|Born||30 Jul 1884|
|Died||23 Dec 1948|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Hideki Tojo (born Eiku Tojo) was born in Kojimachi District (now Chiyoda), Tokyo, Japan to the Japanese Army infantry Lieutenant (later Lieutenant General) Hidenori Tojo. He followed his father's footsteps and attended the Army Cadet School in 1899 and then the Japanese Military Academy in 1904. In Mar 1905, he completed the courses at the military academy and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry. In 1909, he married Katsuko Ito; they had three sons and four daughters. In 1912, he entered the Army Staff College, completing the program in 1915 and rose to the rank of captain and the commanding officer of the 3rd Imperial Guards Regiment. In Aug 1919, he served in Switzerland as a military attaché. On 10 Aug 1920, he was promoted to the rank of major. In Jul 1921, he served as a military attaché in Germany. On 28 Nov 1922, he became an instructor at the Army Staff College. In 1924, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. On 8 Mar 1928, he was assigned as a bureau chief in the Japanese Army. On 10 Aug 1928, he was promoted to the rank of colonel. On 1 Aug 1929, he became the commanding officer of the 1st Infantry Regiment; around this time, he became active in militarist politics. In Aug 1931, he became a staff officer with the Army Chief of Staff. On 18 Mar 1933, he was promoted to the rank of major general and served as the Chief of the Personnel Department. In Aug 1934, he became the commanding officer of the 24th Infantry Brigade.
On 21 Sep 1935, Tojo was assigned to the Kwantung Army as the head of its military police. Nicknamed Kamisori, or "Razor", he was known for his decisiveness. On 1 Dec 1935, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general. During the Feb 26 Incident, he stood against the rebels, and emerged the Army's leading political figure. On 1 Mar 1937, he became the chief of staff of the Kwantung Army. He led units of the 1st Independent Mixed Brigade during Operation Chahar in Jul 1937, and deployed his troops to Hobei Province, China after the Second Sino-Japanese War began; with the Kwantung Army, he also played a key role in efficiently utilizing Manchuria's natural resources to feed the hungry Japanese industrial machine. Returning to Japan in May 1938, he became Vice War Minister and Chief of Army Aviation under War Minister Seishiro Itagaki, who was a member of Fumimaro Konoe's cabinet. As head of the Japanese Army's aviation program, he adopted an aggressive stance in conducting pre-emptive strikes against China and Russia. On 22 Jul 1940, he was appointed War Minister by Prime Minister Konoe. In this role, he expanded the Second Sino-Japanese War and was instrumental in forming the alliance between Japan, Germany, and Italy. Japan's expansionist philosophies, which were heavily influenced by Tojo, eventually led to an economic sanctions and then an oil embargo, conducted by several western powers including the United States and Britain. In the cabinet meeting of 14 Oct, which was to be Konoe's last, Tojo noted that
On 16 Oct 1941, Konoe resigned from his post as prime minister. On the next day, Emperor Showa summoned Tojo to the Imperial Palace. "I thought I was summoned because the Emperor was angry at my opinion", said Tojo in his diary, but his initial reaction could not be further from the truth. As it would turn out, on the next day, 18 Oct 1941, Tojo was named the 40th Prime Minister of Japan. His first task was to conduct a careful evaluation of whether war was still avoidable; on 2 Nov, Tojo and Chiefs of Staff Hajime Sugiyama and Osami Nagano reported their failure in searching for a potential peaceful solution with the western powers. Upon receiving this report, Emperor Showa consented to the notion of war on 5 Nov. Through the month of Nov, Tojo made a last ditch effort in averting war; meanwhile, he and his staff presented war plans to Emperor Showa, who formally approved "war against the United States, England, and Holland" during the Imperial Conference of 1 Dec 1941. The Pacific War began as Japanese aircraft attacked the American naval base of Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 1941.
Over the course of his tenure as prime minister, Tojo gradually placed himself in direct charge of the army, foreign affairs, commerce, education, and the munitions industry. As Education Minister, he continued militaristic and nationalist indoctrination in the national education system. Although support for his government was high through 1942, starting in early 1943 support gradually waned. In Feb 1944, he assumed the role of the commander-in-chief of the General Staff, effectively gaining dictatorial powers, in order to secure his political position. However, even with absolute power, the loss of Saipan in the Mariana Islands spelled the end of his tenure as prime minister. On 18 Jul 1944, Tojo submitted his resignation to Emperor Showa.
On 8 Sep 1945, after the Japanese surrender, Tojo attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest with a pistol; he survived as the bullet missed his heart. He was arrested while recovering from the gunshot wound, and moved to the Sugamo Prison after he had recovered. He was tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East for war crimes. He was found guilty of count 1 (waging unprovoked wars of aggression and war or wars in violation of international law), count 27 (waging war against China), count 29 (waging aggressive war against the United States), count 31 (waging aggressive war against the British Commonwealth), count 32 (waging aggressive war against the Netherlands), count 33 (waging aggressive war against French Indochina), and count 54 (ordering, authorizing, and permitting inhumane treatment of POWs and others). Accepting his responsibilities as a Class A war criminal, he stated that
Tojo was sentenced to death by hanging on 12 Nov 1948, which was carried out on 23 Dec 1948. Before he was hanged, he apologized for atrocities committed by the Japanese Army, though claimed that he was simply following orders from Emperor Showa for the cases where he was implicated with war crimes; he also urged the American occupation to show compassion toward the Japanese people.
Tojo is among those enshrined at the Yasukuni Shrine, which continues to stir controversy today.
Hideki Tojo Timeline
|30 Jul 1884||Hideki Tojo was born.|
|1 Mar 1937||Hideki Tojo was named the chief of staff of Kenkichi Ueda (Japanese Kwantung Army in northeastern China).|
|30 May 1938||Hideki Tojo stepped down as the chief of staff of Kenkichi Ueda (Japanese Kwantung Army in northeastern China).|
|22 Jul 1940||Hideki Tojo was appointed the Army Minister in Japanese Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe's new cabinet.|
|18 Oct 1941||Hideki Tojo was named 40th Prime Minister of Japan.|
|27 Nov 1941||Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo rejected the American counter-proposal for peace.|
|18 Jul 1944||Hideki Tojo submitted his letter of resignation for his position as the Prime Minister of Japan. He would be officially replaced by Kuniaki Koiso four days later.|
|8 Sep 1945||Former Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo failed in his suicide attempt.|
|12 Nov 1948||Former Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo was sentenced to death by hanging.|
|23 Dec 1948||Hideki Tojo passed away.|
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Thomas Dodd, late 1945