British Military & Criminal History
1900 to 1999.
|Home - War Crimes Trials - International Military Tribunal for the Far East|
This page explains the trial of Japanese Class A war criminals by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) in Tokyo, during the period 3 May 1946 to 12 November 1948.
The prosecution team was made up of representatives from each of the eleven Allied nations: Australia, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Soviet Union and the United States of America. Unlike the IMT, there was only one Chief Prosecutor, the American Joseph Keenan. Each country supplied assistant prosecutors who worked for Joseph Keenan.
The judges were made up by a representative from each of the 11 Allied countries. Unlike the IMT, there were no alternate judges. The IMTFE's charter, written by General Douglas MacArthur and Joseph Keenan, established a quorum of 6 judges. The President of the court was the Australian judge Sir William Webb.
Back Row (Left to Right): Pal, Röling, McDougall, Bernard, Northcroft, and Jaranilla. Front Row (Left to Right): Patrick, Cramer, Webb, Mei, and Zaryanov.
Of the eighty (80) Class A war criminal suspects detained in the Sugamo prison after 1945, twenty-eight (28) men were brought to trial before the IMTFE. The accused included nine civilians and nineteen professional military men:
The indictment accused the defendants of promoting a scheme of conquest that "contemplated and carried out ... murdering, maiming and ill-treating prisoners of war (and) civilian internees ... forcing them to labor under inhumane conditions ... plundering public and private property, wantonly destroying cities, towns and villages beyond any justification of military necessity; (perpetrating) mass murder, rape, pillage, brigandage, torture and other barbaric cruelties upon the helpless civilian population of the over-run countries."
Joseph Keenan, the chief prosecutor representing the United States at the trial, issued a press statement along with the indictment: ".. it is high time ... that the promoters of aggressive, ruthless war and treaty-breakers should be stripped of the glamour of national heroes and exposed as what they really are --- plain, ordinary murderers."
The Nanking Massacre
Numerous eye-witness accounts of the Nanking Massacre were provided by Chinese civilian survivors and western nationals living in Nanking at the time. The accounts included gruesome details of the Nanking Massacre. Thousands of innocent civilians were buried alive, used as targets for bayonet practice, shot in large groups and thrown into the Yangtze River. Rampant rapes (and gang rapes) of women ranging from age seven to over seventy were reported. The international community estimated that within the six weeks of the Massacre, 20,000 women were raped, many of them subsequently murdered or mutilated; and over 300,000 people were killed, often with the most inhumane brutality.
Dr. Robert Wilson, a surgeon who was born and raised in Nanking and educated at Princeton and Harvard Medical School, testified that beginning with December 13, "the hospital filled up and was kept full to overflowing" during the next six weeks. The patients usually bore bayonet or bullet wounds; many of the women patients had been sexually molested.
The international community had filed many protests to the Japanese Embassy. Bates, an American professor of history at the University of Nanking during the Japanese occupation, provided evidence that the protests were forwarded to Tokyo and were discussed in great detail between Japanese officials and the U.S. ambassador in Tokyo.
Brackman (reporter at the trial and author of the book "The Other Nuremberg") commented: "The Rape of Nanking was not the kind of isolated incident common to all wars. It was deliberate. It was policy. It was known in Tokyo." Yet it was allowed to continue for over six weeks.
Japan's opium operations in China in the 30's and 40's was conducted with full approval from Tokyo as a state policy, under the directives of an official Japanese umbrella organization, the China Affairs Board. The Board was responsible for political, economic, and cultural affairs in occupied China. This organization was run by Prince Konoye, and the ministers of war, the navy, finance and foreign affairs of the time.
Japan's opium trafficking was designed to weaken the Chinese people's will to resist and to provide substantial revenues to finance Japanese military and economic aggression.
Reference to the bacteriological warfare was only briefly mentioned during the trial. The assistant U.S. prosecutor David Sutton read the following statements: "The enemy's TAMA Detachment carried off their civilian captives to the medical laboratory, where the reactions to poisonous serums were tested. This detachment was one of the most secret organizations. The number of persons slaughtered by this detachment cannot be ascertained." Surprisingly, the prosecutor did not pursue the subject, and hence was rejected as unsupported.
After the trial by the IMTFE, in December 25-30, 1949, the Soviets tried twelve former members of the TAMA detachment who were captured in Manchuria. The twelve were convicted of conducting experiments on living people.
In the February 23, 1950 issue of Izvestia, the Soviet government daily, the Soviets charged that in September 1946, the Soviet prosecutors had turned over to the U.S. prosecutor, the chief of the Allied counsel, hard evidence of Japan's experiments on bacteriological weapons.
In 1976, the Tokyo Broadcasting System confirmed the existence of the TAMA detachment. Five living members of the top-secret operation told a Japanese reporter that they had escaped indictment as war criminals in return for divulging their research to the U.S. authorities.
The IMTFE first decided on its findings. This produced a number of counts which was used to assess the guilt of each defendant, based on the charges that each defendant faced.
Following this announcement, the IMTFE decided the verdict and sentence of each defendant. Unlike the IMT, all the defendants were found guilty.
Two (Yosuke Matsuoka and Osami Nagano) of the twenty-eight defendants died of natural causes during the trial. One defendant (Shumei Okawa) had a mental breakdown on the first day of trial, was sent to a psychiatric ward and was released in 1948 a free man.
The remaining twenty-five (25) were all found guilty, many of multiple counts. Seven (7) were sentenced to death by hanging, sixteen (16) to life imprisonment, and two (2) to lesser terms. All seven sentenced to death were found to be guilty of inciting or otherwise implicated in mass-scale atrocities, among other counts. Three of the sixteen sentenced to life imprisonment died between 1949 and 1950 in prison. The remaining thirteen (13) were paroled between 1954 and 1956, less than eight years in prison for their crimes against millions of people.
Two former ambassadors were sentenced to seven and twenty years in prison. One died two years later in prison. The other one, Shigemitsu, was paroled in 1950, and was appointed foreign minister
Just after midnight on 23 December 1948, those prisoners sentenced to death were hanged at Sugamo Prison. The times of their executions were Doihara at 12:08:30am, Tojo at 12:10:30am, Muto at 12:11:30am, Matsui at 12:13:00am, Itagaki at 12:32:30am, Hirota at 12:34:30am and Kiruma at 12:35:00am. Their remains were taken under guard to Yokohama Municipal Crematorium, and were scattered to the winds.