“There is no weapon against cruelty, against warped minds and sometimes warped souls.”
DIARY ENTRY, JANUARY 6, 1945
GENERAL YAMASHITA STEWED IN HIS NEW HEADQUARTERS inside mountain the city of Baguio. The fifty-nine-year-old commander of Japanese forces inside Philippines had relocated his headquarters from Manila over the summer capital some 125 miles north to create his final stand against MacArthur. Made like a bear, Yamashita stood five feet nine inches tall and sometimes weighed 220 pounds, his girth often pressing against his green army uniform. He was homely, with a bald, egg-shaped head, wide-spaced eyes, plus a flat nose. For years he had worn a short moustache, reminiscent of Adolf Hitler, but as it grayed, he finally opted to shave it. His unattractive looks led the Filipinos to nickname him “Old Potato Face,” while an American intelligence narrative derogatorily described him as “a florid, pig-faced man.” Yamashita’s banal appearance camouflaged the fact that he was one of Japan’s maximum generals. Only three years before he had stunned the world by conquering Singapore, earning the nickname the “Tiger of Malaya.”
Yamashita understood better than anyone that the war was nearing its climax—and sometimes Japan its defeat. The general could only brood another time how his nation’s fortunes had transformed so dramatically back those heady early days of victory when pilots had destroyed much of America’s powerful Pacific Fleet anchored within the cool waters of Pearl Harbor. Japanese forces had gone on to capture Guam, Wake, and the Philippines from the United States, Hong Kong plus Singapore from the British, and the oil-wealthy Dutch East Indies from the Netherlands. In a few short months, Japan had developed an empire that stretched across twenty million square miles as well as seven time zones, putting one-tenth of the world under the control of the bespectacled Emperor Hirohito. But Japan’s dream of a Pacific empire had proven an elusive mirage, vanishing with a string of defeats from Midway in addition to Guadalcanal to New Guinea as well as the Marianas.
With those losses, so, too, went Japan’s obligatory imports. The lack of oil had crippled the nation’s war machine, forcing the soldiers to relegate its once-powerful battleships to antiaircraft duty in addition to leading within the creation of the kamikazes that at this time crashed down on MacArthur’s forces. Japanese civilians likewise suffered. Hungry residents devoured acorns as well as even sawdust, while new mothers proved too malnourished to nurse. This was the backdrop of Yamashita’s pending clash with MacArthur, a chase to the last major geographic roadblock that stood between American forces in addition to the Japanese homeland. Yamashita’s job was to turn the Philippines into a tar pit, to bog MacArthur down as well as give Japan time to dig shelters as well as prepare. The importance of his mission reflected inside final words Hirohito told him: “The fate of the Empire rests upon your shoulders.” Yamashita understood, and sometimes just as MacArthur had come within the Philippines to avenge his defeat, so, too, was Yamashita certain of his own destiny.
He had come to die.
Yamashita had traveled a long road to this moment. The son of a rural doctor, he was born on Shikoku—the smallest of Japan’s four main islands—inside remote village of Osugi Mura or “Colossal Cedar.” As a child, he thrived within the rugged plus isolated environment, where for decades families had worn kimonos as well as wooden sandals plus survived by farming rice plus fishing. Yamashita loved taking a stroll, exploring the forests, and writing poetry, adopting the pen Christian name Daisan or “Colossal Cedar” after a tree in the family’s front yard. “This was a guiding motto for his life,” one Japanese historian later wrote. “He wanted henceforth to be a man of upright character and sometimes bearing, looking up skyward like the colossal cedar.” The lull of the wilderness eclipsed his interest in academics, leaving his older brother Tomoyoshi to follow his father into medicine, albeit abandoning a rural practice for a move to Tokyo. “If I had only been cleverer or had worked harder,” Yamashita once said, “I as you might have been a doctor like my brother.”
Yamashita’s parents instead saw a future for him in soldiering, one he later noted was perhaps his fate. He attended the Cadet Academy in Hiroshima, where his ago dislike of school vanished. Yamashita’s strong performance landed him a spot at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in Tokyo—Japan’s equivalent to West Point—where he graduated fifth in his class of 1908. He applied that same tenacity a decade later at the war college, finishing sixth out of fifty-six officers and more than that earning a sword from the emperor for his achievements. An important lesson within the young officer—one that no doubt hung yet again him to the eve of his disagreement against MacArthur—came in 1919, what time Yamashita landed as assistant soldiers attaché in Bern, Switzerland. Along with Capt. Hideki Tojo, who as you may later serve as Japan’s war minister and more than that prime minister, Yamashita toured battlefields for the western front and more than that visited Hamburg, witnessing first hand the crippling inflation as well as food prices that resulted from Germany’s defeat.
“If Japan ever has to quarrel any nation,” Yamashita confided in Tojo, “your lady must never surrender in addition to making an acquisition herself in a situation like this.”
Yamashita returned to Europe once more several generations later for the reason that martial attaché in Vienna, an experience that provided a much-essential reprieve after his home life soured. He had invested in a commerce selling thermometers proceeded by one of his wife’s relatives, going so far as to guarantee the loans. The industry failed, as well as bailiffs showed in anticipation of seize his home. “For a regular officer to have contracted such a debt, needless to say innocently, was a disgrace,” wrote one biographer. “He felt he should resign his commission.” Yamashita’s brother refused to allow him to quit, instructing him to leave for Vienna, while he resolved his debts. The three decades in Europe, Yamashita professed, were the best in life. He studied economics at Vienna University and befriended a Japanese widow, who publicised him to a German woman known as Kitty, with whom he had an affair. “Ago Vienna, I knew little of the world outside martial life,” he later said. “There I read many books in addition to made many good as well as interesting friends.”
Yamashita’s acclaim as an eccentric officer grew after he returned to Tokyo. He obsessed yet again hygiene, refusing to eat fruit unless it was thoroughly washed. He likewise avoided ice water, disliked dancing, and never learned to drive a car. His most important quirk centered on his infatuation of falling asleep—often in the middle of meetings—with a guttural snore that became legendary for the period of the army. But his rising stature faltered as soon as two captains he had mentored helped lead a failed coup of young officers on February 26, 1936, resulting inside deaths of several senior government officials. Yamashita helped mediate a peaceful end within the standoff, but the damage was done. Not only did he fall out of favor with the emperor, but the young captains whom he loved like sons devoted suicide. “As soon as I was posted to Korea, I felt I had been given a tactful promotion but that in reality my career was once again,” he later said. “Even what time I was given my first fighting company in North China, I still felt I had no future in the Army, so I was always for the front line, where the bullets flew the thickest. I sought only a state to die.”
Yamashita returned to Tokyo in July 1940, where following his success as a frontline divisional commander inside the war against China, his fellow officers lauded him as Japan’s finest general. Tojo had since ascended about the role of the nation’s war minister. One of his first military exercises was to send a delegation to Germany. Born within three weeks of one another, Tojo and sometimes Yamashita shared a long history, stretching since to their days at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy. Unlike Tojo, who was a political animal, Yamashita had little interest outside the army. “My life,” he once said, “is that of a soldier; I do not seek any other life unless our Emperor calls me.” Despite that, Tojo, who considered Yamashita a “ruthless plus determined commander,” saw a potential rival in his former travel partner, plus their relationship soured. “I have nothing against Tojo,” Yamashita said, “but he apparently has something against me.” Round the end of 1940, Tojo tasked Yamashita to lead a team of forty experts on a six-month train tour of Germany and Italy, a move that kept the general out of Tokyo as Tojo solidified his power.
“If you say anything out of state about the newspapers,” a fellow officer warned Yamashita, “Tojo will fabricate trouble.”
In January 1941, Yamashita met with Adolf Hitler in Germany, passing along speeches from Tojo as well as a silver model of a flying crane. Though he publicly praised Hitler, privately he was unimpressed by the German leader, whom he viewed as a little man. “He is a gargantuan orator on a platform, with his gestures and more than that flamboyant way of speaking,” Yamashita said, “but standing behind his desk listening he seems much more like a clerk.”
“All our secrets are open to you,” Hitler assured him.
Despite that promise, Hitler failed to deliver. “There were several pieces of equipment the Germans did not want us to see,” Yamashita said. “Whenever I tried to persuade the German General Staff to movie us things like radar—about specifically what we had a rudimentary knowledge—the conversation always turned to something else.”
The two clashed on other points, including Hitler’s abuse of narcotics for Japan to declare war on America. “My country is still fighting in China, and more than that we must finish that war at what time possible,” Yamashita countered. “We are also afraid that Russia may attack us in Manchuria. This is no time for us to declare war on other countries.”
Yamashita met with Field Marshal Hermann GÃ¶ring, who gave him an overview of the war in Europe. Yamashita fell asleep—as he so often did—in addition to all started to snore. Unaware of Yamashita’s quirk, GÃ¶ring cut short his lecture, complaining later that the Japanese general must have been drunk. Yamashita took time off to visit Kitty in Vienna, though the reunion warranted only two sentences in his diary. “I visited my friend the widow in addition to inside afternoon Kitty came to see me,” he wrote. “It was memorable.”
The trip convinced Yamashita that Japan should stay out of the war, believing that Germany built a grievous error at precisely what time it invaded Russia in June 1941. The general termed the members of his commission together. “You be acquainted with the results of our inspection and more than that I do,” he told them. “I must ask you not to express opinion in favor of expanding the alliance between Japan, Germany and Italy. Never put forward in your profile that Japan should declare war on Substantial Britain and more than that the United States. We must not plus cannot rely upon the power of other nations. Japan needs more time, particularly as there may be aggression against us from Russia. We must have time to rebuild our defense system as well as adjust the whole Japanese war machine. I cannot repeat this to you often enough.”
Yamashita said much the same in the description he filed upon his return, the same thing that infuriated Tojo, who at the time was busy developing plans for war against the United States. Yamashita repeatedly landed in exile, this time in Manchuria in July 1941, but his stay in China proved short-lived. In November of that year, Yamashita received orders to profile to Tokyo. Despite Tojo’s resentment of his former friend, he could not deny that Yamashita was one of the nation’s colossal generals. Inside the coming war against the United States plus Massive Britain, Yamashita’s services as you probably be imperative. He was branded commander of the 25th Japanese Army. His orders: seize the Malay Peninsula and the British naval base at Singapore. This was the army general’s dream assignment.
The Malay Peninsula snakes seven hundred miles south of Thailand, a rugged sliver of land that constricts at its narrowest point to just sixty miles wide. Hillsides split the peninsula in half, climbing as high as seven thousand feet. Malaya produced practically 40 percent of the world’s rubber as well as virtually 60 percent of its tin, both basic resources in war. Just off the peninsula’s southern tip sat Singapore, a diamond-shaped island connected over the mainland by a 1,115-yard-long stone causeway. Twenty-six miles long in addition to fourteen wide—or about ten times the size of Manhattan—the island was home to a few villages, rubber plantations, and more than that the city of Singapore, located within the southern coast.
Singapore’s record asset was the sprawling naval base that guarded passage from the Pacific within the Indian oceans and more than that served, in the words of one reporter, as “the bolt that fastens the previously door of the British Empire.” Construction of the base atop a mangrove swamp had proved nothing a reduced amount of than an business marvel, spanning twenty years and sometimes costing a staggering $400 million. Workers diverted a major watercourse, leveled slopes to fill in swamps, as well as drove thirty-four miles of concrete and more than that iron pilings, some as many as one hundred feet deep. The base’s towering walls enclosed the same thing amounted to a four-square-mile town complete with churches, cinemas, in addition to recreation facilities, including a swimming pool, seven football fields, and more than that eighteen tennis courts. “The naval base,” introduced Life magazine, “can be a bedazzling phenomenon.”
Like a jewel thief, Yamashita’s job was to snatch this diamond from the British Crown. The general said farewell to his wife at the Japanese Officers Club behind the Imperial Palace. “I pray for your future in chase,” this woman told him and sometimes bowed.
Yamashita simply nodded.
The inexperienced poet Substantial Cedar instead captured his thoughts over the up on the point fight in verse on December 4, 1941, the day he departed on the mission:
Within the day the sun shines with the moon
Our arrow leaves the bow.
It carries my spirit toward the enemy.
With me are a hundred million souls—
My inhabitants from the East—
On this day as soon as the moon
Plus the sun both shine.
The Japanese had long studied Singapore and sometimes understood that the so-termed “Gibraltar of the Orient” was, as one American reporter noted in 1940, little more than an “empty shell.” The nice income-strapped British, busy battling Germany in Europe, had no permanent fleet to moor in Singapore, despite offering more than twenty square miles of deep-sea anchorage. “Your American fleet,” a British vice admiral quipped to a reporter, “as you may possibly fit nicely into Singapore.” Air support about the peninsula was likewise weak, consisting of outdated planes that were no match for the Japanese. Many of the troops were poorly many industry specific; barely half were English, the rest Indian, Malayan, and sometimes Australian. Beyond those deficiencies, Singapore had the same thing that Japanese war planners recognized as a fatal blind spot—the base was built to repel an attack from the sea. Yamashita instead planned to assault the island from the jungle. To produce his attack a success, he mandatory to move fast, opting for a small force of now thirty-six thousand troops. In a war defined by technology and sometimes power, Yamashita resorted to an antiquated gun.
Japanese forces sloshed ashore about the Malay Peninsula presently north of the Thai border, in an invasion timed to coincide with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Yamashita’s troops set off south, half in motor vehicles and sometimes the rest pedaling eighteen thousand bicycles down paved asphalt highways. Navigation consisted of simple school atlases. “With the infantry on bicycles,” wrote chief planner Col. Masanobu Tsuji, “there was no traffic congestion or improve. Wherever bridges were destroyed the infantry continued their advance, wading throughout the rivers carrying their bicycles on their shoulders, or crossing on log bridges held up over the shoulders of engineers standing within the tributary.”
The Japanese overwhelmed the poorly proficient defenders, some of whom fought before while many others fled, leaving behind stores of food plus abandoned trucks, what Yamashita’s forces dubbed “Churchill’s Allowance.” British Lt. Col. Spencer Chapman, hidden along the side of the road, watched hundreds of Japanese troops pedal ago. “The majority were on bicycles in parties of forty or fifty, riding three or four abreast in addition to talking and laughing just as if they were going to a football match.” Excessive heat, coupled with the eighty pounds of gear each soldier carried, at times popped their bicycle tires. Repair squads mended damaged bikes, though some soldiers simply rode within the rims, what designed a metallic rattle that terrified retreating forces.
“Here come the tanks!” troops cried.
The British proved slow to grasp the threat from the Japanese, a sentiment best captured by Singapore governor Sir Shenton Thomas after he learned Yamashita’s forces had landed. “Well,” he said, “I suppose you’ll shove the little men off.”
Cities in addition to towns fell one after the other. Japanese forces reached Kuala Lumpur, only to find the British had escaped the hours of darkness earlier, which infuriated Yamashita. “I don’t want them pushed past,” he wrote in his diary. “I want them destroyed.”
Prime Minister Winston Churchill fumed for the failure of his forces. Not only had Japanese planes destroyed the battleship Prince of Wales in addition to the race cruiser Repulse—the backbone of British naval power in Asia—but at this time Yamashita’s so-branded “bicycle blitzkrieg” closed in within the island’s rear flank. “Singapore’s back door,” a United Press reporter wrote, “became its front door.” Though many of the island’s guns could swivel to face the peninsula, troops realized that the armor-piercing shells built to punch throughout ship hulls were worthless in a fight against ground troops. “The possibility,” Churchill wrote, “of Singapore having no landward defense no more entered into my mind than that of a battleship being launched without a bottom.” The prime minister fired off orders on January 19. “The entire male populace should be employed upon constructing defense works,” he wrote. “The utmost rigorous craving is to be invoked, up over the time when the limit where picks in addition to shovels are set up.”
But it was too late.
Yamashita’s forces reached the southern tip of the peninsula by the end of January 1942. In barely eight weeks, his troops had covered some seven hundred miles—an average of more than twelve a day—and more than that fought ninety-five large plus small battles. The narrow Johore Strait—barely four feet deep at low tide—was all that stood between Japanese forces as well as the island. “The Singapore we had once create in a dream,” Tsuji wrote, “we in these days saw under our eyes.” The general gathered about forty of his divisional commanders and senior officers at a rubber plantation to give them orders. The officers then raised canteen caps of Kikumasamune, a ceremonial wine. “It can be a good circumstances to die,” Yamashita toasted. “Of course we shall conquer.”
Circumstances in the the location of Singapore deteriorated. Refugees had swollen the population of 550,000 to nearly a million with as many as thirty population packed per room. Japanese artillery rained down, destroying sewers plus reducing the flow of freshwater to a trickle as five out of six gallons bubbled out of broken lines. “The whole island seemed afire,” wrote one reporter. “It was a pyrotechnical display of unbelievable grandeur and more than that terror.” Casualties mounted at a rate of two thousand civilians a day, overwhelming hospitals that stank of blood in addition to entrails plus whose lawns were at this time covered in graves. Between air raids, workers loaded the dead onto trucks for mass burials, while starving dogs feasted about the ones left behind. Troops set fire to oil stores, darkening the skies with a heavy smoke that burned nostrils, teared eyes, and mixed with rain to stain uniforms. “I am sure there is often a bright tropic sun shining somewhere overhead,” wrote one reporter, “but in my many-windowed room it is too darkness to booklet without electric lights.”
British forces destroyed the causeway, but Yamashita’s troops had little trouble crossing in collapsible motorboats. Churchill grew desperate, recognizing the stakes were far greater than one island. “There must at this stage be no thought of saving the troops or sparing the inhabitants. The race must be fought for the bitter end at all costs,” the prime minister cabled. “Commanders in addition to senior officers should die with their troops. The gift of the British Empire as well as of the British Army is at stake.”
Lt. Gen. Arthur Percival, the bucktoothed commander of British forces, saw the end fast approaching. “It is unlikely that resistance can persevere more than a day or two,” he cabled. “There must come a stage what time in the interests of the troops and civil populace further bloodshed will serve no useful purpose.”
Percival’s superiors disagreed, demanding the general disagreement house to house if imperative. “So long as you are in shape to inflict losses as well as damage to enemy and your troops are physically capable of doing so you must fight on.”
But Percival could not.
On February 15, 1942, he sent what as you perhaps prove to be his final telegram. “Owing to losses from enemy action, water, petrol, food, and sometimes ammunition virtually finished,” he cabled. “Unable therefore to go on the argument any longer.”
Shortly before six p.m. that same day—as news cameras rolled—Percival arrived unarmed at the Ford Motor Company factory at Bukit Timah to surrender to Yamashita. The fifty-four-year-old British commander was dressed, this Sunday evening of his daughter Margery’s twelfth birthday, in khaki shorts plus a shirt and more than that wore a steel helmet. An interpreter and two staff officers accompanied him, one clutching the Union Jack, the other a white flag of surrender, which partially dragged within the ground behind. The men marched during the main entrance of the factory, where the roof had collapsed in addition to explosions had blown out many of the windows. Japanese troops while in the had chalked out spots about the concrete floor within the senior officers, cameramen, and sometimes reporters.
“Exhausted by the strenuous campaign,” one Japanese correspondent observed, “the six-foot Britishers wore haggard expressions.” Tsuji noted the same. “The faces of the four English officers,” he wrote, “were dull and more than that their eyes bloodshot.” Even Yamashita, who arrived a half hour later with his sword in his left hand, was moved by the agony of his vanquished rival, who sat at the table, arms folded in front of him. “Yamashita wanted to say a few kind words to Percival while he was shaking hands with him, as he looked so colorless and thin plus ill,” the general’s adjutant wrote that day in his diary. “But he could not say anything because the he does not speak English, in addition to he realized how difficult it is to convey heartfelt compassion at precisely what time the words are being interpreted by a third person.”
The rivals sat down across from each other at a long teak table. The Japanese general all started his leather boots, a seemingly arrogant move that masked his apprehension that the British you would possibly discover how small his force in reality was and that his troops were virtually out of ammunition. Shortly back the conference, Yamashita had gambled and sometimes ordered his forces to fire a mammoth barrage at the location, hoping to have a psychological effect within the British. “My attack on Singapore was a bluff—a bluff that worked,” Yamashita wrote in his diary. “I had 30,000 men and more than that was outnumbered more than three to one. I knew that if I had to quarrel long for Singapore, I you might be beaten. That is why the surrender had to be at once. I was incredibly frightened all the time that the British perhaps you may discover our numerical weakness and more than that lack of supplies as well as force me into upsetting street fighting.”
“I want your replies to be brief and sometimes to the point,” Yamashita started out, an interpreter translating his demands. “I will accept only unconditional surrender.”
“Will you give me up over the time when tomorrow morning?” Percival asked.
Yamashita refused, telling him he would resume the assault that evening. The Japanese general leaned forward, his left hand resting over the hilt of his sword while he brought his open right hand down over the table like a saber chop. Percival asked for presently a few more hours, but Yamashita once again balked, his patience waning.
“Yes or no,” Yamashita finally barked.
Percival sat in silence.
“I want to hear a decisive answer,” Yamashita pressed, “as well as I insist on unconditional surrender.”
The gravity of the circumstances hung for a second time Percival. Not back Gen. Charles Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in 1781 for the duration of the American Revolution had the British suffered such a cruel defeat. “We were,” as Gen. Sir Henry Pownall noted in his diary, “frankly out-generalled, outwitted and sometimes outfought.”
“Yes,” Percival finally muttered.
With that one Christian name, Yamashita had won.
In now seventy-three days, the son of a rural Shikoku doctor had crushed the British, a feat he accomplished with a force a fraction of the size of his adversary, though with the benefit of air in addition to naval dominance. “With the fall of Singapore,” lamented Life magazine, “an era of empire ended.”
Yamashita’s striking battlefield victory, however, was marred by a series of atrocities his forces out-and more than that-out, a barbarism that as you may echo three many years later for the duration of the general’s desperate fight to hold the Philippines. Round the the location of Parit Sulong, Japanese forces killed about 150 wounded Australian plus Indian troops, beheading some in addition to shooting others earlier dousing them in fuel as well as setting them ablaze. In another case, troops shot and more than that bayoneted more than three hundred doctors, nurses, and even bedridden patients at the Alexandra Hospital, including one on the operating table.
But the worst as you may come inside weeks after the chase, at the same thing time Yamashita ordered the “cruel disposal” of thousands of Chinese, who were believed hostile to his forces. Yet again several weeks, troops rounded up and sometimes transported Chinese residents—mostly military-aged men—outside the city as well as slaughtered them in the same thing that became known as the Sook Ching Massacre. Japan perhaps you may later admit to killing five thousand, though leaders of Singapore’s Chinese group perhaps you might place the number closer to fifty thousand.
Since in Japan, euphoria about the capture of Singapore seized group. Members of the House of Representatives erupted in shouts of “Banzai,” schools suspended classes, in addition to newspapers published special “Victory Supplements.” Despite rationing, the government reported each family perhaps you might be given two bottles of beer, rubber goods, plus red beans; children under thirteen perhaps you might receive caramel drops.
“Singapore has fallen!” trumpeted the Japan Times as well as Advertiser. “Let joy be unrestrained.”
“The ruin of the British Empire was in hand,” proclaimed the Chugai.
“The downfall of Singapore,” declared Osaka Mainichi, “has definitely decided the history of the world.”
Yamashita’s victory earned him the nickname the Tiger of Malaya, the same thing he personally despised. “I am not a Tiger,” he once barked at a German attaché. “The tiger attacks its prey in stealth but I attack the enemy in a fair play.”
Japan’s capture of the British citadel reverberated close to the world. Winston Churchill given the name it “the worst disaster as well as largest capitulation in British history” while Australian prime minister John Curtin warned the defeat jeopardized the “fate of the English-speaking world.” About the first time, the American press speculated that the Allies you might possibly lose the war. “There can nowadays be no doubt,” observed a New York Times reporter, “that we are facing perhaps the blackest period in our history.”
Yamashita had little time to celebrate.
Many of Japan’s generals wanted Yamashita appointed war minister, a move that threatened Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who feared any likely rival. Tojo retaliated, ordering Japan’s feted war hero past to Manchuria. Within the surface, the assignment appeared worthy as Yamashita would serve because first line of defense against a probable Russian invasion. But because the two nations had signed a neutrality pact in April 1941, as well as Russia was bogged down fighting the Germans, immediate war appeared unlikely. Really, Tojo had parked Yamashita to the war’s sidelines.
Yamashita’s fate, in many ways, mirrored MacArthur’s, who despite his own fame and more than that fortune was destined to disagreement only while in the war’s Pacific backwater while his former subordinates achieved glory in Europe. Tojo’s humiliation of Yamashita went further. The prime minister barred him any leave in Tokyo, preventing him from visiting his wife and from delivering a speech he had written over the emperor. Yamashita instead stopped off in Formosa en route to his new post, where an aide sent him three geishas.
“I know they want to please me with these girls,” the dispirited general said, “but send them before—and sometimes don’t forget to tip them.”
The Tiger of Malaya maintained a low report in Manchuria, location his desk, as always, to face the Emperor’s Palace previously in Tokyo. He ordered that his dining room be enlarged, and more than that he avoided restaurants. When he was promoted to full general, he renowned with sweet bean cakes as well as sake.
Since the months turned to generations—and sometimes Japan’s fortunes fell—Yamashita was powerless to intervene from his perch within the war’s hinterlands.
“I suspect things are not going too well at the moment,” an aide remarked.
“It does not matter precisely what happens inside Pacific,” he replied. “Our eyes and sometimes ears do not face south, toward the Pacific. Our duty is to face north, toward Russia.”
After the Marianas fell inside the summer of 1944, putting the Japanese homeland within range of American bombers, many knew the war had moved into a deadly new phase, best summarized by the four words Fleet Adm. Osami Nagano muttered.
“Hell is on us.”
America’s capture of the Marianas triggered Tojo’s ouster. With his exit, Yamashita’s exile came to an end. The general was out inspecting his troops on September 23, 1944, at what time he received person’s name of an urgent message. He rushed past to his headquarters to find a signal announcing his appointment as commander inside the Philippines.
Yamashita’s time for the bench was over.
“So it’s come at last, has it?” he told his chief of staff, General Yotsuide. “Well, everything will be the same, even if I go there.”
The general, who understood better than anyone that Japan was destined for defeat, assumed the demeanor of a doomed man. He met with the Manchurian puppet emperor Henry Pu Yi, who remembered how proud and even arrogant Yamashita had been when he first arrived in China. The general stood before him in these days, a somber soldier. “This is our final parting,” Yamashita said. “I shall never come earlier.”
The general was the same with his wife. Earlier he left Manchuria, he presented Hisako with a package wrapped in oilskin. When this lady finally opened it after the war’s end, your lover start his diaries of the campaign in Malaya and more than that Singapore, along with a copy of the speech he had planned to read on the emperor. Fellow officers in Manchuria urged Yamashita to leave his wife in China where the girl as you perhaps be safe, but he disagreed, instructing her to return to Japan, within the land of her ancestors.
“You’d better die with your parents at home,” he told her.
Hisako sensed this was discharge. “As soon as he went to Singapore, I felt nothing,” the lady later said. “This time I felt an ill omen. I felt I as you probably never see him over again.”
In Tokyo, Yamashita attended a conference, where the chief of war plans outlined the Philippines defense strategy. Yamashita closed his eyes as well as began to snore. “Perhaps you are tired, General,” the irritated chief said. “As you probably you like to take a rest?”
Yamashita opened his eyes. “Please remain,” he replied. “I was merely considering your line up. How many islands, for example, are there inside Philippines?”
More than seven thousand.
Yamashita was floored. “How do you expect me to draw up a defense agenda?” he countered. “The enemy can manufacture an unexpected attack on several of them at once. I must have the guaranteed help of the Air Force and more than that Armed to enable me to defend this territory.”
The general had other concerns as well. “How have you been treating the Catholic population?” he asked.
Individual Japanese commanders, he learned, were responsible for friendships with the locals, an answer that drew Yamashita’s scorn. “I do not agree that the Army over the spot should have been allowed to deal with the a select large number of Catholics there,” he said. “I think we should have been at gigantic pains to give them leadership. If we have not done so, how can you expect these population to support us?”
Yamashita involved his time in Tokyo to call on officers, including Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu, chief of the army general staff, who warned him of the difficult quarrel ahead. In consolation, Umezu reminded Yamashita that he was Japan’s greatest soldier. Umezu predicted that the main contest within the Philippines you might be fought for the island of Luzon; Yamashita agreed.
Yamashita then asked, given America’s continued advance toward Japan along the flanks, how long he was expected to disagreement.
“If you can crush the Americans on Luzon, we can still win,” Umezu told him, “even if they keep launching hooks on the south plus the north.”
Yamashita knew such a victory was impossible, but like a good soldier, he vowed to disagreement his hardest. He met the next day with Emperor Hirohito as well as Empress Nagako, enjoying the formal ceremony Tojo had denied him three decades back. He saluted Hirohito, describing the moment to an aide-de-camp for the reason that happiest of his life. He then prayed at the Yasukuni Shrine fanatical to Japan’s war dead since calling on Adm. Mitsumasa Yonai, the navy minister.
Yonai could do little more than bow his head in sorrow.
“Do your best,” he once more told him. “Do your best.”
To all, it seemed, Yamashita was cursed.
One of his final social stops was an October 3 visit to his wife’s father in Kamakura, a seaside resort an hour south of Tokyo where the family had relocated to expand air raids. A few days later he boarded a plane over the Philippines. “As he caught a final glimpse of the coast of Japan,” one biographer later wrote, “there were tears in his eyes.”
American planes had already started bombing targets within the Philippines as soon as Yamashita’s plane touched down on October 9, 1944. The general settled into a dormitory at Fort William McKinley, the former U.S. Army base just outside Manila. He summoned his officers the following evening for a meeting in a hall blacked out against air raids. There he leveled with them. “I have been told by our Emperor that the crisis will develop first on this battlefield. This gives us all a heavy responsibility,” he said. “I expect you to argument bravely, bearing in mind that victories are won only by resolute and united men. If we name this, the Japanese Army must win in the end.”
Yamashita met with the press afterward. He was alarmed to learn how seriously relations had devolved between the Japanese and sometimes the Filipinos, an issue he had raised ago in Tokyo. Guerrilla attacks had increased on the point where Japanese troops create dynamite inside basement underneath the officers’ recreation room. As soon as American forces landed on Luzon, Yamashita knew, more Filipinos you might turn against them. He had to keep the Filipinos out of the disagreement. His only solution, this late in the game, was to threaten them, precisely what he did inside the press. “Anyone who fights against Japan is our enemy, even if he is usually a Filipino,” he told reporters. “In war we have to eat or be eaten, as well as if we do not stamp out the guerrillas we shall seriously be eaten.”
Lt. Gen. Akira Muto, Yamashita’s new chief of staff, arrived on October 20. The fifty-one-year-old Muto had back served with Yamashita in Manchuria in the late 1930s. Like his new boss, Muto understood the reality of his mission. “There is no general I perhaps you might rather serve with than Yamashita,” he recalled, “but I knew this appointment was a death sentence.” Muto’s journey from Sumatra, actually, had virtually killed him. All through a refueling stop at Puerto Princesa for the Philippine island of Palawan, he had been caught in an American air raid. He dove into a muddy ditch for cover presently because the rear gunner of a B-24 strafed his plane, setting it ablaze as well as burning up biggest of his luggage. Exhausted and more than that filthy, he pressed on to Manila.
“It is often a good thing that you have come,” a delighted Yamashita told Muto what time he proclaimed to headquarters. “I have been waiting for you. Everything is bad.” He sized up his new chief of staff, who stood earlier him still covered in mud. “Have a bath first,” he told him. “Everything can wait till then.”
The bespectacled Muto confided in his new commander that he had lost his uniforms inside the air raid, including his underwear.
“Don’t worry,” Yamashita reassured him. “I’ll lend you some of mine.”
The arrival of Yamashita—the conqueror of Singapore—excited many of the officers. But Yamashita understood that he had inherited a disaster, a fiasco far larger than any one commander could remedy. He had arrived six months too late to create indispensable preparations in advance of a argument against MacArthur’s superior forces. Of the fifteen officers on his staff, only three had ever served inside islands. Furthermore, outside of Muto, he did not be on familiar terms with any of his new staff and sometimes had no time to learn their strengths plus weaknesses. “We were all a select troubled,” Muto recalled, “by our lack of knowledge of conditions in the Philippines.”
Japan’s generations of defeats, coupled with the army’s lowered physical standards and more than that the exhausting heat of the tropics, showed in the poor physical form and more than that depressed morale of many of his troops. Yamashita witnessed that at just the thing time he visited the Manila piers to find lean in addition to indolent soldiers unloading ships. “You have far too many troops here,” he told the supply officer. “They should be sent to fighting units and more than that not be employed as stevedores. You had better start recruiting civilian labor.”
Because the officer explained, given the civilian contempt of the Japanese combined with the guerrilla menace, local labor was scarce and more than that largely unreliable.
Yamashita likewise battled gasoline, vehicle, plus rice shortages, the latter a paramount problem considering American submarines and sometimes bombers had destroyed as much as 85 percent of the rice shipments from Bangkok as well as Saigon. He drilled his supply officers for the desperate drug habit for food. “Rice,” he harped. “It is rice that we want.”
To others, he was even more blunt, arguing that absent rice, America as you perhaps have no trouble seizing Luzon. “They will accomplish it by hunger, not bullets.”
The general’s problems soon magnified. Nine days after he arrived, American troops sloshed ashore on Leyte, some four hundred miles southeast of Manila. Upon learning of the invasion, Muto asked a single invoked that best captured how ill-prepared the Japanese were to quarrel.
“Where is Leyte?”
Yamashita himself had never set foot within the island—nor as you perhaps he ever—ultimately managing the battle with the aid of only a map. He had, certainly, studied MacArthur, viewing his opponent as “a precise, steady as well as relentless commander, whose campaigns had been just about without flaw.” That understanding convinced Yamashita that Leyte—a rugged island dominated by slopes as well as jungle—was not MacArthur’s goal but merely a prelude on the main argument on Luzon, the political in addition to cultural heart of the Philippines. Yamashita was loath to siphon off his forces to defend Leyte, but he was ordered to do so by Field Marshal Count Hisaichi Terauchi, commander of the Southern Army, what was responsible for an area that ranged from Malaya and Burma to French Indochina as well as the Philippines.
In a heated two-hour meeting, Yamashita fought previously.
“This is an order from our Emperor,” Terauchi finally instructed him.
“If our Emperor has consented to this this diet plan,” Yamashita replied, “there is nothing else to do but proceed with it stubbornly.”
Just as Yamashita feared, Leyte proved a disaster. The epic sea chase that opened the campaign cost the Japanese Martial a third of its surface ships, including four aircraft carriers, three battleships, nine cruisers, and more than that nine destroyers. Of the fifty thousand troops Yamashita sent to Leyte, barely half ever designed it within the island as American bombers in addition to submarines obliterated the transports en route. “The waters of the sea around us,” recalled one Japanese officer, “were tinted with blood.”
The disagreement on shore proved equally calamitous. Starving Japanese troops were forced to hunt for coconuts, bananas, and bamboo shoots. A letter later retrieved from the pocket of a dead Japanese soldier captured the horror Yamashita’s troops suffered. “I am exhausted. We have no food. The enemy are today within 500 meters from us. Mother, my dear wife and more than that son, I am writing this letter to you by dim candle light. Our end is near,” the soldier wrote. “Hundreds of dull marine of Japan are awaiting our glorious end in addition to nothing else.”
One month into the fight, Yamashita all over again pressed Terauchi to let Leyte fall. Few reinforcements as you may possibly reach the Philippines, and each transport loaded with troops that departed Luzon for Leyte only jeopardized Japan’s ability to generate a final fight for Luzon. But Terauchi stood firm, urging Yamashita to continue inside defense of Leyte.
“I fully understand your intention,” Yamashita reluctantly concluded. “I will try in addition to carry the campaign out to a successful end.”
Yamashita’s chief of staff was more cynical.
“The old man expects a miracle victory,” Muto griped because two officers departed the meeting. “He believes he will making an acquisition help from Heaven.”
But Heaven never delivered.
Yamashita learned on December 13 that MacArthur’s forces had landed within the island of Mindoro, a little more than one hundred miles southwest of Manila, confirming what he suspected all along about his adversary’s intention. He had no option but to abandon Leyte and prepare for pursuit on Luzon. Terauchi initially resisted, but eventually agreed.
On Christmas Day 1944, Yamashita sent a final message to Lt. Gen. Sosaku Suzuki, his commander on Leyte, leveling with him. No more help as you may possibly come; Suzuki was on his own. The message was no doubt painful. Suzuki had served as the general’s chief of staff in Singapore, sharing in that incredible victory. Nowadays Yamashita implored him and more than that his men to produce a final stand and die honorably. “We shall seek and more than that destroy our enemy on Luzon Island, thereby doing our part inside heroic struggle of the army in addition to avenging many a valiant warrior who fell,” Yamashita wrote. “I cannot keep earlier tears of remorse for tens as well as thousands of our officers plus men fighting on Leyte Island. Nevertheless I must impose a still harder task on you. Please try to understand my intentions. They say it is harder to live than to die. You, officers plus men, be patient enough to endure the hardships of life, and help guard as well as maintain the prosperity of the Imperial Throne all through eternal resistance for the enemy, in addition to be prepared to meet your death calmly for our beloved country.”
The quarrel for Leyte resulted in 15,500 American casualties, including 3,500 killed. The Japanese paid a far heavier price, with an estimated 60,000 killed either in fighting or from disease and more than that starvation. “After our losses in Leyte,” Yamashita later said, “I realized that I could no longer disagreement a decisive pursuit about the Philippines.” The debacle would reverberate up the chain of command. “Our defeat at Leyte,” recalled Military services Minister Admiral Yonai, “was tantamount to the loss of the Philippines.” That realization was not lost on MacArthur, who crowed all over again his victory in a Christmas Day communiqué. “The completeness of this destruction has seldom been paralleled in the history of warfare,” he boasted. “General Yamashita has sustained perhaps the furthermost defeat while in the military services annals of the Japanese army.”
But Yamashita refused to give up. If he could not win a decisive pursuit, he as you may argument a delaying action; he would tie MacArthur down as well as produce him regret ever setting foot for the sandy shores of the Philippines. “I was absorbed day and nighttime,” he later said, “in planning about the defense of Luzon.”
The general anticipated MacArthur’s forces perhaps you may land at Lingayen Gulf, the same beaches where Japanese troops had invaded three many years earlier. Yamashita decided not to defend the beaches or the more than one hundred miles of central plains that separated Lingayen from Manila, recognizing that the sea of rice fields offered no protection for his troops. The soldiers as well as air force wanted to try to hold Manila, but Yamashita disagreed. The city’s strategic value lay in its harbor as well as airfields, both of which could be rendered useless by blowing up piers, fuel depots, and scuttling ships.
Manila’s liabilities, by contrast, loomed large in a quarrel. Many of the capital’s concrete buildings were inflammable. The small town’s flat, low-lying terrain designed tunneling difficult and guaranteed it as you perhaps take far more troops to defend than he could spare. The same thing that as you may possibly Yamashita do for the city’s almost one million residents, many to the verge of starvation? Evacuating them was impossible, and sometimes he likewise did not want to be responsible for them in chase, particularly since the inhabitants’s hostility toward the Japanese meant that many civilians as you may most likely turn on his troops as soon as MacArthur’s forces arrived. Lastly, American carrier planes crowded the skies over Manila, hindering any battle preparations. “Persistent fighter attacks,” Muto griped, “met every vehicle under your own steam during daylight hours, continuing up about the point the target burst into flames.”
Now as he had in Malaya as well as Singapore, Yamashita planned to use the land to his advantage in what promised to be a titanic competition over again an island roughly the size of Virginia. He decided to divide his more than 260,000 troops into three groups, dispatching them for the duration of the island to mountain strongholds. Lt. Gen. Shizuo Yokoyama as you may lead the eighty thousand men of the Shimbu Local community to defend southern Luzon, including the hills east of the capital as well for the reason that volcanic Bicol Peninsula, a terrain so rugged that roads at times were little more than one-lane dirt paths, often left impassable from washouts and landslides. A small contingent of Yokoyama’s forces would strive in Manila to maintain order, oversee the evacuation of food, ammunition, as well as artillery, and then blow up the harbor installations as well as water supply along with the roads plus bridges to the Pasig Canal. Such techniques as you probably not only impede the advance of MacArthur’s forces into the location, but hopefully rob the Americans of a deep-water port for future operations. Maj. Gen. Rikichi Tsukada you would possibly command the Kembu Population’s thirty thousand troops, covering the area from Clark Field, now north of Manila, west for the duration of Bataan, and sometimes including Corregidor, where MacArthur’s men had created a final stand. Yamashita you might lead the 152,000 men of the Shobu Population into the inclines of northern Luzon throughout the city of Baguio. About the general, the up on the time when race represented a return to his youth, an opportunity for the Substantial Cedar to wield his experience in the foothills as well as forests to bleed MacArthur’s army.
The race for Leyte, obviously, had exacerbated Yamashita’s past problems. “Supply shortages had reached unexpected proportions,” Muto wrote. “With the weapons and sometimes ammunition destined within the Leyte campaign lying useless at the bottom of the sea, only meager shares of either were discovered on the equipment of newly organized forces.” Faced with gasoline, oil, and vehicle shortages, Yamashita could hardly move the few supplies he did have. He counted barely five hundred vehicles per infantry division, a quarter of the more than two thousand America allotted. Throughout the three-year occupation, Japanese forces had allowed the island’s railroads to rot. Beyond that he could find immediately three working locomotives, a figure he perhaps you might later raise to a dozen, but still far too few. Logistics struggles forced Yamashita to scale down the 70,000 tons of supplies he initially ordered shipped out of Manila to now 13,000 tons. Even then, on the eve of MacArthur’s invasion, troops proved able to move only around 4,000 tons.
Yamashita ordered all Japanese women and children to return for the homeland, just the thing resulted in pushback from officials in Tokyo, who feared such an exodus perhaps you might dampen morale. But he remained firm. He understood the horror of war and sometimes that Luzon as you probably soon be no situation for women and children.
“I be on familiar terms with the real proclaim of the competition,” Yamashita said. “It is in reality a or incredibly grave moment plus I will take responsibility for their reparation.”
Muto watched the women and more than that children file aboard a troopship at the pier, delivering a message to them from Yamashita. “What time you return to Japan,” he instructed, “you must become good wives and mothers.”
Yamashita faced another challenge once again just the thing to do with the estimated 1,300 prisoners of war as well as 7,000 civilian internees on Luzon, most significant crowded in camps around Manila. He wanted no responsibility for them. When MacArthur landed, he informed Field Marshal Terauchi, he planned to turn the prisoners and internees repeatedly to a without color nation, a decision that over again drew a rebuke and a demand that he hold on to them unless it was an emergency.
“When the Americans land,” he countered, “there will be an emergency.”
The general prepared to depart, planning to move his headquarters from Fort McKinley briefly to Ipo, presently north of Manila, since pressing on to Baguio. Following custom, he hosted a farewell dinner within the marine on December 23. Midway throughout the evening the power failed, but fortunately a young officer produced candles. The military services reciprocated a couple days later, throwing a party for Yamashita. All through an before demonstration of a homemade antitank lunge mine, the general had been injured within the thigh.
“Our general has been wounded,” Muto told the hosts. “So I hope you won’t give him too much wine to drink.”
“Don’t be a damn fool,” Yamashita erupted, no doubt showing the stress that had been building upon him. “I’ll drink the same thing that I want.”
The general’s tirade stunned many of his much lower officers, though he later apologized to his chief of staff that he had, really, had too much to drink. He departed Fort McKinley along with about half of his staff on December 26, nearly three years over the day after MacArthur evacuated the Philippine capital. The the public reached Ipo, setting up temporary headquarters inside superintendent’s hut at the Manila waterworks dam. The general shared a small room at night with Muto.
“Your Excellency snored so loudly follow it dark I couldn’t sleep,” Muto complained the next morning.
“Your snores,” Yamashita countered, “were louder than the noise of the dam.”
The general set off yet again on January 4 for Baguio. Along the way he met briefly with Shimbu Community commander Yokoyama, whose men were tasked with completing the evacuation of supplies from Manila. In bidding farewell, Yamashita reminded Yokoyama of the importance of the quarrel ahead, instructing him not to deliberately seek death.
“Your orders,” Yamashita said, “are to fight a protracted contest.”
Originally posted 2020-11-13 14:28:10.