June 2005 > Americana > Pop Culture Autographs
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Lot 99: Japanese World War II POW Signed Currency with Tojo
War historians will surely be transfixed by this astonishing uncovered treasure of World War II -- a 10-sen paper note covered on both sides with signatures of 24 of the 25 Japanese leaders convicted for war crimes at the International Military Tribunal on November 12, 1948. This is a who's who of the Japanese war government -- headed by the cold and cunning monster Hideki Tojo, who as general, premier and war minister masterminded such nefarious acts as Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March and the kamikazes. The note itself is a valuable war vestige. When the war situation worsened for Japan and metal for coins was in short supply, Bank of Japan issued as an emergency measure notes of less than 1 yen, such as the 5 and 10-sen. This particular 10-sen was confiscated by an American guard during the tribunal which began on May 3, 1946 and concluded with Tojo and 6 of his top leaders sentenced to hang, 16 given life imprisonment, and 2 others prison terms. During the interim, the guard was able to acquire the signatures from many of them as they awaited their fate -- a rather amazing achievement given the logistics and protcols, with the prisoners kept separated until brought into the courtroom. There are 12 signatures on each side, with Tojo's appearing on the reverse side in the top left corner in black ink. The signature of one of history's biggest villains at his weakest moment grades a 7 out of a possible 10. Other names include Gen. Kenji Doihara, Premier Koki Hirota, Gen. Seishiro Itagaki, Gen. Heitaro Kimura, Gen. Iwane Matsui, Lieut. Gen. Akira Muto, Gen. Sadao Araki, Col. Kingoro Hashimoto, and Field Marshal Shunroku Hata -- all of whom were hanged -- and 12 other leaders who were spared the noose, including the peg-legged Mamoru Shigemitsu, the "statesman" who signed his "Empire's" surrender on the battleship Missouri. Some signatures are light but all are legible. White and pale green note has been preserved within thick lucite casing and rates VG-NRMT. Includes a schematic diagram of where each name can be found on the note, and clippings about the tribunal. War memorabilia doesn't get better, or rarer, than this.
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