Reference: The Judgment of the IMTFE

Reference: The Judgment of the IMTFE

Note: The following texts were excerpted from the judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. The photographs of Matsui and Hirota were inserted by author.


When MATSUI was appointed Commander of the Shanghai Expeditionary Forces and left Tokyo for the fighting area, he already had thoughts of pushing on to Nanking after the intended capture of Shanghai. He requested five divisions for the Shanghai Expeditionary Force before leaving Tokyo. Actual preparations for the advance upon China’s capital were made, for he had previously made a study of the topography in the vicinity of Shanghai and Nanking. On 8 October 1937, MATSUI issued a statement in which he said:

“The devil-defying sharp bayonets were just on the point of being unsheathed so as to develop their divine influence, and that the mission of the Army was to fulfill all its duties of protecting Japanese residents and interests, and to chastise the Nanking Government and the outrageous Chinese.”

As the area of hostilities around Shanghai was likely to expand, MATSUI was appointed Commander in Chief of the Central China Expeditionary Forces.

MUTO, Akira, was appointed MATSUI’S vice-chief of staff in late November 1937. Approximately one month after the capture of Shanghai, the Japanese Army arrived outside the city of Nanking. MATSUI issued an order to the effect that as Nanking was the capital of China, its capture was an international event and careful studies should be made so as to dazzle China with Japan’s military glory. The Japanese demand for surrender was ignored by the Chinese Government. Bombardment started and the city fell on 13 December 1937. The Japanese Army that entered Nanking was a newly formed organization but it was composed of experienced troops. MATSUI made his triumphant entry on 17 December 1937. From 13 December onward, there occurred what has come to be known as the “Rape of Nanking” which will be dealt with in a later phase. On 1 January 1938, a provisional self-governing body was set up, flying the old discarded five colored Chinese flag instead of the Blue Sky and White Sun which is the official national flag of China.


As the Central China Expeditionary Force under command of MATSUI approached the city of Nanking in early December 1937, over one-half of its one million inhabitants and all but a few neutrals who remained behind to organize an International Safety Zone, fled from the city. The Chinese Army retreated, leaving approximately 50,000 troops behind to defend the city. As the Japanese forces stormed the South Gate on the night of 12 December 1937, most of the remaining 50,000 troops escaped through the North and West Gates of the city. Nearly all the Chinese soldiers had evacuated the city or had abandoned their arms and uniforms and sought refuge in the International Safety Zone and all resistance had ceased as the Japanese Army entered the city on the morning of 13 December 1937. The Japanese soldiers swarmed over the city and committed various atrocities. According to one of the eyewitnesses they were let loose like a barbarian horde to desecrate the city. It was said by eyewitnesses that the city appeared to have fallen into the hands of the Japanese as captured prey, that it had not merely been taken in organized warfare, and that the members of the victorious Japanese Army had set upon the prize to commit unlimited violence. Individual soldiers and small groups of two or three roamed over the city murdering, raping, looting, and burning. There was no discipline whatever. Many soldiers were drunk. Soldiers went through the streets indiscriminately killing Chinese men, women and children without apparent provocation or excuse until in places the streets and alleys were littered with the bodies of their victims. According to another witness Chinese were hunted like rabbits, everyone seen to move was shot. At least 12,000 non-combatant Chinese men, women and children met their deaths in these indiscriminate killings during the first two or three days of the Japanese occupation of the city.

There were many cases of rape. Death was a frequent penalty for the slightest resistance on the part of a victim or the members of her family who sought to protect her. Even girls of tender years and old women were raped in large numbers throughout the city, and many cases of abnormal and sadistic behavior in connection with these rapings occurred. Many women were killed after the act and their bodies mutilated. Approximately 20,000 cases of rape occurred within the city during the first month of the occupation. Japanese soldiers took from the people everything they desired. Soldiers were observed to stop unarmed civilians on the road, search them, and finding nothing of value then to shoot them. Very many residential and commercial properties were entered and looted. Looted stocks were carried away in trucks. After looting shops and warehouses, the Japanese soldiers frequently set fire to them. Taiping Road, the most important shopping street, and block after block of the commercial section of the city were destroyed by fire. Soldiers burned the homes of civilians for no apparent reason. Such burning appeared to follow a prescribed pattern after a few days and continued for six weeks. Approximately one-third of the city was thus destroyed. Organized and wholesale murder of male civilians was conducted with the apparent sanction of the commanders on the pretence that Chinese soldiers had removed their uniforms and were mingling with the population. Groups of Chinese civilians were formed, bound with their hands behind their backs, and marched outside the walls of the city where they were killed in groups by machine gun fire and with bayonets. More than 20,000 Chinese men of military age are known to have died in this fashion. The German Government was informed by its representative about “atrocities and criminal act not of an individual but of an entire Army, namely, the Japanese,” which Army, later in the Report, was qualified as a “bestial machinery.”

Those outside the city fared little better than those within. Practically the same situation existed in all the communities within 200 li (about 66 miles) of Nanking. The population had fled into the countryside in an attempt to escape from the Japanese soldiers. In places they had grouped themselves into fugitive camps. The Japanese captured many of these camps and visited upon the fugitives treatment similar to that accorded the inhabitants of Nanking. Of the civilians who had fled Nanking over 57,000 were overtaken and interned. These were starved and tortured in captivity until a large number died. Many of the survivors were killed by machine gun fire and by bayoneting. Large parties of Chinese soldiers laid down their arms and surrendered outside Nanking; within 72 hours after their surrender they were killed in groups by machine gun fire along the bank of the Yangtze River. Over 30,000 such prisoners of war were so killed. There was not even a pretence of trial of these prisoners so massacred. Estimates made at a later date indicate that the total number of civilians and prisoners of war murdered in Nanking and its vicinity during the first six weeks of the Japanese occupation was over 200,000. That these estimates are not exaggerated is borne out by the fact that burial societies and other organizations counted more than 155,000 bodies which they buried. They also reported that most of those were bound with their hands tied behind their backs. These figures do not take into account those persons whose bodies were destroyed by burning or by throwing them into the Yangtze River or otherwise disposed of by Japanese.

Japanese Embassy officials entered the city of Nanking with the advance elements of the Army; and on 14 December an official of the Embassy informed the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone that the “Army was determined to make it bad for Nanking, but, that the Embassy officials were going to try to moderate the action.” The Embassy officials also informed the members of the Committee that at the time of the occupation of the city no more than 17 military policemen were provided by the Army commanders to maintain order within the city. When it transpired that complaints to the Army officials did not have any result, those Japanese embassy officials suggested to the foreign missionaries that the latter should try and get publicity in Japan, so that the Japanese Government would be forced by public opinion to curb the Army. Dr. Bates testified that the terror was intense for two and one-half to three weeks, and was serious six to seven weeks following the fall of the city. Smythe, the Secretary of the Int. Committee for the Safety Zone, filed two protests a day for the first six weeks. MATSUI, who had remained in a rear area until 17 December, made a triumphal entry into the city on that day and on 18 December held a religious service for the dead, after which he issued a statement in the course of which he said:

“I extend much sympathy to millions of innocent people in the Kiangpei and Chekiang districts, who suffered the evils of war. Now the flag of the rising sun is floating high over Nanking, and the Imperial Way is shining in the southern parts of the Yangtze-Kiang. The dawn of the renaissance of the East is on the verge of offering itself. On this occasion, I hope for reconsideration of the situation by the 400 million people of China.”

MATSUI remained in the city for nearly a week. MUTO, then a colonel, had joined MATSUI’S Staff on 10 November 1937 and was with MATSUI during the drive on Nanking and participated in the triumphal entry and occupation of the city. Both he and MATSUI admit that they heard of the atrocities being committed in the city during their stay at rear headquarters after the fall of the city. MATSUI admits that he heard that foreign governments were protesting against the commission of these atrocities. No effective action was taken to remedy the situation. Evidence was given before the Tribunal by an eyewitness that while MATSUI was in Nanking on the 19th of December the business section of the city was in flames. On that day the witness counted fourteen fires in the principal business street alone. After the entry of MATSUI and MUTO into the city, the situation did not improve for weeks.

Members of the Diplomatic Corps and Press and the Japanese Embassy in Nanking sent out reports detailing the atrocities being committed in and around Nanking. The Japanese Minister-at-Large to China, Ito, Nobufumi, was in Shanghai from September 1937 to February 1938. He received reports from the Japanese Embassy in Nanking and from members of the Diplomatic Corps and Press regarding the conduct of the Japanese troops and sent a resume of the reports to the Japanese Foreign Minister, HIROTA. These reports as well as many others giving information of the atrocities committed at Nanking, which were forwarded by members of the Japanese diplomatic officials in China, were forwarded by HIROTA to the War Ministry of which UMEZU was Vice-Minister. They were discussed at Liaison Conferences, which were normally attended by the Prime Minister, War and Navy Ministers, Foreign Minister HIROTA, Finance Minister KAYA, and the Chiefs of the Army and Navy General Staffs. News reports of the atrocities were widespread. MINAMI, who was serving as Governor-General of Korea at the time, admits that he read these reports in the Press. Following these unfavorable reports and the pressure of public opinion aroused in nations all over the world, the Japanese Government recalled MATSUI and approximately 80 of his officers but took no action to punish any of them. MATSUI, after his return to Japan on 5 March 1938, was appointed a Cabinet Councilor and on 29 April 1940 was decorated by the Japanese Government for “meritorious services” in the China War. MATSUI, in explaining his recall, says that he was not replaced by HATA because of the atrocities committed by his troops at Nanking but because he considered his work ended at Nanking and wished to retire from the Army. He was never punished.

The barbarous behavior of the Japanese Army cannot be excused as the acts of a soldiery which had temporarily gotten out of hand when at last a stubbornly defended position had capitulated – rape, arson and murder continued to be committed on a large scale for at least six weeks after the city had been taken and for at least four weeks after MATSUI and MUTO had entered the city.

The new Japanese Garrison Commander at Nanking, General Amaya, on 5 February 1938, at the Japanese Embassy in Nanking made a statement to the Foreign diplomatic corps criticizing the attitude of the foreigners who had been sending abroad reports of Japanese atrocities at Nanking and upbraiding them for encouraging anti-Japanese feeling. This statement by Amaya reflected the attitude of the Japanese Military toward foreigners in China, who were hostile to the Japanese policy of waging an unrestrained punitive war against the people of China.


Matsui Iwane

Matsui Iwane

The accused MATSUI is charged under Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 35, 36, 54 and 55.

MATSUI was a senior Officer in the Japanese Army and attained the rank of General in 1933. He had a wide experience in the Army, including service in the Kwantung Army and in the General Staff. Although his close association with those who conceived and carried out the conspiracy suggests that he must have been aware of the purposes and policies of the conspirators, the evidence before the Tribunal does not justify a finding that he was a conspirator.

His military service in China in 1937 and 1938 cannot be regarded, of itself, as the waging of an aggressive war. To justify a conviction under Count 27 it was the duty of the prosecution to tender evidence which would justify an inference that he had knowledge of the criminal character of that war. This has not been done.

In 1935 MATSUI was placed on the retired list but in 1937 he was recalled to active duty to command the Shanghai Expeditionary Force. He was then appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Central China Area Army, which included the Shanghai Expeditionary Force and the Tenth Army. With these troops he captured the city of Nanking on 13th December 1937.

Before the fall of Nanking the Chinese forces withdrew and the occupation was of a defenseless city. Then followed a long succession of most horrible atrocities committed by the Japanese Army upon the helpless citizens. Wholesale massacres, individual murders, rape, looting and arson were committed by Japanese soldiers. Although the extent of the atrocities was denied by Japanese witnesses the contrary evidence of neutral witnesses of different nationalities and undoubted responsibility is overwhelming. This orgy of crime started with the capture of the City on the 13th December 1937 and did not cease until early in February 1938. In this period of six or seven weeks thousands of women were raped, upwards of 100,000 people were killed and untold property was stolen and burned. At the height of these dreadful happenings, on 17 December, MATSUI made a triumphal entry into the City and remained there from five to seven days. From his own observations and from the reports of his staff he must have been aware of what was happening. He admits he was told of some degree of misbehavior of his Army by the Kempeitai and by Consular Officials. Daily reports of these atrocities were made to Japanese diplomatic representatives in Nanking who, in turn, reported them to Tokyo.

The Tribunal is satisfied that MATSUI knew what was happening. He did nothing, or nothing effective to abate these horrors. He did issue orders before the capture of the City enjoining propriety of conduct upon his troops and later he issued further orders to the same purport. These orders were of no effect as is now known, and as he must have known. It was pleaded in his behalf that at this time he was ill. His illness was not sufficient to prevent his conducting the military operations of his command nor to prevent his visiting the City for days while these atrocities were occurring. He was in command of the Army responsible for these happenings. He knew of them. He had the power, as he had the duty, to control his troops and to protect the unfortunate citizens of Nanking. He must be held criminally responsible for his failure to discharge this duty.

The Tribunal holds the accused MATSUI guilty under Count 55, and not guilty under Counts l, 27, 29, 31, 32, 35, 36 and 54.


Hirota Koki

Hirota Koki

HIROTA is indicted under Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 33, 35, 54, and 55.

HIROTA was Foreign Minister from 1933 until March 1936 when he became Prime Minister. From the fall of his Cabinet in February 1937 for four months he held no public office. He was Foreign Minister again in the First Konoye Cabinet until May 1938. From that time forward his relation with public affairs was limited to attending meetings of the Senior Statesmen (Jushin) from time to time to advise on the appointment of Prime Ministers and on other important questions submitted.

From 1933 to 1938, when HIROTA held these high offices, the Japanese gains in Manchuria were being consolidated and turned to the advantage of Japan and the political and economic life of North China was being “guided” in order to separate it from the rest of China in preparation for the domination by Japan of the Chinese political and economic life. In 1936 his cabinet formulated and adopted the national policy of expansion in East Asia and the Southern Areas. This policy of far-reaching effect was eventually to lead to the war between Japan and the Western Powers in 1941. Also in 1936 the Japanese aggressive policy with regard to the U. S. S. R. was reiterated and advanced, culminating in the Anti-Comintern Pact.

From the 7th of July 1937 when the war in China was revived, throughout HIROTA’s tenure of office, the military operations in China received the full support of the Cabinet. Early in 1938, also, the real policy towards China was clarified and every effort made to subjugate China and abolish the Chinese National Government and to replace it with a government dominated by Japan.

In early 1938 the plan and legislation for mobilization of manpower, industrial potential, and natural resources was adopted. This plan with little change in essentials was the basis on which the preparations to continue the China War and for waging further aggressive wars were carried out during the succeeding years. All these plans and activities were fully known to and supported by HIROTA.

Thus during his tenure of office HIROTA, apparently a very able man and a forceful leader, was at times the originator and at other times a supporter of the aggressive plans adopted and executed by the military and the various Cabinets.

On his behalf Counsel in final argument urged the Tribunal to consider HIROTA’s consistent advocacy of peace and peaceful or diplomatic negotiation of disputed questions. It is true that HIROTA, faithful to his diplomatic training, consistently advocated attempting firstly to settle disputes through diplomatic channels. However, it is abundantly clear that in so doing he was never willing to sacrifice any of the gains or expected gains made or expected to be made at the expense of Japan’s neighbors and he consistently agreed to the use of force if diplomatic negotiations failed to obtain fulfillment of the Japanese demands. The Tribunal therefore cannot accept as exculpating this accused the defense offered on this point.

The Tribunal consequently finds that at least from 1933 HIROTA participated in the common plan or conspiracy to wage aggressive wars. As Foreign Minister he also participated in the waging of war against China.

As to Counts 29, 31 and 32 HIROTA’s attitude and advice as one of the Senior Statesmen in 1941 is quite consistent with his being opposed to the opening of hostilities against the Western Powers. He held no public office after 1938 and played no part in the direction of the wars referred to in these Counts. The Tribunal holds that the evidence offered does not establish his guilt on these Counts.

As to Counts 33 and 35, there is no proof of HIROTA’s participation in or support of the military operations at Lake Khassan, or in French Indo-China in 1945.

With regard to War Crimes there is no evidence of HIROTA’s having ordered, authorized, or permitted the commission of the crimes as alleged in Count 54.

As to Count 55 the only evidence relating him to such crimes deals with the atrocities at Nanking in December 1937 and January and February 1938. As Foreign Minister he received reports of these atrocities immediately after the entry of the Japanese forces into Nanking. According to the Defence evidence credence was given to these reports and the matter was taken up with the War Ministry. Assurances were accepted from the War Ministry that the atrocities would be stopped. After these assurances had been given reports of atrocities continued to come in for at least a month. The Tribunal is of opinion that HIROTA was derelict in his duty in not insisting before the Cabinet that immediate action be taken to put an end to the atrocities, failing any other action open to him to bring about the same result. He was content to rely on assurances which he knew were not being implemented while hundreds of murders, violations of women, and other atrocities were being committed daily. His inaction amounted to criminal negligence.

The Tribunal finds HIROTA guilty under Counts 1, 27 and 55. He is not guilty under Counts 29, 31, 32, 33, 35 and 54.

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