The Akikaze Atrocity

The Japanese destroyer Akikaze 'Autumn Wind' - nearly 60 civilians were killed on board on 18th March 1943.

The Japanese destroyer Akikaze ‘Autumn Wind’
– nearly 60 civilians were killed on board on 18th March 1943.

On 18 March the Japanese destroyer Akikaze, commanded by Lt. Cdr. Sabe Tsurukichi, was responsible for moving a number of European and Malay nationals off some of the New Guineas islands in the Bismarck Sea.

The ship evacuated the Roman Catholic mission from Kairiru Island, including Bishop Joseph Loerks and 38 missionaries, mostly German nationals, amongst them 18 nuns. The vessel then picked up 20 others from Manus Island, again mostly Germans, including six missionaries from the Liebenzell Evangelical Mission. Accounts vary but there was at least one, possibly three, young children amongst the group of almost 60 people detained. They were told that they were to be carried to internment in Rabaul.

One reason given for the following events is that the Japanese suspected that some within the group were spying for the Allies and passing information by radio about shipping movements. It is not clear to what extent the people were interrogated and tortured. What did happen to them only became apparent from a witness on the ship who made a statement after the war:

Each internee passed beneath the forward bridge on the starboard side and came upon two waiting escorts. Here they were blindfolded with a white cloth and supported by each arm. By this time the interrogation of the second person was begun. Meanwhile, beneath the bridge of the quarter-deck on the starboard side, both wrists of the first person were firmly tied and he was again escorted to the execution platform.

On the execution platform, they were faced toward the bow, suspended by their hands by means of a hook attached to a pulley, and at the order of the commander, executed by machine gun and rifle fire. After the completion of the execution the suspension rope was slackened and it had been so planned that when the rope binding the hands was cut, the body would fall backwards off the stern due to the speed of the ship.

Moreover, boards were laid and straw mats spread to keep the ship from becoming stained . . . . Thus, in this way, first the men and then the women were executed. The child going on toward five years old was thrown alive into the ocean.

“As there were U.S. nationals among the victims, the Australian War Crimes Section in Tokyo, having completed its investigation, on 18 July 1947 handed the matter over to the American authorities, who appear to have taken no further action.”

See AAV, MP742/1, 336/1/1444 D.C.S.Sissons The Australian War Crimes Trials And Investigations (1942-51). Also National Archives of Australia: War crimes, DP “Akikaze” Kairuru and Iceland. 1945-1947, Item Code: 635403rd.

The Akikaze was sunk with all hands by torpedoes from the submarine USS Pintado on 3rd November 1944, which may account for the difficulty in pursuing the investigation, although at that time her commander was Lieutenant Commander Yamazaki.

The USS triton is believed to have been sunk by depth charges from the Akikaze on the 14th March 1943.

The USS Triton is believed to have been sunk by depth charges from the Akikaze on the 14th March 1943.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Phillips July 28, 2018 at 3:18 am

to this day I believe we should have nuked all of Japan . . . the murderers of untold millions of Chinese… perhaps 40 million . . . impossible to document . . . and made that hell hole of a place permanently uninhabitable. every German should have been killed for complicity with Hitler. To this day the Germans feel thety are superior to all people. Murderers of tens of millions. and the civilians all knew what was going and and loved it. Should jhave wiped them all out.

Spencer Ross de Vere July 9, 2018 at 11:53 am

I recall seeing one of the movies made about the WW2 naval war in the Pacific – perhaps, Run Silent, Run Deep – a central plot element is the mystery surrounding the destruction of several US submarines in a particular area of the Pacific, by a Japanese ship they refer to as “the Akikaze”. I had the impression from that film that “the Akikaze” referred to a particular class of Jap destroyer.

Brian Schmidt March 19, 2018 at 3:48 am

There was a weird hesitation to fully pursue Japanese war crimes after WWII. I understand (don’t condone) the incentives on the official US government level to not rock the boat in occupied Japan immediately after the war, but I’d have thought there would be immense pressure from survivors and relatives to go after more war criminals than actually were prosecuted.

Love WW2today, by the way, have been following it for many years.

Charles Kimberl March 18, 2018 at 10:28 pm

I was born prior to the end of WW II and served in the Marines in the sixties. My father was a U.S. Naval aviator flying PBY’s off Japan during the war. Between the stories, he relayed to me and my service in the Orient has had a very detrimental impact on my thinking of the Japanese. Their continued whaling, for example, is a today issue that bothers me greatly. I am forced to think the Japanese were the most brutal and inhumane people witnessed in any war.

Lisa April 17, 2015 at 5:16 am

My maternal grandfather was executed on the Akikaze, March 18, 1943….we did not learn of his fate until July, 2012….

Lisa April 17, 2015 at 5:14 am

My maternal grandfather was one executed on the Akikaze, March 18, 1943. We did not learn of his fate until July, 2012….

Steve March 20, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Surely this incident would have had a major impact on German – Japanese relations if it had become known at the time.

Scott March 18, 2014 at 4:10 pm

@James Edward
Your belief in the supernatural is totally, 100% unjustified by the events of World War II. You have to ask yourself, “What would events have looked like, if there was no god??” And certainly, that is how they turned out.
The fact that the First Council of Nicaea, which decided what stories were in the Bible and what stories were not, had ZERO knowledge of molecules, electrons, ions (sodium and calcium, essential for -your- memory) phosphorylation (what YOU are doing hundreds of times, in order to read this) ATP (what you need to stay alive)… heck, the wisest men of the day had ZERO IDEA that the brain was used for thinking… those facts point to unalterable facts: there is no god or afterlife.

Robert Tame March 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm

My Dad was in the RAMC and was posted to Burma after the war, to oversee the POWs returning from the camps.

A POW came up to him and called him by his first name, my dad did not recognise him – it turned out it was his cousin (who died a year later as a consequence of his ill treatment by the Japanese).

It has nothing to do with the above but some one might find it interesting: My Dad hated everything Japanese to the day he died.

Editor March 19, 2013 at 3:17 pm


Does anyone know? I tried searching various places on the internet with no luck. Perhaps there may be something in the Australian Archives, presumably they would have spent some time looking for him..


You are probably right.


James Edwards March 19, 2013 at 2:42 am

In books three and four of my five-book series, WHAT IS GOD’S GREAT PLAN? I chronicle much of WWII, and why God gave victory to America, to the West, and to His Christian and Jewish children (the victors of WWII). Not all of the atrocities committed by the God-less, confused people of Japan (deifying an Emperor they believed came from the Sun!) were even recorded. The miracle of victory over Hitler and Japan was the result of their governments sanctioning the wanton killing of innocent victims, and, had THEY been victorious, the WORLD would have run RIVERS of blood as Satanic powers would have ruled, and millions upon millions would have perished.

Al March 18, 2013 at 11:55 pm

And what became of the Akikaze’s commander, Lieutenant Commander Yamazaki? Did he survive the war? If so, what became of him?

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