Kwantung Army

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Kwantung Army
Kwantung Army Headquarters.JPG
Kwantung HQ in Hsinking, Manchukuo
ActiveApril 1906 – August 1945
CountryMerchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Empire of Japan
Allegiance Emperor of Japan
BranchWar flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg  Imperial Japanese Army
Type Infantry
Role Army group
Garrison/HQ Hsinking, Manchukuo
Nickname(s)Toku(德兵團,Toku heidan), Special
Engagements Second Sino-Japanese War

Soviet–Japanese border conflicts

World War II

Kwantung Army
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 關東軍
Simplified Chinese 关东军
Korean name
Hangul 관동군
Hanja 關東軍
Japanese name
Kanji 関東軍

The Kwantung Army was an army group of the Imperial Japanese Army in the first half of the 20th century. It became the largest and most prestigious command in the IJA. Many of its personnel, such as Chiefs of staff Seishirō Itagaki and Hideki Tōjō were promoted to high positions in both the military and civil government in the Empire of Japan and it was largely responsible for the creation of the Japanese-dominated Empire of Manchuria. In August 1945, the army group, around 713,000 (from a previous total of 1,320,000) men at the time, was defeated by and surrendered to Soviet troops as a result of the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation.

Army group military organization consisting of several field armies, which is self-sufficient for indefinite periods

An army group is a military organization consisting of several field armies, which is self-sufficient for indefinite periods. It is usually responsible for a particular geographic area. An army group is the largest field organization handled by a single commander—usually a full general or field marshal—and it generally includes between 400,000 and 1,000,000 soldiers.

Imperial Japanese Army Official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan, from 1868 to 1945

The Imperial Japanese Army was the official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan from 1868 to 1945. It was controlled by the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office and the Ministry of the Army, both of which were nominally subordinate to the Emperor of Japan as supreme commander of the army and the navy. Later an Inspectorate General of Aviation became the third agency with oversight of the army. During wartime or national emergencies, the nominal command functions of the emperor would be centralized in an Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ), an ad-hoc body consisting of the chief and vice chief of the Army General Staff, the Minister of the Army, the chief and vice chief of the Naval General Staff, the Inspector General of Aviation, and the Inspector General of Military Training.

Seishirō Itagaki Japanese general

Seishirō Itagaki was a General in the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II and a War Minister. Convicted of war crimes, he was executed in 1948.

Contents

History

Formation

Kwantung Army on maneuvers Kwantung Army Special Maneuvers2.JPG
Kwantung Army on maneuvers

Following the Russo-Japanese War, Japan obtained the Kwantung Leased Territory and the areas adjacent to the South Manchurian Railway. "Kwantung" (traditional Chinese :關東; simplified Chinese :关东; pinyin :Guāndōng; Wade–Giles :Kwan1-tung1) means "east of Shanhaiguan", a guarded pass, east of which lies Manchuria. The Kwantung Garrison was established in 1906 to defend this territory, and originally was composed of an infantry division and a heavy siege artillery battalion, supplemented with six independent garrison battalions as railway guards deployed along the South Manchurian Railway Zone, for a total troop strength of 100,000 men. It was headquartered in Port Arthur, known as "Ryojun" in Japanese. After a reorganization in 1919, the Kwantung Garrison was renamed the Kwantung Army.

Russo-Japanese War war between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan

The Russo-Japanese War was fought during 1904-1905 between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan over rival imperial ambitions in Manchuria and Korea. The major theatres of operations were the Liaodong Peninsula and Mukden in Southern Manchuria and the seas around Korea, Japan and the Yellow Sea.

Kwantung Leased Territory Japanese possession in Northeastern China until the end of World War II

The Kwantung Leased Territory was a Russian-leased territory (1898–1905), then a Japanese-leased territory (1905–1945) in the southern part of the Liaodong Peninsula in the Republic of China that existed from 1898 to 1945. It was one of the territorial concessions that the Chinese government under the Qing Dynasty was compelled to award to foreign countries during the second half of the 19th century. The territory included the militarily and economically significant ports of Lüshunkou and Dalian.

Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau, and in the Kangxi Dictionary. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty, and have been more or less stable since the 5th century.

In the highly politicized Imperial Japanese Army of the 1920s and 1930s, the Kwantung Army was a stronghold of the radical "Imperial Way Faction", and many of its senior leaders overtly advocated political change in Japan through the violent overthrow of the civilian government to bring about a Shōwa Restoration, with a reorganization of society and the economy along totalitarian state fascist lines. They also advocated a more aggressive, expansionist foreign policy regarding the Asian mainland. Members or former members of the Kwantung Army were active in numerous coup d'état attempts against the civilian government, culminating with the February 26 Incident of 1936. [1]

The Imperial Way Faction was a political faction in the Imperial Japanese Army, active in the 1920s and 1930s and largely supported by junior officers aiming to establish a military government that promoted totalitarian, militarist, and expansionist ideals. It was never an organized political party and had no official standing within the Army.

The Shōwa Restoration was promoted by Japanese author Kita Ikki, with the goal of restoring power to the newly enthroned Japanese Emperor Hirohito and abolishing the liberal Taishō democracy. The aims of the "Showa Restoration" were similar to the Meiji Restoration as the groups who envisioned it imagined a small group of qualified people backing up a strong Emperor. The Cherry Blossom Society envisioned such a restoration.

Totalitarianism political system in which the state holds total authority

Totalitarianism is a political concept of a mode of government that prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is regarded as the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism. Political power in totalitarian states has often been held by rule by one leader which employ all-encompassing propaganda campaigns broadcast by state-controlled mass media. Totalitarian regimes are often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, restriction of speech, mass surveillance and widespread use of state terrorism. Historian Robert Conquest describes a "totalitarian" state as one recognizing no limits to its authority in any sphere of public or private life and which extends that authority to whatever length feasible.

Independent actions

Although the Kwantung Army was nominally subordinate to the Imperial General Headquarters and the senior staff at the Army General Staff, its leadership often acted in direct violation of the orders from the mainland Japan without suffering any consequence. Conspirators within the junior officer corps of the Kwantung Army plotted and carried out the assassination of Manchurian warlord Chang Tsolin in the Huanggutun Incident of 1928. Afterwards, the Kwantung Army leadership engineered the Mukden Incident and the subsequent invasion of Manchuria in 1931 in a massive act of insubordination (gekokujo) against the express orders of the political and military leadership based in Tokyo.

Imperial General Headquarters

The Imperial General Headquarters was part of the Supreme War Council and was established in 1893 to coordinate efforts between the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy during wartime. In terms of function, it was approximately equivalent to the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff and the British Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Junior officer, company officer or company grade officer refers to the lowest operational commissioned officer category of ranks in a military or paramilitary organization, ranking above non-commissioned officers and below senior officers.

Assassination murder of a prominent person, often a political leader or ruler

Assassination is the act of killing a prominent person for either political, religious or monetary reasons.

Presented with the fait accompli, Imperial General Headquarters had little choice but to follow up on the actions of the Kwantung Army with reinforcements in the subsequent Pacification of Manchukuo. The success of the campaign meant that the insubordination of the Kwantung Army was rewarded rather than punished.

Pacification of Manchukuo campaign led by the Imperial Japanese Army to pacify resistance to the puppet state of Manchukuo

The Pacification of Manchukuo was a Japanese anti-insurgency campaign during the Second Sino-Japanese War to suppress any armed resistance to the newly established puppet state of Manchukuo from various anti-Japanese volunteer armies in occupied Manchuria and later the Communist Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army. The operations were carried out by the Imperial Japanese Kwantung Army and the collaborationist forces of the Manchukuo government from March 1932 until 1942, and resulted in a Japanese victory.

With the foundation of Manchukuo in 1932, the Kwantung Army played a controlling role in the political administration of the new state as well as in its defense. With the Kwantung Army administering all aspects of the politics and economic development of the new state, this made the Kwantung Army commanding officer equivalent to a Governor-general, with the authority to approve or countermand any command from the nominal emperor of Manchukuo, Puyi. [2]

Manchukuo former Japan puppet state in China

Manchukuo was a puppet state of the Empire of Japan in Northeast China and Inner Mongolia from 1932 until 1945. It was founded as a republic, but in 1934 it became a constitutional monarchy. It had limited international recognition and was under the de facto control of Japan.

Governor-general or governor general, in modern usage, is the title of an office-holder appointed to represent the monarch of a sovereign state in the governing of an independent realm. Governors-general have also previously been appointed in respect of major colonial states or other territories held by either a monarchy or republic, such as French Indochina.

Puyi last Emperor of China

Puyi or Pu Yi, of the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan, was the eleventh and last emperor of the Qing dynasty. When he was a child, he reigned as the Xuantong Emperor in China and Khevt Yos Khaan in Mongolia from 1908 until his forced abdication on 12 February 1912, after the Xinhai Revolution. From 1 July to 12 July in 1917, he was briefly restored to the throne as emperor by the warlord Zhang Xun.

Second World War

After the campaign to secure Manchukuo, the Kwantung Army continued to fight in numerous border skirmishes with China as part of its efforts to create a Japanese-dominated buffer zone in northern China. The Kwantung Army also fought in the opening phase of the Second Sino-Japanese War in Operation Nekka, and various actions in Inner Mongolia to extend Japanese domination over portions of northern China and Inner Mongolia. When war broke out in the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in July 1937, its forces participated in Battle of Beiping-Tianjin and Operation Chahar. Later, Kwantung forces supported the war in China from time to time.

However, the much vaunted reputation of the Kwantung Army was severely challenged in battle against the Soviet Union's Red Army at the Battle of Lake Khasan in 1938[ citation needed ] and subsequent Battle of Nomonhan in 1939, during which time it sustained heavy casualties. After the Nomonhan incident, the Kwantung Army was purged of its more insubordinate elements, as well as proponents of the Hokushin-ron ("Northward Advance") doctrine who urged that Japan concentrate its expansionist efforts on Siberia rather southward towards China and Southeast Asia. [3]

The Kwantung Army was heavily augmented over the next few years, up to a strength of 700,000 troops by 1941, and its headquarters was transferred to the new Manchukuo capital of Hsinking. The Kwantung Army also oversaw the creation, training, and equipping of an auxiliary force, the Manchukuo Imperial Army. During this time, Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda worked as liaison officer between the Imperial house and the Kwantung Army. [4] Although a source of constant unrest during the 1930s, the Kwantung Army remained remarkably obedient during the 1940s. As combat spread south into central China and southern China in the Second Sino-Japanese War, and with the outbreak of the Pacific War, Manchukuo was largely a backwater to the conflict.

However, as the war situation began to deteriorate for the Imperial Japanese Army on all fronts, the large, well-trained, and well-equipped Kwantung Army could no longer be held in strategic reserve. Many of its front line units were systematically stripped of their best units and equipment, which were sent south against the forces of the United States in the Pacific Islands or the Philippines. Other units were sent south into China for Operation Ichi-Go.

Surrender of the Kwantung Army

By 1945, the Kwantung Army consisted of a mere 713,000 personnel, divided into 31 infantry divisions, nine infantry brigades, two tank brigades, and one special purpose brigade. It also possessed 1,155 light tanks, 5,360 guns, and 1,800 aircraft. The quality of troops had fallen drastically, as all the best men and materiel were siphoned off for use in other theaters. These forces were replaced by militia, draft levies, reservists, and cannibalized smaller units, all equipped with woefully outdated equipment. [5] The Kwantung Army had also bacteriological weapons, prepared for use against Soviet troops (see Unit 731). The bulk of military equipment (artillery, tanks, aircraft) was developed in the 1930s, and very few of the soldiers had sufficient training or any real experience.

The final commanding officer of the Kwantung Army, General Otozō Yamada, ordered a surrender on August 16, 1945, one day after Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan in a radio announcement. Some Japanese divisions refused to surrender, and combat continued for the next few days. Marshal Hata received the "ultimatum to surrender" from Soviet General Georgii Shelakhov [6] [7] in Harbin on August 18, 1945. [6] He was one of the senior generals who agreed with the decision to surrender, and on August 19, 1945, Hata met with Marshal Aleksandr Vasilevsky, [8] but asked that he be stripped of his rank of Field Marshal in atonement for the Army's failures in the war. [9]

The remnants of the Kwantung Army were either dead or on their way to Soviet prisoner-of-war camps. Over 500,000 Japanese prisoners of war were sent to work in Soviet labor camps in Siberia, Russian Far East and Mongolia. They were largely repatriated, in stages, over the next five years, though some continued to be held well into the 1950s.

War crimes and trials

After the surrender of Japan, the Soviet Red Army discovered secret installations for experimenting with and producing chemical weapons and biological weapons of mass destruction centered around secret Army Unit 731 and its subsidiaries. [10] At these locations, the Kwantung Army was also responsible for some of the most infamous Japanese war crimes, including the operation of several human experimentation programs using live Chinese, American and Russian [11] civilians, and POWs, [12] directed by Dr. Shiro Ishii.

Arrested by the American occupation authorities, Ishii and the 20,000 members of Unit 731 received immunity from prosecution of war-crimes before the Tokyo tribunal of 1948, in exchange for germ warfare data based on human experimentation. On May 6, 1947, General Douglas MacArthur wrote to Washington that "additional data, possibly some statements from Ishii probably can be obtained by informing Japanese involved that information will be retained in intelligence channels and will not be employed as 'War Crimes' evidence". [13] The deal was concluded in 1948.[ citation needed ] However, twelve members of Unit 731 and some members of the World War II leadership of the Kwantung Army were sentenced as war criminals by the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials, while others were taken into custody by the United States, and sentenced at the 1948 International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo. Among those sentenced to death were former generals Seishirō Itagaki, Iwane Matsui, Kenji Doihara, Hideki Tōjō and Akira Mutō.

List of commanders

Kwantung Army

Commanding officer

NameFromTo
1- General Tachibana Kōichirō 19196 January 1921
2 General Misao Kawai 6 January 192110 May 1922
3General Shinobu Ono 10 May 192210 October 1923
4General Yoshinori Shirakawa 10 October 192328 July 1926
5 Field Marshal Baron Nobuyoshi Mutō 28 July 192626 August 1927
6General Chotaro Muraoka 26 August 19271 July 1929
7General Eitaro Hata 1 July 192931 May 1930
8General Takashi Hishikari 3 June 19301 August 1931
9General Shigeru Honjō 1 August 19318 August 1932
10Field Marshal Baron Nobuyoshi Mutō 8 August 193227 July 1933
11General Takashi Hishikari 29 July 193310 December 1934
12General Jirō Minami 10 December 19346 March 1936
13General Kenkichi Ueda 6 March 19367 September 1939
14General Yoshijirō Umezu 7 September 193918 July 1944
14General Otozō Yamada 18 July 194411 August 1945

Chief of Staff

NameFromTo
1 Major General Matasuke Hamamo 12 April 191911 March 1921
2Major General Kaya Fukuhara 11 March 19216 August 1923
3Major General Kawada Akiji 6 August 19232 December 1925
4Major General Tsune Saito 2 December 192510 August 1928
5 Lieutenant General Koji Miyake 10 August 19288 August 1932
6 General Kuniaki Koiso 8 August 19325 March 1934
7General Toshizo Nishio 5 March 193423 March 1936
8General Seishirō Itagaki 23 March 19361 March 1937
9General Hideki Tōjō 1 March 193730 May 1938
10 Lieutenant General Rensuke Isogai 18 June 19387 September 1939
11Lieutenant General Jo Iimura 7 September 193922 October 1940
12General Heitarō Kimura 22 October 194010 April 1941
13General Teiichi Yoshimoto 10 April 19411 August 1942
14Lieutenant General Yukio Kasahara 1 August 19427 April 1945
15Lieutenant General Hikosaburo Hata 7 April 194511 August 1945

See also

Related Research Articles

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Organization of the Kwantung Army of Japan

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References

Citations

  1. Harries, Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army
  2. Young, Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism.
  3. Coox, Nomonhan: Japan Against Russia, 1939
  4. Yamamuro, Manchuria Under Japanese Domination.
  5. Glantz, p. 28
  6. 1 2 Surrender of the Kwantung Army. Military Memoirs
  7. Thunder in the East. Vladimir Karpov. 2005
  8. The Soviet Strategic Offensive in Manchuria, 1945: August Storm By David M. Glantz.
  9. Budge, Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
  10. A Russian military publication on Kwantung Army
  11. Unit 731 Archived 2009-04-30 at the Wayback Machine
  12. Unit 731. Japanese Experimentation Camp (1937-1945)
  13. Hal Gold, Unit 731 Testimony, 2003, p. 109

Sources