syria and Lebanon June 1941
Malaya December 1941 to Moresby May 1942
Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945
This piece of signal wire was taken from the wrist bones of an Australian body found buried in a mass grave at Ambon. His captors had used the wire to bind the prisoner's hands behind his back.
[AWM REL/20480.001]