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Terauchi Hisaichi (1879-1946)


Photograph of Terauchi Hisaichi

Wikimedia Commons

Terauchi Hisaichi was born in Yamaguchi prefecture, the son of a former prime minister from an aristocratic family. He graduated from the military academy in 1900 and fought in the Russo-Japanese War. He graduated from the Army Staff College in 1909 and was later a language student in Germany. Made a baron in 1919, he rose steadily through the ranks, holding important posts in Korea and Formosa.

Terauchi was named War Minister in the Hirota cabinet of 1936, after playing a leading role suppressing the attempted coup of 26 February. Here he joined Yamashita in bluntly telling Hirota and his advisors that relatively liberal-minded men, such as Yoshida Shigeru (who was being considered as Foreign Minister), were not acceptable to the Army as cabinet ministers. This marked a new milestone in Army control over the government. Thereafter the Army was able to enforce an agreement that only active duty Army officers could be named as War Minister, which gave the Army a decisive leverage over future cabinets. 

Photograph of Terauchi Hisaichi in the Diet

Wikimedia Commons

As War Minister, Terauchi favored a planned economy with government controls on business and labor.  He also supported the decision to join the Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany and Italy. He was responsible for freeing the Army from all parliamentary control, displaying his distaste for liberal politicians in a notorious debate on the floor of the Diet on 21 January 1937. Hamada Kunimatsu, a leader of the liberal Seiyukai Party and former president of the lower house of the Diet, took the Army to task over rumors in the press that the Army planned to establish a one-party government. Terauchi accused Hamada of insulting the Army, and Hamada responded (Hoyt 1993):

Where does the record show that I have insulted the Army? If any words of mine have insulted the Army, I shall apologize to you by committing suicide. If there are no such insults then you should commit suicide.

This was met with cheering by the Seiyukai members of the Diet. The next day the Army replied with a statement that only the Army could give Japan living space outside the home islands, and so the Army would work to do away with the Diet. Terauchi brought down the Hirota cabinet the same day by resigning in protest of Hirota's refusal to dissolve the House of Representatives in favor of a one-party "National Defense" government.

In 1937, following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Terauchi was given command of the North China Area Army. He showed himself an aggressive officer, at one point ignoring instructions to stand down from any new operations and choosing instead to attempt to trap Chinese troops at Hsuchow.

Terauchi was given command of Southern Expeditionary Army, responsible for the opening Japanese offensive of the Pacific War. He was critical of Homma for being too 'soft' on the Filipinos and of Imamura for granting too much power to the Indonesian puppet government. Terauchi's attitude likely played a role in Homma's subsequent relief and retirement.

Terauchi became a field marshal in June 1943 and was briefly considered as a replacement for Tojo as prime minister. 

Yamashita disagreed with Terauchi on the wisdom of an all-out defense of Leyte, but Terauchi insisted on fighting a decisive battle on the island. This ended in an Allied victory and weakened the defense of Luzon.

On 10 April 1945, under great stress from the fall of the Philippines and Mandalay, Terauchi suffered from a stroke, which his staff concealed from Tokyo. He was ordered back to Tokyo at the beginning of August 1945, but news of the surrender arrived before he could make the trip. Instead, he summoned Sukarno to announce the independence of Indonesia and ordered surplus Japanese weapons turned over to the new Indonesian government. Terauchi considered ignoring the surrender, but made the decision to submit on 16 August 1945.

When told that Terauchi was in too poor health to attend the surrender ceremony at Singapore, Mountbatten sent his own doctor to examine Terauchi. The doctor confirmed his fragile health, and Mountbatten had him transferred to a bungalow in Malaya in March 1946. On 11 June 1946, Terauchi became angered by a report of a Kempeitai lieutenant colonel who had threatened to disclose Japanese war crimes to the Allies, and he suffered a second massive stroke from which he perished early the next morning. As a consequence, he never stood trial for war crimes, such as his responsibility for mistreatment of laborers on the Burma-Siam Railroad and his order that all Allied prisoners of war in his command area were to be massacred if Japan was invaded.

Terauchi thought the army should stay out of politics, by which he probably meant that the politicians should keep their hands off the army. In other respects was a typically ruthless Japanese Army officer. Neither the Americans nor his own peers thought much of him, but his staff were impressed by the fact that such a wealthy man chose to live so frugally. Yamashita felt otherwise, writing in his diary that "... that damn Terauchi lives in luxury in Saigon, sleeps in a comfortable bed, eats good food and plays shogi" (Toland 1970) Yamashita added that "If there are two ways of doing something, trust Southern Army to pick the wrong one."

Service record

1879     

Born in Yamaguchi prefecture
1900

Graduates from Military Academy
1909

Army Staff College
1919
Colonel
Commander, 1 Imperial Guards Regiment
1922

Chief of staff, Imperial Guards Division
1924
Major general     
Commander, 19 Brigade
1926

1 Division
1927

Chief of staff, Korea Army
1929

Commander, Independent Garrison Unit
1930
Lieutenant general     
Commander, 5 Division
1932

Commander, 4 Division
1934

Commander, Taiwan Army District
1935-10     
General      
Member, Supreme War Council
1936-3-9     

Minister of War
1937-1-23     

Inspector General
1937-8

Commander, North China Area Army
1938-12

Member, Supreme War Council
1941-11-6

Commander, Southern Army
1943-6
Field marshal     

1946-6-12

Dies at Johore Bahru, Malaya

References

Boatner (1996)

Browne (1967)

Drea (2009)

Dupuy et al. (1992)

Fuller (1992)

Generals.dk (accessed 2008-1-19)

Hastings (2007)

Hayashi and Cox (1959)

Hoyt (1993)

Peattie et al. (2011)

Toland (1970)



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