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Yamashita Tomoyuki (Yamashita Tomoyoki) was born the son
of a rural physician. He
Japanese Army in 1906
and fought against
the Germans in
He graduated from the Staff
College in 1916 and became an expert on Germany, serving as military attaché
in Switzerland and Germany from 1919-1922. During this time he
became close friends with Tojo
who was also visiting Switzerland, though the friendship later
when Tojo came to see Yamashita as a rival. Yamashita is alleged
initially supported the Young Officers' Revolt of 1936, and
later turned against the young ultranationalists, he was sent to Korea within a week of the
coup in order to get him out of Tokyo.
He served as chief of staff of North
China Area Army in 1937-1939 and commander of 4
Division before being sent as an
observer to Germany and Italy.
As head of the Army's Aeronautical Department,
Yamashita was dispatched with a
delegation to Germany in the spring of 1940 to study Blitzkrieg
tactics and the
technology and production methods that supported it. During this
he was introduced to both Hitler and Mussolini. Yamashita produced
report on his return that recommended, among other things, that
Army and Navy be unified under a single command modeled on the Oberkommando der Wermacht and
ally with Germany against Russia.
who had no interest in a unified command, used Yamashita's report
as an excuse to post him to Manchuria
to set up a new army
in preparation for operations against the Russians. In fact, by
time, the decision had already been made to maintain neutrality
An extremely capable officer, Yamashita was a lieutenant general in command of 25 Army at the start of the Pacific War. He led a stunningly successful campaign in Malaya that culminated in his bluffing the British into surrendering Singapore to an inferior force whose logistics were on the verge of collapse. When Percival attempted to negotiate more favorable surrender terms, Yamashita replied, "All I want to know from you is yes or no."
Yamashita got on poorly with his principle commanders
during the Malaya campaign, accusing both Matsui of 5
Division and Nishimura
Guards Division of disobeying orders to attack at
once. In the culture of the Imperial Army, this was tantamount to
an accusation of cowardice. Yamashita got along particularly
poorly with Nishimura, distrusting both him and his chief of
Tojo was jealous of Yamashita's success and got him transferred to command of 1 Area Army at Botenko in Manchuria in July 1942, before Yamashita could even read his victory speech to the Emperor. 1 Area Army was an important command, but it was also a long way from Tokyo. He languished here for most of the war, although he was promoted to full general in 1943. However, Yamashita was recalled to lead the defense of the Philippines in August 1944 and served here the remainder of the war (Hastings 2007):
The battle we are going to fight will be decisive for Japan's fate. Each of us bears a heavy responsibility for our part in it. We cannot win this war unless we work closely and harmoniously together. We must do our utmost, setting aside futile recriminations about the past. I intend to fight a ground battle, regardless of what the navy and air force do. I must ask for your absolute loyalty, for only thus can we achieve victory.
A number of atrocities took place during both the Malaya and Philippines campaigns. For these, Yamashita was tried, convicted, and hanged as a war criminal in 1946. However, it appears that most of the Malayan atrocities were the work of junior staff officers, particularly the notorious Tsuji Masanobu, while the Philippine atrocities in Manila seem to have been instigated by the Special Naval Landing Forces, who were not under Yamashita’s direct control and acted against his orders. Nevertheless, Yamashita was held criminally liable for failure to prevent the atrocities, establishing the precedent for what in international law is now known as the Yamashita Standard. Yamashita bitterly complained that he had been convicted, not of atrocities, but of embarrassing the British.
A more modern assessment of Yamashita's criminality is mixed. He forbade arson, looting, and rape by his soldiers in Malaya, but in vain (Burleigh 2011):
I want my troops to behave with dignity; but most of them do not seem to have the ability to do so. This is very important now that Japan is taking her place in the world. These men must be educated up to their new role in foreign countries.
Yamashita even had the officer responsible for the
Alexandra Hospital massacre executed, along with three soldiers
of rape in Penang.
But all of this is nullified by
his authorization of what became the Sook Ching massacre, in which
least 5000 and possibly as many as 50,000 Chinese civilians in
Singapore were murdered. It seems reasonable to suggest that
should justly have been hanged by the British rather than the Americans.
Yamashita was a former member of the Imperial Way, a political faction within the Army noted for its ultra-nationalism, contempt for democracy and capitalism, and devotion to the Emperor. Fuller says he was "Ambitious, ruthless, highly strung and believed in Samurai traditions." He believed Tojo wanted to assassinate him, which was not entirely rational. He snored badly and often appeared to be asleep while being briefed.
||Graduates from military
academy, standing 5th in his class
||Graduates from War College,
graduating 6th in his class
||Military attaché, Switzerland and Germany|
||Instructor, War College
||Chief, Army Affairs Section,
Military Affairs Bureau, Ministry of War
||Chief, Military Research
Section, Military Research Bureau, Ministry of War
||Commander, 40 Brigade, Korea
||Commander, China Garrison Mixed
||Lieutenant general||Chief of staff, North
||Commander, 4 Division, Manchuria
||Inspector-general of Army
||Head, Military Mission to Germany and Italy
||Supreme War Council
Area Army, Philippines
||Condemned to death as war criminal
Dupuy et al. (1992)
Hayashi and Cox (1959)
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