by The Chicago Times Staff

July 11, 2021

Sneak attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japanese Forces Dec 7, 1941.

WASHINGTON — According to US documents, the remains of Japan’s World War II prime minister were scattered across the Pacific Ocean after his execution.  Officials were concerned that supporters of Hideki Tojo, one of the men responsible for the 1941 Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, would try to locate his body and treat him as a martyr.

Tojo and six other convicted war criminals were cremated after execution in 1948.  The ashes were then scattered in the ocean by a US Army aircraft.  The declassified documents were discovered at the US National Archives in Washington, DC, by Japanese lecturer Hiroaki Takazawa of Tokyo’s Nihon University.

“I certify that I received the remains, supervised cremation, and personally scattered the ashes of the following executed war criminals at sea from an Eighth Army liaison plane,” US Army Maj Luther Frierson wrote in a document dated December 23, 1948, the day Tojo and six others were executed. 

Maj Frierson wrote that he witnessed their execution and then flew with their bodies in separate urns.  They flew to “a point approximately 30 miles (48km) over the Pacific Ocean east of Yokohama where I personally scattered the cremated remains over a wide area.” over the Pacific Ocean.

Frierson went on to say that the cremation ovens had been “cleared of the remains in their entirety” and that special care had been taken “to preclude overlooking even the smallest particles of remains.”

The executed men are enshrined at Japan’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine despite the fact that there are no remains to bury.  Since its founding in 1869, the Shinto shrine has been dedicated to the souls of approximately 2.5 million Japanese men, women, and children who have died in the service of their country.  14 convicted Class A war criminals, including Tojo and the other six, are among them.

Tojo was Prime Minister of Japan from 1941 to 1944. He also served as a general in the Imperial Japanese Army.  He advocated for Japanese expansion and attacks against European colonial powers.  As Prime Minister, he presided over Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which drew the United States into World War II, as well as his country’s conquests in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Following the United States’ atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in September 1945, the Tojo attempted suicide as US troops surrounded his home.  In 1948, an international military tribunal found Tojo guilty of war crimes, including waging aggressive wars and ordering inhumane treatment of prisoners of war.  In November of that year, he was sentenced to death and hanged the following month.