The Tokyo War Crimes Trials (1946-48):
  Notes, Selected Links & Bibliography
by Shira Megerman

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East

MAY 3, 1946
to NOVEMBER 12, 1948

All Japanese Class A war criminals were tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) in Tokyo. The prosecution team consisted of justices from eleven Allied nations: Australia, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Soviet Union and the United States of America. The Tokyo trial lasted from May 1946 to November 1948. 


Of the eighty (80) Class A war criminal suspects detained in the Sugamo prison after 1945, twenty-eight (28) men were brought to trial before the IMTFE. The accused included nine civilians and nineteen professional military men:

  • Four former premiers: Hiranuma, Hirota, Koiso, Tojo;
  • Three former foreign ministers: Matsuoka, Shigemitsu, Togo
  • Four former war ministers: Araki, Hata, Itagaki, Minami
  • Two former navy ministers: Nagano, Shimada
  • Six former generals: Doihara, Kimura, Matsui, Muto, Sato, Umezu
  • Two former ambassadors: Oshima, Shiratori
  • Three former economic and financial leaders: Hoshino, Kaya, Suzuki
  • One imperial adviser: Kido
  • One radical theorist: Okawa
  • One admiral: Oka
  • One colonel: Hashimoto

The indictment accused the defendants of promoting a scheme of conquest that "contemplated and carried out ... murdering, maiming and ill-treating prisoners of war (and) civilian internees ... forcing them to labor under inhumane conditions ... plundering public and private property, wantonly destroying cities, towns and villages beyond any justification of military necessity; (perpetrating) mass murder, rape, pillage, brigandage, torture and other barbaric cruelties upon the helpless civilian population of the over-run countries."

Joseph Keenan, the chief prosecutor representing the United States at the trial, issued a press statement along with the indictment: "war and treaty-breakers should be stripped of the glamour of national heroes and exposed as what they really are --- plain, ordinary murderers."

General Tojo on trial in Manila

International Military Court for the Far East, in session


Two (Yosuke Matsuoka and Osami Nagano) of the twenty-eight defendants died of natural causes during the trial. One defendant (Shumei Okawa) had a mental breakdown on the first day of trial, was sent to a psychiatric ward and was released in 1948 a free man. The remaining twenty-five (25) were all found guilty, many of multiple counts. Seven (7) were sentenced to death by hanging, sixteen (16) to life imprisonment, and two (2) to lesser terms. All seven sentenced to death were found to be guilty of inciting or otherwise implicated in mass-scale atrocities, among other counts. Three of the sixteen sentenced to life imprisonment died between 1949 and 1950 in prison. The remaining thirteen (13) were paroled between 1954 and 1956, less than eight years in prison for their crimes against millions of people.


Additional Reading:

Brackman, Arnold C., The Other Nuremberg: the Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crimes Trial (Wm Morrow, 1988).

Cassese, Antonio., The Tokyo Trial and Beyond: Reflections of a Peacemonger (Polity, 1994).

Maga, Timothy P., Judgment at Tokyo: The Japanese War Crimes Trials (Univ. of Kentucky Press, 2001)..

Minear, Richard C., Victor's Justice: The Tokyo War Crimes Trial (Michigan Classics  in Japanese Studies, 2001).

Tanaka, Yuki., Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes in World War II (Westview Press, 1997).

Totani, Yuma, The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II (Harvard East Asian Monographs, 2008).


Harry S. Truman Library and Museum: The Tokyo War Crimes Trials

Justice Erima Harvey Northcroft Tokyo War Crimes Trial Collection (Univ. of Canterbury)

War Crimes (Japanese)

The Tokyo War Crimes Trials

International Military Tribunal for the Far East (Wikipedia)

PBS, The Tokyo War Crimes Trials (American Experience)


Japanese War Crimes: Murder Under the Sun (A & E Video, 2000)