Yamashita was known as the ‘Tiger of Malaya’ for his dramatic capture of Malaya and Singapore, which CHURCHILL described as the worst British military disaster in history. He also directed the Japanese defense of the Philippines at the end of the war.
Yamashita had been sent on a military mission to Germany in 1940, as Inspector General of the Imperial Army Air Forces. He reported that Japan should not declare war on either Britain or the United States until its Army and Air Forces were drastically modernized. When the war broke out however, Yamashita was Commander of the Twenty-Fifth Army. He invaded the Thai Peninsula in early December and within 70 days had overrun all of Malaya, mainly be cause of his great speed and use of surprise. At Singapore, although he had outrun his supplies, he bluffed General PERCIVAL into believing that the Japanese had vastly superior forces. Percival surrendered on 15 February 1942.
Yamashita was then retired by TOJO to command of the 1st Army Group in Manchuria to train soldiers. He was not given another active post until after Tojo’s fall in July 1944, when he was appointed Commander of the Fourteenth Area Army assigned to defend the Philippines. Yamashita had only just arrived there when the Americans invaded Leyte in October 1944; he had no time to prepare defenses and had no control over the Air Force. He was ordered to make a stand there but all Japanese resistance was over by January 1945. When the Americans invaded Luzon in January 1945 Yamashita at first could only retreat; yet he managed to organize a counterattack within a week. He left Manila to the Americans, but IWABUCHI disobeyed his orders and defended the city. Yamashita continued his operations despite the failure of supplies until news of the Japanese surrender reached him on 2 September. He was arrested, tried as a war criminal and executed in February 1946.