Sato Kenryo (1895-1975)

Photograph of Sato Kenryo

Wikipedia Commons

Sato Kenryo was a longtime spokesman for the Army and advocated the General Mobilization Law of February 1938 before the Diet. During the debate, he was heckled by legislators, and shouted "Shut up!" before storming out of the session, angry that politicians would dare contradict an Army officer. War Minister Sugiyama Gen apologized to the Diet but did not reprimand Sato. Sato was a protégé of Tojo and was brought in to take charge of the Military Affairs Bureau after its powerful chief, Muto Akira, was shipped off to Singapore to get him out of Tojo's way.

Sato became an important advisor to Tojo and continued serving as the official spokesman for Army policy. However, Sato opposed Tanaka Shinichi at a 5 December 1942 Cabinet meeting when the later angrily demanded that more civilian shipping be diverted to the military. Sato understood that civilian shipping was essential to war production. The argument turned into a shouting match and then a fistfight. Tanaka repeated his performance to Tojo the next day and was immediately reassigned to Singapore.

Sato told the Diet in a speech in March 1943, shortly following the defeat at Guadalcanal, that (Kotani 2009):

As far as the U.S. tactics and strategy are concerned, their technique is amateurish and lacks discipline ... They are good at shooting, but their fighting spirit and morale are very poor ... Most U.S. soldiers do not understand why they are fighting.

This reflected the Japanese Army's obsession with fighting spirit over firepower. It also misread the temperament of the American fighting man in the Pacific, who at this stage of the war was often a volunteer who had enlisted specifically out of anger at Japan for the attack on Pearl Harbor. On the other hand, Sato bluntly told Tojo in June 1943, in response to a query from the Emperor, that "neither the Army nor the Navy can possibly draw up a plan to stop [the Americans]" (Tillman 2010).

Sato argued against the Sho-go operation in October 1944, believing that Combined Fleet was more useful as a fleet in being than if it were committed to a sacrificial operation against the overwhelming strength of the American Pacific Fleet. However, he was overruled by the Navy.

Sato served as assistant chief of staff of the China Expeditionary Army in 1944 and commander of 37 Division in Indochina in 1945.

Sato was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against the peace, specifically for advocating the Centrifugal Offensive, but was paroled in 1956.

Service record



Graduates from Military Academy
Lieutenant Colonel     
Military Affairs Bureau
Head of Press Bureau, Imperial General Staff

Hamamutsu Army Aviation School

Vice chief of staff, 21 Army

Vice chief of staff, South China Area Army

Chief, Military Affairs, Army General Staff
Major general


Chief, Military Affairs, Ministry of War

Vice chief of staff, China Expeditionary Army
Lieutenant general     
Commander, 37 Division


Tried for war crimes

Sentenced to life imprisonment




Cutler (1994)

Drea (2009)

Fuller (1992) (accessed 2007-11-9)

Hayashi and Cox (1959)

Hoyt (1993)

Kotani (2009)

Tillman (2010)

Trial Watch (accessed 2009-12-4)

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