On 23 December 1948, former prime minister of Japan, Hideki Tojo, was executed for war crimes.
Born in Tokyo on 30 December 1884, Hideki Tojo, the son of a general, was brought up in a military environment that held little regard for politicians or civilians. An admirer of Adolf Hitler, Tojo advocated closer ties between Japan and Germany and Italy, and in September 1940, the three Axis powers signed the Tripartite Pact.
Appointed Japan’s Minister for War in July 1940, Tojo was keen to accelerate the coming of war against the US. He viewed the US as a weak nation, populated by degenerate and lazy civilians. Tojo was appointed Japan’s prime minister in October 1941 and within two months had ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor, thus turning the war into a global conflict.
How Japan’s hollow victory spelt the end for Hitler
On 7 December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the US. In just two hours it destroyed a large part of the US fleet docked in Pearl Harbor and, in one stroke, forever destroyed US isolationism, united the country for war and made the conflict global.
The US may have been expecting war but the attack on Pearl Harbor took it totally by surprise. Yet 11 months before, a lone voice had predicted such a possibility. On the 27 January 1941, the US ambassador in Japan, Joseph Grew, cabled the White House warning that the Japanese might ‘attempt a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor using all their military facilities’.
As 1941 wore on, the likelihood of war became more apparent but the US ignored Grew’s prediction, believing that conflict, if it came, would either start in the US-controlled Philippines or the Dutch or British possessions in Southeast Asia.
Certainly, US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, believed war was a distinct possibility – ‘They [the Japanese] hate us,’ he said privately, ‘sooner or later, they’re going to come after us’. He also feared what would happen to the US if Japan overran Britain’s possessions in the Southeast Asia – ‘If Great Britain goes down,” Roosevelt said, “all of us in all the Americas would be living at the point of a gun.’