|“||The moment the first American soldier sets foot on the Japanese mainland, all prisoners of war will be shot.||„|
|~ Note signed by Hideki Tojo|
As a general in the Imperial Japanese Army, Tojo expanded the war with China, having his forces invade territories in Northern China, and was also responsible for several atrocities committed there. He strongly advocated imperialistic militarism and was also a supporter of the alliance with the Nazi Party.
As Prime Minister, he expanded Japanese invasions into Asia and was responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor which led to the war between the United States and Japan, although it was planned before he entered office. He also simultaneously held various other positions, including Home Minister from 1941 to 1942, Foreign Minister in September 1942, Education Minister in 1943, and Minister of Commerce and Industry in 1943. He also served as the leader of the Kenpeitai, which served as both the secret police force of Imperial Japan as well as the police arm of the army.
A graduate of the Imperial Military Academy and the Military Staff College, Tōjō served briefly as military attaché in Japan’s embassy in Berlin after World War I. He was an esteemed administrator and skillful field commander and became noted as a stern disciplinarian. In 1928 he was made commander of the 1st Infantry Regiment, members of which participated in a mutiny of the Tokyo garrison in late February 1936 that he helped suppress. In 1937, he was named chief of staff of the Kwantung Army in Manchuria.
He returned to Tokyo in 1938 as vice-minister of war and was one of the leading advocates of Japan’s Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy (1940). In July 1940 he was appointed minister of war in the cabinet of Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro. Tōjō succeeded Konoe as prime minister on October 18, 1941, and pledged his government to a Greater East Asia program, a “New Order in Asia.” He retained control of the Ministry of War and was also minister of commerce and industry from 1943.
Tojo had popular support in the early years of the war as Japanese forces moved from one victory to another. In March 1942, Tojo in his capacity as Army Minister gave permission for the Japanese Army in Taiwan to ship 50 "comfort women" from Taiwan to Borneo without ID papers (his approval was necessary as the Army's rules forbade people without ID traveling to the new conquests). The Japanese historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi noted this document proves that Tojo was aware of and approved of the "comfort women" corps.
As the Japanese went from victory to victory, Tojo and the rest of the Japanese elite were gripped by what the Japanese called "victory disease" as the entire elite was caught up in a state of hubris, believing Japan was invincible and the war was as good as won. In May 1942, reflecting his hubris, Tojo approved of a set of "non-negotiable" demands to be presented when the Allies sued for peace once it became clear to them that Japan was invincible, under which Japan would keep everything it had already conquered, and would take considerably more. Tojo wanted Japan to annex Australia; Australian New Guinea; British India (all of modern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh); Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka); New Zealand; the Canadian province of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory; the American state of Washington and the territories of Alaska and Hawaii; and to take Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, British Honduras, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and the rest of the West Indies.
Additionally, Tojo wanted all of China to be under the rule of Wang Jingwei (the leader of the Reorganized National Government of the Republic of China), planned to buy Macau and East Timor from Portugal and to create new puppet kingdoms in Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Malaya. As the Burmese had proved to be enthusiastic collaborators in the "New Order in Asia", the new Burmese kingdom would be allowed to annex much of north-east India as a reward. The Navy for its part demanded that Japan take New Caledonia, Fiji, and Samoa.
However, after the Battle of Midway, with the tide of war turning against Japan, Tojo faced increasing opposition from within the government and military. He soon fell into disfavour as the war turned against Japan, ultimately being forced to resign near the war's end after suffering a crushing defeat at the Battle of Saipan, with Kuniaki Koiso replacing him as Prime Minister, though he remained in charge of the army. He initiated Operation Ichigo in April 1944, the largest Japanese offensive of the entire war, with the aim of taking southern China. The operation was successful, but it was the last success Japan would have in the war.
After the war ended and the United States occupied Japan, he tried to commit suicide but failed (something which outraged the Japanese people) and he was arrested and put on trial by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. He was found guilty for a number of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including, among other things, waging wars of aggression; war in violation of international law; unprovoked or aggressive war against various nations; and ordering, authorizing, and permitting inhumane treatment of prisoners of war.
Determined to protect Emperor Hirohito from prosecution, Tojo claimed full responsibility for Japan's war crimes and claimed to be remorseful. He was sentenced to death on November 12, 1948, and executed by hanging 41 days later on December 23, 1948. Right before his execution, Tojo affirmed his loyalty to the emperor by declaring "May His Glorious Majesty live for ten thousand years!"
- Tojo's commemorating tomb is located in a shrine in Hazu, Aichi (now Nishio, Aichi), and he is one of those enshrined at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine. His ashes are divided between Yasukuni Shrine and Zōshigaya Cemetery in Toshima ward, Tokyo. Other war criminals enshrined here include Iwane Matsui (one of those who were chiefly responsible for the Rape of Nanking), Akira Muto, and Kenji Doihara, among others.
- He was survived by a number of his descendants, including his granddaughter, Yūko Tojo, who was a far-right ultranationalist and political hopeful who claimed Japan's war was one of self-defense and that it was unfair that her grandfather was judged a Class-A war criminal. Tojo's second son, Teruo Tojo, who designed fighter and passenger aircraft during and after the war, eventually served as an executive at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
- In a 1997 survey of university students in China asking "When somebody talks about Japanese people, what person do you think of?", the answer that most gave was Hideki Tojo, reflecting a lingering sense of hurt in China about Japan's wartime aggression.
- In the Japanese 1998 film Pride, Tojo was portrayed as a national hero, forced against his will by the Hull note into attacking America and executed after a rigged trial, a picture of Tojo that is widely accepted in Japan while giving offense abroad.
- During World War II, the IJAAS fighter plane known as the Nakajima Ki-44 received the Allied reporting name of "Tojo".
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