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World War II: September 1999 From the Editor

Originally published by World War II magazine. Published Online: August 19, 1999 
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Tojo's granddaughter seeks to rehabilitate the image of Japan's wartime prime minister, who was hanged.

A recent Associated Press story related that Yuko Tojo, granddaughter of Japan's wartime prime minister, Hideki Tojo, was planning a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

Her purpose was ostensibly to fulfill a request made by her grandfather, who was hanged for war crimes on December 23, 1948, in Tokyo's Sugamo Prison. "In my grandfather's will, he said he wanted to hold a ceremony to honor all the war dead, regardless of which side they fought on," said Yuko Tojo. "On behalf of the Tojo family, I'm going to carry out my father's wish."

The USS Arizona Memorial is perhaps the most solemn of monuments to the sacrifice made by American servicemen and women in the Pacific theater of World War II. However, while it evokes thoughts of honor, sacrifice and dedication, the memorial is also a reminder of how the United States entered World War II–suddenly, without warning and as a result of military action ordered by Prime Minister Tojo.

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Tojo was a member of the ultranationalist Toseiha faction of the Japanese army. He was a driving force in the military's domination of the Japanese government before and during the war, serving as military police chief and chief of staff for the renegade Kwantung Army, which provoked border incidents with the Chinese and widened the war in Asia. He went on to serve as deputy war minister, war minister and ultimately prime minister of the Japanese government.

Tojo regarded war with the United States as inevitable, and his granddaughter believes that he had no choice but to fight America for Japan's economic survival. She points to the U.S. oil embargo against her country as an example of American attempts to quash an Asian rival. While most Americans probably consider him of the same ilk as Adolf Hitler, Tojo supposedly led his nation into war for patriotic reasons.

"Tojo was different from Hitler," explained Yuko Tojo. "Hitler murdered his own people. Tojo fought to save his."

Are revisionist historians and their mouthpieces again attempting to rewrite the documented facts about Japanese aggression, atrocities and war crimes? According to the Associated Press, Yuko Tojo asserts that Japanese military atrocities have been grossly exaggerated and that the image of her grandfather as a butcher was largely a fabrication of the Tokyo war crimes trials. Perhaps even more disturbing is the growing acceptance of such a viewpoint by the Japanese people.

A look at the historical record should be enough to silence those who would deny the horrible truth of Japanese war crimes and particularly those of Hideki Tojo. I recommend viewing Japanese War Crimes & Trials: Murder Under the Sun, a video first seen on the History Channel and now available through the National Historical Society, which details the experiences of POWs who survived imprisonment by the Japanese. It is also important to remember the Bataan Death March, the infamous Burma­Siam Death Railway, and the fact that prisoners died in Japanese hands at a horrendous rate, much higher than that of any other civilized nation during World War II. Prime Minister Tojo also acquiesced to the execution of three of the American airmen captured after the Doolittle bombing raid on Tokyo in April 1942.

In his 1967 book Tojo: The Last Banzai, Courtney Browne related: "The case against Hideki Tojo and those who sat in the dock of the International Military Tribunal after the war was to a great extent concerned with atrocities that were, unhappily, only too well documented and authenticated to be disputed. Out of an estimated more than a million deaths due to brutality and neglect between 1931 and 1945, allied lawyers listed 302,000 specific cases. According to the indictment, torture, murder, rape and other cruelties 'of the most inhuman and barbarous character' were freely practiced by the Japanese army and navy 'on a scale so vast and on so common a pattern that the only conclusion possible was that they were either secretly ordered or willfully permitted by the Japanese government or by the leaders of the armed forces….Prisoners were regarded as disgraced and entitled to live only by the tolerance of their captors.'"

Hideki Tojo admitted to knowledge of the Bataan Death March. He also authorized the use of Allied prisoners as laborers on the Death Railway. Furthermore, his own words contradicted his stated inability to control the actions of field commanders. In May 1942, he said: "The present condition of affairs in this country does not permit anyone to lie idle, doing nothing, but eating freely….In dealing with prisoners, I hope you will see that they are usefully employed."

Military personnel of all nations have committed regrettable acts during wartime. What separates the atrocities of German and Japanese personnel during World War II from those of other nations is the sanction of their countries' military and political leadership.

Yuko Tojo should realize that whether or not her grandfather's intentions were patriotic in no way excuses the heinous acts to which he gave both tacit and vocal approval. Those not convinced by undeniable facts should stop kidding themselves.

Michael E. Haskew, Editor,World War II

2 Responses to “World War II: September 1999 From the Editor”

  1. 1
    Pio M. Sian, M.D. says:

    Poor Yuko Tojo, one of the misled, misinformed and misguided members of the Japanese generation where their forebears' exploits were deleted in their
    school textbooks. Were the Japanese soldiers invited to come to the conquered lands? Did they use feathers to subdue the enemies of the Empire? Nanking, Bataan,?
    Traditionally, the Japanese soldier is the most disciplined in the world, I find it
    hard to believe that Tojo's subordinates will not follow his orders to the letter.
    Tojo not knowing what his soldiers do or had done? The General Staff were
    trained in most highly respected places of learning, West Point, Harvard,Cambridge, to name a few.
    Money had been a key factor in revising history. Now China has more and soon Korea too.. Different versions of history forthcominmg.

    • 1.1
      The Forester says:

      Let's hope so.

      The only possiple mitigating factor is that Japanese treatment of the conquered during WWII was something culturally ingrained for 1500+ years, minimum (their own criminals/losers had always been treated the same way.)

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