Tojo, General Hideki, 1884-1948

Tojo was the Japanese Prime Minister who initiated the war in the Pacific and directed it until 1944. A military man with tremendous support among the Army as the man who would give them the opportunity to fulfill all their ambitions, his first important post was as Chief of Staff to the Kwantung Army in Manchuria in 1937. In 1938 he was given a special Imperial dispensation to hold a military and a cabinet post simultaneously. He served as ViceMinister and then in 1940 Minister of War, under KONOYE. It was in 1940 that he played a leading role in negotiating the Tripartite Pact with Italy and Germany. On 17 October 1941 Tojo became Prime Minister on the resignation of the more moderate Konoye.

Tojo’s task was to bring Japan into the war. As a first step he forced the French Vichy government to allow Japan to occupy all of French Indo-China. This was accomplished with the aid of Germany, who was afraid however that Japan might not enter the war. They were already disappointed by the fact that Japan had decided to strike south rather than attack Russia, but RIBBENTROP nonetheless offered any number of incentives for Japan to start its offensive. At the same time Tojo was negotiating with the Americans up till the last moments before Pearl Harbor.

Tojo had concentrated onto himself the three posts of Prime Minister, War Minister and Chief of Army Staff and was therefore wholly responsible for the conduct of the war. Thus his position became increasingly more tenuous as events turned against Japan. He tried to diffuse some opposition by handing over the Ministry of War to UMEZU, but when the Marianas fell he could no longer hold on. He resigned on 18 July 1944, the day that Saipan fell, to be succeeded by KOISO.

Tojo attempted suicide after Japan surrendered but survived to be one of the seven Japanese war criminals to be hanged by the Allies. Nicknamed ‘the Razor,’ he was a hard-working and authoritarian man whose regime was indistinguishable from a military dictatorship. However as Professor Butow put it ‘He somehow failed to fit the pattern. Unlike the Fuhrer or II Duce, Tojo was a selector not a creator, of national thought. His word was not law. It was not his to command or dictate. He was one among equals. He was a militarist—misguided, naive and narrow in outlook... This was his undoing.’

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