The cremated remains of Japan's wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and other executed Class-A war criminals were secretly scattered in the ocean to prevent them from being deified by the Japanese people, recently discovered declassified U.S. documents showed.
The documents provide the first official confirmation of the reason behind the American military's decision in 1948, driven by concerns over the potential revival of Japan's "ultra national spirit" after its World War II defeat.
Similar to how the remains of executed war criminals of Nazi Germany convicted at the 1945-1946 Nuremberg trials were dispersed in a river, the "final disposition of the remains of executed (Japanese) war criminals should forever remove the possibility of their becoming the objects of enshrinement as heroes or martyrs," one of the documents stated.
The declassified documents, obtained by Kyodo News from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, were composed by the U.S. Far East Command under Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1948 following the conclusion of the Tokyo war crimes tribunal in April that year.
In one of the documents titled "Staff Study" and dated July 21, 1948, Major Michael Rivisto of the Far East Command's Quartermaster Section in Tokyo recommended that the remains of executed war criminals be disposed of secretly to "forever prevent their use in anyway to foster resurgence of the ultra national spirit in Japan."
The document was sent to the U.S. Department of the Army by Rivisto on July 27, requesting instructions or concurrence to the proposal, with the department responding on Aug. 4 that it would entrust the matter to the local unit.
Rivisto further proposed in a document dated Aug. 6 that the cremated remains of all classifications of executed war criminals be secretly disposed of due to the "pre-war propensity of the Japanese to enshrine those who gave their lives for the Emperor regardless of rank."
Based on this advice, MacArthur decided on Aug. 13 to dispose at sea the ashes of Tojo and six other Class-A war criminals, who were sentenced in November and executed on Dec. 23 at Sugamo Prison in Tokyo.
Their ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean by the U.S. Eighth Army after being cremated in Yokohama.
Regarding the disposals of the remains, William Sebald, chief of the Diplomatic Section at the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers, which occupied Japan after the war, had previously written in his book that the cremated remains would be scattered as their graves could have been deified.
Sebald was also present at the executions of the Class-A war criminals.
Hidetoshi Tojo, a great-grandchild of former premier Tojo, said there is no surprise about the U.S. military having scattered war criminals' ashes in the Pacific.
Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo enshrines more than 2.4 million war dead, regardless of whether there are remains or not, he said. "I feel a difference in religious views in the U.S. way of thinking."