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Matsuhiro Watanabe was one of Japan's most notorious prison guards in World War Two. Nicknamed "The Bird", by POW's.

Watanabe, who during the war was a disciplinary sergeant in the Japanese Army, was one of the most feared of those prison guards who helped administer POW camps. His job was strictly to go from camp to camp and increase the level of 'discipline', by severely beating prisoners. Many POW's died from his beatings.

Watanabe escaped prosecution for crimes he had committed at Mitsushima Prison Camp, Japan, by first deserting his post, as a guard, and then by going underground, until the American occupation authorities stopped looking for war criminals in 1947, on orders from General Douglas MacArthur. Watanabe was ranked #24, in MacArthur's list of wanted war criminals.

Watanabe was found - alive - during the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. This information was a nasty surprise to former POW's, who had thought had this man had died. Under the formal Peace Treaty signed between Japan and the victorious powers, there could be no prosecution of Watanabe. A planned meeting in 1998 between Watanabe and one of the POW's who had suffered under his brutality was stopped at the last minute by Watanabe's family.

Matsuhiro Watanabe currently lives in Tokyo.


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