Japan in World War II
During the 1930s and through World War II, the Japanese military controlled the government of Japan. Unlike Germany and Italy, Japan did not have a dictator, but an oligarchic and militaristic system ruling the country. Japan admired Hitler’s regime and used the Nazis to advance Japan’s military, but this member of the Axis power ruled differently and fought differently than its European allies. Japan, during World War II, made history by attacking Pearl Harbor, quickly conquering vast territories in the Pacific, defying the Geneva Convention by mistreating prisoners of war, and fighting to the death with legendary kamikazes.
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General Hideki Tojo—The Dominant leader of Japan during World War II
Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt are popular figures associated with the Second World War, but Japan was also a prominent part of the war, yet those who led this country are often forgotten in popular history. General Hideki Tojo rose in the ranks of the Japanese military and government until he consolidated power. While Hideki Tojo never reigned supreme like Hitler or Stalin, he led the military force that controlled Japan.
Hideki Tojo was born into a military family and graduated from the Imperial Military Academy and the Military Staff College. He served as a military attaché at the Japanese embassy in Berlin after World War I. This time abroad displayed Tojo’s talent for leadership and field command to the military in Japan, and he was promoted to lead the 1st Infantry Regiment of the Japanese Army. In 1938, when Japan invaded China, Hideki Tojo became vice-minister of war. He also enthusiastically supported the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy in 1940. Tojo liked Germany and supported fascist doctrines, but he also desired this alliance because he mistrusted the Soviet Union. Tojo, as early as 1938, had advocated a joint invasion of China and the Soviet Union as a pre-emptive attack on Stalin’s empire. While Tojo supported war with the Soviet Union, he did not want with the United States. However, after Hideki Tojo became Prime Minister of Japan in 1941 and the U.S. set an embargo on oil to Japan, he realized that if negotiations failed, war was necessary. Tojo supported the devastating attack on the American military bases at Pearl Harbor; the invasions of the Philippines, Singapore, and other territories; and the terrifying treatment of prisoners of war. He served as Prime Minister and Minister of War consecutively until 1944. When the Japanese invasion of the Marianas Islands failed in July 1944, Tojo resigned from his office along with his entire cabinet. After he tried unsuccessfully to shoot himself, he was arrested and tried for war crimes in April 1946. Tojo and many other Japanese military leaders were convicted and hanged for their roles in World War II.
Hideki Tojo served as a dictator in many ways, although he was not all-powerful like Hitler and Mussolini. He supported fascist doctrines, but he could not institute many ideas because he had to answer to the military oligarchy that ruled Japan. The military leaders, in many ways led by Hideki Tojo, are remembered as a group that committed terrible war crimes and achieved great victory before great defeat. Tojo sat at the front of it all, from the invasion of China, to Pearl Harbor, and the devastating atomic bombs that forced his country to declare unconditional surrender.