Mutsuhiro Watanabe was an Imperial Japanese Army corporal in the Second World War who served at POW (prisoners of war) camps in Omori, Naoetsu (now Jōetsu), Niigata, Mitsushima (now Hiraoka) as well as at Civilian POW Camp at Yamakita. He was later classified as a war criminal by the US Occupation authorities for his mistreatment of POWs; however he was never prosecuted. Known to his relatives as "Mu-cchan" and as the “Bird” to everyone else, Watanabe was regarded as the most cold-blooded guard of the Japanese army. His cruelty was portrayed by many authors and film makers in their projects. He became the subject of the Angelina Jolie-directed flick ‘Unbroken’, in which his character was portrayed by Japanese singer/actor Miyavi. During his early years the Japanese Army corporal had been a spoilt kid hailing from a wealthy family. He had unlimited money and a beautiful house with a big swimming pool. He also had an adoring mother and several siblings.
Career in the Japanese Army
Watanabe initially worked for the Japanese news agency, Domei. At the age of 27, he settled at the Tokyo Headquarters Camp. His mistreatment of the Allied officials while they were prisoners of war (POWs) may have stemmed from his hatred of officials in general. The “Bird” couldn’t be one of them, so he decided to make their lives as miserable as possible.
Watanabe’s favorite punishments included ordering some men to punch their officials in the head. It is said that he once made one man sit in a shack, donning only a fundoshi undergarment, for almost four days in winter. Also, he once gave a sixty-three-year-old POW, David James, a humiliating punishment. He would beat him and force him to be in front of his office for days and nights, saluting the tree in front of the door. After the war was over, Watanabe was placed on #23 on the “most-wanted war criminals” list. However, he hid himself and never faced a trial.
In the year 1952, all charges against Watanabe were dropped. Later on, he went on to become an insurance salesman and ultimately grew wealthy.
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Personal Life & Death
Mutsuhiro Watanabe was born on 1 January 1918 in Japan. He had five siblings, including his eldest sister Michiko. Son of an adoring mother Shizuka, he studied French literature at the Waseda University. Watanabe belonged to a wealthy family and owned a big house with a swimming pool. He had varied interests in an assortment of activities.
The Imperial Japanese Army corporal was passionate about the field of insurance. He was also a fair hand at farming and respected the occupation very much. However, his main passion was his family. According to Watanabe, he risked his life to ensure that his family knew that he was in good health and alive. Watanabe died on 1 April 2003.