In 1942, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle led an audacious one-way bombing raid to hit targets in Japan which many thought impossible. With nowhere to land their planes, eight American airmen who were captured afterward by Japanese troops in occupied Chinese territory, and later subjected to trials and death sentences.
In his fascinating new book, “Last Mission to Tokyo: The Extraordinary Story of the Doolittle Raiders and Their Final Fight for Justice,” Columbia Law Professor Michel Paradis takes the reader deep inside the first postwar war crimes tribunals organized by the Allies in Shanghai, which included trials of lawyers involved in the prosecution of the captured Doolittle airmen.
In speaking with Robert Amsterdam about the book, Paradis remarks that much of the prosecutions that took place following the war were quite flawed examples of “victors’ justice,” but nevertheless set important precedent.
“When we fall short in upholding justice, and we fall into the trap of victors’ justice and revenge and show trials, you end up creating really unpredictable outcomes,” Paradis says. “Now, here in 2020, 75 years later, Yamashita’s trial is remembered as an outrage. (…) And we don’t remember Yamashita as the really horrible fascist war criminal that he was. This is an issue that I try to explore in the book.”