General Tomoyuki Yamashita



Japanese Empire 1942The collapse of what had once been the apex of Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s dream of an empire comprised of all of Asia and all islands spread across the Pacific began to unravel in April of 1945 with the deaths of the heads of Germany and Italy – Japan’s partners in a worldwide attempt to defeat the Allies.

Few people who know about Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor know also that Germany and Italy declared war on the United States the following day, citing a mutual defense pact that Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler and Hirohito had signed.

Once Germany’s army in Italy collapsed under coordinated Allied attacks, Italian communist partisans captured Mussolini and his mistress. They executed both on April 25th of 1945.   This was two days before Hitler and his mistress committed suicide in a bunker in Berlin as Russian troops overran East Berlin.

Meanwhile, General Douglas MacArthur had returned to the Philippines after decimating Japanese forces in one ferocious island battle after another.hirohito on a horse

This left Hirohito the only remaining head of an “Axis Power.”

One person stood between Hirohito and the hangman:  Yamashita TrialJapanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita had led the Japanese forces as they swept down the Malay peninsula and forced the surrender of then British-held Singapore. For this, he was made head of the Japanese Army in the Philippines. On September 2nd of 1945, Hirohito ordered him to surrender to advancing U.S, forces and he did so.
A military court accused him of having overseen the commission of war crimes, decided he was culpable, and hanged him on February 23, 1946.
The story of how Hirohito escaped the same fate and how MacArthur was appointed the head of Japan has yet to be told in full.  And, after so many years, it probably never will be.Hirohito meets MacArthur

-– Phil Richardson, Editor

Our unending thanks to Jim Bromley, who programs our Archive of Prior Commentaries

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