Skip to content | Skip to document navigation

Research Guides


Japanese War Crimes in the Pacific: Australia's investigations and prosecutions


9 The International Military tribunal for the Far East, 1946-48

Introduction

Better known than the Australian war crimes trials is the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), held in the former War Ministry office in Tokyo, 1946–48, otherwise referred to as the Tokyo Tribunal or the Tokyo Trial. This was the international A class381 trial of 'major' war criminals, although the charges put forward against the (initially) 28 defendants named in the indictment in fact encompassed crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and conventional war crimes.

The trial was held pursuant to the Charter of the Tribunal, issued by General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander, Allied Powers (SCAP), as a proclamation on 19 January 1946.382 During the Occupation of Japan, MacArthur was meant to be guided by the policies and principles decided by the Far Eastern Commission (FEC) in Washington DC, which were then transmitted to him by the United States Government. The Far Eastern Commission was established in December 1945 (replacing the Far Eastern Advisory Commission established in October 1945) and comprised representatives of the 11 Allied nations, including Australia, which had fought against Japan.

Similar to the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC) discussed in Chapter 3, matters at the Far Eastern Commission were discussed in committees before being forwarded to the commission as a whole for decision. The Far Eastern Commission's Committee 5 on 'War Criminals' met somewhat irregularly from March 1946 onwards.383 The Committee's proposed policy for the Apprehension, Trial and Punishment of War Criminals in the Far East was approved by the commission on 3 April 1946 as a directive to be forwarded to SCAP.384 Several other Far Eastern Commission policies on war criminals were also approved in 1947 and 1949. In practice, however, MacArthur could be rather hostile to Far Eastern Commission and sometimes acted without reference to the commission's directives.

MacArthur was also meant to be guided by the Allied Council for Japan (ACJ), a four-power Allied advisory body in Japan on which Australian diplomat and scholar William Macmahon Ball first represented the British Commonwealth.385 Ball became increasingly frustrated over time by SCAP's relegation of the Allied Council for Japan to obscurity. He advised in his official report for January 1947, for instance, that as MacArthur had not asked for any advice on any question that month, the 'work of the Council dropped to a new low water mark of futility'.386  

Table 5: Australian personnel at the Far Eastern Advisory Commission, Far Eastern Commission and the Allied Council for Japan

Organisation

Role

Name

Period

Far Eastern Advisory Commission

Inaugural meeting

Dr HV Evatt

30 October 1945

Far Eastern Commission

FEC advisory visit to Japan387

Mr William D Forsyth

January 1946

Major James Plimsoll388

Dr John B Andrews

Mr AB Jamieson

Australian representative

Sir Frederic Eggleston389

February–March 1946

Lt Gen Sir John Lavarack390

March–May 1946

Dr HV Evatt

May–July 1946

Major James Plimsoll

July–October 1946

Mr William D Forsyth

1946–?

Mr John Oldham

1946–47

Mr Norman Makin391

October 1946–June 1951

Mr Percy Spender392

June 1951–April 1952

Far Eastern Commission Committee
No. 5 attendees

Mr John Oldham

March 1946–April 1947

Dr John Andrews

March 1946

Major James Plimsoll

March–April 1947

Lord Wright of Durley393 (Australian representative and UNWCC chairman)

14 June 1946

Mr HW Bullock

March 1947

Allied Council for Japan

Australian representative

Mr William Macmahon Ball

April 1945– September 1947

Mr Patrick Shaw394

1947–1949

Col William R Hodgson395

1949-1952

For further details on archival records on the aftermath of war with Japan, including the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) and the peace treaty with Japan, see Pam Oliver's separate archival guide.396

Image 34: Official appointment of Webb as Australia representative to the International Military Tribunal, 6 February 1946.

Image 34: Official appointment of Webb as Australia representative to the International Military Tribunal, 6 February 1946.
NAA: M1418, 2
Enlarge image - View image gallery

Choosing Australian personnel for the International Military Tribunal for the Far East

The United States originally asked Australia to designate three (later five) military officers or civilians qualified for appointment to the forthcoming international war crimes tribunal for major Japanese war criminals.397 Given his role as War Crimes Commissioner, as discussed in Chapter 2, Sir William Webb was accustomed to being consulted regularly by the Department of External Affairs and the Department of the Army on war crimes matters, so it probably appeared par for the course in late 1945 when he was 'urgently'398 consulted by External Affairs about a response to the United States' request for Australian nominees.399 To be fair, Webb seems to have never thought of himself as a likely nominee to the bench of an international war crimes tribunal. When asked for advice about Australia's nominees, Webb simply suggested 'Judges of High and State Supreme Courts, Kings Counsels and Professors of Law', although, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland, he would have been included on that roster.400 Webb's name seems to have been put forward in early November 1945 by Professor Kenneth Bailey to the Department of External Affairs, who then consulted Sir George Knowles, then Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department and Solicitor-General.401 Knowles had initially suggested two judges of the High Court of Australia but then revised his list to include a state judge, two barristers, Bailey and Webb.402

When the list of civilian nominees was sent in late November 1945 to the Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, Dr HV Evatt, then overseas, Evatt responded that he was of 'the opinion that experience in criminal jurisdiction was very essential' to the nominees. He suggested Lord Wright of Durley (then Australian representative to and chairman of the United Nations War Crimes Commission based in London), Webb, Knowles or one of several prominent state judges.403 Lord Wright, Evatt's 'personal'404 preference, was consulted in late 1945 but he decided that his existing obligations would not allow him to be absent from the United Kingdom long enough to serve on the tribunal.405 Evatt's second pick of Webb accepted his prospective nomination on 13 December 1945, 'subject to my being qualified to act'. Webb appeared well aware that his nomination might attract criticism due to his war crimes work, pointing out in his acceptance that '[o]f course, I have so far made no finding against any major war criminal'.406

With the United States pressing very hard for nominees – now reduced to a judge and an associate prosecutor – to be communicated in early January 1946, Evatt approved the nomination of Webb as the Australian member of the court and Justice Alan Mansfield as associate prosecutor.407

An assistant prosecutor to aid Mansfield was also selected from the Australian Army: Major Thomas Francis Edington Mornane, then a member of the Australian Army Legal Corps and, in civilian life, an assistant crown solicitor for Victoria.408 Mornane was promoted to lieutenant colonel and seconded from the Army to the Department of External Affairs for the trial.409

Table 6: Key Australian and associated personnel at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East

Role

Name

Period

Australian judge and President

Sir William Flood Webb

1946–48

Webb's associates

Mr Rex Crane

1946–June 1947

Mr William Edmund Cuppaidge

1947–48

Secretary of the Office of the President

Mrs Mildred Splane (née Rich)

 

Webb's staff

Miss Bettie Renner410
Mrs Frances P Morris
(née Campbell)

 

Australian associate prosecutors

Justice Alan Mansfield

January 1946–January 1947

Lt Col Thomas Francis Mornane

February 1947–48

Australian assistant prosecutor

Lt Col Thomas Francis Mornane

1946–47

Associate prosecutor's associate

Mr Alistair R McDonald

 

Typists

Miss Betty Burrowes
Miss Brotherson

 

General Douglas MacArthur then selected Webb – not without some controversy – to preside over the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, possibly as they had been acquainted since 1944. As Yuma Totani has contended, the Australian participants in the tribunal 'profoundly shaped the course of the trial and left their deep imprint on its outcome'.411

Image 35: Photograph sheet of 28 suspected war criminals.

Image 35: Photograph sheet of 28 suspected war criminals.
NAA: M1417, 23
Enlarge image - View image gallery

The question of the Emperor

Not surprisingly, given that there were 11 Allied countries attempting to shape postwar policy towards Japan, views diverged on many topics. One of the most contentious topics was that of the Emperor. Australia took a sterner approach to the Emperor's role and future than the United Kingdom or the United States. For example, one American official report described Australian 'uneasiness' about apparent 'lenient' postwar policy towards Japan and suggested that the Emperor was the 'institution to which Australia most vehemently objects'.412 Indeed, the report went on to say, '[t]he Australian Government is adamant in its position that Hirohito is a war criminal'.413

Although Webb's view that the Emperor held responsibility for war crimes was undoubtedly influential, it is clear that others in the Australian Government held similar views. When Japan sought to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration on 10 August 1945, provided that the 'prerogative of the Emperor as sovereign ruler of Japan' was not compromised by those terms, the Australian Government responded by asserting that the 'Emperor should have no immunity from responsibility for Japan's acts of aggression and proved war crimes'.414 This was because Japan's 'deliberate system of terrorism and atrocity … must have been known to the supreme authorities in Japan, not excluding the Emperor'.415 Evatt, in particular, was personally concerned that the Emperor not be excluded when war crimes responsibility was discussed. In a telegram to Lord Wright on 18 August 1945, for instance, he wrote:

It is very important that under new Article [concerning 'crimes against peace'] as well as under general charge of encouraging and procuring atrocities responsibility should be imputed to all Japanese higher-ups including Hirohito and I hope that this will soon be done.416

The Emperor was placed on Australia's first list of major Japanese war criminals holding key positions in October 1945, a list which was approved by Webb before it was transmitted to the United Nations War Crimes Commission in London for consideration. However, Mansfield had little luck persuading the commission to approve it. Lord Wright, reluctantly, had to forward the Australian list on to the Far Eastern Commission, to the Allied Council for Japan and to the International Prosecution Section (IPS) in Tokyo,417 where it had little influence on the process of determining who was indicted at the International Military Tribunal.

Although General MacArthur had made it abundantly clear that he opposed indicting the Emperor,418 Australia continued to press for the Emperor's prosecution, right up until early April 1946, when the trial was about to commence.419 The Australian associate prosecutor in Tokyo, Mansfield was instructed that:

if you are satisfied that there is a case [against the Emperor], it is left entirely to you to act upon your considered view. At same time you should avoid any public protest if decision is against indictment or if MacArthur vetoes proposal. You are familiar with the facts and it has always been our view that if the facts warranted indictment, Hirohito is no more entitled to special immunity than the common soldiers who inflicted such cruel barbarities against Allied soldiers and civilians.420

However, the Far Eastern Commission's approval on 3 April 1946 of its policy regarding Apprehension, Trial and Punishment of War Criminals in the Far East was with the 'understanding' that the directive to be forwarded to SCAP 'would be so worded as to exempt the Japanese Emperor from indictment as a war criminal without direct authorization'.421 Indeed, as Totani points out, this 'no action without authorisation' policy had already been made clear to MacArthur and no such authorisation ever came.422 Mansfield was reportedly the only prosecutor to urge for a vote on the Emperor's inclusion on the list of defendants settled at a prosecutorial meeting423 but, as is well known, the Emperor was not included on the indictment.

Image 36: Telegram from the Australian Political Representative, Tokyo, to the Australian Government in predicting that the International Military Tribunal would run from mid-March to late June 1946.

Image 36: Telegram from the Australian Political Representative, Tokyo, to the Australian Government in predicting that the International Military Tribunal would run from mid-March to late June 1946.
NAA: A1067, UN46/WC/1
Enlarge image - View image gallery

Webb and the trial

As the trial commenced, Webb declared that '[t]here has been no more important criminal trial in all history'.424 As Arnold Brackman has pointed out, this declaration overlooked or ignored the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and, in his view, thereafter 'hung around his neck like a dead albatross'.425 Brackman thought that Webb soon regretted the characterisation, as he publicly retreated to describing the trial thereafter, as 'one of the most important trials in history'.426 Yet, the hyperbole continued in private, with Webb describing the tribunal as the 'greatest criminal court ever constituted'427 and his own role as president as 'the heaviest responsibility ever cast on a judge', 428 with 'no equal in history, ancient or modern'.429   

Webb was a controversial president. From the outset, his appointment garnered criticism because of his earlier war crimes investigatory work, which led critics to suggest that he could not be impartial on the bench. He survived an early challenge on this point by the defence, which sought his disqualification. Judicial relations also became a flash point. Initially, Webb seemed to think that relations between the 11 judges were good, writing in early 1946 that he had 'excellent relations with all his colleagues', who were 'all quite good fellows' and that it 'would indeed be hard to improve upon them'.430 He did 'not anticipate much trouble with them as a team',431 although it was unfortunate that 'not one of us can be called an expert in international law'.432 Regrettably, judicial relations soured thereafter, although never quite to a terminal point. Some of the blame can certainly be placed on Webb who, over time, became less tolerant, more irascible and prone to making unilateral decisions without consultation, or reacting badly when decisions were made that he did not like.

However, it is clear that Webb was being sidelined in Japan, as well as being deliberately undermined by several of the judges, including British judge Lord Patrick, New Zealand Justice Northcroft and Canadian Justice McDougall. Writing home, Lord Patrick called Webb a 'quick-tempered turbulent bully' who had 'antagonised every member of his Tribunal', thereby frustrating the tribunal's purpose.433 Similarly, New Zealand Justice Erima Northcroft wrote home that Webb had an 'unfortunate manner of expression, generally querulous, invariably argumentative and frequently injudicious'. Moreover, Webb was 'often either, and sometimes both, hostile and unreceptive of our [the judges'] suggestions or incapable of understanding their purport or purpose'.434 Their goal seems to have been to persuade their governments to persuade Australia to remove Webb from the tribunal, allowing them to take better control, as they saw it, of the bench and the trial.

Webb's most significant complaint about the trial as it progressed was its duration, as he had originally thought he would be back in Australia in October 1946.435 Indeed, he lamented a year into the trial that if he had 'known how long it was going to take' he would 'not have accepted appointment'.436 Webb generally attributed the length of the trial to a number of factors, including the scope of the indictment, the amount of evidence presented and the difficulties of language translation.437

Arguably, many of the criticisms of Webb's performance can be partially attributed to fatigue and frustration: even before the tribunal commenced Webb had been working extremely hard since 1943 on war crimes, almost without a break, often while continuing to perform other judicial duties. He then watched in Tokyo – in the position of power but unable to exert much control – as the trial ponderously continued, year after year. In May 1947, for instance he described it as the 'slowest case in history'.438 As he had personally invested so much time and energy in the trial, as well as sacrificing his professional and personal life in Australia, delays that meant more time in Japan understandably seemed to aggravate him. The North China Daily News defended him in September 1947, saying:

Sir William is apparently having to deal with people it is very difficult to suffer gladly, and that, even his critics will admit, is not the bounden duty of a judge to endure indefinitely. If Sir William has been exasperated he appears to have been justifiably so, but this in no way detracts from his judicial qualities.439

Mansfield and the trial

As the Australian associate prosecutor in the International Prosecution Section, Mansfield took the lead in the phase of the trial dealing with offences committed against Allied prisoners of war, which both Australia and the Netherlands reportedly saw as 'one of the most important phases' of the trial.440 In Mansfield's view, his approach was not to present a 'historical record of atrocities committed by the Japanese in every area' but a 'picture of general conditions under which prisoners-of-war and civilians were confined' which would 'show that the conditions were similar everywhere' and gave the 'irresistible inference' that 'the mistreatment was not the result of the orders of the individual camp and area commanders, but was part of the general policy of the Japanese Government'.441 Mansfield sought to prove the responsibility of the defendants by producing various orders in violation of the laws of war issued by them, their inaction when proof of mistreatment had been conveyed through neutral parties during the war, admissions made by them during interrogation and admissions of breaches of the laws of war made after the surrender by the Japanese Government.442

In Mansfield's view, the International Prosecution Section 'suffered from many difficulties notably in administration'.443 He certainly appeared to share the opinion of others at the time, and since, that Keenan had been a poor choice as chief counsel. Mansfield informed Evatt that Keenan took 'little active part either in the administration of the section or the conduct of the case'444 and, by November 1946, that Keenan's 'lack of leadership' was 'becoming very serious'.445 Keenan was, of course, not the only impediment to a satisfactory prosecution: Mansfield complained that the prosecutors were 'suffering from all sorts of bottle-necks and other difficulties in getting out material ready for trial', with the 'greatest obstacle' being the translation and copying of documents. Every document, he pointed out, had to be copied about 125 times in English and about the same in Japanese.446 He advised that his own staff – consisting of Lt Col Thomas Mornane as assistant prosecutor and his judicial associate Mr Alistair R McDonald – were giving him 'great assistance'. The typists, Misses Burrowes and Brotherson, were also 'both doing excellent work'.447 For his part, and perhaps not unsurprisingly given their personal history, Webb thought that Mansfield was:

doing a splendid job for the Prosecution … He is more experienced than most of those associated with him. He is well informed and speaks well. He is also very urbane and tactful. I am very proud of him.448

After Mansfield had presented his phase of the case, he was released and returned from Japan in February 1947 to his position on the bench of the Supreme Court of Queensland.  Australian assistant prosecutor, Lt Col Mornane, was named as his replacement in February 1947.449

The majority, separate and dissenting judgments

Reflecting the difficulty of reaching judicial consensus with so many on the bench, eight of the eleven judges handed down a majority judgment in November 1948. It took Webb several days to read the majority judgment from the bench, which dismissed 38 of the 55 counts in the indictment.

Table 7: Convicted major war criminals in alphabetical order by surname, and sentences

Convicted

Sentence

Araki Sadao

Life imprisonment

Doihara Kenji

Death by hanging

Hashimoto Kingorō

Life imprisonment

Hata Shunroku

Life imprisonment

Hiranuma Kiichirō

Life imprisonment

Hirota Kōki

Death by hanging

Hoshino Naoki

Life imprisonment

Itagaki Seishirō

Death by hanging

Kaya Okinori

Life imprisonment

Kido Kōichi

Life imprisonment

Kimura Heitarō

Death by hanging

Koiso Kuniaki

Life imprisonment

Matsui Iwane

Death by hanging

Minami Jirō

Life imprisonment

Mutō Akira

Death by hanging

Oka Takasumi

Life imprisonment

Ōshima Hiroshi

Life imprisonment

Satō Kenryō

Life imprisonment

Shigemitsu Mamoru

7 years' imprisonment

Shimada Shigetarō

Life imprisonment

Shiratori Toshio

Life imprisonment

Suzuki Teiichi

Life imprisonment

Tōgō Shigenori

20 years' imprisonment

Tōjō Hideki

Death by hanging

Umezu Yoshijirō

Life imprisonment

Image 37: Drawing by war criminal Fumio Fujiki held in Papers of Sergeant Edwin P Merrell, USA, Sugamo Prison Detachment, USAFPAC / FECOM, MacArthur Memorial (Norfolk VA).

Image 37: Drawing by war criminal Fumio Fujiki held in Papers of Sergeant Edwin P Merrell, USA, Sugamo Prison Detachment, USAFPAC / FECOM, MacArthur Memorial (Norfolk VA).
RG116, Box 1, Folder 6, reproduced with the permission of the MacArthur Memoria.
Enlarge image - View image gallery

Two separate judgments concurring with the majority (including one from Webb) and three separate dissenting judgments were also handed down, although they were not read out from the bench. The most controversial dissentient was Indian Justice Pal, who argued that all defendants should have been acquitted.  

While Webb drafted several versions of his separate judgment running to hundreds of pages over time, drafts of which can be read in various files, his final judgment was only ten pages in length.450 Pointedly amongst the topics on which Webb differed from the majority was the Emperor. Privately, Webb seems to have been fairly consistent in his view that while a case could be made against the Emperor, the question of prosecuting him was one for the highest authorities; those authorities had made their decision and he would not go against it. He wrote to MacArthur in August 1947, for instance, that he had advised the Australian Government that there was a prima facie case against the Emperor but that 'the matter might be one for decision at the highest political level'. He continued:

I have no desire to see the Emperor of Japan put on trial. If he were I would refuse to try him if asked to do so. It is quite immaterial to me that the decision at the highest political level was in the Emperor's favor …. 451

Yet, in a section of Webb's judgment headed 'Immunity of the Emperor', he stated that he thought that the Emperor's authority in Japan had been 'proven beyond question' by his ending of the war. However, he reiterated that:

… the Prosecution also made it clear that the Emperor would not be indicted … I do not suggest that the Emperor should have been prosecuted. That is beyond my province. His immunity was, no doubt, decided upon in the best interests of all the Allied Powers. Justice requires me to take into consideration the Emperor's immunity when determining the punishment of the accused found guilty: that is all.452

On this basis, he pressed, unsuccessfully, for the death penalty not to be given to any convicted war criminal. However, seven of the convicted war criminals were sentenced to death, including Tōjō Hideki.

Sentencing review and executions

Under the terms of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, General MacArthur had the power to review the sentences. MacArthur reportedly received 10,000 petitions from Japanese individuals seeking to sway him, although their nature was not disclosed.453 Some Australians, too, wrote letters of protest about the death sentences.454 While MacArthur sought to consult with representatives of the involved countries, the Australian position was that final decision on sentences was 'entirely' one for the Supreme Commander.455 In the end, MacArthur chose to uphold the sentences as handed down. A defence appeal to the US Supreme Court was unsuccessful, as the Court decided it had no power to review, affirm, set aside or annul the judgment and sentences of the tribunal.456 The executions were carried out at Sugamo Prison in the early morning of 24 December 1948. Australian Patrick Shaw, by then representing the British Commonwealth on the Allied Council for Japan, witnessed the executions.

Image 38: Lt Col Francis Griffith John Place on enlistment in 1942.

Image 38: Lt Col Francis Griffith John Place on enlistment in 1942.
NAA: B883, SX12513
Enlarge image - View image gallery

US war crimes trials at Yokohama

From December 1945, the United States ran its own national military tribunal war crimes trials at Yokohama. The records and proceedings of these trials are held at the United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), although if the trials had an Australian connection, usually some information about the trials is held in Australia. Many of the Yokohama trials concerned war crimes committed against Allied prisoners of war who had been held in camps in Japan, which included many Australian prisoners of war.

If Australians were amongst the victims, Australian officers were often seconded to serve on the bench (including as president) or participate in the trials (usually as prosecutors). In one large trial conducted in June 1946, for instance, the bench of seven judges included four Australian officers – Lieutenant Colonel FGJ Place (a member of 2AWCS, Tokyo), Wing Commander JM Davidson, Major DH Isaksson and Major EG Laver (all attached for special duty with GHQ SCAP) – and the accused were prosecuted by Major Douglas M Campbell, also a member of 2AWCS who had experience of the Australian war crimes trials at Morotai.

Affidavit evidence from Australian witnesses was also often tendered at the Yokohama trials, although occasionally Australian witnesses appeared in person to give evidence. The Australian contribution to the US trials was not insubstantial: by March 1948, 2AWCS members had 'actively participated' in the prosecution of 36 Japanese accused war criminals in the trials at Yokohama and had 'assisted' American prosecutors in a 'further 58 trials involving 144 accused'.457

Image 39: John William Alexander O’Brien on enlistment in 1940.

Image 39: John William Alexander O’Brien on enlistment in 1940.
NAA: B883, VX15127
Enlarge image - View image gallery

Further international war crimes trials

When the International Military Tribunal for the Far East commenced in 1946, further international trials of Japanese were expected to be convened. Indeed, a number of suspected war criminals were detained in Sugamo Prison for several years, awaiting a decision about further trials. However, Allied policy in relation to prosecuting major war criminals diverged in some cases from policy regarding minor war criminals. For instance, while the Australian Mission in Tokyo recommended in December 1947 that investigations of offences continue, as well as trials of minor war criminals before Australian Military Courts, it recommended against further A class trials after the tribunal concluded.458

As the tribunal finally wound to a conclusion in late 1948, SCAP tried two more major war criminals: Admiral Toyoda Soemu from 19 October 1948 to 6 September 1949; and Lieutenant General Tamura Hitoshi from 29 October 1948 to 23 February 1949. Their trials have become known as the 'subsequent' trials (that is, subsequent to the tribunal). These were international trials but their character as such was significantly reduced compared to the tribunal: apart from the United States, only Australia and China took part. Australia was represented by Brigadier John William O'Brien, who served as the President of the Tribunal for Toyoda's trial.459 Published copies of both trial proceedings are held in the Australian War Memorial.460 

For complex reasons, undoubtedly including the interminably lengthy duration of the tribunal, no further international joint trials were held. The release of all former A class war criminal suspects was announced on 24 December 1948 and the International Prosecution Section was disbanded on 11 February 1949.

Webb after the trial

Prime Minster JB Chifley informed Webb on 15 November 1948 that the Australian Government was 'most gratified at the able manner in which you have carried on the onerous and important duties of President of the Tribunal' and that he had done 'much to enhance not only your own reputation but also the international prestige of Australia'.461  

Webb left Japan for Australia in late November 1948. He had been appointed to the High Court in early 1946 and, having been sworn in on 18 November 1947, he resumed his seat on the High Court until his retirement in May 1958. Webb afterwards – regrettably – wrote very little about his experience on the International Military Tribunal. While he remained resolute in his views about the Emperor's responsibility for war crimes, he came to believe by the 1970s that the decision to 'save' the Emperor from prosecution had been a worthy one, given that the Emperor had helped to guide Japan through the postwar period to be an economically powerful state.462

Overview of the records

Documents

With 11 countries represented on the International Military Tribunal bench in Tokyo, records relating to the tribunal were soon scattered all over the world. Moreover, the difficulties of copying documents meant that few copies were sometimes made. At one point in 1949, for instance, Webb had to borrow a copy of the majority judgment from the Australian War Memorial (AWM), as he had no copy of his own.463 Researchers wishing to refer to key tribunal documents (such as the Charter) and the transcript of the proceedings may find it easier to use The Tokyo War Crimes Trial, a published multi-volume book series which is easily accessible in Australia.464 Key documents, including the judgments, are also published in other books on the tribunal.465 Key documents, the transcript and the judgments can also now (finally) be found online at the ICC Legal Tools Database under 'Other International(ised) Criminal Jurisdictions'.466

Fairly complete sets of tribunal records, as well as many documents created or accumulated by Webb or his staff during his time on the bench,467 are also available in Australia in the National Archives of Australia, at the Australian War Memorial and at the Library of the Supreme Court of Queensland. Webb's personal papers are held at the Australian War Memorial, although his correspondence in this period is variously held across the National Archives of Australia, the Australian War Memorial and the National Library of Australia.468 For Japanese-literate researchers, the National Library of Australia also holds many Japanese language books and periodicals relating to the tribunal.

Outside of Australia, the holdings relating to the tribunal at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in the United States and The National Archives (TNA) in the United Kingdom are also very substantial. Microfilmed copies of some of NARA's tribunal records are also available at the University of Queensland.469 In New Zealand, a fairly complete set of tribunal records is available at the EH Northcroft Collection at the University of Canterbury.470 Online, the University of Virginia School of Law maintains an extensive archive in its 'The Tokyo War Crimes Trial Digital Collection', including official tribunal records, personal papers, news clippings, photographs, films and other materials.471 In addition to official tribunal records and related documents, series belonging to External Affairs and, to a lesser extent, the Army contain many documents regarding international and Australian policy regarding major war criminals.

Films, sound recordings and photographs

While there is a good film and sound record of the tribunal, little of it is held in Australia.472 The known films and sound holdings include:  

  • 4 minutes 3 seconds of silent black-and-white footage showing the defendants disembarking from a bus outside the trial building, members of the public queuing to enter as spectators, the judges filing in to take their places on the bench and selected happenings in the court room, including former puppet Emperor of Manchuria, Pu Yi, giving evidence.473
  • a 2 hour 30 minutes sound recording of Webb handing down the verdicts on
    12 November 1948.474 This recording was made by the Army Amenities Service of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force from a radio announcement of the verdicts in Japan.

Original film and sound recordings of the trial are often incorporated into documentary films, some of which are also available in Australia.475

While the US Army Signals Unit extensively photographed the International Military Tribunal, this collection is held at National Archives and Records Administration in the United States. In Australia, there is a small photographic collection of the trial, much of which is in the collection of the Australian War Memorial. A good selection of photographs, including some rare coloured photographs and some personal photographs of Sir William and Lady Webb in Japan, are held in the private collection of the MacArthur Museum Brisbane.476

While some photographs of the trial were published in Australian newspapers, articles tended to use stock photographs of MacArthur, Webb or the defendants for illustration. Some more interesting photography of the trial was published in BCON (British Commonwealth Occupation News), the paper for British Commonwealth Occupation Force members in Japan, which is available at the National Library of Australia. Due to the large number of Allied trial staff and the press coverage, considerable numbers of memoirs covering the tribunal have also been published, some with personal photographs.477     

This chapter sorts records into several sections:

  • records relating to the production of Australia's first list of major Japanese war criminals
  • records relating to the tribunal of the Department of External Affairs
  • records relating to the tribunal of the Department of the Army and the Army
  • records relating to Sir William Webb's association with the tribunal
  • official records of the Australian delegation to the tribunal.

Files relating to the tribunal held at the Australian War Memorial, including Webb's personal papers and its set of tribunal records, are listed separately at the end.

Notes

381 This uses the classification system: Class A – crimes against peace; Class B – conventional war crimes; Class C – crimes against humanity. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East is often described as a Class A war crimes trial even though it encompassed far more than crimes against peace in its charges.

382 A copy of Gen MacArthur's proclamation and the Charter is held in NAA: A3312, PCPS 1/39. There is also a copy held in NAA: A10468, X.

383 For the call for members of the working committee to organise this committee, see NAA: A10468, WC5/1.

384 See this document, FEC 007/3 dated 29 March 1946, in NAA: A10468, X.

385 For a brief biography of Ball, see Peter Ryan, 'Ball, William Macmahon (1901–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ball-william-macmahon-12166/text21801. See also the Papers of W. Macmahon Ball, National Library of Australia, MS7851.

386 William Macmahon Ball, Monthly Report – Allied Council for Japan, January 1947, NAA: A1838, 482/1/6. For Ball's diary during this period, see Alan Rix (ed), Intermittent Diplomat: The Japan and Batavia Diaries of W. Macmahon Ball, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1988.

387 For the Australian delegation's reports and various informal notes made by the delegation members, see NAA: A1838, 483/1/4.

388 For a brief biography of Plimsoll, see Jeremy Hearder, 'Plimsoll, Sir James (1917–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/plimsoll-sir-james-15471/text26685.

389 For a brief biography of Eggleston, see Warren Osmond, 'Eggleston, Sir Frederic William (1875–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/eggleston-sir-frederic-william-344/text10409.

390 For a brief biography of Lavarack, see David Horner, 'Lavarack, Sir John Dudley (1885–1957)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lavarack-sir-john-dudley-10790/text19137.

391 For a brief biography of Makin, see David Lowe, 'Makin, Norman John (1889–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/makin-norman-john-14673/text25810.

392 For a brief biography of Spender, see David Lowe, 'Spender, Sir Percy Claude (1897–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/spender-sir-percy-claude-15475/text26689.

393 The transcript of Lord Wright's remarks to the FEC on this date – given on his way back from attending the opening of the IMTFE in Tokyo to London – is in NAA: A10468, X.

394 For a brief biography of Shaw, see David Lee, 'Shaw, Sir Patrick (1913–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/shaw-sir-patrick-11667/text20845.

395 For a brief biography of Hodgson, see Alan Watt, 'Hodgson, William Roy (1892–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hodgson-william-roy-6695/text11551.

396 Pam Oliver, Allies, Enemies and Trading Partners: Records on Australia and the Japanese, Canberra: National Archives of Australia, 2004, http://guides.naa.gov.au/allies-enemies-trading-partners/.

397 Cablegram from the Australian Legation, Washington to the Department of External Affairs, 19 October 1945, NAA: A1066, H45/590/3.

398Cablegram from Department of External Affairs to Dr HV Evatt, 25 October 1945, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/408.

399 Cablegram from the Australian Legation, Washington to the Department of External Affairs, 19 October 1945, NAA: A1066, H45/590/3.

400 Cablegram from Department of External Affairs to Australian Legation, Washington, 13 November 1945, NAA: MP749/8, 66/431/2.(BC444970)

401 Letter from Sir George Knowles to Dr HV Evatt, 13 November 1945, held in Evatt Collection, Flinders University Library, 'War. War Crimes' file.

402 Record of telephone conversation between 'Hill' and Knowles, 16 November 1945; and memorandum from Knowles to the Secretary, Department of External Affairs, 21 November 1945, NAA: A1066, H45/590/3.

403 Cablegram from Australian Legation, Washington to Department of External Affairs, 29 November 1945, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/408.

404 Cablegram from the Department of External Affairs to the External Affairs Officer, London, 11 December 1945, NAA: A1066, H45/590/3. (BC187969)

405 Reported in cablegram from the External Affairs Officer, London, to Dr HV Evatt, 14 December 1945, NAA: A1066, H45/590/3.

406 Letter from Sir William Webb to the Secretary, Department of External Affairs, 13 December 1945, NAA: A1066, H45/590/3. For further on Webb's nomination and acceptance, see Narrelle Morris, 'Sir William Webb and Beyond: Australia and the International Military Tribunal for the Far East', in Kerstin von Lingen (ed), Transcultural Justice at the Tokyo Tribunal: The Allied Struggle for Justice, 1946-48, Leiden: Brill, 2018, pp. 44–64.

407 Cablegram from the Secretary, Department of External Affairs to the Secretary, Department of the Army, 16 January 1946, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/408.

408 See Mornane's particulars of service and qualifications in memorandum from Mr FR Sinclair, Secretary of the Department of the Army to the Secretary, Department of External Affairs, circa 1 February 1946, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/408. (BC 393160) See also Mornane's service file, NAA: B883, VX102782.

409 Letter from the Secretary of the Department of the Army to the Secretary, Prime Minister's Department,
20 November 1946, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/1103.

410 Miss Renner was actually an American lawyer.

411 Yuma Totani, The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Centre, 2008, p. 42.

412 Office of Strategic Services, Research and Analysis Branch, 'Australia Shows Uneasiness Concerning Allied Treatment of Japan', restricted report no. 3260, 21 September 1945, p. 3, NAA: A3300, 290.

413 ibid.

414 Cablegram from Commonwealth Government to Viscount Addison, Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, no. 229, 11 August 1945, Documents on Australian Foreign Policy, vol. 8, 1945, p. 322. Interestingly, it took the remainder of the month for the government's view on the Emperor to be widely published: see, for example, 'Govt. View on Emperor and Surrender', News (Adelaide), 29 August 1945, p. 1.

415 ibid, p. 323.

416 Telegram from 'Minister' to Lord Wright, 18 August 1945, NAA: A2937, 271.

417 As Totani points out, although the list reached FEC and the IPS, MacArthur did not forward the correspondence to the Allied Council for Japan but sent it on to Washington: Totani, The Tokyo War Crimes Trial, p. 56.

418 See, for example, 'Notes of Address to Far Eastern Advisory Commission by General MacArthur', GHQ Tokyo, 29 January 1946, attached to Visit of Far Eastern Commission to Japan, Interim Report of Australian Delegation, 11 February 1946, annex 1, NAA: A1838, 483/1/4.

419 See advice to this point in memorandum for the Minister, 'Major Japanese War Criminals', 8 April 1946, NAA: A1067, UN46/WC/1.

420 Cablegram from Department of External Affairs to Australian Political Representative, Tokyo, for Alan Mansfield, 9 April 1946, NAA: A1067, UN46/WC/1.

421 See excerpt from the Minutes of the Seventh Meeting of the Far Eastern Commission, 3 April 1946 attached to Note by the Secretary General, Apprehension, Trial and Punishment of War Criminals in the Far East, FEC 007/04, 4 April 1946, NAA: A10468, X.

422 Totani, The Tokyo War Crimes Trial, pp. 52–57.

423 Cablegram from Alan Mansfield to the Minister of External Affairs, 9 April 1946 NAA: A1067, UN46/WC/1.

424 'Sir William Webb's Opening Statement at Arraignment', GHQ, USAF, Pacific, Public Relations Office, Special Release, 3 May 1946, NAA: M1418, 10.

425 Arnold Brackman, The Other Nuremberg: The Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, London: Collins, 1989, pp. 103, 230.

426 ibid, p. 230.

427 Letter from Sir William Webb to Dr HV Evatt, 12 February 1947, NAA: M1418, 6.

428 Letter from Sir William Webb to General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Allied Powers, 28 June [no year], NAA: M1418, 6.

429 Letter from Sir William Webb to Dr HV Evatt, 3 July 1946, NAA: M1418, 2.

430 Cablegram from Sir William Webb via Australian Political Representative, Tokyo to the Secretary, Department of External Affairs, 25 May 1946, NAA: A1067, UN46/WC/15; and letters from Sir William Webb to Chief Justice John Latham, 17 April and 8 May 1946, NAA: M1418, 3.

431 Letter from Sir William Webb to Chief Justice John Latham, 8 May 1946, NAA: M1418, 3.

432 Letter from Sir William Webb to Chief Justice John Latham, 17 April 1946, NAA: M1418, 3.

433 Copy of letter from Lord Patrick forwarded to the Lord Chancellor, circa early 1947, pp. 2, 6, National Archives (UK) (TNA): LCO 2/2992.

434 Copy of letter from Justice Northcroft to Chief Justice forwarded to the Lord Chancellor, 18 March 1947, p. 2, TNA: LCO 2/2992.

435 Letter from Sir William Webb to Chief Justice Latham, 8 May 1946, NAA: M1418, 3.

436 Letter from Sir William Webb to Dr HV Evatt, 25 April 1947, NAA: M1418, 2; and letter from Sir William Webb to Chief Justice John Latham, 25 April 1947, NAA: M1418, 3.

437 See, for example, an unsigned document clearly written by Webb, 'Length of the Trial', 23 June 1947, NAA: M1418, 10.

438 Letter from Sir William Webb to JT Fitzgerald, 20 May 1947, NAA: M1418, 3.

439 'Extract from "The North-China Daily News" – September 26th, 1947', NAA: A1067, UN46/WC/8 PART 3.

440 According to Mansfield: see memorandum from Alan Mansfield to Joseph Keenan, 5 November 1946, p. 1, NAA: A1067, UN46/WC/15. For a very early broad description of the remit of his phase, see letter from Mansfield to Prime Minister JB Chifley, 14 May 1946, NAA: MP742/1, 336/1/1103.

441 Memorandum from Alan Mansfield to Joseph Keenan, ibid.

442 ibid.

443 Letter from Alan Mansfield to Dr HV Evatt, 18 October 1946, p. 2, NAA: A1067, UN46/WC/15.

444 ibid.

445 Letter from Alan Mansfield to Dr HV Evatt, 14 November 1946, p. 1, NAA: A1067, UN46/WC/15.

446 Letter from Alan Mansfield to Dr HV Evatt, 18 October 1946, p. 2, NAA: A1067, UN46/WC/15.

447 Letter from Alan Mansfield to Dr HV Evatt, 2 December 1946, p. 2, NAA: A1067, UN46/WC/15.

448 Letter from Sir William Webb to Dr HV Evatt, 3 July 1946, NAA: M1418, 2.

449 Cablegram from the Department of External Affairs to the Australian Political Liaison Officer, Tokyo, 10 February 1947. NAA: A1067, UN46/WC/15/1.

450 See Sir William Webb, Separate Opinion of the President, in Neil Boister and Robert Cryer (eds), Documents on the Tokyo International Military Tribunal: Charter, Indictment and Judgments, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 629–39.

451 Letter from Sir William Webb to General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Allied Powers, 6 August 1947, p. 2, NAA: M1418, 6.

452 Sir William Webb, Separate Opinion of the President, in Boister and Cryer, Documents on the Tokyo International Military Tribunal, pp. 638–9.

453 Memorandum from Patrick Shaw, Head of Mission, to the Secretary, Department of External Affairs, 24 November 1948, NAA: A1838, 1550/6 PART 2.

454 See, for example, the concerted letter campaign by H Tossell of Kadina, South Australia in NAA: A1838, 1550/6 PART 2.

455 Cablegram from the Department of External Affairs to the Australian Mission, Tokyo, 18 November 1948, NAA: A1838, 1550/6 PART 2.

456Hirota v. MacArthur338 US 197 (1948).

457 'Report for Monthly Summation March 1948 from Australian Division Legal Section SCAP by Lt Col DLB Goslett Chief of Division', p. 3, attached as appendix 'A' to Aust Division Checknote (33/1) WC 2725, 25 March 1948, AWM: AWM226, 12.

458 Head of Mission, 'Japanese War Crimes', Departmental Despatch no. 41/1947, 2 December 1947, NAA: A1838, 1550/6 PART 1.

459 O'Brien's papers, including photographs relating to the Toyoda trial, are held in the Australian Defence Force Academy Library, MSS 124.

460 A microform copy of the transcript of Toyoda's trial is also held in the National Library of Australia.

461 Cablegram from Prime Minister JB Chifley to the Australian Mission, Tokyo for Webb, 15 November 1948, NAA: A1838, 1550/6 PART 2.

462 See Sir William Flood Webb, 'Introduction' in David Bergamini, Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, London: Heinemann, 1971, pp. ix–xiv.

463 See the correspondence on the loan in NAA: A1838, 1550/6 PART 2.

464 R John Pritchard, Sonia M. Zaide and Donald Cameron Watt, The Tokyo War Crimes Trial, New York and London: Garland, 1981. This 22-volume series of documents and transcript, together with a five-volume index, is held at the National Library of Australia and various other state and university libraries throughout Australia.

465 See, for example, Neil Boister and Robert Cryer (eds), Documents on the Tokyo International Military Tribunal: Charter, Indictment and Judgments, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

466https://www.legal-tools.org.

467 A memo briefly listing the contents of Webb and Cuppaidge's document 'packing crates' home from Tokyo can been seen in NAA: A1838, 1550/6 PART 2.

468 Correspondence in the NAA and in the AWM are listed later in this guide. Webb's correspondence in the National Library of Australia is found in Sir William F Webb Correspondence 1945­ 1946 [manuscript], NLA: MS5192.

469 This is a partial microfilm copy of National Archives and Records Administration RG 238.

470 Justice Erima Harvey Northcroft Tokyo War Crimes Trial Collection, University of Canterbury, MB1549.
See the useful finding aid here: http://library.canterbury.ac.nz/mb/war_crimes/toc.shtml.

471 The Tokyo War Crimes Trial Digital Collection: http://imtfe.law.virginia.edu/collections.

472 Compared to the film and sound holdings on the IMTFE held at NARA, see RG238.

473 AWM: item F07480.

474 AWM: item S00013.

475 See, for example, The Tokyo Trial (Kodansha Ltd, Tokyo, 1975) held at the Supreme Court Library Queensland or Tokyō Saiban [International Military Tribunal for the Far East] (King Record Company, Tokyo, 2004), held at the Monash University Library. A 2011 Japanese motion picture film on the trial, Puraido: unmei no toki, is also widely available on DVD.

476 MacArthur Museum Brisbane: http://www.mmb.org.au/.

477 See, for example, Arthur C Brackman, The Other Nuremberg: The Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crime Trials, London: Collins, 1989. Brackman was a news correspondent who covered the trials.


TOP OF PAGE

Chapter 9