In 1946, shortly after Japan surrendered to the United States, a 22-year-old dental prosthetics officer with the US Navy Jack Mallory received an unexpected task: to create dentures for the former Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, known as the “Architect of the War in the Pacific.” He was Japan’s Prime Minister, an outspoken advocate for a preemptive attack on the United States and its allies. So When Mallory found out about his assignment, he decided to seize the opportunity: do something regardless of how petty it is. Thus, he went with the idea of drilling a secret message on the dentures of the Architect of the War in the Pacific.

Architect of the War in the Pacific

Tojo started as a relatively low-ranking samurai in Tokyo. He started his career as part of their army in 1905 and worked his way up through the ranks until he became a general by 1934. By 1937, he was already the chief of staff of the Kwantung Army, the military operations working against the Chinese in Inner Mongolia and the Chahar-Suiyan provinces. From there, his steps upward were pretty quick as he was appointed the Minister of War led by Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe in 1940 and immediately became Prime Minister in October 1941, during World War II. His leadership was known for its extreme and rampant state-perpetrated violence in the name of Japanese ultranationalism.

Among the many atrocious things that he was complicit in were the Rape of Nanjing, the Bataan Death March, and the brutal human experiments that caused the torture and death of thousands. He was also involved in the sexual enslavement of Korean women called “comfort girls,” and of course, the war against the United States.

Failed Suicide

After the fall of Saipan in 1944, Tojo was forced to resign as Prime Minister as the tides were turning against Japan. When Japan surrendered unconditionally to the US  in 1945 after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, US General Douglas McArthur ordered the arrest of forty individuals suspected of war crimes. Unsurprisingly, Tojo was one of them. As the five American soldiers surrounded his house to serve the warrant of arrest, he attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest with a pistol. Perhaps unfortunately for him, he missed his heart, and the Army medical personnel aided him. After he recovered from the injuries, he was detained at Sugamo Prison, where several other high-ranking Japanese officials were imprisoned while waiting for their trials.

Immediately after his suicide attempt Hideki Tojo receiving life-saving treatment. (百楽兎, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Tough Times In Prison

While in prison, it turned out Tojo was not only suffering from his self-inflicted mangled stomach but also from rotting teeth. Perhaps all these war efforts made him forget about his oral hygiene, and how would he be able to speak for himself at his upcoming trial with teeth that were decaying and crumbling from his gums? He requested dentures, and George Foster, an American dentist, was assigned to inspect Tojo’s teeth. With him was his roommate Jack Mallory, a 22-year-old dental prosthetics officer assigned to the 361st Station Hospital in Tokyo. Upon assessing the whole situation going on inside Tojo’s mouth, Mallory suggested that he get a full set of dentures up and down. Tojo refused, knowing he would not be using it for long as he was certain he would be executed for war crimes, so they agreed to just create an upper denture.

Mallory recalled that day when he was mentally preparing to meet this man who became the face he saw every day in American newspapers and magazines— a caricature of Tojo with squinty eyes behind large, horn-rimmed glasses and buck-toothed. If anything, he was the face of evil at that time. So when Mallory met him, he was surprised. According to him in an interview with C&R, he said:

I knew I was going to meet an evil man. It was a shock to see him. He was very humble and just a meek, little guy.

“Remember Pearl Harbor”

Jack recalling his ‘Tojo Story’ to a major television network camera crew from Japan. (Photo from In Loving Memory of Jack Mallory, “Papa Jack” Facebook Page

The news about his task got out, and soon, hospital staff urged him to pull a prank on the general’s denture. Admitting that he was “a young punk” at that time, he thought of it and decided to go with the idea. Here’s his colleagues’ suggestion: put the phrase “Remember Pearl Harbor” instead of the usual military procedure of engraving the name, rank, and the serial number of the denture wearer. Instead of outright engraving the words, which would be very noticeable, he decided he would write it in Morse code with the less obvious dashes and dots. “You could see it clearly when it was dried, but 99 percent of the time, you couldn’t tell,” Mallory said.