About

The War Crimes Documentation Initiative is a digital humanities laboratory led by a team of historians, librarians, and GIS specialists at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Since Spring 2019, WCDI has sought to experiment, develop, and make available to a broad audience digital resources that help promote the teaching and research of World War II-era war crimes committed by the Japanese in the Asia-Pacific region (1931-1945).

WCDI uses geographic information systems (GIS) and graph analysis to document, across space and time, the nexus between Japanese military operations, government and military power structures, and the patterns of war crimes. WCDI’s objective is to make available to students and scholars across the globe digital tools that empower users to discover, analyze, and assess the Japanese conduct of war and military occupation, and find answers to a number of questions on accountability that remain unresolved to this day.

WCDI posits that, while there were numerous isolated cases of atrocity, a significant portion of Japanese-perpetrated war crimes was carried out as an integral part of Japanese military actions. The systematic use of Allied prisoners of war and the Asian civilian population for forced labor, and the systematic exploitation of women for military sexual slavery, are but a few examples in which the members of the Japanese armed forces, government agencies, and non-state actors are known to have pooled their diverse organizational skills and capabilities as well as brute force to achieve these large-scale war crimes and massive human rights violations. By using GIS and graph analysis, WCDI aims at providing visualization and documentation of the known instances of war crimes as comprehensively as possible, and helping establish the complex links among the crimes, the individuals, and the organizations.

Historical Documents

The principal historical documents that WCDI draws upon for its projects are the records of more than 2,240 war crimes trials, which the Allied Powers carried out against the Japanese between 1945 and 1952, at 51 separate locations in the former theaters of war in Asia and the Pacific. The Allied trials include the one against major Japanese war criminals at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE, 1946-1948; also known as the Tokyo Trial [Tōkyō saiban]), the eastern counterpart of the trial of major German war criminals at the International Military Tribunal (IMT, 1945-1946; also known as the Nuremberg Trial). For more information on the scope of the Allied war crimes prosecutions and the preservation conditions of the trial records, see the Introduction to War Crimes Trials Documentation.

The records of Allied war crimes trials aside, voluminous oral and documentary evidence of WWII-era Japanese war crimes has been unearthed by human rights activists, law practitioners, and historians in recent decades. A wide variety of historical maps and imagery of Asia and the Pacific are also available. WCDI will explore ways to incorporate them into digital projects as well.

Team

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Yuma Totani
Professor of History at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
yuma.totani@hawaii.edu
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Mahany Lindquist
GIS Coordinator at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library
mahanya@hawaii.edu
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David Gustavsen
Humanities Librarian at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library
dmgustav@hawaii.edu
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Ted Kwok
Geospatial Librarian at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library
tedk@hawaii.edu

Collaboration with Students

WCDI promotes students’ participation in its digital humanities lab in the forms of part-time jobs, coursework, and internships. When funds are available, WCDI hires qualified students at any level of study in history, law, computer science, and other relevant fields and disciplines, to have them analyze records of historical war crimes trials, create datasets, and develop digital resources using geographic information systems, graph analysis, or other technologies. Those who wish to take part in the lab as part of degree-related coursework or an internship may contact WCDI to work out the details.

Guest Project Developer

AY 2021-2022

  • Michelle Ann Carino; MLIS student

Student Assistants

AY 2021-2022

  • Peter Bushell, MA student in history (modern Japan)

AY 2020-2021

  • Peter Bushell, MA student in history (modern Japan)
  • Lauren Hauck, JD; MA student in history (US history)
  • Lori Misaka, MFA; MLIS student
  • John Winnicki, BA student in computer science and mathematics

Acknowledgments

  • Digital infrastructure for WCDI projects: The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library

  • Funding in support of student employment and digital humanities projects, AY 2021-2022 and AY 2020-2021: The Japanese Studies Endowment Award for Special Projects, the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa