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Kempeitai: Ruthless Policemen of the Rising Sun

NCJ Number
Police Journal Volume: 67 Issue: 2 Dated: (April-June 1994) Pages: 163-167
R Lamont-Brown
Date Published
5 pages
This article presents the history and characteristics of the Kempeitai -- Japan's secret police and counter- espionage service -- before, during, and immediately after World War II.
The Kempeitai used cruelly repressive tactics to control the militarily occupied territories of Japan's World War II empire. Through horror tactics, the Kempeitai and their willing ethnic collaborators from Manchuria to Singapore imposed submissiveness on reluctant nations and used ruthless brutality to break the will and spirit of those who did not submit to the Japanese regime. Forming a part of the Imperial Nipponese Army, the Kempeitai were soldiers who acted as armed military and security policemen, but with a high degree of independence. This article describes the recruitment and training of the Kempeitai, its organization, and its philosophy of superiority. A case study of a "typical" officer of the Kempeitai is presented from the case notes of Shusa (Lt. Col.) Haruzo Sumida (1903- 46). He played a key role in the repression of occupied nations. He worked out of Kempeitai headquarters in Singapore, the main torture and interrogation building. At his war-crimes trial after Japan's surrender, the President of the War Crimes Trial said to him, "You were prepared, for the glorification (as you thought) of your country, to reduce men and women below the level of beasts and send them without pity or compunction to an agonizing death." Like Sumida, many of the Kempeitai were hung as war criminals. Some committed suicide, but others escaped retribution and went on to enter senior positions in Japanese society.


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