Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tōjō’s resistance to surrender

Pages from a diary kept by Hideki Tōjō, Japanese Prime Minister, in the days before Japan’s surrender in the Second World War have just come to light. They show that despite the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, he was in favour of fighting on. Tōjō, who was executed in 1948, also kept a prison diary, and this was first published in 1991. An English translation, which is freely available online, includes this extract: ‘It is natural that I should bear entire responsibility for the war in general’.

Tōjō, born in 1884, entered the Imperial Japanese Army at a young age, and steadily worked his way up the ranks. In July 1941, he was appointed minister of war by the prime minister, Fumimaro Kondoye; and, a few months later, succeeded to the post of prime minister himself. Initially, he backed efforts to reach agreement with the US but then ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor in December. He also pressed on with advances throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. However, with the fall of Saipan in the Mariana Islands in 1944, he was forced to resign, and went into seclusion. After Japan’s surrender, in September 1945, he was arrested, found guilty of several war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, and hanged.

Recently, the National Archives of Japan released approximately 20 pages of diary notes written by Tōjō in the final days of the war, and these were published for the first time in Nikkei newspaper earlier this week (to mark the 63rd anniversary of Japan’s surrender). The story was then distributed around the world by Associated Press and others, focused largely on the key point that Tōjō was keen for his country to carry on fighting even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been destroyed by the US’s nuclear bombs. The AP story quotes Kazufumi Takayama, curator of the Archives, who puts it like this: ‘The notes show Tōjō kept his dyed-in-the-wool militarist mentality until the very end’.

Various extracts of the diary have been published. The Daily Telegraph has this one from 10 August 1945, the day after the Nagasaki bombing: ‘The Japanese government has accepted the notion that Japan is the loser and it appears to be going to accept unconditional surrender. . . Such a position frustrates the officers and soldiers of the imperial armed forces. Without fully employing its abilities even at the final moment, the imperial nation is surrendering to the enemies’ propaganda . . . I never imagined such torpor in the nation's leaders and its people.’

The AP story has a couple of extracts from a few days later, 13 August 1945: ‘We now have to see our country surrender to the enemy without demonstrating our power up to 120 percent’; and, ‘we are now on a course for a humiliating peace, or rather a humiliating surrender.’ And here’s another extract: ‘Now that the diplomatic steps have been taken after the emperor’s judgment [for surrender], I have decided to refrain from making any comments about it, though I have a separate view.’

However, Tōjō also kept a diary while in Sugamo prison, after the war, awaiting trial. The text of this diary, in English, is available online thanks to VHO, which calls itself ‘the world’s largest website for historical revisionism!’ ! (the second exclamation mark is mine) and a 1992 issue of its Journal of Historical Review. (In the same issue is an article entitled Hoover-era American plan for war against Britain and Canada uncovered.)

The Journal of Historical Review says the Tōjō diary consists of several essays, and a reconstructed daily log of the critical period of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, and says that it was composed in part as an aid for his trial proceedings. Unknown to the world for 4o years apparently, it was first published in Japan in 1991 by historian Sanae Sato. The VHO translation was jointly prepared by General Hideo Miki, retired professor of Japan’s National Defense Academy, and Henry Symington, an American specialist of Japanese economic and social affairs.

There is not much diary-like material in the diary, but here is an interesting, but undated, extract: ‘It is natural that I should bear entire responsibility for the war in general, and, needless to say, I am prepared to do so. Consequently, now that the war has been lost, it is presumably necessary that I be judged so that the circumstances of the time can be clarified and the future peace of the world be assured. Therefore, with respect to my trial, it is my intention to speak frankly, according to my recollection, even though when the vanquished stands before the victor, who has over him the power of life and death, he may be apt to toady and flatter. I mean to pay considerable attention to this in my actions, and say to the end that what is true is true and what is false is false. To shade one’s words in flattery to the point of untruthfulness would falsify the trial and do incalculable harm to the nation, and great care must be taken to avoid this.’

No comments: