Manila massacre
Part of World War II
Photo of a Filipino woman and child killed by Japanese forces in Manila.
LocationManila, Philippines
Date3 February – 3 March 1945 (EDT)
Attack type
Mass murder, massacre
PerpetratorsTomoyuki Yamashita, Akira Mutō, Sanji Iwabuchi
Imperial Japanese Army
Citizens of Manila run for safety from suburbs burned by Japanese soldiers, 10 February 1945
Destruction of the Walled City (Intramuros), 1945

The Manila massacre (Filipino: Pagpatay sa Maynila or Masaker sa Maynila), also called the Rape of Manila (Filipino: Paggahasa ng Maynila), involved atrocities committed against Filipino civilians in the City of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, by Japanese troops during the Battle of Manila (3 February 1945 – 3 March 1945) which occurred during World War II. At least 100,000 civilians were killed in total during the battle from all causes including the massacre by Japanese troops.

The Manila massacre was one of several major war crimes committed by the Imperial Japanese Army, as judged by the postwar military tribunal. The Japanese commanding general, Tomoyuki Yamashita, and his chief of staff Akira Mutō, were held responsible for the massacre and other war crimes in a trial which started in October 1945. Yamashita was executed on 23 February 1946 and Mutō on 23 December 1948.[3]



The Americans who have penetrated into Manila have about 1000 troops, and there are several thousand Filipino soldiers under the Commonwealth Army and the organized guerrillas. Even women and children have become guerrillas. All people on the battlefield with the exception of Japanese military personnel, Japanese civilians, and special construction units will be put to death.

— Japanese order justifying the Manila massacre[4]

Before the battle, deciding that he would be unable to defend Manila with the forces available to him, and to preserve as large a force as possible in the rural, more defensible Sierra Madre mountain region of northern Luzon, General Tomoyuki Yamashita had insisted on a complete withdrawal of Japanese troops from Manila in January 1945. However, Yamashita's order was ignored by about 10,000 Japanese marines under Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi who chose to remain in Manila. About 4,000 Japanese army personnel were unable to leave the city due to the advance of the American and Filipino forces.[citation needed]

In the Battle of Manila from February to March 1945, the United States Army advanced into the city of Manila in order to drive the Japanese out. During lulls in the battle for control of the city, Japanese troops took their anger and frustration out on the civilians in the city. Violent mutilations, rapes, and massacres occurred in schools, hospitals and convents, including San Juan de Dios Hospital, Santa Rosa College, Santo Domingo Church, Manila Cathedral, Paco Church, St. Paul's Convent, and St. Vincent de Paul Church.[1]: 113 

Dr Antonio Gisbert told of the murder of his father and brother at the Palacio del Gobernador, saying, "I am one of those few survivors, not more than 50 in all out of more than 3000 men herded into Fort Santiago and, two days later, massacred.[1]: 110 

The Japanese forced Filipino women and children to be used as human shields into the front lines to protect Japanese positions. Those who survived were then murdered by the Japanese.[4]

Mop-up operations

The Japanese conducted mop-up operations to clear north Manila of guerrillas, executing more than 54,000 Filipinos, including children, as they passed through towns.[5]: 92 

Pregnant Filipino women were killed by disemboweling while Filipino civilians trying to flee were executed.[5]: 93 

Mass rapes

The Bayview Hotel was used as a designated "rape center".[6] According to testimony at the Yamashita war crimes trial, 400 women and girls were rounded up from Manila's wealthy Ermita district, and submitted to a selection board that picked out the 25 women who were considered most beautiful. These women and girls, many of them 12 to 14 years old, were then taken to the hotel, where Japanese enlisted men and officers took turns raping them.[7]

Despite many allied Germans holding refuge in a German club, Japanese soldiers entered in and bayoneted infants and children of mothers pleading for mercy and raped women seeking refuge. At least 20 Japanese soldiers raped a young girl before slicing her breasts off after which a Japanese soldier placed her mutilated breasts on his chest to mimic a woman while the other Japanese soldiers laughed. The Japanese then doused the young girl and two other women who were raped to death in gasoline and set them all on fire.[8]

The Japanese went on setting the entire club on fire killing many of its inhabitants. Women who were escaping out the building from the fire were caught and raped by the Japanese. 28-year-old Julia Lopez had her breasts sliced off, was raped by Japanese soldiers and had her hair set on fire. Another woman was partially decapitated after attempting to defend herself and raped by a Japanese soldier.[9]

Death toll

The combined death toll of civilians for the Battle of Manila was about 100,000, most of which was attributed to massacres by Japanese forces.[10][11][2] Some historians, citing a higher civilian casualty rate for the entire battle, suggest that 100,000 to 500,000 died as a result of the Manila massacre on its own, exclusive of other causes.[1][12][13][14][15][excessive citations]

Extensive as were the Japanese atrocities during the battle, American artillery and firepower were most responsible for the destruction of Manila's architectural and cultural heritage,[16] and, according to a Japanese estimate, caused 40 percent of the total Filipino deaths during the battle.[17]

General Yamashita's role in the massacre

General Tomoyuki Yamashita, guarded by military police, returns to his cell at the end of a day in court listening to testimony against him in the war crimes trial at Manila.

General Yamashita was convicted as a war criminal for the Manila massacre, although Admiral Iwabuchi's marines had committed the atrocities and Yamashita had earlier ordered him to evacuate Manila. Iwabuchi himself committed suicide in the face of imminent defeat near the end of the Battle of Manila. Former war-crimes prosecutor and author Allan Ryan argues that there was no evidence that Yamashita committed crimes there, ordered others to do so, was in a position to prevent them, or even suspected they were about to happen.[citation needed]

However, the problem with this argument was that Yamashita's lawyers resorted to using a chain of command technicality defense related to how the Japanese Navy were solely responsible for the massacre in Manila as a way to excuse Yamashita of committing all war crimes in the Philippines, of which there were many outside of Manila, according to the Chief of the Government Section for the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers and Chief of Civil Affairs Section, U.S. Army Forces, Pacific Ocean Area, Brigadier General Courtney Whitney. Yamashita was actually held responsible for numerous other war crimes that the prosecution claimed was a systematic campaign to torture and kill Filipino civilians and Allied POWs as shown in the Palawan Massacre of 139 U.S. POWs, wanton executions of guerrillas, soldiers, and civilians without due process like the execution of Philippine Army general Vicente Lim in December 1944, and the massacre of 25,000 civilians in Batangas Province. These crimes that were committed outside of the Manila massacre were done by the Japanese Army, not the Navy. It was argued that Yamashita was in full command of the Japanese Army's secret military police, the Kempeitai, which committed numerous war crimes on POWs and civilian internees and he simply nodded his head without protest when asked by his Kempeitai subordinates to execute people without due process or trials because there were too many prisoners to do proper trials. Philippine Army generals Lim, Simeon de Jesus, and Fidel Segundo were beheaded alongside hundreds of other people in mass graves by Army soldiers in Manila without a trial or due process on Yamashita's orders, long before Yamashita left Manila. The Japanese Navy and Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi had nothing to do with the massacres done by Yamashita's Kempeitai and regular Army soldiers that were under his chain of command. Yamashita's lawyers tried to claim, to no avail, that for all of these Army massacres that Yamashita had no responsibility whatsoever and didn't know anything.[18]

General MacArthur, five other generals, and the Supreme Court of the United States ultimately held Yamashita responsible for war crimes since he was in command of all Japanese troops in the Philippines at the time. President Harry S. Truman also agreed with the verdict and chose not to pardon Yamashita or commute his sentence.[19] Yamashita was convicted on the grounds that he made no attempt to discover or stop atrocities from being committed. This would become known as the Yamashita standard. A group of American military lawyers attempted to defend General Yamashita by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the appeal failed, 5 votes to 2. As a result, Yamashita was sentenced to death by hanging. He was hanged on 23 February 1946 in a camp south of Manila.[20] The two dissenting Supreme Court Justices called the entire trial a miscarriage of justice, an exercise in vengeance, and a denial of human rights.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Connaughton, R., Pimlott, J., and Anderson, D., 1995, The Battle for Manila, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 0891415785
  2. ^ a b Dauria, Tom (2014). Within a Presumption of Godlessness. Archway. ISBN 9781480804203. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  3. ^ "Gen. Akira Mutō". The International Military Tribunal For The Far East: Digital Collection. University of Virginia School of Law. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  4. ^ a b Perry, Mark (April 2014). The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur. Basic Books. p. 320. ISBN 9780465080670.
  5. ^ a b Werner Gruhl, 2017, Imperial Japan's World War Two: 1931–1945
  6. ^ "February 1945: The Rape of Manila |". 16 February 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  7. ^ Manila Girls Relate Horror of Mass Rape, The Milwaukee Journal, 1 November 1945
  8. ^ James M. Scott (30 October 2018). Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 230. ISBN 9780393246957.
  9. ^ James M. Scott (30 October 2018). Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 231. ISBN 9780393246957.
  10. ^ Stich, Rodney (2010). Japanese and U.S. World War II Plunder and Intrigue. Silverpeak Enterprises. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-932438-70-6. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  11. ^ "Battle of Manila". Battle of Manila. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  12. ^ White, Matthew. "Death Tolls for the Man-made Megadeaths of the 20th Century". Retrieved 1 August 2007.
  13. ^ Khalifa, Hodieb (22 November 2013). Nein. American Book Publishing. ISBN 9781938759185. Retrieved 17 November 2016.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ At least 4 of the 5 cited sources do not mention a figure > 100,000.
  15. ^ Brines, Russell, "Sixty Priests, Women, Children Massacred by Japs in College," Evening Star, Washington DC, 19 February 1945, Page A-6 [1]
  16. ^ "Manila 1945, the Destruction of the Pearl of the Orient: A Review of Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila". The National WWII Museum. 18 October 2019. Retrieved 30 January 2022.
  17. ^ Nakato, Satoshi. "The Death of Manila in World War II and Postwar Commemoration". Research Gate. Senior Council of Japan. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  18. ^ . Retrieved 10 February 2023
  19. ^ a b Ryan, Allan A. (October 2012). Yamashita's Ghost – War Crimes, MacArthur's Justice, and Command Accountability. Lawrence, KS, USA: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1881-1.
  20. ^ Last Words of the Tiger of Malaya, General Yamashita Tomoyuki, The Asia-Pacific Journal Japan Focus


Further reading

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