December 23, 2007

December 23 | Tojo Hideki

December 30, 1884 – December 23, 1948: Age 63

Tojo Hideki was Prime Minister of Japan and Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff at the time of Japan's unconditional surrender in 1945. General MacArthur ordered the arrest of Tojo, but American military policy arrived at his home just as he shot himself in the chest. He had had a doctor draw a charcoal "X" on his chest at the location of his heart, but although he shot himself directly through the mark, he missed his heart and didn't die. "I am very sorry it is taking me so long to die," he remarked. "I wished to commit suicide but sometimes that fails."

Once he recovered from his injuries, he was tried and found guilty of a number of crimes, including waging unprovoked and aggressive wars and ordering inhumane treatment of Prisoners of War.

The Americans had determined that the Emperor himself should not be directly impugned by any testimony, allowing the Japanese monarchy to remain intact. The Emperor was presented as a figurehead who was controlled by the military, but in fact this was not the case. Hirohito, although not always bellicose, took a keen interest in the war and had considerable influence over military decisions. Thus when Tojo inadvertantly offered testimony that implied the Emperor had influence, the Americans called a recess, met with Tojo, and coached him to recant the problematic section.

Tojo accepted full responsibility for the crimes of which he was accused, and was sentenced to death. He was hanged on December 23, 1947.

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