A soldier from Amsterdam guarded former Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo after Tojo’s capture by another upstate New York soldier just days after the Japanese surrender that ended World War II in 1945.
Staff Sgt. Harry D. Hemingway and two other American servicemen guarded Tojo’s bedside during the night in what had been a Japanese elementary school.
The story of the three soldiers guarding the former Japanese warlord made national news for awhile.
The Amsterdam Recorder reported Sept. 12 of that year that Hemingway’s wife, Evelyn, when told at her Guy Park Avenue home about her husband’s newfound fame, said, “Well at least I know where he is now. I haven’t heard from him in a long time. The mail service hasn’t been good.”
Privates Tom Federbar of Fair Oaks, Pennsylvania, and George Cafensky of South St. Paul, Minnesota, joined Hemingway doing guard duty.
The son of Irene and Harry Hemingway of Scotia, Sgt. Hemingway, born in 1918, was a graduate of Scotia High School and a General Electric employee. He came to Amsterdam in 1942 to marry the former Evelyn Karker.
The Recorder reported that he served overseas in New Guinea, Dutch East Indies and the Philippines before his Army unit was ordered to Tokyo for the occupation.
When he returned to the United States, Hemingway moved to Galway in Saratoga County.
According to his Recorder obituary, Hemingway relocated to McAllen, Texas, in 1957 and was transferred to Corpus Christi, Texas, where he was a staff manager for Prudential Insurance. He died suddenly at his home of unreported causes on Sept. 30, 1961. He was 43.
He was survived by his wife and two children, Douglas and Karen, of Corpus Christi. His mother survived. She was living in McAllen, Texas.
The story about Harry Hemingway was suggested by former longtime Associated Press reporter Chris Carola, who is working on a book about John J. Wilpers, Jr., who was the last surviving member of the U.S. Army intelligence unit that captured former Japanese Prime Minister Tojo after the war.
Wilpers died at age 93 in 2013.
Born in Albany and raised in Saratoga Springs, where his father was a bookie, Wilpers 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.
While the soldiers were outside, Tojo tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest. Wilpers ordered a Japanese doctor at gunpoint to treat Tojo until an American doctor arrived.
Wilpers 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.
A famous photograph published in Yank magazine showed Wilpers pointing his gun at the bloodied Tojo. Tojo survived, was convicted of war crimes and executed in December 1948.
Wilpers went on to a 28-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.
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 Carola of 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.'”
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