Hideki Tojo vs Isoroku Yamamoto: Conflict in the Military Ranks
Tojo and Yamamoto demonstrated the divergent views between the Japanese Army and Navy on military strategy in World War II.
By Eric Hammel Three generations of Americans wrongly believe that General Hideki Tojo and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto were equally culpable in starting the Pacific War. This is untrue. The Imperial Army was ascendant over the Imperial Navy throughout the modern period, and it was usually led by one or another faction of highly aggressive, hegemonistic officers. As the junior service, the Imperial Navy could do little but accede to the will of the generals and support the generals’ expansionist policies. Two Officers of Very Different Backgrounds Tojo, who was born the son of a junior Army officer in 1884, was known by his peers as “Fighting Tojo” and “Razor Brain.” He was marked for high station by the character traits those nicknames encapsulate. His only direct exposure to the West was in postings to Switzerland in 1919 and Germany in 1921. Thereafter, his rise to power began when he was a junior major general serving in China in 1935. Anti-Soviet and pro-German, Tojo lobbied for war against the former so forcefully as to rattle other pro-war Army officers. He became chief of staff of the Kwantung Army in China in 1937, vice minister of war in May 1938, and inspector general of Army aviation in December 1938. He served as vice premier under Prince Fumimaro Konoye, then became minister of war on July 18, 1941. He finally—perhaps inevitably—took the helm as both minister
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In actuality, Col. Billy Mitchell laid out a carrier air attack on Pearl Harbor a decade previously. It was ridiculed as an impossible undertaking by Army staff, under whom most military air operations were assigned at the time. To my knowledge, there is no evidence that Yamamoto was familiar with Mitchell’s study but the methods by which he carried out the Pearl Harbor attack are strikingly similar.