Shigetaro Shimada

28.11.2011 ( Last modified: 09.06.2016 )
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Shigetaro Shimada was born on 24 September 1883; he graduated from the Naval Academy in November 1904. Shimada rose through the ranks of the Imperial Japanese Navy and eventually became an admiral. Prior to World War II, Shimada held a variety of senior naval positions including Vice Chief of the Naval General Staff and Chief of the China Fleet. In October 1941, Shigetaro Shimada became Navy Minister in the Tojo (see “related cases”) Cabinet and held that office until August 1944. For a period of six months from February to August 1944 he was also Chief of the Navy General Staff. Appointed to the Supreme War Council in August 1944, he retired to the Reserve in January 1945.

According to the judgement handed down by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), from the formation of the Tojo Cabinet until the Western Powers were attacked by Japan on 7 December 1941, Shimada took part in all the decisions “made by the conspirators in planning and launching that attack”.

After war was declared he played a principal role in carrying out war operations. Shimada was captured by the Allies in 1945 and put on trial by the IMTFE.

legal procedure

Shigetaro Shimada was tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) for war crimes.

According to the statement of the IMTFE, some worst massacres and murders of prisoners of war were committed by members of the Japanese Navy in the islands of the Pacific Ocean and against survivors of torpedoed ships. Those who had direct responsibility for these crimes ranged in rank from Admiral down to the lowest rank.

Nonetheless, the IMTFE found that the evidence was insufficient to justify a finding that Shigetaro Shimada was responsible for these matters, that he ordered, authorized or permitted the commission of war crimes, or that he knew they were being committed and failed to take adequate steps to prevent their commission in the future. Therefore, Shigetaro Shimada was found not guilty on counts 54 (breaches of the laws and customs of war) and 55 (having recklessly disregarded his legal duty by virtue of his office to take adequate steps to secure the observance and prevent the breaches of the laws and customs of war).

The Tribunal found Shigetaro Shimada guilty under Count 1 (conspiracy to wage wars of aggression between 1 January 1928 and 2 September 1945) and under counts 27, 29, 31 and 32 (waging aggressive wars).

On 12 November 1948, the IMTFE sentenced him to imprisonment for life. However, he was paroled in 1955. Shimada died in 1976.



After Japan’s surrender in World War II, the victorious powers decided to a institute an International Tribunal aimed at trying those members of the Japanese establishment who were most responsible for the war of aggression waged by Japan and for other crimes perpetrated during the war. The Tribunal was established by means of a decree of the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Far East, US General Douglas MacArthur, on 19 January 1946, amended on the following 25 April.

The IMTFE Charter reproduced almost verbatim the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal. The Tribunal had jurisdiction over allegations of crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Judges and prosecutors were chosen among the nationals of States who were in war against Japan (United States, Great Britain, Soviet Union, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, France, the Philippines and China). The Tokyo Tribunal received the same criticisms moved to its German counterpart, concerning in particular the modality of its creation, the composition of the judiciary and the respect for the principle of legality. The public prosecution was lead by the American Joseph B. Keenan.

The proceedings at the Tribunal took place between 29 April 1946 and 12 November 1948. In total, 28 former Japanese generals and politicians were indicted. Remarkably, no proceedings were instituted against the then Emperor of Japan, Hirohito. Most accused were charged on counts of crimes against peace, concerning the aggressive policy implemented by Japan before and during the World War. All the defendants were convicted.  Seven of them were sentenced to death, most of the others to life imprisonment.


A number of other proceedings were held against Japanese war criminals before courts-martial or military commissions run by each of the victorious Powers. Overall, more than 5600 Japanese nationals were prosecuted, in more than 2200 trials. About 4400 people were convicted, and about 1000 of them were subsequently executed.