They were said to have been stolen by right-wingers as an object of reverence and later blown up by left-wingers as a symbol of repression. Now, the truth has emerged about the ashes of General Hideki Tojo, the Japanese prime minister hanged as a war criminal after World War II.
Newly uncovered American historical documents appear to contradict claims that the militarist leader’s remains were preserved and enshrined in a Buddhist temple. Instead, they were flown out to sea and scattered over a wide area to frustrate any effort to establish them as objects of pilgrimage.
Japanese historian Hiroaki Takazawa, of Nihon University, has revealed the documents three years after finding them in the US National Archives and Records Administration. After being convicted, Tojo was hanged on December 23, 1948, with six other wartime leaders.
In 1958, six years after the end of the US occupation of Japan, a lawyer for some of the Tokyo defendants, Shohei Sanmonji, said that on December 26 he had gone to the crematorium where the men’s bodies had been burnt and recovered traces of ashes. The documents cast doubt on whether they did belong to the men or were just residue.
Two US reports, dated December 23, 1948, and January 4, 1949, describe the actions taken by US Major Luther Frierson, who oversaw the executions. He accompanied the bodies of the dead men to the crematorium in Yokohama.
The ashes were placed in separate urns and loaded into an army plane. “We proceeded to a point approximately 30 miles over the Pacific Ocean east of Yokohama where I personally scattered the cremated remains over a wide area,” Frierson wrote in his report.