A TRIAL OF GENERALS by Lawrence Taylor


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A provocative account--supplementary to Richard Minear's 1973 Victors' Justice--of the famous war crimes trials of Japanese generals Homma and Yamashita which ""established the principle of the commander being strictly responsible for the actions of his troops."" Taylor, an attorney who is the author also of the recent Trail of the Fox (1980, p. 1222), lays out the background vividly. Both Homma and Yamashita were brilliant strategists and members of the peace faction of the Imperial officer corps. Once the war they opposed began, Homma led the Philippine invasion force, successfully exploited MacArthur's command errors, and scored a major strategic victory with the taking of Bataan and Corregidor. The captured Allied soldiers were weak from months of low rations, and the Japanese preparations for them seriously underestimated their numbers. Due to lack of supervision, race-war propaganda, and cultural differences, the Japanese troops committed numerous atrocities during the Bataan ""Death March."" Yamashita, in turn, led the Japanese in the classic campaign that captured Malaya and the island fortress of Singapore, receiving from the press the nickname ""Tiger of Malaya."" When MacArthur invaded Leyte in 1945, he was the commander of the ground forces. Faced with a hopeless situation, he ordered his troops to withdraw into the mountains and fight a delaying action. But Admiral Iwabuchi, commanding the naval forces in Manila, ignored these orders and defended Manila--and it was his troops who committed the infamous ""Rape of Manila."" For these two atrocities, Homma and Yamashita were brought before MacArthur-appointed war-crimes tribunals (whereas German field commanders, similarly involved, were let off with less severe charges). The generals' defense rested on denial of due process, the fact that they did not personally participate in the crimes committed, and the charge that MacArthur was seeking revenge against soldiers who had personally humiliated him. Taylor, looking closely into the complex issues, airs the cases clearly, forthrightly, and stringently, leaving the reader with much to ponder.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1981
Publisher: Icarus