8. Tokyo War Crimes Trial 1946-48

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East was convened on May 3, 1946 and adjourned on November 26, 1948 – it lasted for two and a half years. For general information on the Tokyo War Crimes Trials see the PBS site on a special program on General Douglas MacArthur.

Three types of war crimes:

1) Class A – crimes against peace

2) Class B – general war crimes

3) Class C – crimes against humanity

The Nuremburg Trials that sought judgment on the leaders of Nazi Germany utilized a similar classification of war crimes. It also punished only war crimes committed by the defeated enemy and similarly has been criticized as “victor’s justice.”

What is meant by “victor’s justice”?

Twenty-eight military and civilian leaders were charged with Class A war crimes. Two men died during the course of the trial and one defendant was declared insane; all remaining 25 were found guilty; seven were given the death penalty and the others were given prison sentences, 16 of them for life.

The trials of some 5,700 persons accused of Class B and Class C war crimes were held separately, resulting in the execution of some 900 persons who were found guilty of war crimes.

What was left out of the Tokyo war crimes trial?

• The emperor and issues of war responsibility

• Unit 731

• Comfort Women

What is meant by the “Tokyo Trial view of history”? How does this interpretation of the narrative of “prewar – wartime – postwar” Japan compare with the narrative utilized in the actual judgment of the tribunal? For reference, see The Judgment of the International Tribunal.

For additional reading on the Tokyo war crimes trials:

John Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, W.W. Norton, 1999.

Yuma Totani, The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II, Harvard University Press, 2008.