Birthday: November 8, 1885
Died At Age: 60
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Born Country: Japan
Born in: Otoyo, Kōchi Prefecture, Japan
Famous as: Japanese General
Spouse/Ex-: Hisako Nagayama (m. 1916)
father: Sakichi Yamashita
Died on: February 23, 1946
place of death: Los Baños, Philippines
Cause of Death: Execution
education: Army War College, Imperial Japanese Army Academy
awards: Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun
Who was Tomoyuki Yamashita?
Tomoyuki Yamashita, known as the ‘Tiger of Malay’ during the Second World War, was a distinguished general in the Japanese Imperial Army. Son of a village doctor, he began his career as Second Lieutenant possibly at the age of 23 and by the age of 47 became section chief of military affairs in the War Ministry. But very soon, his indirect support for the young officers of the Imperial Way faction put his career almost in jeopardy. Nonetheless, as Japan joined the Second World War, he was sent to the Pacific front, where he took Singapore almost dramatically. Thereafter, he spent some time at the army training command in Manchukuo, before being sent to defend Philippines. But before long, the war came to an end and he had to surrender to the Allied forces. He was tried and hanged for atrocities committed by his troops. Ab able strategist, Tomoyuki Yamashita trained Japanese soldiers in jungle warfare and helped to draw plans for the Japanese invasion of the Thai and Malay peninsulas.
Childhood & Early Life
Tomoyuki Yamashita was born on November 8, 1885 in Osugi Mura, now a part of Otoyo town located in the mountainous district of central Shikoku, Japan. But at that time, it was a village, where his father, Sakichi Yamashita, served as a doctor. His mother’s name was Yuu.
Tomoyuki Yamashita had an elder brother and two sisters. While his brother became a doctor, young Tomoyuki joined Hiroshima Army Academy in 1900 and graduated from there with honors on 26 June 1906. Thereafter, he possibly joined Imperial Japanese Army Academy, graduating from there in 1908 with full honors.
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Tomoyuki Yamashita began his career as a Second Lieutenant in the Japanese Army. Although little is known about this period of his life, he must have shown some promise because he was quickly promoted as Lieutenant and was sent to Japanese Army War College during the First World War.
In November 1916, he graduated with honors from the War College, ranking sixth in his class. Two years later, he was sent to Switzerland as assistant military attaché at the Japanese Embassy. In the following year, he was moved to Germany and from there to Austria and Hungary.
In February 1922, he was promoted to the post of a Major and brought back to Tokyo to serve at the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office, where he was responsible for the Ugaki Army Reduction Program. Sometime during this period, he also taught at the War College.
In August 1925, Tomoyuki Yamashita was promoted to the post of Lieutenant Colonel. Two years later, he was once again sent to Austria, serving in Vienna as a military attaché till 1930.
In 1930, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and was given command of 3rd Imperial Infantry Regiment. Next in 1932, he became a Section Chief of Military Affairs in the War Ministry and in 1934 a Major General. It was also believed that he might eventually become War Minister.
Set Back in Career
In 1930s, he became involved with the Imperial Way Faction, a political bloc within the Imperial Army, which carried out an unsuccessful coup d'état on February 26, 1936. Although he was not involved in it, he fell into disfavor with the Emperor, when he asked for leniency towards the rebels.
After February 26 Incident, Tomoyuki Yamashita was transferred to Korea, where in July 1937, he distinguished himself in an action with China and in November was promoted to the post of Lieutenant-General. However, his suggestions continued to be ignored and he was assigned to an unimportant post in the Kwantung Army.
From 1938 to 1940, he served as the commander of IJA 4th Division, which saw some action in northern China. Next in December 1940, he traveled to Europe on a six-month clandestine military mission, meeting Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini during that period.
Second World War
On 6 November, 1941, Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita was put in command of the Twenty-Fifth Army. One month later, on 7 December, 1941, Japan entered the Second World War with a surprise attack in Pearl Harbor, USA and on 8 December Yamashita launched his attack on Malay and Singapore.
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Although the Japanese army was one-third of size of the opposing British force Yamashita’s military strategy won the war for them. The campaign came to an end on 15 February 1942 with fall of Singapore, resulting in the surrender of 80,000 British, Indian and Australian troops.
According to Akashi Yoji, his first order on winning the war was “no looting, no rape and no arson”; but it went largely unheeded. Very soon, on the orders of the senior officers, his troops started an orgy of violence, resulting in incidents like Alexandra Hospital and Sook Ching massacres.
His wish to treat the prisoners in a more humane way did not go down well with the officers. Prime Minister, Hideki Tojo, jealous of his success, took advantage of his calling the civilian leaders of Singapore as the citizens of Japan and withdrew him from Singapore.
On 17 July 1942, he was transferred to Manchukuo, where he was put in charge of an army training command, thus being effectively prevented from participating in the war, remaining there till 26 September, 1944. Meanwhile in February 1943, he was promoted to the post of full General.
In July, 1944, Prime Minister Hideki Tojo resigned from his post and in September, Yamashita was put in charge of the Fourteenth Area Army. Subsequently, he was sent to defend Philippines.
On 6 January 1945, the US troops landed at Lingayen Gulf in Luzon, resulting in intense battles between the two armies. By February 4, 1945, the capital city of Manila turned into a battle field, resulting in deaths of more than 100,000 Filipino civilians.
On 2 September 1945, Japan formally signed the Instrument of Surrender. On the same day, General Yamashita surrendered to the Allied Forces in the presence of Generals Jonathan Wainwright and Arthur Percival at Baguio in Philippines. He was immediately arrested and put on trial.
Awards & Achievements
For his service to the nations, Yamashita received several awards including Order of the Golden Kite, Order of the Rising Sun and Order of the Sacred Treasure.
Family & Personal Life
In 1916, Yamashita married Hisako Nagayama, whom he met while studying at the War College. She was the daughter of General Nagayama. They did not have any children,
On 29 October 1945, General Yamashita was put on trial in Manila by the American Military Tribunal for failing to control his troop from committing atrocities, especially in Manila. The verdict, which was proclaimed on 7 December, found him guilty of war crimes. He was subsequently sentenced to death.
On 23 February 1946, Yamashita was hanged till death at Los Baños, Laguna. Although he was initially buried at the Japanese cemetery near the Los Baños Prison Camp, his remains were later moved to Tama Reien Cemetery, Fuchū, Tokyo, Japan.
His hasty trial and subsequent hanging set a precedent in that a commander can be held responsible for the atrocities committed by troops even if he is unaware of it. Such command responsibility is now known as the Yamashita Standard.