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UPI Archives
Tuesday, Sept. 11, 1945

Japanese ex-premier admits war guilt after suicide attempt
By Frank Bartholomew
and Frank Tremaine

TOKYO, Sept. 11 (UP) - "I wanted to die by the sword, but the pistol had to do. I assume the responsibility for the war...banzai!"

Those were the words of Gen. Hideki Tojo, the little Japanese Premier who catapulted the United States into the war with his sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

He gasped them out during a momentary return to consciousness after he had shot himself in the stomach at 4:21 p.m. Tokyo time today (12:21 a.m. P.W.T.) when told he was being arrested as a war criminal.

Six hours later, he arrived at the U.S. Army's 98th Evacuation Hospital in Yokohama, still alive after a number of transfusions of American blood. American doctors said he might recover.

The fallen war lord apparently acted on the spur of the moment.

He was locked alone in the study of his home in the suburbs of Tokyo, 12 miles from the city proper, when he pressed the muzzle of a .32-caliber pistol to his abdomen and pulled the trigger. (Correspondent Bartholomew was at his side when he became conscious 23 minutes later.)

"I wanted to die by the sword but the pistol had to do," he whispered. He used his next labored breath to take responsibility for the war and to say "Banzai."

He spoke in Japanese. Toichiro Takamatsu of the Tokyo newspaper Mainichi translated word by word.

The bullet ripped through the left part of the stomach below the heart and came out through his back. It made a gaping six-inch wound, from which blood bubbled.

He was seated in a low chair, legs crossed in the ceremonial hara-kiri position. He wore a white sports shirt and khaki military whipcord trousers with high boots.

Bartholomew and Takamatsu arrived at his home at 4:10 p.m.

Surrounded by cornfields, the house is at the end of a lane. It and about an acre of grounds are enclosed by hedges. Tojo was living there alone except for one elderly servant and a policeman who acted as a guard. Several weeks ago he had sent his wife to friends in Fukuoka.

Takamatsu said his friends had advised him four times that his only honorable course was hara-kiri. He made elaborate preparations. Why he delayed was a great mystery to the Japanese, Takamatsu said.

The guard told us Tojo was not at home. We decided to wait. Maj. Paul Kraus of the Army's counterintelligence corps arrived presently with orders for his arrest. Tojo returned almost simultaneously and hastily entered the house. A moment later he appeared at a window of his study.

The window had three parallel double panels. He had slid aside the top center panel. He asked what was wanted. His gold teeth showed in the smile of his lean brown face.

"Open the door so I can come in and present my credentials," Kraus said.

Tojo disappeared from the window. We all assumed he was going to open the door. But soon he was again at the window, and said, "Unless this is an official order, I do not care to discuss anything."

Kraus turned to his interpreter.

"Tell him to quit this damn fooling around and let's get going," he said. "Tell him to open the front door so I can present my credentials. Tell him to prepare himself for a trip to Gen. MacArthur's headquarters in Yokohama."

Tojo shut the window with a bang. We returned to the front of the house, thinking he would open the door this time.

An instant later, at 4:21 p.m., we heard a shot.

Kraus strode up the front steps and tried the double doors. They were locked. He forced them and rushed into the entrance hall. We followed on his heels.

The door to Tojo's study was locked. Kraus called on Tojo to unlock the door. There was no answer. Kraus kicked it in.

We entered a small, comfortable room, dominated by a large military oil painting. Tojo was slumped in the chair, a running red smear bubbling from his midriff. Unconscious, he groaned heavily with every breath.

Kraus sent his jeep driver into Tokyo for medical aid. Photographers roamed the house. In the next room a young man sat silently on crossed legs on a mat, head bowed. He was one of Tojo's sons.

Beads of sweat appeared on Tojo's brown, bald head. At 4:44 he suddenly regained consciousness and waved his arm weakly, summoning those in the room to hear what he believed his dying statement. After he had spoken, he relapsed into unconsciousness.

Medical Corpsmen arrived. Tojo's son appeared from the next room with a glass of water.

"He cannot be moved until a doctor comes. We are trying to save him," one of the corpsmen told the son.

A continuous red froth was bubbling from the wound. Takamatsu remarked that Tojo shot himself in the exact spot where he would have buried the sword had he chosen traditional hara-kiri.

On a table beside Tojo's chair was a short sword in a wooden scabbard. A case containing two swords was near-by. A fourth sword lay on another chair.

On the table also was a bound copy of Emperor Hirohito's rescript proclaiming the end of the war.

The foregoing portion of the dispatch was written by Correspondent Bartholomew. Correspondent Tremaine now takes up the narrative. Bartholomew had hastened to Tokyo to have his portion censored.

While he waited for the American Army doctor, a Japanese doctor, Tamejmitsu Ebara, arrived. He administered first aid, but refused to do more because he said Tojo had said he wanted to die.

An American ambulance arrived at 6:18 p.m., bringing Capt. James Johnson of Newark, N.J., a physician attached to the 1st Cavalry Division. He had Tojo removed from the chair to a cot. He sewed up the wound. Conscious most of the time, the patient grimaced in pain. Bandages were applied to his abdomen and back, where the bullet emerged, and he was covered with a blue and white quilt. Tojo received one unit of blood plasma at 6:27 p.m. and a shot of morphine 18 minutes later, to ease the shock.

Johnson remarked that the bullet may have nicked the lower edge of the heart but that wouldn't be fatal if the heart lining was not punctured.

"He has a pretty good chance of being saved," he said.

Capt. Johnson was assisted by 1st Lt. Frank Aquino of Los Angeles and Tech. 5th Grade Dominic Santa Cruz of Westfield, N.J.

A bright lamp was brought in and photographers crowded around to make pictures. Then three American soldiers moved the former Premier from the cot to a stretcher. Tojo was conscious. He stirred as if in pain. They covered him with blankets and put hot water bottles beside him. His boots had been taken off but he wore socks. His shirt had been cut off with the exception of the right sleeve.

Four stretcher bearers loaded Tojo into the ambulance.

The ambulance went to a 1st Cavalry Division first-aid tent near the Meiji Shrine. Tojo was barely conscious when carried into the tent at 8:03 p.m. The stretcher was placed on a table under an operating lamp. The lamp wouldn't work. More plasma was administered.

Tojo's eyes flickered several times, but appeared oblivious to the curious corpsmen crowding around.

"Who is it?" asked Cpl. Everett Sayre, Racine, Ohio.

"That's him, boy! That's Hideki Tojo. That's what I've been waiting for," answered Lt. Aquino.

"Well, he did a good job of it."

"No, he didn't," Aquino said. "It was a little low."

The soldiers were playing their flashlights over the bald head and slack, yellow-brown features.

One hundred feet away, several hundred soldiers were watching the Barbara Stanwyck film, "My Reputation," in the movie tent. "Auld Lang Syne" was coming from the sound track as the plasma flowed into Tojo's arm. Tojo's pulse was taken at 8:10 p.m. It registered 118 beats to the minute.

At 8:15 p.m. Tojo was reloaded into the ambulance. A crowd of photographers and reporters arrived. For seven minutes the ambulance doors were held open while flash bulbs popped.

Jack Mahon, correspondent of the Mutual Broadcasting System, reported by radio that Lt. Gen. Robert Eichelberger, commander of the U.S. 8th Army, was at the hospital when Tojo arrived.

He said Tojo asked Eichelberger to "co-operate to make a better Japan." Eichelberger made no reply.

Tojo said to doctors: "Don't go to any trouble for me, as I am going to die anyway."