In 1945, ‘60s art guru Andy Warhol, then an art student, was 20 years away from fame, fortune and his most quoted quip, “in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”
If he was glancing at the newspapers that September he might have gotten the germ of his idea from the account of an Allentown man who, by an accident of timing, ended up giving his blood to Hideki Tojo, the despised warlord of imperial Japan, so that Tojo could stand trial for war crimes. Headlines carried his name, Jack Archinal, around the world, and then it vanished just as quickly.
If ever history had an everyman, it was Jack Archinal. He grew up in Allentown and graduated from high school in the 1930s. In those Depression years jobs were few. His employment included selling soap, tending bar and working as the manager of the soda fountain at Whelan’s Drug store at 6th and Hamilton Streets. His friend Bud Tamblyn, the late local newspaper cartoonist, called him, “rough around the edges, but a nice guy.”
Like a lot of other American everymen, Archinal ended up getting drafted. Later he would make it clear that although he did his duty to his country, he was not at all happy about spending his time island-hopping in the South Pacific. He told the newspapers he hated Tojo, “for making me spend 17 months in New Guinea, Morotai, and the Philippines.”
Archinal was not the only one who hated the warmongering former Japanese prime minister. Like Hitler’s square mustache and Mussolini’s bulging stomach paunch, Tojo’s shaved head and sinister grin fit the image of the Japanese enemy that Americans saw behind the burning battleships at Pearl Harbor. When Hollywood made the movie “The Purple Heart,” they had the Japanese villain General Mitsibi, played by ethnic Chinese actor Richard Loo, shown as a Tojo lookalike, complete with shaved head.
There was a real man behind the Tojo stereotype that was obviously blurred by the ethnic prejudice of the war. But there can be no doubt he was a committed militarist, raised in the warrior traditions of the pre-war Japanese Army, who believed it was Japan’s destiny as a superior people to control Asia and the Pacific.
From 1941 to 1944 he ruled Japan ruthlessly. It is said by some that Tojo even scared Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, a man whose subjects worshiped him as a god.
But history in the form of America’s military and industrial might was more than a match for Japan, whose resources were few and whose empire was over extended.
By 1944 America’s air force was making daily raids on the Japanese home islands, and even Tojo had to face reality. He resigned the post of prime minister, much to the disgust of his more militant followers who thought he should have committed suicide by hari-kari- ritual disembowelment with a sword.
With the war’s end in September of 1945 and the American occupation of Japan, General Douglas MacArthur, the country’s new ruler, issued an order that 40 war criminals be rounded up for a future trial. Tojo’s name was near the top of the list.
On September 10th of that year, a group of U.S. military and American newsmen descended on Tojo’s suburban Tokyo home. By mid-afternoon the former warlord’s refusal to come out and surrender had made them impatient. “Tell this yellow bastard we have waited long enough. Bring him out,” said the officer in charge.
With a rush the soldiers smashed open the door. As they did they saw Tojo leaning on his chair, a pistol in his hand. “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot,” they shouted. But seeing the warlord’s body crumple over into the chair, they knew he was already wounded.
Acting quickly, the Americans rushed Tojo to a military hospital in Yokohama.
Aware that Tojo needed a transfusion-and fast-they began to look for anybody with his blood type. And with that Archinal stepped into the limelight. As he recalled many years later he was reluctant at first. He was afraid his fellow G.I.’s would be furious for not refusing and just letting Tojo die. “The officer promised me a quart of whiskey if I volunteered,” he recalled. With that incentive he agreed.
Taking Archinal into Tojo’s hospital room, they quickly hooked him up for a transfusion. He later recalled that the former warlord was anything but formidable in his hospital bed. “He was a skinny runt…I could have broken him in two with one hand,” he later recalled.
Although the process did not take long, the press could not get enough. Newsreel camera and flashbulbs exploded in Archinal’s face. Soon the footage and still images were all over the world.
Back home in Allentown it was a local story. “Now I know Tojo will live if he has some of Jack’s blood in him,” Archinal’s wife, Miriam, was quoted as saying to the press. Tamblyn did a cartoon for the Evening Chronicle showing a revived Tojo telling his doctors in Pennsylvania Dutch that he felt very good.
Tojo did live and was tried for war crimes. On December 23, 1948, Archinal, along with the rest of the world, heard of the warlord’s execution over the radio.
With that moment past Jack Archinal faded out of history as fast as he had gotten there.
He claimed many years later he never saw the whiskey he was promised. “The officers got it and drank it, so I heard,” he said. And as he feared many of his friends, particularly the Marines he knew, told him he should have just let the s.o.b. die.
But up until his death he claimed to have no regrets. In 1985, shortly before his death, Archinal said, “I thought then and I still think he should be made to pay, and I am glad he was.”