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Terauchi Hisaichi was born in Yamaguchi prefecture, the son of a former prime minister from an aristocratic family. He graduated from the military academy in 1900 and fought in the Russo-Japanese War. He graduated from the Army Staff College in 1909 and was later a language student in Germany. Made a baron in 1919, he rose steadily through the ranks, holding important posts in Korea and Formosa.
Terauchi was named War Minister in the Hirota
cabinet of 1936, after playing a leading role suppressing the attempted coup of 26 February. Here he joined Yamashita in bluntly
telling Hirota and his advisors that relatively liberal-minded men,
such as Yoshida Shigeru (who was being considered as Foreign Minister),
were not acceptable to the Army as cabinet ministers. This marked a new
milestone in Army control over the government. Thereafter the Army was
able to enforce an agreement that only active duty Army officers could
be named as War Minister, which gave the Army a decisive leverage over
As War Minister, Terauchi favored a planned economy with government controls on business and labor. He also supported the decision to join the Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany and Italy. He was responsible for freeing the Army from all parliamentary control, displaying his distaste for liberal politicians in a notorious debate on the floor of the Diet on 21 January 1937. Hamada Kunimatsu, a leader of the liberal Seiyukai Party and former president of the lower house of the Diet, took the Army to task over rumors in the press that the Army planned to establish a one-party government. Terauchi accused Hamada of insulting the Army, and Hamada responded (Hoyt 1993):
Where does the record show that I have insulted the Army? If any words of mine have insulted the Army, I shall apologize to you by committing suicide. If there are no such insults then you should commit suicide.
This was met with cheering by the Seiyukai
members of the Diet. The next day the Army replied with a
statement that only the Army could give Japan living space outside the
home islands, and so the Army would work to do away with the Diet.
Terauchi brought down the Hirota cabinet the same day by resigning in
protest of Hirota's
refusal to dissolve the House of Representatives in favor of a
one-party "National Defense" government.
In 1937, following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Terauchi was given command of the North China Area Army. He showed himself an aggressive officer, at one point ignoring instructions to stand down from any new operations and choosing instead to attempt to trap Chinese troops at Hsuchow.
Terauchi was given command of Southern
responsible for the opening
Japanese offensive of the Pacific
War. He was critical of Homma for being too 'soft' on the Filipinos and of Imamura
for granting too much power to the Indonesian puppet government.
Terauchi's attitude likely played a role in Homma's subsequent relief
Terauchi became a field marshal in June 1943 and was briefly considered as a replacement for Tojo as prime minister.
Yamashita disagreed with Terauchi on the wisdom of an all-out defense of Leyte, but Terauchi insisted on fighting a decisive battle on the island. This ended in an Allied victory and weakened the defense of Luzon.
April 1945, under great stress from the fall of the Philippines and Mandalay, Terauchi suffered from a
stroke, which his
staff concealed from Tokyo.
He was ordered back to Tokyo at the beginning of August 1945, but news of the surrender arrived before he could make the trip. Instead, he summoned Sukarno to announce the independence of Indonesia
and ordered surplus Japanese weapons turned over to the new Indonesian
government. Terauchi considered ignoring the surrender, but made the
decision to submit on 16 August 1945.
When told that Terauchi was in too poor health to attend the surrender ceremony at Singapore, Mountbatten sent his own doctor to examine Terauchi. The doctor confirmed his fragile health, and Mountbatten had him transferred to a bungalow in Malaya in March 1946. On 11 June 1946, Terauchi became angered by a report of a Kempeitai lieutenant colonel who had threatened to disclose Japanese war crimes
to the Allies, and he suffered a second massive stroke from which he
perished early the next morning. As a consequence, he never stood trial
crimes, such as his responsibility for mistreatment of laborers on
the Burma-Siam Railroad
and his order that all Allied
prisoners of war in his
command area were to be massacred
if Japan was invaded.
Terauchi thought the army should stay out of politics, by which he probably meant that the politicians should keep their hands off the army. In other respects was a typically ruthless Japanese Army officer. Neither the Americans nor his own peers thought much of him, but his staff were impressed by the fact that such a wealthy man chose to live so frugally. Yamashita felt otherwise, writing in his diary that "... that damn Terauchi lives in luxury in Saigon, sleeps in a comfortable bed, eats good food and plays shogi" (Toland 1970) Yamashita added that "If there are two ways of doing something, trust Southern Army to pick the wrong one."
|Born in Yamaguchi prefecture
|Graduates from Military Academy
|Army Staff College
|Commander, 1 Imperial Guards
|Chief of staff, Imperial Guards
|Commander, 19 Brigade
|Chief of staff, Korea Army
|Commander, Independent Garrison
|Commander, 5 Division
|Commander, 4 Division
|Commander, Taiwan Army District
|Member, Supreme War Council
|Minister of War
|Commander, North China Area
|Member, Supreme War Council
|Commander, Southern Army
|Dies at Johore Bahru, Malaya
Dupuy et al. (1992)
Hayashi and Cox (1959)
Peattie et al. (2011)
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