Muto Akira (1892-1948)

Photograph of General Muto Akira

Wikipedia Commons

Muto Akira was vice chief of staff of the China Expeditionary Force at the time of the Rape of Nanking. Promoted to lieutenant general just prior to the outbreak of war, he was director of the Military Affairs Bureau at the time of Pearl Harbor. This was a position of considerable importance, as every other government agency seeking to work with the Army had to go through the Military Affairs Bureau, and Muto was one of the three most influential staff officers (bakuryo) in Japan.

Muto favored the neutrality pact with Russia, writing that "It was a tremendous success that Matsuoka signed the pact" (Kotani 2009). Though initially enthusiastic about the war in China, he had concluded by 1941 that it was a "misstep", and he was reluctant to support a war against the United States: "The likely prospect might be war after all. But you see, one misstep and war can end up destroying the state. I just cannot make up my mind for war. I don't war war, all the more so since the emperor also said so [by reciting an antiwar poem]" (quoted by Hotta 2013).

Muto was an old enemy of Tojo in spite of being part of the Control Faction and in spite of being one of the "Big Three" (along with Hata Shunroku and Yamada Otozo) who originally put Tojo in power. Two months after the Pearl Harbor attack, Muto was trying to build support for ousting Tojo, even as he served as his close adviser. Muto also worked actively to build a Nazi-like party to support Army rule in the April 1942 elections.

Tojo saw to it that Muto was assigned a command far from Tokyo. Imperial Guards Division had behaved disgracefully in the Malaya campaign, acting almost independently of the rest of 25 Army and committing a number of atrocities, which pained the Emperor. Tojo asked Muto to take command of the division and rehabilitate it, a request that Muto could not refuse because of the Emperor's interest in the matter. Muto took command of Imperial Guards Division at Singapore in April 1942 and continued in command after its redesignation as 2 Imperial Guards Division in Sumatra the next year.

Muto later served as army commander in Sumatra (from June 1944) and chief of staff in the Philippines (October 1944-August 1945). He became an unlikely defender of Yamashita, but was hanged on 23 December 1948 for having failed to stop his troops from committing atrocities in northern Sumatra and the Philippines.

Service record



Commissioned an infantry officer

1 Regiment

Military Affairs Burea, Ministry of War

Ministry of War
Chief of intelligence section, Kwantung Army

Chief, Maneuvers Section, General Staff

Vice chief of staff, Central China Area Army

Vice chief of staff, Central China Expeditionary Army

Vice chief of staff, North China Area Army
Major general     


Head, Military Affairs Burea, Ministry of War
Lieutenant general     


Commander, Imperial Guards Division

Commander, 2 Imperial Guards Division

Chief of staff, 14 Area Army

Hanged as war criminal


Boatner (1996)

Fuller (1992) (accessed 2007-12-8)

Hotta (2013)

Hoyt (1993)

Kotani (2009)

Prange (1981)
Russell (1958)

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