General Tomoyuki Yamashita was the son of a village doctor, Sakichi. His mother, Yuu, was the daughter of a wealthy farmer. He had two sisters, and an elder brother who followed in his father's footsteps and became a doctor. Yamashita, on the otherhand took on the rigid life of a military man. In 1916, he married Hisako, the daughter of General Nagayama.
After graduating from the Military Academy in Hiroshima in 1908, Yamashita was appointed as a junior staff officer.
In 1916, he graduated from the Staff College and was quickly promoted to Major General by 1934. Unfortunately, he was implicated in the attempted coup d'etat in Tokyo, led by the Imperial Way faction, a group of radical young officers who had long admired him. His career seemed cut short with the only options open for him being either resignation or an obscure posting to Korea. He chose the command in Korea. However, the move gave him the opportunity to distinguish himself during the Sino-Japanese Crisis of 1937 and he was promoted to Lieutenant-General in November 1937 for his leadership in the conflict. Apparently, his rival General Hideki Tojo sought to have him removed and had Yamashita served in North China and Manchuria between 1938 to 1939. The indefatigable Yamashita returned to Tokyo only in July 1940 and had by then been promoted to Inspector General of Aviation. In January 1941, he toured military establishments in Germany and Italy and was posted to Manchuria as Commander, Kwantung Defence Army.
Invasion of Malaya and Singapore
Even though it had been another military officer, General Iida, who had planned for months the invasion of Malaya, the task itself fell upon the shoulders of Yamashita, in recognition of his leadership abilities. He was appointed Commanding General of the hurriedly formed 25th Army with the Order of Battle gazetted on 6 November for the invasion of Malaya and Singapore. The invasion began on 8 December 1941 with the attack on Singhora, Patani and Kota Bahru. The radical Yamashita made unorthodox decisions like sending his troops on bicycles and reducing them by one full division.
Malaya fell to the Japanese after 100 days of fierce fighting, despite being outnumbered two to one. The capture of Singapore, the reputedly impregnable British stronghold in Southeast Asia, on 15 February 1942 under his command was considered the worst defeat for British troops in 160 years. For this success, he was nicknamed "Tiger of Malaya".
In July 1942, Yamashita was posted to Manchuria without visiting Tokyo or gaining an audience with the Emperor. But by 10 February 1943, Yamashita was promoted to General. He was appointed Commanding General of the 14th Area Army to defend Philippines from an impending American invasion.
On 2 September 1945, he surrendered to the Allied Forces at Keangan, Luzon, Philippines. Representing the Japanese Army in Philippines, General Yamashita at first refused to acknowledge Japan's formal defeat. He only surrendered when his troops were surrounded in Northern Luzon by American forces headed by Major General Leavey, the Special Representative of Lieutenant General William D. Styer, Commanding General of American Forces Western Pacific Area. Yamashita was tried by an American Military Tribunal in the ballroom of the US High Commissioner's residence in downtown Manila. He was charged for failing to control his troops from committing brutal atrocities against the people of the United States and its allies and dependencies, particularly the Philippines where Yamashita was in command when his troops resorted to wild massacres and rapes in Manila. The American Tribunal invariably focused the trial on Japanese atrocities in Philippines rather than British Malaya. He was hanged at Los Banos camp on 23 February 1946 after being convicted of brutal atrocities committed by the Japanese troops under his command.
1908 : Graduated from Military Academy, Hiroshima.
1916 : Graduated from Staff College.
1919 : Served as military attaché to Switzerland and then to Germany, reportedly having contact with right-wing German politicians during the 1920s.
1929 : Promoted to Colonel.
1930 : Commander of 3rd Regiment.
1932 : Section Chief of Military Affairs, War Ministry.
Aug 1934 : Promoted to Major General.
1936 : Posted to Korea, disgraced for supporting a fascist movement, the Imperial Way which threatened a coup d'etat in Tokyo. The Imperial Way apparently much admired the Major General.
Nov 1937 : Promoted to Lieutenant General for distinguishing himself during the China incident of July 1937. His promotion made him the Japanese overseer for North Korea.
1938 : Chief-of-Staff, North China Expeditionary Force.
1939 : Commanding General, 4th Division, Manchuko (Manchuria).
Jul 1940 : Inspector General of Aviation, Tokyo.
Jan 1941 : Military Minister to Germany and Italy, heading a mission to Berlin and Rome.
Nov 1941 : Commanding General, 25th Army assigned to Malaya and Singapore.
1942 : Supreme Commander, Malaya.
10 Feb 1943 : Promoted to General after British forces' humiliating surrender in Singapore.
Nov - Dec 1943 : Commander at Timor, Netherlands East Indies.
9 Oct 1944 : Commanding General, 14th Area Army, then operating in the Philippine Islands.
2 Sep 1945 : Protective custody of American Army at Keangan, Luzon, Philippines.
7 Dec 1945 : Yamashita was found guilty and sentenced to hang.
23 Feb 1946 : Yamashita was hanged at 3:02 am at Los Banos Camp, executed by First Lieutenant Charles R. Rexroad, United States Army, the official executioner.
Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore (pp. 242-249). Singapore: TimesBooks International.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA)
Kenworthy, A. S. . The tiger of Malaya : the story of General Tomoyuki Yamashita and "Death March" General Masaharu Homma (pp. 29-90). New York: Exposition Press
(Call no.: RSEA 940.5405 KEN)
Lael, R. L. (1982). The Yamashita precedent: War crimes and command responsibility (pp. 79-80). Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources
(Call no.: RSING 341.69 LAE)
Palmer, A. (1980). Who's who in modern history 1860-1980 (pp. 329-330). London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
(Call no.: R 920.009034 PAL)
Potter, J. D. (1963). A soldier must hang: The biography of an oriental general. London: Muller.
(Call no.: RCLOS 940.541352 POT)
Swinson, A. (1968). Four samurai: A quartet of Japanese army commanders in the Second World War (pp. 79-114). London: Hutchinson.
(Call no.: RSING 940.5425 SWI)
Encyclopedia of world biography (pp. 435-436). (1998). Detroit: Gale Research, 1998.
(Call no.: YR STU 920.003 ENC)
Lim, K. T. (1999). Lt-General Tomoyuki Yamashita. Retrieved February 19, 2003, from Knowledge Net Web site: www.knowledgenet.com.sg/singapore/SG/BI/BIYAM001.asp?next=0
Fuller, R. S. (1992). Hirohito's samurai. London: Arms and Armour.
(Call no.: R 952.03 FUL)
Fujiwara, I. (1983). F. Kikan: Japanese army intelligence operations in Southeast Asia during World War II. Hong Kong: Heinemann Asia.
(Call no.: RSING 940.548752 FUJ)
Hoyt, E. P. (1993). Three military leaders: Heihachiro Togo, Isoroku Yamamoto, Tomoyuki Yamashita.Tokyo: Kodansha International.
(Call no.: RSING 940.54092052 HOY)
Reel, A. F. (1949). The case of General Yamashita. [Chicago: University of Chicago Press].
List of Images
Kenworthy, Aubrey Saint. The Tiger of Malaya : The story of General Tomoyuki Yamashita and "Death March" General Masaharu Homma (p. 81). New York: Exposition Press, 1953 (R SEA 940.5405 KEN)
The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.
Yamashita, Tomobumi, 1885-1946
1942-1945 Japanese occupation
Singapore--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945
Events>>Historical Periods>>World War II and Japanese Occupation (1939-1945)