A landmark, magisterial history of the trial of Japan’s leaders as war criminals—the largely overlooked Asian counterpart to Nuremberg
In the weeks after Japan finally surrendered to the Allies to end World War II, the world turned to the question of how to move on from years of carnage and destruction. For Harry Truman, Douglas MacArthur, Chiang Kai-shek, and their fellow victors, the question of justice seemed clear: Japan’s militaristic leaders needed to be tried and punished for the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor; shocking atrocities against civilians in China, the Philippines, and elsewhere; and rampant abuses of prisoners of war in notorious incidents such as the Bataan death march. For the Allied powers, the trial was an opportunity to render judgment on their vanquished foes, but also to create a legal framework to prosecute war crimes and prohibit the use of aggressive war, building a more peaceful world under international law and American hegemony. For the Japanese leaders on trial, it was their chance to argue that their war had been waged to liberate Asia from Western imperialism and that the court was victors’ justice.
For more than two years, lawyers for both sides presented their cases before a panel of clashing judges from China, India, the Philippines, and Australia, as well as the United States and European powers. The testimony ran from horrific accounts of brutality and the secret plans to attack Pearl Harbor to the Japanese military’s threats to subvert the government if it sued for peace. Yet rather than clarity and unanimity, the trial brought complexity, dissents, and divisions that provoke international discord between China, Japan, and Korea to this day. Those courtroom tensions and contradictions could also be seen playing out across Asia as the trial unfolded in the crucial early years of the Cold War, from China’s descent into civil war to Japan’s successful postwar democratic elections to India’s independence and partition.
From the author of the acclaimed The Blood Telegram, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, this magnificent history is the product of a decade of research and writing. Judgment at Tokyo is a riveting story of wartime action, dramatic courtroom battles, and the epic formative years that set the stage for the Asian postwar era.
“Gary Bass has written nothing less than a masterpiece. With epic research and mesmerizing narrative power, Judgment at Tokyo has the makings of an instant classic on China, Japan, and beyond. It reads as if Robert Caro unleashed his powers of historical illumination on the moral questions that drive Asia’s volatility today.” —Evan Osnos, National Book Award–winning author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
“Gary Bass sets for himself a hugely ambitious goal: to tell the astonishing story of the Tokyo trial while placing the courtroom drama in the broader Asian and world history. He succeeds marvelously. Judgment at Tokyo is a vivid and meticulously crafted account, rich in detail, fair-minded, superbly nuanced. An indispensable book for understanding a key historical moment, one with resonances down to our present day.” —Fredrik Logevall, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Embers of War
“To understand the dynamics of post–World War II Asia, Judgment at Tokyo is fascinating, essential reading. Bass tells the story through vivid portraits of the participants—Chinese, Japanese, American, British, Indian, Filipino, among others—producing an elegantly written and deeply researched history of an underreported chapter.” —Barbara Demick, author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
“In this superb, beautifully written work of transnational history, Gary Bass uses the Tokyo trial to illuminate the making of the modern world. Based on a staggering amount of archival research, the book provides rich insights into the origins of the Cold War, the emergence of postcolonial China and India, the rebuilding of Japan, and the waning of European imperialism.” —Ramachandra Guha, author of Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World
“Judgment at Tokyo is a work of singular importance—one that manages to be balanced, original, human, accessible, and riveting. It is of huge relevance to our times in the search for a decent place for ideas about justice in a world of double standards and patent hypocrisies.” —Philippe Sands, Baillie Gifford Prize–winning author of East West Street