Tojo's Teeth: A Dentist's Revenge

September 11, 2018

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the devastating war that followed, many Americans wanted revenge, and some got in the most unexpected ways. One of the oddest might be the story of Tojo's teeth.

Jack Mallory, a US Navy dental prosthetics specialist, didn’t return home after the war ended. Rather, he was assigned to the 361st Station Hospital in Tokyo, which also serviced Sugamo Prison. With the war over, several high-ranking Japanese officials were imprisoned at Sugamo, awaiting trial for war crimes.

Among them was Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, the so-called “architect of the War in the Pacific.” Tojo, who was in his sixties, was found to be suffering from advanced tooth decay and requested dentures so that he could speak at his trial.


Making Tojo's Teeth

Tojo's teeth: Foster (l) and Mallory examine Tojo for his new dentures.

George Foster (l) and Jack Mallory examine Tojo for his new dentures

Jack Mallory and his roommate, a fellow dentist named George Foster, were given the task of making the dentures, but at the urging of some colleagues and his own desire for a little revenge, Mallory decided to carry out a hidden prank on the former Prime Minister. The dental prosthetics officer cooked up a plan to inscribe “Remember Pearl Harbor” on the dentures, but knowing the message would be seen easily, he put a spin on it. On the row of false teeth, he inscribed the message using Morse code. It was inconspicuous, but would still go down as a historic prank.


A Secret Too Good To Keep

Mallory initially wanted the prank to be kept secret, but a colleague mentioned it in a letter home. Eventually, the story circulated back across the Pacific and eventually to Mallory's superiors. While he expected the worst, he recalled his supervisor laughing, saying, “That’s funny as hell.” Mallory was shocked by the response, although he was still ordered to remove the message.

One night around three months after Tojo received his new teeth, Mallory had him woken up under the pretense of emergency work on the dentures. Without the former Prime Minister ever knowing it was there, Mallory was able to grind down the code. The following morning, Mallory and Foster were questioned by an angry colonel, but with the coded message removed, denial was a possibility. So that's what they did.

The young officer never received any form of reprimand for his prank and, when he returned to the United States in 1947, set up his own dental practice. Jack Mallory passed away in 2013, but his legendary prank found its way into his obituary, described only as a “dental prank" on the mastermind behind the attack of Pearl Harbor.

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