Kwantung Army

Photograph of Kwantung Army troops on maneuvers

Wikimedia Commons

The Kwantung Army was organized in 1919 from the Kwantung Garrison, itself organized in 1906 to guard the Kwantung Leased Territory and the concession along the South Manchurian Railroad to Changchun. A relatively small force during the 1920s, Kwantung Army became increasingly dominated by younger officers, such as Tsuji Masanobu, who perfected the art of gekokujo, "leading from below" or "loyal insubordination." Kwantung Army soon became a law unto itself. The staff of Kwantung Army arranged the assassination of the Manchurian warlord, Chang Tso-lin, who was killed by a bomb set off under his train on 4 June 1928. The same clique of officers, led by Itagaki Seishiro and Ishiwara Kanji, subsequently engineered the Manchuria Incident of 1931 and the subsequent establishment of Manchukuo as a Japanese puppet state. In January 1936, Kwantung Army secretly backed an unsuccessful attempt by LCOL Tanaka Ryukichi to invade Suiyuan province in northern China with a pro-Japanese warlord army and set up a puppet regime.

Tojo Hideki was head of the Kempeitai of the Kwantung Army from 1935 to 1937, where he made his reputation by effectively transforming the Kempeitai into the arm of a police state. During the Tokyo mutiny of February 1936, which was largely the work of the Imperial Way Faction (Kōdōha), Tojo moved swiftly to round up both soldiers and civilians in Manchuria who might be sympathetic to the coup, though he told his wife privately that he was moved by the tragedy that such men should be driven to rebellion. Regarded by his superiors thereafter as a completely reliable and apolitical soldier, Tojo was then appointed chief of staff of the Kwantung Army. Because the commander of Kwantung Army also doubled as ambassador to Manchukuo, the chief of staff ran most of the day to day operations of Kwantung Army and thus was unusually powerful.

Because the Japanese Army saw Russia as the traditional enemy, Kwantung Army was kept very strong until mounting losses in the Pacific forced the Japanese to draw reinforcements from Manchuria. Most of the important Japanese Army officers had served with Kwantung Army at one time or another. Kwantung Army even began mobilizing against Russia in the spring of 1941 under the guise of "Kwantung Army Special Maneuvers". However, Japan decided to strike south instead. Kwantung Army divisions were gradually reduced to peacetime strength (about 60% of wartime manpower) from December 1942 to late 1943, then ordered to give up a third of their battalions for cadre in February 1944. Later that year, twelve divisions were pulled out of Manchuria, including every Type A division in Kwantung Army, and six new divisions raised from rear area and reserve troops. Kwantung Army was a hollow shell by the time the Russians entered the war, in August 1945. It was quickly routed.

Kwantung Army ran Manchuria as a military fiefdom. The Army hoped to turn Manchuria into a second Japanese homeland — the Japanese equivalent of lebensraum — but the Army had little grasp of economics, judging from the ineffectiveness of the economic policies adopted. The Army despised the zaibatsu, the Japanese industrial cartels, which might have funded the industrialization of Manchuria. Native Manchurians fared particularly poorly under these policies; for example, the Army deliberately set up heroin dens as a way to weaken the native population and as a source of cash, even issuing 30 million yen in bonds in 1932 secured by opium profits.

Order of battle, 7 December 1941:

Kwantung Army (Umezu; at Changchun)
Manchurian Area Army (at Changchun)

10 Division (Sogawa) This division got clobbered at Taierhchuang in 1938

28 Division (Ishiguro)

29 Division (Uemura; at Liaoyang)

Kwantung Defense Army

Kwantung Air Brigade (at Mukden)

36 Ki-57 Topsy

3 Army (Kawabe; at Yeho)

9 Division (Higuchi)

12 Division (Kasahara; at Tungning)

1 Tank Group (Yamada)

9 Engineer Regiment

27 Engineer Regiment

4 Army (Yokoyama; at Beian)

1 Division (Nakazawa)

14 Division (Kawanami; at Tsitsihar)

57 Division (Kusumoto)

1 Border Guard Brigade (Okamoto )

5 Border Guard Brigade (at Holomoching)

6 Border Guard Brigade (at Nencheng)

7 Border Guard Brigade

8 Border Guard Brigade

13 Border Guard Brigade

5 Army (Iimura; at Tungan)

11 Division (Takamori; at Hulin)

24 Division (Nemoto)

2 Tank Group (Yamaji)

4 Border Guards Brigade

12 Border Guards Brigade

6 Border Guards Brigade

3 Cavalry Brigade (Kataoka; at Paoching)

7 Engineer Regiment

22 Engineer Regiment

24 Engineer Regiment

6 Army (Kita; at Hailar)

23 Division (Nishihara)

8 Border Guards Brigade

20 Army (Seki; at Keinei)

8 Division (Hondo; at Suiyang)

25 Division (Akashiba)

2 Border Guards Brigade

3 Border Guards Brigade

10 Border Guards Brigade

11 Border Guards Brigade

2 Air Division (Teramoto; at Changchun)

2 Air Brigade (Nakamura ; at Chiamussu)

6 Light Air Regiment

27 Ki-57 Topsy

9 Air Regiment (at Pyongyang)

36 Ki-27 Nate

65 Light Air Regiment (at Tunhua)

36 Ki-30 Ann

8 Air Brigade (Tazoe)

32 Light Air Regiment (at Tunhua)

27 Ki-32 Mary

33 Air Regiment (at Hsingshu)

36 Ki-27 Nate

58 Heavy Air Regiment (at Sui-hua)

27 Ki-21 Sally

9 Air Brigade (Hashimoto; at Tsitsihar)

6 Heavy Air Regiment (at Hailar)

27 Ki-21 Sally

7 Heavy Air Regiment (at Kungchunling)     

27 Ki-21 Sally

13 Air Brigade (at Hailang)

70 Air Regiment (at Tungchingcheng)

36 Ki-27 Nate

85 Air Regiment

36 Ki-27 Nate

87 Air Regiment (at Tuanshanzi)

36 Ki-27 Nate

28 Independent Air Regiment (at Hailang)

20 Ki-15 Babs

The order of battle for August 1945 can be found in the article on Manchuria.


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