Friday, June 19, 2015

Frederic T. Suss, Prosecutor of Japanese War Criminals

Atrocities on Chichi Jima Revisited
by Robert A. Waters

I recently published a blog entitled, Atrocities on Chichi Jima.  The story describes a nightmarish tale of torture, murder, and cannibalism.  During the waning days of World War II, American flyers Grady York and James “Jimmie” Dye were captured by the Japanese after bailing out of their disabled bomber.  On the island of Chichi Jima, thirteen Japanese officers cannibalized the flesh and livers of the downed airmen.  Other captured airmen also suffered similar barbaric treatment.

Jennifer Gilmer, whose father, Frederic T. Suss [pictured], prosecuted the Japanese officers, alerted me to the fact that this was his very first trial out of law school.  Jennifer sent me transcripts of his closing argument.  Suss’s words are so powerful that the following excerpts will be quoted verbatim.

Closing Argument for the Prosecution Delivered by Frederic T. Suss, Lieutenant USNR

“Gentlemen, we are assembled here in the name of justice.  We are here to proclaim that justice is not the prerogative of one nation or of one people but is the sacred and inviolable right of every individual, however obscure or exalted or in whatever remote corner of the world in which he may be found.  Upon this principle we have builded a nation.  Although that nation has grown to be a formidable power, her people have never lost sight of the fact that she owes her very existence to the defiance of the tyranny of power.

“We are not a nation of moralists but we have observed that government may learn from religion.  Christianity has taught us of the dignity of men and the sacredness of the individual.  This spirit is found in our laws and proclaimed in our courts.  This is what we demand for our people and this is what America extends to others.

“We do not seek revenge, for revenge is not justice.  We do not repeat the mistakes of the fallen enemy.  We do not punish the innocent…

“In accordance with these traditions the accused have been given a fair and just trial, the like of which has never been seen in their native land.  They have been allowed six defense counsels of their own choosing.  Our officers have been sent on costly journeys to seek out evidence for their defense.  Witnesses have been brought here at the expense of the government to testify in their behalf.  We have extended to them the protection of our laws and indeed we have gone beyond the limits of the law to expand for them the rights of cross-examination.

“And to whom have we extended such fair and impartial treatment?  To the people who have torn and mutilated the living bodies of our defenseless brothers in the most primitive and barbaric fashion.  What more terrible indictment can there be than to accord these inhuman savages a fair and a just trial?  There is a more terrible indictment.  It is the procession of witnesses who have come before this court.  The officers and men who have served with and under the accused.  Their voices surpass the language barrier and still ring clearly and accusingly in this courtroom.  Voices long hushed by cruel power and now crying out for justice.  How shall a man face the indictment of those with whom he has faced death together?”

Later in the argument, Suss addresses the cannibalization of the American airmen.

“Defense counsel has contended that this commission cannot decide what is an honorable burial.  That is precisely what this commission is designed to decide.  What man of genius or what great mathematical mind is needed to decide that it is a dishonor and a shameless travesty on a dead body to remove 16 pounds of its flesh for cannibalism.

“What honest surgeon can ever again without remorse of conscience apply his scalpel to a human body, living or dead when he is haunted by the spectacle of having publicly removed the liver of a dead man to turn it over to cannibals?  Does defense counsel seriously contend that this is honorable burial?  We think not.  Which of us would consider his son honorably buried if his body was savagely bayonetted before interment?  The question of honorable burial, gentlemen, is no great philosophical problem…

“These atrocities were not committed in the heat of battle by irresponsible subordinates but they were deliberately planned by these officers here charged.”

After his opening arguments, Suss delivers a damning indictment of each defendant.  In the end, thirteen Japanese officers were convicted and hung for their crimes against humanity.

The obituary of Frederic Suss is available here:

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

It was so nice of you to write this blog about my father. It's nice to know that he'll be remembered and others can read about this major accomplishment in his life.

Jennifer Gilmer