May 23, 2022

UVA Law Library’s Digital Exhibit Reveals Little-Known Details of Tokyo War Crimes Trial, More the 28,000 Primary Documents Digitized

From the University of Virginia Law School:

Frank Stacy Tavenner Jr., a 1927 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and assistant chief prosecutor of the Tokyo War Crimes trial, stood at the lectern on April 16, 1948, and delivered the final summation in the case against 28 Japanese defendants who stood accused of starting an illegal war, atrocities and crimes against humanity committed during World War II.

“These defendants were not mere automatons, they were not replaceable cogwheels in a machine, they were not playthings of fate caught in a maelstrom of destiny from which there was no extrication,” Tavenner said. “These men were the brains of an empire, they were the leaders of the nation’s destiny.


A video of Tavenner’s summation argument is now online as part of a massive digital exhibition of materials related to the Tokyo War Crimes trial posted by the Virginia Law library. At the heart of the collection is a treasure trove of more than 20,500 original documents donated to the Law School by Tavenner’s family in 1978.

“These are the primary documents. So if you wanted to come [to the law library] to search through these papers, now you can do it online, using keyword searches,” said Elizabeth Ladner, a digital fellow at the library and director of the project. “The hope is to really create a portal for people who are interested in war crimes and allow them to have the full experience online.”

After World War II ended, Allied forces established the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, known informally as the Tokyo War Crimes trial, to prosecute the Japanese officials involved with launching the war. The trial took place from April 1946 to November 1948 and resulted in death sentences for seven of the defendants and prison terms for the remaining war criminals.

Direct to the Exhibit and Documents

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.