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  • Tojo’s Teeth: Remember Pearl Harbor November 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    tojo's teeth

    There is a post to be written and perhaps, when his file is big enough, Beach will attempt it of puerile acts of revenge carried out against defeated nations. Limiting ourselves here to the Second World War there is, for example, Hitler’s insistence that France’s surrender be signed in the same railway car, where German representatives had ended the First World War. (Luckily the car was destroyed in bombing in 1944 otherwise it would certainly have been rolled out in 1945 by the Allies). However, some of the most exquisite acts came from America and were imposed on Japan in 1945: there was some understandable animus towards the island nation. One that has always made Beach shake his head was the order for the navy to find the tallest sailors to welcome the Japanese delegation onto the Missouri: shock and awe by inches. This brings us to Tojo’s teeth. The most extraordinary act of revenge was surely that of a US dentist, E.J. Mallory against Tojo, a man who certainly had a lot to answer for… Mallory was immediately struck by the difference between reality and practice:

    Tojo didn’t look at all like the man we had seen in pictures. He and Hitler were always caricatured as the epitome of evil. Tojo’s caricatures always included buck teeth and a butch haircut to give him a sharp, harsh look. But he was basically bald. His nickname was ‘The Razor.’ I don’t know where he got that. But the man I now confronted was a rather tired, grandfatherly, innocuous looking little old Japanese man.

    Mallory examined Tojo’s teeth when the Japanese war leader was taken into custody, after his failed suicide attempt, and suggested a new set of dentures: another American dentist had had to remove all the teeth on the upper jaw and relatively few below were in a good state. Tojo demurred, saying that he would not be using them long (everyone in the room laughed): so dentist and patient compromised and Mallory prepared a set of upper false teeth for his new patient. Mallory, after being goaded by his fellow dentists wrote, in morse code, the words, ‘Remember Pearl Harbor’ into the dentures. Much is made of the fact that Tojo must have constantly felt the words in his mouth, but Mallory seems to have kept the code low key carving the words ‘inside the circumference of the denture’s peripheral border’.

    The story got out.

    One of the new dentists wrote the story to his parents in Texas, whereupon his father passed it on to his brother, who proceeded to retell it on his small town radio station. And then it really hit the fan in a big way all across the country and the world.

    Mallory was reduced to driving through a snow storm, 14 Feb 1947, and grinding off all the offensive dots and dashes from Tojo’s teeth before they got him in trouble. The story appeared the next day on the front page of Stars and Stripes. Tojo seems never to have learnt of the story and when he came face to face with Mallory in the courtroom he pointed at his teeth and bowed towards the young American: if he did ever hear about the tale he didn’t bear a grudge.

    Other revenge stories from war: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com

    Note for the oral history file on this episode.