(東条英機) was born in Tokyo
December 30, 1884
. The son of an army general, he graduated from the
Japanese Military Academy in 1905, and 10 years later completed
his studies at the army war college with honors. He advocated a
theory of total war
after World War I
, drafting the first
total mobilization plans for the Imperial Army and, in the 1930s,
the integration of Manchuria
's (then the puppet state of Manchukuo
economy with Japan's.
Around this time, Tojo (to use the conventional Western spelling)
changed the reading of his first name from
the Chinese "Eiki" to the more Japanized "Hideki", although the
characters and the meaning -- something along the lines of "glorious
opportunity" -- remained the same. He was promoted to
major general in 1933, and he became the head of the
military police for the Kwantung Army (Japan's army in China).
In March 1937 he became
lieutenant general and the army's chief of staff.
In May 1938 prime minister Fumimaro Konoye appointed Tojo as his
vice minister of war, but he only served for six months until
returning to head the Japanese Air Force. In July 1941 he was
re-appointed as the minister of war, and on October 16, 1941 he
became prime minister.
Later on, Tojo also became
home minister, foreign minister, and (in 1944) Commander in Chief of
the General Staff, seemingly concentrating all power in his hands.
An extreme right-winger and obviously a member
of the military
faction, Tojo advocated an aggressive foreign policy and opposed
withdrawing troops from Korea and China.
While it is not known what role Tojo played in creating the plan,
he certainly approved the attack on
Pearl Harbor, bringing the US into World War II.
When the inevitability of defeat became clear after the loss of Saipan
in July 1944, Tojo resigned from office. He attempted suicide nine
on September 2, 1945, but survived and was arrested and nursed back
to health in captivity. This didn't do him much good though, as
he was tried by the Allies as a war criminal and executed by hanging
in Sugamo Prison on December 23, 1948.
Tojo's exact role in the events of World War II remain controversial.
The official Allied view expounded at the trial was that Tojo was
a dictator, a loony Japanese carbon copy of Adolf Hitler, who
held the Emperor hostage and led Japan to destruction.
However, while Tojo obviously played a significant role in
the war, there is some evidence that he was acting on orders
from Hirohito (in reality as well as in legal fiction, that is)
and that his role was more that of a competent bureaucrat than
an evil military mastermind. Even in death he continued
to arouse controversy: Tojo's soul is enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine
in Tokyo, the site of yearly pilgrimages (and yearly complaints
from China and Korea) by Japanese leaders to this day.
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