740.00116 PW/12–1745: Telegram

The Acting Political Adviser in Japan (Atcheson) to the Secretary of State

213. It is understood from Mr. Keenan23 that Department’s invitation to Allied Governments to participate in establishment of an international tribunal for the trial of major war criminal suspects has met with little or no concrete response.

In the light of the political situation here I submit the following comments:

The general mood of the Japanese people, insofar as it may be said to be reflected in the Japanese press and in speeches and interpretations by Diet members, is strongly in the mood of fixing war responsibility on the major suspects.

Bitterness on account of Japan’s defeat and an apparently growing realization that Japan should not have undertaken aggressive warfare has created strong resentment against Japanese leaders. How long this mood will endure with a changeable and unpredictable people is a matter for speculation.

It is conceivable that with increase in economic stress in the coming months the present Japanese feeling may change, and it accordingly seems to me highly desirable to start the trials and get them over with as soon as possible during this period when the prosecution will, as regards the majority of those listed, receive popular support.

While I realize fully the advantages inherent in trying the suspects before an International Tribunal and thus diffusing responsibility therefor, it is my considered opinion that it would be a grave error to delay the trials unduly and I accordingly recommend that, if there [Page 985] is no prospect of establishing an International Tribunal within a very short time, the trials be conducted by a purely American Tribunal with a view to their conclusion at the earliest date practicable.

  1. Joseph B. Keenan, American Chief of Counsel for prosecution of war crimes charges in Japan.