The Garret Tree
Thursday, April 14, 2005
  The forgotten history of the Pacific War

42,693 pages of lost stories from the Second World War

It's surprising to me that so few people use the transcript of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, best known as the Tokyo war crimes trial, when they are looking for the history of the war in the Pacific, whether they are academics or simply searching for personal or family information.

There was a posted question on the Far East Prisoners of War mailing list asking about the execution of three British soldiers at Changi Beach on Singapore in March, 1942. I was able to answer that question because I knew from my own research that there had been testimony at that execution at the trial.

Those 42,693 pages include the evidence, including testimony and affidavits, together with the prosecution and defense summations. There is more, the judgment and dissents, for a total of 22 volumes.

That trial transcript has been neglected for years. One reason is that unlike the Nuremberg trial in Germany, the Tokyo transcript was not published at the conclusion of the proceedings. A second, as some scholars have pointed out, there's been a 60-year tendency to see Tokyo as less important.
As a journalist, I find it similar to what they say in newsrooms, the story's been done.

The transcript of the Tokyo trial was finally published in 1981. It's The Tokyo War Crimes Trial, Pritchard, R. John and Zaide, Sonia Magbanua. 22 volumes vols. New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1981.

When I checked out some volumes of the trial from the Osgoode Hall Law Library in Toronto as I was working on my Masters degree, in 2001, I was the first person to borrow those books in the 20 years the set had been held by the library.

What makes it a historical gem is its excellent index. Almost every key name mentioned at the trial from Tojo Hidecki to American GI privates, British Tommies and Aussie Diggers can be found in that index.

Then there are the exhibits, which again have remained mostly untouched in the archives around the world for all those 60 years, and never used by historians.

Part of the Sonkrai Tribunal includes the official Japanese investigation of the Burma Thailand Railway. I am borrowing the idea from the various Abu Ghraib reports which are named for the generals who issued those reports, I am calling it "The Yoshimoto Report" after Yoshimoto Shigeeki, who signed the final draft.

And that Tokyo transcript is not just relevant to those who may trying to find out about relatives who were prisoners of war. Part of the defence in the Pearl Harbor phase of the trial was that the surprise attack was, to some in the Japanese government, a justified pre-emptive strike, a defence which was, of course, rejected by the tribunal but is somewhat relevant today's world.

(If anyone is interested in the Far East Prisoners of War list, it is a moderated list on Yahoo Groups.
The direct link is )
Links to this post

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home
I write in a renovated garret in my house in a part of Toronto, Canada, called "The Pocket." The blog is named for a tree can be seen outside the window of my garret.

My Photo
Name: Robin Rowland
Location: Toronto, Canada

I'm a Toronto-based writer, photographer, web producer, television producer, journalist and teacher. I'm author of five books, the latest A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal. The Garret tree is my blog on the writing life including my progress on my next book (which will be announced here some time in the coming months) My second blog, the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai follows the slow progress of my freelanced model railway based on my research on the Burma Thailand Railway (which is why it isn't updated that often) The Creative Guide to Research, based on my book published in 2000 is basically an archive of news, information and hints for both the online and the shoe-leather" researcher. (Google has taken over everything but there are still good hints there)

New blogs as of Sept. 2009
Robin's Weir
Tao of News

November 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 / May 2005 / June 2005 / July 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / November 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / August 2009 /

    follow me on Twitter

    A River Kwai Story
    A River Kwai Story
    The Sonkrai Tribunal