History Podcasts

Japanese war crimes trial begins

Japanese war crimes trial begins

In Tokyo, Japan, the International Military Tribunals for the Far East begins hearing the case against 28 Japanese military and government officials accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during World War II.

On November 4, 1948, the trial ended with 25 of 28 Japanese defendants being found guilty. Of the three other defendants, two had died during the lengthy trial, and one was declared insane. On November 12, the war crimes tribunal passed death sentences on seven of the men, including General Hideki Tojo, who served as Japanese premier during the war, and other principals, such as Iwane Matsui, who organized the Rape of Nanking, and Heitaro Kimura, who brutalized Allied prisoners of war. Sixteen others were sentenced to life imprisonment, and two were sentenced to lesser terms in prison. On December 23, 1948, Tojo and the six others were executed in Tokyo.

Unlike the Nuremberg trial of Nazi war criminals, where there were four chief prosecutors, to represent Great Britain, France, the United States and the USSR, the Tokyo trial featured only one chief prosecutor–American Joseph B. Keenan, a former assistant to the U.S. attorney general. However, other nations, especially China, contributed to the proceedings, and Australian judge William Flood Webb presided. In addition to the central Tokyo trial, various tribunals sitting outside Japan judged some 5,000 Japanese guilty of war crimes, of whom more than 900 were executed. Some observers thought that Emperor Hirohito should have been tried for his tacit approval of Japanese policy during the war, but he was protected by U.S. authorities who saw him as a symbol of Japanese unity and conservatism, both favorable traits in the postwar U.S. view.


The trial of Peter von Hagenbach by an ad hoc tribunal of the Holy Roman Empire in 1474, was the first “international” war crimes trials and also of command responsibility. [1] [2] Hagenbach was put on trial for atrocities committed during the occupation of Breisach, found guilty, and beheaded. [3] Since he was convicted for crimes, "he as a knight was deemed to have a duty to prevent", although Hagenbach defended himself by arguing that he was only following orders from the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, to whom the Holy Roman Empire had given Breisach.

In 1865, Henry Wirz, a Confederate officer, was held accountable and hanged for appalling conditions at Andersonville Prison where many Union soldiers died during the American Civil War.

During the Second Boer War, the British Army court-martialed Breaker Morant, Peter Handcock, Alfred Taylor, and several other officers for multiple murders of POWs and many civilian noncombatants in the Northern Transvaal. See Court-martial of Breaker Morant.

After World War I, a small number of German personnel were tried by a German court in the Leipzig War Crimes Trials for crimes allegedly committed during that war.

Article 227 of the Treaty of Versailles, the peace treaty between Germany and the Allied Powers after the First World War, “publicly arraign[ed] William II of Hohenzollern, formerly German Emperor, for a supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties.” [4] The former Kaiser had escaped to the Netherlands, however, and despite demands for his extradition having been made, the Dutch refused to surrender him, [5] and he was not brought to trial. Germany, as a signatory to the treaty, thus was placed on notice as to what might occur in the event of a subsequent war. [ citation needed ]

Trials of World War II crimes Edit

After World War II, the phrase referred usually to the trials of German and Japanese leaders in courts established by the victorious Allied nations.

The former trials were held in Nuremberg, Germany, under the authority of two legal instruments. One, the London Charter was signed by representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union in London on August 8, 1945 the other, Law No. 10, was promulgated by the Allied Control Council in Berlin on December 20, 1945.

The London Charter provided for the establishment of the International Military Tribunal, composed of one judge and one alternate judge from each of the signatory nations, to try war criminals. Under the London Charter, the crimes charged against defendants fell into three categories: crimes against peace, that is, crimes involving the planning, initiating, and waging a war of aggression war crimes, that is, violations of the laws and customs of war as embodied in the Hague Conventions and generally recognized by military forces of civilized nations and crimes against humanity, such as the extermination of racial, ethnic, and religious groups and other such atrocities against civilians.

On October 8, 1945, Anton Dostler was the first German general to be tried for war crimes by a U.S. military tribunal at the Royal Palace of Caserta in Caserta. He was accused of ordering the killing of 15 captured U.S. soldiers of Operation Ginny II in Italy in March 1944. He admitted into ordering the execution but said that he cannot be held responsible because he was just following orders from his superiors. The execution of 15 U.S. prisoners of war in Italy ordered by Dostler was an implementation of Hitler's Commando Order of 1942 which required the immediate execution of all Allied commandos, whether in proper uniforms or not, without trial if apprehended by German forces. The tribunal rejected the defense of Superior Orders and found Dostler guilty of war crimes. He was sentenced to death and executed by a firing squad on December 1, 1945, in Aversa.

The Dostler case became precedent for the Nuremberg trials of German generals, officials, and Nazi leaders beginning in November 1945 that using Superior orders as a defense does not relieve officers from responsibility of carrying out illegal orders and liable to be punished in court. This principle was codified in Principle IV of the Nuremberg Principles and similar principle were found in sections of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The trials for the Japanese war criminals was established in Tokyo, Japan, to implement the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Declaration, the Instrument of Surrender, and the Moscow Conference. The Potsdam Declaration (July 1945) had stated, "stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners," though it did not specifically foreshadow trials. [7] The terms of reference for the Tribunal were set out in the IMTFE Charter, issued on January 19, 1946. [8] There was major disagreement, both among the Allies and within their administrations, about whom to try and how to try them. Despite the lack of consensus, General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, decided to initiate arrests. On September 11, a week after the surrender, he ordered the arrest of 39 suspects — most of them members of Prime Minister Hideki Tojo's war cabinet. Tojo tried to commit suicide, but was resuscitated with the help of U.S. doctors. He was later found guilty among others, and hanged.

Nuremberg trials Edit

On October 18, 1945, the chief prosecutors lodged an indictment with the tribunal charging 24 individuals with a variety of crimes and atrocities, including the deliberate instigation of aggressive wars, extermination of racial and religious groups, murder and mistreatment of prisoners of war, and the murder, mistreatment, and deportation of hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of countries occupied by Germany during the war.

Among the accused were the Nationalist Socialist leaders Hermann Göring and Rudolf Hess, the diplomat Joachim von Ribbentrop, the munitions maker Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder and 18 other military leaders and civilian officials. Seven organizations that formed part of the basic structure of the Nazi government were also charged as criminal. These organizations included the SS (Schutzstaffel, Defense Corps), the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei, Secret State Police), and the SA (Sturmabteilung, Storm Troops), as well as the General Staff and High Command of the German armed forces.

The trial began on November 20, 1945. Much of the evidence submitted by the prosecution consisted of original military, diplomatic, and other government documents that fell into the hands of the Allied forces after the collapse of the German government.

The judgment of the International Military Tribunal was handed down on September 30 and October 1, 1946. Among notable features of the decision was the conclusion, in accordance with the London Agreement, that to plan or instigate an aggressive war is a crime under the principles of international law. The tribunal rejected the contention of the defense that such acts had not previously been defined as crimes under international law and that therefore the condemnation of the defendants would violate the principle of justice prohibiting ex post facto punishments. As with the Dostler case, it also rejected the contention of a number of the defendants that they were not legally responsible for their acts because they performed the acts under the orders of superior authority, stating that "the true test . . . is not the existence of the order but whether moral choice (in executing it) was in fact possible."

With respect to war crimes and crimes against humanity, the tribunal found overwhelming evidence of a systematic rule of violence, brutality, and terrorism by the German government in the territories occupied by its forces. Millions of persons were murdered in Nazi concentration camps, many of which were equipped with gas chambers for the extermination of Jews, Gypsies, and members of other ethnic or religious groups. Under the slave labor policy of the German government, at least 5 million persons had been forcibly deported from their homes to Germany. Many of them died because of inhumane treatment. The tribunal also found that atrocities had been committed on a large scale and as a matter of official policy.

Of the seven indicted organizations, the tribunal declared criminal the Leadership Corps of the party, the SS, the SD (Sicherheitsdienst, Security Service), and the Gestapo.

In May 1993, during the Yugoslav Wars following the massive war crimes, and acts of "ethnic cleansing" in the former Yugoslavia by Bosnian-Serb forces, the United Nations established the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, to try war criminals of all nationalities. The crimes indicted included grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide it was the first tribunal in which sexual assault was prosecuted as a war crime. The ICTY was the first international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg Trials. Ultimately, nearly 161 individuals were indicted in the ICTY: 68% of Serb ethnicity. Croatian-Serb, Bosnian-Serb, Serbian, and Bosnian-Croat officials were convicted of crimes against humanity, and Bosnian-Serb leaders of genocide.

In 1994, the UN opened the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda following the April–June genocide in that country of Hutu nationals.

The tribunals, while effective in prosecution of individuals, proved to be a costly venture, and exposed the need for a permanent tribunal, which was eventually known as the International Criminal Court.


Japanese War Crimes -- Wewak Trial

Post by David Thompson » 06 May 2003, 23:32

Post by David Thompson » 06 May 2003, 23:47

Post by Dan W. » 07 May 2003, 01:03

I remember hearing about the crew of the B-29 shot down over Japan that were taken to a medical facility for some kind of gruesome medical experiments. The pilots liver was removed and cooked, and was eaten by some of the top Japanese brass at a nearby POW camp.

Extremely bizarre behavior, almost unbelievable it could have happened.

Post by michael mills » 07 May 2003, 05:35

There were instances of cannibalism by Japanese soldiers in New Guinea.

There were also instances of cannibalism by prisoners in concentration camps, and by Soviet POWs.

All these instances of cannibalism had the same cause the persons who committed them were starving.

They resorted to cannibalism for the same reason that the survivors of a plane crash in the Andes in the early 1970s ate the bodies of those who had been killed to save their own lives.

I do not think any reasonable person would judge a starving concentration camp inmate or a Soviet POW in a German camp for eating flesh taken from the body of a fellow prisoner who had died.

It seems to me that the death sentence given to the Japanese officer who ate flesh from the body of an Australian soldier who had been killed in battle was unjustified. It was not even alleged that the soldier was killed for the purpose of eating him. However, I am not at all surprised by the sentence at that time my countrymen were consumed by a virulent fear-based racial prejudice against all Asians, particularly the Japanese.

The allegations that the Japanese deliberately killed and ate Indian prisoners fall into a different category, but are unlikely to be true. The fact that the Japanese authorities imposed a punishment on Lieutenant Tazaki for cannibalism shows that they regarded it at a crime, despite the fact that that punishment was minimal due to the exreme conditions of starvation that had induced it.

I note that none of the newspaper articles quoted made any attempt to relate the sensational charges of cannibalism to the objective situation at Wewak in which it occurred, namely that the Japanese garrison was cut off and suffering from starvation.

The material posted by Dan Weakley sounds like an urban myth. No doubt Americans of the Second World War period believed that the Japanese practised cannibalism as part of their culture. Of course, it is quite possible that medical experiments related to chemical or biological warfare were conducted on POWs.

Post by David Thompson » 07 May 2003, 06:08

Dan and Michael -- The charges involved in this Wewak trial are by no means a typical war crime, in the Pacific theater of war or anywhere else. These articles, hopefully, are the start of more material to be posted on the general subject of war crimes trials in the Far East. As it happens, this trial was the earliest one for which I had a complete newspaper report. (The articles were off to the side of microfilm copies I had made of news reports of European war crimes and collaborator trials).

Like Dan, I have read of a few instances (less than 5) in which Japanese officers indulged in recreational cannibalism, and were not driven to the practice by necessity. For example, Colonel Masanobu Tsuji, IJA, and some of his fellow officers allegedly dined on the liver of an executed allied airman -- the incident is recounted at: http://www.danford.net/tsuji.htm

For myself, I do not believe that these incidents represent anything more than the deranged behavior of a very, very small number of grossly aberrant criminals.

Post by michael mills » 11 May 2003, 07:13

I read the article about Col. Masanobu Tsuji to which the link was provided.

(I read Tsuji's book about the fall of Singapore many years ago).

It appears that the cannibalism story was told to a group of war correspondents who did not actually attend the macabre feast. Obviously they passed the story on, which led to the post-war investigation of Tsuji.

But whether the incident of cannibalism actually took place is a matter of conjecture. It may have been a story invented by one of Tsuji's enemies, of which he appears to ahve had many in the Japanese Army. according to the article. Or else it may have been a macabre joke by Tsuji himself he seems to have been the sort of person who would enjoy telling such tales about himself.

Whatever the case may have been, the article does not definitely say that the cannibalism story was true, and leaves it at "allegedly". Certainly there appears to be no definitive proof.

Post by David Thompson » 11 May 2003, 07:25

Michael -- The war correspondent version was not the only version of the Tsuji recreational cannibalism story. As you correctly note, the war correspondents didn't make it to the dinner. Their story is necessarily second-hand. However, the war correspondent version is preceded in the linked story (at http://www.danford.net/tsuji.htm ) by this quote:

"The same story was told by a Japanese army officer, Major Mitsuo Abe of the 49th Division who was actually present at the macabre meal according to him, the pilot was an American lieutenant named Parker. In this version, the banquet was spontaneous. Parker was shot down in a raid, questioned by Abe and Tsuji, and refused to give any useful information. Another air-raid killed two Japanese soldiers and persuaded the officers that they must pull back from Mangshih. There was a clamor for Parker's execution, both for revenge and for the practical consideration that there was scarcely enough transport for the Japanese staff, without taking the American along. The two officers supposedly refused to have him executed. Instead, Parker was killed while they were at dinner, "while trying to escape." It was then and there, in this version, that the pilot's liver was brought in."

For what it may add to this discussion, here are the other incidents of which I have heard:

Apparently US military tribunals at Truk and Guam convicted Japanese officers of recreational cannibalism. The Truk convictions are mentioned at:

The Guam conviction and another case of the same character, location unknown, are described as:

Lieutenant General Joshio Tachibana, Imperial Japanese Army, and 11 other Japanese military personnel were tried for the beheadings of two American airmen in August, 1944, on Chichi Jima in the Bonin Islands.[5] They were beheaded on Tachibana's orders. One of the executed airmen, a U. S. Navy radioman third class, was dissected and his "flesh and viscera" eaten by Japanese military personnel. The U. S. also tried Vice Admiral Mori and a Major Matoba for murder in the deaths of five U. S. airmen, in February, 1945. Major Matoba confessed to cannibalism. However, military and international law had no provisions for punishment for cannibalism per se. They were accused of murder and "prevention of honorable burial."

These trials are mentioned at:

Supposedly the Chichi Jima Incident is also mentioned in Sherrod, Robert Lee. 1952. History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II. Combat Forces Press.

The B-29 liver eating story referred to by Dan was part of the charges in a war crimes trial held by a US military tribunal at Yokohama beginning 11 Mar 1948. While this charge was apparently dismissed for lack of evidence, there were convictions based on the vivisection murders of several air crew members of that particular B-29. There is more information on this at:

There is a photograph, from that site, showing the members of the air crew, some of whom were killed, and at least one of whom survived the war.

Currently there are claims pending against the Japanese government, some of which involve cannibalism practised on indigenous victims, for which the inhabitants of the former Japanese Pacific Islands Trust Territories are seeking reparations. These claims are mentioned at:

Finally, there is a documentary film, which I have not seen, "Japanese Devils" in which 14 former Japanese soldiers are interviewed and at least one of whom relates another cannibal story. I don't know what the circumstances of the incident or incidents were. This film is mentioned at:


American Experience

General Macarthur and other senior Army officers, upon his arrival at Atsugi airdrome, near Tokyo, Japan, 30 August 1945. U.S. National Archives.

Occupation official turned historian Richard B. Finn notes, "World War II was the first major conflict in history in which the victors carried out trials and punishment of thousands of persons in the defeated nations for 'crimes against peace' and 'crimes against humanity,' two new and broadly defined categories of international crime." For most people, this calls to mind the trials of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. But an equally difficult, fascinating, and controversial set of trials occurred in Tokyo, under the watchful eye of Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur.

The Tokyo trials were not the only forum for the punishment of Japanese war criminals, merely the most visible. In fact, the Asian countries victimized by the Japanese war machine tried far more Japanese -- an estimated five thousand, executing as many as 900 and sentencing more than half to life in prison. But with Japan under the control of the Americans, the most prominent Japanese war leaders came under MacArthur's jurisdiction.

The Potsdam declaration of July 1945 had called for trials and purges of those who had "deceived and misled" the Japanese people into war. That was the simple part there was major disagreement, both among the Allies and within the U.S., about whom to try and how to try them. Despite the lack of consensus, MacArthur lost no time, ordering the arrest of thirty-nine suspects -- most of them members of General Tojo's war cabinet -- on September 11, just over a week after the surrender. Perhaps caught off guard, Tojo tried to committ suicide, but was resuscitated with the help of American doctors eager to deny him even that means of escape.

On October 6 MacArthur received a directive, soon approved by the other Allied powers, granting him the authority to proceed with the major trials and giving him basic guidelines for their conduct. As they had done in Germany, the Allies set up three broad categories. "Class A" charges alleging "crimes against peace" were to be brought against Japan's top leaders who had planned and directed the war. Class B and C charges, which could be leveled at Japanese of any rank, covered "conventional war crimes" and "crimes against humanity," respectively. In early November, the supreme commander was given authority to purge other war time leaders from public life. Again, MacArthur moved quickly: by December 8 he had set up an international prosecution section under former U.S. assistant attorney general Joseph Keenan, which began gathering evidence and preparing for the high-profile Class A trials.

On January 19, 1946, MacArthur announced the establishment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMFTE), and a few weeks later selected its eleven judges from names submitted to him by the governments sitting on the Allied Far Eastern Commission. He also named Keenan the chief prosecutor and Australian Sir William Webb the tribunal's president. Twenty-eight high-ranking political and military leaders were indicted on 55 counts of "crimes against peace, conventional war crimes, and crimes against humanity."

The Tokyo trials began on May 3, 1946, and lasted two and a half years. Although an improvement over the hasty Manila trials, which were also organized by MacArthur and resulted in the executions of Generals Yamashita and Homma, the Tokyo trials have been criticized as another example of "victors' justice." One of the more authoratative studies condemns them strongly: "We have found its foundation in international law to be shaky. We have seen that its process was seriously flawed. We have examined the verdict's inadequacy as history."

On November 4, 1948, Webb announced that all of the defendants had been found guilty. Seven were sentenced to death, sixteen to life terms, two to lesser terms, two had died during the trials and one had been found insane. After reviewing their decisions, MacArthur expressed his regrets but praised the work of the tribunal and upheld the verdicts. Although calling the duty "utterly repugnant to me," MacArthur went on to say, "No human decision is infallible but I can conceive of no judicial process where greater safeguard was made to evolve justice."

On December 23, 1948, General Tojo and six others were hung at Sugamo prison. MacArthur, afraid of embarrassing and antagonizing the Japanese people, defied the wishes of President Truman and barred photography of any kind, instead bringing in four members of the Allied Council to act as official witnesses.


Uncovered records show lower-ranking Japanese war criminals claimed innocence before execution

Many Japanese war criminals convicted in a U.S. military tribunal in the Philippines after World War II claimed they were innocent and expressed criticism of their death sentences in their last words, according to copies of U.S. military records recently found in Japan.

The records providing insights into how Class-B and Class-C Japanese war criminals reacted to their sentences were discovered on a microfiche at the National Archives of Japan by Kenji Nagata, a professor of criminal law at Kansai University. The originals are kept in the U.S. National Archives.

Revealed in the records are details of 58 Japanese soldiers who were sentenced to death in the Manila tribunals that started in December 1945. They were executed between April and December the following year.

The 58 soldiers were convicted of conventional war crimes or crimes against humanity, including killings of captives and civilians. Of them, 19 soldiers had their last words recorded.

The reports, written in English, showed that 13 of the 19 took issue with their trials and sentences or claimed their innocence.

“I, as a low-ranking officer, should not deserve such a sentence,” said one, while another asked the U.S. military to put fair weight on testimony, saying it “seems to put more weight on the Filipinos” and sentenced some prisoners “who are really innocent.”

A separate individual said: “I am not guilty because I did not kill anybody. I was only leading the Japanese Army by horse on the road.”

Five of the 19 expressed appreciation for their treatment during detention.

“I express my gratitude to the U.S. Army and especially the officers and guards during my stay” at a camp in the Philippines, one said.

In addition to Class-A war criminals who were convicted of crimes against peace, there were some 5,700 Class-B and Class-C war criminals, according to the Japanese government. Many were low-ranking officers, noncommissioned officers or guards.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.


7. Jesselton revolt

British North Borneo Company

Jesselton revolt was a multiethnic uprising on the occupied island of Borneo in October of 1943. The revolt was led by a guerrilla force mainly consisted of indigenous Suluk people and ethnic Chinese. The rebels were mainly armed with spears and Indonesian swords called parang, with little or no firearms.

The Japanese Imperial Guards managed to crush the insurrection, after which they launched a genocide campaign against the Suluk population, as a punishment for participating in the uprising.

The infamous Kempeitai, whose methods of torture and interrogation were very similar to the German Gestapo, conducted the systematic Massacre of the Suluks while pursuing the remnants of the Chinese guerrillas.

They bayoneted and beheaded the Suluks and burned their villages to the point that the indigenous people were almost completely wiped out. Around 3,000-4,000 of Suluks were exterminated.

“The Tokyo war crimes trial” index described Japanese atrocities as “an apparently systematic attempt to exterminate the Suluk race between February and June 1944”.


Homma was born on Sado Island, in the Sea of Japan off Niigata Prefecture. He graduated in the 14th class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1907, and in the 27th class of the Army Staff College in 1915. [ citation needed ]

Homma had a deep respect for, and some understanding of, the West, having spent eight years as a military attaché in the United Kingdom. In 1917 he was attached to the East Lancashire Regiment, and in 1918 served with the British Expeditionary Force in France, being awarded the Military Cross. [2]

From 1930 to 1932, Homma was again sent as a military attaché to the United Kingdom, where his proficiency in the English language was useful. He was also assigned to be part of the Japanese delegation to the Geneva Disarmament Conference in 1932 and served with the Press Section of the Army Ministry from 1932 to 1933. He was given a field command again, as commander of the IJA 1st Infantry Regiment from 1933 to 1935, and was promoted to command the IJA 32nd Infantry Brigade from 1935 to 1936. [3]

In 1937, Homma was appointed aide-de-camp to Prince Chichibu, a brother of the Emperor. With him, he made a diplomatic tour in Western Europe which ended in Germany. There he attended the Nuremberg rally and met Adolf Hitler, with whom the prince tried to boost relations, following the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1936. He then served as the commander of the Taiwan Army of the Imperial Armed Forces, and composed the lyric of the military song "Taiwan Army". Yamaguchi Yoshiko ("Lee Shiang Lan" in Chinese) was invited to sing the song to boost Taiwanese morale. [ citation needed ]

With the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Homma was appointed commander of the IJA 27th Division in China from 1938 to 1940 and directed the blockade of the foreign concessions in Tientsin, where he led the negotiations with the British. [4] After the fall of Nanjing, he declared publicly that "unless peace is achieved immediately it will be disastrous". [5] Homma was removed from his position at the front lines, and reassigned to become commander in chief of the Taiwan Army District from 1940 to 1941. He was promoted to lieutenant general in July 1938. [ citation needed ]

With the start of the Pacific War, Homma was named commander of the 43,110-man IJA 14th Army and tasked with the invasion of the Philippines. He ordered his troops to treat the Filipinos not as enemies but as friends, and respect their customs and religion. In one instance, on his approach to Manila, Homma stopped his columns and ordered the men to clean up and tighten formations, believing that unkempt soldiers are more likely to loot and rape. [6]

His approach towards Filipino civilians earned him the enmity of his superior, General Count Hisaichi Terauchi, commander of the Southern Army, who sent adverse reports about Homma to Tokyo from his headquarters in Saigon. There was also a growing subversion within Homma's command by a small group of insubordinates, under the influence of Colonel Masanobu Tsuji. In Homma's name, they sent out secret orders against his policies, including ordering the execution of Filipino Chief Justice José Abad Santos and attempted execution of former Speaker of the House of Representatives Manuel Roxas, which Homma found out about in time to stop. [7]

Homma failed to give credence to the possibility that a retreat into the Bataan Peninsula by Filipino-American forces might succeed in upsetting the Japanese timetable. By the time he recognized his mistake, his best infantry division had been replaced by a poorly trained reserve brigade, greatly weakening his assault force. Rather than waste his men in furious frontal assaults, he tried to outmaneuver the American forces. This brought criticism from superiors who believed he had been "contaminated" by Western ideas about conserving the lives of his men. [ This quote needs a citation ]

Worried about the stalled offensive in Luzon, Hirohito pressed Army Chief of Staff Hajime Sugiyama twice in January 1942 to increase troop strength and launch a quick knockout on Bataan. [8] Following these orders, Sugiyama put pressure on Homma to renew his attacks. The resulting Battle of Bataan, commencing in January 1942, was one of the most intense in the campaign. Following Japanese victory in April, at least 60,000 Allied prisoners of war were marched 60 miles (100 km) to a prisoner-of-war camp. Due to ill treatment and abuse from Japanese soldiers, at least 5,500 Allied soldiers died during the march. Homma became known as the Beast of Bataan among Allied soldiers. [9] : 34

Despite Japanese victory in the Battle of Bataan, the deteriorating relationship between Homma and Sugiyama led to the removal of Homma from command shortly after the fall of Corregidor, and he was thereafter commander of the 14th Army in name only. The New York Times erroneously reported prior to the fall of Bataan that Homma was replaced by General Yamashita, and that Homma had committed suicide. [10]

The Imperial General Headquarters regarded Homma as not aggressive enough in war (resulting in the high cost and long delay in securing the American and Filipino forces' surrender), and too lenient with the Filipino people in peace, and he was subsequently forced into retirement in August 1943. [11] Homma retired from the military and lived in semi-seclusion in Japan until the end of the war. [ citation needed ]

After the surrender of Japan, in mid-September 1945, the American occupation authorities arrested Homma and extradited him to the Philippines where he was tried by an American tribunal on 48 counts of violating international rules of war relating to the atrocities committed by troops under his command during the Bataan Death March. [12]

Homma was arraigned on December 19, 1945, and the trial was held at the High Commissioner's Residence, Manila, between January 3 and February 11, 1946. [13] A team of six lawyers, none of whom had experience in criminal law, [9] : 31 were appointed to defend Homma.

The prosecution called witnesses and filed depositions attesting to the abuse and poor conditions encountered by the Allied soldiers during the march. In particular, James Baldassarre, a survivor of the march, testified to the killings of two Allied officers by the Japanese, and Homma's apathy to the illness and suffering of the Allied prisoners of war. [9]

During his defence, Homma claimed that he was so preoccupied with the plans for the Corregidor assault that he had forgotten about the prisoners' treatment, believing that his officers were properly handling the matter. He claimed that he did not learn of the atrocity until after the war, even though his headquarters were only 500 feet (150 m) from the route of the march, [12] stating in court, "I came to know for the first time in the court of [the] atrocities, and I am ashamed of myself should these atrocities have happened." [9] Robert Pelz, a member of Homma's defence team, noted in his diary, "I truly believe [Homma] had no idea of the things that occurred." [9]

Historian Kevin C. Murphy argues that while it is not clear whether Homma ordered the atrocities that occurred during the march, Homma's lack of administrative expertise and his inability to adequately delegate authority and control his men helped to enable the atrocities. [14] After American–Filipino forces surrendered the Bataan Peninsula, Homma turned the logistics of handling the estimated 25,000 prisoners to Major-General Yoshitake Kawane. Homma publicly stated that the POWs would be treated fairly. A plan was formulated, approved by Homma, to transport and march the prisoners to Camp O'Donnell. However, the plan was severely flawed, as the American and Filipino POWs were starving, were weak with malaria, and numbered not 25,000 but 76,000 men, far more than any Japanese plan had anticipated. [15]

On February 11, 1946, Homma was convicted of all counts and sentenced "to be shot to death with musketry", [16] which is considered to be more honorable than a sentence of death by hanging. [9] Homma's wife visited Douglas MacArthur to urge a careful review of her husband's case. [9] MacArthur affirmed the tribunal's sentence, and Homma was executed by firing squad by American forces on April 3, 1946, in Los Baños, Laguna a few kilometers from the former Internment Camp at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. [12] [17]

There have been various claims and charges that Homma's trial was unfair or biased and that his trial and execution served primarily to avenge Homma's defeat of General MacArthur's forces.

Associate Justice Frank Murphy, in dissent of denial of a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court on a rule of evidence, stated,

Either we conduct such a trial as this in the noble spirit and atmosphere of our Constitution or we abandon all pretense to justice, let the ages slip away and descend to the level of revengeful blood purges. [18]

Homma's chief defense counsel, John H. Skeen Jr., stated that it was a "highly irregular trial, conducted in an atmosphere that left no doubt as to what the ultimate outcome would be". [19]

General Arthur Trudeau, a member of the five-member tribunal that condemned Homma, said in a 1971 interview,

There's no question but that some men who were either weak or wounded were shot or bayoneted on this Death March. The question is how many echelons of command up is a person responsible to the point where you should condemn him for murder or crime, and that is what General Homma was accused of . We need to cogitate about our wisdom in condemning General Homma to death. I must admit I was not much in favor of it. In fact, I opposed it but I could only oppose it to a point that allowed him to be shot as a soldier and not hanged . I thought he was an outstanding soldier. [20]

General Douglas MacArthur had a differing conclusion and wrote in his review of the case:

If this defendant does not deserve his judicial fate, none in jurisdictional history ever did. There can be no greater, more heinous or more dangerous crime than the mass destruction, under guise of military authority or military necessity, of helpless men incapable of further contribution to war effort. A failure of law process to punish such acts of criminal enormity would threaten the very fabric of world society. [21]


Chapter 3

By R.J. Rummel

From the invasion of China in 1937 to the end of World War II, the Japanese military regime murdered near 3,000,000 to over 10,000,000 people, most probably almost 6,000,000 Chinese, Indonesians, Koreans, Filipinos, and Indochinese, among others, including Western prisoners of war. This democide was due to a morally bankrupt political and military strategy, military expediency and custom, and national culture (such as the view that those enemy soldiers who surrender while still able to resist were criminals).

Table 3.1 presents the sources, estimates, and calculations on Japanese democide in World War II. There is one major omission, however. Democide in China during the Sino-Japanese War that begun in 1937, and merged with WWII in December 1941, is excluded. This democide has been separately calculated in Rummel (1994), and only the total derived there is given in the table (line 386) in calculating the overall democide.

The first part of the table (lines 2 to 42) calculates the number of Japanese that died in Japanese wars, 1937 to 1945. This amounted to 1,771,000 to 3,187,000 Japanese, most likely 2,521,000 (line 42). Of this number, 672,000 probably were civilians (line 32), virtually all killed in American air raids (including the two atomic bombs).

The first democide I consider is against prisoners of war and interned civilians (lines 45 to 93). Most of these figures are official, and were presented at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. 1 No figure for French POWs deaths in Indochina were available in the sources. I then estimated this from the total garrison (line 52) and the percent of POWs killed for other nations (line 53).

The overall number of POWs and internees killed was about 138,000 (line 93). Since this is largely based on official figures released shortly after the war, I give no high and low. For nations releasing figures on both the total number of POWs captured and the number dying in Japanese captivity, the POW death rate averaged nearly 29 percent.

The table next lists estimates of the total Asian forced laborers who died from Japanese maltreatment. The most notorious case of indifference to the health and welfare of prisoners and forced laborers was the building of the Burma-Thailand railroad in 1942 to 1943. Estimates of those killed, including POWs, are given (lines 97 to 104) in the table. I already included these POW deaths under the POW total (line 93). As for Asian forced laborers working on the railroad, 30,000 to 100,000 died, probably 60,000 (line 105).

I also list forced labor deaths for specific countries, beginning with Indonesia (Dutch East Indies, at the time). How many Indonesian forced laborers were actually conscripted by the Japanese is unknown. Estimates run as high as 1,500,000 (line 110a) even more speculative is the death toll. This varies in the sources from 200,000 to 1,430,000 deaths, with perhaps the most likely figure being 300,000 (the figure "accepted" by the United Nations--line 114).

Information on Korean deaths under Japanese occupation is difficult to uncover (Korea was not invited to participate in the War Crimes Trial). We do know that 5,400,000 Koreans were conscripted for labor beginning in 1939 (line 119), but how many died can only be roughly estimated. Apparently Koreans were better treated than were laborers from other countries, but still their work hours, food and medical care were such that large numbers died (even Japanese coolies forced to work in other countries were so maltreated that many died). This is clear from the 60,000 Korean laborers that died in Japan out of the near 670,000 that were brought there in the years 1939 to 1945 (line 119a). To estimate what the total Korean death toll might be, I give the forced labor death rates for Koreans and Chinese in Japan and forced laborers from or in Indonesia (lines 119b-121). With these as the upper bounds, my reading of Korean history for this period suggests a possible range in the Korean death rate of 5 to 15 percent, with a mid-estimate of 7 percent. These should be conservative rates, given that near 9 percent died in Japan where work conditions can be assumed better than in Korea or Manchuria and that the rates are much less than half those for China and Indonesia. Even at these low rates, however, the forced labor toll for Korea comes to 270,000 to 810,000 dead in seven years.

Data is equally sparse for Manchuria. From diverse sources it is clear that Japan conscripted over a 1,000,000 forced laborers from Manchuria, which is thereby made the low (line 126) but how many died is unknown. I use the same approach here as for Korea, assuming the death rate for Manchurian laborers to be closer to that for the Chinese forced to labor in Japan (line 127). This gives (line 128) a probably conservative range of 100,000 to 200,000 Manchurian dead over seven years.

For the Burma-Thailand railroad, and for Indonesia, Korea, and Manchuria, 600,000 to 1,610,000 Asian forced laborers died (line 131). Note that this is probably very conservative, even were some of the estimates too high for a few of the countries included. No figures, even a basis for rough estimates, are available in the sources for Malaysia, Indochina, and Burma (except for those dying while working on the Burma-Thailand railroad). Yet, based on Japanese behavior in other countries, many forced laborers from these countries also must have died elsewhere.

The table next presents estimates on Japanese massacres and atrocities in occupied countries and territories. I make two listings of these. The first (lines 134-217) is of those countries or territories for which no total or subtotal is available or can be calculated the second (lines 228-289) is of countries and places for which a country total can be determined. Considering now the first list, in most cases the existence of a massacre was alleged, without any estimate of the number killed being given. Where such estimates were available, they add up to 8,089 killed (line 223), or an average slightly over 1,300 per incident.

A problem is how to handle the forty-three massacres for which there is a question mark (line 221). For the six massacres in this list for which there are estimates, the average is 1,348 killed. In China, where many more reports of the number massacred were available, the average killed for all the low estimates was 800. 2 Moreover, the average killed in massacres in Indonesia (lines 253-284) for which figures are given is a low of 820 (line 286). Taking the three averages into account (1,348, 800, and 820), I assume an average of 800 for the 43 question marks (line 220). This average times the number of question marks gives a low of 42,000 killed a high of 85,000 if doubled. These figures are surely conservative, since they do not take into account the many massacres that undoubtedly occurred, but were not reported in the sources. Consider that in the Philippines alone, where after the war American military teams made a special effort to investigate all Japanese massacres, about 90,000 civilians were reported killed (lines 339 and 340).

Turning to the next list, there is enough information given about the countries or territories included here for me to a country-by-country estimate of those killed. The first territory tabulated is Indochina (lines 229-240). From information (line 244) that 5.5 percent of the European population died we can estimate for the French population (lines 242-243) at that time that at least 1,320 were killed.

Similarly, from the Indochinese (Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians) population (lines 247 and 248) and a report that 2.5 percent died, we get a high estimate of 575,000 dead (line 250). This is a very large number, and appears to grossly exaggerated the total massacred (and is thus made a high). Many may have died from other causes, such as local famines, for which the Japanese were not wholly responsible. In the Philippines, where the Japanese were especially prone to massacre inhabitants due to the pervasive guerrilla war being waged against them, the democide rate high was almost 14 murdered per thousand by the Japanese (line 348) for China a high of near 30 per thousand of the population in occupied territory probably were similarly killed 3 both these figures are close to the twenty-five per thousand calculated above for Indochina. Were the Chinese annual democide rate (annual, not total, since the total is for 1937 to 1945) used to estimate the number of Indochinese murdered, the toll would be 68,000 to 312,000 (line 250a) were the Philippine rate used, the toll would be 159,000 to 318,000 (line 250b).

From information available in the sources, there appears no special reason to believe that the Japanese treated Indochinese with greater brutality than they did the Chinese or Filipinos indeed, overall, they may have been much better treated than Filipinos. Accordingly, I assume the low based on the Chinese democide (21 percent that of the Philippines) is that for Indochina I base the high on the native population dead (line 250) and I calculate the mid-value as the average between this and the Chinese and Filipino bases. This gives (line 250c) a range of 68,000 to 575,000 Indochinese killed, with a most probable estimate of 207,000, considerably under 2.5 percent of the population.

I treat Indonesia next (lines 253-284). Numerous massacres were reported in Indonesia, and those for which estimates of the number of people killed are available total 13,100 to 15,290 dead (line 285). 4 This surely must be far below the actual number killed, were all the massacres and atrocities known. Considering the average killed for the sixteen recorded massacres, I recalculated the total using the average for the twelve cases with question marks (line 286a). Based on this and the sources, I then estimated the minimum dead in massacres and atrocities as 75,000 (line 286b). Is this a reasonable estimate?

Given the population of Indonesia (line 289), this estimate can be checked by calculating an overall toll based on the Japanese democide in China and the Philippines (lines 292 and 293). Moreover, we have the one estimate that a total of 4,000,000 Indonesians died in the war from all causes (line 296). Finally, adding the forced labor and massacre deaths (line 297) gives a total that can be compared with these above figures. Clearly, juxtaposed to lines 292 to 296, the total seems well in line and I thus take the estimate of massacre and atrocity deaths (line 286b) as reasonable.

The next territory to consider is Malaya (lines 301-311). The Chinese living in Malaya particularly suffered from the Japanese occupation, at least 37,000 of them being executed (lines 301, 302, 304). In order to get some overall figures, estimates based on the China and Philippine democide rates are given (line 318 and 319). Also included with these bases is a high of 100,000 killed given by Malayan officials. Noting this high and that the few available figures already total 38,000 killed (line 312), I consolidated these figures into a range of 55,000 to 100,000 killed, with a mid-estimate of 83,000.

Manchuria, that follows (lines 326-329), is considered separately from China. It had already been taken over and administered as a Japanese colony (in effect) prior to the Sino-Japanese War. Very little information is available in the sources on massacres and atrocities in the territory during the war, although the Tokyo War Crimes Trials and Japanese behavior elsewhere suggest that many such took place.

As to Okinawa (line 333), we know about how many Okinawan civilians lost their lives during the American invasion of the Island, and some of these intentionally were killed by Japanese troops or ordered to commit suicide, but the democide is unknown and cannot even be guessed.

On the Philippines (lines 336 to 342), better estimates than for any other territory are available. After the Japanese defeat on the Islands, special American units tried to document the massacres committed by Japanese forces and secret police. Still, different and inconsistent figures are given (lines 336-340), taking into account the number of American civilians (line 336) and American and Filipino POWs (lines 73, and 78-82) captured and killed. Most likely this is due to the difficulty of estimating the toll of many recorded and unrecorded massacres and atrocities. In any case, a minimum of 90,000 Filipino civilians killed seems solid. No high is readily suggested, so I invoke the procedure of doubling the low and taking the mid-value as a third higher than the low (line 343). For the high and mid-value, these are prudent procedures.

No information is available in the sources on Philippine forced labor, yet judging from Japanese occupation behavior elsewhere, perhaps tens, if not hundreds of thousands of such laborers must have been conscripted, many probably dying. I assume these numbers to be absorbed into the democide's high and mid-values, while presuming that the low involves no forced labor deaths at all. All this gives a most probable democide rate of two to three Filipinos per thousand per year (line 349).

Next to consider is Saipan (line 352), where an unknown number of Japanese civilians were killed by Japanese troops or ordered too commit suicide. No basis for estimating these numbers is given in the sources.

Estimates of democide in Singapore's follows (lines 355-361). The best figure is of 150,000 Asians killed by the Japanese secret police (line 356) and this is made the low. I make the high twice the low, and the mid-value a third higher. If anything, this procedure may underestimate the real total. The low excludes at least 5,000 Chinese rounded up by the Japanese Army and killed in February, 1942 (line 359) and other Army massacres undoubtedly occurred, some of which are listed in the table (lines 355, 357, 358, and 360). And no forced labor deaths are included (although some may have been picked up by the Asian toll on the Burma-Thailand railroad--line 105).

Finally, there were 590 American civilian victims (line 365).

Adding together all these massacre and atrocity figures (line 369) gives a total of 413,000 to 841,000 killed.

Here and there in the sources are hints of local Japanese caused famines in one territory or another, but only for India and Indochina are estimates of famine deaths given. That for India is blamed on Japanese policies in Burma that upset the rice supply, but there is not enough information to assume that these policies were pursued with a reckless or knowing disregard of a famine that might be produced. For Indochina, when the food supply was disrupted by US air raids and a naval blockade, the Japanese knowingly diverted to their forces rice needed by the inhabitants for survival. Without more information, however, how much of this famine to blame on the Japanese is a guess. Accordingly, a low of 25 percent responsibility is estimated (line 378), which seems prudent enough.

From all the assumptions, consolidations and calculations made, the overall Japanese democide in World War II can now be estimated (lines 381-384), and Japanese democide in China included (line 386). This gives a total democide of 3,056,000 to 10,595,000 with a likely mid-total of 5,964,000 people killed.

How credible is this range and most probable democide? To assess this, the total population controlled by Japanese forces is first calculated (line 400), and after comparing this to one such figure (line 401) given in the sources, a range of population figures is consolidated (line 402). These population figures are then used to calculate the death toll using the Chinese and Filipino democide rates as the basis (lines 405 and 406). Since totals are now being compared, these bases are calculated for the full 1937 to 1945 period. The total democide figures are reproduced below the two resulting ranges (line 409) for comparison. As can be seen, the overall democide total for Japan is close to that one would get estimating it from Japan's democide in China or the Philippines. This implies that the total democide figures are not inconsistent from one territory or country to another, but that there was a pattern of Japanese democide throughout that is captured by these results. This pattern is there regardless of the many assumptions, estimates, and calculations involved, and even taking into account that in some cases a China and Philippine bases was used to estimate a country or territory's massacres and atrocities (most forced labor and all POW deaths were determined independently). And this relative consistency lends credibility to the democide totals.

With these totals I calculated (lines 412 and 413) the overall and annual democide rate (for the occupied population, at its greatest extent). As can be seen, nearly one out of every one-hundred people controlled by Japan was murdered, or almost three per thousand people per year. 


The Tokyo Tribunal, War Responsibility and the Japanese People

Approaching the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Tokyo Tribunal in 2006, public opinion was divided over Prime Minister Koizumi&rsquos visits to Yasukuni Shrine. One reason for opposition to the visit was that Tokyo Tribunal Class A war criminals are enshrined there.

On August 15 1985, then Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro, despite strong domestic and international criticism, carried out an official visit to Yasukuni. The government later acknowledged during parliamentary questioning that it had accepted the verdict of the Tokyo Tribunal through the San Francisco Peace Treaty. As a result, Prime Minister Nakasone refrained from further visits to the shrine from the following year. Though aware of these historical developments, Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro has persisted in visiting Yasukuni Shrine since his assumption of office in 2001. In 2005, he again visited the shrine in the face of strong criticism in Japan and abroad. Conservative newspapers like the Sankei Shinbun take the view that &ldquovisiting the shrine is not a Treaty violation.&rdquo This argument, however, is not in the least compelling [1]

In public opinion surveys, while opposition to Prime Minister Koizumi&rsquos Yasukuni Shrine visits is marginally greater, the numbers of those who voice support are not insignificant. This is, I believe, a reflection of popular attitudes toward the Tokyo Tribunal. This article will focus on the problem of &lsquoThe Tokyo Tribunal and the contrition of Japanese people at that time.&rsquo

Tojo Hideki&rsquos disgraceful behaviour

The Tokyo Tribunal was convened on May 3 1946. After the testimony, counter-testimony, rebuttal, counter-rebuttal, and closing statements of both the prosecutor and the defense, the trial was concluded on April 16 1948 and the court adjourned. The court then reconvened on November 4 1948, the reading of the verdict concluded on November 12, and sentences were handed down.

With the convening of the Tokyo Tribunal, the Allied Powers and especially the U.S. Government and GHQ (SCAP) had a particularly strong interest in the reaction of the Japanese people to the Tokyo Tribunal and their sense of war responsibility. For the Japanese, the initial shock came with the first war arrest warrants by the Occupation Forces on September 11, 1945. When the U.S. forces sought to execute these warrants, former Prime Minister Tojo Hideki unsuccessfully attempted to take his own life. The sensation caused by the attempted suicide of the man who had been responsible for issuing the admonition in the Senjinkun (Imperial Japanese Army Field Service Code) to &ldquolive without the humiliation of being taken prisoner and die without leaving a blemish on your name&rdquo was immense.


Tojo Hideki awaits sentencing, Movember 24, 1948.

The Home Affairs Ministry compiled a report on popular reactions from each region, but recorded the overall situation as follows: &ldquoRegarding General Tojo&rsquos decision to commit suicide, those completely sympathetic to the timing, method, and attitude shown in the suicide are exceedingly rare, and most people are thoroughly critical and reproving. The main reactions are as follows:

1. The entire population has had their expectations completely betrayed because they believed that General Tojo had refrained from taking his life till now in order to be able to stand before the allied tribunal as the person bearing highest responsibility for the war and proudly uphold the justice of the Japanese cause.

2. If Tojo was going to attempt suicide, he should have done it directly after the Imperial declaration of the end of the war.

3. Hurriedly attempting to shoot himself with a pistol when the American troops arrived is not the mark of a soldier. If he had died then and there, well and good, but to survive was truly humiliating. Then to let himself go and to blather away saying things that did not need to be said - well, we can only hope he will not cause the country harm &hellip&rdquo

America&rsquos exoneration of the Emperor

Elsewhere a September 13 report from police headquarters commented that &ldquothere is concern that the emperor might be affected.&rdquo With Tojo&rsquos failed suicide attempt, anxiety began to surface that the search for those with war responsibility would reach the Showa Emperor. The arrest of war criminals continued after this and there was tacit consent or support amongst the people. Because the Occupation forces were letting various truths about the war be known through the press, the understanding amongst the population that they had been &lsquodeceived&rsquo by military leaders and bureaucrats intensified and disaffection with these groups increased.

The Showa Emperor was the exception. A radical movement to pursue the Emperor as a war criminal developed among the core group of the newly re-established Communist Party, while from a different perspective, other groups, primarily intellectuals, began to favor the idea that the emperor ought to abdicate to accept a certain measure of war responsibility. The fact remains, however, that public opinion at the time supported the protection of the Emperor. An important factor here may have been the American anti-Japanese propaganda during the latter years of the Asia Pacific War. The U.S. tried to drive a wedge between the military, which it attacked, and the Emperor and the people, which it did not attack. This continued as part of Occupation strategy and the political myth that &lsquothe Emperor and the people were fooled by the military&rsquo permeated deeply throughout the population. As a result, popular acceptance of criticism of military leaders and of the responsibility of leaders revealed at the Tokyo Tribunal gradually strengthened and coalesced around the exclusion of the Emperor from war responsibility.

Hirohito remade in a civilian image and guarded by U.S. forces, September 1945.

Nonetheless, the popular view of &lsquothe responsibility of the leaders&rsquo was mostly passive, overshadowed by a consciousness that the people were in fact victims. Virtually no sense of responsibility for attacks against the peoples of Asia was evident, nor was there any movement to pursue in a positive way questions of war responsibility. This may be seen as the origin of the failure of many people to accept war responsibility or to adopt as their own the task of &lsquoovercoming the past.&rsquo

Through the Tokyo Tribunal, people became aware of and were shocked by the brutal actions of the military such as the Nanking Massacre and similar matters revealed by the prosecution. But as proceedings became drawn out, interest diminished and the spectacle even arose of &lsquoTojo popularity&rsquo (Tojo ninki). This was due to the fact that while many defendants were only interested in self-vindication, Tojo resolutely defended the policies of the Japanese government during the war and stood up to Prosecutor Keenan.

This strategy, however, also met with a degree of failure. Tojo&rsquos testimony on New Years Eve 1947 hinted at the Emperor&rsquos war responsibility. This worried Prosecutor Keenan and those close to the Imperial Court who had decided that the Emperor should be immune from responsibility. Ultimately, however, through behind-the-scenes manoeuvring, Tojo revised his comments early the following year, and this was the only point during the Tribunal when the actions of the Emperor surfaced.

Conscientious criticism blocked

The U.S. authorities were paying attention to the reactions of the Japanese people, and the report &ldquoJapanese reactions to the Class A War Crimes Tribunal&rdquo prepared in August 1948 by the Far Eastern Section of the State Department&rsquos Bureau of Investigation analysed it in this way: &ldquoThe attitude of many Japanese towards the trial is acquiescence to it as something that was bound to happen because Japan lost the war.

Rather than focusing on the war responsibility of the defendants resulting from their war crimes, criticism is concentrated on their responsibility for leading the nation into defeat and bringing shame and misery. That is, rather than responsibility for waging the war, the people are problematizing their leaders&rsquo responsibility for losing it.&rdquo The report continued: &ldquoThe coolness of the Japanese people towards the trial, if that can be considered their true sentiment, is also related to the fact that the Emperor&rsquos war responsibility is not being questioned. Moreover, even if there is deep opposition to the abdication of the Emperor, at the very least the people consider the Emperor morally responsible for the war.&rdquo

The report went on to affirm that, &ldquoFor a time after the end of the war, the Japanese people clearly demanded that the war responsibility of former leaders who lead their country into a tragic war be exposed. The Japanese people publicly censured the militarists and their supporters, and on occasion, even the role played by the Emperor during the war became the subject of wide-ranging debate. At present, however, the demand to clarify war responsibility is slowly being replaced by the belief that national unity is indispensable for the rapid reconstruction of the country&rdquo [2]

The same report suggests that as the Cold War between East and West intensified, the U.S. halted the war crimes tribunal and began to emphasize economic development over the pursuit of Japanese war responsibility. Japanese popular responses also began to shift in this direction. But it should not be forgotten that this report was based on an analysis of newspaper bulletins at a time when GHQ was censoring all publications. It should also be kept in mind that GHQ in principle forbade criticism of the Tokyo Tribunal whether from the left or right, and that public opinion was moulded by the censors to suit GHQ. The materials in the Prange Collection at the University of Maryland, (which holds Japanese newspapers, publications, and films produced during the Occupation) reveal that most rightwing criticism of the Tokyo Tribunal was censored. Conversely, the pioneer human rights activist and lawyer Fuse Tatsuji and others at their symposium reported in Jiyu konwakai (Talk on Freedom) called for appointment of a Japanese prosecutor and pointed out the Emperor&rsquos war responsibility.
Chofumi Tsura, a journalist and historian who attended that symposium, commented that &ldquoit is absurd that the Japanese colonial rule of Taiwan and Korea is not being tried at the Tokyo Tribunal.&rdquo He commented not only on the war responsibility of the Emperor but also on the war responsibility of the Japanese people themselves. His article about the symposium was completely deleted by the censors. The Occupation forces did not permit even the kind of speech that might be considered by today&rsquos standards legitimate criticism. The case of Jiyu konwakai is but one example among many.

The shameful behaviour of the Japanese

Six years after the conclusion of the Tokyo Tribunal in August 1955, the Japanese government surveyed 3000 men and women on &ldquoThe attitude of people towards war responsibility&rdquo (64.7% response rate). During the interval between the Tokyo Tribunal and the survey, the &lsquoreverse course&rsquo had occurred, the Korean War began, and the San Francisco Peace Treaty was ratified, but it is clear from the survey that subjective self-awareness surrounding the Tokyo Tribunal had grown more warped and degenerate. To the question &ldquoPolitical and military leaders during the war were punished by the victor nation through a military court: do you think it natural for this to happen after having started a war? Do you think it inevitable considering Japan lost the war?&rdquo 19% responded that they thought it was &lsquonatural,&rsquo 66% answered that they thought it &lsquoinevitable,&rsquo and 15% said that it was &lsquounclear.&rsquo Furthermore, to the question &ldquoEven if Japan lost, do you think that the Tokyo Tribunal was an abysmal way to resolve matters?&rdquo 63% of people answered that they thought is was &ldquoutterly appalling&rdquo (hidosugiru) while only 31% answered &ldquoI don&rsquot think so&rdquo [3]

The mitigation of the sentences of war criminals and the agitations for parole symbolized the popular reaction to the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. After the Peace Treaty went into effect, &lsquoSugamo Prison&rsquo had its name changed to Sugamo Detention Centre. Utsumi Aiko from Keisen University points out that &ldquothe parole-for-war-criminals movement was driven by two groups: those from outside who had &lsquoa sense of pity&rsquo for the prisoners and the war criminals themselves who called for their own release as part of an anti-war peace movement. The movement that arose out of &lsquoa sense of pity&rsquo demanded &lsquojust set them free (tonikaku shakuho o) regardless of how it is done&rsquo. The situation heated up to such an extent that expressions like &lsquoif you are Japanese, sign!&rsquo became a catch phrase.&rdquo


Sugamo Prison, 1947

More than ten million people supported the 1952 campaign petitioning for the release of war criminals. In the face of this surge of public opinion, the government commented that &ldquopublic sentiment in our country is that the war criminals are not criminals. Rather, they gather great sympathy as victims of the war, and the number of people concerned about the war crimes tribunal system itself is steadily increasing.&rdquo Not only that, but visits to Sugamo to express support for the inmates by entertainers including dancing troupes, rakugo storytellers, and manzai comics, as well as &lsquoSugamo visitations&rsquo (Sugamo mode) by prefectural friendship societies, boomed. &ldquoThe cold stare directed at war criminals transformed into a sympathetic gaze on them as war victims they even began to be referred to as war heroes &hellip and little by little the sense of war responsibility eroded&rdquo [4]

This trend amounted to forgetting about Article 11 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in which Japan accepted the verdicts of the Tokyo Tribunal and the B and C level tribunals.

Four Japanese officers await trial for war crimes at Labuan Island, December 1945.

Yasukuni Shrine visits became the symbol of this loss of memory, not only for the people but also for the government. We cannot talk of great gaps in post-war history without understanding this forgetfulness. The popular attitude towards the Tokyo Tribunal that tried the A-class war crimes was from beginning to end lacking in subjective self-consciousness, and even today provides grounds for the criticism of the people of Asia about Japan&rsquos &lsquoinability to deal with the past.&rsquo

Awaya Kentaro is Professor at Rikkyo University and the author of numerous works on the Tokyo Trials and wartime Japan. This article was published in Shukan Kinyobi on December 23, 2005. Posted at Japan Focus February 2, 2006.

Timothy Amos recently completed his PhD thesis Ambiguous Bodies: Writings on the Japanese Outcaste at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University. He is a visiting fellow in the Division of Pacific and Asian History. [email protected]

[1] Awaya Kentaro, Tokyo Saibanron. Tokyo: Otsuki Shoten, 1989.

[2] Quoted in Yoshida Yutaka, Nihonjin no sensokan. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1995.

[3] Cabinet and Prime Minister&rsquos Office Deliberative Council, Sengo junen no kaiko to tenbo: kokumin no seijiteki iken, 1956 Quoted in Yoshida Yutaka, Nihonjin no sensokan.


1. Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign

In 1942 the American Air Force was planning to construct clandestine airstrips on Chinese territory that wasn’t under full control of Japan. These airstrips were to serve as a landing pad for US bombers after bombing missions on Japanese mainland conducted from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier during the Doolittle raid.

Because the raid had to be launched earlier than planned, and because the Japanese Army was already in the process of locating and destroying the Chinese airbases, most of the aircraft ran out of fuel and crash-landed in the provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangxi.

Surviving airmen parachuted and hid among the Chinese civilians who provided them shelter. Out of 64 that managed to bail out, eight were captured and executed almost immediately by the Japanese. In the search for the remaining US airmen, the Japanese conducted a thorough search, executing, pillaging and burning entire villages as an act of retribution for aiding the Americans.

The result was a devastating trail of 250,000 dead Chinese civilians. The Commander-in-Chief at the time was Field Marshal Shunroku Hata, the man behind the Changjiao Massacre.

After the war, in 1948, he was sentenced to life in prison but was paroled only six years later, in 1954. Until his death in 1962, he was a respected public figure and a head of the charitable organization “Kaikosha”, established to aid the Japanese war veterans.


Watch the video: Tokyo War Trials - Japans Nuremberg Trial (December 2021).