|Born||27 Nov 1888|
|Died||3 Apr 1946|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Masaharu Homma was born in 1888 in Sado, Niigata Prefecture, Japan. A member of the Japanese aristocracy, he was a graduate of several Japanese military academies as well as Oxford University. Homma served as an observer on the Western Front in 1914 and later, in a more active capacity, during the Sino-Japanese War. His character, a curious mix of brutality and sensitivity (he was known as the Poet General for his love of poetry and literature), made him a controversial commander who would openly disagree with the details of his orders (extraordinary behaviour in the context of the Japanese Army), and he was one of the few highly placed Japanese military officers to publicly declare his opposition to a war with the Allies.
Given command of the Japanese Fourteenth Army for the invasion of the Philippines (Dec 1941) his strategy, although somewhat erratic, was essentially brilliant (as even MacArthur would later admit). Had the Americans counter-attacked at Lingayen Gulf the invasion might have turned into a disaster, but his conviction that MacArthur was ill-prepared was proven correct. It was his failure to complete the Philippines conquest on schedule (largely as a result of American resistance at Bataan), coupled with later charges that he was too lenient with Filipinos, which led in Aug 1942 to his disgrace and dismissal. Thereafter he retired from the military and lived in semi-seclusion in Japan until the end of the war.
In 1945, for his accused involvement with the atrocities known collectively as the Bataan Death March, Homma was arrested by the Americans and sent back to Manila to face trial as a war criminal. Homma was sentenced by an American military commission to death. Upon learning of the atrocities, Emperor Showa stripped Homma of his military commission and revoked all his medals and decorations. His wife sought a personal meeting with MacArthur, which was granted, to ask for his pardon, but MacArthur refused. MacArthur wrote in his 21 Mar 1946 review of the case:
Nevertheless, like that of Tomoyuki Yamashita, Homma's verdict remained controversial. Many were not convinced that Homma was directly involved with the atrocities, and believed MacArthur engaged in an act of personal revenge by rushing Homma's (and Yamashita's) trial to a speedy end. Homma's defense claimed that he had been preoccupied with war plans and had delegated the treatment of prisoners to his subordinate officers, but the court refused to accept this and sentenced Homma to execution by firing squad. The sentence being carried out on 3 Apr 1946 at Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines.
Sources: Images of War Vol.11, Reminiscences, Wikipedia.
- "You are doomed... you have already cut rations by a half? but your prestige and honour have been upheld."
» 1 Jan 1942
Masaharu Homma Timeline
|27 Nov 1888||Masaharu Homma was born.|
|2 Dec 1940||Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma was named the commanding officer of the Taiwan Army.|
|3 Apr 1946||Masaharu Homma passed away.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945