Yamashita file photo

Tomoyuki Yamashita

Born8 Nov 1885
Died23 Feb 1946
CountryJapan
CategoryGround

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

Tomoyuki Yamashita was born to a doctor in the village of Osugi Mura on the island of Shikoku, Kochi Prefecture. He was 5'7" in height and his build was larger than the average Japanese. He graduated from the Hiroshima Military Academy in 1905, then the Japanese War College in 1916 after some time of service. While at the War College, he met Hisako Nagayama, daughter of a retired Army general, and married her. His early army career was not promising. His favor for military reduction and his sympathy toward rebel officers of the February 26 Incident in 1936 lost his support from Emperor Showa's administration. He later clashed with Hideki Tojo's faction as well. After making known his belief that the war in China should be ended and a friendly relationship with United States and Britain would be more beneficial for Japan, Yamashita was posted to an unimportant position as a brigade commander in the Kwantung Army in Korea. In Korea and Manchuria, he would later be promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and eventually commanded the Kwangtung Defense Army.

When WW2 broke out in the Pacific Theater, Yamashita led 30,000 men in Malaya tasked to eliminate British and Indian troops and secure access to Malaya's rich natural resources. His extremely successful two-month campaign from Siam to Singapore captured a total of over 200,000 Commonwealth soldiers and instantly boosted his popularity in Japan: He was crowned the "Tiger of Malaya". After the sweeping victory, however, Tokyo sent him back to Manchuria to training command. Tojo was largely credited for this political (or perhaps, personally motivated) move. At Manchuria, Yamashita missed most action of the war, though it probably saved his reputation, as the Japanese army scored nearly no victory after the Americans started their offensive across the South Pacific.

In 1944, Yamashita was promoted to the rank of general and was sent to the Philippines to command the 14th Area Army in what was called the Army's decisive battle against the United States. He boasted to the Japanese public that "the only words I spoke to the British Commander during negotiations for the surrender of Singapore were, 'All I want to hear from you is yes or no.' I expect to put the same question to [Douglas] MacArthur." MacArthur's response to him, as written in MacArthur's memoir, was that Yamashita was an able commander, but "he talked too much". Yamashita's plan was to fight a defensive campaign at Luzon, where the geography favored the defenders. However, his vision conflicted with the Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ) in Tokyo, which wanted a decisive confrontation at Leyte. Buying too much into their own propaganda, the IGHQ believed the American fleet had been heavily damaged during actions in the previous several weeks, therefore aggressively extending the defensive perimeter southward to Leyte would be a fitting strategy. MacArthur and his army landed on Leyte days after Yamashita's arrival at Manila, and readily crushed the Japanese garrison there. Yamashita understood that Manila was worthless strategically, and moved his headquarters to Baguio north of Manila. When he moved out of the city, he gave command of the remaining troops to Vice Admiral Denshichi Okochi, ordering him to destroy port facilities, declare Manila an open city, and rendezvous with him at Baguio. Okochi took Yamashita's orders too far, allowing his troops to rape and pillage the city. When MacArthur's forces neared Baguio in Apr 1945, he moved his headquarters once again northward to Bangbang, 50 miles further inland, in northern Luzon. Yamashita fought until the last day of the war, and surrendered on 2 Sep only after Emperor Showa's surrender message. Up to the day before his surrender, he planned an extensive plan to use guerilla tactics against American troops in the Philippines.

An American military commission tried Yamashita on war crimes charges. The trial was publicized greatly in the Philippines; Yamashita symbolized the Japanese officers that the Filipinos came to blame for the war time atrocities, and the press buildup swayed the public opinion against the Japanese general. The military commission found his guilty of "deliberate plan to massacre and exterminate a large part of the civilian population of Batangas Province as a result of which more than 25,000 men, women, and children all unarmed noncombatant civilians, were brutally mistreated and killed", and was found guilty on all charges. The hurried trial and execution, despite backing of the United States Supreme Court, led to accusations that he was wrongfully charged for his crimes, possibly driven by MacArthur's personal vendetta against him as revenge for the atrocities committed against the citizens of Manila during the last days of Japanese rule. No concrete evidence linking Yamashita to the atrocities was presented during the trials; instead, any form of evidence, including hearsay, diaries of unidentified persons, and statements of absent persons, were accepted and presented at the court, which went against the basic law of evidence in the American judicial system. According to Major George Guy, one of Yamashita's attorneys,

"there was not one word or one shred of credible evidence to show that General Yamashita ever ordered the commission of even one of the acts with which he was charged or he ever had any knowledge of the commission of any of these acts, either before they took place, or after their commission."

However, the judges presiding over the military commission insisted that as the supreme commander of the Japanese forces, Yamashita was guilty because as the commander in control of the troops, he was fully responsible for the organized and systematic acts of atrocities upon the people of the Philippines. On behalf of their client, Yamashita's assigned six attorneys filed for appeal first at the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of the Philippines and then the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of the Philippines turned down their request for appeal. The United State Supreme Court judges discussed the case. Even though Justice Wiley Rutledge and Justice Frank Murphy wrote opinions noting that they had reasons to believe an appeal should be granted, the majority of justices voted to deny the appeal. Rutledge said the trial had been "no trial in the tradition of the common law and the Constitution", while Murphy said that Homma and Yamashita were "taken without regard to the due process of law"; together, they commented that such an execution of Yamashita would be "legalized lynching". Regardless, the US Supreme Court found

"an unlawful breach of duty by [General Yamashita] as an army commander to control the operations of members of his command by 'permitting them to commit' the extensive and widespread atrocities." The Court further "presupposes that [violations of the law of war] are to be avoided through the control of the operations of war by commanders who to some extent are responsible for their subordinates"

With that, the US Supreme Court denied the request for appeal. As a last-ditch effort, Colonel Harry E. Clarke, Sr., Yamashita's chief defense counsel, filed for clemency at the desk of President Harry Truman. The president declined to act upon it.

Even before the death sentence was passed, Yamashita had a sense what was coming. To show his appreciation for all his attorneys had done for someone who only months ago was considered an enemy, Yamashita gave each of his attorneys each items that meant much to him as a military officer. Clarke was given a tea service that Yamashita carried though Manchuria, China, Malaya, Japan, and the Philippines, as well as Yamashita's ribbons; Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Feldhaus received Yamashita's general staff fourragere cord and one of his three-star insignias; Lieutenant Colonel Walter Hendricks received the cordovan saber belt and the other three-star insignia; Captain Frank Reel and Captain Milton Sandberg received his sets of brush pens; finally, Guy, a cavalry officer, received Yamashita's gold ceremonial spurs.

Yamashita was sentenced on 7 Dec 1945. Weeks before Yamashita's death sentence was to be carried out, the case came to MacArthur for review. MacArthur stated that "[i]t is not easy for me to pass penal judgment upon a defeated adversary in a major military campaign. I have reviewed the proceedings in vain search for some mitigating circumstances on his behalf. I can find none." After digging into deeper details on the philosophical basis on why he believed he was responsible for the action of his troops, he approved the sentence.

Yamashita was sent to the gallows on 23 Feb 1946 at Los Banos Prison Camp 30 miles south of Manila to die for the crimes committed by his men. Before the fateful hour, he issued a statement through his translator Hamamoto, which, in part, is as follows:

"I were carrying out my duty, as Japanese high commander of Japanese Army in the Philippine Islands, to control my army with my best during wartime. Until now I am believing that I have tried to my best throughout my army."

"As I said in the Manila Supreme Court that I have done with all my capacity, so I don't ashame in front of God for what I have done when I have die. But if you say to me 'you do not have any ability to command the Japanese Army' I should say nothing for it, because it is my own nature. Now, our war criminal trial going on in Manila Supreme Court, so I wish to be justify under your kindness and right."

"I know that all your American and American military affairs always has tolerant and rightful judgment. When I have been investigated in Manila court I have had a good treatment, kindful attitude from your good natured officers who all the time protect me. I never forget for what they have done for me even if I had died. I don't blame my executioner. I'll pray God bless them."

He went on to thank all those who represented him and helped him during the trials. His last words were, loyally, "I will pray for the Emperor's long life and his prosperity forever!"

The United States Supreme Court rulings regarding Yamashita's appeal became known as the Yamashita Standard which set precedence for future war crimes rulings.

Sources: American Caesar, the Defense of General Yamashita, Justice and the Generals, the Pacific Campaign, Reminiscences, Spartacus Educational, Wikipedia.

Famous Quote(s)

Tomoyuki Yamashita Timeline

8 Nov 1885 Tomoyuki Yamashita was born.
8 Oct 1945 Japanese General Yamashita was arraigned in war crimes court in the Philippine Islands.
29 Oct 1945 Trial against Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita began in Manila, Philippine Islands.
7 Dec 1945 Japanese General Yamashita was found guilty of war crimes.
23 Feb 1946 Japanese General Yamashita executed by hanging at Los Banos Prison Camp near Manila.

Photographs

Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita and British Lieutenant General Arthur Percival discussed surrender terms at the Ford Works Building near the Bukit Timah Road, Singapore, 15 Feb 1942John Dorle, Harry Clarke, Milton Sandberg, Tomoyuki Yamashita, Hamamoto, and Akira Muto during a break from court, Oct 1945; note the autographs by Yamashita, Hamamoto, and MutoYamashita at Manila war crime trial with his attorneys Sandberg and Reel, 1945Yamashita during post-war trials, probably in a hallway outside the courtroom, circa Oct 1945
See all 18 photographs of Tomoyuki Yamashita



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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. historyforum.net.tc says:
    14 Jul 2005 06:00:46 AM

    This man was innocent...looks like another MacArthur Fraud.
  2. Anonymous says:
    20 Aug 2005 02:55:25 AM

    I cannot believe the US judges and MacArthur did a thing like this...they are so immature.
  3. Anonymous says:
    26 Nov 2005 08:09:03 AM

    likewise many american sodiers committed many atrocities too but who could think patton or mcArthur would be tried ? this is double standards to the victors the spoils yamashita was a good general and a good man
  4. Snforeva says:
    25 Feb 2006 08:24:12 PM

    need more photos.
  5. Anonymous says:
    28 Feb 2007 08:48:21 PM

    My father in law mp at manilla has orig signatures of gen yamashita and gen homa on phillapino jap peso notes.
  6. James Albertson says:
    18 Mar 2007 12:34:16 AM

    Are we not all missing the boat on why General Yamashita was executed? As with Herman Goering, the dead tell of no secret accounts, hidden depositories, ...and with these two, silence is
    truly golden.
  7. Anonymous says:
    21 Mar 2007 04:43:05 AM

    Comparing T.Y. with Goering shows a complete ignorance of T.Y.s true character and history. Ironically, he was one of the few Japanese generals who showed a genuine concern for maintaining the moral and ethical standards of his solders. The massacres in Manila, which were the basis of the case against him, were committed by a subordinate commander who bluntly refused to follow T.Y.s orders. He was a scapegoat of an angry victor determined to exact its revenge.
  8. A Japanese says:
    3 Mar 2008 12:24:25 PM

    >His last words were, loyally, "I will pray for the Emperor's long life and his prosperity forever!"

    In Japan it is not a common knowledge.

    Satoru Morita, a Japanese lieutenant conveyed T.Y.'s last message as below.
    "A person's charactor has been fixed by infant education of his mother. So please promote education for women, to grow good mothers up. That's my only wish for my mother country."
  9. A Japanese says:
    3 Mar 2008 12:28:05 PM

    Mistake,,,

    >>to GROW good mothers up
  10. newphew of KIA (bench mark hill) says:
    25 Oct 2008 02:03:54 PM

    It is unfortuneite for the tiger of Malaya to die like he did, but doesnt the buck stop with the leader.
  11. Jeffrey Reel says:
    4 Dec 2008 09:20:32 AM

    Not only was Yamashita unaware of the atrocities in Manila, they were perpetrated by Japan naval forces under Admiral Toyota's command. After Yamashita was tried, and hung, US command thought to charge Toyota with the identical 126 charges that were brought against Yamashita. That of course could not be done because Yamashita was convicted on those charges. One journalist cryptically noted that they'd have to dig Yamashita up and apologize first before charging another commander with the exact same crimes. My father was a defense lawyer for Yamashita at the trial and he argued the case in front of the US Supreme Court.
  12. Shiva says:
    17 Sep 2009 06:26:39 PM

    Need to know in any time of his life was he station in borneo ? need to know the location and time.
    Understand that there was a mascarre at borneo killing the Ibans local native.
  13. emero says:
    22 Jan 2011 01:54:59 AM

    The cruelty behavior of war is the cause of yamashitas death
  14. benedicto says:
    2 Feb 2012 10:33:16 PM

    i want to learn the password of yamahita. and iwant to understan what he are. iwant you to trust me.
    you my idol.

    i understan what you are.
  15. Kotarou Yamamura Tan says:
    26 Feb 2012 04:15:57 AM

    Tomoyuki YAMASHITA was a scapegoat for the american general macarthur. Great injustice was done at that trial. My grandfather in spore told me that Taisho Tomoyuki YAMASHITA was/is a good military high rank officer when my grandfather worked under his command as a mechanic. See what happened to macartur after the 2nd WW. he was sacked. that served him right & left for his viciousness & injustice done to General Tomoyuki YAMASHITA San. Kotarou Yamamura Tan.
  16. KUIZOMARI DAYON says:
    15 Jul 2012 08:03:36 AM

    WAS THERE ANY CONNIVANCE IN BOTH PARTIES ASSOCIATED WITH?;WITH THE JAPANESE OR AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, TO LET LOSE GEN.YAMASHITA'S PREROGATIVE TO VINDICATE HIMSELF AGAINST SUCH ACCUSATIONS?
  17. Anonymous says:
    28 Sep 2012 10:28:28 AM

    I think it was a lot of wrongdoing in the accusations!
  18. Anonymous says:
    31 Dec 2012 03:13:50 AM

    Satoru Morita, a Japanese lieutenant conveyed T.Y.'s last message as below.
    "A person's charactor has been fixed by infant education of his mother. So please promote education for women, to grow good mothers up. That's my only wish for my mother country."

    Can anyone really find the resource to prove it?
  19. U.S. Patriot says:
    23 Mar 2013 03:32:47 PM

    The entire episode was shameful and a permanent black mark upon the honor of the American military and people.
    MacArthur was a pompous egomaniac and an incompetent military leader.
    This episode of post WW2 history has always troubled me.
  20. Anonymous says:
    5 Apr 2013 01:07:01 AM

    Yamashita left 4000-5000 troops in North Manila. How can he be "innocent". Plus that fact that as early as December, Manila was being FORTIFIED!

    Watch this!

    http://www.yonip.com/archives/history/history-000059.html
  21. Anonymous says:
    11 Mar 2014 10:18:43 PM

    Japanese are very disciplined people, we have seen them during a great Tsunami that hit Japan. The world has never witnessed such orderly conduct that we begin to think that in reality we are savaged people egocentric and self-centered. I am toying the idea that what then if we were colonized by Japan maybe all my countrymen will become as civilized as the Japanese people. Look at China who once upon a time been bullied by Japan, now what they had become? a bully themselves in the guise of being powerfull and moneyed nation.Chinese never learn from history that they could not win a war agaisnt free loving nations.They soon realized that war will domm thier nation back to poverty where they once experienced i their journny to beacome a nation of Bullies.
  22. Anonymous says:
    11 Mar 2014 10:28:48 PM

    Japanese are very disciplined people, we have seen them during a great Tsunami that hit Japan. The world has never witnessed such orderly serene conduct that we non-Japanese begin to think that in reality we are savaged people egocentric and self-centered. I am toying the idea that what then if we were colonized by Japan maybe all my countrymen will become as civilized as the Japanese people.I in fact went and study in Japan so that i may someday say to myself i am proud to be a Japanese loyal friend. Yamashita deserved to be honored and so with Douglas McArthur. Look at China who once upon a time been bullied by "militarist cliques", now look at what they had become? a bully themselves in the guise of being powerful and egocentric nation.Chinese though not all,will never learn from history that they could not win a war agaisnt free loving nations.They soon realized that war will doomed their nation back to poverty where they once experienced in their journey to become a nation of Bullies.
  23. kuizomari dayon says:
    12 Mar 2014 08:48:33 PM

    I concede to that.No one can ever accuse such malicous speculations to anyone whom yourself had never found any guilt.Anybody can be perjurers of their own story while others can only say so for exposure...no one but he himself.
  24. Jeremy Mondejar says:
    10 Jun 2014 06:19:18 PM

    Not one word of condolence to the victim of his massacres-
    That animal has no conscience-
    I'm very happy that we hanged that animal and I take great joy in his death-
    May he rot in hell forever
    I spit on his soul!
  25. assassssinn says:
    17 Aug 2014 10:57:39 PM

    u diot guys, yamashita kill may innocent people, during ww2....stillu are in the side of yama...
  26. Chris Ruttan says:
    2 Sep 2014 09:32:18 PM

    The year 1944 when Yamashita was assigned to the Philippines was a very hard year for Filipinos. With the U.S. naval blockade tightening the noose around the Philippines, there was dramatic decrease in supplies reaching Japanese troops. Japanese troops compensated by wholesale looting of the country side for food and the result was massive starvation of the Filipino people. Then when the Americans returned, there was the battle of Manilla. A captured Japanese memo stated "90% of the people are against us" so if they get in the way kill them. Approximately 300,000 Filipinos civilians died in that battle. So it's hardly surprising that there wasn't much sympathy for Yamashita when he was tried for war crimes.
  27. Anonymous says:
    29 Sep 2014 07:03:34 PM

    Death of T.Y. Was a complication of many interest of the people in his time. To those unwritten atrocities done the Japanese soldier was not the act of the leader. But Filipinos in different areas who badly treated by Japanese army, the death of T.Y. was a revenge. To other people the death is in political and personal interest. Leter of T.Y. before his death was a leter of acceptance of his sentence. A good leader take the risk to save his men in their wrongful actions. That's what he did that save other officers violated the law of war.

    I still remember many stories of our forefather in my places where T.Y. was captured. They say Japanese army were good, they bartered coins to folks for foods. They use sign language to understand each other. But two years before the end of WWll Japanese army were brutal to the people which trigger people in the area to fight. They were the BOLOMEN who fight against Japanese army.
  28. Anonymous says:
    14 Oct 2014 07:04:08 PM

    The Japanese military butchered more than 2 million innocent men women and children while Yamashita commanded them-

    Yamashita was innocent? Yeah, right- Heinrich Himmler was innocent too then-

    That pig got his just deserts- I spit on his soul

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Event(s) Participated:
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» Philippines Campaign, Phase 2
» Tokyo Trial and Other Trials Against Japan

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» American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964


Tomoyuki Yamashita Photo Gallery
Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita and British Lieutenant General Arthur Percival discussed surrender terms at the Ford Works Building near the Bukit Timah Road, Singapore, 15 Feb 1942
See all 18 photographs of Tomoyuki Yamashita



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