US WWII veteran who captured Japan's Tojo dies
ALBANY, N.Y. — John J. Wilpers Jr., the last surviving member of the U.S. Army intelligence unit that captured former Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo after World War II, has died at 93.
Wilpers died Thursday at an assisted living facility near his home in Garrett Park, Md., his son John J. Wilpers III said Monday.
The upstate New York native was part of a five-man unit ordered to arrest Tojo at his home in a Tokyo suburb on Sept. 11, 1945, nine days after Japan's surrender ended the war. While the soldiers were outside, Tojo attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest. Wilpers ordered a Japanese doctor at gunpoint to treat Tojo until an American doctor arrived.
Tojo survived, was convicted of war crimes and was executed in December 1948.
Wilpers, a retired CIA employee, didn't give media interviews until 2010, when he was awarded a belated Bronze Star by the Army.
“He was terribly proud of what he did but was not boastful,” his son John told The Associated Press.
Wilpers, a 25-year-old lieutenant from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was on the detail Gen. Douglas MacArthur dispatched to arrest Tojo, sought by the Allied powers so he could be tried for atrocities committed by Japanese troops during the war, including the Bataan Death March.
After arriving at Tojo's house, the Americans heard a gunshot from inside. Wilpers kicked in a door to find Tojo slumped in a chair, his white shirt covered in blood. The bullet had missed his heart but left Tojo severely wounded.
According to reporters and photographers who followed the unit into the room and Wilper's own account given to the AP three years ago, Tojo's house staff and a Japanese doctor were reluctant to help the wounded man until Wilpers pointed his gun at the physician and ordered him to start treatment. An American Army doctor and medical staff eventually showed up and kept Tojo from dying.
A famous photograph published in Yank magazine shows Wilpers pointing his gun at the bloodied Tojo.
Wilpers went on to a 33-year career with the Central Intelligence Agency. He and his wife, Marian, who died in 2006, raised five children while living in a Washington, D.C., suburb, but he didn't tell any of them about his wartime experiences until decades later. He didn't give media interviews until 2010, when Pentagon officials held a ceremony to award him the Bronze Star he earned for arresting Tojo.
“It was a job we were told to do and we did it,” Wilpers told the AP in September 2010, just before the 65th anniversary of Tojo's capture. “After, it was, ‘Let's move on. Let's get back to the U.S.'”
Known as Jack to his family and friends, Wilpers was born in Albany, N.Y., in 1919 and grew up in nearby Saratoga Springs, where his father worked as a bookie in the famous horse racing town. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and transferred to a counterintelligence unit. He arrived in the Pacific Theater in 1944 and served in New Guinea, the Philippines and Okinawa before being among the first American troops to enter Japan after the surrender.
Wilpers was modest about his role in Tojo's arrest.
“I just happened to be the one who busted open the door,” Wilpers told the AP in the 2010 interview.
Wilpers' other survivors include a son and three daughters.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins trade for Toronto’s Kessel; lose Martin, Comeau via free agency
- Pitt’s Boyd waives right to preliminary hearing
- Dragon boat competition canceled at Three Rivers Regatta
- FBI searching for Homestead man indicted for sex trafficking in children
- Second Pa. friar commits suicide from order under investigation in sex abuse scandal
- Steelers submit application to host Super Bowl
- Judge revokes bail for Plum High School teacher
- Marinucci sentenced to life in prison with no parole
- Donora-Webster Bridge plunges into Mon River after 106 years
- Auction of Dick Scaife’s home decor brings $3.89 million
- Hill District widow sues dialysis clinic for husband’s death