Many fine men and women of various nationalities and professions, including senior military personnel, were openly appalled by the dispensation of normal military and/or criminal evidentiary processes expected in a trial. These people were highly respected and prominent in their field, at least until they spoke out against the Nuremberg trials.
Vice Admiral F. L. Lowe, U.S.N.
Commanded heavy cruiser, South Pacific, 1942-1943
Member, Logistics Committee, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1943-1944
Assistant Judge Advocate General of the Navy, 1944-1945
In my opinion, there was no legal principle, and no moral justification, upon which to base the “War Crimes Trials,” before the “International Military Tribunal,” in the case of Admiral Doenitz, or any other military or naval officer whose “crime” was the effective prosecution of his sworn duty to his country. To recognize any such principle of law would be to make a debating society of the military service of any country, including our own, where the officers would have the right to determine whether or not orders received by them were to be obeyed.
I feel that the actions of the Allied leaders at the time were dictated by anger and not by statesmanship. They lost sight of some fundamentals. We had been taught from the first day of entrance into the service that orders from our government were binding upon us under all circumstances and without question. Such, also, is the gist of our oath of office as officers. The only safe ground for the military is embodied in the toast, “my country, may she always be right, but right or wrong, my country.”
If the naval treaty, signed by a few of the powers involved, against unrestricted submarine warfare in relation to merchant vessels, were to be construed as affording a basis for some action against individuals conducting unrestricted submarine warfare, the question arises as to why it did not apply to both sides. We conducted such warfare in the Pacific during the war.
Certainly, there was no international law upon which to base such trials. There are only a few principles of international law upon which there is wide agreement, and no court, or other agency, for the enforcement of those few principles. Some had hoped that the Court of International Justice at The Hague would someday have prestige enough to partially supply this deficiency, but not so.
It seems to me that our position was untenable. It seems to me that the action taken against Admiral Doenitz, and other military officers whose “crimes” were the prosecution of their duties, was not only without precedent but was a mistake. This precedent, if followed, will result in the trials, by the winners, of all military leaders on the losing side in wars of the future, no matter which side is the aggressor or in the wrong. Each side always calls the other the aggressor, regardless of the facts.
Early in the Korean War, when our forces were desperately pressed on the defensive and the North Koreans were at the crest of their offensive, some press dispatches reported that the North Koreans threatened to bring our military officers to trial, when captured, for waging aggressive warfare. It seems to me that the entire episode of the war crimes trials of military officers constitutes an undesirable precedent.
[Emphasis added.] From the book Doenitz at Nuremberg: A Re-Appraisal edited by H. K. Thompson, Jr. and Henry Strutz, 2nd edition, Torrance, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1993.