Korean Guard Kaneyama Yoshio

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The Korean Guard Kaneyama Yoshio was accused of abusing prisoners of war at Kilo 80 and Kilo 100 Camps from January 1943 to December of that year. These were camps that were involved in the construction of the Burma-Thailand Railway. Kaneyama had spent much of June and July of that year in the hospital himself with “jungle ulcers” and then had two weeks of rest following his discharge. Like many of the POW camp guards, his actual name was unknown to many or most of the POWs, and instead he was known simply by his nickname, as in the case of “The Mongrel” at the Hellfire Pass camps. Kaneyama Yoshio was known as “Pockface” because of his disfiguring pockmarks that he indicated in testimony came from smallpox when he was a child.

Much of his defense was concerned with calling into question his identification as the “Pockface” that had abused prisoners of war. His defense tried to create the possibility that Kaneyama Yoshio had been misidentified by the prisoners by noting that another guard, also pockmarked and of similar age, height and weight to Kaneyama, had also served at the Kilo 80 Camp, and Kaneyama inferred, although did not witness, that this man also served at Kilo 100 Camp. He was known to Kaneyama only as Kanamura. The defense also produced witnesses to testify to the existence of this second man. The first, who only recalling the other pockmarked man’s name began with a “Kana . . . ,” testified to his appearance and its closeness to Kaneyama’s own. Tadashi, the witness, denied ever seeing either guard harm a prisoner, and further testifying that he did not believe Kaneyama would do such a thing. A second witness, Wakematsu, also testified to their similar appearance.

The prosecution tried to build its case against Kaneyama by placing him at the locations which POWs had earlier testified he had been, and trying to exclude the possibility that the other pockmarked Korean guard was there. In some cases, Kaneyama simply denied that either he was where the POWs’ testimony placed him, or at least once denied that a POW could possibly have known where he was since none accompanied him (on the train when he was leaving Kilo 100 camp, it seems, but remains a bit unclear).

Kaneyama categorically denied ever beating any POW prisoner, even when the prosecution tried to take a sympathetic tone by noting how busy the guards must have been, noting that there were at least 50 prisoner per guard. However, Kaneyama’s denial was weakened somewhat by an earlier sworn statement that he had made in which he said that on occasions he had struck POWs. The defense sought to weaken it by pointing out it had been given before he had been charged and presumably without counsel. Ultimately, the “other man” argument and denials did not manage to convince the court, and Korean Guard Kaneyama Yoshio was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison for crimes of war.

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