World War II U.S. Army Courts, Asia-Pacific

Content warning: Users are advised that the material in World War II U.S. Army Courts, Asia-Pacific contains language and imagery depicting human rights violations, ethnic cleansing, acts of genocide, wartime violence, and offensive stereotypes of people and cultures. Stanford Libraries makes this material available to facilitate scholarly research and education and does not endorse the criminal ideologies and actions herein.

Please see "Virtual Tribunals: A Guide to the World War II U.S. Army Courts, Asia-Pacific," for a complete finding guide to the collection.

Opening arguments are presented in the trial of General Masaharu Homma in Manila. National Archives and Records Administration 111-SCA-222850.

Tribunals convened against defendants from Imperial Japan after World War II

Stanford Libraries and the Stanford Center for Human Rights and International Justice are pleased to present a digitized collection of records focusing on the efforts of the United States to hold accountable defendants from the Empire of Japan for war crimes committed across the vast reaches of the Asia-Pacific region during World War II. In these records we present the records of more than 330 historically significant war crimes cases, held under the auspices of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) and administered by the U.S. Army, in Yokohama and Tokyo in Japan and Manila in the Philippines.

Perhaps the most well-known of the many trials to follow the end of the fighting in the region was the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), also known as the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. It was intended to fulfill a similar purpose to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and sought to hold responsible the leadership of the Empire of Japan for the planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of a war of aggression against the Allied nations. Those convicted would come to be referred to as Class A war criminals, the designation for those who had committed crimes against the peace.

The leadership of Japan was, however, far removed from the atrocities of the war. The actual acts of brutality were carried out by thousands of Japanese soldiers and civilians, as well as by smaller numbers of collaborators from other nations. To hold them accountable, seeking justice against defendants accused of committing war crimes, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, France, the Philippines, and the Republic of China created a host of largely nationally-administered but reasonably coordinated military tribunals. In addition to this system, the Soviet Union and the Peoples’ Republic of China would convene their own tribunals.

The defendants in these trials were designated Class B and Class C war criminals. Class B war criminals were those found guilty of violating the laws of war, whereas Class C criminals were those found guilty of crimes against civilians, what would come to be known as crimes against humanity. Roughly 5500 people would be prosecuted in these tribunals. More than 4500 would be convicted and punished.

Foremost in scale among the war crimes tribunals were those directed by the United States, which organized and administered its war crimes tribunals in the Asia-Pacific region in two separate programs. By far the larger of the two was run by SCAP, the occupying authority of post-war Japan. Convened under the authority of General Douglas MacArthur and dominated by the United States, SCAP served as a unified Allied command structure, incorporating the armed forces of numerous Allied nations. Under MacArthur’s hand, SCAP would direct the creation of military commissions to hear war crimes trials, organized and administered by regional U.S. Army commands. The bulk of the tribunals were held in Yokohama in Japan and in Manila in the Philippines. A small number were also held in Tokyo and in Shanghai in China. In parallel with the SCAP program, a second, significantly smaller, war crimes program was run by the U.S. Navy, which held its trials on Guam in the Mariana Islands and on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. Together, the two programs would go on to prosecute 1409 people, mostly Japanese citizens.

These records were classified for more than three decades. Even after their release into archives, their vast extent and complexity meant that they received very little scholarly attention. Now, for the first time, and in high-definition detail, the records are available to all.

Collection of records of World War II U.S. Army Courts, Asia-Pacific

Here we present, in fully searchable digital form, the trial and post-trial records of 45 cases conducted at Yokohama and 20 cases held at Manila. The majority of the Yokohama cases concern atrocities committed against Allied service personnel or expatriate civilians, whereas the Manila cases generally focus on atrocities against Filipino civilians. Read together, they provide a remarkably detailed consideration of the breadth and depth of Japanese war crimes. Supplementing these records, we also present the partial papers of a further 94 cases heard at Yokohama, mostly focusing on the sensitive post-trial and sentencing processes for convicted criminals. Additionally, and greatly strengthening the historical value of this collection, we present the records of all 312 reviews and recommendations made on the trials held in Yokohama. Finally, we present the records of two Class A war criminal trials from Tokyo. At the conclusion of the IMTFE, SCAP had intended to prosecute further members of Imperial Japan’s leadership who had not yet faced justice. However, only two individuals were prosecuted, cases that are presented here.

The Collection

Navigating the Collection

On the left-hand tool bar of this webpage you will see a drop down menu with the title "World War II U.S. Army Courts, Asia-Pacific." Below the title are the pages containing the digitized records. The records may also be accessed by clicking on the thumbnail images immediately above.

A finding guide to the collection, "Virtual Tribunals: A Guide to the World War II U.S. Army Courts, Asia-Pacific," is available.

The digitized records have, with the creation of categories of metadata, been rendered searchable and browsable thanks to the heroic efforts of Center for Human Rights and International Justice staff and student worker catalogers.

Facets for browse and search include:

  • Case name
  • Case date range
  • Court location
  • Defendants' names
  • Document type (such as pre-trial, trial, and post-trial records)
  • Document date (created or filed)
  • Language (English and/or Japanese)
  • Microfilm publication number
  • Type of resource (text, still image, mixed material)
  • War crime location

A map accompanies each record, showing the location of the war crime.

Searching the Text

The use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology permits granular searching of the text of the records within each page. By clicking on the magnifying glass symbol on the left-hand side of the pages, users may enter any search term. The results of the search will be catalogued on the left-hand side of the page.

For further, detailed guidance on how to search collections on the Virtual Tribunals website, including pictorial and video demonstrations, please visit the page "How to search the documents" in the "About" section.

The Archival Records

These digitized records were copied from microfilms created by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Those microfilms, in turn, were made from paper records held by NARA and drawn from Record Group 331, Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, 1907-1966. The details for the microfilm collections are:

Record Group 331. Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, 1907-1966. Record Series 'Records of Trials and Clemency Petitions for Accused War Criminals Tried at Yokohama, Japan, 1947 - 1948.' NAID 647431. Microfilm M1726.

Record Group 331. Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, 1907-1966. Record Series 'Records of Trials of Accused Japanese War Criminals Tried at Manila, Philippines, 1945 - 1947.' NAID 647847. Microfilm M1727.

Record Group 331. Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II. Reviews of the Yokohama Class B and Class C War Crimes Trials by the 8th Army Judge Advocate, 1946-1949. Microfilm M1112.

Copyright and Use of Material

The records contained herein were created by the United States Government and are not eligible for copyright protection. They may be considered as being in the public domain. Should you wish to reproduce these records, though, you are strongly encouraged to consult NARA’s guide, Citing Records of the National Archives of the United States. If you wish to reproduce a photograph, please consult the Copyright and Permissions guide for the National Archives Still Pictures Branch. Acknowledgement of Stanford University for providing access to the records is not required. However, citation of this website is encouraged to help readers confirm the means of record access. The appropriate citation is “Stanford University, Virtual Tribunals Collection: World War II U.S. Army Courts, Asia-Pacific.”

Reproducing Declassified Records

Many of the records contained herein were once classified. All have been declassified. Records that have been declassified display a declassification serial number on their face. The declassification number must be cited in any reproduction. For further information, please consult the NARA guides to declassification.