Online ISSN : 2424-2616
Print ISSN : 0018-2478
ISSN-L : 0018-2478
The United States and the Conclusion of the Trials of Japanese War Criminals
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2000 Volume 109 Issue 11 Pages 1955-1988


The purpose of this paper is to analyze the process by which American trials of Japanese war criminals were brought to a close. It will focus on three main points:the relationship of these trials to policies toward Germany, the role of the U.S.Department of War, and British government policy. The paper first takes up the case of Germany. In describing the situation for major war crimes suspects who escaped the Nuremberg judgment, the author examines how the U.S., U.K., France and the Soviet Union agreed on a method in which those suspects would not be tried in an international tribunal but rather in national courts. However, although the structure of policy towards Germany acted as a frame of reference in making policy toward Japan, differences eventually arose between those policies. In the case of Japan, both the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal and the Yokohama Tribunal took longer due to the inertia of bureaucratic politics in that theater. This in turn made it difficult for the trials to come to any conclusion. In the spring of 1947, processing of the remaining class A suspects became the subject of discussion and investigations. The U.S.Army and Department of State took a negative view toward further international trials in Japan. As was the case in Germany, they hoped to continue the class A war crime trials before national courts. However, General Douglas MacArthur, as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, observed that under the restrictions of policy decision(FEC-007/3)of the Far Eastern Commission, class A war crime could only be tried in international courts. MacArthur thus proposed a method by which class A suspects would be prosecuted in class B and C trials. The members of the British Commonwealth were fearful of further international trials, and also emphasized reclassifying suspects into class B and C trials. Given the unique circumstances in Japan, MacArthur's method became the official policy of the January 1948. In October 1948, based on the concepts of the Policy Planning Staff, policy toward Japan (NSC-13/2) was determined so that all war crimes trials could be concluded. In addition to the influence of the Cold War, there were concerns that war crimes trials could incite anti-American feeling among the Japanese. There were also budgetary problems encountered by the U.S.government. While examining these various factors, this paper focuses particularly on the danger of lingering resentment in international relations resulting from war crimes trials.

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© 2000 The Historical Society of Japan
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