John G. Brannon Papers

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John G. Brannon Papers


"I am an American first and a lawyer second", wrote John G. Brannon in February 26, 1947 in a letter to his brother Bernard Brannon. John Brannon had arrived in Tokyo, May 17th, 1946, about five years after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was an American attorney from Kansas City, Missouri, hired by MacArthur to defend Class A Japanese War Criminal, Osami Nagano, Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff, in trial before the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.

At the end of World War II, there was an awareness of global unity, with that came the realization that law needed to adjust in order to meet this changing worldview. It was a time of transition and development for the field of law. John Brannon remarks in his letter of December 19, 1947, "But that isn't the reason I'm here—just to defend [the Japanese]. I would like to think this terribly exhausting ordeal is for the more noble and worthy purpose…. I want to contribute to the establishment of future international law predicated on American concepts of justice". "But it is my contention that until an impartial international judicial body is established to hear such matters as have engaged us here for two years, there will be no hope for the writing of sane and just international law whose objective is to prevent wars –not to avenge the wounds of the conquerors." The Defense team worked against all odds and with very few resources, but despite it all, Brannon remarks, "…the evidence for the accused was presented by none too skillful but persistent and courageous American Lawyers the Tribunal was literally forced to mentally concede there was two sides to [the] story of Japan's guilt." (Brannon Papers, May 28, 1948)

Brannon firmly believed in what he practiced, "…that I gave my all for the preservation of international justice. Honestly, I think we have performed a service to the whole world in proving how ridiculous it is to attempt to convict a group of men on purely political charges". (Brannon Papers, November 14, 1947)

The above is a small sampling from this very unique collection. It is a collection teeming with fervent patriotism, Truman politics and personal reflections of a transient time in world history. Despite the circumstances, Brannon's zeal and passion to his duty to defend is a testament to past and present lawyers.

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