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"Kempei: The Japanese Military Police" from Intelligence Bulletin, June 1945

[June 1945 Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following intelligence report on the Kempei (Japanese military police) is taken from the June 1945 issue of the Intelligence Bulletin.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Few American soldiers fighting in the Pacific are aware of the position of military police in the Japanese military system. Actually the Kempei—which is Jap for "Military Police"—is a semi-independent organization one of whose most important functions is to provide counterintelligence for the Japanese intelligence organization.

The Kempei is a separate combat branch of the Japanese Army and operates under the command of a lieutenant general, who holds the post of Provost Marshal General. Charged with the main responsibility for the suppression of espionage and sabotage by foreign agents, and with the responsibility for coordinating civil and military security measures, the Kempei has established a police network throughout the Jap-held world.

Actually, the Japanese Military Police is composed of two parts—the Field Military Police and the Regular Military Police. Each has its own auxiliary branch of personnel, who act in a subordinate capacity as assistants.

The Field Military Police, who are organized only in wartime, are the upper strata of the Kempei organization. They are recruited chiefly from Japanese Foreign Office personnel, and Japanese embassy and consular police overseas. Most Field MP's are officers and warrant officers, and are better paid than regular MP's. They may wear civilian clothes or disguises, which, with the necessary identification papers, permit them to move freely among native populations. Field MP's are assisted by auxiliary personnel recruited from civilian employees of the Special Service Organization—the intelligence collecting espionage branch of the Japanese G-2.

The Field Military Police may be regarded as the advance agents of the Kempei. Undoubtedly, many of these agents had operated in Far Eastern countries long before the arrival of invading Japanese troops. The Field MP's and the espionage agents of the Special Service Organization work in close coordination, and an MP section often is assigned to a Special Service Organization headquarters. Although the Field MP's are concerned primarily with counterintelligence operations, their work often overlaps that of the intelligence-collecting Special Service men. This overlap makes it possible to check the interpretation and evaluation of information, and it ensures that all phases of intelligence are covered by one group or the other. While working with the Special Service men, the Field MP's seem to be concerned chiefly with operations conducted among the local natives.

After an area has been occupied by the Japanese Army, the Field MP's continue, and undoubtedly expand, their counterintelligence activities among the population of the occupied country. Their authority also extends over the Jap troops, not only in counterintelligence and security matters, but in the normal duties which generally devolve upon MP's. Combat intelligence work also is engaged in, mainly through the use of native agents and native reconnaissance patrols. In this way, MP's frequently are able to secure information of operational value. Such information is supposed to be forwarded to the organization primarily concerned.

The Regular Military Police comprise most of the MP's on duty in Jap-occupied territory under military jurisdiction. Their basic duties are very similar to those of our own MP's, and, in general, they do not take over from the Field MP's until the area concerned has been placed officially under garrison regulations. Although their duties are theoretically confined to police work, they are a combat arm of service. They also have an auxiliary corps, which provides deputies who have the same responsibilities and authority as the regular MP's.

In all areas in which the Kempei operates, the authority of the Regular and Field MP's exceeds that of the civilian police. Similarly, the Field MP's exceed the Regulars in authority.

The main duties of both branches of the Kempei are the maintenance of military discipline, the enforcement of security, the protection of vital military zones, the execution of conscription laws, the detection of crimes committed by Army personnel, the issue of travel permits, the suppression of subversive rumors, and the detection and arrest of fifth columnists. Such work as traffic control and the guarding of essential installations is carried out as an occasional duty, but usually line troops are used.

In combat zones and occupied areas, certain other duties have been assigned to the Kempei. These duties include the requisitioning of native foods and supplies, the recruiting of native labor, and the organization of native counterespionage. On occasion, MP units have been charged with maintaining espionage nets behind enemy lines.

Military Police control over native populations and foreign residents is exercised only so far as actual policing is concerned. However, such control includes the investigation of political sympathies, individual character and loyalty, suspicious acts, subversive activities, and mail censorship. Native agents, Jap civilian employees, and the intelligence personnel of other agencies assist the Kempei in this work. Files of information on all suspected persons are kept at MP headquarters, and a double check on persons under suspicion is kept through liaison with the Special Service Organization and the local army headquarters.

Practically all members of the Kempei are volunteers—both commissioned and enlisted personnel—and the standards for admission to the organization are high. This is particularly true of the educational requirements. Since there are several different grades of MP's within the organization, the requirements for assignment differ, as do the limits to which members of each grade may advance.

A Jap who has been accepted for MP duty receives further education in the Kempei schools. An enemy source indicates that in one such school the curriculum included such subjects as law, the manual of arms, fencing, horsemanship, unarmed combat, languages, espionage, and counterespionage. Specific attention was given in classrooms to such things as invisible writing, shadowing, methods of entering and leaving buildings, and similar tricks of the detective's trade.

This policy of selection and education has produced in the Jap MP an individual of much higher caliber than the average Japanese soldier. But though the I.Q. of Kempei men is higher than that of the rest of the Jap Army, it in no way has decreased their cruelty, or their devotion to the Emperor, as the residents of Jap-occupied territory will certify.


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