Sugiyama Gen (1880-1945)

Photograph of Sugiyama Gen

Wikimedia Commons

Sugiyama Gen (Sugiyama Hajime) was born in Fukuoka prefecture and was commissioned in the infantry in 1901. He graduated from the Army Staff College in 1910 and was a military observer in Singapore and India. He subsequently served in numerous War Ministry positions between the wars. He also helped restore order following the Young Officers' Revolt of February 1936. Sugiyama took a hard line on the war in China while serving as War Minister in 1937-1938, when he told the Emperor that the war in China would be over in a month.  He was commander of North China Area Army in 1938-1939.

Sugiyama was the Japanese Army Chief of Staff at the time the Pacific war broke out.  He was among the officers of the Control Faction who pushed for a decision for war: The only concession he was willing to make to the Americans was to pull Japanese troops out of China by 1966!  He favored a firm decision to go to war in early December 1941 and to cover preparations with duplicitous diplomacy, and opposed giving the Japanese Navy its requested allotment of steel unless the Navy agreed to war. At a liaison conference on 20 November 1941, Sugiyama gave his support to an Army policy document calling for military government of all occupied territories in southeast Asia, overriding the objections of Foreign Minister Togo.

Sugiyama told the Imperial Conference that decided on war that Japan was in no danger of air attack, and, when the Doolittle Raid demonstrated otherwise, his loss of face was enormous. He convinced Tojo to pass retroactive regulations imposing the death penalty on bomber crews and thus helped see to it that three of the captured Doolittle raiders were executed.

Sugiyama's star began to fall with the failure to recapture Henderson Field on Guadalcanal in late 1942. On 31 December 1942 Tojo presided over a conference of Imperial General Headquarters held in the presence of the Emperor. Tojo chose this venue to reduce the influence of Sugiyama. Tojo already had the full support of the Navy Minister, Shimada Shigetaro, and for an hour and forty minutes Tojo dictated future strategy. Guadalcanal and Buna would be abandoned and a new defensive line would be held north of New Georgia in the Solomons. Meanwhile Japanese positions in New Guinea would be reinforced and a new drive launched against Port Moresby. Tojo leveled several veiled criticisms at Sugiyama and declared that the government, rather than the Army high command, had to lead the nation.

Sugiyama was promoted to Field Marshal in June 1943, but by February 1944 Tojo was able to relegate him to the post of Inspector General of military training. Tojo's victory was short-lived. With the ouster of Tojo in July 1944, Sugiyama again became War Minister. He subsequently returned to line duty as commander of 1 General Army in April 1945. 

Sugiyama and his wife committed suicide following Japan's surrender. His wife had goaded him to commit suicide, but he waited until he had completed arrangements for the Allied occupation of the Tokyo area before shooting himself in the heart on 12 September 1945. Shortly after receiving the news, his wife took cyanide and fell on a dagger.

Service record


Born in Fukuoka prefecture
Second lieutenant     
Commissioned in the infantry

Graduates from Army Staff College
Chief, Aeronautical Section, Military Affairs Burea, Ministry of War

Chief, Army Affairs Section, Military Affairs Burea, Ministry of War

Head, Supply Bureau, Army Aeronautical Department,  Ministry of War

Head, Military Affairs Burea, Ministry of War

Vice-Minister of War

Commander, 12 Division

Head, Army Aeronautical Department, Ministry of War

Vice chief of the General Staff

Commandant, War College

Inspector-general of military training

Minister of War

Supreme War Council

Commander, North China Area Army

Commander, Mongolia Garrison Army

Supreme War Council

Chief of staff, General Staff
Field marshal


Inspector-general of military training

Minister of War

Commander, 1 General Army

Commits suicide


Boatner (1996)

Browne (1967)

Craig (1967)

Dupuy et al. (1992)

Fuller (1992) (accessed 2008-1-29)

Hayashi and Cox (1959)

Hotta (2013)

Hoyt (1993)

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