Pacific Wrecks
Pacific Wrecks    
  Missing In Action (MIA) Prisoners Of War (POW) Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)  
Chronology Locations Aircraft Ships Submit Info How You Can Help Donate
General Tomoyuki Yamashita
Imperial Japanese Army
Tomoyuki Yamashita 山下 奉文 was born November 8, 1885 to parents Dr. Sakichi Yamashita and Yuu Yamashita in Osugi (today Ōtoyo), Kōchi Prefecture on Shikoku in Japan. As a youth he attended military preparatory school then entered the Imperial Japanese Army Academy and graduated 16th in the class of 1905. In 1908 promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.

World War I
During the First World War, Japan was on the Allied side and Yamashita engaged in combat against Imperial Germany forces in Shandong Province in eastern China. By 1916 he was promoted to the rank of Captain and attended the Army War College graduating 6th in the class and married Hisako Nagayama the daughter of retired General Nagayama. The couple never had any children.

Inter War Years
Between 1919 until 1922 he was a military attaché in Bern and Berlin. In February 1922 promoted to the rank of Major and held two postings to the Military Affairs Bureau and participated in the Ugaki Army Reduction Program to streamline the Army organization and faced fierce internal opposition. Later that year he was assigned to the Imperial Headquarters and the Staff College.

In 1925 promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and because of his role in the reduction program fell into disfavor with factions of the Army and became a part of the Kōdōha (Imperial Way Faction) and a rival of the "Control Faction" led by General Hideki Tojo. Among Yamashita's recommendations for the Army were to streamline the air arm, mechanize the Army, create a paratrooper corps, integrate control of the armed forces in a defense ministry and employ propaganda.

In 1927 again traveled to Europe as a military attaché in Vienna for a three year posting. In 1930 promoted to the rank of colonel and became the commander of the 3rd Imperial Infantry Regiment part of the Imperial Guards Division. By 1934 promoted to the rank of major general. After the failed February 26 Incident coup d'état by young Army officers, Yamashita appealed for leniency against them and fell into disfavor with Emperor Hirohito. Yamashita wanted to resign from the Army but was dissuaded and was posted to Korea to command a brigade.

Second Sino-Japanese War
In November 1937 he was promoted to Lieutenant General and during the Second Sino-Japanese War advocated for an end to the conflict and suggested peaceful relations with the United States and Britain but was ignored and regulated to a posting with the Kwantung Army in Manchukuo (Manchuria). Between 1938 until 1940 he commanded the 4th Division and was engaged in combat in northern China. In December 1940 traveled to Europe for a six month military mission to both Germany and Italy. On June 16, 1941 in Berlin met Adolf Hitler and also had a meeting with Benito Mussolini. On November 6, 1941 Yamashita was given command of the 25th Army and began planning the invasion of the Malaya Peninsula and a daring plan to use his smaller force to rapidly advance and defeat the numerically larger British Army.

Pacific War
On December 8, 1941 at the start of the Pacific War, Yamashita commanded Operation "E" the Japanese invasion of Malaya and rapidly advanced down the Malayan Peninsula. On February 8, 1942 after an artillery bombardment, Yamashita's 25th Army including the 5th Division and 18th Division land on the northwest of Singapore in a move that was not anticipated by the defenders. On February 15, 1942 the British surrendered Singapore and was the largest surrender of British led troops in history. For his successful strategy in Malaysia, Yamashita earned the nickname the "Tiger Of Malaya".

Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement

In early 1942 during a speech to a civilian leaders in Singapore he referred to the local population as "citizens of the Empire of Japan". In fact, the Japanese government that did not considered the citizens of conquered territories to have the rights or privileges of Japanese citizenship and this mistake was used to sideline him on July 17, 1942 to command the 1st Area Army in Manchukuo (Manchuria). In February 1943 promoted to the rank of General but was sidelined as a military leader for the remainder of 1943 until late 1944 during the critical period of the Pacific War. On July 18, 1944 his nemesis, Prime Minister Hideki Tojo resigned and Japan faced a worsening military prospects with the Allies on the offensive across Asia and the Pacific.

Defense of the Philippines
On September 26, 1944 Yamashita was given command the of the 14th Area Army in the Philippines with appropriately 262,000 men. On October 20, 1944 the U.S. Army landed on eastern Leyte and Yamashita decided to make it the main defensive effort ordering Japanese Army to reinforcements to land at Ormoc Bay on the west and engage in a decisive battle but resulted in defeat.

On January 9, 1945 after the U.S. Army began landing at Lingayen Gulf. Defending Luzon, Yamashita personally took command of the "Shobu Group" with roughly 152,000 men and withdrew from Manila and established his headquarters at Baguio then into the mountains of Luzon. Cut off from resupply or support, he planned to fight a protracted defense to tie down as many American troops as possible. Until the end of the Pacific War, Yamashita established his headquarters at Kiangan in Ifugao Province and continued resistance.

On September 2, 1945 when Japan officially surrendered, General Yamashita left the last stand area and surrendered to the U.S. Army at Kiangan at the Home economics building of Kiangan Central School (General Yamashita's Surrender Site). When Yamashita surrendered, the surviving "Shobu Group" had roughly 50,500 troops including approximately 40,000 in the last stand area of the Asin Valley. Afterwards taken to Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya then transported to Baguio. On September 3, 1945 Yamashita officially surrendered at at Camp John Hay at the US Ambassador's Residence in a ceremony attended by Lt. General Arthur Percival and Lt. General Jonathan Wainwright who both survived captivity as Prisoners Of War (POWs).
Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement
War Crimes Trial
Afterwards, Yamashita was charged as a war criminal for command responsibility for atrocities that happened under his command including crimes against Prisoners Of War (POWs) and civilians in the the Philippines. On September 24, 1945 a military commission to prosecute war criminals was ordered by General Douglas MacArthur. The task was assigned to Lt. General Wilhelm D. Styer who chose five general for the Yamashita Trial Commission: Major General Russel B. Reynolds, Major General Leo Donovan and Major General James A. Lester, and Brigadier General Morris C. Harwerk and Brigadier General Egbert F. Bullens.

On October 29, 1945 Yamashita's trail for war crimes began in the U.S. military court in Manila. During the trail, Yamashita was detained at Bilibid Prison. Yamashita's defense counsel was led by Col. Harry E. Clarke. His defense did not dispute the atrocities that happened, but contended a breakdown of communications prevented him from controlling his troops and many of the atrocities were committed by Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) personnel that were not part of his command. Although the trail was hasty and prosecution unprofessional, Yamashita was found guilty and sentenced to death on December 7, 1945. His defense counsel appealed the sentence to Lt. General Wilhelm D. Styer and General MacArthur who upheld it.

Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement

Supreme Court Appeal
Next, Yamashita's conviction was appealed to the Supreme Court of the Philippines and the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOUS) and the legitimacy of the trail and hasty prosecution was disputed as unprofessional but the finding of guilt was upheld with two justices dissenting including Justice W.B. Rutledge. The case set a precedent of command responsibility also known as the "Yamashita Standard" that a military commander can be held accountable for crimes committed by his troops even if he did not order them. Afterwards, an appeal to U.S. President Harry S. Truman was made for clemency but he declined to intervene and deferred to the military with General Douglas MacArthur confirming his sentence.

Out of legal options and avenues for appeal, Yamashita was detained at Los Baños Prison Camp. On February 23, 1946 Yamashita made a statement then was hanged until dead.

Yamashita was buried in the Japanese Cemetery near Los Baños Prison Camp. Later, his remains were transported to Japan and buried at Tama Cemetery at 16-1-8-6.


FindAGrave - Tomoyuki Yamashita (photos, grave photo)
PhilStar Global "September 3, which marks Yamashita's surrender, is a working holiday" September 2, 2019
Allen County Public Library - George Mountz Collection -- Yamashita Trial Photographs
Allen County Public Library - George Mountz Collection -- WWII Letters
U.S. Supreme Court In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1946) argued January 7-8, 1946 decided February 4, 1946

Contribute Information
Do you have photos or additional information to add?

  Discussion Forum Daily Updates Reviews Museums Interviews & Oral Histories  
Pacific Wrecks Inc. All rights reserved.
Donate Now Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram