‘He Offered a Prayer for the Flier He Had Just Killed’: Superior Orders at the US Army Trials in Manila, 1945–1947

Fellows, Jamie, and Chong, Mark David (2023) ‘He Offered a Prayer for the Flier He Had Just Killed’: Superior Orders at the US Army Trials in Manila, 1945–1947. Journal of International Criminal Justice, 21 (2). pp. 331-352.

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The US Army war crimes trials held in Manila from 1945 to 1947 prosecuted around 200 Japanese military personnel for war crimes committed against US prisoners of war and Filipino non-combatants. Japanese defendants attempted to argue, with little success, that the defence of superior orders justified their actions. General Douglas MacArthur (Supreme Commander for the Allies in the Pacific or SCAP) was adamant that superior orders would not serve to excuse alleged Japanese war criminals from war crimes. What is clear from the trial documents and other archival material from Manila is that not all sections of the prosecution agreed with MacArthur’s interpretation of the law. However, it seems as though MacArthur’s pronouncement in relation to the application of superior orders may have had a profound impact on not only the Manila trials, but also with subsequent trials in World War II and beyond. This article explores the various arguments in relation to superior orders emanating from the US Army trials in Manila. The trials in Manila show that the rejection of superior orders as a defence in war crimes offered a reasonable foundation and precedent for how subsequent courts and tribunals evaluated the defence of superior orders within the context of war crimes jurisprudence.

Item ID: 79647
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1478-1395
Keywords: war crimes, superior orders
Copyright Information: The Author(s) (2023). Published by Oxford University Press. This article is available under the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND license and permits non-commercial use of the work as published, without adaptation or alteration provided the work is fully attributed.
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2023 04:33
FoR Codes: 48 LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES > 4803 International and comparative law > 480306 International criminal law @ 70%
48 LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES > 4807 Public law > 480705 Military law and justice @ 10%
48 LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES > 4805 Legal systems > 480504 Legal institutions (incl. courts and justice systems) @ 20%
SEO Codes: 23 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 2304 Justice and the law > 230403 Criminal justice @ 100%
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