Ben Bruce Blakeney

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Ben Bruce Blakeney (30 July 1908, Shawnee, Oklahoma – March 4, 1963) was an American lawyer who served with the rank of major during the Second World War in the Pacific theatre.[1]

International Military Tribunal of the Far East[edit]

In 1946–1948, he served as a defense counsel at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, and defended Shigenori Tōgō, General Yoshijirō Umezu, and Admiral Soemu Toyoda, who was found not guilty. Among his arguments were that killing by a nation, wartime or peacetime, and even waging a war of aggression, could not be considered crime under international law, hence he took the bold step of addressing the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in relations to the attack on Pearl Harbor, saying:

If the killing of Admiral Kidd by the bombing of Pearl Harbor is murder, we know the name of the very man who[se] hands loosed the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, we know the chief of staff who planned the act, we know the chief of the responsible state. Is murder on their consciences? We may well doubt it. We may well doubt it, and not because the event of armed conflict has declared their cause just and their enemies unjust, but because the act is not murder. Show us the charge, produce the proof of the killing contrary to the laws and customs of war, name the man whose hand dealt the blow, produce the responsible superior who planned, ordered, permitted or acquiesced in this act, and you have brought a criminal to the bar of justice.[2]

After a number of defense counsel resigned in protest, Blakeney continued his work for the defense team, arguing that the court should not create a double standard where the Japanese were punished but others were allowed to go free for committing acts of war.[1] Blakeney, together with defense attorney George Furness, filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of the convicted Japanese officials, arguing that the ruling could not be upheld because General Douglas MacArthur had acted unconstitutionally in constituting the tribunal. The appeal was denied.[1]

Later life[edit]

In 1949, he began work as a lecturer of law at Tokyo University. Blakeney later worked with Tōgō Fumihiko to translate and edit "The Cause of Japan," by Tōgō Shigenori."[1] He was killed in a plane crash in 1963.


  • "The Japanese High Command", Military Affairs, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Summer, 1945), pp. 95–113 and No. 3 (Autumn, 1945), pp. 208–218
  • A Sketch of the development of Japanese law. 1960. OCLC 469291130.


  1. ^ a b c d "The Tokyo war Crimes Trial: A Digital Exhibition". University Of Virginia Law School. Archived from the original on 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2014-07-20.