A former court interpreter at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East believes the Allied trial proceedings were fair and legitimate, but reflected ignorance of Japan’s wartime politics.
Takashi Oka, 75, who was educated at an American prep school in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward before the war, worked for the International Prosecution Section of the Supreme Commander for Allied Powers and served as one of the eight interpreters in the tribunal between May 1946 and November 1948.
In a recent interview with The Japan Times, Oka said he remembers thrilling cross-
examinations between Chief Prosecutor Joseph Keenan and Gen. Hideki Tojo, in which both showed strong hatred toward each other.
Keenan, in his opening statement, insultingly said he would not call the wartime Prime Minister Tojo a general, as the Japanese army had already been disbanded, and would not address him using the title of mister throughout the examination when referring to Tojo. Oka said he was shocked by Keenan’s treatment of the nation’s highest former leader.
What made the examination more thrilling was that, despite their hatred, they shared a common objective — to keep the Emperor out of the war crimes court.
Oka, a visiting professor of Asian studies at George Washington University, said it appeared Keenan and Tojo intentionally expressed their hostility for each other to avoid giving the impression that the trial was a mere show.
Oka also recalls the examination of a witness, former Manchukuo Emperor Pu Yi, who testified that he was only a puppet for the Japanese military authority.
Pu Yi claimed he was never in a decision-making position.
Oka said he was shocked when Pu Yi contended that his wife was fatally poisoned by the Japanese army, denying a medical report that she died of natural causes.
Almost 20 years after the trial, Pu Yi confessed that he had lied many times in the trial, to save his life. Oka recalled listening to Pu Yi with resentment during the trial, as he lied blatantly.
Oka said he would have appreciated the trial’s principles as fair and legitimate, if they were to prevent another war of aggression and to restore world peace, as declared by SCAP.
Oka criticized the current view of the trial as the winner teaching the loser an unfair lesson, saying such views are too emotional and ignore both the principle intentions and historical context of the trial.
Referring to “Pride — The Fateful Moment,” the controversial film that portrayed Tojo on trial and his execution, Oka said it ignored and distorted historical facts.
While the film drew criticism for its heroic depiction of Tojo and justification of Japan’s war intentions, Oka said such views run counter to the ideas of Indian Judge Radihabinod Pal and the defense counsel that the Allies were not in a position to judge the Japanese defendants.
They claimed that international law has no provisions describing a war of aggression as a crime.
An American defense lawyer said if Japan’s wartime acts were tried in court, the Allies’ acts would equally deserve such a trial based on international law.
Oka said prosecutors and judges erroneously lumped the wartime politics of Japan with that of Germany.
Japan never had a single leader who could exert total control over the nation’s direction, unlike Germany, where Allied prosecutors focused on each defendant’s responsibility in accordance with international law, he said.
If the prosecutors had examined each defendant’s responsibility, or lack of, in specific cases, such as the Nanjing Massacre, the trial could have been fairer and more convincing to the Japanese people, Oka claimed.