John Wilpers Jr., 93; captured Japan’s Tojo at end of WWII

Mr. Wilpers, his son John, and daughter Helen held a photo of Mr. Wilpers standing over Hideki Tojo.
OFFICE of CONGRESSMAN CHRIS VAN HOLLEN Via Associated Press/file 2010
Mr. Wilpers, his son John, and daughter Helen held a photo of Mr. Wilpers standing over Hideki Tojo.

ALBANY, N.Y. — John J. Wilpers Jr., the last surviving member of the US Army intelligence unit that captured former Japanese prime minister Hideki Tojo after World War II, has died. He was 93.

Mr. Wilpers died Thursday at an assisted living facility near his home in Garrett Park, Md., his son John J. Wilpers III said Monday.

The upstate New York native 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 ended the war. While the soldiers were outside, Tojo shot himself in the chest. Mr. Wilpers ordered a Japanese doctor at gunpoint to treat Tojo until an American doctor arrived.


Tojo survived, was convicted of war crimes, and was executed in December 1948.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Mr. Wilpers, a retired CIA employee, did not give interviews to news organizations until 2010, when he was awarded a belated Bronze Star by the Army. ‘‘He was terribly proud of what he did, but was not boastful,’’ his son John said.

Mr. Wilpers, a 25-year-old lieutenant from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was on the detail General Douglas MacArthur dispatched to arrest Tojo, sought by the Allied powers so he could be tried for atrocities committed by Japanese troops during the war, including the Bataan Death March.

After arriving at Tojo’s house, the Americans heard a gunshot from inside. Mr. Wilpers kicked in a door to find Tojo slumped in a chair, his white shirt covered in blood. The bullet had missed his heart but left Tojo severely wounded.

Mr. Wilpers went on to a 33-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, but he did not tell any of them about his wartime experiences until decades later.


‘‘It was a job we were told to do, and we did it,’’ Wilpers said 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 US.’ ”

Besides his son John, Mr. Wilpers leaves another son and three daughters.