Hajime Sugiyama

Hajime Sugiyama (杉山 元, Sugiyama Hajime / Sugiyama Gen, January 1, 1880 – September 12, 1945) was a Japanese field marshal and one of the leaders of Japan's military throughout most of World War II. As Army Minister in 1937, Sugiyama was a driving force behind the launch of hostilities against China in retaliation for the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. After being named the Army’s Chief of Staff in 1940, he became a leading advocate for expansion into Southeast Asia and preventive war against the United States. Upon the outbreak of hostilities in the Pacific, Sugiyama served as the army’s commander-in-chief until his removal by Prime Minister Hideki Tojo in February 1944. Following Tojo's ouster in July 1944, he once again held the post of Army Minister in Kuniaki Koiso's cabinet until its dissolution in April 1945. Ten days after Japan's surrender on 2 September 1945, he committed suicide.

Hajime Sugiyama
杉山 元
Hajime Sugiyama portrait.jpg
Minister of War of the Japanese Empire
In office
9 February 1937 – 3 June 1938
Prime Minister
Preceded byKōtarō Nakamura
Succeeded bySeishirō Itagaki
In office
22 July 1944 – 7 April 1945
Prime MinisterKuniaki Koiso
Preceded byHideki Tojo
Succeeded byKorechika Anami
Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army
General Staff
In office
3 October 1940 – 21 February 1944
Prime Minister
Preceded byPrince Kan'in Kotohito
Succeeded byHideki Tojo
Personal details
BornJanuary 1, 1880
Kokura, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan
DiedSeptember 12, 1945(1945-09-12) (aged 65)
Tokyo, Japan
AwardsOrder of the Golden Kite, Order of the Rising Sun
Military service
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Branch/service Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service1901–1945
Rank元帥徽章.svg Gensui
Commands12th Division
Northern China Area Army
First General Army
Battles/warsRusso-Japanese War

Second Sino-Japanese War

World War II


Early careerEdit

Born to a former samurai family from Kokura (now part of Kitakyushu City), Fukuoka Prefecture, Sugiyama graduated from the 12th class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1901. He served as a junior officer with 3rd Battalion of the 14th Regiment of the IJA 12th Division in the Russo-Japanese War,[1] and was wounded in the face during the Battle of Shaho. Due to scars from that injury, he was unable to fully open his right eye.

After graduating from the 22nd class of the Army Staff College in 1910, Sugiyama served in Section 2 (Intelligence) within the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff. He was posted as military attaché to the Philippines and Singapore in 1912, disguised as a civilian trading company employee, and disguised as a Imperial Japanese Navy lieutenant, joined in an inspection tour of the United States Navy base at Subic Bay. Promoted to major in 1913, he was posted again as military attaché to British India in 1915, where he met in secret with Indian independence activists Rash Behari Bose and Subhas Chandra Bose. In 1918, he was sent as a military observer to the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I. At the end of the war, he served on the League of Nations committee on military aviation.

On his return to Japan, Sugiyama was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and commander of the 2nd Air Battalion in December 1918. He was a strong proponent of military aviation, and after his promotion to colonel in 1921, became the first head of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service in 1922. From 1924, he became a protege of Army Minister Ugaki Kazushige. In May 1925, Sugiyama became a major general and Director of the Bureau of Military Affair in 1928. He was also a participant in the March incident of 1931, a failed coup-d'etat which attempted to make Ugaki Prime Minister.[citation needed] Later that year, as Under Secretary of the Army he made an official announcement defending the actions of the army in the Mukden Incident.[citation needed]

With the rise of the radical Kōdōha faction under Sadao Araki to the post of Army Minister, Sugiyama was sidelined to the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service in March 1933. However, the failed coup d'etat of the February 26 incident in 1936 led to a purge of the Kōdōha from positions of authority and Sugiyama was promoted to full general in November 1936.[2]

Second Sino-Japanese WarEdit

General Sugiyama inspecting Japanese landing sites in Shanghai, 1938

In February 1937, Sugiyama became Army Minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Senjūrō Hayashi and remained in that position under the succeeding Prime Minister, Fumimaro Konoe. During his tenure, tensions between Japanese forces and the Chinese grew more severe, before hostilities broke out between the two near the Marco Polo Bridge. Subsequently, Sugiyama pushed Konoe for retaliation against China, thereby giving rise to the Second Sino-Japanese War. In December 1938, he briefly accepted a field command as commanding general of North China Area Army and the Mongolia Garrison Army in December 1938.

World War IIEdit

Sugiyama at an airfield, June 1, 1943
Sugiyama (left on first row), as minister of War in Kuniaki Koiso's (third from left on front row) cabinet, with Mitsumasa Yonai (right on front row), July 1944

On September 3, 1940, he succeeded elderly Prince Kan'in Kotohito as Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff. He was one of the leading Army officers lobbying for war with the West.[citation needed] However, on September 5, 1941, on the verge of the war against the United States and Great Britain, he was severely berated by Emperor Hirohito for having earlier predicted in 1937 that Japanese invasion of China would be completed within three months, and challenged over his confidence in a quick victory over the Western powers.[3]

Sugiyama was awarded the honorary rank of field marshal in 1943. As the war fronts collapsed on all sides, Sugiyama was relieved of his post as Chief of the General Staff on February 21, 1944, by General Hideki Tōjō (who continued to serve concurrently as Prime Minister).

Sugiyama was appointed to the Inspector-general of Military Training, which was still one of the most prestigious positions in the Army. After Tōjō's ouster in 1944, Sugiyama again became Army Minister. In July 1945, he was asked to take command of the First General Army, which directed defenses of eastern half Japanese mainland against the anticipated Allied invasion.[4]

Ten days after the surrender of Japan, after finishing preparations for the final dissolution of the Imperial Japanese Army as dictated by the victorious Allied Powers, Sugiyama committed suicide by shooting himself four times in the chest with his revolver while seated at his desk in his office. At home, his wife also killed herself.[5] His grave is at the Tama Cemetery, in Fuchū, Tokyo.


  1. ^ Budge, The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
  2. ^ Ammenthorp, The Generals of World War II
  3. ^ Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan
  4. ^ Frank, Downfall The End of the Japanese Empire
  5. ^ Chen, WW2 Database


  • Bix, Herbert P. (2001). Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan . New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-06-093130-2.
  • Dupuy, Trevor N. (1992). Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. ISBN 0-7858-0437-4.
  • Frank, Richard B. (1999). Downfall: the End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. Penguin, non-classics. ISBN 0-14-100146-1.
  • Fuller, Richard (1992). Shokan: Hirohito's Samurai. London: Arms and Armor. ISBN 1-85409-151-4.
  • Hayashi, Saburo; Cox, Alvin D (1959). Kogun: The Japanese Army in the Pacific War. Quantico, Virginia: The Marine Corps Association.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by Army Minister
Feb 1937 – June 1938
Succeeded by
Preceded by Army Minister
Jul 1944 – Apr 1945
Succeeded by
Military offices
Preceded by
Commander IJA 1st General Army
Apr 1945 – Sept 1945
Succeeded by
Preceded by Inspector-General of Military Training
Jul 1944 – Nov 1944
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief of Imperial Japanese Army General Staff
Oct 1940 – Feb 1944
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Shigeru Hasunuma
Commander Mongolia Garrison Army
Aug 1939 – Sept 1939
Succeeded by
Preceded by Commander North China Area Army
Dec 1938 – Aug 1939
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Yoshikazu Nishi
Inspector-General of Military Training
Aug 1936 – Feb 1937
Succeeded by