Lot 122, Box 53

Memorandum Prepared by the Inter-Divisional Area Committee on the Far East


Japan: Occupation Problems: War Criminals

I. The Problem

The problem is to formulate recommendations as to the policy to be followed towards alleged war criminals by allied military authorities at the time of the occupation of Japan. (Question 3m,12 CAC–100 Preliminary, Annex A).

II. Basic Factors

Certain of the United Nations, including the United Kingdom, the United States, and China, have established the United Nations Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes. The purpose of this Commission is to investigate and record the evidence of war crimes, identifying where possible the individuals responsible, and to report to the governments concerned cases in which it appeared that adequate evidence might be forthcoming.
No statement on Japanese atrocities has been issued corresponding to the declaration on German atrocities signed by President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Premier Stalin and issued November 1, 1943,13 on the conclusion of the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers.
Persons suspected of having committed war crimes or analagous offences are the subject of specific reference in the surrender terms [Page 1222]imposed on Italy and are likewise brought within the purview of draft terms prepared by the United States and by the British Government for imposition upon Germany at the time of surrender. The purpose of these provisions is to bind the governments of these Axis powers to surrender such persons to the United Nations for trial and punishment.
The unique character of the institution of the Emperor in Japan is of basic importance and introduces into the problem of apprehension and trial of Japanese war criminals an element not found in the case of other Axis countries.
In the past, when military leaders in Japan have been faced with defeat, they have made themselves national heroes by suicide. In more recent years, those accused of political crimes have used their trials as an opportunity to explain their political philosophy and to win public approval of their actions. For example, at the trials of the young officers for the political assassinations of May 15, 1932,14 the accused insisted they were motivated by the highest type of patriotism. The trials dragged on for months, were given wide publicity, and aroused widespread sympathy for the accused among the Japanese. As a result of these and later trials, those who committed political assassination in the name of patriotism were thought of as national heroes rather than as criminals.

III. Recommended Attitude

It is believed that the provisions for imposition upon Japan at the time of surrender should include an obligation on the part of the Japanese Government and Japanese military command to apprehend and surrender to the United Nations such persons alleged to have committed war crimes as are designated by the United Nations.
The head of the government and cabinet ministers should be apprehended if their names appear in any official list of alleged war criminals. Otherwise, they should not be interfered with, except as to their official status as provided in the answer to question 3d (CAC–110, “Japan: Suspension of Powers of Government”15).
As for the Emperor, it has been recommended, as a result of a consideration of the relations of the institution of the Emperor to military government, that the military authorities should place him under protective custody, and, that certain functions of government should be exercised, if possible, through the Emperor or in his name with the approval of the occupation authorities. (“Japan: Political Problems: Institution of the Emperor,” CAC–93).16
Designated persons suspected of having committed war crimes who are not surrendered by the Japanese in accordance with the obligation [Page 1223]in A should be taken into custody by the occupation authorities. Care should be taken to avoid an opportunity being given to the Japanese public to make martyrs of Japanese war criminals as they have done with political assassins in the past. To this end, the occupation authorities should try to prevent the suicide of suspected war criminals and should give no publicity to their detention.
The occupation authorities should hold all suspected war criminals in custody, without prejudice, pending receipt of instructions as to trial, unless in the meantime specific directions for their disposition shall have been received.

Prepared and reviewed by the Inter-Divisional Area Committee on the Far East.

ISO: DCBlaisdell (drafting officer) JA: ERDickover
TS: GHBlakeslee (” ”) BRJohansen
HBorton (” ”) CA: OEClubb
FE: JWBallantine LA: ALMoffat
AHiss FMA: CFRemer
TS: RAFearey FSO: EHDooman
  1. Ante, p. 1192.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. i, p. 768.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1932, vol. iv, pp. 672728, passim.
  4. PWC–112, March 22, not printed, but see PWG–112c, May 9, p. 1247.
  5. PWC–116, March 21, not printed, but see PWC–116d, May 9, p. 1250.