The Man Who Couldn't Die
|"December 1947: Former Japanese prime minister and minister of war Hideki Tojo (1885 - 1948) takes the stand to testify in his own defense at the war crimes trial in Tokyo. Tojo was convicted and executed" (source)|
In his now out-of-print memoir One Last Look Around (1947, pp. 93-113), war correspondent Clark Lee tells the story of former Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo's botched suicide and its bizarre aftermath. Lee was among many reporters present when American officials arrived at Tojo's home in Setagaya to take him into custody in September 1945. (Warning: The journalists took many photos on scene, some of which are slightly graphic. Several are featured below.)
We Meet General Tojo
. . . When he was Minister of War in the Imperial Japanese government, pre-Pearl Harbor, and before that as head of the Army's military gendarmerie, General Tojo offered rewards of many millions of yen for the capture of Chinese patriots and other intransigent individuals who refused to recognize Japan as the savior of East Asia. After Tojo became Prime Minister, and as the guiding spirit of Japanese militarism led his country into war against the democracies, the United States and Allied nations would have gladly paid millions of dollars to any rifleman who could get within shooting distance of the head of the Tokyo government and the planning brains of the war. There was a big price on Tojo's head. Yet, ten days after the official surrender of Japan, we succeeded in being ushered into the presence of this feared and hated man at the cost of exactly five U.S. cents—the price of the American cigarettes I had given Captain Muto.
Muto gave directions as the jeep took us out to Tojo's house. John Henry, [Harry] Brundidge, Massa, and I were crowded in with the gendarme captain and the GI driver who took us through the ruined streets of Tokyo, out past what formerly was the theatre district and to the Setagaya ward police station. One of the ward policeman jammed himself in with us, and we drove down a long, tree-shaded lane that might have been in Maplewood, N.J., or Maplewood, Mo., but looked like no part of Japan that we had seen before. We made a sharp turn between stone walls that retained two grassy banks, and stopped in front of a police box. A dozen policemen and soldiers materialized into the lane, some in shirtsleeves and others in uniform coats. If they were armed, their weapons were inconspicuous. They surrounded us curiously, but without evident animosity.
On the right, thirty feet from the road and partially concealed by trees, was the ex-dictator's home, a one-story house of half-Japanese and half-foreign style, built of wood and yellow stucco. A diminutive, blue Datsun sedan sat in the concrete driveway. While Massa and the war gendarme walked up to the door, one of the police guards pointed out that two tall trees at the entrance were charred nearly to the top. "America no hikoki—American airplanes." Like almost everyone else in Japan, he thought it was funny to be bombed, and he laughed hilariously.
The house itself was more than modest by American standards, but typical of the homes into which Japanese commanders retired at the end of their terms of service as chiefs of the general staff. The idea had been that a general required no more of life than a modest salary—plus the opportunity to serve his Emperor. Austerity and abnegation had been the keynotes of the generals' lives. It was traditional that on completion of his service, a Japanese chief of staff repaired to a suburban or country retreat from which he offered his advice to successors and from which he was always prepared to emerge to offer his life, if need be, at the Imperial command.
Yet when Tojo built the house in wartime there had been a major scandal. Whispers started that Tojo had received a very large monetary present from a group of industrialists, and the talk swelled to such a roar that Tojo had to go to the unprecedented length, while still premier, of denying that he had been bribed. This uproar had been only a symptom of the general's unpopularity, which reached a climax with his resignation in July, 1944, after the fall of Saipan.
Exactly why Tojo was the most hated man in Japan was hard to explain. As far as most Japanese knew they were still winning the war, and it was Tojo who had given them victories. But it was likewise Tojo whose decrees had cracked down on both the little man and the war profiteer in Japan—taking a few more grains of rice out of the former's slim diet every month or so—and breaking up the gay whirl in Tokyo in the first two years of war when the Japanese were cashing in on their conquests and everybody had plenty of money and was spending it freely. However, the Japanese were accustomed to decrees and to belt tightening, and what seemed to make them loathe Tojo was the fact that more than any other man in the country's modern history he, as an individual, had been the government—the front man for the Emperor. In recent years, even with one or two outstanding men in a cabinet, the government had always been "they," and nobody knew exactly who ruled Japan. Now it had been not "they" but "he,"—one man, Tojo. When the war tide turned, the little man centered his hatred and his lost feeling on Tojo. He detested Tojo's mannerisms, his way of riding a horse, the fact that his wife was spending more money than seemed possible on a general's pay.
The trouble with Tojo was that he symbolized to the Japanese both their strength and their weakness. He was the best they could produce, the best field general and tactician, the most faithful servant of the Emperor, the most fanatical of the fanatics, the man who developed the modern air force, the man who stood against the Soviet threat to Japan, the general who had been dared to challenge the United States and Great Britain. But he had failed, and, knowing they too were doomed to failure, his countrymen had hated him.
Tojo had been the most brilliant and successful Asiatic military commander since Genghis Khan. Nicknamed the Razor because of his sharp intelligence, he had helped to set up in Manchuria the military-controlled state what was a model for what the Japanese Army eventually hoped to extend over the entire world. He was a businessman, too, a brief-spoken but persuasive talker who had made a deal with Japan's leading industrialists so that they became co-partners in Manchuria and in the Army's larger plans for world conquest. To the outside world he was sinister, threatening, brutal, a Hitler with the added danger of Oriental mysticism. . . .
Now there was a slight bustle on the lawn and around the corner of the house walked a lithe figure in white shorts and shirt, gray socks that came up over his knees, and low black button shoes. His bronzed skin gleamed like a polished Buddha. Shifting a long stick from his right hand to the left, he motioned us to a table on the side lawn.
Riding out to the house, I had said to Brundidge, "Don't shake hands with him." Harry replied, "I wouldn't shake hands with the bastard for anything in the world."
But now the little Jap thrust out his hand to me, and as the others pushed up from behind I was so close that our hands were almost touching. I accepted his firm grip. What the devil, there was plenty of soap and water back at the hotel!
We sat in iron garden chairs and admired the house and beyond it the green, extensive fields that Tojo told us made up his farm. He called for a round blue tin of Hope cigarettes (made in Japan) and passed them to us with the remark that "American cigarettes are very difficult to get now." It was apparent that he understood a good deal of English, although our conversation was through the interpreter. It was also apparent that he was nervous, not knowing what to expect next, although he was perfectly in control of himself.
"Is the general taking any part in politics or military affairs now?" we asked.
He answered genially, starting to relax, "No. None whatever. I am a farmer now and work in my fields." He looked hard as nails. But there was something wrong with his demeanor. If you had interviewed him ten years before, say, in Manchuria, or if it had been possible to interview him just before he dispatched the carriers to attack Pearl Harbor and started the invasion fleets for the Philippines and Southeastern Asia, his replies would have been gruff and condescending. He would have used the prescribed means of a Japanese general dealing with an American—a superior air, deceiving half-truths, denial of knowledge of any embarrassing matter. All his adult life he had studied that manner, and now it was gone and without it he was only another little man. Outwardly hard as nails, but inwardly you sensed a softness—the hard something that had been his self-discipline, his beliefs, his power and authority, his life-and-death control over millions, wasn't there and the man was hollow inside.
"What are the general's plans?"
"I have no plans, just to go on farming. I cannot discuss politics or military affairs because it is not for a defeated general to talk."
He alternately smoked a cigarette in a glass holder and toyed with his stick as we talked. Except at the eyes, his skin was unwrinkled. His eyes were quick and bright. Brundidge asked his age.
"Sixty-two Japanese style. Sixty-one America." The Japanese begin to count from the day of conception.
I followed up the question: "Does General Tojo believe that Japan's cause was just?"
He answered emphatically. "Hai, Hai! I do believe that Japan's fight was based on righteousness. I realize that America will not agree with that. However, I believe that it will take time and an impartial third party to make the final decision as to whether America's fight was just, or Japan's was."
That struck me as a pretty fair statement, especially the last part. It is difficult to imagine a defeated American general saying to a representative of Hitler, "You may be right. Time will tell."
Now, Tojo leaned over toward the interpreter and went on: "I was responsible for the war. I accept full and complete responsibility. But I do not believe that makes me a war criminal. There is a difference between leading a nation in a war which it believes right and just, and being a war criminal. . . . But again, that is for the victorious nation to decide."
We asked Tojo then if the Japanese Army and Navy had cooperated fully during the war, and he turned the query aside with a suggestion that we submit it to our own Army and Navy. His humorous observation seemed to cheer him up and suddenly his mood changed. He smiled, sat forward in his chair, and picked up Brundidge's field cap. Like a delighted kid he tried it on, turning it this way and that. It fitted his bullet-shaped head like a washtub. He mugged, smiled a solid-gold smile out from under the American eagle, and murmured, "Oki, oki! (Too big.)" He might have been referring to American power, as much as to the size of the hat.
Tojo looked tired and we got up to leave. Again the war lord walked close to shake hands, but this time we had room to maneuver out of the way. He walked out to the gate and waved as we drove away. There he turned and walked back up the driveway to the house. It was the last time he did it. The next day he was carried out, feet first, on an American stretcher with a gaping hole in his chest and another in his back.
|Press correspondents on board a landing craft somewhere off the coast of England on May 8, 1944. "With faces to camera, from left: Clark Lee of International News Service; Bill Higginbotham of United Press; Lt. Comm. Barry Bingham, of Louisville, Ky.; Lt. John Mason Brown, New York City; Lt. Byer, with cigarette...Back to camera: John Moroso, left, of Associated Press; and A.J. Liebling of the New Yorker magazine" (AP Photo) (source)"|
...Who Couldn't Die
The next day, at about twenty-five minutes to one, an officer came into the crowded, noisy dining room of the Dai Itchi Hotel and knocked on a beer bottle with a knife to attract the correspondents' attention. Then he read a brief announcement:
"The Supreme Commander has ordered the Counter-Intelligence Corps to arrest former Premier Hideki Tojo, who is first on the list of war criminals."
We grabbed a couple of apples off the table and ran outside, looking for transportation. There was one car, a brindle-painted diminutive Jap model which I recognized as the "liberated" property of George Burns, the photographer for Yank magazine. I rushed back into the dining room and pushed past the screen behind which Brig. General Le Grand A. Diller, MacArthur's public relations officer, who had segregated the enlisted men from the officer-gentlemen correspondents and the public-relations staff. Burns was wrestling with a piece of camouflaged spam.
I called him aside. "What do you want to do, George, eat this spam or see Tojo kill himself?" Burns dropped his napkin, grabbed his cameras, and followed without a word. Six of us crowded into the little open car. Harry Brundidge and Ken McCaleb were in front with Burns; and our interpreter, Massa, a police reporter from the Yoimiuri, and myself in the back.
Burns kept goosing the car, trying to coax more than twenty miles an hour out of its straining engine as we directed him through the burned-out city.
Finally we swung around a last corner into the lane in front of Tojo's house. We jumped out, and Massa questioned a loitering gendarme.
"Where's the general?"
"In the house, of course. His wife is with him."
"The Americans get here yet?"
"There's one up there."
A correspondent was sitting in a chair in front of the driveway entrance. Some of the police were sitting on the grass, and others lolling by their tiny sentry box. They greeted us as old friends from the day before and we gave them cigarettes. Massa told them, in Japanese, "Tojo is going to be pinched by the Americans."
They weren't very surprised. One of them sucked in his breath wetly through his gold teeth, leaned back, and burst into laughter. "Ha. Ha! Bery funny." The others joined in the hilarity.
As time went by, and the C.I.C. still didn't show up, we decided to try to beat them to the punch and "invite" Tojo to accompany us to headquarters.
We walked between the stone pillars and into the small yard, pushing Massa ahead of us.
Massa had to be pushed. He still hadn't recovered from the shock of talking to Tojo face-to-face the day before, and he was very apprehensive about breaking in on him now. A manservant, in sloppy army pants and cloth slippers, motioned us around to the side entrance of the house, facing the garden where we had taken tea with Tojo eighteen hours previously. The doors here were sliding panels, and a woman came to one of them. She was rather tall for a Japanese, with a thick, sturdy body. Her hair was still coal-black, though she was no longer young, and she wore the unbecoming black pants and blouse which Tojo had decreed as the national costume as a wartime cloth-saving substitute for the kimono.
Massa told her: "Please advise the general that orders for his arrest have been issued. We talked to him yesterday and he already knows us. We will be glad to give him a ride in our car to General MacArthur's headquarters."
Tojo must have been just inside the room, listening, because he stepped into the doorway, half pushing the woman aside. From inside the house came the wet smell of burning incense. Somebody whispered, "Hara-kiri!" But behind Tojo we caught a glimpse of a man moving around, apparently arranging things to be packed in a suitcase that stood on the floor. It looked as if the ex-dictator was packing to go to jail, not preparing to join his ancestors by the process of honorable belly-slitting.
As on the day before, the little man was wearing shorts and a shirt, but this time they were greenish. He looked far less composed than when he had jokingly said "Gorru-bye" to us. He sighted Burns' camera and snapped in Japanese:
"No pictures! No pictures! I will not have any pictures." Burns smiled disarmingly and kept the camera at his side.
"General," Massa began, "we will take you to Field Marshal MacArthur if . . ." The Japs never called MacArthur "general." It gave them more face to have their conqueror a field marshal.
"No," Tojo cut him off. "I will wait for the authorities!" He turned to go inside, and for a moment he was boss again. "No pictures!" he repeated. "No pictures!"
We went back out to the lane and found it was beginning to get a little crowded. There were two command cars, both with newspapermen, and one of the Australian correspondents had brought his shapely White Russian girl-friend along to see the sights. We chatted, smoked, took pictures of the gendarmes and the entrance to the house, and waited for the C.I.C. to show up. The minutes dragged into an hour and a half, and most of the correspondents wandered off to talk in the lanes, or drove back into Tokyo.
"Massa," I said finally, "it's hot as hell in here. Go on up to the kitchen and ask for some beer. And try to work on Tojo again to see if he'll come with us."
The young Japanese hated to go, but he walked through the garden gate. In a few minutes he was back, without the beer but with some news. "Tojo says he'll consider going with you," he announced. We sat back to wait for the general to make up his mind.
The sun had gone behind a low layer of overcast, but it was still very hot and in the quiet lane the suspense seemed to grow and grow. Massa felt it more than anyone. His apprehension increased noticeably. He fidgeted, left his sentences unfinished, and even threw away a Lucky Strike after two puffs, which was convincing proof of his state of mind. American cigarettes were very valuable items in those first days in Tokyo. Perhaps Massa's native instinct told him what was going on inside the house. Brundidge had the same thought and put it into words. "I'll bet he commits hara-kiri. That incense . . ."
Idly, we questioned the gendarmes who were sitting with us in the long grass. They discussed the question without special interest. "Maybe he will kill himself. Maybe not. The incense makes it look as if he might. But it's pretty late for him to do it now. He should have cut his belly either when his government fell or when the Imperial Rescript for the surrender was issued."
"On the day of the Rescript," one of them went on, "Tojo's son-in-law committed hara-kiri. He was twenty-nine years old and a major in the Imperial Guard. He slashed his belly at the guard headquarters. Tojo himself went down there and got the body and brought it back to the house. It stayed in the back room for two days, in front of the family shrine, and then the funeral was held. Tojo never made any comment, one way or the other, about what the major did. So it is hard to tell what his thoughts are."
Another gendarme started a serious discussion about the future of Japan and of the world. "We hope," he said intensely, "that we will never again have leaders like Tojo who get us into war."
The policemen explained that the sentry box had been set up, and they were assigned to the house, not to keep Tojo under surveillance but to protect him from Americans and from attacks by "foolish, hotheaded Japanese." Several attempts had been made on his life, they said, after his government resigned at the time American forces conquered Saipan.
We chatted on about Tojo as if he had been a long-dead character in history, instead of behind garden walls a few yards away. But all of us were wondering: What is he doing now—moving around? Praying? Preparing for hara-kiri, or just waiting silently for the sound of alien wheels that would mean the end of everything for him? He had once won a great empire in one of the swiftest military campaigns in history. Now a prison cell was ahead—trial by his conquerors—and then dangling death at the end of a rope.
We didn't know he was in his European-style room writing his last will and testament.
"Come on there, Massa," Brundidge suggested. "Go up again and see if he's got any sake. I'm dying of thirst."
Once more Massa dragged himself up to the house on reluctant feet. He stood at the kitchen door and argued with a servant and then came back to us empty-handed. In a few minutes the servant himself came out of the house with a message from Tojo.
"The general's final decision," he announced, "is that he will not accompany you." So Tojo had made up his mind to something at least.
A few minutes later, the woman in the black kimono came out of the back of the house. She walked down a path through the trees in the side yard, with her face averted from us, and then shuffled stolidly away down the lane.
"There goes Madame Tojo," said one gendarme.
"No, Kato-san," another argued. "That is his sister-in-law, not his wife."
While they were still discussing the woman's identity, we saw a strange figure coming slowly toward us up the lane. It was an old woman, who bent far forward as she inched her way along with the aid of a stick. In front of us she stopped, caught her breath, and bid us polite good days in formal language. Her back, almost parallel to the ground, could not have been more than three feet above the grass, so that she resembled a T-square. Contrary to the orders of Tojo, she wore a cotton kimono and obi, and in her hand was a silk furoshiki of the kind the Japanese use to carry packages.
We lay on the grass as she gazed intently at each of us in turn, and Massa explained that we were Americans. Again she hissed politely, and formally expressed her pleasure at having us in Japan. Her face was seamed with years and cares, her gums toothless, but nevertheless there was a neatness and cleanliness about her, and her brain was clear.
"This is the day they issue our rations," she said, "and I am going now to get mine. It takes me all afternoon to get there and back, because I move very slowly. And it is a long way to go for so little rice. They keep giving us less and less."
We nodded our sympathy, and she chatted on. "I used to be very rich, but my three houses in Tokyo were burned down by the American bombers and now my daughter-in-law is very cruel to me." For five minutes she talked about the daughter-in-law and her son, "who used to be so good and dutiful until he married that woman, but now he is crazy about her and she twists him around her finger."
Then, with all good wishes for our health and the continued success and prosperity of America, she turned and moved slowly away. At the entrance to the driveway, she paused and bent even lower in a brief salute to the guards.
As she went out of sight over the hill, we looked again at our watches.
"That damn C.I.C. must have lost the way," somebody said. "It's been three hours now. You'd think they could find the house in that time."
"Yeah. This is a nice way to spend an afternoon, but it's not getting Tojo arrested and it's not getting us any stories."
I left the group and, on directions from the gendarmes, walked down a hill behind the house and found a lumber mill. There was a telephone inside, and after a long delay I managed to get through to the Dai Itchi to dictate a story. The connection was terrible, and it was slow, tedious work. While I was trying to make myself understood, Brundidge walked into the factory. He was very keyed-up. "Cut it short," he insisted. "I have a hunch things are going to happen right away. Let's get back there." I felt the same way. All through the afternoon, the tension had been building up inside of us, subconsciously. We had talked about many things, but always there was in our minds the picture of the little man in the yellow house, and in our nostrils the faint, lingering smell of incense. We ran back up the lane and around to the front of the house. Two jeeps were in the front driveway, and about twenty Americans were moving across the lawn toward the house. Leading the way were an American major and lieutenant, and a Nisei captain—the interpreter.
Suddenly, Tojo stuck his shaven pate out of the side window of the front room and said sharply in English, "This Tojo."
|Tojo addresses the Americans outside of his home in 1945 (source)|
Through his interpreter, Major Kraus said, "Open the door so I can come in and present my credentials."
Tojo answered in Japanese, "Unless this is an official order, I will not discuss it." Kraus bristled. He directed the interpreter: "Tell him to open the front door so I can present my credentials. Tell him to prepare himself for a trip to General MacArthur's headquarters at Yokohama."
While this colloquy was under way, the photographers were busy. George Burns, who hadn't made a news picture all afternoon, exploded a shot and Tojo glared and slammed the window.
"What do we do now?" an American soldier asked.
"Pull the son of a bitch out by his heels," an officer answered angrily.
The Americans ran from the garden to the front of the house. As they reached the entrance a shot rang out. They crashed the door. Back at the rear of the crowd, some of the correspondents scattered hurriedly to look for cover, thinking Tojo was shooting it out. Inside the hallway, Kraus smashed out the panels of the door into the living room and stepped in.
Tojo had shot himself in the chair and then partially risen, but with great effort. He was half on his feet, wavering, and in his hand was a .32-caliber Colt revolver. Kraus shouted, "Don't shoot." Tojo looked up at the American, let the gun slide through his fingers, and slumped back into his chair. It was 4:21 P.M.
I pushed into the room. Tojo lay back in a small armchair, his eyes closed and sweat standing out on his forehead. His open shirt outlined a V of hairless brown chest and flat belly. Blood oozed slowly from a wound just above his heart.
"The bastard has killed himself," an excited voice panted in my ear.
"No. The son of a bitch is still breathing. Look at his belly going up and down."
It was a small room, about fourteen feet long and ten wide, and Tojo's chair was just a foot or two inside the door. A small wooden table was beside him and a cluttered desk opposite. There was a sofa behind him, and above it a very large oil painting in somber colors, depicting this now bleeding soldier of Japan in one of his moments of triumph.
Into this room now crowded a dozen people, all but two or three of them Americans. One of the Japanese, who had been chauffeur and secretary to the war lord and had stuck to him after his fall from power, leaned over him now, sobbing and patting his shoulder. The American reporters pushed past Tojo, brushing his knees, talking loudly and excitedly. Photographers shoved their cameras in the wounded man's face. Some of the gendarmes came in for a look, and then walked out, laughing. The chauffeur followed them, his face contorted with grief. Then the show began, with Tojo—the man who wanted to die and couldn't—as an impersonal Exhibit A.
"The yellow bastard didn't have enough nerve to use a knife," a reporter said. "He knew he would kill himself with a small bullet."
"Don't be a jackass," another snapped. "You can't put a shot through yourself where he did and expect to live."
I took a good look. Tojo had changed his shorts for his army pants and polished brown boots and a clean white shirt. His uniform coat, with four rows of colored ribbons, twenty decorations, lay on the window sill beside a rack holding three swords in leather cases. There was a blue porcelain tiger on one window sill and a large Japanese dragon-scroll print on the wall. A cabinet held writing brushes, although Tojo had told us the day before that he neither painted nor wrote poetry. Soon all the smaller objects began to disappear into the pockets of the reporters. I saw a hand come through the window from outside, feel along the sill for the leather case, and then disappear with one of the samurai swords. Outside, George Burns stuck the sword inside his pants leg and started to hobble toward his car. He almost made it when a hand fell on his shoulder and a C.I.C. officer said, "Nice work, kid. But take it back now."
Burns took the sword back and put it in the case, while the C.I.C. agents departed to seek reinforcements and medical assistance, leaving only a rearguard of two distracted GIs. A Japanese reporter or two came into the room to join the Americans. We stood around, smoking and talking, and making bets on how soon Tojo's small chest would stop heaving. The bleeding man's face was a mask on which showed neither pain nor emotion.
After a few minutes, I went out of the house and ran down to the telephone in the lumber yard. A Japanese helped me get the Dai Itchi, and Bill Dunn of CBS answered.
I shouted at him over the buzzing line:
"Please send a flash for me! Tojo just shot himself when the Americans came to arrest him."
"What's that?" Bill said. "I can't hear a word. Who's Jojo, the dog-faced boy?"
"Not Jojo," I shouted again. "Tojo. War. Japanese. General. Prime Minister. Shot himself."
"Hot," said Bill, his voice coming to me clearly. "I know it's hot. What the hell are you trying to tell me?"
After ten maddening minutes, he was just beginning to hear enough to get the gist of the story. Then, out of the window, I saw Massa run down the lane. He was soaked with sweat and his eyes were wild.
"What's the matter?" I called.
"Tojo is dead."
"What time did he die?"
"Four thirty-eight," Massa said slowly. "Brundidge is coming down to give you the details."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I saw him die. It's terrible. Everyone is taking souvenirs. They have no respect for a dead man."
I shouted into the phone again and Bill managed to hear enough of the information to write a flash: "TOJO SHOT HIMSELF WHEN AMERICANS CAME TO ARREST HIM AND DIED SHORTLY AFTERWARD."
When I ran back up to the house, Harry Brundidge was on the front lawn, getting a little air. "What time did he die?" I asked.
"Who die?" said Harry.
I thought he was being unnecessarily facetious. "Who? Why, Tojo, of course."
"He's not dead. He's still sitting in the chair."
|The former Prime Minister lies semi-conscious in a chair after attempting suicide (source)|
I ran into the front room. Tojo was slumped in the same position. He was groaning a little, not loudly. The blood had spread a little more on the lower left-hand side of his shirt. He looked very weak and I hesitated, waiting to see if he would die and make it unnecessary for me to correct the flash. Then he began to speak, and a Japanese reporter took down his words. In a steady voice, repeating much of what was in his "farewell notes," he said:
"The war in the greater East Asia region started right. It was a just war. That is my conviction. But with all our strength gone, we finally fell.
"It is proper that the Americans take over the person responsible for this war, but I do not want to stand before a jury or an Allied commission. As the former head of the nation, I do not want to be tried by the victors.
"While I believe Japan is right, I believe, too, that America thinks she is right. The righteousness or fairness of that will be decided by an impartial cool observer, a third person or party. I feel great regret both for the people of Japan and for the people belonging to the East Asia. I now realize the war was bad for the people. I shoulder the whole responsibility and hope the people will not go wrong in dealing with the situation.
"As for me I would have tried to commit suicide by hara-kiri but sometimes that is not fatal and I wanted to die. I tried to shoot myself in the heart, instead of aiming at my head because I wanted the Japanese people to recognize that it was Tojo and knew that I had done this and that the Americans had not substituted somebody else's body for mine. I am very sorry I missed my aim.
"I hope the nation of Japan foresees the future and follows the right path with unshaken heart. First and last I pray for the prosperity of the Japanese empire. I am now happy to die. Here is my Banzai for the Emperor."
He stopped, his eyes closing, and a photographer shouted very loudly, "Hey, Tojo!"
Tojo's eyes opened slowly. "That's right, said the photographer. "Now, hold it!"
A reporter was arguing. "I told you there is a homosexual streak in these sadists. When I lived out here before the war, the statistics showed a greater percentage of homosexuality in the Japanese Army and Navy than in any other armed force in the world. And the women, too. They got damn little affection from their men, and they used to fall in love with the actresses who dressed in men's clothes on the stage. You'd see hundreds of girls crowding around the stage doors at the Takarazuka Theatre, opposite the Imperial Hotel.
"Now, this thing proves that Tojo was partly effeminate. Did you ever hear of a male suicide shooting himself in the heart? Hell, no. They always point the gun at the mouth, the ear, or the temple. But there isn't a single case on record of a woman shooting herself in the face. They always dress up in their best and put the pistol to their breast. Don't want to die with their faces mussed up. Tojo didn't either."
And still Tojo couldn't die.
I ran back down to the lumber yard and twisted the phone handle savagely, trying to get Dunn at the Dai Itchi and correct the flash. The phone just squawked back at me. Massa got on and reached the operator by shouting loudly, but the hotel wouldn't answer. We were both soaked with sweat and I had tormented pictures of presses rolling all over America, even though it was early morning back home, of newsboys shouting extras and the radio quoting my dispatch, "Tojo dead." Finally, we gave up and walked back up to the house, too tired now to run.
On the lawn, I stopped Massa. "Why did you say he was dead?"
"The gendarmes told me so."
"But you told me you saw it yourself."
"Yes, I did, but I didn't know what I was saying." It was clear that, indeed, he didn't. Emotion had temporarily unbalanced him.
"What do the gendarmes think about it?"
"They say Tojo is a bungler, as stupid in this as he was in losing the war. They say he should have shot himself through the head, or taken a knife and cut his gut. They think he's pretty ridiculous."
The rest of Japan almost unanimously shared that opinion. From all over the country a sadistic chorus went up: "Tojo is to blame for everything. He got us into the war. He is a miserable bungler. He should have killed himself months ago. He should have shot himself in the head. He should have used a knife." When he was taken to a prison camp later, his fellow prisoners ostracized him and refused to talk to him or even eat with him. But right now, we didn't know he was going to live to reach prison.
We went back into the living room. Tojo was no longer in the chair. Brundidge had found a small iron bed in the back room and the reporters had carried it to the front part of the house. They picked Tojo up and laid him on the bare mattress, and pulled off his butterbean boots. A pink cover was thrown partially over him, but it could not hide the stain that spread over his shirt when they moved him.
"He bled like a stuck pig," Brundidge said.
|Tojo lies in the bed brought up by the reporters (source)|
The slight figure lay there quietly, while the room kept getting noisier and noisier and more filled with smoke. An American and an Australian reporter, seeing each other for the first time in months, embraced over Tojo's head and exchanged loud memories of Guadalcanal. Photographers climbed on the desk and shot down at the bed from every angle. A newly arrived lensman found a stepladder somewhere, squeezed it into the corner at the foot of the bed, climbed up, and focused. He pulled his trigger, and the bulb exploded with a vigorous pop. Reporters who were facing the other way didn't know what had happened.
Somebody shouted, "Booby trap!"
The knights of the typewriter made a line plunge for the door and then, discovering it was a false alarm, trooped shamefacedly back into the room, their heavy boots scuffing the polished floor.
I called Brundidge and McCaleb aside for a conference. "Look, I can't get through to the Dai Itchi. We've got to do something about my flash."
Brundidge misunderstood me. "Well," he said in a low voice, "there are too many people here for us to hit him over the head with a chair. But you should have seen him bleed when we turned him over. We could spin him once more."
I had to go back down to the factory to try to telephone at that point, but when I came back Tojo was faced the other way on the bed and the mattress was more bloodsoaked than before.
It must have been an hour after the shooting when the Japanese doctor, who had been summoned by the chauffeur, finally arrived. He was a bespectacled little man in a white suit. He took one look at Tojo and sat down in a chair.
"Why don't you fix him?" somebody asked.
"Forgot his tools," the interpreter translated.
We questioned the doctor, and he told us his name, Tamemitzu Ebara, but little else. So we told him Tojo was shot through and Ebara looked and announced that the bullet had gone out of Tojo's back. This we already knew. Brundidge, an old hand at police reporting, had surreptitiously explored the bloody chair after we moved Tojo and the bullet which he found in a pillow behind Tojo's back was in his pocket. He showed it to me in the kitchen, for identification purposes. "Best souvenir of the day," he whispered. "There can't be two of these."
Back in the front room, the doctor made a brief inspection of Tojo and told us he had a very short time to live. Tojo protested in a strong voice when the doctor touched him.
"Leave me alone," he said. "I want to die."
The doctor left him alone and sat back again. Meanwhile, we had discovered a phone in the hall and gotten through to the Dai Itchi. Standing in the doorway, looking into the room, reporters called out a play-by-play to the man on the phone, only a few feet away.
Russ Brines of the Associated Press was trying to make up for lost time. He had gone away about two o'clock and come back about five, when he met Brundidge on the lawn. "What's all the excitement?" Brines demanded. "Tojo shot himself," Brundidge said. Brines got angry. "Don't give me that crap." But he ran into the house.
Now he was phoning: "Tojo is lying there with a pink spread on him. He just turned over. Now he's raising his knees. . . . No, knees, you bastard. . . . K for kangaroo. N for Nancy, double E . . . that's it." He gave me the phone.
From the doorway, Brundidge shouted in a singsong voice the dope he was getting from Massa at the bedside. "His pulse is weaker. The doc says it can't be long now."
Then again, "He's turning himself over. Pretty spry. He just groaned. Yeah, it was five thirty-eight when he groaned."
And inside the room: "Look at the muscles around the bastard's jaw tightening up. He can't last long now." Latecomers combed the desk and walls for more souvenirs, as outside it grew darker and the light switches were snapped on. Brundidge called, "His pulse is stronger. Shall we turn him again?" I shook my head.
It was ten minutes to six when the doctor's tools finally arrived, brought by a nurse who wore the usual black pants with a striped blouse and who told us her name was Miki. A C.I.C. man who had come back from Yokohama took her into the kitchen to sterilize the instruments. The officer was just in time to prevent Brundidge from "liberating" to bottles of Johnny Walker Red Label. He took the bottles and at our insistence, since we didn't trust the C.I.C. in such matters, sealed them, and wrote in a neat hand: "Seized by the C.I.C. in the home of General Tojo. September 11, 1945."
The doctor approached Tojo. In a surprisingly firm voice, Tojo spoke. "Keep your hands off me. I do not want treatment. I want to die." Massa was right at his head, translating as he spoke, and from the doorway his words were relayed to the man on the phone.
"I only want to clean you up," the doctor said soothingly. I caught the word kirei, which in Japanese means both clean and pretty.
"Pretty me up after I'm dead," Tojo ordered. "My body belongs to me while I am alive."
But the doctor wiped off the wound on his chest, exposing the round hole an inch below the left nipple, and put a small bandage on it. Then two newspapermen grabbed Tojo's arms and two GIs took his feet. He fought away Brundidge's grip at first and then relaxed. Easily, the four Americans turned the small body over. As they did, a stream of blood spurted out of his chest, tearing away at one edge of the bandage and spreading over the bed. The news was quickly passed on by telephone.
"Jesus," somebody said. "That'll finish the son of a bitch!"
"Yeah, that did it. Lookit him bleed."
On the phone a reporter laboriously spelled out hemorrhage.
The Jap doctor slipped off Tojo's shirt, which was messy with blood in the back, and put another bandage on the wound there. Tojo turned half on his side again, his knees partially drawn up. The doctor took his pulse.
"I give him three hours," he announced through Massa.
"But, Jesus, doc," somebody protested in a hurt tone, "you said one hour before and that was nearly an hour ago." The doctor looked embarrassed.
We demanded of the doctor, "Is there anything that can be done to keep him alive?"
"No, absolutely nothing. He is certain to die." So the doctor did nothing. The nurse knelt by the bedside and kept her hand on Tojo's pulse.
"Not a bad-looking babe," said a reporter. "Ask her how old she is, Massa?"
Miki-san dimpled as she replied, "Ni-ju-ichi. (Twenty-one.)"
It was after six now and completely dark outside. Tojo was quieter, and only occasionally did he groan slightly or move his feet just a little. His hands were clutching the sides of the mattress. Once in a while, a light grimace showed the pain he must have been suffering. Under the lights his body was smooth and hard and hairless. It might have been that of a young boy.
The Japanese doctor began to fidget a little. Then he called to Massa. "I am not absolutely sure that perhaps he couldn't be saved. He still seems very strong. Perhaps I should call in another doctor for consultation. . . ."
There was no opportunity for that. Within a few minutes there was a bustle outside and suddenly the house was flooded by a new surge of men; big, business-like American soldiers who had to duck to keep their helmets, which were marked "MP" or "First Cavalry," from hitting the low doorways. The doctor, who was Captain James B. Johnson, went to the far side of the bed and bent over. He was young and strong-looking, with a thick shock of brownish hair.
|An American medic tends to Tojo's injuries (source)|
Tojo looked up at the doctor and spoke briefly, as Massa translated, "Don't make any trouble for me. I am going to die anyway." Then he seemed to shudder a little, and lay still. Johnson got busy.
With skilled fingers, he started to sew the chest wound. Massa stood beside him, talking in a caressing voice to Tojo, telling him in Japanese what the doctor was doing. It was doubtful that Tojo heard. He opened one eye slightly and winced when the sewing needle went into his chest, but apparently he was only semi-conscious.
On the phone, the dictating went on. "Doc Johnson's sewing him up now. His first name? . . . Just a minute." Inside the room, a newspaperman leaned over the inert body, "What's your first name and home town, Captain?" Johnson answered without looking up.
In the same way he gave his diagnosis. "Sucking chest wound. Common in battle. We usually save most of them. He's in shock, now." And his prognosis: "He has a pretty good chance of recovery. Of course, it would have been better if they hadn't let him lie here so long without doing anything."
The corpsmen turned Tojo over as if he had been a small child and Johnson fixed the wound in his back. While he was working, a wooden hat rack was brought in from the hallway; a bottle of plasma was hung to one of the pegs and American blood started to drip into Tojo's left arm. A morphine needle went into his other arm. The corpsmen fetched a checkered quilt they found in the back room and then a heavy gray blanket.
Then the show was over. The stretcher came in. Two men slipped Tojo onto it and put more brown blankets over him. With only his taut face showing, and his scarred bald head, he was carried outside. At the door of the ambulance there was a short delay. Everybody "held it," while the photographers took one last shot of the man who hadn't wanted to be photographed.
Back in the house, the C.I.C. agents were pasting labels on those articles that hadn't already been carried away. They sealed the back room, where the family shrine stood as it had during the days that the body of Tojo's son-in-law rested there. There were oranges on it, and chrysanthemums, which had been the dead major's favorite fruit and flower. Two agents were engaged in a scientific search for the bullet. They probed the chair back, shoving their fists into the bloodstained hole, measured the angle of entry and then ran their fingers over the oil painting, thinking the bullet might have gone in there. We left them kneeling on the floor.
Outside, Doctor Johnson was just climbing into the ambulance. He paused for a moment and addressed the reporters.
"I noticed a lot of blood in there. Looked like somebody turned him over on the bed and he had a big hemorrhage." He paused. "Who turned Tojo?"
"Well, doc," Brundidge spoke up, "Lee and I may have had something to do with it. There was a little matter of a flash. . . ."
"That was nice going," said the doctor. "If that blood hadn't been drained out, it would have gone into his lungs and drowned him. Best thing in the world you could have done for him. That saved him for the hangman. . . ."