|Prime Minister of Japan|
Leader of the Taisei Yokusankai
October 17, 1941 – July 22, 1944
|Born||December 30, 1884|
Hamachi district of Tokyo,Empire of Japan
|Died||December 23, 1948 (aged 63)executed by hanging|
Tokyo, occupied Japan
|Politicalparty||Imperial Rule Assistance Association (1940–1945)|
|Independent (before 1940)|
|Alma mater||Imperial Japanese Army Academy|
Army War College
Hideki Tōjō (Kyūjitai: 東條 英機; Shinjitai: 東条 英機; ) (December 30, 1884 – December23, 1948) was a general of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA), the leader of the Taisei Yokusankai, and the 40th Prime Minister of Japan during most of World War II, fromOctober 17, 1941 to July 22, 1944. As Prime Minister, he was directly responsible for theattack on Pearl Harbor, which led to the war between Japan and the United States,although planning for it had begun before he entered office. After the end of the war, Tōjōwas arrested, sentenced to death for Japanese war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, and was hanged on December 23, 1948.
Hideki Tōjō was born in the Kōjimachi district of Tokyo on December 30, 1884 as thethird son of Hidenori Tōjō, a lieutenant general in the Imperial Japanese Army. After1941 he would change his given name from the Chinese-inspired "Eiki" to the traditionallymore Japanese "Hideki" (see on'yomi). In 1899, Tōjō entered the Army Cadet School.When he graduated from the Japanese Military Academy (ranked 10th of 363cadets) in March 1905 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in theinfantry of the IJA. In 1909, he married Katsuko Ito, with whom he would have three sonsand four daughters. By 1928, he had become the bureau chief of the Japanese Army,and was shortly thereafter promoted to colonel. He began to take an interest in militaristpolitics during his command of the 1st Infantry Regiment.
In 1933, Tōjō was promoted to major general and served as Chief of the PersonnelDepartment within the Army Ministry. He was appointed commander of the IJA 24thInfantry Brigade in August 1934. In September 1935, Tōjō assumed top command of theKempeitai of the Kwantung Army in Manchuria. Politically, he was fascist, nationalist,and militarist, and was nicknamed "Razor" (カミソリ Kamisori), for his reputation for asharp, legalistic mind capable of making quick decisions.
During the February 26 coup attempt of 1936, Tōjō and Shigeru Honjō, a noted supporterof Sadao Araki, both opposed the rebels. Emperor Hirohito himself was outraged at theattacks on his close advisers, and after a brief political crisis and stalling on the part of asympathetic military, the rebels were forced to surrender. In the aftermath, the Tōseihafaction was able to purge the Army of radical officers, and the coup leaders were tried andexecuted. Following the purge, Tōseiha and Kōdōha elements were unified in theirnationalist but highly anti-political stance under the banner of the Kōdōha military clique,with Tōjō in the leadership position. Tōjō was promoted to Chief of Staff of the KwangtungArmy in 1937. As Chief of Staff, Tōjō was responsible for the military operationsdesigned to increase Japanese penetration into the Inner Mongolia border regions withManchukuo. In July 1937, he personally led the units of the 1st Independent MixedBrigade in Operation Chahar, his only real combat experience.
After the Marco Polo Bridge Incident marking the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Tōjō ordered his forces to attack Hopei and other targets in northern China. Tōjōreceived Jewish refugees in accordance with Japanese national policy and rejected theresulting Nazi German protests. Tōjō was recalled to Japan in May 1938 to serve asVice-Minister of War under Army Minister Seishirō Itagaki. From December 1938 to1940, Tōjō was Inspector-General of Army Aviation.
Rise to Prime Minister
On July 22, 1940, Tōjō was appointed Army Minister in the second Fumimaro Konoeregime, and remained in that post in the third Konoe cabinet. He was a strong supporter ofthe Tripartite Pact between Japan, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy. As the ArmyMinister, he continued to vastly expand the grueling war with China.
After negotiations with Vichy France, Japan was given permission to place its troops in French Indochina in July 1941. In spite of its formalrecognition of the Vichy government, the United States retaliated against Japan by imposing economic sanctions in August, including a totalembargo on oil and gasoline exports.
On September 6, a deadline of early October was fixed in the Imperial Conference for resolving the situation diplomatically. On October 14,the deadline had passed with no progress. Prime Minister Konoe then held his last cabinet meeting, where Tōjō did most of the talking:
For the past six months, ever since April, the foreign minister has made painstaking efforts to adjust relations. Although Irespect him for that, we remain deadlocked... The heart of the matter is the imposition on us of withdrawal from Indochina andChina... If we yield to America's demands, it will destroy the fruits of the China incident. Manchukuo will be endangered and ourcontrol of Korea undermined.
The prevailing opinion within the Japanese Army at that time was that continued negotiations could be dangerous. However, Hirohito thoughtthat he might be able to control extreme opinions in the army by using the charismatic and well-connected Tōjō, who had expressedreservations regarding war with the West, although the Emperor himself was skeptical that Tōjō would be able to avoid conflict. On October 13,he declared to Kōichi Kido: "There seems little hope in the present situation for the Japan-U.S. negotiations. This time, if hostilities erupt, Imight have to issue a declaration of war."
On October 16, Konoe, politically isolated and convinced that the Emperor no longer trusted him, resigned. Later, he justified himself to hischief cabinet secretary, Kenji Tomita:
Of course His Majesty is a pacifist, and there is no doubt he wished to avoid war. When I told him that to initiate war is amistake, he agreed. But the next day, he would tell me: "You were worried about it yesterday, but you do not have to worry somuch." Thus, gradually, he began to lead toward war. And the next time I met him, he leaned even more toward war. In short, Ifelt the Emperor was telling me: "My prime minister does not understand military matters, I know much more." In short, theEmperor had absorbed the views of the army and navy high commands.
At the time, Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni was said to be the only person who could control the Army andthe Navy and was recommended by Konoe and Tōjō as Konoe's replacement. Hirohito rejected thisoption, arguing that a member of the imperial family should not have to eventually carry theresponsibility for a war against the West. Following the advice of Kōichi Kido, he chose instead Tōjō,who was known for his devotion to the imperial institution. The Emperor summoned Tōjō to theImperial Palace one day before Tōjō took office.
Tōjō wrote in his diary: "I thought I was summoned because the Emperor was angry at my opinion." Hewas given one order from the Emperor: To make a policy review of what had been sanctioned by theImperial Conferences. Tōjō, who was on the side of the war, nevertheless accepted this order, andpledged to obey. According to Colonel Akiho Ishii, a member of the Army General Staff, the PrimeMinister showed a true sense of loyalty to the emperor performing this duty. For example, when Ishiireceived from Hirohito a communication saying the Army should drop the idea of stationing troops inChina to counter military operations of Western powers, he wrote a reply for the Prime Minister for hisaudience with the Emperor. Tōjō then replied to Ishii: "If the Emperor said it should be so, then that's itfor me. One cannot recite arguments to the Emperor. You may keep your finely phrased memorandum."
On November 2, Tōjō and Chiefs of Staff Hajime Sugiyama and Osami Nagano reported to Hirohito that the review had been in vain. TheEmperor then gave his consent to war.
The next day, Fleet Admiral Osami Nagano explained in detail the Pearl Harbor attack to Hirohito. The eventual plan drawn up by Armyand Navy Chiefs of Staff envisaged such a mauling of the Western powers that Japanese defense perimeter lines—operating on interior linesof communications and inflicting heavy Western casualties—could not be breached. In addition, the Japanese fleet which attacked PearlHarbor was under orders from Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto to be prepared to return to Japan on a moment's notice, should negotiationssucceed.
Two days later on November 5, Hirohito approved the operations plan for a war against the West and continued to hold meetings with themilitary and Tōjō until the end of the month. On December 1, another conference finally sanctioned the "war against the United States,England, and Holland".
As Prime Minister
Tōjō continued to hold the position of Army Minister during his term as Prime Minister, fromOctober 17, 1941 to July 22, 1944. He also served concurrently as Home Minister from 1941–1942, Foreign Minister in September 1942, Education Minister in 1943, and Minister ofCommerce and Industry in 1943.
As Education Minister, he continued militaristic and nationalist indoctrination in the nationaleducation system, and reaffirmed totalitarian policies in government. As Home Minister, heordered various eugenics measures (including the sterilization of the "mentally unfit").
His popularity was sky-high in the early years of the war, as Japanese forces went from onegreat victory to another. However, after the Battle of Midway, with the tide of war turningagainst Japan, Tōjō faced increasing opposition from within the government and military. Tostrengthen his position, in February 1944, Tōjō assumed the post of Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff. However, after the fall of Saipan, he was forced to resign on 18July 1944.
Capture, trial, and execution
After Japan's unconditional surrender in 1945, U.S. general Douglas MacArthur issuedorders for the arrest of the first forty alleged war criminals, including Tōjō. Soon, Tōjō's home inSetagaya was besieged with newsmen and photographers. Three American GI's (Corporal PaulKorol, Private First Class John Potkul, and Private First Class James Safford) and two Officeof Strategic Services(O.S.S.) Officers (one of whom was John J. Wilpers, Jr., who received theBronze Star for his efforts at age 90 in 2010 and died in 2013) were sent to serve the arrestwarrant on Tojo.
Two American war correspondents (Hugh Bailey and Russell Braun) had previously interviewedTojo and were also present when the attempt was made to serve the arrest warrant. It was notuntil approximately two hours after his suicide attempt that military police and a physicianattended to Tojo. Thereafter, when the subsequent arrest was to occur for Admiral Shimada,military police, a physician, and an ambulance were included in that arrest process as theylearned from Tojo's suicide attempt. Inside, a doctor named Suzuki had marked Tōjō's chestwith charcoal to indicate the location of his heart. When American military police surroundedthe house on 8 September 1945, they heard a muffled shot from inside. Major Paul Kraus and agroup of military police burst in, followed by George Jones, a reporter for The New York Times.Tōjō had shot himself in the chest with a pistol, but despite shooting directly through the mark,the bullets missed his heart and penetrated his stomach. Now disarmed and with blood gushingout of his chest, Tōjō began to talk, and two Japanese reporters recorded his murmured words:"I am very sorry it is taking me so long to die. The Greater East Asia War was justified andrighteous. I am very sorry for the nation and all the races of the Greater Asiatic powers. I waitfor the righteous judgment of history. I wished to commit suicide but sometimes that fails."
Tōjō was arrested and underwent emergency surgery in a U.S. Army hospital. After recoveringfrom his injuries, Tōjō was moved to Sugamo Prison. While there he received a new set ofdentures made by an American dentist. Secretly the phrase "Remember Pearl Harbor" hadbeen drilled into the teeth in Morse code.
Tōjō was tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East for war crimes and found guilty of the following:
- Count 1 (waging wars of aggression, and war or wars in violation of international law)
- Count 27 (waging unprovoked war against the Republic of China)
- Count 29 (waging aggressive war against the United States of America)
- Count 31 (waging aggressive war against the British Commonwealth of Nations)
- Count 32 (waging aggressive war against the Kingdom of the Netherlands)
- Count 33 (waging aggressive war against the French Republic)
- Count 54 (ordering, authorizing, and permitting inhumane treatment of Prisoners of War (POWs) and others)
Hideki Tōjō accepted full responsibility in the end for his actions during the war, and made this speech:
It is natural that I should bear entire responsibility for the war in general, and, needless to say, Iam prepared to do so. Consequently, now that the war has been lost, it is presumably necessarythat I be judged so that the circumstances of the time can be clarified and the future peace of theworld be assured. Therefore, with respect to my trial, it is my intention to speak frankly,according to my recollection, even though when the vanquished stands before the victor, whohas over him the power of life and death, he may be apt to toady and flatter. I mean to payconsiderable attention to this in my actions, and say to the end that what is true is true and whatis false is false. To shade one's words in flattery to the point of untruthfulness would falsify thetrial and do incalculable harm to the nation, and great care must be taken to avoid this.
Tōjō was sentenced to death on November 12, 1948 and executed by hanging 41 days later onDecember 23, 1948. Before his execution he gave his military ribbons to Private First Class Kincaid,one of his guards; they are now on display in the National Museum for Naval Aviation in Pensacola, FL. In his final statements, he apologized for the atrocities committed by the Japanese military andurged the American military to show compassion toward the Japanese people, who had suffereddevastating air attacks and the two atomic bombings.
Many historians criticize the work done by General Douglas MacArthur and his staff to exonerate Emperor Hirohito and all members of theimperial family from criminal prosecutions. According to them, MacArthur and Brigadier General Bonner Fellers worked to protect the Emperorand shift ultimate responsibility to Tōjō.
According to the written report of Shūichi Mizota, interpreter for Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai, Fellers met the two men at his office on 6 March1946 and told Yonai: "It would be most convenient if the Japanese side could prove to us that the Emperor is completely blameless. I think theforthcoming trials offer the best opportunity to do that. Tōjō, in particular, should be made to bear all responsibility at this trial."
The sustained intensity of this campaign to protect the Emperor was revealed when, in testifying before the tribunal on December 31, 1947,Tōjō momentarily strayed from the agreed-upon line concerning imperial innocence and referred to the Emperor's ultimate authority. TheAmerican-led prosecution immediately arranged that he be secretly coached to recant this testimony. Ryūkichi Tanaka, a former general whotestified at the trial and had close connections with chief prosecutor Joseph B. Keenan, was used as an intermediary to persuade Tōjō torevise his testimony.
Tōjō's commemorating tomb is located in a shrine in Hazu, Aichi (now Nishio, Aichi), and he is one of those enshrined at the controversialYasukuni Shrine. His ashes are divided between Yasukuni Shrine and Zōshigaya Cemetery in Toshima ward, Tokyo.
He was survived by a number of his descendants, including his granddaughter, Yūko Tōjō, a right-wing nationalist and political hopeful whoclaimed Japan's war was one of self-defense and that it was unfair that her grandfather was judged a Class-A war criminal. Tōjō's second son,Teruo Tōjō, who designed fighter and passenger aircraft during and after the war, eventually served as an executive at Mitsubishi HeavyIndustries.
Depictions in fiction
In Japanese culture, depictions of Hideki Tojo have varied in tone and style throughout the years.
In Tora! Tora! Tora!, directed by Toshio Masuda, he is portrayed by Asao Uchida at various events leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack.
In 1970's The Militarists, directed by Hiromichi Horikawa, Hideki Tojo is portrayed by Keiju Kobayashi as a tyrant, and in an alternate historyangle, stays Prime Minister until the end of the war.
In 1981's The Imperial Japanese Empire, Hideki Tojo is portrayed by Tetsuro Tamba as a family man who single-handedly planned the waragainst America, and the film deals with his war crimes trial.
In 2012's Emperor, Hideki Tojo is portrayed by Shôhei Hino.
From the corresponding article in the Japanese Wikipedia
- Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure (July 7, 1937)
- Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun (April 29, 1940)
- Order of the Golden Kite, 2nd Class (April 29, 1940)