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Sakurai Shozo (1889-1985)


Photograph of Sakurai Shozo

Wikimedia Commons

Sakurai Shozo (Sakurai Seiso) was born in Yamaguchi prefecture and graduated from the Military Academy in 1911 and the Army Staff College in 1919. He was initially an infantry officer, but became a specialist in military transport. He served as military attaché in France and on the General Staff before being given command of 33 Division under 11 Army just prior to the outbreak of war.

Sakurai's division helped overrun Burma in early 1942. On 7 March, as a result of Iida's misreading of the situation, Sakurai was ordered to turn the British flank north of Rangoon, and he decided to race west around the nonexistent flank to approach Rangoon from the northwest. This left a gap that allowed the British to break out north of Rangoon and escape into central Burma.  Sakurai successfully opposed a plan to invade Assam in 1942 as logistically unrealistic, and his division instead garrisoned the Arakan.

Sakurai was given command of 28 Army from its activation in late 1943. His army invaded Bengal (Operation Ha-Go) to draw the British away from Imphal for the U-Go offensive. By 22 February 1944 the army had been repulsed and was in retreat.

By 20 July 1945 the entire Japanese Army in Burma was in full retreat, and on that date 28 Army tried to cross the Sittang. The British were apprised of the plan and the crossings were heavily attacked, inflicting 50% losses. Slim later wrote that Sakurai "had indeed done well to stage any sort of organized break-out at all, but his losses were devastating" (Slim 1956).

According to his adjutant (Tamayama and Nunneley 2000), Sakurai treated his immediate staff with great affection, almost like his own children.  He almost never allowed women at his headquarters, since he felt this was unbecoming a commander while his troops were suffering privation in the field. He was skillful at calligraphy, and often honored requests from bereaved families for inscriptions for their sons' tombstones. However, he was reluctant to authorize a victory monument in Burma, feeling this was premature.  Although he eventually agreed to such a memorial for the sake of his troops' morale, he insisted that a memorial for British unknown soldiers be erected as well, which impressed Mountbatten favorably.

Service record

1889     

Born in Yamaguchi prefecture
1911
Second lieutenant     
Graduates from Military Academy
1919

Graduates from Army Staff College
1930

Instructor, War College
1934
Colonel
Commander, 77 Regiment
1936

Investigator, Cabinet Research Bureau
1937

Investigator, Cabinet Planning Board
1937

Commander, 14 Harbor Facility
1937

Investigator, Planning Institute
1937

1 Naval Transport Headquarters
1938

Inspector, central China harbor facilities
1938
Major general
Commander, Infantry Group, 22 Division
1939

Central China Expeditionary Army
1939-9-4

Chief of staff, 13 Army, China
1941-4     

Commander, 33 Division
1943-3-11      

Head, Armored Warfare Department, Ministry of War
1944-1-6     

Commander, 28 Army, Burma
1947

Retires
1985

Dies

References

Dupuy et al. (1992)

Fuller (1992)

Generals.dk (accessed 2007-12-27)

Pettibone (2007)

Romanus and Sunderland (1952; accessed 2011-4-3)

Slim (1956)

Tamayama and Nunneley (2000)

Willmott (1982)



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