Tomoyuki Yamashita

Tomoyuki Yamashita, the son of a village doctor, was born in Japan on 8th November, 1888. He enrolled as a military cadet and graduated at the Hiroshima Military Academy in 1906. He served in the Japanese Army as a second lieutenant before attending the Japanese War College in 1916.

Yamashita joined the general staff and was sent as a military attaché in Germany (1919-1922). He returned to lecture at the Japanese War College before serving as in Austria and Hungary. In August 1931, Yamashita became head of the Army Affairs Section of the Military Affairs Bureau.

In February 1936, Yamashita played a minor role in the military coup against the government. As was not punished but was sent to Korea as commander of the 40th Infantry Brigade. The following year he was promoted to lieutenant general and took over the China Garrison Brigade before becoming chief of staff of the Northern China Area Army in September 1939 and fought in Manchuria.

When Hideki Tojo became Minister of War he sent Yamashita to Europe where he spent time with the German Army. On his return Yamashita reported that Japan needed more air power, medium tanks and parachute units. He also advised against going to war against the United States or the Soviet Union until the Japanese armed forces were modernized.

In July 1941 Yamashita was placed in command of the Kwantung Defense Army. He led the invasion of Malaya and Singapore and on the 15th February, 1942 accepted the surrender of General Arthur Percival and 100,000 soldiers of the British Army.

Yamashita was promoted to general in February 1943 and sent to command the Japanese ground forces in the Philippines. By this time Japan was clearly losing the Pacific War and Yamashita told his chief of staff that it was his turn die. When he arrived he moved his headquarters to Manila but when the US Army under General Douglas MacArthur began landing on Mindoro, 150 miles south of Manila, he decided to concentrate on the defence of Luzon.

After the Allied landings in Luzon he freed the 4,000 prisoner of war and retreated to Baguio. In April he moved 50 miles farther inland at Bangbang. He was organizing the formation of guerrilla units when it was announced that Japan had surrendered.

Yamashita was captured on 2nd September 1945. Charged with violating the "laws of war". Although the Japanese Army had committed terrible atrocities in the Philippines there was no evidence that they acted under Yamashita's orders. However, Tomoyuki Yamashita was found guilty and hanged on 23rd February 1946.

« World War 2 Figures   |   World War 2 »