Allan A. Ryan

discusses

Yamashita's Ghost:
War Crimes, MacArthur's Justice, and Command Accountability

in conversation with JOSHUA RUBENSTEIN

Date

Feb
15
Friday
February 15, 2013
3:00 PM

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store and Facing History and Ourselves are pleased to welcome lawyer and Harvard University scholar ALLAN A. RYAN for a discussion of his book Yamashita's Ghost: War Crimes, MacArthur's Justice, and Command Accountability. Mr. Ryan will be introduced by JOSHUA RUBENSTEIN, Scholar-in-Residence at Facing History and Ourselves.

I don’t blame my executioners. I will pray God bless them.

So said General Tomoyuki Yamashita, Japan’s most accomplished military commander, as he stood on the scaffold in Manila in 1946. His stoic dignity typified the man his U.S. Army defense lawyers had come to deeply respect in the first war crimes trial of World War II. Moments later, he was dead. But had justice been served? Allan A. Ryan reopens the case against Yamashita to illuminate crucial questions and controversies that have surrounded his trial and conviction, but also to deepen our understanding of broader contemporary issues—especially the limits of command accountability.

The atrocities of 1944 and 1945 in the Philippines—rape, murder, torture, beheadings, and starvation, the victims often women and children—were horrific. They were committed by Japanese troops as General Douglas MacArthur’s army tried to recapture the islands. Yamashita commanded Japan’s dispersed and besieged Philippine forces in that final year of the war. But the prosecution conceded that he had neither ordered nor committed these crimes. MacArthur charged him, instead, with the crime—if it was one—of having “failed to control” his troops, and convened a military commission of five American generals, none of them trained in the law. It was the first prosecution in history of a military commander on such a charge.

In a turbulent and disturbing trial marked by disregard of the Army’s own rules, the generals delivered the verdict they knew MacArthur wanted. Yamashita’s lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose controversial decision upheld the conviction over the passionate dissents of two justices who invoked, for the first time in U.S. legal history, the concept of international human rights.

Drawing from the tribunal’s transcripts, Ryan vividly chronicles this tragic tale and its personalities. His trenchant analysis of the case’s lingering question—should a commander be held accountable for the crimes of his troops, even if he has no knowledge of them—has profound implications for all military commanders.

Allan A. Ryan
Allan A. Ryan

Allan A. Ryan

Allan A. Ryan clerked for Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White, was a U.S. Marine Corps judge advocate, and was Assistant to the Solicitor General of the United States. As director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, he was the chief prosecutor of Nazi war criminals who had escaped to America. Since 1985, Mr. Ryan has been an attorney at Harvard University, and now serves as Director of Intellectual Property at Harvard Business School Publishing. He teaches the law of war at Boston College Law School and Harvard University and is author of Quiet Neighbors: Prosecuting Nazi War Criminals in America.

Joshua Rubenstein
Joshua Rubenstein

Joshua Rubenstein

Joshua Rubenstein is the Scholar-in-Residence at Facing History and Ourselves. A longtime associate at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, he is the author of Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg and is coeditor of The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov and Stalin's Secret Pogrom, both published by Yale University Press. His book Stalin’s Secret Pogrom received a National Jewish Book Award.

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