In Memorium 63 years ago today
Posted by: Don Kehn, Jr.
Date: September 21, 2009 10:27AM
On this date in 1946 the first of seven mass graves were opened near the airfield at Kendari II, Celebes. Among some sixty bodies recovered were men from the merchant vessel MODJOKERTO, sunk 1 March, 1942 south of Java by units of the Imperial Navy's "Kido Butai"---The men were rescued by a destroyer of Destroyer Squadron One, screening this force, & returned to the main body of "Kido Butai" around dark, just after the chase and sinking of the American destroyer USS EDSALL (DD-219).
The American captives were picked up by Japanese cruisers.
After the IJN ships returned to Staring Bay at Kendari, these men were all disembarked into the charge of the Tokubetsu Rikusentai (SNLF) forces there, and held in the town itself until March 24. On that day they were brought in two trucks out to an area close to kampong Amoito, nearby the field, and sequestered under a tent for several hours. Some were blindfolded and bound. In the late afternoon these men ("about 35") were taken to a more remote location (near the water reservoir) and all executed by decapitation.
The bodies of the men of MODJOKERTO and those of EDSALL were found together, beginning on Sept. 21, 1946, in two mass-graves containing some 34 bodies.
The American remains were taken to Barrackpore, India for ID, and later returned to U.S. cemetaries in the Midwest and Honolulu. The crew (Dutch, Malay, & Chinese) of the Rotterdamsche-Lloyd merchant ship MODJOKERTO were interred at Makassar until about 1968 when they were removed and re-interred in war cemetaries at Batavia (Djakarta) and Surabaja.
No war crimes trials were ever pursued for these murders, although the killings of EDSALL's personnel probably constituted the largest number from a single American warship ever executed together during the war. No evidence has yet surfaced for the reasons behind these executions. There were many other bodies of various nationalities exhumed at Kendari, Celebes, and a number of warcrimes trials later held for killings of USN aviation crews captured & executed in the final year of WWII.