Exactly 75 years ago, Ned Brown was standing in the “parade rest” position for most of his shift. This young soldier was assigned to security duty at the historic International Military Tribunal for the Far East, better known as the Tokyo Trial.
He joined the Army in February 1946, and completed basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He knew his next stop was Tokyo.
Ned married his sweetheart on the base before he shipped out. At 18, he loaded on a troop transport headed to Japan. Although the war was over, he wasn’t sure what he might face from a country that was occupied by our military.
One thing he learned quickly? He had no sea legs. He was sick the entire 21-day voyage He ate little until the ship mercifully docked at Yokohama Bay.
Upon his arrival in Tokyo, Ned witnessed horrific damage from the American bombing of the city. About 30 members of his unit were assigned to the security detail for the Tokyo Trial. This was Ned’s assignment for a year.
Twenty-eight Japanese military and government officials were charged with war crimes. The tribunal consisted of 13 judges from nine countries. Ned described the court scene as a massive room with the judges in elevated positions. All 28 were brought into the courtroom each day.
Ned said he didn't feel any particular emotion during the trials. He had no dislike of the Japanese people; he had a job to do as a soldier, and that was his focus, along with writing letters home daily.
Ned soon had a buddy. A Japanese boy started to hang around him, and before long, the boy was shining Ned’s shoes and doing other tasks. Ned thought the boy was 8 or 9 at the time. Ned liked kids and tried to help him.
After he left Tokyo, Ned never forgot the homeless children he saw. They were hungry, and GIs would help. Ned tried to adopt the Japanese lad after the war, but it was impossible.
He felt this experience was a significant factor in the decision that he and his wife would make to adopt Korean children. During their marriage, Ned and Marlys had five children together, and they adopted four.
When Ned's tour was over in 1947, he returned home to his wife and job at Mayo Clinic. Upon discharge, these experiences were left behind, but never forgotten.
They had a second wedding so all family could celebrate. He reflected on how happy he was to begin the rest of his life with Marlys.
He would see updates on the Tokyo Trial on movie newsreels. The trial started on April 29, 1946, and ended on Nov. 12, 1948.
Twenty-five defendants were found guilty, two died during the trial, and one suffered a mental breakdown. Seven were sentenced to death.
There are many opinions on the war trials of the Germans and Japanese. Ned performed his duty, and was proud of his service.
As I was getting ready to leave, Ned wanted to keep talking. He had other stories to tell. He felt strongly that God had a plan for him.
He is proud of his family, his career with Mayo, and has always tried to help others. Ned is 93 and stays active, plays cards, and likes to tell stories about work, love, faith and family.
He misses his sweetheart, who passed away three years ago. They were married for almost 72 years.
Her letters during his military service gave him strength and enthusiasm for what was to come. What was to come was a good life. God had a plan.
Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s “Day in History” column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at firstname.lastname@example.org.