After 73 Years, Fate of Tojo's Remains Revealed

US aircraft scattered WWII Japanese leader's remains over ocean
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 14, 2021 5:50 PM CDT
Mystery of Tojo's Remains Solved After 73 Years
Former Japanese Prime Minister and military leader Hideki Tojo, center, stands during the sentencing phase of the war crimes trial in Tokyo, on Nov. 12, 1948.   (AP Photo/Charles Gorry)

Until recently, the location of executed wartime Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo's remains was one of World War II's biggest mysteries in the nation he once led. Now, a Japanese university professor has revealed declassified US military documents that appear to hold the answer. The documents show the cremated ashes of Tojo, one of the masterminds of the Pearl Harbor attack, were scattered from a US Army aircraft over the Pacific Ocean about 30 miles east of Yokohama, Japan's second-largest city. It was a tension-filled, highly secretive mission, with American officials apparently taking extreme steps to keep Tojo's remains, and those of six others executed with him, away from ultra-nationalists looking to glorify them as martyrs, the AP reports. The seven were hanged for war crimes just before Christmas 1948, three years after Japan's defeat.

After years spent verifying and checking details and evaluating the significance of what he'd found, Nihon University Professor Hiroaki Takazawa publicly released the clues to the remains' location last week. In one of the newly revealed documents—dated Dec. 23, 1948 and carrying a “secret” stamp—US Army Maj. Luther Frierson wrote: "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 officials were extremely careful about not leaving a single speck of ashes behind, apparently to prevent them from being stolen by admiring ultra-nationalists, Takazawa said. He said the US military was adamant "about not letting the remains return to Japanese territory ... as an ultimate humiliation."

(More World War II stories.)

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