The Yamashita trial

Apr 2017
298
United Kingdom
On Tuesday/Wednesday, it will be the 72nd anniversary of the execution of the Japanese Imperial Army general Tomoyuki "The Tiger Of Malaya" Yasmashita on the charges of war crimes committed by the soldiers under his command during the fighting between Japanese and US forces for Manila.
Whilst I hold no more a brief for the Japanese than I do for their German counterparts, Yamashita's trial and his subsequent execution has aroused EVEN AT THE TIME considerable controversy(as it has right down to the present day).
Yamashita protested that although the soldiers under his command had possibly committed war crimes, he was not aware of them at the time and had he been so aware he would have punished said troops severely.
It may be argued(particularly by those who had seen military service) that a commander is responsible for the behaviour of his subordinates , but I would draw their attention to another general and his soldiers' behaviour in battle. During the Battle of The Bulge( and apparently in retaliation for the highly publicized "Malmedy massacre" of eighty seven US Army POWS by SS troops), an order was apparently passed down( precisely by who is unclear- we don't know if the then theatre commander, one Dwight Eisenhower was ever apprised of this order) ordering that all parachutists or SS men be summarily shot out of hand= which of course is a violation of the terms of the Geneva Convention). Had of course Germany won the war, it is at least arguable that the the Yamashita doctrine of command responbsibility come into play, but of course Germany(and Japan) lost the war and the Allies won it, with "Ike" going on to the Presidency of the United States.
Whilst the charge of "victors' justice" is often bandied around regarding both Nuremburg and its Japanese counterpart9 the IMTFE, International Military Tribunal Far East) mainly by neo Nazis and Holocaust deniers, vis a vis Yamashita there is at least a kernel of truth to this charge.
Critics such as US Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy (who penned a heated dissent, noting the usage of hearsay evidence amongst other things as well as the fact evidence exculpating Yamashita was excluded) noted this.
Anybody think as I do?

Terry
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,346
Sydney
.
Two things are of note in the Yamashita trial .
the first is the strong stench of " victor justice " coming from it

The second is the Yamashita principle being enshrined in international law

a commander has total responsibility for ALL the action of troops under his command ,in his Theater of authority .

The main reason was to shatter the old excuse of not being aware of whatever was happening
it would promote a culture of willing ignorance .
subalterns would not report to their superior since doing so would make their commander legally responsible
 

Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,529
Japan
The Japanese were worse than the Germans. It was inevitable that some of them would pay the price for the rape/torture/killing fetish that Japan’s military culture had developed. Yamashita may not have been responsible or have condoned his troops behavior but as a an experienced Japanese commander it is unlikely and naive to assume he didn’t know what they had done. When wellingtons troops ran riot at Badajoz he eventually had erected gallows, when they raped and robbed he strung them up.
Commanders might be powerless to prevent their troops committing atrocities. But they can punish it.
 

Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,648
Ontario, Canada
Trial of General Tomoyuki Yamashita

"Details as to time, place and date should also be furnished as to the alleged offences and as to the persons who were allegedly permitted to commit them. The Prosecution, however, stressed that, although a motion such as this might be permissible in a court of law, the regulations the Defence was putting forward governing the Commission made no provision for such a motion. If the accused desired a Bill of Particulars, the Prosecution had no objection to supplying one ; what they objected to was an attempt to apply to the proceedings of the Commission “ the technical objections and rules of evidence, pleadings and procedure which might apply in a court of law.” Defence Counsel admitted that the Commission was not bound by the rules of a court of law, and based its application on principles of justice and fairness to the accused."

TLDR version:
Yamashita did a very bad thing, what specifically we don't really have to say because this isn't actually a court of law... so it was a kangaroo court.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,346
Sydney
.
In this instance , it certainly was
One could wonder about the many cases of ultimate brutality ordered by Imperial Army commanders ,
far too few got any form of trouble with the commissions
justice was equally missing for the Kenpetai officers or the criminals scientific experiments
 

Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,648
Ontario, Canada
As controversial as it is, because it is associated with the Rape of Nanjing, I would also put forward the trial of Iwane Matsui as being extremely similar. I think that if we examine the trial itself we would come to the consensus that Iwane Matsui was not guilty of the charges put forward against him and was not guilty for the actions of his army in Nanjing. Not only that but the Rape of Nanjing is usually conflated with multiple war crimes and excesses carried out by Japanese troops within Nanjing. So essentially he was charged with any and all crimes carried out within the span of two months (maybe more I could be wrong), whether he ordered it or not and is additionally charged with being responsible for the actions of his army regardless. Now given the odd hierarchy of the Japanese military, a classic case of Gekokujo, he probably wasn't in a position to restore order or carry out punishments and his orders would have been largely ignored or carried out halfheartedly. It was a well known fact that Matsui was given charge of this army for political reasons, as the highest ranking member of the army who held no command and the IJN's resident China expert, who also had good relations with the Kuomintang's ruling clique.

https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/video/generals-responsibility-matsui-nanjing-and-tokyo-trial
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,346
Sydney
.
Yes indeed but by traditional military law a commander has the life of the men in his command in his very hand
this is not some kind of administration
military justice do not blink at executing any soldier guilty of infringement of it's rule
absolute obedience is promoted , as de Gaulle admired so much , as "the prime strength of the Army"

any commander would not tolerate misbehavior about his orders
neither should he neglect any treaty binding his country to some agreed code of conduct
it would seems logical to think he had prime responsibility for his command behavior
Matsui being weak is not the issue , he WAS the Boss and could hardly claim to have slept the whole time

It is moot in the case of Yashmashita , he had withdrawn his command , the troops commiting the atrocities were from the Navy and outside his authority
 
Apr 2017
298
United Kingdom
So it seems strange that one commander is hanged(Yamashita) whereas another(Eisenhower) not only prospers but is twice elected to his nation's highest office- the Presidency of the United States- other than the fact that "Ike" belonged to the winning side and Yamashita to the losing one!

Terry
 

David Vagamundo

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
4,439
Atlanta, Georgia USA
So it seems strange that one commander is hanged(Yamashita) whereas another(Eisenhower) not only prospers but is twice elected to his nation's highest office- the Presidency of the United States- other than the fact that "Ike" belonged to the winning side and Yamashita to the losing one!

Terry
Eisenhower was overall Allied Commander in the ETO whereas Yamashita was tried because his soldiers committed mass murder in the Philippines, the only area under his command at the time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomoyuki_Yamashita#Philippines

Also, the total number of persons killed as a result of Allied war crimes in Europe during WWII appears to be dwarfed by the numbers killed in the Philippines. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_war_crimes_during_World_War_II
 
Apr 2017
298
United Kingdom
Yes, but did Yamashita exercise control over his troops during the Battle of Manila- he claimed he could not and was therefore unaware of any war crimes committed by them until afterwards(just as Eisenhower could have made the same claim about the "take no prisoners" order issued during the Battle of the Bulage)? As the French would put it- c'est la guerre- one is regarded as a reviled war criminal and the other a revered statesmen simply because "Ike" ended up on the winning side and Yamashita on the losing one!

Terry