Masanobu Tsuji

Masanobu Tsuji (辻 政信, Tsuji Masanobu, 11 October 1901 – went missing in 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.

Masanobu Tsuji
Tuji Masanobu.jpg
BornOctober 11, 1901
Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan
DiedDeclared dead 20 July 1968 (age 60-67)
Allegiance Japan
Service/branch Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service1924–1945
RankColonel 帝國陸軍の階級―肩章―大佐.svg
Battles/warsSecond Sino-Japanese War
Soviet–Japanese border conflicts
World War II
Memorial statue of Masanobu Tsuji in Kaga, Ishikawa

Tsuji was deeply involved in Japanese atrocities throughout the war, including Bataan Death March and Sook Ching. He evaded prosecution for Japanese 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, (literally "the bottom overthrowing the top") 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]

Atrocities and War CrimesEdit

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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] He also had many captured officials of the Philippines government executed, including ordering the execution of Filipino Chief Justice José Abad Santos and attempted execution of former Speaker of the House of Representatives Manuel Roxas.

War CriminalEdit

After the war, the Japanese war criminals were prosecuted, but Tsuji fled and was able to avoid the Sook Ching trial. Some other army officials, for following Tsuji's command, were charged, and two of them were executed. Because of the war crimes at the Bataan Death March,[8] General Homma, who considered himself a humanist and was surprised to hear the facts of Bataan death march after the war, was held responsible for his subordinates and was executed while Tsuji was on the run.


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.[9]

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]

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 the 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.[citation needed]

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.[10]

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.

Information Later Disclosed in CIA FilesEdit

CIA files declassified in 2005-2006 show that Tsuji also worked for the CIA as a spy during the Cold War. The files also acknowledged Tsuji's writings in his book Senkō Sanzenri to be mostly factual. The documents described Tsuji to be an "inseparable pair" with Takushiro Hattori, and stated them to be "extremely irresponsible" and that they "will not take the consequences for their actions". Additionally Tsuji is stated to be "the type of man who given the chance, would start World War III without any misgivings", and as an asset to the CIA he was described as having no value due to lack of expertise in politics and information manipulation.[11][12][13]

Additionally, the files contain information that Hattori had allegedly planned a coup to overthrow the Japanese government in 1952 which involved the assassination of prime minister Shigeru Yoshida and replacing him with Ichiro Hatoyama of the DPJ, but Tsuji prevented the coup, persuading the group that the real enemies were not conservatives like Yoshida but the Socialist Party. However the files also state that the CIA only learned about the attempt after the fact, and that the information was gained from an unreliable source from China. Some academics such as Tetsuo Arima of Waseda University have suggested that the entire story might have been a sort of bluff leaked to the Chinese by Tsuji himself, as a way to make him seem more influential than he actually was.[14][15][16][17][18][19]

According to the CIA files, when Tsuji returned to Vientiane from Hanoi he was kidnapped by the Chinese Communist Party and was being imprisoned in Yunnan, ostensibly to be used in some way to worsen Japan-US relations or Japan's standing in Southeast Asia. Tsuji was considered to be still alive as of 8th August 1962 on the basis of handwriting analysis conducted on the writing on an envelope that was brought to them on 24th August 1962. However he was never heard from again.[20][21]

See alsoEdit


Further readingEdit

  • Peterson, James W., Barry C. Weaver and Michael A. Quigley. (2001). Orders and Medals of Japan and Associated States. San Ramon, California: Orders and Medals Society of America. ISBN 1-890974-09-9
  • Tsuji, Masanobu. (1997). Japan's Greatest Victory, Britain's Worst Defeat (Margaret E. Lake, tr.). New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-1-873376-75-1 (cloth)
  • Ward, Ian. (1992). "The Killer They Called a God" (MediaMaster). ISBN 978-9810039219


  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. ^ a b c d Budge, Kent G. "Tsuji Masanobu". The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 28, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Goldman, Stuart (August 28, 2012). "The Forgotten Soviet-Japanese War of 1939". The Diplomat.
  5. ^ a b c d e Dan Ford, Warbird Forum "Colonel Tsuji of Malaya"
  6. ^ Bergamini, p. 981.
  7. ^ 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 Archived 2017-01-10 at the Wayback Machine Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2008
  8. ^ a b "The Causes of the Bataan Death March Revisited".
  9. ^ Coox, Alvin D. Nomonhan: Japan Against Russia, 1939, ISBN 0-8047-1835-0
  10. ^
  11. ^,%20MASANOBU%20%20%20VOL.%201_0016.pdf
  12. ^
  13. ^ 有馬『大本営参謀は戦後何と戦ったのか』「第六章 第三次世界大戦アメリカ必敗論を説いた男――辻政信ファイル」
  14. ^
  15. ^ 有馬『大本営参謀は戦後何と戦ったのか』「第六章 第三次世界大戦アメリカ必敗論を説いた男――辻政信ファイル」
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^, TAKUSHIRO%20%20 VOL. 1_0008.pdf
  19. ^,%20MASANOBU%20%20%20VOL.%201_0034.pdf
  20. ^ 有馬哲夫『大本営参謀は戦後何と戦ったのか』 新潮新書 p.232〜239
  21. ^,%20MASANOBU%20%20%20VOL.%203_0047.pdf
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Tsuji, Masanobu. (1997). Japan's Greatest Victory, Britain's Worst Defeat, p. 108.

External linksEdit