Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Tokyo War Crimes Trials

Ex-Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and his attorney, Capt. Beverly Coleman. Date: ca. 1946
Ex-Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and his attorney, Capt. Beverly Coleman. Date: ca. 1946
Photographs:

Documents:

  • Memorandum regarding the Application of General Tomoyuki Yamashita  View document (13 pages)
  • Indictment from the International Military Tribunal for the Far East  View document (45 pages)
  • Letter from J. Howard McGrath to Theron L. Caudle February 7, 1945  View document (3 pages)
  • Letter from Tom C. Clark to Harry S. Truman October 29, 1945  View document (2 pages)
  • Letter from M.C. Latta to Tom Clark, accompanied by related correspondence November 29, 1945  View document (7 pages)
  • Letter from Eleanor Bontecou to Miss Brookley February 8, 1946  View document (2 pages)
  • Letter from Joseph B. Keenan to Harry S. Truman accompanied by a reply from Matthew Connelly August 8, 1946  View document (2 pages)
  • Ben Bruce Blakeney, Petition to the Supreme Commander For the Allied Powers November 19, 1948  View document (39 pages)
  • Letter from Kenneth Royall to Harry S. Truman, accompanied by related material November 26, 1948  View document (3 pages)
  • Letter from Harry S. Truman to Joseph B. Keenan accompanied by related correspondence December 2, 1948  View document (3 pages)
  • Background information

    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. By December 8 an international prosecution section was set up 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. 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.

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