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Yasuji Okamura (岡村 寧次, Okamura Yasuji, 15 May 1884 – 2 September 1966) was a general of the Imperial Japanese Army, and commander-in-chief of the China Expeditionary Army from November 1944 to the end of World War II. He was found not guilty of any war crime by the Shanghai War Crimes Tribunal after the war. As one of the Imperial Japanese Army's top China experts, General Okamura spent his entire military career on the Asian mainland.[1]

Yasuji Okamura
Yasuji Okamura.jpg
Yasuji Okamura
Native name
岡村 寧次
Born(1884-05-15)15 May 1884
Tokyo, Japan
Died2 September 1966(1966-09-02) (aged 82)
Tokyo, Japan
AllegianceEmpire of Japan Empire of Japan
Service/branchWar flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svg Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service1905–1945
RankGeneral 帝國陸軍の階級―襟章―大将.svg
UnitFirst Infantry Regiment
Commands held
Other workmilitary advisor, veteran Association, author

Early lifeEdit

Born in Tokyo in 1884, Okamura enrolled in Sakamachi Elementary School and graduated eight years later. In 1897, he entered Waseda Junior High School. In 1898, he was transferred to Tokyo Junior Army School, and was transferred to Army Central Junior School later. Okamura entered the 16th class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1899 and graduated in 1904. His classmates included the future generals Itagaki Seishiro, Kenji Doihara and Ando Rikichi. He was commissioned a lieutenant in the IJA 1st Infantry Regiment.

In 1910, Okamura entered the 25th class of the Army War College, and was promoted to captain soon after graduation in 1913. He served in a number of staff positions on the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff during and after World War I. He moved briefly to China in the early 1920s, and served as a military advisor to Chinese warlord general Sun Chuanfang, in this capacity, he gathered many vital information and war maps, which later were used in the military operations of the Second Sino-Japanese War.[2]

From 1932 to 1933, Okamura was Vice chief-of-staff of the Shanghai Expeditionary Army under the aegis of the Kwantung Army. According to Okamura's own memoirs, he played a role in the recruitment of comfort women from Nagasaki prefecture to serve in military brothels in Shanghai. He also served as military attaché to Manchukuo from 1933-1934.

Okamura was promoted to lieutenant general in 1936, and assigned command of the IJA 2nd Division.[3]

Second Sino-Japanese WarEdit

In 1938, a year after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Okamura was assigned as the commander in chief of the Japanese Eleventh Army, which participated in numerous major engagements in the Second Sino-Japanese War, notably the Battles of Wuhan, Nanchang and Changsha.[4] According to historians Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Seiya Matsuno, Okamura was authorized by Emperor Hirohito to use chemical weapons during those battles.[5]

In April 1940, Okamura was promoted to the rank of full general. In July 1941, he was appointed the commander-in-chief of the Northern China Area Army. In December 1941, Okamura received Imperial General Headquarters Order Number 575 authorizing the implementation of the Three Alls Policy in north China, aimed primarily at breaking the Chinese Red Army. According to historian Mitsuyoshi Himeta, the scorched earth campaign was responsible for the deaths of "more than 2.7 million" Chinese civilians.[6]

In 1944, Okamura was overall commander of the massive and largely successful Operation Ichigo against airfields in southern China, while retaining personal command of the Japanese Sixth Area Army. A few months later, he was appointed the commander-in-chief of the China Expeditionary Army. As late as January 1945, Okamura was still confident of the victory of Japan in China.[7]

Okamura (fourth from right) during the surrender of Japan in Nanjing

With the surrender of Japan on 15 August 1945, Okamura represented the Imperial Japanese Army in the China Burma India Theater official surrender ceremony held at Nanjing on 9 September 1945.

General Okamura is the first confirmed senior officer in the Japanese army who instituted forced prostitution. Widely known as the system of "comfort women". His order can be traced back to 1932 with documentation of Japanese Lieutenant-General Okamura Yasuji’s proposal for a “shipment” of comfort women to be sent to Shanghai. [1]

War crimes and post-war lifeEdit

After the war, Okamura was found not guilty of any war crimes in January 1949 by the Shanghai War Crimes Tribunal. [8] Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek then retained him as a military adviser for the Nationalist Government.[9]

While he was questioned by the investigators, he testified about the Nanking massacre:

"I surmised the following based on what I heard from Staff Officer Miyazaki, CCAA Special Service Department Chief Harada and Hangzhou Special Service Department Chief Hagiwara a day or two after I arrived in Shanghai. First, it is true that tens of thousands of acts of violence, such as looting and rape, took place against civilians during the assault on Nanking. Second, front-line troops indulged in the evil practice of executing POWs on the pretext of (lacking) rations."[10]

Okamura returned to Japan in 1949 and died in 1966.


  1. ^ Sarah Paine, The Wars For Asia, 1911-1949
  2. ^ Sarah Paine, The Wars For Asia, 1911-1949
  3. ^ Ammenthorp, The Generals of World War II
  4. ^ Chen, World War II Database
  5. ^ Yoshimi and Matsuno, Dokugasusen Kankei Shiryô II (Material on Toxic Gas Warfare), Kaisetsu, 1997, p.25-29
  6. ^ Himeta, Mitsuyoshi (姫田光義) (日本軍による『三光政策・三光作戦をめぐって』) (Concerning the Three Alls Strategy/Three Alls Policy By the Japanese Forces), Iwanami Bukkuretto, 1996, Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, 2000
  7. ^ Hans van de Ven, China at War, 2017
  8. ^國防部審判戰犯軍事法庭判決三十八年度審字第二十八號
  9. ^ Kent G. Budge. "Okamura Yasutsuga (1884-1966)". Pacific War Online Encyclopedia.
  10. ^ Akira Fujiwara, Bob Wakabayashi (2007). The Nanking Atrocity 1937-1938 : Complicating the Picture. Berghan Books.



External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Yoshijirō Umezu
Commander, 2nd Division
March 1936-June 1938
Succeeded by
Tōji Yasui
Preceded by
post created
Commander, Eleventh Army
June 1938-March 1940
Succeeded by
Waichirō Sonobe
Preceded by
Hideki Tojo
Military Councillor
March 1940-July 1941
Succeeded by
Kenji Doihara
Preceded by
Hayao Tada
Commander, North China Area Army
July 1941 – August 1944
Succeeded by
Naozaburo Okabe
Preceded by
post created
Commander, Sixth Area Army
August 1944-November 1944
Succeeded by
Naozaburo Okabe
Preceded by
Shunroku Hata
Commander-in-Chief, China Expeditionary Army
November 1944–August 1945
Succeeded by