Hajime Sugiyama

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Hajime Sugiyama
杉山 元
Hajime Sugiyama 02.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 Office
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
DiedSeptember 12, 1945(1945-09-12) (aged 65)
Tokyo, Japan
AwardsOrder of the Golden Kite, Order of the Rising Sun
Military service
AllegianceEmpire of Japan
Branch/serviceWar flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svg Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service1901–1945
RankGensui (Field Marshal) 元帥徽章.svg
Commands12th Division
Northern China Area Army
First General Army
Battles/warsRusso-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
World War II

Hajime Sugiyama (杉山 元, Sugiyama Hajime / Sugiyama Gen, January 1, 1880 – September 12, 1945) was a Japanese field marshal who served intermittently as Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff, and minister of war between 1937 and 1945. As War Minister in 1937, he was one of the principal architects of the China Incident[according to whom?] resulting in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Later, as Army Chief of Staff in 1940 and 1941, he was a leading advocate of expansion into Southeast Asia and later preventive war against the United States. Following the outbreak of hostilities in the Pacific on December 7, 1941, Sugiyama oversaw all army operations until being forced to resign by Prime Minister Hideki Tojo in February 1944. After Tojo's ouster, he again held the post of Minister of War in Kuniaki Koiso's cabinet until its dissolution in April 1945.


Born to a former samurai family from Kokura (now part of Kitakyushu City), Fukuoka Prefecture, Sugiyama was commissioned as a lieutenant in the infantry in 1901 after graduation from the 12th class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy, and served in the Russo-Japanese War.[1]

After graduating from the 22nd class of the Army Staff College in 1910 and serving on the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff, Sugiyama was posted as military attaché to the Philippines and Singapore in 1912. Promoted to major in 1913, he was posted again as military attaché to British India in 1915. During this time, he also visited Germany, and became acquainted with the use of aircraft in combat in World War I.[citation needed]

On his return, 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.

In May 1925, Sugiyama became a major general and acting Vice War Minister in June 1930. In August, he became Vice War Minister and a lieutenant general.[2] He returned to command the expanded Imperial Japanese Army Air Service in March 1933. Sugiyama was promoted to full general in November 1936.

Political career[edit]

Although never elected to political office, Sugiyama is regarded as a nationalist politician. He started in the Tōseiha faction, led by Kazushige Ugaki, with Koiso Kuniaki, Yoshijirō Umezu, Tetsuzan Nagata, and Hideki Tōjō.[citation needed] They opposed the radical Kodaha faction under Sadao Araki. Later both factions combined in the Imperial Way Faction movement, and Sugiyama became one of its ideological leaders.[citation needed]

Second Sino-Japanese War[edit]

General Sugiyama inspecting Japanese landing sites in Shanghai, 1938

Shortly after the February 26 Incident, Sugiyama became Minister of War. Under his tenure, the situation between Japanese forces in Manchukuo and China became more severe, cumulating with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident and the invasion of Shanxi Province.

Sugiyama briefly accepted a field command as commanding general of North China Area Army and the Mongolia Garrison Army in December 1938.

World War II[edit]

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)

On his return to Japan, Sugiyama was briefly appointed head of Yasukuni Shrine (which commemorated anyone who had died in service of the Emperor) in 1939.[citation needed] 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 Minister of War. 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 links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Kōtarō Nakamura
Army Minister
Feb 1937 – June 1938
Succeeded by
Seishirō Itagaki
Preceded by
Tōjō Hideki
Army Minister
Jul 1944 – Apr 1945
Succeeded by
Anami Korechika
Military offices
Preceded by
Commander IJA 1st General Army
Apr 1945 – Sept 1945
Succeeded by
Kenji Doihara
Preceded by
Otozō Yamada
Inspector-General of Military Training
Jul 1944 – Nov 1944
Succeeded by
Shunroku Hata
Preceded by
Prince Kan'in Kotohito
Chief of Imperial Japanese Army General Staff
Oct 1940 – Feb 1944
Succeeded by
Tōjō Hideki
Preceded by
Shigeru Hasunuma
Commander Mongolia Garrison Army
Aug 1939 – Sept 1939
Succeeded by
Naozaburo Okabe
Preceded by
Hisaichi Terauchi
Commander North China Area Army
Dec 1938 – Aug 1939
Succeeded by
Hayao Tada
Preceded by
Yoshikazu Nishi
Inspector-General of Military Training
Aug 1936 – Feb 1937
Succeeded by
Hisaichi Terauchi