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Incident at Ple Tonan, An Imperial Japanese War Crime and the Fate of U.S. Navy Airmen in French Indochina

Incident at Ple Tonan, An Imperial Japanese War Crime and the Fate of U.S. Navy Airmen in French Indochina

Incident at Ple Tonan, An Imperial Japanese War Crime and the Fate of U.S. Navy Airmen in French Indochina

Incident at Ple Tonan, An Imperial Japanese War Crime and the Fate of U.S. Navy Airmen in French Indochina

By David G. Thomas

This book began 33 years ago, in early 1990, with a question posed to the author by his father. The author’s father was just completing his memoir of his World War II military experiences and he was greatly troubled by not knowing the fate of two of his fellow fliers in his USS ESSEX based air squadron, Torpedo Four (VT-4). The two men whose fate still haunted the author’s father 45 years after the fact were shot down in an air raid on Japanese-occupied French Indochina.

The answer to this question would have remained hidden but for an Imperial Japanese war crimes trial. In this book, you will find the events, investigations, statements, related documents, and stories of the men that led to that trial – and the riveting testimony of the trial itself.

Not surprisingly, uncovering the stories of the two missing squadron members’ fates also uncovered the stories of other men. Many of these others, as disclosed in this book, paid the ultimate price – some for heroism, and some for acts later judged war crimes.

The trial testimony of an Imperial Japanese war crimes trial has never been published before.

A courtroom criminal trial is unlike any other human institution. It is combat without physical weapons. And as in combat, the stakes can be as high as death.

Except for criminal lawyers, most never see a trial transcript – they are almost never published. The most famous Imperial Japanese war crimes trial is that of General Hideki Tojo, Prime Minister of Imperial Japan from October 17, 1941, to July 22, 1944 (most of WWII). His trial has been called by at least one historian, “the most important trial in all history.” Yet you will not find a published trial transcript in any book.

Here you will find the statements and interrogations that led to the belief that multiple war crimes were committed at Ple Tonan in French Indochina on April 27, 1945. You will find the pre-trial statements of witnesses. You will find the charges presented against the defendants. You will find the daily transcripts of the 13-day trial. You will find the closing arguments and sentencing. You will find the decisions of the appellate authority. You will find the pleas for clemency submitted for each defendant. You will find their last letters home to their families. You will find the details of their punishments.

A courtroom criminal trial can reveal a defendant’s inner being in a way no other human institution can. A defendant that appears on the stand must try to explain and justify the actions for which the person is being tried. And that person must do so in an adversarial setting in which every assertion is open to challenge and refutation.

The men who appeared in the trial presented in this book all appeared on the stand in their own defense. This book is no cold reporting. With their trial testimony, each defendant got to explain and justify his actions. This book, based on the way in which it is presented, puts you in the position of, first, an investigator trying to determine whether a war crime was committed, and, second, a jury member who must decide the guilt or innocence of a defendant after hearing the evidence against the defendant.

The airmen killed in this incident were Lt(jg) Donald Augustus Henry, AMM2c Frederick Chester Barnes, AMM3c Thomas Joseph McGowan, AOM3c Gordon Hugh Yates, AMM3c Warren Halvor Daley, AMM3c Donald Howard Douglas, and S1c Joseph Nicholas Venditti.

This ground-breaking book is the first to explore this neglected yet pivotally consequential facet of World War II history.

Paperback: 978-1952580147

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