Ushijima Mitsuru (1887-1945)

Photograph of Ushijima Mitsuru

Wikimedia Commons

Ushijima Mitsuru was born in Kagoshima prefecture and graduated from the Japanese military academy in 1908 and the Army Staff College in 1918. He participated in the Siberian Expedition in 1918-1919 before becoming an instructor at the Infantry School (1920-1924) and director of the Toyama Military School (1932-1933.)

Ushijima was given command of 11 Division in central China in 1939 and again led it in Burma in 1942. After a tour as commandant of the military academy, he was given command of 32 Army on Okinawa on 8 August 1944. His army put up ferocious resistance to the American invasion of Okinawa by 10 Army in April-June 1945, in part because of Ushijima's realism (Leckie 1962):

You cannot regard the enemy as on a par with you. You must realize that material power usually overcomes spiritual power in the present war. The enemy is clearly our superior in machines. Do not depend on your spirits overcoming this enemy. Devise combat methods based on mathematical precision — then think about displaying your spiritual power.

Ushijima and his chief of staff, Cho Isamu, committed ritual suicide on 21 June when Japanese resistance finally collapsed. Ushijima left behind two jisei (death poems) (Feifer 1992):

Even as I expire, bullets and arrows depleted,

Dyeing heaven and earth [with blood],

My soul will, my will

Return to protect the holy nation.

The island's green grass

Wilting without waiting for autumn

Will revive with the return

Of the holy nation's Imperial spring.

Ushijima has been described as a tall, quiet ascetic, with considerable presence, considerate of his officers and possessed of a sense of humor. His consideration for his men went so far as to admonish his junior officers to refrain from striking their subordinates, a common practice in the Japanese Army. Like many of the most professional and least political of the Japanese Army's senior commanders, he relied heavily on his staff, believing it beneath a senior commander to worry over details.

Service record


Born in Kagoshima prefecture

Graduates from Military Academy

Graduates from Army Staff College

Instructor, Infantry School

Director, Toyama Military School

Senior adjutant, Ministry of War
Commander, 1 Regiment
Major general     
Commander, 36 Brigade

Commandant, Military Preparatory School

Commandant, Toyama Army Infantry School
Lieutenant general     
Commander, 11 Division

Commandant, Noncommissioned Officers' School

Commander, 11 Division

Commandant, Military Academy

Commander, 32 Army
Commits suicide at Okinawa


Dupuy et al. (1992)

Edgerton (1997)

Feifer (1992)

Fuller (1992)

Gandt (2010) (accessed 2007-12-7)

Hayashi and Cox (1959)

Leckie (1962)

Pettibone (2007)

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