Siouxland veteran remembers military tribunal of Japan’s former prime minister

Veterans Voices

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – 92 year old Jim McDonald was drafted into the army at the age of 18. He says he wouldn’t take back anything and that being a witness to history is one of the greatest gifts of his life.

In September 1946, fresh out of college, Jim McDonald began his journey.

McDonald went through basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington. Months later he and other soldiers boarded a ship for Tokyo.

“The bunks were five high and no showers or nothing,” McDonald said. “We had salt water showers but if you had ever taken a salt water shower you probably wouldn’t want to do it again. People were sea sick and stuff, it was just not a good environment to eat in.”

Among his duties guarding the Tokyo courtroom for the war-crime trials of Hideki Tojo, a former Japanese prime minister some called, a “cold blooded control freak”

“With the prisoners, now, the things, the atrocities that we heard them talk about, were unimaginable. I mean, you couldn’t believe what those people did.”

The court room had strict rules for the soldiers.

“We had to stand in parade rest. Every 15 minutes we could move our hands to the back but that was about all the movement we could do.”

He wore a thick, wool uniform that he ironed, and wore, every day, to every trial.

Tojo was prime minister of japan during most of World War Two. An allied forces tribunal found him guilty of war crimes that included the deaths of millions of civilians and prisoners of war.

“He was very quiet. He didn’t have much to say. We didn’t have too much contact with him, we would hand him cigarettes on breaks.”

Tojo was sentenced to death, and executed for his crimes, in 1948. Around the same time Jim McDonald left Tokyo.

“I wouldn’t take anything for it now. It was a great time in my life.”

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