Western reaction to Allied war crimes operations in the Far East, 1945-1951 : apathetic and insignificant?
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
World War II was one of the most brutal conflicts in history, and conflicting attitudes pervaded the post-war period. Feelings of profound hatred, emerging Cold War tensions, hope for future peace and international cooperation all came to the fore. In this context, the victorious Allied powers brought Axis war criminals to ''justice''. Although much has been written about the ensuing trials of Nazis and their collaborators in Europe, markedly less is known about the complement trials in Asia. This is surprising because Allied prosecutions in the East were at least as extensive as those in Europe and represented perhaps an even greater effort in international cooperation. The lack of scholarly exposure given to these trials is notable, and even during their proceedings, the Asian trials were overshadowed by their European counterparts. This lack of attention does not, however, imply apathy. This study examines contemporary Western reaction to Allied war crimes operations in the Far East, revealing that the international community was in fact very aware of the trials. Contemporary popular media covered the most dramatic and shocking trials, and academic periodicals discussed their legal validity and legacy. Although the most widely-discussed trial of the period was the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) in Tokyo, many other trials were also covered. Those directly involved in the trial of Japanese war criminals were especially vocal in discussing their work. This was particularly so with those linked to the IMTFE. The final chapter of this thesis presents a case study of internal reaction to this trial, examining available published and unpublished recollections of individuals involved with the IMTFE such as the judges, prosecutors, defence counsel, and personal assistants. Like other trials in the East, the IMTFE was not as widely discussed as its Nuremberg contemporary. The people involved in the IMTFE were nonetheless aware of its importance, its shortcomings and strengths, and its role in the politics and media of an increasingly international society. In this way, internal reaction to the IMTFE represents a microcosm of contemporary views of Allied war crimes prosecutions in Asia. Interest in Allied trials in the East may not have been widespread, but it was thorough, vigorous, and varied. It was not the indifferent haphazard array that is most regularly depicted.