Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact

This Article


By Hisae Kennedy,

Hisae Kennedy
Another “transgressor” emerges
The Asahi Shimbun has finally capitulated, conceding that Yoshida Seiji’s confession
was a hoax. The newspaper’s announcement prompted predictions that anti-Japanese,
left-wing media representatives would unearth another “transgressor,” trot him out, and
proclaim that Yoshida Seiji wasn’t the only one. It would be a mistake to laugh off such
On October 20, 2014, while in Tokyo on a fact-finding mission, I received an important
piece of information from Alfred Johnson, with whom I was traveling, with whom I was
working with.
He told me that the Asia Pacific Journal had carried an article about testimony given
by Matsumoto Masayoshi. The 92-year-old resident of Sagamihara City (Kanagawa
prefecture) is a former Christian minister who served as a medical corpsman in China
during World War II. A video of the interview has been posted to the Internet. In it
Matsumoto urges Japan to acknowledge that it violated the human rights of comfort
The author of the article is David McNeill, an Irish journalist who is a leading member
of the FCCJ (Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan). McNeill has consistently written
articles that are anti-Japanese in nature. This one begins as follows.
“If we don’t face our past, we’re bound to repeat the same mistakes.”
Japanese wartime medical orderly reports on army’s role in maintaining
“comfort women” system.
According to Matsumoto, when Japanese troops raided a village, they would capture any
women who were unable to escape, take them back to their barracks, and rape them. He
also provided descriptions of his physical examinations of the women.
Most of the article is devoted to attacks on Prime Minister Abe, his administration, Diet
representatives, Yomiuri Shimbun, Sankei Shimbun, and on those in favor of revising
or retracting the Kono Statement of 1993. As McNeill is wont to do, he brands these
entities, as well as anyone critical of the Asahi Shimbun, nationalists, ultranationalists,
and revisionists.
McNeill maintains that even though Yoshida’s confession has been discredited, there is
a great deal of evidence proving that the Japanese military “organized and managed a
system of sexual slavery.”
He adds that Matsumoto told him, “Korean women were used like public toilets, with
soldiers lining up to rape them.” When a reader commented that the video contained no
such statement, McNeill replied that Matsumoto had made comments to that effect in a
Reuters interview.
I checked the interview in question. Here is what Matsumoto said:
(S)oldiers lining up for sex would unfasten their leg wrappings and lower
their trousers so as to waste no time when their turns came. It was like they
were going to the toilet.
The IWG Report
My colleague and I suspected that the facts had been distorted in McNeill’s article,
and began to doubt the credibility of Matsumoto’s testimony. We began investigating
Matsumoto Masayoshi and David McNeill, with the assistance of Michael Yon, an
American journalist.
Michael Yon is a freelance reporter known for his war coverage. He has earned the
respect of military personnel, politicians, and media representatives. He has taken an
interest in the comfort-women controversy, which involves Japan, Korea, and the US.
Japanese readers learned about him through an article by Komori Yoshihisa, which
appeared in the November 1 edition of the Sankei Shimbun. I would like to correct some
of the errors in that article.
First of all, Michael has never been on assignment in either Korea or Singapore. His
investigation of the comfort-women controversy was conducted in the US, Thailand, and
Japan. Yon was planning to extend his inquiry to Korea and China after the Japanese
segment had been completed, but for various reasons, he canceled those plans.
Moreover, it was Alfred Johnson who visited the US National Archives, not Michael.
You must register to do research there, and Michael didn’t register because he didn’t go
there. These are minor errors, but I have taken this opportunity to point them out here,
lest they diminish the integrity of Michael’s article.
In fact, Alfred discovered a very interesting report at the US National Archives. The
report was issued by the IWG (Interagency Working Group), which, with $30,000,000
in funding and the cooperation of historians, the FBI, CIA, OSS and other organizations,
conducted a seven-year investigation (2000-2007) seeking evidence of Japanese war
crimes in connection with comfort women. This particular group was established in 1999
with the intention of scrutinizing Nazi war crimes. But in 2000 its focus shifted to Japan’s
comfort-women system. Its current full name is the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese
Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group.
Fight against anti-Japanese campaign requires American cooperation
The report came out in April 2007, at the same time the report prepared by Larry
Niksch of the CRS (Congressional Research Service), part of the Library of Congress,
was published. Niksch’s report served as the basis for US House of Representatives
Resolution 121. Ding must have wanted to use the results of the IWG investigation for
the resolution.
But contrary to the expectations of Ding and the Global Alliance for Preserving the
History of WWII in Asia, no records were found that attested to war crimes committed by
the Japanese military against comfort women. The final IWG report contained an almost
apologetic statement to that effect by Steven Garfinkel.
The spread of the comfort-women controversy to the US, and the resulting appearance of
monuments to the comfort women in that nation’s regional cities are very disturbing. We
cannot combat this anti-Japanese campaign effectively without American support.
Having lived in the US for 10 years, I have learned that the comfort-women controversy
is perceived as a historical problem in Japan, but in the US it revolves around women’s
rights and human rights.
We can hope that Americans will understand if we continue to present fact after historical
fact proving our position. But anti-Japanese activists in the US claim that it doesn’t
matter whether or not women were abducted by the Japanese military and compelled to
serve as prostitutes. They believe that no woman would voluntarily be a prostitute to a
military. Therefore, the human rights of those women were violated even if they were
well paid prostitutes.
Historical fact is certainly of the utmost importance, particularly primary resources
(records kept by people who were involved in the events in question) to the debate. The
point I wish to make here is that this controversy is not simply a matter of facts and
perceptions. It is now a geopolitical problem, complicated by emotional issues such as
women’s rights and human rights.
The Japanese are by no stretch of the imagination adept at waging information or
publicity warfare. This particular battle cannot be won unless we are conscious of the
points at issue and of cultural differences. I know of at least one case in which several
men, public figures did not pay attention to those factors. Armed only with historical fact
and righteous indignation, they stood before the camera and spoke their pieces. Their
appeal backfired because Americans perceived them as irascible; they didn’t think such
Japanese men could ever understand the emotional scars borne by women who served as
military prostitutes.
Even when we state the facts (the comfort women were prostitutes, for instance),
the listener’s impression is quite different when a man is speaking. It is important to
remember that the Chinese and Koreans have chosen the US as their battleground, not
Japan. We can’t win without American cooperation. I am so grateful for the assistance of
Michael Yon, Alfred Johnson, and many other Americans.
Interviewing Matsumoto
Let us return to Matsumoto Masayoshi.
My investigation led me to Shimbun Akahata, the organ of the JCP (Japan Communist
Party), which had carried several articles written by Matsumoto. There is more than one
anti-Japanese organization that denounces Japan, ostensibly for its record on women’s
rights and human rights. Many of their members are supporters of the JCP. For instance,
behind the comfort-women controversy that has reared its head in the US are the CCP
(Chinese Communist Party) and the aforementioned Global Alliance.
Over the years the Chinese have intensified their criticism of Japan. The Koreans
maintain that 200,000 Korean women were abducted and compelled to serve as comfort
women. The Chinese have now come out with a claim that there were 400,000 comfort
women, half of whom were Chinese. Even worse, these claims have successfully drawn
the attention of the American media. Articles about Matsumoto have been reproduced in
Korean and Chinese magazines.
Two days after I read McNeill’s article, I visited the Christian church in Sagamihara City
where Matsumoto was once pastor. Michael and Alfred had accompanied me there, but I
decided to visit the church alone.
Even though I had arrived unannounced, the current pastor invited me into the sanctuary,
and filled me in on Matsumoto and the church.
Apparently Matsumoto had been invited to speak before a variety of groups. One of them
was the Association of Returnees from China, whose members were interned by the PRC
after World War II. It is now known as Continuing the Miracle of Fushun Society.
I asked the pastor, “Was Mr. Matsumoto interned in China?”
“No, he wasn’t. The association invited him to speak, but he isn’t a member.”
“Mr. Matsumoto wrote articles for Shimbun Akahata. Is he a member of the JCP?”
“The newspaper carried his articles, but he’s not a Communist Party member.”
“I understand that he’s opposed to the emperor system.”
“That’s correct. He thinks the Emperor should have been held responsible for the war.”
Our conversation lasted nearly an hour. The pastor was kind enough to give me
contact information for Matsumoto’s daughter. Apparently she has taken charge of all
communications with her father due to his advanced age.
I telephoned her right away and requested an interview. I knew that such a sudden request
might be refused. But the daughter agreed to meet with me, a total stranger accompanied
by foreign journalists, though she did seem puzzled.
We waited for Matsumoto at the ticket gate in the train station nearest his home, as
instructed. He appeared amid a misty drizzle. He had a dauntless expression on his
face, and though he was slight in stature, his gait was steady. His lips were pressed
together tightly, as if to tell me that he would not tolerate dishonesty or injustice. Perhaps
Matsumoto wouldn’t appreciate that description, but he had the bearing of a Japanese
soldier from the World War II era.
“I’m very pleased to meet you. My name is Kennedy. I read your article in the Japan
Times and would like to ask you some questions.”
“Where did you read it?”
“In the online edition of the Japan Times. A journalist named David McNeill interviewed
“I don’t know him. What’s his name?”
“David McNeill.”
“No, it doesn’t sound familiar.”
Matsumoto was sure-footed, but seemed to be hard of hearing. He had difficulty
understanding the questions I asked on the crowded street in front of the station. I
introduced Michael and Alfred, and we decided to join him and his daughter, who had
accompanied him, in a nearby coffee shop.
We sat down at a table and began the interview. I obtained Matsumoto’s permission to
make a video recording of our conversation so we wouldn’t lose any of his important
testimony. The two Americans conducted the interview; I served as the interpreter, sitting
beside Mr. Matsumoto.
Michael began the interview on a respectful note.
“Sir, thank you for allowing us to interview you.”
He then asked Mr. Matsumoto about his time in the military.
Yoshida Seiji is a liar
Matsumoto’s memory seemed to be intact; his statements were consistent. He had served
as a medical corpsman in a unit stationed in Yu county, Shanxi province. He told us we
could find details about his unit’s movements and his years of service, pointing to an
outline of one of his lectures.
He spoke clearly and crisply, but his hearing was poor. In order to communicate I had to
move closer to him, raise my voice, and speak slowly.
I began to wonder how a foreign reporter like McNeill had managed to conduct an
interview with him. It couldn’t possibly have gone smoothly. I decided to ask questions
about the suspicions that had been gnawing at me.
“Mr. Matsumoto, did you meet with David McNeill?”
“I don’t know him.”
His response was clear and immediate. We weren’t on a crowded street anymore, but in a
quiet coffee shop. Matsumoto seemed to hear and understand my questions.
I showed him McNeill’s article, but he didn’t seem to have seen it before.
“So that’s it? I don’t remember it at all.”
His daughter broke in.
“When did that person meet my father?”
She looked worried. Matsumoto watching his daughter looking confused, broke in
laughing, and changed the subject: “This is my daughter. I depend on her for a lot of
Anti-Japanese groups have called Matsumoto the “second Yoshida Seiji.” I wondered
what he thought about that.
“Mr. Matsumoto, do you know who Yoshida Seiji is?”
As soon as I mentioned Yoshida’s name, Matsumoto’s face tightened, and he replied
angrily, “Yoshida Seiji is a liar. He lied.”
He seemed to be angry at Yoshida. Perhaps Matsumoto was angry because people might
think all testimony was false since Yoshida had been exposed as a liar. I didn’t dare ask
my next question: How do you feel about being called “the second Yoshida?”
Instead I asked, “Have you ever met Yoshida Seiji?” Matsumoto replied that no, he had
No abuse of comfort women
As a medical corpsman in a war zone, Matsumoto monitored the health of the comfort
women, and examined them.
He explained that according to the system in place at the time, women were signed up for
the Women’s Volunteer Corps, taken away, and then forced to become comfort women.
Matsumoto is mistaken on this point. It is common knowledge that the Women’s
Volunteer Corps had absolutely no connection with the comfort women. Not one case in
which a corps member was forced to become a comfort woman has been reported.
He spoke about the total number of comfort women, but we wanted to confine the
discussion to the women connected with his unit (six or seven). When we asked him to
describe them, he replied, with conviction and without hesitation, “Before they were
comfort women, they were prostitutes.”
Any reference to the comfort women as prostitutes is certain to meet with criticism, even
in Japan, and you would be risking your life to make such a statement in Korea. Chinese,
Koreans, and the left-wing media hail Matsumoto as one of the few conscientious
Japanese with the courage to expose Japan’s crimes. And here we have this same man
referring to the comfort women as prostitutes on numerous occasions, in no uncertain
Matsumoto doesn’t believe that the women turned to prostitution because they wanted to,
but because they had no choice. But when I asked him about remuneration, he said, “Yes,
I believe they were paid. I don’t know how much of the money made its way to them,
Then he told us that the comfort women had been abducted from their homes and raped,
as though he had witnessed such events.
If Japanese soldiers entered Chinese homes, took away the women and raped them,
they were certainly guilty of war crimes. Korean former comfort women have said they
were raped again and again by Japanese troops. It is understandable that, as a Christian,
Matsumoto would have considered such behavior intolerable. But was it true?
Michael asked him, “How did you examine comfort women who had been subjected to
abuse or violence?”
The answer was unexpected.
“That never happened.”
“So comfort women were not abused, then?”
“That’s correct. They did what they were told, so there was no need for soldiers to resort
to violence.”
At this point, I couldn’t help interrupting.
“According to this article, Japanese troops abused the comfort women. You’re saying that
didn’t happen?”
“The comfort women did what they were told. The soldiers didn’t need to use force.”
As he spoke, Matsumoto looked as though he thought he was stating the obvious.
Never witnessed a war crime
“Why were the comfort women so obedient?” I asked.
“They would have been killed if they disobeyed. They obeyed out of fear.”
“Did you ever witness the killing of a comfort woman who disobeyed orders?”
“Then how did you know that they would be killed if they didn’t obey?”
“I learned about that from some books I read.”
It had become obvious that Matsumoto is confusing his personal experiences with
information gleaned from books. I received a print version of one of his lectures. It
mentions a pamphlet issued by the Association of Returnees from China, and a book
entitled Visiting the Site of the Nanking Massacre by Fujiwara Akira, Hora Tomio, and
Honda Katsuichi.
“Earlier you said that Chinese women were dragged out of their homes and raped. Did
you witness anything like that?”
“You never witnessed a war crime.”
We could no longer understand why the anti-Japanese media of China and Korea, and
David McNeill, a member of the FCCJ, who holds a Ph.D. degree, would advertise
Matsumoto as a witness to Japanese war crimes.
Of course Matsumoto was in a war zone, but his only knowledge of war crimes was
obtained from books. Information acquired from books does not a witness make.
Matsumoto was aware that he was relating information that he had read. But how many
witnesses, whether they be comfort women or former Japanese soldiers, can describe
Japanese war crimes based on accurate recollections?
Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, an American psychologist, has written in great detail about the
unreliability of eyewitness memory. She has found that people tend to recall scenes they
have read about in books or seen on film as their own experiences. Memory is constantly
activated along with a variety of emotions and events. It is not like a recording, but a
Wikipedia entry that is continually revised. It is even more unreliable when events that
occurred long ago are involved.
Apparently false memories are created by dreams, hypnosis, the imagination, and false
information. Loftus examined 300 sex crimes, cases in which the alleged perpetrator was
later exonerated after DNA testing. She found that in 75% of the cases, the perpetrator
had been charged on the basis of the victim’s testimony alone.
Matsumoto often says that he views himself as a war criminal. What nags at his
conscience is his having distributed condoms to soldiers, an act that makes him feel
as though he was encouraging them to have sex. Conversely, however, the comfort
women did not contract sexually transmitted diseases because Matsumoto provided their
customers with condoms. I really wanted to reassure him ? to tell him he wasn’t guilty
of war crimes.
In any case, what we learned from Matsumoto by speaking to him directly was that
unlike the statements made in McNeill’s article, Matsumoto was not a war criminal,
nor was he a witness to war crimes. Quite the opposite ? he was sought after by local
Chinese, who would come to his unit seeking medical treatment.
One incident he remembers well was the time a Chinese family appeared and asked
Matsumoto to go to their home.
When he got there an old man, already dressed in burial clothing, was lying on his bed.
Matsumoto didn’t know whether medicine would cure him, but decided to give him
some. The family stopped him, saying, “He’s going to die anyway, so please don’t
bother.” Matsumoto recalls becoming aware of the differences between the two cultures
at that time.
Another incident he remembers occurred when a woman with a bullet wound in her side
came to him asking for treatment. Matsumoto didn’t think she’d survive, but gave her
first aid and disinfected her wound. Two months later she reappeared and announced that
the wound had healed. He was astonished by her recovery.
Guilty conscience produces exaggeration
Now I’d like to cite an excerpt from one of Matsumoto’s lectures.
What happened to my comrades? Those who remained were incorporated
into Gen. Yan Xishan’s army to fight the southward-advancing Eighth
Route Army (part of the Chinese Red Army). About 550 of them were
killed in action. Seven hundred were taken prisoner and interned at the
Taiyuan War Criminals Management Center.
A man I’ll call S, who was responsible for all our misfortunes, had
recruited Japanese soldiers to serve under Gen. Yan. As a reward, not only
did he escape war-crime charges, but he also had a great deal of power
because he was an advisor to Gen. Yan Xishan. Right before Taiyuan fell,
he fled to Japan by plane. He claimed that we, the soldiers he abandoned
in Shanxi province, had asked to be discharged from military service in
For that reason, the deaths of the men who were killed during the battle
with the Eight Route Army served absolutely no purpose. Those who
survived served their terms at the Taiyuan War Criminals Management
Center and then returned to Japan, where they were considered deserters.
Unable to resign themselves to this terrible fate, the men formed the
Association of Returnees from China and filed suit against the Japanese
government, but the judicial authorities refused to consider their case.
There was another detention center for suspected war criminals in Fushun.
That one incarcerated persons having some connection with the former
Manzhouguo (State of Manchuria). The detainees were treated humanely
by the Chinese Communist Party, and were transformed from brutes to
honorable human beings.
After they returned to Japan, they made efforts to improve relations
between Japan and China. The association was disbanded due to the
advanced age of its members. Their work was taken on by the people
who now operate the Continuing the Miracle of Fushun Society, which I
mentioned at the beginning of my lecture.
(Matsumoto stated that approximately 700 men were incarcerated at the Taiyuan War
Criminals Management Center. However, other sources give the number of detainees as
Matsumoto is clearly dissatisfied with the way repatriated soldiers were treated by the
Japanese government after World War II. It is true that GHQ policy excluded all former
members of the Japanese military from public office between 1945 and 1952. Since we
cannot ask Mr. S, the villain in Matsumoto’s account, for his testimony, we must remind
readers that they are reading only Matsumoto’s point of view.
Again, Matsumoto does not belong to Continuing the Miracle of Fushun Society, though
he has been invited to speak to the group. Since he was employed by Mitsui Mining,
he landed at Sasebo in Kyushu on March 15, 1946. He was spared the cruel fate that
awaited his comrades, and it is very likely that his feelings of guilt colored his personal
experiences to the point of exaggeration.
I don’t believe his statement about humane treatment from the CCP for a moment.
Perhaps the prisoners were given enough to eat, but the part about being transformed into
honorable men by confessing to crimes sounds suspiciously like brainwashing. I have
no intention of censuring former Japanese soldiers who were imprisoned and eventually
returned home, even if they are now denouncing Japan’s war crimes. My understanding
is that their views are the result of brainwashing they underwent in China, which still
controls their minds. I still want to thank them for serving their country and wish them a
peaceful old age.
Voices of irresponsibility
At the same time, I feel compelled to point out the folly of using former Japanese military
personnel to censure the Japanese government (currently the Abe administration).
Former Japanese soldiers who make the rounds of the public-speaking circuit revealing
their war crimes are absolutely not “conscientious Japanese,” as the Chinese and Koreans
describe them.
Former Nazi soldiers are well aware of the enormity of their crimes. They live quietly,
making every attempt to hide their Nazi pasts. Not one of these Germans goes around
giving speeches about his involvement in slaughtering Jews and demanding restitution
from the current government to the victims.
If former Japanese soldiers confessing to war crimes are what they claim to be, i.e.,
perpetrators of war crimes, then they are the ones who should be censured.
When World War II ended, more than 1,000 Japanese accused of B- or C-class war
crimes were punished, many of them executed. But now we have modern-day selfproclaimed
war criminals (who kept silent while others were being punished) demanding
apologies from the Japanese government (and Prime Minister Abe) for crimes that they
committed? Are they really not aware of their own idiocy until someone points it out?
There is no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Therefore,
those who fear that Japan will repeat past mistakes should ensure that the criminals
among former Japanese soldiers are brought before the United Nations, for instance, and
tried for their crimes. We must not lionize them. If their relatives, friends, and neighbors
are shielding them, they are breaking the law.
Otherwise, the parade of people coming forward and claiming that they killed Chinese, or
abducted comfort women, and demanding that the Japanese government apologize, will
never end.
p. 241: Matsumoto Masayoshi’s “confession” as it appeared in Shimbun Akahata
(Sunday, August 18, 2013 edition)