Tomoya Kawakita,traitor - Axis History Forum

Tomoya Kawakita,traitor

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Peter H
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Postby Peter H » 17 May 2007 13:46

The US Nisei charged with torturing US POWs in Japan during the war,and the last US citizen convicted of treason,in 1952:

Tomoya Kawakita was a dual US/Japanese citizen (born in the US to Japanese parents). He was in Japan when World War II broke out, and because of the war was unable to return to the US. During the war, he actively supported the Japanese cause and abused US prisoners of war who had been forced to work under him. After the war, he returned to the US on a US passport, and shortly thereafter he was charged with (and convicted of) treason for his wartime activities.

Kawakita claimed that he had lost his US citizenship by registering in Japan as a Japanese national during the war, and as a result he could not be found guilty of treason against the US. Presumably, the reason Kawakita fought so tenaciously not to be considered a US citizen was that he saw this as the only way to escape a death sentence for his treason conviction.

However, the Supreme Court ruled that since Kawakita had dual nationality by birth, when he registered himself as Japanese, he was simply reaffirming an already existing fact and was not actually acquiring Japanese citizenship or renouncing his US citizenship.

The court acknowledged that a dual citizen, when in one of his countries of citizenship, is subject to that country's laws and cannot appeal to his other country of citizenship for assistance. However, even when the demands of both the US and the other country are in irreconcilable conflict -- such as in wartime -- a dual US/other citizen must still honor his obligations to the US even when in the other country.

Although Kawakita lost his appeal, his death sentence was eventually commuted by President Eisenhower. He was released from prison, stripped of his US citizenship, and deported to Japan.

The reason the respondent in this case (the second party named in the case's title) was the United States -- rather than a government official (such as the Secretary of Labor or the Secretary of State) -- is that the case started as a criminal prosecution rather than as a lawsuit.

Photo here:

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Peter H
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Postby Peter H » 17 May 2007 13:51

How he was detained: ... g-jap.html

From his trailer coach home near the campus of Cal Poly, where he is a student, William Leon Bruce--during wartime a Sgt. and resident of a Japanese prison camp—described his shock when he came face to face with Tomoya Kawakita, a functionary in the Oeyama camp, in a department store on South Boyle Avenue in Los Angeles seven months ago.

Bruce froze and stared at his former captor, who was strolling with two teenage Japanese girls. When Bruce moved to go after Kawakita, his wife Jean, 22, held him back and insisted he instead call the FBI. Bruce admitted Jean’s advice was sound, as he didn’t know what he might have done to Kawakita had he gotten his hands on him. Bruce carries the rage of one who suffered sinus injuries and a broken jaw from shrapnel on Corregidor, was carried by his buddies on the Bataan Death March and then spent three years in Oeyama, where Kawakita was the first official he encountered. Kawakita had reacted violently to Bruce’s patriotic tattoos, attempting to twist them off of his captive’s arm while screaming about “’crazy Americans and their symbols of freedom.’”

So rather than roughing up his one-time nemesis, Bruce tailed him as far as his car, and turned the license number and his captor’s name over to the F.B.I. When the name and number matched up, the Feds moved in.

Kawakita, a 26-year-old American residing at 220 S. Hicks St., is under arrest on charges of treason in Los Angeles. He went to Japan with his father before hostilities began, supposedly to resume his studies at Meiji University, Tokyo, and returned to Los Angeles after claiming he had not helped Japan during the war. If found guilty, he faces the death penalty. So far in court he has been answering direct questions about his war experience by claiming not to remember the answers.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, there are nearly 100 ex-G.I.s prepared to testify to Kawakita’s sadism, his skill at judo, his camp nickname of “Meatball” (obtained because he grew fat on rations denied prisoners) and his sneering opinion that “I knew you Americans couldn’t take it when the going got tough.” ... m=&ucat=2&

The Los Angeles Times on Oct. 28, 1978 reported that in 1978 Kawakita, 57, tried to get permission to visit the U.S. He was denied. Tomoya Kawakita is believed to be alive somewhere in Japan; he would be 86 this year.

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Postby bluestocking21 » 01 Oct 2011 17:23

For more information on Kawakita's treason trial, see: Naoko Shibusawa, _America's Geisha Ally_ (Harvard University Press, pbk 2010), chapter 4, "A Transpacific Treason Trial."

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Postby David Thompson » 02 Oct 2011 04:27

For interested readers -- There is a brief overview of the treason trial at

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