When former Japanese Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo saw the Americans outside his home, he decided to commit suicide. The reporters present at the scene then unknowingly saved his life.
Eight days after the surrender of Japan, on September 10, 1945, American war correspondent Russell Brines knocked on General Tojo’s door. By then, the Japanese politician and military officer — dubbed the Hitler of the Far East by the Allies for good reason — was far more reserved and economical with his words.
“I cannot discuss politics or military matters. I am only a farmer now. I believe that Japan’s struggle was based on justice, although I know America will disagree. History will decide who is right. As far as I am concerned, I take full responsibility for the war.” — Hideki Tojo
The next day, the former Japanese prime minister was on a list of 39 people to be arrested under a warrant issued by American General Douglas MacArthur. The list contained the names of so-called Class A war criminals.
The Americans rightly suspected that many Pearl Harbor Cabinet officials, as the former Tojo government was called, would attempt to commit seppuku or some other form of honorable suicide. The Allies, eager to avoid such situations, decided not to release the list of suspected war criminals until an arrest warrant was issued.
Nevertheless, several people managed to take their own lives. Education Minister Kumihiko Hashida killed himself three days after an arrest warrant was issued by taking potassium cyanide. Health Minister Chikahiko Koizumi did the same, committing seppuku on September 13. Some — like War Minister Korechika Anami — decided to end their lives immediately after Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945.
Tojo attempted suicide on September 11 when his home was surrounded by Americans who came to arrest him. The former Japanese prime minister shot himself in the chest, but the bullet missed his heart. Ironically, the gun he tried to kill himself with was made in the US.