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Umezu Yoshijiro (1882-1949)


Photograph of Umezu Yoshijiro
Wikipedia Commons

Umezu Yoshijiro was born in Oita prefecture and was commissioned in the infantry in 1904. He graduated from the War College in 1911, studied in Germany and Denmark, and was attach√© to Switzerland.  He was deeply involved in the machinations that put Manchuria under Japanese control, and as Army Vice-Minster, he maneuvered the cabinet into appointing China hawk Sugiyama Hajime as Army Minister. Umezu was given command of Kwantung Army following the battle of Nomonhan, with orders to bring the Army back under Tokyo's control. He was still in this post when war broke out in the Pacific. 

Umezu became chief of the Army General Staff in July 1944, replacing Tojo, who vainly hoped to remain in power by giving up some of his posts. Umezu joined with his close friend Anami Korechika, who was also from Oita prefecture, in adamantly opposing any effort to make peace. Instead, Umezu sought Russian intervention, but was reprimanded by the Emperor for not seeking a speedy end to the war. Umezu continued to demand that Japan fight on even after the nuclear attacks. He was aware of plans for a coup d'etat by junior officers opposed to the surrender but neither joined the cabal nor exposed it, saying he "did not disapprove." On the other hand, he rejected an appeal from Anami to have Hata try to change the Emperor's mind, saying "I'm sorry. I support the acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration" (Craig 1967). Ironically, he was personally "requested" by the Emperor to sign the instrument of surrender on as the representative of the General Staff on 2 September 1945.

Umezu was a political general who concealed his personal views so well that associates nicknamed him "The Ivory Mask." A rigid martinet, he somewhat resembled a Japanese Mussolini, shaving his head and wearing a perpetual scowl. Sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against the peace by the Allies, Umezu died of cancer in 1949.

Service record

1882     

Born in Oita prefecture
1904
Second lieutenant     

1910

War College
1923
Colonel
Instructor, War College
1924

Commander, 3 Regiment
1926

Chief, 1 Section (Organization and Mobilization), 1 Bureau, General Staff
1928

Chief, Army Affairs Section, Military Affairs Bureau, Ministry of War
1930
Major general
Commander, 1 Brigade
1931

Head, General Military Affairs Bureau, General Staff
1934
Lieutenant general     
Commander, China Garrison Army
1935-8

Commander, 2 Division
1936-3-23     

Vice-minister of war
1936

Director, Army Armaments Factory
1938-5-30

Commander, 1 Army, China
1939-9-7

Commander, Kwantung Army
1944-7-18      

Chief, General Staff
1945-9-23

Commander, 1 General Army
1945-10-1

Retires
1946

Arrested as Class A war criminal
1948

Sentenced to life in prison
1949

Dies in prison


References

Craig (1967)

Dupuy et al. (1992)
Frank (1999)

Fuller (1992)

Generals.dk (accessed 2008-5-10)

Hayashi and Cox (1959)

Hoyt (1993)

Peattie et al. (2011)
Russell (1958)



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