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After the surrender: Australia and the Japanese class B and C war criminals, 1945-1958

Aszkielowicz, Dean (2012) After the surrender: Australia and the Japanese class B and C war criminals, 1945-1958. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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After the war in the Pacific formally ended in September 1945, the victorious Allies occupied Japan and pursued Japanese militarism through democratisation programs and war crimes tribunals. Australian officials took part in the multinational effort to bring members of Japan’s leadership, the 'Class A' war criminals, to account for the war. Between 1945 and 1951 the government and military also ran wholly Australian trials, prosecuting about 800 'Class B and C' suspects for mistreating soldiers and civilians during the conflict. The government needed to be seen to be addressing public outrage over Japanese atrocities, by bringing the perpetrators to justice. In the 1950s, however, as the Cold War escalated and US priorities changed, Australian authorities became conscious that they needed to promote good relations with the US and with Japan. Australia’s harsh polices on war criminals proved to be a significant obstacle, and pressure to show clemency to imprisoned war criminals increased. The government eventually released all surviving war criminals in Australian custody by mid-1957. Writing on the early post-war period in Australia generally acknowledges that Japan was a focus of an increasingly independent and energetic foreign policy agenda. Nevertheless, the BC trials have received very little scholarly attention. The trials and their aftermath, however, constitute a twelve-year foreign policy project that illuminates Australia’s relations with Japan and the US during an era when Australia sought to establish itself as an independent participant in Asia-Pacific politics. The increasingly political dimension of the BC trials, and their propensity to inflame domestic opinion and to become entwined with high-level policies, means they offer a unique perspective on post-war Australian politics, society and, especially, foreign policy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Wilson, Sandra
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