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John G. Brannon Papers

Identifier: MSS-013


John G. Brannon’s correspondence gives a candid portrayal of Truman politics, the defense of Japanese War Criminals, life in Japan and the international tribunal. The collection also includes: correspondence and papers owned by Bernard Brannon, several manuscripts by John G. Brannon, numerous photographs of post-World War II Japan and 2 16mm films.


  • 1928 - 1950
  • Majority of material found within 1945 - 1949



All rights reserved by Georgetown University Law Library unless otherwise noted.


John G. Brannon 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. The Defense team for the Class A Japanese War Criminals consisted of servicemen and private practicing attorneys from the United States and the United Kingdom. They were charged with assisting the Japanese defense attorneys with Anglo-Saxon trial proceedings. At 33 years old he was the youngest of the defense attorneys when he arrived in Tokyo. He had been commissioned as a lieutenant in the United States Navy March 3, 1944, but was soon discharged due to a burst ear drum.

When Nagano died on January 5, 1947, Brannon expected to return home. After some debate he decided to remain in Tokyo on the Defense team and took over the defense of Admiral Shigetaro Shimada, Admiral Oka, General Hashimoto and General Sato, which he worked on through the end of the trial.

In November of 1947, Brannon was elected by his peers to be the chairman of the defense’s Law Committee. This appointment enabled him to take a more active role in drafting arguments and he was often in meetings in Chambers with the Tribunal judges and members of the Prosecution. Brannon’s defense was able to get Shimada life in prison as opposed to hanging. He made an appeal to MacArthur to reduce the sentences, but his appeal was ignored.

Brannon often grappled with the stigma placed on the American Defense attorneys in the American media, as well as the difficulties of a stacked trial. After the conclusion of the trial, Brannon along with George Yamaoka (L’28), William Logan, Jr., David F. Smith and George A. Furness filed a petition for habeas corpus in the Supreme Court in an attempt to save those sentenced to death by the Tribunal. The attempt came too late, as the sentence of death was carried out before the Supreme Court could hear the petition.


2 linear feet (5 archival document boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged into seven series.

  1. Series I - Letters to Bernard C. Brannon from John G. Brannon
  2. Series II - Letters to Bernard C. Brannon from others
  3. Series III - Manuscripts
  4. Series IV - Photographs
  5. Series V - Newspaper clippings
  6. Series VI - Miscellaneous materials
  7. Series VII - Films
Finding Aid to the John G. Brannon Papers (Coll. 13)
Hannah T. Miller and DJ
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts Repository

Georgetown University Law Library
111 G. Street NW
Washington D.C. 20001