LOS NEGROS, Friday.
Between eight and ten uniden- tified Australian prisoners of war were shot in the back when they were executed by a Japan- ese firing squad at Gasmata, New Britain, in March, 1942.
This was alleged in sworn evidence tendered by the prose- cution at the War Crimes trials here to-day.
In the dock, charged with murder was Norio Kondo, "form- er ensign attached to No. 2 Japanese special naval landing party.
According to evidence, Kondo sat in a chair on the beach near Gasmata while he gave the order to a firing squad drawn up be- hind the blindfolded men to fire.
This evidence was contradict- ed by other Japanese present at the execution, who have sworn that the prisoners were facing the firing squad.
It was also contradicted in a sworn statement by Kondo, who says the execution was carried out against his will on the ord- ers of the officer commanding an air unit then stationed at Gas-
According to the prosecution, however, the prisoners of war were led up on the beach facing the sea. Kondo gave the order to fire, and the bodies, under Kondo's supervision, were then loaded on a barge and taken to sea for burial. They were later washed ashore and buried on
One of Kondo's subordinates, First Class Seaman Kasuyoshi Nakamura, said that the firing party was taken from young men about 21 and 22 years of aere, "perhaps to give them ex- perience."
He added: "It was, maybe, that I was not chosen because I had had combat .-experience on Hainan Island and Shanghai."
Other Japanese witnesses have suggested in sworn evi- dence that the prisoners were shot because of the shortage of food in the area, at the time.
Leading Seaman Kitano Kita- mura said that in March, 1942,
the communications of the gar- rison with headquarters' in Ra
baul had broken down, and the food situation became dangerous.
Not long after this they heard that the "Caucasian" prisoners ' were to be executed.
He adds: "Some of us went to see the execution. When we arrived, eight or nine prisoners were lined up on the shore, their backs to the land, with the fir- ing party about 30 metres away.
There were two shooters to each 'Caucasian'.
Kitamura and his friends, ac- cording to his statement, were not allowed to witness the exe- cution, but before he left the
execution place he noticed Kondo sitting in a chair behind the fir- ing squad.
Five days after the execution a ship came from Rabaul, bring-
ing food and provisions, and "we all thought what bad luck it was for that particular batch of prisoners to have been executed, owing to the lack of food."
Harukichi Ichonse said, in his statement, that the prisoners had been told they were being trans- shipped to Rabaul and had no
idea they were to be executed.
Kondon said, in his statement, that "I did not have the heart to allow the prisoners to be
executed," but added that he constantly was asked to shoot them by the commanding officer
of the air unit at Gasmata.
When he refused, the air of- ficer prevailed upon Warrant
Officer Ichimura to carry out the execution. Ichimura called
out air unit maintenance crews and had the prisoners shot.