Documentary series examines Japan's war crimes in WWII

Xu Wei
"Asia-Pacific War Trials" is the first major panoramic documentary focusing on the post-World War II trials of Japan's Class-B and Class-C war criminals.
Xu Wei

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the victory in China’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) and World War II, the Shanghai Media Group has released an eight-episode documentary “Asia-Pacific War Trials.”

The documentary will air on Docu TV every night at 8pm through September 10. It will also run on ICS from September 8 to 15 at 8pm.

After World War II, eight allied nations established more than 50 military tribunals in the Asia-Pacific to try Japan for war crimes committed on the battlefield. The series is the first major panoramic documentary focusing on the post-World War II trials of Japan’s Class-B and Class-C war criminals. 

Documentary series examines Japans war crimes in WWII
Ti Gong

“Asia-Pacific War Trials”

The documentary crew traveled nearly 90,000 kilometers across four continents and 13 countries or territories to film on location. The crew uncovered many images of historical importance, audio files and materials in 29 world-class archives. Many of the materials are shown for the first time. 

Nearly 50 international experts and scholars were interviewed, as well as more than 40 witnesses of major historical events during the war and their descendants, including several centenarians. 

Among the scholars interviewed is Professor Barak Kushner, who researches Asian history with a focus on Japanese history at Cambridge University. In 2015, he published “Men to Devils, Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Chinese Justice,” the first English monograph about China’s Japanese war-crimes trials. 

Through salvaged footage and interviews with experts and scholars, this transformative period of history is restored and interpreted with a unique international perspective.

Many little-known historical events and atrocities are documented, with several academic discoveries revealed for the first time. The film also examines China’s important role in the battle against fascism.

The series begins by explaining the differences between the A, B and C Class trials, the jurisdictions of the Tokyo Trial and the Asia-Pacific War Crimes trials, and the legal basis for B and C Class crimes.

The production includes an interview with 100-year-old Dennis Morley, the last living British survivor of the Lisbon Maru — a Japanese ship carrying prisoners of war sunk by allied forces. The film crew unearthed valuable trial files among the enormous collection in the United Kingdom’s National Archives. 

The crew uncovered important files about the Bataan Death March — during which thousands of allied prisoners of war died — in the United States National Archives and Records Administration’s Masaharu Homma trial file. 

The series also documents the rescue of the Doolittle Raiders by the people in Quzhou, Zhejiang Province, the Battle of Shanghai — in which a battalion of merely 500 defended the Sihang Warehouse against the Japanese army for three months, as well as the war crimes committed by the Japanese Army on civilians.

“Compared to other history documentaries, the ‘Asia-Pacific War Trials’ provides more in-depth exploration and insight into this period in history and emphasizes the importance of world peace,” said Cheng Zhaoqi, a scholar at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. 

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