Yamashita’s Ghost Inspires PBS Special

Allan Ryan had no plans to write a book about Japanese General Yamashita.

“I was planning on writing about the Nuremberg Trials,” Ryan says. “The more I researched the trials, however, the more I realized there was little new to say.”

While on vacation in Vermont, Ryan had an idea.

“I was on a bike ride on a particularly challenging hill and for some reason I thought of General Yamashita” Ryan says. “I did some research and realized that , other than a 1947 book by his lawyer, there had been no thorough analysis of his case. So I started to dig in.”

UPK published Ryan’s Yamashita’s Ghost; War Crimes, MacArthur’s Justice, and Command Accountability in 2014.

In 1946 General Tomoyuki Yamashita, Japan’s most accomplished military commander, was tried, convicted and executed for war crimes.

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.

“I think the 2 dissenting opinions are fascinating,” Ryan says. “They both address the efforts of Yamashita to control his soldiers while attacks from US forces made it nearly impossible.”

Ryan’s 2014 book, Yamashita’s Ghost, draws from the tribunal’s transcripts and 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.

“I was struck by how atypical Yamashita was,” Ryan says. “He was a poet and he had a very strong understanding of the Laws of War. In fact, he punished soldiers under his command who had committed crimes against civilians or prisoners of war. That was unheard of in the Japanese military.”

Yamashita’s Ghost serves as the basis for the first hour of PBS’s new three-hour special Dead Reckoning: War, Crime, and Justice from WWII to The War on Terror, which premiers March 28. The program follows war crimes investigators and prosecutors as they pursue some of the world’s most notorious war criminals. The principles, legal doctrine and tactics that emerged from those pursuits now inform the effort to expose, prosecute, and punish present day human rights violators.

The film begins with vengeance: U.S. General Douglas MacArthur’s 1945 military trial of Japan’s General Tomoyuki Yamashita for horrific atrocities in the Philippines. Despite the lack of any evidence that Yamashita ordered or even knew about the atrocities, he was condemned to death, raising the question: Are commanders responsible for crimes their troops commit?

“I had worked with Emmy-award winning writer and director Jonathan Silvers previously on a PBS documentary about Nazi war criminals in the post-war years,” says Ryan, who is credited as a co-producer on Dead Reckoning. “When we finished that project he asked ‘What’s next?’ I said “How about General Yamashita?” and that got the ball rolling. Jonathan has a profound commitment to examining war crimes and atrocities and asking, ‘why?’ and ‘how” and ‘who is responsible?”” So it’s  exciting to see the work we put into this finally come to bear. It’s disturbing, but these questions are disturbing. We’ve just tried to bring some clarity to them.”

Allan A. Ryan was Director of the Office of Special Investigations in the Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice, responsible for the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals in the United States. He has also served as an advisor on war crimes prosecutions to the Government of Rwanda, and has taught the law of war and genocide at Boston College Law School since 1990 and at Harvard University since 1997.

His books include Yamashita’s Ghost: War Crimes, MacArthur’s Justice and Command Accountability, (University Press of Kansas 2012); The 9/11 Terror Cases: Constitutional Challenges in the War Against al-Qaeda, (University Press of Kansas 2015) and Quiet Neighbors: Prosecuting Nazi War Criminals in America (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1984)

On Two Fronts: Latinos and Vietnam

9780700621101On September 22, PBS debuts, “On Two Fronts: Latinos and Vietnam,” a beautifully photographed and written documentary that features the significant contribution of Latinos regarding the war in Vietnam, primarily as soldiers but also protestors. A featured story in the film focuses on the Morenci Marines [for more reading, check out Kyle Longley’s “The Morenci Marines:  A Tale of Small Town America and the Vietnam War“] and how a significant portion of the group represented Latinos as well as recognition of the contributions of lower-middle working class families to the war effort. Clive Garcia, Jr. in particular stands out as Mylene Moreno, the director, reviews his life and death, and its effect on the small copper mining community of Morenci, Arizona. She also features others outside of the Morenci Marines from Greenlee County which gave more than its fair share of sons, many Latinos, and their sweat and blood on the front lines in Vietnam.

-Written by Kyle Longley, author ofThe Morenci Marines:  A Tale of Small Town America and the Vietnam War.

FOR A SPECIAL TIME, order a copy of the book online at www.kansaspress.ku.edu and get a 25% discount through October 31, 2015, by entering code MM25 at checkout.

Attention Civil War Enthusiasts

9780700621231 For Civil War historians and Ken Burns fans, PBS recently rebroadcast The Civil War to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the series’ initial broadcast in September 1990.  For further reading, UPK offers “A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary” by J.B. Jones, Edited by James L. Robertson Jr. as a two volume set.

Amidst the vast literature of the Civil War, one of the most significant and enlightening documents remains largely unknown. A day-by-day, uninterrupted, four-year chronicle by a mature, keenly observant clerk in the War Department of the Confederacy, the wartime diary of John Beauchamp Jones was first published in two volumes of small type in 1866. Over the years, the diary was republished three more times—but never with an index or an editorial apparatus to guide a reader through the extraordinary mass of information it contained. Published here with an authoritative editorial framework, including an extensive introduction and endnotes, this unique record of the Civil War serves as one of the best basic reference tools in Civil War history.

A Maryland journalist/novelist who went south at the outbreak of the war, Jones took a job as a senior clerk in the Confederate War Department, where he remained to the end, a constant observer of men and events in Richmond, the heart of the Confederacy and the principal target of Union military might. As a high-level clerk at the center of military planning, Jones had an extraordinary perspective on the Southern nation in action—and nothing escaped his attention. Confidential files, command-level conversations, official correspondence, revelations, rumors, statistics, weather reports, and personal opinions: all manner of material, found nowhere else in Civil War literature, made its meticulous way into the diary. Jones quotes scores of dispatches and reports by both military and civilian authorities, including letters from Robert E. Lee never printed elsewhere, providing an invaluable record of documents that would later find their way into print only in edited form. His notes on such ephemera as weather and prices create a backdrop for the military movements and political maneuverings he describes, all with the judicious eye of a seasoned writer and observer of southern life.

James I. Robertson Jr., provides introductions to each volume, over 2,700 endnotes that identify, clarify, and expand on Joness material, and a first ever index which makes Jones’s unique insights and observations accessible to interested readers, who will find in the pages of “A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary one of the most complete and richly textured accounts of the Civil War ever to be composed.

Lock K. Johnson’s “A Season of Inquiry Revisited” by UPK, NPR, and PBS — More Timely Than Ever

9780700621477Loch K. Johnson’s forthcoming “A Season of Inquiry Revisited: The Church Committee Confronts America’s Spy Agencies” serves as a timely read in relation to major news from NPR and PBS. David Welna leads NPR’s discussion titled, “Latest Domestic Surveillance Issues Conjure Up Church Committee’s Probe,” while PBS’s Independent Lens documentary 1971, not only tells the story of how the FBI’s COINTELPRO domestic spying operation was exposed, it also links the story to 1975 and the Church Committee investigation of US spy agencies. For the full account, be certain to acquaint yourself with Loch K. Johnson’s timely read, available for pre-order here: https://kuecprd.ku.edu/~upress/cgi-bin/978-0-7006-2147-7.html.