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Mutaguchi Renya was born in Saga prefecture and
adopted by the Mutaguchi family. He graduated from the
Military Academy in 1910 as an infantry
officer. He graduated from
the Army Staff College in 1917 and
served with the Siberian
Expedition. He was also
a resident officer in France.
A member of the Imperial Way (Kōdōha) faction, Mutaguchi was the regiment
commander over the
units involved in the Marco Polo
Incident of 7 July 1937, and his arrogance helped launched the second Sino-Japanese
War. He believed that weakness was provocative and rapidly escalated
what was originally a minor local skirmish. Well-connected politically,
he was subsequently promoted to major
and held numerous responsible staff assignments in China and Manchuria.
Mutaguchi was given command of 18 Division in April 1942. His
division participated in the Malaya offensive
during the early months of the war, and he was wounded in the shoulder
during the final assault on Singapore, in February 1942. The
division was then transferred to the Philippines to assist in
the reduction of Bataan. By April
1942 it was on the move again, this time to Rangoon.
Mutaguchi was given command of 15 Army in March 1943. Impressed with the accomplishments of the Chindits, he strongly pushed his own plan to attack Imphal and Assam, U-Go. He sacked his own intelligence chief for suggesting that the offensive was impossible, and made an emotional plea to his superior, Kawabe Masakazu, to approve the plan. Mutaguchi and Kawabe had both been involved in the Marco Polo Incident, and Mutaguchi suggested that since they were the pair who had started the Greater East Asia War, they should be the pair to end it (Allen 1984):
I started off the Marco Polo Incident, which broadened out into the China Incident, and then expanded until it turned into the Great East Asia War. If I push into India now, by my own efforts, and can exercise a decisive influence on the Great East Asia War, I, who was the remote cause of the outbreak of this great war, will have justified myself in the eyes of our nation.
Mutaguchi was reluctant to leave his headquarters at Maymyo to direct U-Go,
not departing for the front until 29 April 1944, over a month after the
offensive had kicked off. Even then, he lingered in Shwebo long enough
to set up his staff's "comfort station."
When the offensive collapsed, Mutaguchi refused to permit his division commanders to retreat, and by July 1944 he had dismissed the commanders of 15 Division, 31 Division, and 33 Division. Because of the disastrous failure of U-Go, Mutaguchi was recalled to Tokyo on 30 August 1944, retiring in December.
Mutaguchi was reputed to have considerable
physical courage and a deep commitment in Bushido. He was respected but
disliked. He was fond of sex, sake, and publicity. As his army
collapsed around him, he ordered an area of jungle cleared near his headquarters,
where he constructed a Shinto shrine consisting of a patch of white sand with four decorated
bamboo poles at the four points of the compass. He worshiped here each
morning thereafter, calling on the eight hundred gods of Japan for aid.
Mutaguchi managed to avoid being charged with war crimes, but in 1963 he came
out in support of a study claiming that the Imphal campaign had failed
only because Sato had failed
to move on Dimapur.
went so far as to denounce Sato in a pamphlet distributed at the
latter's funeral in 1959. The bad blood between the two went back as
far as 1934, when Sato was aligned with the Control Faction (Tōseiha) and discovered that his movements were being reported to Mutaguchi (then part of the General Affairs Bureau).
||Born in Saga prefecture
||Graduates from Military Academy
as an infantry officer
||Section chief, Army General Staff
||Commander, Peiping garrison
||Staff, Kwantung Army
||Chief of staff, 4 Army
||Commandant, Military Academy
||Commander, 15 Army
||Instructor, Military Academy
Dupuy et al. (1992)
Tamayama and Nunneley (2000)
The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia © 2007, 2009, 2011-2012 by Kent G. Budge. Index
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