Guide The Trial of Col. Masanobu Tsuji, IJA

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It was a fateful choice. The Japanese army had no experience fighting in the tropics or in amphibious assault.

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Tsuji focused on the Malay Peninsula, studying tirelessly, dispatching spies to the area, and staging amphibious exercises. He won promotion to lieutenant colonel. The war in Europe gave this work new importance. Hitler had conquered France and the Low Countries; Britain was fighting for its life. The French, Dutch, and British colonies in Asia became tempting targets. Then, in June , Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, inflicting catastrophic defeats on the Red Army , which seemed on the verge of collapse.

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Then the United States imposed an oil embargo on Japan. Britain followed suit. This cut Tokyo off from nearly all sources of oil and threatened to bring Japan to its knees. One solution to this dilemma was to seize the weakly defended Dutch East Indies—modern-day Indonesia—a major oil producer. The Japanese navy nonetheless wanted to strike south for that oil, while many army leaders still favored striking north against the USSR.

The issue would be decided in Tokyo that summer. Hattori brought Tsuji to Tokyo in July as one of his section heads. Amazingly, the two men most responsible for the disaster at Nomonhan now held key positions at this critical moment—positions from which they would again advocate reckless aggressiveness, with fatal consequences for Japan. British soldiers in Singapore surrender to a Japanese patrol, February 15, Tsuji strongly opposed the northward course, even though choosing the other would likely mean war with the United States. He argued that Hitler, who had concluded a pact with Stalin during the Nomonhan conflict , should not be trusted and that the Red Army was still fighting hard.

The Trial of Col. Masanobu Tsuji, IJA

Tsuji vociferously maintained that position throughout the summer. He had been preparing for that for a year on Formosa. He was ready. Shortly after Japan unleashed its assault on Pearl Harbor, Tsuji followed suit.

The Trial of Col. Masanobu Tsuji, Ija

Although the , British defenders outnumbered the 25th Army two-to-one, Tsuji was confident. He doubted the quality of the British forces—mainly Commonwealth troops from India—and believed that the fighting spirit and preparation of the Japanese, combined with the element of surprise, would prevail. On December 8, , his forces made simultaneous landings along the Thai and Malayan coasts, where the Japanese deployed equal or superior forces against selected targets.

The Imperial Army troops did not stop to consolidate positions or resupply, but pushed relentlessly down the well-paved roads the British had constructed. When the Japanese reached the causeway separating Singapore Island from the mainland, the British position became hopeless. A major war crime followed. In the chaotic first days after the fall of Singapore, he ordered the systematic roundup and execution of thousands of Chinese deemed hostile to Japan; civil servants, teachers, and lawyers were among those trucked to secluded beaches and shot.

Tens of thousands were killed. In March, Hattori recalled Tsuji to Tokyo for a new assignment. Tsuji held a press conference and wrote a pamphlet in which he claimed full credit for the Malay-Singapore Campaign. His reputation as a conquering hero spread quickly.

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  6. The army high command was disappointed, meanwhile, with the failure of General Masaharu Homma to complete the capture of the Philippines, also attacked shortly after Pearl Harbor. On April 1, Tsuji flew to Manila with orders to help bring the fighting to a swift conclusion. On April 9, the disease-ridden, emaciated defenders of Bataan surrendered. Staff officers in Manila received Tsuji, the conqueror of Singapore, with deferential respect.

    He believed it was morally just and politically expedient to kill them. Japan was fighting a racial war in the Philippines, he insisted, and the white colonialists should be killed. The Filipinos who fought alongside them had betrayed the Asian cause, would hinder Japanese administration, and should be eliminated as well.

    Once the beatings and killings began, the brutality against the prisoners became normalized and widespread. Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi, Japanese commander in the south, urged that the respected Santos have a role in the Japanese administration of the Philippines. Tsuji instead ordered the chief justice executed. When Kawaguchi learned that General Homma had agreed with his idea of employing Santos, he demanded of a colleague why he had allowed the execution.

    The artist, Ronald Searle, was a British prisoner of the Japanese. IN JULY , Tsuji was aboard a destroyer in the South Pacific when it came under Allied air attack; he suffered a serious throat wound, temporarily sidelining his battlefield machinations. He was still recuperating when the U. Fighting raged around the American-held airstrip at Henderson Field, where the Marines beat back repeated attacks.

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    Japanese troops were exhausted; many were on starvation rations. When Tsuji finally landed on Guadalcanal in October, he was tasked with organizing the seizure of Henderson Field. There he encountered Major General Kawaguchi, with whom he had clashed in the Philippines. Tsuji disdained Kawaguchi, whom he considered soft and ineffectual. Kawaguchi led one of these. As Kawaguchi approached the staging area, he complained to Tsuji that his assigned route traversed steep, unfavorable terrain.

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    He suggested attacking a few miles farther east. Shortly later Kawaguchi, assuming Maruyama knew about the change of plans, phoned the lieutenant general to request a hour postponement of the attack while he shifted his position. Maruyama, frustrated by the proposed delay, feared that Kawaguchi, having failed at Bloody Ridge, now jeopardized the whole operation. He relieved Kawaguchi of command. The division commander has relieved him of his command. The attack proceeded as planned.

    The Trial of Col. Masanobu Tsuji, Ija

    It was a disaster. The defeat stunned Tsuji. Chastened, he told IGHQ he bore full responsibility: that he had underestimated the enemy and had insisted on a flawed operational plan. Recalled to Tokyo in late , Tsuji was assigned as an instructor at the Military Academy. He was later promoted to full colonel and sent to Nanking, China, a military backwater, where he languished for months. Months later in Guadalcanal, Tsuji sabotaged a fellow commander, Kiyotake Kawaguchi; the move would come back to haunt him.

    Some ate the flesh; others did not. Tsuji claimed he derived special strength from eating the flesh of defeated enemies. But this is the only documented case involving Tsuji, based on the testimony of a Japanese witness. He knew the British and Americans sought him for the killings in Singapore and Bataan. With his Pan-Asian vision now newly adjusted, Nationalist China seemed the most likely candidate for Asian leadership.