The Yamashita Standard – A tragedy
Even up to now, I have still doubts as to why Japan entered WWII. The conspiracy theories regarding it are ample and just keep proliferating, but there is considerable evidence to doubt the official story. Oil embargo, unequal treaties, ban on immigration, all of that added up until the tragic attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, when the stage was set.
Looking at the entire matter from a neutral angle, one can wonder what were the military elites thinking at the time in Tokyo. Prolonged war would be a lethal blow to the entire infrastructure and military force of Japan, due the resource paucity and insufficient manpower to hold such a slice of territory that they conquered. The entire island chains in the Pacific, parts of China and Manchuria, Korean peninsula, Southeastern Asia and some isolated archipelagos were a bite too big to swallow. This ridiculous notion that circled around in the steaming heads of the militant elite started backfiring, rising in the intensity as the war waged on. To soak the Allied offensive and fight equally on all fronts was impossible. The lack of armored vehicles, reliable military technology, adequate weaponry and hardcore fanaticism made the struggle even more agonizing.
Looking from a military angle, Japan was not prepared for prolonged warfare. The weaponry that the infantry utilized were least to say, of poor quality and susceptible to weather – take the standard Arisaka rifle for an example: the early models were too tall for an ordinary Japanese soldier to handle and operate successfully. The Arisaka type 38 Bolt-Action infantry service rifle (full name) could be pretty accurate, had a nice resistance to harsh weather, but was too tall and based on the bolt-action that soon became obsolete if compared to the rifles used by the Allies. The long 20 inch bayonet was deadly effective, but the overall length of the rifle to which it is attached made the melee combat with it tedious. On the other hand, the type 99 was a vast improvement in quality, precision and effectiveness, but was produced in inadequate numbers and as the war progressed, the lack of resources reduced the quality of this “Japanese Mauser rifle”.
How is general Tomoyuki Yamashita connected to all of this?
Well, he was the most capable, rational and effective general that Japan had to offer, commanding a motivated force adept at using specialist military branches, camouflage and paradoxically, adroit with the execution of defensive operations, despite the stress on aggressive warfare by the blind and mad militarists back in the cushy offices in Tokyo. Yamashita was charismatic and a soldier’s general, but was also aware of the consequences that prolonged warfare carried with it. He was especially ardent in his opposing of conflicts with China, US and England, but his advice fell on deaf ears and even earned him a reprimand from Hideki Tojo, subsequently sending him to North China where he commanded the 4th Division.
Tomoyuki Yamashita, like all high ranking Japanese military officers at the time, had an affiliation with a certain military fraction or clique. Yamashita was the member of “Kodouha” or the “Imperial Way” fraction that was conservative, favoring steady expansion, technological advance and war with the USSR that was perceived as the biggest and most terrorizing enemy of the Empire of Japan. This fraction had also a quirky notion glued to it – it advocated a totalitarian state that saw the Emperor as its only ruling body and all who oppose it deserved to be wiped out. We know how this faction lost its power – the incident 2-26 that I already wrote about so look it up if you want a more detailed account, its only a couple of clicks away.
Tomoyuki Yamashita was born to a doctor family in the Osugi village (Modern Otoyo on Shikoku), but pursued a military career and quickly rose in the ranks. He conquered in 1941. both Manila and Singapore with his 25th army, acquiring the nickname “Tiger of Malaya” that he had taken entirely by the end of 1942. This huge success along with the conquering Kuala Lumpur sprouted jealousy in the top military echelons, particularly affecting Hideki Tojo, who sent Yamashita to Manchukuo where he stayed until 1944.
The general was called back to the Pacific to tend to the defense of the Philippines , but it was too late to do anything. Yamashita and his army of tired, poorly equipped soldiers had no illusions and were completely aware that they will never return to Japan. The only goal that general Yamashita had in his mind was to stall the Allies as long as possible and to use all of his available forces to execute a battle of attrition on an island level. He performed a brilliant defense, but in the end he surrendered to the Allied forces due the order of ceasefire that the Emperor conveyed in his unconditional surrender of Japan to the US.
General Yamashita was taken to Manila where he was to face trial. He was blamed for the “Manila Massacre” that happened during the battle for the Philippines, that he allegedly ordered. The truth was that he was in Luzon preparing his forces to endure as long as possible, but around 10.000 Japanese soldiers under the command of the Rear Admiral Iwabuchi Sanji decided to stay and fight, committing the carnage. Sanji ignored the order given to him by general Yamashita and committed this blood-fest where between 100.000 and 500.000 Philippinos died, though the exact figure is still unknown. Yamashita was held responsible for these crimes, even though he never displayed any, even remotely, similar bloody act or ordered one. To cut the long story short, he was held responsible for the gory rampage of 10.000 renegade soldiers, who refused both his command and order to evacuate.
However, why is there a standard called “Yamashita standard”? Though general Yamashita had a good lawyer support and evidence to avert his death penalty, his guilt was preordained and the trial was only a formality. The war was over for the good general Tomoyuki Yamashita on February 23rd, 1946, when he was sentenced to death by hanging at the Laguna Prison camp.
Peace out everyone.