Hideki Tōjō (Kyūjitai: 東條 英機; Shinjitai: 東条 英機;
Tōjō Hideki (help·info); December 30, 1884 –
December 23, 1948) was a general of the
Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army (IJA),
the leader of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, and the 27th
Prime Minister of Japan
Prime Minister of Japan for much of the duration of World War II,
serving from October 17, 1941 to July 22, 1944. As Prime Minister, he
was responsible for ordering the attack on Pearl Harbor, which
initiated war between
Japan and the United States, although planning
for the attack had previously begun in April 1941, before he had
entered office. After the end of the war, Tojo was arrested and
sentenced to death for war crimes by the International Military
Tribunal for the Far East, and was subsequently hanged on December 23,
1 Early life and education
2.1 As major general
2.2 Rise to Prime Minister
2.3 As Prime Minister
3 Arrest, trial, and execution
5 In popular culture
9 Further reading
10 External links
Early life and education
Hideki Tojo was born in the
Kōjimachi district of
Tokyo on December
30, 1884, as the third son of Hidenori Tojo, a lieutenant general
in the Imperial Japanese Army. Under the bakufu, Japanese society
was divided rigidly into four castes: the merchants, peasants,
artisans and the samurai. After the Meiji Restoration, the caste
system was abolished in 1871, but the remnants of theses caste
distinctions in many ways persisted afterwards, ensuring that those
from the former samurai caste continued to enjoy their traditional
prestige. The Tojo family had came from the samurai caste, albeit
the Tojo family were relatively lowly warrior retainers for the
daimyōs (lords) that they had served for generations. Tojo's
father was a samurai turned Army officer and his mother was the
daughter of a Buddhist priest, making his family very respectable, yet
Tojo had an education typical of a Japanese youth in the Meiji era.
The purpose of the Meiji educational system was to train the boys to
be soldiers as adults, and the message was relentlessly drilled into
Japanese students that war was the most beautiful thing in the entire
world, that the Emperor was a living god and that the greatest honor
for a Japanese man was to die for his Emperor. Japanese girls were
taught that the highest honor for a woman was to give birth to as many
sons as possible who could die for the Emperor in war. As a boy, Tojo
was known for his stubbornness, for having utterly no sense of humor,
for being an opinionated and combative youth fond of getting into
fights with the other boys, and for his tenacious way of pursuing what
he wanted. Japanese schools in the Meiji era were very competitive,
and there was no tradition of sympathy with failing; those who did
were often bullied by the teachers into committing suicide. Tojo
was of average intelligence, but he was known to compensate for his
limited intelligence with a willingness to work extremely hard.
Tojo's boyhood hero was the 17th century shogun
Tokugawa Ieyasu who
issued the injunction: "Avoid the things you like, turn your attention
to unpleasant duties". Tojo liked to say: "I am just an ordinary
man possessing no shining talents. Anything I have achieved I owe to
my capacity for hard work and never giving up".
In 1899, Tojo entered the Army Cadet School. When he graduated from
the Japanese Military Academy (ranked 10th of 363 cadets)[citation
needed] in March 1905, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in
the infantry of the IJA. In 1905, Tojo shared in the general outrage
Japan at the Treaty of Portsmouth, which had ended the war with
Russia, whereas some Japanese people saw teh treaty as a betrayal as
the war did not end with
Siberia as popular opinion had
Treaty of Portsmouth
Treaty of Portsmouth was so unpopular that it set
off anti-American riots known as the
Hibiya incendiary incident
Hibiya incendiary incident as
many Japanese were enraged at the way the Americans had apparently
Japan as the Japanese gains in the treaty were far less than
what public opinion had expected. Very few Japanese at the time had
understood that the war with Russia had pushed their nation to the
verge of bankruptcy, and most people in
Japan believed that the
Theodore Roosevelt who had mediated the Treaty of
Portsmouth had cheated
Japan out of its rightful gains. Tojo's
anger at the
Treaty of Portsmouth
Treaty of Portsmouth left him with an abiding dislike of
In 1909, Tojo married Katsuko Ito, with whom he had three sons
(Hidetake, Teruo and Toshio) and four daughters (Mitsue, Makie, Sachie
and Kimie). In 1918–19, Tojo briefly served in
part of the Japanese expeditionary force sent to intervene in the
Russian Civil War. Tojo served as Japanese military attache to
Germany between 1919-1922. As the
Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army had been
trained by a German military mission in the 19th century, the Japanese
Army was always very strongly influenced by intellectual developments
in the German Army, and Tojo was no exception. In the 1920s, the
German military favored winning the next war on starting by creating a
totalitarian Wehrstaat (Defense State), an idea that was taken up by
the Japanese military as the "national defense state". In 1922, on his
way home to Japan, Tojo took a train ride across the United States,
his first and only visit to America, which left him with the
impression that the Americans were a materialistic "soft" people
devoted only to making money and to hedonistic pursuits like sex,
partying and despite Prohibition, drinking.
Tojo boasted that his only hobby was his work, and he customarily
brought home his paperwork to work late into the night, and he refused
to have any part in raising his children, which he viewed both as a
distraction from his work and as woman's work, having his wife do all
the work of taking care of his children. A stern, humorless man,
Tojo was known for his brusque manner, his obsession with etiquette,
and for his coldness. Like almost all Japanese officers at the
time, Tojo routinely slapped the faces of the men under his command
when giving orders, saying that face-slapping was a "means of
training" men who came from families that were not part of the samurai
caste, and for whom bushido was not second nature.
In 1924, Tojo was greatly offended by the Immigration Control Act
passed by the American Congress banning all Asian immigration into the
United States with many Congressmen and Senators openly saying the act
was necessary because the Asians worked harder than whites. Tojo
wrote with bitterness at the time that American whites would never
accept Asians as equals and "It [the Immigration Control Act] shows
how the strong will always put their own interests first. Japan, too,
has to be strong to survive in the world".
By 1928, he was bureau chief of the Japanese Army, and was shortly
thereafter promoted to colonel. He began to take an interest in
militarist politics during his command of the 8th Infantry Regiment.
Reflecting the imagery often used in
Japan to describe people in
power, Tojo told his officers that they were to be both a "father" and
a "mother" to the men under their command. Tojo often visited the
homes of the men under his command, assisted his men with personal
problems and made loans to officers short of money. Like many
other Japanese officers, Tojo disliked Western cultural influence in
Japan, which was often disparaged as resulting in the
ero-guro-nansensu ("eroticism, grotesquerie and nonsense") movement as
he complained about such forms of "Western decadence" like young
couples holding hands and kissing in public, which were undermining
traditional values necessary to uphold the kokutai.
As major general
In 1934, Tojo was promoted to major general and served as Chief of the
Personnel Department within the Army Ministry. Tojo wrote a
chapter in the book Hijōji kokumin zenshū (Essays in time of
national emergency), a book published in March 1934 by the Army
Ministry calling for
Japan to become a totalitarian "national defense
state". This book of 15 essays by senior generals argued that
Japan had defeated Russia in the war of 1904–05 because bushidō had
given the Japanese superior willpower as the Japanese did not fear
death unlike the Russians who wanted to live, and what was needed to
win the inevitable next war (against precisely whom the book did not
say) was to repeat the example of the Russian-Japanese war on a much
greater scale by creating the "national defense state" that would
mobilize the entire nation for war. In his essay Tojo wrote "The
modern war of national defense extends over a great many areas"
requiring "a state that can monolithically control" all aspects of the
nation in the political, social and economic spheres. Tojo
attacked Britain, France and the United States for waging "ideological
Japan since 1919. Tojo ended his essay stating that
Japan must stand tall "and spread its own moral principles to the
world" as the "cultural and ideological war of the 'imperial way' is
about to begin". Tojo was appointed commander of the IJA 24th
Infantry Brigade in August 1934. In September 1935, Tojo assumed
top command of the
Kenpeitai 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 of
having a sharp and legalistic mind capable of quick decision-making.
Tojo was a member of the
Tōseiha ("Control") faction in the Army that
was opposed by the more radical Kōdōha ("Imperial Way") faction.
Tōseiha and the Kōdōha factions were militaristic,
fascistic groups that favored a policy of expansionism abroad and
dictatorship under the Emperor at home, but differed over the best way
of achieving these goals. The Imperial Way faction wanted a coup
d'état to achieve a Shōwa Restoration; emphasised "spirit" as the
principle war-winning factor; and despite advocating socialist
policies at home wanted to invade the Soviet Union. The Control
faction, while being willing to use assassination to achieve its
goals, was more willing to work within the system to achieve reforms;
wanted to create the "national defense state" to mobilize the entire
nation before going to war; and, while not rejecting the idea of
"spirit" as a war-winning factor also saw military modernization as a
war-winning factor; and saw the United States as a future enemy just
as much as the Soviet Union.
During the February 26 coup attempt of 1936, Tojo and Shigeru Honjō,
a noted supporter of Sadao Araki, both opposed the rebels who were
associated with the rival "Imperial Way" faction. Emperor Hirohito
himself was outraged at the attacks on his close advisers, and after a
brief political crisis and stalling on the part of a sympathetic
military, the rebels were forced to surrender. As the commander of the
Kenpeitai, Tojo ordered the arrest of all officers in the Kwantung
Army suspected of supporting the coup attempt in Tokyo. In the
Tōseiha faction was able to purge the Army of radical
officers, and the coup leaders were tried and executed. Following the
Tōseiha and Kōdōha elements were unified in their
nationalist but highly anti-political stance under the banner of the
Tōseiha military clique, with Tojo in the leadership position. Tojo
was promoted to Chief of staff of the Kwangtung Army in 1937. As
the "Empire of Manchukuo" was a sham, and in reality,
Manchukuo was a
Japanese colony, the Kwangtung Army's duties were just as much
political as they were military. During this period, Tojo become
close to Yōsuke Matsuoka, the fiery ultra-nationalist CEO of the
Manchuria Railway, one of Asia's largest corporations at the
time, and Nobusuke Kishi, the Deputy Minister of Industry in
Manchukuo, who was the man de facto in charge of Manchukuo's
economy. Through Tojo regarded preparing for a war with the Soviet
Union as his first duty, Tojo also supported the forward policy in
north China as the Japanese sought to extend their influence into
China. As chief of staff, Tojo was responsible for the military
operations designed to increase Japanese penetration into the Inner
Mongolia border regions with Manchukuo. In July 1937, he personally
led the units of the 1st Independent Mixed Brigade in Operation
Chahar, his only real combat experience.
Marco Polo Bridge Incident
Marco Polo Bridge Incident marking the start of the Second
Sino-Japanese War, Tojo ordered his forces to attack Hebei Province
and other targets in northern China. Tojo received Jewish refugees in
accordance with Japanese national policy and rejected the resulting
Nazi German protests. Tojo was recalled to
Japan in May 1938 to
serve as Vice-Minister of War under Army Minister Seishirō
Itagaki. From December 1938 to 1940, Tojo was Inspector-
Rise to Prime Minister
On 1 June 1940, the Showa Emperor appointed Kōichi Kido, a leading
"reform bureaucrat" as the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, making him
into the Emperor's leading political advisor and fixer. Kido had
aided in the creation in the 1930s of an alliance between the "reform
bureaucrats" and the "Control" faction in the Army, which was headed
General Mutō Akira and
General Tōjo. Kido's appointment also
favored the rise of his allies in the Control faction. On July 30,
1940, Hideki Tōjo was appointed Army Minister in the second Fumimaro
Konoe regime, and remained in that post in the third Konoe cabinet.
Prince Konoe had chosen Tojo—a man representative of both the Army's
hardline views and the Control faction while being considered
reasonable to deal with—to secure the Army's backing for his foreign
policy. Tojo was a militant ultra-nationalist, well respected for
his work ethic and his ability to handle paperwork, who believed that
the Emperor was a living god and favored "direct imperial rule",
ensuring that he would faithfully follow any order from the
Emperor. Konoe favored having Germany mediate an end to the
Sino-Japanese war, pressuring Britain to end its economic and military
support of China even at the risk of war, seeking better relations
with both Germany and the United States, and of taking advantage of
the changes in the international order caused by Germany's victories
in the spring of 1940 to make
Japan a stronger power in Asia.
Konoe wanted to make
Japan the dominant power in East Asia, but he
also believed it was possible to negotiate a modus vivendi with the
United States under which the Americans would agree to recognise the
"Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere".
By 1940, Konoe, who had started the war with China in 1937, no longer
believed that a military solution to the "China Affair" was possible
as he once did, instead favored having Germany mediate an end to the
war that would presumably result in a pro-Japanese peace settlement,
but would be less than he himself had outlined in the "Konoe
programme" of January 1938. For this reason, Konoe wanted Tojo, a
tough general whose ultra-nationalism was beyond question, to provide
"cover" for his attempt to seek a diplomatic solution to the war with
China. Tojo was a strong supporter of the
Tripartite Pact between
Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy. As the Army Minister,
he continued to expand the war with China. After
negotiations with Vichy France,
Japan was given permission to place
its troops in the southern part of
French Indochina in July 1941. In
spite of its formal recognition of the Vichy government, the United
States retaliated against
Japan by imposing economic sanctions in
August, including a total embargo 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 Tojo did most of the talking:
For the past six months, ever since April, the foreign minister has
made painstaking efforts to adjust relations. Although I respect him
for that, we remain deadlocked ... The heart of the matter is the
imposition on us of withdrawal from Indochina and China ... If we
yield to America's demands, it will destroy the fruits of the China
Manchukuo will be endangered and our control of Korea
The prevailing opinion within the Japanese Army at that time was that
continued negotiations could be dangerous. However,
that he might be able to control extreme opinions in the army by using
the charismatic and well-connected Tojo, who had expressed
reservations regarding war with the West, although the Emperor himself
was skeptical that Tojo 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, I have to issue a declaration of war." During
the last cabinet meetings of the Konoe government, Tojo emerged as a
hawkish voice, saying he did not want a war with the United States,
but portrayed the Americans as arrogant, bullying white supremacists.
He said that any compromise solution would only encourage them to make
more extreme demands on Japan, in which case
Japan might be better to
choose war to uphold national honor. Despite saying he favored
peace, Tojo had often declared at cabinet meetings that any withdrawal
French Indochina and/or China would be damaging to military
morale and might threaten the kokutai; the "China Incident" could not
be resolved via diplomacy and required a military solution; and
attempting to compromise with the Americans would be seen as weakness
On October 16, Konoe, politically isolated and convinced that the
Emperor no longer trusted him, resigned. Later, he justified himself
to his chief 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 a mistake, he
agreed. But the next day, he would tell me: "You were worried about it
yesterday, but you do not have to worry so much." Thus, gradually, he
began to lean toward war. And the next time I met him, he leaned even
more toward war. In short, I felt the Emperor was telling me: "My
prime minister does not understand military matters, I know much
more." In short, the Emperor had absorbed the views of the army and
navy high commands.
Hideki Tojo in military uniform
At the time,
Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni
Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni was said to be the only
person who could control the Army and the Navy and was recommended by
Konoe and Tojo as Konoe's replacement.
Hirohito rejected this option,
arguing that a member of the imperial family should not have to
eventually carry the responsibility for a war against the West as a
defeat would ruin the prestige of the House of Yamato. Following
the advice of Kōichi Kido, he chose instead Tojo, who was known for
his devotion to the imperial institution. Tojo's first speech
on the radio made a call for "world peace", but also stated his
determination to settle the "China Affair" on Japanese terms and to
achieve the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" that would unite
all of the Asian nations together. Tojo was known to advocate war
with the United States, and Prince Takamatsu wrote in his diary about
hearing of the appointment: "We have finally committed to war and now
must do all we can to launch it powerfully. But we have clumsily
telegraphed out intentions. We needn't have signaled what we're going
to do; having [the entire Konoe cabinet] resign was too much. As
matters stand now we can merely keep silent and without the least
effort war will begin." The Emperor summoned Tojo to the Imperial
Palace one day before Tojo took office. During the meetings of the
senior statesmen to decide who was to succeed Prince Konoe, the former
Prime Minister Admiral
Keisuke Okada was opposed to Tojo as Prime
Minister, while the powerful Lord Privy Seal
Kōichi Kido pushed for
Tojo, leading a compromise where Tojo would become Prime Minister
while "re-examining" the options for dealing with the crisis with the
United States, though Kido did not say that Tojo would attempt to
avoid a war. By tradition, the Emperor needed a consensus among
the elder statesmen before appointing a prime minister, and as long as
Admiral Okada was opposed to Tojo, it would be impolitic for the
Emperor to appoint him as Prime Minister.
Tojo wrote in his diary: "I thought I was summoned because the Emperor
was angry at my opinion." He was given one order from the Emperor: to
make a policy review of what had been sanctioned by the Imperial
Conferences. Tojo, who was on the side of war, nevertheless
accepted this order, and pledged to obey. According to Colonel Akiho
Ishii, a member of the Army
General Staff, the Prime Minister showed a
true sense of loyalty to the emperor performing this duty. For
example, when Ishii received from
Hirohito a communication saying the
Army should drop the idea of stationing troops in China to counter the
military operations of the Western powers, he wrote a reply for the
Prime Minister for his audience with the Emperor. Tojo then replied to
Ishii: "If the Emperor said it should be so, then that's it for me.
One cannot recite arguments to the Emperor. You may keep your finely
On November 2, Tojo and Chiefs of Staff
Hajime Sugiyama and Osami
Nagano reported to
Hirohito that the review had been in vain. The
Emperor then gave his consent to war. The next day, Fleet
Osami Nagano explained in detail the Pearl Harbor attack plan
to Hirohito. The eventual plan drawn up by Army and Navy Chiefs of
Staff envisaged such a mauling of the Western powers that Japanese
defense perimeter lines—operating on interior lines of
communications and inflicting heavy Western casualties—could not be
breached. In addition, the Japanese fleet which attacked Pearl Harbor
was under orders from Admiral
Isoroku Yamamoto to be prepared to
Japan on a moment's notice, should negotiations
succeed. Two days later, on November 5, Hirohito
approved the operations plan for a war against the West and continued
to hold meetings with the military and Tojo until the end of the
month. On 26 November 1941, the American Secretary of State Cordell
Hull handed Ambassador Nomura and Kurusu Saburo in Washington a "draft
mutual declaration of policy" and "Outline of Proposed Basis for
Agreement between the United States and Japan". Hull proposed that
Japan "withdraw all military, naval, air and police forces" from China
French Indochina in exchange for lifting the oil embargo, but left
the term China undefined. The "Hull note" as it is known in Japan
made it clear the United States would not recognise the puppet
Wang Jingwei as the government of China, but strongly
implied that the United States might recognise the "Empire of
Manchukuo" and did not impose a deadline for the Japanese withdrawal
from China. On 27 November 1941, Tojo chose to misrepresent the
"Hull note" to the Cabinet as an "ultimatum to Japan", which was
incorrect as the "Hull note" did not have a timeline for its
acceptance and was marked "tentative" in the opening sentence, which
is inconsistent with an ultimatum. The claim that the Americans
had demanded in the "Hull note" Japanese withdrawal from all of China,
instead of just the parts occupied since 1937 and together with the
claim the note was an ultimatum was used as one of the principal
excuses for choosing war with the United States. On December 1,
another conference finally sanctioned the "war against the United
States, England, and Holland".
As Prime Minister
Japanese Prime Minister
Hideki Tojo landed in Nichols Field, an
airfield south of Manila, for state visit to the Philippines.
U.S. wartime propaganda caricatured Tojo as the face of the enemy.
On 7 December 1941, Tōjō went on Japanese radio to announce that
Japan was now at war with the United States, the British Empire and
the Netherlands, reading out an Imperial Rescript that ended with the
playing of the popular martial song Umi Yukabe (Across the Sea), which
set to music a popular war poem the Manyōshū, featuring the lyrics
"Across the sea, corpses soaking in the water, Across the mountains
corpses heaped up in the grass, We shall die by the side of our lord,
We shall never look back". Tojo continued to hold the position of
Army Minister during his term as Prime Minister from October 17, 1941,
to July 22, 1944. He also served concurrently as Home Minister from
1941 to 1942, Foreign Minister in September 1942, Education Minister
in 1943, and Minister of Commerce and Industry in 1943.
As Education Minister, he continued militaristic and nationalist
indoctrination in the national education system, and reaffirmed
totalitarian policies in government. As Home Minister, he ordered
various eugenics measures (including the sterilization of the
Tojo had popular support in the early years of the war as Japanese
forces moved from one victory to another. In March 1942, Tojo in his
capacity as Army Minister gave permission for the Japanese Army in
Taiwan to ship 50 "comfort women" from Taiwan to Borneo without ID
papers (his approval was necessary as the Army's rules forbade people
without ID traveling to the new conquests). The Japanese historian
Yoshimi Yoshiaki noted this document proves that Tojo was aware of and
approved of the "comfort women" corps. On 18 April 1942, the
Americans staged the Doolittle Raid, bombing Tokyo. Some of the
American planes were shot down and their pilots taken prisoner.
General Staff led by Field Marshal
Hajime Sugiyama insisted
on executing the eight American fliers, but were opposed by Tojo, who
feared that the Americans would retaliate against Japanese POWs if the
Doolittle fliers were executed. The dispute was resolved by the
Emperor who commuted the death sentences of five fliers while allowing
the other three to die, for reasons that remain unclear as the
documents relating to the Emperor's intervention were burned in
As the Japanese went from victory to victory, Tojo and the rest of the
Japanese elite were gripped by what the Japanese called "victory
disease" as the entire elite was caught up in a state of hubris,
Japan was invincible and the war was as good as won. In
May 1942, reflecting his hubris, Tojo approved of a set of
"non-negotiable" demands to be presented when the Allies sued for
peace once it become clear to them that
Japan was invincible, under
Japan would keep everything it had already conquered, and would
take considerably more. Tojo wanted
Japan to annex Australia;
Australian New Guinea; British India (all of modern India, Pakistan
and Bangladesh); Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka); New Zealand; the Canadian
province of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory; the American
state of Washington and the territories of Alaska and Hawaii; and to
take Ecuador, Columbia, Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala,
Nicaragua, Costa Rica, British Honduras, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and the
rest of the West Indies. Additionally, Tojo wanted all of China to
be under the rule of the puppet Wang Jingwei, planned to buy Macau and
East Timor from Portugal and to create new puppet kingdoms in Burma,
Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos,
Thailand and Malaya. As the Burmese had
proved to be enthusiastic collaborators in the "New Order in Asia",
the new Burmese kingdom would be allowed to annex much of north-east
India as a reward. The Navy for its part demanded that
New Caledonia, Fiji, and Samoa.
The main forum for military decision-making was the Imperial General
Headquarters presided over by the Emperor that consisted of the Army
and Navy ministers; the Army and Navy chiefs of staff; and chiefs of
the military affairs bureaus in both services. The Imperial GHQ
was not a joint chiefs of staff as existed in the United States and
United Kingdom, but rather two separate services command operating
under the same roof who would meet about twice a week to attempt to
agree on a common strategy. The Operations Bureaus of the Army and
Navy would develop their own plans and then attempt to "sell them" to
the other, which was often not possible. Tōjo was one voice out
of many speaking at the Imperial GHQ, and was not able to impose his
will on the Navy, which he had to negotiate with, like he was dealing
with an ally. The American historian Stanley Falk described the
Japanese system as characterized by "bitter inter-service antagonisms"
as the Army and Navy worked "at cross-purposes", observing the
Japanese system of command was "uncoordinated, ill-defined and
However, after the Battle of Midway, with the tide of war turning
against Japan, Tojo faced increasing opposition from within the
government and military. In August–September 1942, a major crisis
gripped the Tōjo cabinet when the Foreign Minister Shigenori Tōgō
objected quite violently on 29 August 1942 to the Prime Minister's
plan to establish a Greater East Asia Ministry to handle relations
with the puppet regimes in Asia as an insult to the Gaimushō and
threatened to resign in protest. Tōjo went to see the Emperor,
who backed the Prime Minister's plans for the Greater East Asia
Ministry, and on 1 September 1942 Tōjo told the cabinet he was
establishing the Greater East Asia Ministry and could not care less
about how the Gaimusho felt about the issue, leading Tōgō to resign
in protest. The American historian Herbert Bix wrote that Tōjo
was a "dictator" only in the narrow sense that from September 1942 on,
he was generally able to impose his will on the Cabinet without
seeking a consensus, but at same time noted that Tōjo's power was
based upon support from the Emperor, who held the ultimate powers.
In November 1942, Tōjo, as Army Minister, was involved in drafting
the regulations for taking "comfort women" from China,
included Taiwan and Korea at this time) and
Manchukuo to the "South",
as the Japanese called their conquests in South-East Asia, to ensure
that the "comfort women" had the proper papers before departing. Until
then the War Ministry required special permission to take "comfort
women" without papers, and Tojo was tired of dealing with these
requests. At the same time, Tōjo, as the Army Minister, became
involved in a clash with the Army chief of staff over whether to
continue the battle of Guadalcanal or not. Tōjo sacked the Operations
office and his deputy at the general staff, who were opposed to
withdrawing, and ordered the abandonment of the island.
In September 1943, the Emperor and Tojo agreed that
Japan would pull
back to an "absolute defense line" in the south-west Pacific to stem
the American advance, and considered abandoning Rabual base, but
changed their minds in face of objections from the Navy. In
November 1943, the American public's reaction to the Battle of Tarawa
led Tōjo to view Tarawa as a sort of Japanese victory, believing that
more battles like Tarawa would break American morale, and force the
U.S. to sue for peace. Moreover, Tōjo believed that the Americans
would become bogged in the Marshalls, giving more time to strengthen
the defenses in the Marianas. In late 1943, with the support of
the Emperor, Tojo made a major effort to make peace with China to free
up the 2 million Japanese soldiers in China for operations elsewhere,
but the unwillingness of the Japanese to give up any of their "rights
and interests" in China doomed the effort. China was by far the
largest theater of operations for Japan, and with the Americans
steadily advancing in the Pacific, Tojo was anxious to end the
quagmire of the "China affair" to redeploy Japanese forces. In an
attempt to enlist support from all of Asia, especially China, Tojo
Greater East Asia Conference
Greater East Asia Conference in November 1943, which issued
a set of Pan-Asian war aims, which made little impression on most
Asians. On 9 January 1944,
Japan signed a treaty with the puppet
Wang regime under which
Japan gave up its extraterritorial rights in
China as part of a bid to win Chinese public opinion over to a
pro-Japanese viewpoint, but as the treaty changed nothing in practice,
the gambit failed. At the same time as he sought a diplomatic
effort to end the war with China, Tojo also approved of the planning
for Operation Ichi-Go, a huge offensive against China intended to take
the American air bases in China and finally knock China out of the war
once and for all. In January 1944, Tojo approved of orders issued
General Headquarters for an invasion of India, where the
Burma Area Army in Burma under
Masakazu Kawabe was to seize
the Manipour and Assam provinces with the aim of cutting off American
aid to China (the railroad that supplied the American air bases in
north-east India that allowed for supplies to be flown over "the Hump"
of the Himalayas to China passed through these provinces). Cutting
off American aid to China in turn might have the effect of forcing
Chiang Kai-shek to sue for peace. Following the 15th Army into India
in the U-Go offensive were the Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose
and his Indian National Army, as the political purpose of the
operation was to provoke a general uprising against British rule in
India that might allow the Japanese to take all of India. The
roads necessary to properly supply the 150,000 Japanese soldiers
committed to invading India would turn into mud when the monsoons
arrived, giving the Japanese a very short period of time to break
through. The Japanese were counting on capturing food from the British
to feed their army, which in turn was based on the assumption that all
of India would rise up when the Japanese arrived, causing the collapse
of the Raj. The Japanese brought along with them enough food
to last for only 20 days, and after that, they would have to capture
food from the British to avoid starving. Bose had impressed Tojo
at their meetings as the best man to inspire an anti-British
revolution in India.
In the central Pacific, the Americans destroyed the main Japanese
naval base at Truk in an air raid on 18 February 1944, forcing the
Imperial Navy back to the Marianas (the oil to fuel ships and planes
operating in the Marshalls, Caroline and Gilbert islands went up in
smoke at Truk). This breach of the "absolute defense line", five
months after its creation, led Tojo to fire Admiral
Osami Nagano as
the Navy Chief of Staff, for incompetence. The Americans had
penetrated 1,300 miles across "absolute defense line" and destroyed
Truk, which caused a major crisis in
Tokyo as Tojo, senior generals
and admirals all blamed each other for the situation. To
strengthen his position in face of criticism of the way the war was
going, on 21 February 1944, Tojo assumed the post of Chief of the
Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
General Staff, arguing he needed to take
personal charge of the Army. When Field Marshal Sugiyama
complained to the Emperor about being fired and having the Prime
Minister run the
General Staff, the Emperor told him he supported
Tojo. Tojo's major concern as Army Chief of Staff was planning the
operations in China and India, with less time given over to the coming
battles in the Marianas. Tojo decided to take the strategic
offensive for 1944 with his plans to win the war in 1944 being as
Operation Ichigo would end the war with China, freeing up some 2
million Japanese soldiers.
Operation U-Go would take India.
When the Americans made the expected offensive into the Marianas, the
Imperial Navy's Combined Fleet would fight a decisive battle of
annihilation against the U.S. 5th Fleet, and halt the American drive
in the central Pacific.
In the South-west Pacific, the Japanese forces in New Guinea and the
Solomon Islands would stay on the defensive and try to slow down the
American, Australian, and New Zealand forces for long as possible.
General MacArthur's personal obsession with returning to
the Philippines, Tojo expected MacArthur to head for the Philippines
rather than the Japanese-occupied
Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies (modern
Indonesia), which was a relief from the Japanese viewpoint; the Dutch
East Indies were rich in oil while the Philippines were not.
Tojo expected that a major American defeat in the Marianas together
with the conquest of China and India would so stun the Americans that
they would sue for peace. By this point, Tojo no longer believed
the war aims of 1942 could be achieved, but he believed that his plans
for victory 1944 would lead to a compromise peace that would allow him
to present as a victory to the Japanese people. By serving as
Prime Minister, Army Minister and Army Chief of Staff, Tojo was taking
on all of the responsibility, and if plans for victory in 1944 failed,
he would have no scapegoat.
On 12 March 1944, the Japanese launched the U-Go offensive and invaded
India. Tojo had some doubts about Operation U-Go, but it was
ordered by the Emperor himself, and Tojo was unwilling to oppose any
decision of the Emperor.
Despite the Japanese Pan-Asian rhetoric and claim to be liberating
India, the Indian people did not revolt and the Indian soldiers of the
14th Army stayed loyal to their British officers, and the invasion of
India ended in complete disaster. The Japanese were defeated by
the Anglo-Indian 14th Army at the Battles of Imphal and Kohima. On 5
July 1944, the Emperor accepted Tojo's advice to end the invasion of
India as 72,000 Japanese soldiers had been killed in battle. A similar
number had starved to death or died of diseases as the logistics to
support an invasion of India were lacking, once the monsoons turned
the roads of Burma into impassable mud. Of the 150,000 Japanese
soldiers who had participated in the March invasion of India, most
were dead by July 1944.
In parallel with the invasion of India, in April 1944 Tojo began
Operation Ichigo, the largest Japanese offensive of the entire war,
with the aim of taking southern China.
In the Battle of Saipan, about 70,000 Japanese soldiers, sailors and
civilians were killed in June–July 1944 and in the Battle of the
Philippine Sea the Imperial Navy suffered a crushing defeat. The
first day of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, 19 June 1944, was
dubbed by the Americans "the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot" as during
the course of the dogfights in the air, the United States Navy lost 30
planes while shooting down about 350 Imperial Japanese planes, in one
of the Imperial Navy's most humiliating defeats. The Japanese
believed that indoctrination in bushido ("the way of the warrior")
would give them the edge as the Japanese longed to die for the
Emperor, while the Americans were afraid to die, but superior American
pilot training and airplanes meant the Japanese were hopelessly
outclassed by the Americans. With Saipan in American hands, the
Americans could take other islands in the Marianas to build
airbases. The establishment of American bases in the Marianas
meant the cities of
Japan were within the range of B-29 Superfortress
bombers and Willmott noted that "even the most hard-headed of the
Japanese militarists could dimly perceive that
Japan would be at the
end of her tether in that case". As the news of the disastrous
defeat suffered at Saipan reached Japan, it turned elite opinion
against the Tojo government. The Emperor himself was furious about
the defeat at Saipan; had called a meeting of the Board of Field
Marshals and Fleet Admirals to see if were possible to recapture
Saipan (it was not); and Prince Takamatsu wrote in his diary "he
flares up frequently". Tojo was the Prime Minister, Minister of
War and Chief of the Army
General Staff, and was seen both in Japan
and in the US as, in words of the British historian H. P. Willmott,
"the embodiment of national determination, hardline nationalism and
militarism". Prince Konoe and Admiral Okada had long been plotting
to bring down the Tojo government since the spring of 1943, and their
principal problem had been the support of the Emperor, who did not
wish to lose his favorite Prime Minister.
After the Battle of Saipan, it was clear to at least some of the
Japanese elite that the war was lost, and
Japan needed to make peace
before the kokutai and perhaps even the
Chrysanthemum Throne itself
was destroyed. Tojo had been so demonized in the United State
during the war that, for the American people, Tojo was the face of
Japanese militarism, and it was inconceivable that the United States
would make peace with a government headed by Tojo. Willmott noted
that an additional problem for the "peace faction" was that: "Tojo was
an embodiment of mainstream opinion within the nation, the armed
services and particularly the Army. Tojo had powerful support, and by
Japanese standards he was not extreme." Tojo was more of a
follower than a leader, and he represented mainstream opinion in the
Army, and so his removal from office would not mean the end of the
political ambitions of an Army still fanatically committed to victory
or death. The jushin (elder statesmen) had advised the Emperor
that Tojo needed to go after Saipan and further advised the Emperor
against partial changes in the cabinet, demanding that the entire Tojo
cabinet resign. Tojo, aware of the intrigues to bring him down,
had sought the public approval of the Emperor, which was denied, with
the Emperor sending him a message to the effect that the man
responsible for the disaster of Saipan was not worthy of his
approval. Tojo suggested reorganizing his cabinet to regain
Imperial approval, and was rebuffed with the Emperor saying the entire
cabinet had to go. Once it was clear that Tojo no longer had the
support of the Chrysanthemum Throne, Tojo's enemies had little trouble
bringing down his government. The politically powerful Lord Privy
Kōichi Kido spread the word that the Emperor no longer
supported Tojo. After the fall of Saipan, he was forced to resign
on July 18, 1944. The jushin advised the Emperor to appoint a
former Prime Minister, Admiral
Mitsumasa Yonai as Prime Minister as he
was popular with the Navy, the diplomatic corps, the bureaucracy and
the "peace faction", but Yonai refused to serve, knowing full well
that a Prime Minister who attempted to make peace with the Americans
might be assassinated as many Army officers were still committed to
victory or death and regarded any talk of peace as treason.
Admiral Yonai stated that only another general could serve as Prime
Minister, and advised
Kuniaki Koiso should serve as Prime
Minister. At conference with the Emperor, Koiso and Yonai were
told by the Emperor to co-operate in forming a government without
saying who was to be the new Prime Minister. As the Emperor was
worshiped as a living god, neither Yonai and Koiso could ask him who
was to be the Prime Minister, as one does not ask questions of a god,
and after the meeting, both men were very confused as to which of the
two was now the Prime Minister. Finally, the Lord Privy Seal,
Kōichi Kido resolved the muddle by saying Koiso was the Prime
Minister. Two days after Tojo resigned, the Emperor gave him an
imperial rescript offering him unusually lavish praise for his
"meritorious services and hard work" and declaring "Hereafter we
expect you to live up to our trust and make even greater contributions
to military affairs".
Arrest, trial, and execution
Hideki Tojo after his attempted suicide during his arrest
After Japan's unconditional surrender in 1945, U.S. general Douglas
MacArthur ordered the arrest of forty alleged war criminals including
Tojo. Three American GIs were sent to serve the arrest warrant. As
American soldiers surrounded Tojo's house on September 11 he shot
himself in the chest with a pistol, but missed his heart. As a result
of this experience, the Army had medical personnel present during the
later arrests of other accused Japanese war criminals such as Shimada
As he bled Tojo began to talk, and two Japanese reporters recorded his
words: "I am very sorry it is taking me so long to die. The Greater
East Asia War was justified and righteous. I am very sorry for the
nation and all the races of the Greater Asiatic powers. I wait for the
righteous judgment of history. I wished to commit suicide but
sometimes that fails."
After recovering from his injuries, Tojo was moved to Sugamo Prison.
While there he received a new set of dentures, made by an American
dentist, into which the phrase "Remember Pearl Harbor" had been
secretly drilled in Morse code. The dentist ground away the
message three months later.
Tojo was tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East
for war crimes and found guilty of, among other things, waging
wars of aggression; war in violation of international law; unprovoked
or aggressive war against various nations; and ordering, authorizing,
and permitting inhumane treatment of prisoners of war.
Crimes committed by Imperial
Japan were responsible for the deaths of
millions, some estimate between 3,000,000 and 14,000,000
civilians and prisoners of war through massacre, human
experimentation, starvation, and forced labor that was either directly
perpetrated or condoned by the Japanese military and government with a
significant portion of them occurring during Tojo's rule of the
military. One source attributes 5,000,000
civilian deaths to Tojo's rule of the military.
Tojo before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East
Hideki Tojo 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, I am prepared to do so. Consequently,
now that the war has been lost, it is presumably necessary that I be
judged so that the circumstances of the time can be clarified and the
future peace of the world 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, who has over him the power of life and death, he may be apt to
toady and flatter. I mean to pay considerable attention to this in my
actions, and say to the end that what is true is true and what is
false is false. To shade one's words in flattery to the point of
untruthfulness would falsify the trial and do incalculable harm to the
nation, and great care must be taken to avoid this.
Tojo was sentenced to death on November 12, 1948, and executed by
hanging 41 days later on December 23, 1948. Before his execution he
gave his military ribbons to one of his guards; they are on display in
the National Museum for Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida. In
his final statement he apologized for the atrocities committed by the
Japanese military and urged the American military to show compassion
toward the Japanese people, who had suffered devastating air attacks
and the two atomic bombings.
Herbert P. Bix and
John W. Dower criticize the work done by
General MacArthur and his staff to exonerate Emperor
Hirohito and all
members of the imperial family from criminal prosecutions. According
to them, MacArthur and Brigadier
Bonner Fellers worked to
protect the Emperor and shift ultimate responsibility to
According to the written report of Shūichi Mizota, interpreter for
Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai, Fellers met the two men at his office on
March 6, 1946, and told Yonai: "It would be most convenient if the
Japanese side could prove to us that the Emperor is completely
blameless. I think the forthcoming trials offer the best opportunity
to do that. Tojo, 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,
Tojo momentarily strayed from the agreed-upon line concerning imperial
innocence and referred to the Emperor's ultimate authority. The
American-led prosecution immediately arranged that he be secretly
coached to recant this testimony. Ryūkichi Tanaka, a former general
who testified at the trial and had close connections with chief
prosecutor Joseph B. Keenan, was used as an intermediary to persuade
Tojo to revise his testimony.
Tojo's commemorating tomb is located in a shrine in
Hazu, Aichi (now
Nishio, Aichi), and he is one of those enshrined at the controversial
Yasukuni 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 Tojo, who was a far-right ultranationalist and
political hopeful who claimed Japan's war was one of self-defense and
that it was unfair that her grandfather was judged a Class-A war
criminal. Tojo's second son, Teruo Tojo, who designed fighter and
passenger aircraft during and after the war, eventually served as an
executive at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. In a 1997 survey of
university students in China asking "When somebody talks about
Japanese people, what person do you think of", the answer that most
gave was Hideki Tojo, reflecting a lingering sense of hurt in China
about Japan's wartime aggression. In the 1998 film Puraido
(Pride), Tojo was portrayed as a national hero, forced against his
will by the
Hull note into attacking America and executed after a
rigged trial, a picture of Tojo that is widely accepted in
giving offense abroad.
In popular culture
During World War II, the
IJAAS fighter plane known as the Nakajima
Ki-44 received the Allied reporting name of "Tojo".
In the 1945 film Blood on the Sun, Tojo is portrayed by Robert
In the 1970 film, Tora! Tora! Tora!, directed by Toshio Masuda, Tojo
is portrayed by Asao Uchida at various events leading up to the Pearl
In 1970's The Militarists, directed by Hiromichi Horikawa, he is
Keiju Kobayashi as a tyrant, and in an alternate history
angle, stays Prime Minister until the end of the war.
In 1981's The Imperial Japanese Empire, he is portrayed by Tetsurō
Tamba as a family man who single-handedly planned the war against
America, and the film deals with his war crimes trial.
In a 1983 song "Tojo" by Australian band Hoodoo Gurus.
The Shunya Itō-directed historical drama Pride, released in 1998,
Masahiko Tsugawa as Tojo.
In the 2004
Shyam Benegal biopic, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The
Forgotten Hero, the role of Tojo was portrayed by Kelly Dorjee
In the Season 1 episode of the FX TV series Rescue Me titled
"Leaving," Tommy's father mentions that "back in the old days, you
knew who the bad guys were: Hitler and Tojo."
In 2012's Emperor,
Hideki Tojo is portrayed by Shôhei Hino.
In 2014, the History Channel's miniseries The World Wars, Tojo as a
youth is portrayed by Koji Oshashi, and as an adult by Garret T. Sato.
In 2016, the Paradox Interactive's video game Hearts of Iron IV
features Tojo as a character in the Japanese government.
Grand Cordon of the
Order of the Sacred Treasure
Order of the Sacred Treasure (July 7, 1937)
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun (April 29, 1940)
Order of the Golden Kite, 2nd Class (April 29, 1940)
Grand Cordon of the Grand Order of the Orchid Blossom, Manchukuo
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Illustrious Dragon, Manchukuo
Grand Cordon of the Order of Auspicious Clouds, Manchukuo
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Pillars of State, Manchukuo
Order of Chula Chom Klao, Thailand
Knight Grand Cordon (
Special Class of Order of the White Elephant),
Grand Cross of the Order of the German Eagle, Nazi Germany
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^ Browne, pp. 23–24.
^ a b Browne, p. 24.
^ Baudot, p. 455.
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^ Browne, p. 28.
^ Browne, pp. 28–29.
^ Browne, p. 29.
^ Browne, p. 29-30.
^ a b Browne, p. 30.
^ a b Browne, p. 40.
^ Browne, pp. 33–34.
^ Browne, pp. 40–41.
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^ Bix, p. 278.
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^ a b Bix, pp. 373–374.
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^ Bix, p. 416.
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^ Bix, p. 418-419.
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^ Bix, p. 428-431.
^ Wetzler, pp. 28–30, 39.
^ Dower, p. 25.
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^ a b Weinberg, p. 330.
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^ a b Weinberg, p. 641.
^ a b Weinberg, pp. 641–642.
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^ Willmott, pp. 156–157.
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^ a b Bix, p. 475.
^ Weinberg, p. 641-642.
^ Weinberg, p. 642.
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^ a b Willmott, p. 208.
^ a b Willmott, p. 213.
^ Bix, p. 477.
^ a b c d Bix, p. 478.
^ Willmott, pp. 216–217.
^ a b c d e f g h i Willmott, p. 217.
^ Toland, pp. 871–872.
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Find more aboutHideki Tojoat's sister projects
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(archived March 12, 2008)
Hideki Tojo's grave at Findagrave
The Kokomo Tribune. September 10, 1945.
"Terror of Asia Gives Interview on Many Topics". Prescott Evening
Courier. Sep 10, 1945.
"Tojo's Death Plotted in 1944, Is Disclosure". The Evening
Independent. October 10, 1945.
Minister of War
Prime Minister of Japan
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Prime Ministers of
Empire of Japan, 1868–1947
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The Doctrine of Fascism
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Zaveshchanie russkogo fashista
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