Salt of the Earth, Conscience of the Court: The Story of Justice Wiley Rutledge

Salt of the Earth, Conscience of the Court: The Story of Justice Wiley Rutledge

Salt of the Earth, Conscience of the Court: The Story of Justice Wiley Rutledge

Salt of the Earth, Conscience of the Court: The Story of Justice Wiley Rutledge

Excerpt

At 2:30 in the morning on February 23, 1946, in a small country village south of Manila in the Philippines, Lieutenant General Tomoyuki Yamashita of Japan was told, “It’s time.” Not three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court had denied his request for review—with Justices Wiley Rutledge and Frank Murphy dissenting—General Yamashita, the “Tiger of Malaya,” was hanged.

Yamashita had earned his title by taking Singapore from the British in January 1942 with but 30,000 men to Britain’s 100,000. Yamashita, clearly, was a brilliant strategist. But no “tiger.” Although he was “a heavily muscled bear of a man,” he was a calm soul, a lover of nature. He outspokenly had opposed war with the United States and Great Britain, and thus the Tojo faction rising in Japan had despised him. The Japanese high command had needed Yamashita in Malaya, but straightaway thereafter Hideki Tojo assigned him to an outpost in Manchukuo for the next two and a half years. When Saipan fell in July 1944, and Tojo and his cabinet resigned, the successors in power recalled Yamashita to defend the Philippines—a hopeless proposition, he discovered. Also named the Philippines’ military governor, Yamashita took control of Japan’s 14th Area Army on October 9,1944, when American invasion was imminent.

Less than two weeks later, General MacArthur landed on Leyte Island midway along the Philippine archipelago while the Pacific Fleet was crippling the Japanese navy in Leyte Gulf. General Yamashita devised a plan to defend the Japanese occupation on the large northern island of Luzon in the mountains around Manila. He then had but 100,000 troops, the Americans more than 400,000. On January 9, 1945, MacArthur reached Luzon and advanced toward Manila. Yamashita had not declared Manila an “open city,” outside the battle zone, because he depended on supplies stashed there. He left a skeleton force in Manila to inhibit the American advance . . .

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