The History Center uses exhibits, both on-site and on-line, to showcase some of our vast collections of documents and photographs.
Angelina County at War: A World War II Exhibit
Bill Wesley of Lufkin Guards Premier Tojo
Born on December 30, 1884, the son of a general in the Japanese Army, Hideki Tojo followed his father into the military and rose through the ranks. By 1940, he was Japanese War Minister, responsible for Japanese military operations and in charge of industrializing and mobilizing Japan's forces as the island nation began to spread into Southeast Asia. In July of 1940, his mobilization tactics and aggressive expansion policies began to strain the already difficult relations with the United States. Appointed Premier in 1941, Tojo became defacto dictator of Japan, with complete control of all military, civilian, and industrial operations. He ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, bringing the United States into World War II and beginning the long, fiercely fought and incredibly destructive Pacific Theater of Operations. Tojo remained in power until the disastrous string of Japanese defeats forced him to resign in July of 1944. Nine days after the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945, Tojo attempted suicide. The Japanese were defeated and he was a wanted man. Arrested a short time later, he was convicted of seven counts of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Lufkin's Bill Wesley guarded Tojo during his trial, and remembered the Japanese Premier as a quiet, diginified man. As Wesley expected, on November 12, 1948 Hideki Tojo was sentenced to death for his war crimes. The former Premier of Japan was hanged on December 23, 1948. Wesley heard the news on his way to work in Lufkin. While he knew the verdict and expected the outcome and he also believed it was the correct way for the international community to react to Japan's World War II actions, Wesley was deeply affected by this historical event that he had been so close to.