War Criminals and Cherry Blossoms?

Washingtonians and tourists alike make a pilgrimage every year to view the National Cherry Blossoms. The marvel of the delicate blossoms is not a recent phenomenon. The forefathers of our National Cherry Blossoms, which were gifted to United States in 1912 by the Mayor of Tokyo, came from the banks of the River Arukawa in Tokyo.  The blossoms gracing the banks of Arukawa River also caught the eye of John G. Brannon, a defense attorney appointed by MacArthur to defend Class A Japanese War Criminals at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.  As he remarks in his March 19, 1947 letter to his brother in Washington, DC,

“To fully understand the intimate love of the Japanese for their traditional national flower, I need only say that many persons contemplating suicide will put off the accomplishment of their intention until they again can view this abundant wealth of nature next month… the famous “Gosiki sakura” or fine colored cherry trees still found on this embankment[River Arukawa] well these gift trees were planted in your fair abode along the tidal basin of the Potomac River stretching about six miles.  To be popular in the crowd you must know these sources of light conversation and I assure you the ole professor gives it to you accurately.  Ah! I love the cherry blossoms.  But, lo! There are few cherries—since the G.I.s invaded Japan.”  (John G. Brannon, March 19, 1947)

One can wonder about his last comment, if he is still truly discussing cherry blossoms.  Apart from remarking about the splendor of cherry blossoms, Brannon does eventually discuss the trial and more important legal matters in his letter going on to state, “The pace of the trial—now ten months—, the poor whiskey, the ever decreasing caliber of food and the what-nots of overseas life have put many defense lawyers on the ropes.” 

Good thing he had the cherry blossoms to look at in all their splendor!

For more information on the unique collection of the John G. Brannon Papers please contact Special Collections at htm@law.georgetown.edu .

Share or Save: