THE JAPANESE WAR LORDS

 

The war in the Pacific was as cruel, as protracted, and as bitter as any fighting in Europe. It involved the transport of huge amounts of equipment and materials huge distances both by sea and air. The cost in deaths, injuries and suffering, and loss of treasure was immeasurable.

The mercy - if that is the right name for it - was that the Allies did not have to invade Japan; for had they to do so, the slaughter on both sides would have been on an unbelievable scale.

The Japanese were warned - and warned again - about the imminent use of a hugely destructive bomb (they did not know it was a new secret weapon called the atomic bomb) if they did not surrender: but like any people defending their homeland, they refused to give in.

Thus it was that upon the instructions of the Allies upon the advice of the Allied High Command, that the war was brought to a dramatic and sudden end by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima with hideous results.

Such is the folly and wickedness of war.

Hirohito, Emperor of Japan, 1901 - 1989

Hirohito, known as the Imperial Son of Heaven of Great Japan was the 124th direct descendant of Jimmu, Japan's first Emperor. '

He ruled Japan as a divinity. Ruled is hardly the right word as you will see as you read on.

He was a shy man interested in the study of marine biology. The Emperor's position in the constitution was that he presided over all cabinet meetings but traditionally never joined in but and always gave his assent to decisions. He had no political influence and his ministers would have never asked him his opinion on anything because that would have been embarrassing. His Prime Minister's Tojo's policy was war but he could do nothing about it. and when it began all proclamations and orders were issued in his name.

The Japanese people were led by people behind the throne - all monarchies have them. It was these politicians and courtiers who led the people to believe that their Emperor was a deity. Thus they manipulated him - and the population - and led the nation into war for personal their own ambitions. Once the war had begun, the people were then made to feel that they were fighting the war for their Emperor and should - and did - gladly die for him.

Tojo, Yamaoto, and the others kept Hirohito informed of the war but the Emperor chose to do nothing - in fact could do anything for he had never even broadcast to his people - such was the aurora of mystification and deification that the politicians and people enshrined him in. It is for him having failed to stop it that people today still hold that he was a war criminal. It was only after the dropping of the atomic bombs and the imminent invasion of the home and that the Emperor, acting upon Kido's advice, decided to speak out.

On Hirohito's initiative Prince Konoye was sent to Russia on a peace mission.

On 9 August 1945 the Cabinet was deadlocked over whether to accept the Potsdam Declaration. For the first time Hirohito expressed his views when Suzuki appealed to him. He said "I cannot but swallow my tears and sanction the proposal to accept the Allied Proclamation. On 14 August the decision to surrender was finally taken. Hirohito made a recorded speech giving the reasons for the surrender which was broadcasted the next day. It was the first time in history that the Emperor had spoken directly into the homes of his people, and using the the words of his predecessor, Emperor Meiji, he said that that "Japan had to accept the unacceptable, endure the unendurable".

Little did he know of the generosity and political wisdom of Americans.

After the war he remained on the throne because General MacArthur realised that to remove him would create bitter anti-American feelings and make it difficult to maintain order and safety in Japan. He accepted advice that he should no longer permit his people to believe he was a deity and agreed the terms of a new constitution by becoming a constitutional monarch as insisted upon by the Americans in 1946

 

Shigenori Togo, 1884 - 1950

Togo was twice Foreign Minister: at the start of the war and at the end. He was anti&emdash;militarist and anti-war. As Minister under Prime Minister Tojo he made every effort in his negotiations with the Americans to avoid war. However he was not able to do anything in the face of the entrenched power of the military leaders and was unwittingly used as a cover to conceal the preparations for the attack on Pearl Harbour.

H was nonetheless convicted at the end of the war to be a war criminal. This in spite of the fact that he resigned shortly after war was declared and lived in retirement throughout it and until Suzuki appointed him Foreign Minister in April 1945. He only accepted the job on the understanding that his sole job was to secure a peace. He was opposed by the Military and indeed went in fear of his life. He advocated the acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration providing the Emperor was not dethroned. After the surrender had been agreed he resigned from the Cabinet in August 1945.

General Hideki Tojo. 1884 - 1948

Tojo was the Japanese Prime Minister who planned the war and commanded it until 1944. A soldier nicknamed "The Razor " he had a huge following among the senior army officers.

He rose to become the Chief of Staff to the Kwantung Army in Manchuria in 1937. In 1938 he was holding a military and a cabinet post simultaneously and then in 1940 became Minister of War. In early October 1941 he became Prime Minister on the resignation of the more moderate Konoye. Ribontropp, the German Foreign Secretary, anxious that Japan enter the war, persuaded Japan to walk in and just take all of French lndo-China. This at the same time he was negotiating with the Americans and right on up until the last moments before Pearl harbour.

Tojo took the three posts of Prime Minister, War Minister and Chief of Army Staff and was therefore wholly responsible for the conduct of the war.

However, when the Marianas fell, he resigned and was succeeded by Koiso.

Tojo attempted suicide after Japan surrendered . He survived and was one of only seven Japanese war criminals to be hanged by the Allies.

 

Lieutenant General Toinoyuki Yamashita, 1885 - 1946

Yamashita was known as the Tiger of Malaya for his dramatic capture of Malaya and Singapore, which Churchill described as the worst British military disaster in history.

Yamashita went to Germany in I940, as Inspector General of the Imperial Army Air Forces. He reported that Japan should not declare war on either Britain or the United States until its Army and Air Forces were modernised.

When the war broke he became Commander of the Twenty-Fifth Army and invaded the Thai Peninsula and within 70 days had overrun all of Malaya.

 

Admiral lsoroku Yamamoto. 1884 - 1943

Yamanioto was responsible for the great build up of the Japanese Imperial Navy and naval air forces before the war. Yamamoto thought that Japan's only chance to beat the American's was in a pre-emptive strike to cripple the US Navy so planned the attack on Pearl Harbour. Despite this success, luck had it that the US carriers were on manoeuvres on the weekend of attack.

After the Battle of Coral Sea, in which the US lost the Lexington, Yamamoto was shocked both by it and the Doolittle raid on Tokyo, decided to wipe out what was left of the US Pacific Fleet in a decisive battle and take Midway Island, a US base - and one which could be used to attack Hawaii.

He devised a plan which involved the movement of eight separate task forces, including a diversionary attack on the Aleutian Islands. However the US had decoded the signals and the Japanese Carrier Fleet was totally outmanoeuvred and lost four carriers. Deprived of air cover, Japan had to withdraw.

Yamamoto then commanded the fleet in the Solomons campaign but suffered huge losses of aircraft and pilots. In April 1943 his aircraft and escort were shot down by US aircraft from Guadalcanal.

Yamamoto's death was a great shock to the troops and people in Japan.

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