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Master Chief Everitt is a retired submarine Quartermaster with a very broad career in both the Navy and civilian life. He joined the Navy at 17, went to SubSchool after boot camp and qualified on DIODON. As a QM2 he reported to ABRAHAM LINCOLN as a plankowner and id three patrols before shore duty with the NROTC.

During a tour as a Swift Boat LPOL Vietnam he was promoted to QMC then returned to submarines in SCULPJN. He spent two tours as a Warrant Officer before reverting to Master Chief and returning to submarines in GUARDFISH. He retired as Chief of the Boat in 1977.

His post-Navy life included duty with the Federal Protective Service, college and 12 years of space program quality engineering with Martin Marietta.

He and his wife of 53 years reside in Grove, Oklahoma. He is a life member of USSVI.

In early August of 1945, World War II came to an explosive end. Following the explosions of two atomic bombs, little Boy dropped over Hiroshima on 6 August and Fat Man dropped over Nagasaki on 9 August, the Japanese surrendered 1mco11ditionally to the Allied Forces in the Pacific. Immediately following the surrender, the various Allied Governments began rounding up those Japanese they considered war criminals. This activity didn’t get as much press exposure as the Nuremberg trials in Germany, and as a result the American public largely ignored the war crimes trials in Tokyo and throughout Asia. Also the Japanese who were accused of being war criminals were not as well known as their German counterparts. Much of this was due to intentional Allied propaganda as the Allies had decided not to charge Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal in order to shorten the war even though there was ample evidence to do so.

In any event, the machinery set in motion by the surrender on 14 August 1945 was not to end for several years. Victor’s justice and vengeance for past injuries were the themes. This was no doubt a time for revenge, but this was also a time for justice.

Procedure and Machinery

Unlike the agreement between the Big Four in London, which produced the trials of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, the trial of Japanese war criminals was left to the various nations involved. Each would use their country’s judicial system and administer punishment according to the will of the court. The allies were held in a loose association by a body called the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE). This body was almost entirely the child of General Douglas MacArthur and as such, it had responsibility to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), i.e., General MacArthur. The purpose of the IMTFE was to ensure that Japanese war criminals were given a fair and impartial trial. The obvious difficulty in this case came when this body was more or less forced to allow each individual country to conduct its trials based on its own national law (Piccigallo, XIII).

The Australians looked to the United States to lead the way in the trials, and to the British to support the U.S. in any way they could. They nevertheless proceeded to try war criminals under their own jurisdiction. The Dutch to a greater extent conducted trials independently in Indonesia, and the French trials in Indonesia were also conducted with total autonomy. In brief then, the Japanese War Crimes Trials were conducted by the standards and policy objectives of each individual Allied country.

Trials were held at various locations including the following: Batavia on the island of Java in the Netherlands East Indies; Canton, Nanking, Shanghai and Hong Kong in China; Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Singapore on the Malayan Peninsula; Guam in the Marianas; Makassar on the island of Celebs; Manus Island off New Guinea; the Marshall Islands; Morotai Island west of New Guinea; Port Darwin in Northern Australia; Rabaul, New Britain; Khabarovsk, Russia; and Tokyo and Yokohama in Japan.

The Allied Nations conducting these tribunals were the United States, Great Britain, Australia, the Netherlands, China, the Philippines, France, Russia, Canada, New Zealand and India. The last three of which played only minor roles in the trials. This then was the international mechanism by which the Allied Powers would mete out justice upon those Japanese accused as war criminals.

Three categories of criminal action were created for prosecution of war criminals:

Class C: individuals who committed crimes against humanity such as murder, extermination or enslavement.

Class B: individuals who committed violations of laws or customs of war, murder, or caused ill-treatment of civilians, POWs, civilian internees or hostages.

Class A: Individuals, who planned, ordered and administered plans for carrying out the acts of war against humanity.

Category A trials were of high visibility and were carried out in Tokyo. These lasted 2 1/2 years and resulted in the conviction of 25 Japanese out of 28 charged. Two of the 28 died during the trials and one was deemed unfit to continue by reason of insanity. All other trials were of a lesser nature, and they were of the Class B and C categories. The substantial difference between the Band C category criminals was the B criminal was the person actually performing the act and the C criminal was the officer or official who ordered the act or who had authority to prevent the act.

The Yamashita Trial

Before the actual surrender of Japan, the United States had waged war in the Philippines against troops led by General Tomoyuki Yamashita. Yamashita had succeeded to command of all the 14th Army Group and all the Kempeitai (the secret military police, not unlike the German Gestapo) in October 1944. Ten days after his arrival in the Philippines, the U.S. Forces commenced the invasion of Leyte Gulf, and the noose began to tighten. In November control of the Japanese naval forces in the Philippines passed to him as well when Count Terauchi transferred his headquarters to Saigon giving up his rule as commander in chief of the area.

As U.S Forces advanced on Luzon, the Japanese Forces began a reign of terror directed at the Philippino population. For no truly apparent reason, they systematically brutalized the population of the Islands; killing, torturing and raping hundreds of thousands.

General Yamashita surrendered to U.S. Forces on 3 September 1945, the day after the signing of the Peace Treaty. On 25 September, he was charged as a war criminal and arraigned on 8 October. His trial began three weeks later.

The general comprehensive charge was:

………[that] between 9 October 1944 and 2 September 1945, at Manila and other places in the Philippine Islands, while Commander of Armed Forces of Japan at war with the United States of America and its Allies, General Tomoyuki Yamashita unlawfully disregarded and failed to discharge his duty as commander to control the operations of the members of his command, permitting them to commit brutal atrocities and other high crimes against people of the United States and of its Allies and dependencies, particularly the Philippines; and he, General Tomoyuki Yamashita, thereby violated the law of war (Lael, 80).

In addition to the general comprehensive charge there were 123 specific charges lodged against Yamashita. The charges were for acts committed by his troops, and these charges were for their acts as condoned by Yamashita. Defense lawyers put up a spirited defense for Yamashita, but the trial progressed rapidly. Many felt that the court of five generals had begun the trial with Yamashita’s fate already sealed. Much testimony was given by survivors of the Japanese brutality, and this testimony was universally condemning of Yamashita (Lael, 82).

The court case was concluded on 5 December 1945, and the President of the Court announced that a verdict would be rendered within 46 hours. The court then reconvened and General Yamashita quickly knew his fate. The findings were that he was criminally liable for the actions of his men, and that he was guilty as charged. The court then sentenced him to death by hanging. True to the sense of theater, Yamashita’s sentencing was on 7 December 1945 – 4 years to the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor (Lael, 95).

The defense quickly got the attention of the U.S Supreme Court and while the defense team argued for overruling or overturning the verdict on constitutional grounds, the court ultimately upheld the military court’s findings. In so doing, they created a new crime. That crime being the failure of a field commander to control his troops. On 23 February 1946 at 0300 hours, General Yamashita was executed by hanging (Reel, 239).

The question of Yamashita was to come up again and again in the trials that followed. The precedent had been set, and now with precedent making it easy, the U.S. began to move against the Class A war criminals in trials held in Tokyo. This same precedent was widely used against the defendants in trials throughout the Far East. Primarily it was applied to the Class C defendants who may have ordered murder or torture, or possibly ignored the fact that it was happening.

Other U.S. Trials

The establishment of U.S. Trials in China had been approved by the Chinese Government in Chungking and the U.S. Forces began arresting Japanese in October 1945 for crimes against U.S. Nationals. The principal trials were held in Shanghai, and most involved treatment of downed aviators. Because of the victims, these trials were labeled the Doolittle Fliers Trials. These trials also covered captive submariners who had received harsh treatment when captured. Once again the Japanese were tried by military commission and their sentences were generally upheld by review of the convening authority. The defendants in these trials were given very fair treatment and from the viewpoint of all observers, the trials were conducted in a most fair manner (Piccigallo,71).

The Shanghai Trials were considered so important that the chief prosecutor for the IMTFE, Joseph Keenan, and five of his assistants sat as observers at the proceedings. The idea of this group of officials was that the U.S. could attach responsibility for the barbarous treatment of POWs to the highest levels of the Japanese Government and Army. This inhumane treatment question was to underlie many of the remaining trials (Piccigallo,71).

Naval authorities supervised all of the war crimes trials held in the Pacific Islands. Guam was the administrative headquarters for the trials, and the investigative efforts were wide spread throughout the islands of the Pacific. Investigation, arrest and trial procedures were definitely different from the Army trials. There was close cooperation between naval authorities and the governments of the Pacific Island Groups.

The Navy operated under the procedure set down by the provisions of the Naval Courts and Boards. This court martial system predated the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and was considered more enlightened than the Army’s Articles of War. Using the trial procedures set forth, the Navy prosecuted primarily on the charge of murder, using the justification that it is patently unlawful to inflict grievous bodily harm on a combatant who has laid down his arms. Most of the cases in the Navy’s jurisdiction were questions of conduct toward prisoners. However, there were some very unusual aspects of the Naval Trials, some of which included charges of cannibalism, atrocity slaying, and punishment as spies without trial, and mutilation of bodies for experimental use. Also as a result of conviction at these trials, it was found that the sentences were more severe. This severity may be from the fact that all of the death sentences, and all but one of the life imprisonment sentences, were from convictions on the charge of murder (Piccigallo,79-83).

The United States Army was given the task of conducting the war crimes trials of those Japanese on the Main Islands. The Commander of the 8th Army at Yokohama conducted the trials and was responsible for the appointment of the military commissions that acted as the court. These trials were the largest in number of both trials and individuals charged. Supreme Commander of Allied Powers (SCAP) investigated charges on over 2000 individuals in preparation for the trials.

The Yokohama Trials were thought to be more international in scope. They were to represent the interest of all the Allied Powers in the Home Islands and as such they became International Tribunals. Because of their character, these trials involved different types of people than those previously mentioned. Involved were professional military personnel from the highest rank to the lowest, interpreters, fanners, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials, shinto priests, and college professors. The first women were tried at these trials (Piccigallo,84-85).

The trials ended in October 1949 and the numbers are astounding (see Table labeled Final Statistics). During this time the United States spared no expense to ensure that the trials were fair and each defendant had sufficient defense. Since these trials were for crimes committed on the Home Islands, they did not involve any non-Japanese civilian victims. Most of these cases involved POWs. Part of the difficulty with trials involving POWs was that within the first three weeks of occupation 23,000 POWs had been embarked on their journey home. This kept face to face testimony at a minimum. Still the question of fair trial has seldom been raised and history has for the most part Let these trials slide into obscurity.

The British Trials in Southeast Asia

The British War Crimes Trials were based on a royal warrant and were to follow British law as closely as possible. The opening trial in Singapore on 21 January 1946 was to set the tone for all British trials. All standards of fairness that could be observed were established at this trial. Most other trials followed these standards and the accused was not convicted unless his actions had been proved beyond a reasonable doubt (Piccigallo,104-105).

Because of the wide area of the world covered by these trials, The British set up headquarters in Singapore to coordinate the trials. The trials were processed as rapidly as possible while yet ensuring the accused a fair trial. Just the sheer numbers of accused caused the British to consolidate many of the cases into one trial. When this occurred, there was the possibility of unfair treatment, but through it all, the British judges were thoroughly protective of the accused’s rights. Most of the charges were for Japanese actions against POWs. Some trials, however, were for crimes committed against the local native population. The most severe punishment was handed out over the Japanese’s conduct at the Sime Road POW Camp. This trial caused the most controversy in the British press, not because of the findings, but because of the harsh sentences. Still the British were able to complete their trials by December 1948, and the matters were then left to history (Piccigallo,114).

The Australian Trials

While most of the war crimes trials were well organized, the Australians seemed to have a hard time conducting their investigation and establish procedural matters. The trial started all right, but the Australian Judicial System for the trials could not keep pace and there were no trials conducted in 1949. Although several hundred accused war criminals still remained in jail, the trials suffered from lack of facilities and various support needs. General MacArthur denied the Australians further use of the facilities in Hong Kong, and eventually the trials were moved to Manus Island off the north coast of New Guinea in the Admiralty chain. The trials continued in 1950, and the Australians tried 113 cases at Manus Island between July 1950 and May 1951. All of the defendants were accused of capital crimes. Any others charged with less serious crimes were released (Piccigallo,135-137).

The Australian Trials came to a temporary halt in 1948. The fact that they were stopped was not the issue. The burning issue was that failure to complete the trial process was a barrier to the final peace treaty with Japan. Finally, the Australian Parliament forced the conclusion of the trials, and one more barrier to peace with Japan was removed.

The Russian Trials

Immediately following the surrender of Japan, information developed that Russia had interned between 400,000 and 500,000 Japanese POWs. Russia’s reply was that they were investigating them for alleged war crimes. In December 1949 Russia staged a war crimes trial at Khabarovsk in southern Siberia. This trial accused 12 men of bacteriological warfare and other crimes related to the manufacture of bacteriological agents. The trial was a large show with all of the trappings of a farce. Most of the testimony was directed at current political issues and not at the guilt or innocence of the accused. Naturally, all 12 were found guilty, but the sentences were relatively mild. The longest term given was for 25 years in a labor camp.

The upshot of this trial was that Russia ignored the repatriation issue of the remaining several hundred thousand Japanese POWs. This decision caused quite a stir in international circles and has remained a barrier to amicable relations between Japan and Russia. The Voice of America in October 1951 reported that there were 370,000 Japanese POWs remaining in unaccounted status. As late as 1976 information indicated that 400 or more still remained alive in Siberian Labor Camps (Piccigatlo,157).

The Chinese Government Trials

Japanese authorities in China had allowed more atrocities than anywhere else in Asia. This had been apparent from the start of the Allied occupation. Since Japan had been in control of China in some fashion since 1931 when they invaded Manchuria, much of the dirty work had come before the actual start of hostilities marking the beginning of World War II. Thus, the Chinese people had a Jot of ill feelings about the Japanese. However, to their credit, they created several new Jaws to govern the trial and punishment of accused Japanese and they proceeded into their trials with a goal of justice and not vengeance. As a result, the Chinese had a higher acquittal rate than other nations holding trials.

The Chinese trials were well run and were conducted in an atmosphere of impartiality. Still, the goal was justice, and they succeeded in meeting this goal. Their law called for specific punishments for specific crimes. The sentence could not be overturned by higher authority. All death sentences had to be approved by Chiang Kai-Shek. If he did not agree with the findings, he could send the case back for retrial, but he could not modify the sentence.

During their incarceration, the Japanese were well treated up until their conviction by the military tribunal. Upon conviction, they then entered the normal Chinese prison system. This system was as humane as was the system set up by the Japanese, but conditions were decidedly worse. Soon the trials were slowed by the ever closer civil war, and as the Nationalist Government lost control of more and more territory, their importance to the Chinese people faded. When the Communist regime took over the government of China, their emphasis toward the Japanese became political. They only addressed the war crimes issues in political rhetoric. The imprisoned war criminals, about 260, were transferred to Tokyo by the Nationalists before the fall of Shanghai, and this became an issue between the U .S and China (Piccigall,172).

The Remaining Allied Trials

Trials were held in the Netherlands East Indies as well as further trials in the Philippine Islands and French Indo China. The Dutch trials were extremely harsh and resulted in a great number of convictions. If the Dutch trials were harsh, the trials in the Philippines were extremely lenient. After all of the savagery that the Japanese dealt to the people of the Philippines, they still received a remarkably fair trial. There were numerous acquittals if the guilt status was questionable.

The French Trials in Indochina were very small when compared to the rest of the Allies. France seemed to be saying to the world that the trials at Nuremberg were the important issue, not those in Indochina. Also the French seemed content to try accused Japanese in absentia and make no further attempt to apprehend the culprit. The one major factor of the French Trials was their use of municipal law in charging war criminals. By using municipal law in an international tribunal, the French set numerous precedents in international law. This in effect turned much of the French Municipal Code into law.

The Class “A” War Crimes Trials

During the time that the Allied nations in the Far East were conducting trials on the Class B and C criminals, the IMTFE was conducting a massive trial of Class A war criminals in Tokyo. This was the main thrust of the war crimes issue. An international charter called the Tokyo Charter had been created under the auspices of SCAP, i.e., General Douglas MacArthur. The charter was drawn up by Joseph B. Keenan, the Chief Prosecutor of the IMTFE. This was done by MacArthur under direct orders of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Harry Truman. Since the charter followed the form of the Nuremberg Charter, it was acceptable to the Allies.

The Charter called for a trial for those responsible for the war in the Pacific. The accused would be provided concise indictments, a bilingual trial conducted in English and Japanese, the right to freely chosen counsel, freedom to conduct one’s own defense and, lastly, aid in the production of evidence. The Tribunal would consist of one judge and one alternate from each member nation of the Far East Commission (FEC). There was one Chief Prosecutor and 10 Assistant Prosecutors. Additionally, 10 American attorneys were assigned to assist the defense. With the machinery and procedures in place, the trials began on 3 May 1946 (Minear,20-23).

Much has been printed about the legal aspects of the trial, but the most important feature was the use of the Yamashita precedent in finding some of the defendants guilty of violating command responsibility. Another important feature was the charge of conspiracy. In many of the countries involved there was no such legal concept as conspiracy. This was an Anglo-Saxon concept which was forced upon the Tribunal.

Eventually the trials ended and the findings were announced on 12 November 1948, some 2 1/2 years after they had begun. (Minear,26).

Of the 28 defendants charged for Class A war crimes, 25 were convicted of some major war crime. Two died during the trial and one was found insane and excused from the proceedings. Seven of those convicted were sentenced to death. To emphasize the statement at the beginning of this paper, i.e., “the Japanese war criminals were not as well known as their German counterparts”, they are listed here along with their charges, only one name of which is recognized by most, Heideki Tojo. They are:

Hideki Tojo: Gendarme Commander and Chief of Staff of the Kwantung Army, Minister of the Army and Prime Minister – accused of launching the Pearl Harbor attack

Kenji Doihara: Chief of Special Service of the Kwantung Army – accused of being one of the conspirators who engineered the 18 September 1931 incident and kidnapping the ruling emperor of what was to become Manchukuo when Manchuria was over run.

Seishiro Itagaki: Chief of Staff of the Kwantung Army and Minister of the Army – accused of being one of the conspirators of the 18 September 1931 incident.

I wane Matsui: Chief of Special Service of the Kwantung Army, Commander in Chief of Japanese Central Chinese Anny – accused of being the chief instigator of the Rape of Nanking.

Akira Muto: Deputy Chief of Staff of Japanese Central Chinese Army – accused of being responsible for the Rape of Nanking and committing other atrocities in Indonesia.

Heitaro Kimura: Chief of Staff of the Kwantung Army, Deputy Minister of the Anny, and Army commander in Bunna – accused of being responsible for the brutalization of Allied POWs especially to build the Bunna Railway (later to be scored for the movie Bridge on the River Kwai)

Koki Hirota: civilian, Foreign Minister and Prime Minister – accused of introducing Three Principles of how to deal with China in 1935.

The rest received varying prison sentences ranging from 7 years to life. It is interesting to note that in this group were the only Navy men among the 28, two Admirals. Their particulars were:

Takasumi Oka: Chief of Bureau of Military Affairs and Deputy Minister of the Navy – accused of being responsible for mistreatment of Allied POWs especially the Hellships.

Shigetaro Shimada: Vice Chief of Naval General Staff and Minister of the Navy – accused of authorizing the Pearl Harbor attack.

The executions were reviewed by the FEC and approved by General MacArthur. MacArthur then directed that the executions be carried out at 0001on23 December 1948. (Shiroyama, 296-298 and trial.html)

Justice or Revenge

Was it justice? Clearly many, if not all, of the B and C def end ants were guilty of crimes that would require punishment in any society. In most of the trials, the defendants received a fair hearing and just punishment. What seems to remain in question is the trials of the Class A defendants. The author feels it was vengeance pure and simple. The brunt of that vengeance was dealt to the seven men who were executed as a result of the Tokyo Trials. They did their duty to their country and their Emperor as they saw it, and while it caused a war, war per se is not against international law. Yes, it was a railroad job and it was probably done to pacify General MacArthur and atone for the many men he lost in the Philippines. Yamashita was partially the cause of those losses and it appears he, MacArthur, got his revenge on Yamashita also.

Final Statistics

Place/Trials Cases Held Defendants Convictions Acquiuttals Death Sentences
US Trials:
97 215 195 20 92
China 11 75 67 8 10
Naval Trials Pacific 47 123 113 10 30
8th Anny Trials: Yokohama 319 996 854 142 124
British Trials 306 920 811 107 279
Australian Trials 296 924 644 280 148
Russian Trials 1 12 12 0 0
Chinese Trials 605 883 504 350 149
Netherlands Trials 448 1038 969 55 236
Philippine Trials 72 169 133 11 17
French Trials 39 230 198 31 63
IMTFE Class A Trials: Tokyo 1 28 25 0 7

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