April 29, 1946: The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal convenes.
Officially called the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), the Tokyo Trials took place nearly eight months after the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, which marked the unconditional surrender of the Empire of Japan to the Allied nations. The IMTFE was modeled after the Nuremberg Trials (which set precedents for most later trials involving international criminal law) and, like the Nuremberg Trials, ended in death sentences and life imprisonment for dozens of its twenty-eight main defendants - a group filled with infamous faces, like that of Hideki Tōjō, general, party leader, and prime minister; Kenji Doihara, who played an instrumental role in the Japanese invasion and destabilization of Manchuria and later other parts of China; Iwane Matsui, commander of expeditionary forces in China, deemed responsible by the tribunal for the Nanking Massacre; and many others. Emperor Hirohito and the entirety of the imperial family (including Prince Yasuhiko Asaka, a commander at Nanking) were not prosecuted by the tribunal.
Eleven men representing eleven different nations served on the IMTFE’s panel of judges, all of them top justices, attorneys, or professors from various Allied nations. The Indian representative Justice Radhabinod Pal famously dissented and, while acknowledging the brutality of certain events (the Nanking Massacre specifically), argued for the exoneration of all indictees, since other trials would cover these acts - as Class B and C crimes. Pal also questioned the legitimacy of the entire proceeding and condemned the United States’ use of atomic weapons against Japan, as well as the fact that this, which he regarded as one of the war’s worst crimes, would go unpunished.
Class A crimes (as opposed to“Class B” and “Class C” crimes - war crimes and crimes against humanity) were defined as crimes against peace, and were therefore reserved for political and military officials who had played parts in the planning and instigation of war; twenty-eight were ultimately charged with Class A crimes and six were hanged for them at Sugamo Prison in December 1948, a month after the trials adjourned. Unlike the Nuremberg Trial executions, where the corpses of the hanged had been photographed and published, no photographers were allowed at the executions.
April 1, 1920: Toshiro Mifune is born.
March 30, 1940: Japan establishes a Chinese puppet government in Nanjing.
In 1931, the Empire of Japan invaded Manchuria (the northeast portion of China) following the Mukden Incident and, following its successful conquest of the region, established a puppet state known as Manchukuo, or Manshū-koku, which came to be “ruled” in 1934 by Puyi, China’s last emperor, who had been permanently deposed in 1917. In 1937, a clash known as the Marco Polo Incident marked the beginning of total war between China and Japan and the beginning of the full-scale Japanese invasion of China. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his forces (which had temporarily made peace with the Chinese Communist Party in the midst of their civil war) managed to hold off the Japanese reasonably well, though his armies incurred massive casualties and the war cost countless civilian lives as well. In 1937, the Japanese captured the Nationalist capital at Nanjing and carried out a massacre against its inhabitants that came to be known as the “Rape of Nanking”.
The Kuomingtang fled to Chongqing, and in 1940 the Japanese established a collaborationist government to rival the relocated KMT government; this new “Reorganized National Government of China” was led by Wang Jingwei (pictured above), a former member of the KMT, known in postwar China as a Benedict Arnold-type collaborationist traitor. The new government used the same flag (with an extra pennant reading “peace, anti-Communism, national construction”) and emblem as the KMT government and claimed to be the rightful government of China, although it was not recognized by any of the Allied powers, nor did it exert any actual governing power over the regions it was supposedly given control over (i.e. ostensibly all of China except Manchukuo). It operated under three main principles: pan-Asianism, anti-communism, and anti-KMT. Wang Jingwei, whose government was subject to constant sabotage and resistance throughout the war, died before its end, in 1944, and the regime was dissolved in 1945 after Japan’s defeat in World War II.
March 20, 1602: The Dutch East India Company is founded.
The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-indische Compagnie) was founded through the sponsorship of the Dutch government, who granted it a monopoly over trade in the East Indies through a charter that was set to expire after twenty-one years. The company could, through this charter, build forts and conduct military and diplomatic activities in the area, which would help to protect and direct Dutch trade in the East Indies (the Dutch Republic was, at the time, engaged in the Eighty Years’ War against Spain).
During its nearly two centuries in existence, the Dutch East India Company became the first company to issue stock, and also the first (or second) multinational company; in addition, it is, according to some estimates, the most valuable company in history - adjusted for inflation, it is valued at $7.4 trillion. The VOC also came into direct competition with the British East India Company, especially after the Dutch took over many Asian settlements and holdings previously held by the Portuguese over the course of the Dutch-Portuguese War. One of its most famous leaders was Jan Pieterszoon Coen, who served as its Governor-General twice, helped to expand and strengthen its reach, and also founded the capital of the Dutch East Indies - Batavia, today called Jakarta.
The company reached the height of its power in the late 17th century but soon went into decline thanks to corruption and poor management, and its hegemony over trade in the East Indies disintegrated until its dissolution in 1800. The territories that had been colonized by the VOC became the Dutch East Indies, to be administrated by the Dutch government, who finally granted the colony independence in 1949 after over three centuries of Dutch rule.
Today is the 45th anniversary of the My Lai Massacre.
Photo gallery (images may be graphic)
Tokyo after the firebombings, 1945.