SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — NEARLY lost amid the World War II retrospectives is a postwar prank that literally had Japan's vanquished military leader chewing on the words: "Remember Pearl Harbor."
A draftee dentist drilled the message in Morse code inside Gen. Hideki Tojo's dentures while the general was imprisoned in occupied Japan. The dots and dashes remained for three months before the secret got out and they had to be removed.
"It wasn't anything done in anger," recalled E.J. Mallory, who made full upper and lower dentures for Tojo in 1946. "It's just that not many people had the chance to get those words into his mouth."
Tojo, who had approved the surprise attack that drew the United States into the war, asked for the dentures so he could speak better at his war crimes trial. He was convicted and executed in 1948.
Mallory knew that writing the phrase could get him court-martialed so he inscribed the letters in Morse code instead.
When the dentures were done, Mallory said he and Army dentist George Foster told other buddies in the dental service.
But the secret soon got out. One man wrote of the trick to his parents, they passed it to a brother, who broadcast it on a radio station. Suddenly, the tale of Tojo's teeth was broadcast all over the world.
Mallory confessed to his commanding officer, drove to the prison and woke a bewildered Tojo in the middle of the night to "borrow" his dentures. Using a grinding stone, Mallory removed the code.
Mallory says he never learned if Tojo found out about the trick, but a dentist who succeeded Mallory in Japan told him that the general began complaining about the dentures' looser fit.