Tuesday, December 7, 2021

InDentured Morse

While there is still remembrance in this aging head, I am writing my "Tojo Story" as my children have been urging me to do for so long. E.J. Mallory, D.D.S. (1995) aka W6EVP (SK)


George Foster, left. Unidentified man, right. EJ Mallory took the photo

In his words:

On August 14, 1945 the war with Japan screeched to a halt in the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese government agreed to an unconditional surrender with one exception - that their "God-Emperor" Hirohito not be tried or punished and that the royal family be allowed to continue. The decision to grant this appears to have been a wise one as the Emperor was a very positive force in the months that followed while general MacArthur oversaw the drafting of Japan's new constitution - which has been the basis in determining the democratic Japan we know today.

This constitution was instituted in 1946. I include this mention of Hirohito because so many people did (and do) confuse Hirohito and Tojo. Hideki Tojo, son of an army general, made his way through the ranks during the decades prior to world War II. He was deeply involved in the Japanese treachery in China in the 1930's. The year before Pearl Harbor he became war minister and then just two months before the Hawaii attack he became prime minister while still maintaining his power position over the military. He was at the peak of the power pyramid in charge of the horror played out in the great Pacific War.

When the war ended in 1945, having just graduated from dentistry in June, I was a LTJG DC USNR on active duty serving at Shoemaker Naval Training and Distribution Center, Pleasanton, CA. In the summer of 1946 I, along with about 800 other navy dentists, was loaned to the Army because the Army had a shortage and the Navy had a surplus of us.

Leaving my bride in San Francisco in August that year, I arrived in Tokyo to serve as Dental Prosthetics Officer at the 361st Station Hospital on the banks of the Sumida River. I not only took care of dental prosthetic needs of the hospital patients and personnel but also for many other military units in and around Tokyo that did not have a dental prosthetic department. I shared sleeping quarters with 4 or 5 other officers stationed there - most of them being dentists. One of my roommates was George Foster, from lowa. George was called upon to go out to the Sugamo Prison several days a week to provide emergency services for both military personnel on the staff and the Japanese being held there -- some of them the highest governmental figures who were on trial at the war crimes trial.

At a point a month or so later, George returned one night from the prison telling us that one of his patients that day had been none other than General Tojo - seeking relief from a toothache. As things developed, George was going to have to extract all of the remaining upper teeth, leaving only 7 lower anteriors. He asked if I would go out to the prison with him to evaluate Tojo's dental prosthetic needs. I was naturally excited to be able to see and meet one of the then World's most famous (or infamous) persons... second only, probably, to Adolf Hitler.

We met in the prison's less-than-great dental operatory. He was brought in by 2 military police guards... but the man I met was not the ferocious-looking "Tojo-The Razor" we had seen for so many years in photos and caricatures but rather a tired, grandfatherly-looking older man. Besides the guards, he was accompanied by his attorney, his personal dentist (where was he when those teeth were rotting away all those years) and a Japanese interpreter, none of whom were allowed near him or, obviously, to touch him. The interpreter, on at least one occasion, was Admiral Osami Nagano - another top echelon defendant, having been Naval Chief of Staff and therefore having been the one to ultimately order and direct the attack on Pearl Harbor. Admiral Nagano died of tuberculosis long before the trials ended.

General/Prime minister Tojo wanted me to make him an upper denture. After evaluating his situation, I informed him that proper treatment procedures would call for the extraction of the very poor remaining lower teeth and then constructing a full upper and lower. He pondered my words for a moment and then replied via interpreter "Oh these will last me 6 more months and after that, my teeth I won't be needing anymore." He said it with a distant look on his face but in such a way that all in the room, Americans and Japanese, broke into a chuckle... followed in a moment by a wide smile from Tojo-San himself.

The making of the denture took a number of visits and several weeks. Tojo was always friendly and cooperative and certainly didn't look like the harsh, swaggering tyrant that he had been portrayed during the war. Upon completion of his denture and several adjustment visits my contact with him came to a close. There was, however a story about his new teeth that, I think, Tojo never knew. In military dental appliance procedures, the name, rank and serial number of the individual was typed on a piece of paper and embedded under clear plastic in the body of the appliance to serve for I.D. purposes. Instead, I had a great urge to so place the famous slogan "Remember Pearl Harbor" in this case, in order for him to chew on it through his final days.

Many of the hospital's medical and administrative staff had the same idea and urged me to do so. However, even at that young age, I had enough brains to know that this would be a mistake from: 1) a professional ethics' point of view and 2) a very poor choice as far as military ethics was concerned. So I refrained from the impulse. I felt, however that a compromise was possible. I was an amateur radio operator and knew the international code. I felt that my vengeful urge would be satiated by this compromise.

Taking a round dental drill, inside the circumference of the denture's peripheral border, I inscribed in a series of dots and dashes, the words:

"Remember Pearl Harbor"

.-. . -- . -- -... . .-. .--. . .- .-. .-.. .... .- .-. -... --- .-. 

And so Tojo wore this inscription in his mouth day and night. The only ones in on this were my dentist roommates and myself - all sworn to secrecy lest George and I find ourselves in deep trouble.

In February 1947, two Baylor Texas classmates of one of our roommates arrived to be assigned to

Dental Service in the area. These newcomers were allowed into the circle to share the secret. We took them on an excursion to the prison to show them our masterpiece. We called the General down to the Dental Office to examine his denture and see how he was getting along. These newcomers were excited and impressed with our prank on this figure of such world importance. Then, unknown to us, one of these dentists wrote the story to his parents in Texas - where upon his father passed it on to his brother who proceeded to retell it on his small town radio station.

It was picked up by the News Services and was told on radio and newspapers around the world. An I.N.S. reporter in Tokyo called me to arrange an appointment for an interview. Scared spitless, I fled to my Dental Commanding Officer, Major William Hill and confessed the story, ending my remarks with "What do I do now?" He told me to go into hiding and have my staff send the reporter to him, whereupon he denied the story and sent the angry reporter away.

That evening Major Hill called to ask if we would be able to grind it out of the denture. When told "yes", he told us to get our"asses" out to the prison and do so. By then the story was out over the evening Armed Forces Tokyo Radio Station, WVTR.

George and I commandeered a jeep and drove approximately 12 miles in a snowstorm to the prison in the Ichigaya District/suburb of Tokyo. We felt like a couple of international operatives. The guard on duty at Tojo's cellblock was a good friend of George's. We went to Tojo's cell at 11:00pm, woke him and got his false teeth.

Down in the dental office I quickly used a grinding stone and removed all traces of the offensive dots and dashes and crudely made an attempt to polish over the grind marks with limited instruments available in this emergency dental treatment room. The guard took the denture back to the cell and gave it to Tojo. I'm sure he wondered until his final day what that was all about. The next morning the story was in the Armed Forces, Stars & Stripes telling how two Navy dentists had already gotten their revenge on Tojo by inscribing in his denture those words he would most like to forget..."REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR".

Before breakfast was over, George was called to the telephone - it was the Colonel (a very tough Colonel) in charge of the prison. The following dialogue is very close to being exact: "Lieutenant Foster!" ("Yes sir!") "Have you seen this morning's Stars and Stripes?" ("Yes Sir!") "Is there any truth in this report that 'Remember Pearl Harbor is inscribed in it?" ("No Sir! - There is none!") "Then Lieutenant Foster, am I safe to invite the news people to come and see for themselves that it is NOT there?" ("Yes Sir!") "You are POSITIVE about this?" ("Yes sir!") "Thank you Lieutenant."

Anticlimactically, this is the end of the story - nothing more heard... only speculation of what might have been our fate had we been "caught with the goods". That, we'll never know.


My tour of service in Japan ended in early summer, 1947. I had not made the opportunity to visit the war crime trials so chose to do so during my last week there. The trials were presided over by a panel of Judges -- one from each of the allied nations: U.S., Britain, France, Netherlands, Australia, India, China, Etc. The Head of the Justices was Sir William Webb on loan from Australia where he was on leave from his position as Chief Justice of their Supreme Court (or its' equivalency). During my months there he had come to me as a dental patient and had taken a liking to George and me. One Sunday he and Lady Webb picked us up in their chauffeured car and we spent the day with them in the mountains near Mt. Fuji.

Sir William arranged seats for me and one of my close dentist friends, Jim Wasley, who was stationed at another Tokyo military hospital, to sit down front in reporter's boxes right in the center of the court room. The balcony was filled with folks from the general Japanese population and other observers. All the Judges sat at a long high bench/table on the right with Sir William in the center. Dozens of paiges and military guards were at stations in the middle & carrying documents around the room. The defendants filed into their box across the room directly facing the judges.

Tojo was seated approximately in the center of their line up about 30 feet from me. I had not seen Tojo for about 6 months. As they sat down, much trivia of a mundane nature was taking place all around the courtroom. Tojo looked all around the room in a bored manner. This trial had been going on since early 1946 and would continue until December 1948.

At a point his eyes came to rest on me expressing a puzzled countenance as if to say who is that person, 'I know him from somewhere other than this courtroom'. Then after what seemed to me a very long scrutiny, his face broke into a big smile. Pointing a finger to his smiling teeth he bowed toward me in a moment of recognition and thanks.

That was the last time I saw Tojo. The trials lasted approximately another eighteen months. Near midnight December 22. 1948 Tojo and several of his cohorts were taken from their cells... first to a small Buddhist chapel where, with manacled hands they lit sticks of incense. Then, as one account relates, "he went to the gallows smiling. On his lips was the chant of supplication to the Buddha of Unlimited Light." When he died, Tojo was without the denture I had made him.

Shortly after, I saw a newspaper article accompanied by a photo of Mrs. Tojo kneeling before his shrine in her home. The only identifiable objects in the photo were his trademark horned-rimmed glasses, a lock of his hair and the "Remember Pear Harbor" denture that he wouldn't be needing anymore."

PS (1 May 1995)

My co-conspirator George Foster and family moved to Florida where he practiced oral surgery. After his death in 1989 his wife, Beverly, sent some of his Tojo items (a bridge he had extracted) along with a written account and note of my name to the U.S. Naval Department's Museum in Washington. Not long after, I received a phone call from a Navy Dental Corps captain wanting my slant on the story, which I gave over the phone in about 45 minutes-- the story I have written above. And now it is somewhere buried in the archives.

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More about Dr. Mallory's life can be read here.

He was first licensed (as W6EVP)  sometime between Dec. 1948 and Feb. 1949. It last appeared in the Spring of 1964 and doesn’t appear to have been renewed.

He is reported as being a very active mobile HF operator after the war with a Johnson Ranger and SX-42.

Dr. Mallory passed away in January 2013.

Thanks to Pete NL7XM for the callsign research.



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