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Kawabe Masakazu (1886-1965)


Photograph of Kawabe Masakazu

Wikipedia Commons

Kawabe Masakazu (Kawabe Masakasu) was born in Toyama prefecture and graduated from the Japanese military academy in 1907 and the Army Staff College in 1917. Following the First World War, he traveled extensively abroad, and served in the embassies in Switzerland (1918-1921) and Germany (late 1920s). In the xenophobic atmosphere of the Japanese Army, such extensive experience abroad was unusual and was even regarded as suspect — a source of contaminating Western ideas.

During the 1930s Kawabe served in a number of posts in China, including command of Permanent China Brigade, which was involved in the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. By late 1941 he was a lieutenant general in command of 3 Army in eastern Manchuria.  In the eyes of the Japanese Army, which always regarded Russia as the great enemy, this was an extremely important post. He subsequently became chief of staff of China Expeditionary Army, in August 1942.

On 8 April 1943 Kawabe was reassigned to command the Burma Area Army.  His leadership would be characterized by an enormous disregard for human life, even that of his own troops.  The disastrous U-Go offensive against Imphal took place under his command in March of 1944.  During the later stages of this offensive, he was bedridden with amoebic dysentery and under pressure from his own superior at Southern Army.

In September 1944 he was recalled to Japan, promoted to full general, and given command of Central District Army and 15 Area Army. On 8 April 1945 he took command of General Air Army, consisting of the remaining air units in Japan, Korea, and the Ryukyus, for the final defense against the anticipated Allied invasion. He replaced Dohihara as commander of 1 General Army for demobilization after the latter was arrested for war crimes. Kawabe himself was arrested for his involvement in the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, but was released without standing trial, probably because he was absent when the incident took place.

Boatner describes Kawabe as "An anxious, austere, emaciated little man (small even by Japanese standards) who looked sick most of the time." Slim considered his tactics inflexible and predictable, particularly in comparison with his successor at Burma Area Army, Kimura Heitaro. Kawabe did not get along nearly so well with Ba Maw, the puppet Burmese Prime Minister, as his predecessor, Iida.

Service record

1886     

Born in Toyama prefecture
1907
Second lieutenant     
Graduates from Military Academy
1915

Army Staff College
1918

Resident officer, Switzerland
1925

General Staff
1927
Colonel
Instructor, War College
1929

Military attache, Germany
1932

Commander, 6 Regiment
1933

Commander, Training Regiment, Toyama Army Infantry School
1934

Chief, 1 Section, Inspectorate-General of Military Training
1936-4
Major general Commander, Permanent China Brigade
1937-8-26

Deputy chief of staff, North China Area Army
1938-2-14     

Chief of staff, Central China Expeditionary Army
1939-1-31
Lieutenant general Deputy Inspector-General of Military Training
1939-9-12     

Inspector-General of Military Training
1940-10-14

Commander, 12 Division
1941-3-1

Commander, 3 Army
1942-8-17

Chief of staff, China Expeditionary Army
1943-3-18

Commander, Burma Area Army
1944-8-30
`
Supreme War Council
1944-12

Commander, Central District Army
1945-2-1

Commander, 15 Area Army
1945-4-7
General Commander, General Air Army
1945-9-12

Head, Army Aeronautical Department, Ministry of War
1945-10-1

Commander, 1 General Army
1945

Retires
1945

Arrested on suspicion of war crimes
1947

Released
1965

Dies

References

Boatner (1996)

Dupuy et.al. (1992)

Fuller (1992)

Generals.dk (accessed 2008-4-17)

Hayashi and Cox (1959)

Lewin (1976)



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