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JAG Case Files of Pacific Area War Crimes Trials, 1944-1949
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by Craig R. Scott, CG
JAG is the acronym for Judge Advocate General. Each military service has a Judge Advocate General. The Judge Advocate General Corps in each is responsible for matters concerning military justice. In October 1944, a war crimes unit was established in the Army Judge Advocate General's Department. The Navy participated through its "Navy Division." On January 13, 1945, the Secretary of the Navy's memorandum announced the establishment of the National War Crimes Office and vested the Judge Advocate General of the Navy "with cognizance over legal and administrative matters relating to war crimes so far as the Navy is concerned."
For most of its existence, the Navy war crimes organization was designated as the Navy Division, War Crimes Office, but in early 1949, it was redesignated as the War Crimes Branch. Officially the unit was subordinate to the Army Judge Advocate General, but for the Navy's administrative purposes, it reported to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. Most of the Pacific area war crimes trials were concluded during 1949, as were other aspects of its war crimes related work. The Pacific war crimes offices were abolished and their records sent to the Navy Judge Advocate General in Washington. By early 1950, the War Crimes Branch had ceased to exist.
These records comprise legal case files relating to crimes committed during World War II by Japanese soldiers and sailors and others prosecuted under US military law. Not all of the accused were guilty. These records are sorted by case file titles. Some files are brief, while others may contain hundreds of pages of testimony, correspondence, and court documents
A NARA descriptive pamphlet is not available for this series of records.
Images in each file may include the organization of the commission, introduction of counsel, charges, arraignment, pleas, adjournments, court transcripts, exhibits, rebuttals, findings, and sentence. Not all files contain all of these types of documents.
Charges and specifications
Hiroshi Iwanami was the Surgeon Captain, Imperial Japanese Navy, Commanding Officer of the Fourth Naval Hospital on Dublon Island, Turk Atoll, Caroline Islands. He was charged with two specifications of murder. The first specification was the murder of six unknown American POWs by medical experimentation through injection of virulent bacteria, exposure to shock, and other methods. Additional charges and specifications relating to these POWs and two other unknown American POWs are contained in the file against Iwanami and 18 other medical personnel. This case is found in both the Army and the Navy JAG materials.
The defense moved to have the charges dropped in this objection (image 2) because there was insufficient information about the unknown POWs in order to identify them.
List of exhibits
Usually, when there is a lot of testimony in a file, there will be a list of exhibits (image 3). These are important to help locate material in the larger case files. There are testimony lists for both the prosecution and the defense. Image 3 is a portion of the prosecution’s list.
This image (4) is the beginning of the trial transcript from the second day of the trial.
Information on the personal history of the accused and the condition of his family are sometimes contained in the court transcripts. This statement by Susumu Takaishi (image 5) provides information on the birth, schooling, military career, and the names and occupations of family members of a Japanese medical corpsman.
Findings, sentence, and endorsements
View the endorsement of the Commander in Chief Pacific on the findings of the commission, which forwards the matter to the Secretary of the Navy for confirmation of the death sentence of the Captain Iwanami.
Using the collection
Locate a case by the name of the senior defendant in the browse menu. Some case files are found in both Army and Navy images. At the end of the browse menu in each series is a section identified as [Blank] [(Blank)]. The list of Army case files is here, and the list of Navy case files begins here.
These images are a table of contents to the records and contain more information than the browse menu. Within each case file search for the table of exhibits and it will help you to navigate between the various record types.
The United States military services did not conduct the war crimes trials held in Tokyo, Japan, after World War II. These were conducted by an international military tribunal in which the military services participated. The records of these tribunals are found in Record Group 238, National Archives Collection of World War II War Crimes Records and include the court papers, journals, exhibits and judgments of the International Tribunal for the Far East.
Records relating to the European theater of operations are found in Record Group 338, Records of US Army Commands, US Army Investigations and Trial Records of War Criminals. Additional materals relating to war crimes may be found in Record Group 125, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Navy) and in Record Group 153, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army).
Explore these titles
Search or browse the Army JAG Army JAG Case Files of Pacific Area War Crimes Trials, 1944-1949 (Iwanami Case) here.
Search or browse the Navy JAG Case Files of Pacific Area War Crimes Trails, 1944-1949 here.
These records are scanned from the National Archives microfilm publications, Navy JAG Case Files of Pacific Area War Crimes Trails, 1944-1949, C72, and Army JAG Army JAG Case Files of Pacific Area War Crimes Trials, 1944-1949 (Iwanami Case), C73. The original records are found in Record Group 125, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Navy) and in Record Group 153, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army), respectively.
“C” publications are produced by private contractors and become available through the National Archives after seven years of publication.