The prison was built by the Japanese government early in the 1920's to house political prisoners. The architecture was copied from some of the European prisons that were in use at the time. The prison held numerous "Political" internees, which meant anyone the Japanese Government considered a risk to their beliefs, such as, dissenters, Communists, Spies or those that the military considered to be risks to their war plans.
World War II
The Prison was virtually untouched by the heavy bombardment by the allied forces, thus when the American occupation forces took over the operation of the prison only needed minor repairs to make it ready for their use. The original compound was only 2.43 hectares (approximately 6 acres) in size. The Construction of exterior fencing expanded the facility to double the original size. The original units assigned to operate the prison, code named "Stockade 1" was the 35th AAA and two Battery's of the 579th AAA. The 555 MP unit was later assigned to the Prison and was assimilated into the U.S. Eighth Army when they were assigned to operate the prison. There were approximately 2500 military assigned to duty at the prison, however no more than 500 at any given time. The prison was only in operation by the military forces from December 1945 through May 1952. The structure had housed some 2000 war criminals during its operation.
The most notable residents incarcerated in the Sugamo prison were General Hideki Eiki Tojo (1884-1948) and Mrs. Iva Toguri d'Aquino (1916-)."", and "Yoshio Kodama" (Japanese godfather).
Hideki Tojo was the prime minister of Japan from 1941 to 1944 and, as such, held accountable for all war crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Army. He shot himself just prior to his arrest, but survived to stand trial. He spent the last three years of his life within the confines of Sugamo, where he was ultimately hanged in accordance with the sentence of the International Military Tribunal, Far East.
(Pictured with Tojo is Col. C. Aubrey Kenworthy, Commanding Officer, 720th M.P.'s)
Iva Toguri d'Aquino was a Japanese American who had broadcast under the name"Orphan Ann" on the Radio Tokyo program Zero Hour from 1942 to 1945. After the war, she was identified with the legendary "Tokyo Rose" and investigated on suspicion of treason. She was confined at Sugamo for a year, a month and a day from 1945 to 1946 while her case was under investigation and was eventually released for lack of evidence of any wrong doing. (News clipping from the "New York Journal-American," dated November 6,1947. ( "Tokyo Rose and Military escort." A wartime broadcaster was freed by U. S.) Public outrage over the release of "Tokyo Rose" by the Army, led by popular radio commentator Walter Winchell, resulted in her being arrested and confined at Sugamo again in 1948 for the week and a half that it took to arrange her transportation back to the United States for trial.
(Pictured on Iva's left is Sgt. George Stepnick [aka Charles B. Herian] and on her right is Cpt. Francis McCormick) See the special news article on Charles B. Herian on the militarylifestyle.com : Point of View Web site.
There are many stories relating to the Sugamo prison, most of which have never been made available to either the American or the Japanese public by the International Military Tribunal, Far East, which in turn never received the publicity and attention afforded to the Nuremberg Trials.
The GI's assigned to the prison was held responsible for the total maintenance of those incarcerated. The prisoners were served Japanese foods, prepared by Japanese personnel and served by the prisoners themselves. There were occasions when General Hideki Tojo was serving food to all the other class "A" prisoners. The prisoners were well maintained, they were permitted to shave, bathe and recieved clean laundered clothing and bedding. The prison was well equipped for these tasks. The Red Mess was operated to prepare all of the foods served to the prisoners. Some of the vegetables used for these meals was home grown at the compound. The prison also maintained a full laundry facility to handle both the prisoners and the American soldiers as well.
The morale of the troops assigned to Sugamo was very high due to the nature of the duties to be performed. The prison football teams performed against other military posts in Japan and was very highly rated as well as the prison baseball teams. The prison was well equipped for both these activities as the Post Engineers laid out the proper areas and used prisoners to perform the construction. The prison also had the very first bowling alley to be built in Japan. The two lane quonset facility was very popular with those who utilized it. A PX facility was operated by the Special Services and it even offered ice cream cones as well as cigarettes, snacks etc. The Red Cross hut was the spot to relax, play cards, dominoes or just listen to the many records played on the system. There were several ping pong tables in use all of the time.
The history books rarely make mention of the existence of Sugamo Prison. It would give us great pleasure to help educate the teachers and school systems so they can give credit to the many Military Units that played such an important part in seeing that justice had been served with the trials, sentencing and the executions handed down by the Tribunal. We are attempting to help make everyone aware that this was not just a story, but a factual event.
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