740.00116 P.W./9–1145

The United States Commissioner, United Nations War Crimes Commission (Hodgson), to the Secretary of State
No. 226

Sir: I have the honor to refer to Commissioner’s despatches numbered 168, 185 and 188 of July 26th, August 6th and August 9th, respectively,21 Embassy’s cables 8279 and 8280 of August 15th, and Department’s cable 7163 of August 23rd, and to report that, as advised in Embassy’s cable 8280, the United Nations War Crimes Commission is awaiting the filing by the United States of pertinent information or lists concerning the major Japanese war criminals before preparing and adopting a list of such war criminals. As pointed out in the mentioned despatches, in the absence of any information upon this subject, it is considered necessary that the Commission first receive the basic information from the Governments.

The substance of my conversations with Lord Wright, Chairman of the Commission, and Mr. Oldham, his assistant, concerning Lord Wright’s proposal to place the name of the Emperor upon the Commission’s lists and to compile and adopt a list of major Japanese war criminals is outlined in the two mentioned Embassy cables, as well as in a telephone conference initiated on August 15th by Brigadier General John M. Weir, Director, War Crimes Office, Office of The Judge Advocate General. In view of H. E. Ambassador Winant’s intervention to prevent Lord Wright carrying out his suggestion to put the Emperor and other Japanese on the Commission’s lists of war criminals (Embassy’s cable 8279 of August 15) and the War Department’s [Page 925] cable (War 49639)22 stating “strongly urge that no action be taken on the Emperor” and that “no action should be taken on listing major Japanese criminals until after formal surrender has become effective”, no action has been taken in the mentioned regard, but Lord Wright has made it clear that in view of American objections to his proposals, the responsibility for the absence of the names of the major Japanese war criminals, including the Emperor’s, from the Commission’s lists rests upon the United States. I believe that if there is inquiry or criticism he intends to make this clear.

When I talked with Lord Wright on August 15th he said that he had made the proposals and that he felt that he bad fully discharged his duty to the Commission, the Governments and the public. If any action to list the Emperor or to prepare and adopt a list of major Japanese war criminals was to be taken in the future it would have to be at the instance of a Government, and, inasmuch as the United States was the principal Government concerned, at the instance of the United States Government. He also said that perhaps there would be criticism for not having listed the Emperor or for not having adopted a list of major Japanese war criminals. If criticism did occur, responsibility would have to rest on the United States and not on the Commission or Australia. In addition, he said that the United States, while it was the principal prosecutor of the Japanese war and unquestionably in possession of much information concerning Japanese war crimes, had not furnished information, filed cases or compiled and transmitted for adoption a list of major Japanese war criminals. He concluded that the adoption of such a list, although urgent, would be held in abeyance until the United States furnished the necessary list or information.

Since then no action has been taken to list the Emperor or to prepare a list of major Japanese war criminals.

London newspapers have recently carried accounts of purported statements of American officials to the effect that a list of major Japanese war criminals had been prepared by the United States Government. This was also indicated in Department’s cable 7163 of August 23rd.

In view of the foregoing, it is my opinion and recommendation that the United States should forward, as soon as possible, for consideration and adoption by the Commission, a list of Japanese considered by it to be major war criminals. Even if incomplete, in my opinion, it should be forwarded for consideration and adoption with the understanding that it is incomplete and that additional names may be added at a later time.

It is also strongly recommended that the United States furnish information to the Commission about Japanese war crimes and file [Page 926] with the Commission, as soon as possible, American cases involving alleged Japanese war criminals. With the cessation of hostilities in the Japanese war, the principal reason for withholding Japanese cases would seem to have disappeared. It is well recognized by the Commission that while the United States may not have suffered from war crimes in Europe to the same extent as the European nations, it has been one of the principal victims of Japanese war crimes. It is also known, as indicated by the Secretary’s recent statement,23 that the United States has gathered much evidence in this regard. Consequently, the Commission relies principally upon the United States for information and cases about Japanese war crimes. If these are withheld much longer it will probably be taken as a reflection upon its avowed support of the Commission.

In connection with the foregoing it should be borne in mind that the United States has filed no information concerning European war crimes or cases against European war criminals. Yet, the British press carries stories of American trials of such war criminals. In this regard it was stated in the memorandum about the United States War Crimes Office, transmitted in Department’s despatch No. 54 of April 23, 1945,24 that cases would be presented to the Commission after all possible sources of information had been investigated. It is, of course, obvious to members of the Commission that, if cases are being tried, the investigations are complete.

It is my belief that it would be highly advantageous to the United States, the other Governments and the Commission if all cases, European and Japanese, and all other information concerning war crimes were filed immediately with the Commission. In view of present circumstances, I feel that I cannot underline this recommendation too strongly.


Joseph V. Hodgson

Lt. Col., JAGD
  1. Despatches 168 and 188 not printed.
  2. Latter not found in Department files.
  3. For Department’s statement on September 5, see Department of State Bulletin, September 9, 1945, p. 343; see also documentation printed ante, pp. 316 ff.
  4. Not printed.