Masanobu Tsuji

Masanobu Tsuji
Nickname(s) The God of Operations
Born October 11, 1901
Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan
Died Declared dead 20 July 1968 (age 60-67)
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Service/branch Imperial Japanese Army (IJA)
Years of service 1924–1945
Rank Rikugun Taisa (Colonel)
Battles/wars World War II (Pacific War)
Memorial statue of Masanobu Tsuji in Kaga, Ishikawa
In this Japanese name, the family name is Tsuji.

Masanobu Tsuji (辻 政信 Tsuji Masanobu, 11 October 1901 ca.1961[1]) was a Japanese army officer and politician. During World War II, he was an important tactical planner in the Imperial Japanese Army; he developed the detailed plans for the successful Japanese invasion of Malaya at the start of the war.[2] He also helped plan and lead the final Japanese offensive during the Guadalcanal Campaign.

Tsuji was deeply involved in Japanese atrocities throughout the war. He evaded prosecution for war crimes at the end of the war, living in hiding in Thailand. He returned to Japan in 1949 and was elected to the Diet as an advocate of renewed militarism. In 1961, he disappeared on a trip to Laos.[3]

Tsuji was among the most aggressive and influential Japanese militarists. He was a leading proponent of the concept of gekokujō, "leading from below" or "loyal insubordination" by acting without or contrary to authorization.[3] He incited the 1939 border clash with the USSR, and was a vehement advocate of war with the United States.[4]


Masunobu Tsuji was born in the Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan. He received his secondary education at a military academy and then graduated from the War College.

By 1934, he was active in the Army's political intrigues as a member of the Tōseiha ("Control Faction"), and helped block the attempted coup d'état of the rival Kōdōha ("Imperial Way Faction"). This brought him the patronage of general and future Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and general and future War Minister Seishirō Itagaki.[3]

In 1932, he saw action in China, and subsequently travelled as far as Sinkiang.[5] Tsuji served as a staff officer in the Kwantung Army in 1937-1939. His aggressive and insubordinate attitude exacerbated the Soviet–Japanese border conflicts, and helped incite to the Battle of Khalkhin Gol in 1939.[6]

After the defeat at Khalkhin Gol, Tsuji opposed any further conflicts with the USSR. After their attack on the USSR in 1941, the Germans urged the Japanese to join the invasion, and many in the Japanese military wanted to avenge the defeat at Khalkhin Gol. Yet Tsuji was an influential advocate of the attack on the United States. General Ryukichi Tanaka testified after the war that, "the most determined single protagonist in favor of war with the United States was Tsuji Masanobu." Tsuji later wrote that his experience of Soviet fire-power at Khalkhin Gol convinced him not to attack the Soviet Union in 1941.[4]

His protectors in the Army got him safely transferred to Taiwan, where he helped organize the Army's jungle warfare school. He was then assigned to the Operations Section of the General staff, where he became a strong advocate of war with the United States and Britain. It has been alleged that in late 1941, he planned the assassination of Prime Minister Konoye, if Konoye achieved peace with the U.S.[3]

When the war with America and Britain started, Tsuji was on the staff of General Tomoyuki Yamashita, whose army invaded Malaya.[5] He was largely responsible for planning Yamashita's successful landing in Malaya and subsequent campaign against Singapore.[7] After the capture of Singapore, Tsuji helped plan the Sook Ching - a systematic massacre of thousands of Malayan Chinese who might be hostile to Japan.[8] He was then transferred to the staff of General Homma in the Philippines. After the U.S. surrender there, Tsuji sought to have all American prisoners killed, and encouraged the brutal mistreatment and casual murder of prisoners in the Bataan Death March.[9] He also had many captured officials of the Philippines government executed.

Tsuji planned the Japanese overland attack in New Guinea, via the Kokoda Trail. In this as in other operations, he ordered bold offensive moves regardless of difficulties or the costs to the troops involved.

In late 1942, Tsuji went to Guadalcanal, where he planned and led the last major Japanese attack on October 23–24. After these attacks were defeated, Tsuji went to Tokyo in person to urge additional reinforcements. But he then accepted the Navy's conclusion that nothing could get through, and recommended the evacuation of the remaining troops. He impressed the Emperor with his frankness.

But the Guadalcanal fiasco had discredited him. He was sent to the Japanese HQ in Nanking, which was largely inactive, for the next year. While there, he made contacts with various Chinese, including both collaborators and agents of Chiang Kai-shek's government.[5]

In mid-1944, Tsuji was sent to Burma, where Japanese forces had been repulsed at Imphal. Tsuji was assigned to 33rd Army, which faced the Chinese in northeastern Burma. He was an energetic and efficient planner, if notoriously arrogant, and once helped quell panic in the ranks by ostentiously having a bath under fire in the front lines.

Allegations of having committed cannibalism - by dining on the liver of a downed allied airman - arose after reports by a group of Japanese war correspondents and a fellow Japanese officer.[10][11]

When the Japanese position in Burma collapsed in 1945, Tsuji escaped, first to Thailand, and then to China, where he renewed the contacts made in Nanking. He also visited Vietnam, then in disorder with the Viet Minh resisting the re-establishment of French rule. In China, Tsuji was both a prisoner and an employee of Chinese intelligence.[5]

In 1948, he was allowed to resign from Chinese service and returned to Japan. He began publishing books and articles about his war experiences, including an account of the Japanese victory in Malaya. He also wrote of his years in hiding in Senkō Sanzenri (潜行三千里;) "3,000 li (Chinese miles) in hiding", which became a best seller. He was elected to the Diet in 1952, and re-elected twice.[5]

In April 1961, he traveled to Laos and was never heard from again. He may have been killed in the Laotian Civil War, but there were also rumors that he became an adviser to the North Vietnamese government. He was declared dead on July 20, 1968.[12]

He held strong "pan-Asian" views and thought that the people of other Asian countries should support Japan against Western powers. His ultra-nationalist and militarist views and his war record won him the support of many like-minded Japanese nationalists, to the end of which his supporters erected a statue of him in Kaga City, Japan.



  1. Tsuji's birthyear is disputed. Several Japanese sources use 1903, but Tsuji himself wrote it was 1901. Other sources say 1900 or 1902. The 1901 date is from David Bergamini's Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, p. 981.
  2. John Toland, The Rising Sun, page 183
  3. 1 2 3 4 Budge, Kent G. "Tsuji Masanobu". The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 28, 2012.
  4. 1 2 Goldman, Stuart (August 28, 2012). "The Forgotten Soviet-Japanese War of 1939". The Diplomat.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Dan Ford, Warbird Forum "Colonel Tsuji of Malaya"
  6. Coox, Alvin D. Nomonhan: Japan Against Russia, 1939, ISBN 0-8047-1835-0
  7. Bergamini, p. 981.
  8. Yoji, Akashi; Mako, Yoshimura (eds.) New Perspectives on the Japanese Occupation in Malaya and Singapore Hayashii, Hirofumi. Chapter 9. Massacre of Chinese in Singapore and Its Coverage in Postwar Japan Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2008
  9. "The Causes of the Bataan Death March Revisited".
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Tsuji, Masanobu. (1997). Japan's Greatest Victory, Britain's Worst Defeat, p. 108.


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