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Cho Isamu (1894-1945)


Photograph of Cho Isamu

Wikipedia Commons

Cho was a radical Japanese Army officer and a leading practitioner of gekokujo, "leading from below" or "loyal insubordination." He was implicated in a failed 1931 conspiracy to assassinate the prime minister, but was transferred to Kwantung Army rather than brought before a court-martial.  He was chief of staff of 10 Army during the Rape of Nanking and is though to be complicit in ordering the massacre of Chinese prisoners of war. He was then transferred back to Manchuria, where he was involved in the 1938 Changkufeng border incident that nearly provoked a war with Russia. He helped plan the Centrifugal Offensive as member of Unit 82. A staff officer with Southern Army when war broke out, he was given command of the infantry group of 10 Division in Manchuria in November 1942.

Cho was chief of staff of 32 Army at Okinawa and masterminded the elaborate underground fortifications around Shuri Castle. Dissatisfied with the lack of offensive spirit he perceived in the tactical doctrine of shūgettsu ("bleeding strategy"), he joined with his friend Fujioka Takeo and and the more cautious Anamiya Tatsumi to persuaded Ushijima to launch the disastrous 5 May 1945 counterattack. Cho committed ritual suicide alongside Ushijima on 21 June 1945.

Cho had a reputation for slapping his subordinates and for overindulging in smoking, drinking, and women. He was ruthless in his treatment of the Okinawans, relocating those who could not be evacuated by ship to the wild northern regions of the island and announcing that the Army would seize all food supplies when the enemy landed. "The army's mission ... was to win, and it would not allow itself to be defeated by helping starving civilians" (Drea 2009). His final message included the assertion that "I depart without regret, shame or obligations" (Gilbert 1989).

Service record

1894     

Born
1937-8-15
Lieutenant colonel     
Chief, 2 Section, Shanghai Expeditionary ForceEdgerton (1997)
1937-10-20     

Chief of staff, 10 Army
1938-7-15
Colonel
Commander, 74 Regiment, Manchuria
1939-3-9

Chief of staff, 26 Division
1940-8-1

Taiwan Army Headquarters
1940-9-7

Chief of staff, Indochina Expeditionary Army
1941-6-28

Vice chief of staff, 25 Army
1941-9-26

Military Affairs Bureau, Ministry of War
1941-10-15     
Major general       Vice chief of staff, Unit 82
1941-11

Head, Southern Army Special Agency
1942

Southern Army Liaison Officer to 14 Army
1942-7-9

Military Affairs Bureau, Ministry of War
1942-11-10

Commander, Infantry Group, 10 Division
1944-3-1

Kwantung Army Headquarters
1944-3-1

Commander, 1 Mobile Brigade
1944-6-26

General Staff
1944-7-8

Chief of staff, 32 Army
1945-3-1
Lieutenant general      
1945-6-21     

Commits suicide at Okinawa

References

Drea (2009)

Fuller (1992)

Generals.dk (accessed 2014-3-2)

Gilbert (1989)

Leckie (1962)

Pettibone (2007)

Toland (1970)


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