On January 23, 1942, the Parit Sulong Massacre was committed against Allied soldiers by members of the Imperial Guards Division of the Imperial Japanese Army. A few days earlier, the Allied troops had ambushed the Japanese near Gemas and blown up a bridge there.
During the Battle of Muar, members of both the Australian 8th Division and the 45th Indian Infantry Brigade were making a fighting withdrawal when they became surrounded near the bridge at Parit Sulong. The Allies fought the larger Japanese forces for two days until they ran low on ammunition and food. Able-bodied soldiers were ordered to disperse into the jungle, the only way they could return to Allied lines. Approximately 150 Australians and Indians were too badly injured to move, and their only option was surrender. Some accounts estimate that as many as 300 Allied troops were taken prisoner at Parit Sulong.
The wounded prisoners of war were kicked and beaten with rifle butts by the Imperial Guards. At least some were tied up with wire in the middle of the road, machine-gunned, had petrol poured over them, were set alight and (in the words of Russell Braddon) were "after their incineration — [were] systematically run over, back and forwards, by Japanese driven trucks." Anecdotal accounts by local people also reported POWs being tied together with wire and forced to stand on a bridge, before a Japanese soldier shot one, causing the rest to fall into the Simpang Kiri river and drown.
The massacre's aftermath
Lt Ben Hackney of the Australian 2/19th Battalion feigned death and managed to escape. He crawled through the countryside for six weeks with two broken legs, before he was recaptured. Hackney survived internment in Japanese POW camps, and was part of the labour force on the notorious Burma Railway. He and two other survivors gave evidence regarding the massacre to Allied war crimes investigators.
The commander of the Imperial Guards, Lt Gen. Takuma Nishimura, was later in charge of occupation forces in eastern Singapore. He was indirectly involved in the Sook Ching massacre in Singapore. Nishimura retired from the Japanese army in 1942 and was made military Governor of Sumatra. Following the war, he was tried by a British military court in relation to the Sook Ching massacre. Nishimura received a life sentence, of which he served four years. As he returned to Japan, Nishimura was removed from a ship at Hong Kong, by Australian military police and charged in relation to the Parit Sulong massacre. Nishimura was taken to Manus Island in the Territory of New Guinea, where he faced an Australian military court. Evidence was presented stating that Nishimura had ordered the shootings at Parit Sulong and the destruction of bodies. He was convicted and executed by hanging on June 11, 1951.
In 1996, Australian journalist Ian Ward published Snaring the Other Tiger, which suggested that the Australian Army prosecutor, Captain James Godwin — a former Royal New Zealand Air Force pilot who had been ill-treated as a POW in Sumatra — had "manipulated" evidence to implicate Nishimura. Ward states that Godwin took no action on the testimony of Lieutenant Fujita Seizaburo, who reportedly took responsibility for the Parit Sulong massacre. Fujita was not charged and his fate is unknown.
- Lynette Silver, 2004, The Bridge at Parit Sulong – An Investigation of Mass Murder, The Watermark Press, Boorowa. ISBN 0-949284-65-3.
- Russell Braddon, 1951, The Naked Island, Penguin Books, Melbourne,
- Lionel Wigmore, 1957, The Japanese Thrust – Australia in the War of 1939-1945, AWM, Canberra.
- Iain Findlay, 1991, Savage Jungle – An Epic Struggle for Survival, Simon & Schuster, Sydney.
- Gilbert Mant, 1996, Massacre at Parit Sulong, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst.
- Russell Braddon, 1951, The Naked Island, Penguin Books, Melbourne, p. 101.
- Tony Stephens, "The killing field at The Bridge" (Sydney Morning Herald, September 13, 2004). Access date: February 16, 2007.
- Ian Ward, Snaring the Other Tiger (Media Masters Publishers, Singapore, 1996); Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, "Godwin, James Gowing 1923 - 1995". Access date: February 16, 2007