Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office

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Postcard with view of Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office HQ, circa 1910

The Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office (参謀本部 Sanbō Honbu?), also called the Army General Staff, was one of the two principal agencies charged with overseeing the Imperial Japanese Army.

Role[edit]

The Army Ministry (陸軍省 Rikugunshō?) was created in April 1872, along with the Navy Ministry, to replace the Ministry of Military Affairs (Hyōbushō) of the early Meiji government. Initially, the Army Ministry was in charge of both administration and operational command of the Imperial Japanese Army; however, from December 1878, the Imperial Army General Staff Office took over all operational control of the Army, leaving the Army Ministry only with administrative functions. The Imperial Army General Staff was thus responsible for the preparation of war plans; the military training and employment of combined arms; military intelligence; the direction of troop maneuvers; troop deployments; and the compilation of field service military regulations, military histories, and cartography.

The Chief of the Army General Staff was the senior ranking uniformed officer in the Imperial Japanese Army and enjoyed, along with the War Minister, the Navy Minister, and the Chief of the Navy General Staff, direct access to the Emperor. In wartime, the Imperial Army General Staff formed part of the army section of the Imperial General Headquarters, an ad hoc body under the supervision of the emperor created to assist in coordinating overall command.

History[edit]

Following the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1867 and the "restoration" of direct imperial rule, the leaders of the new Meiji government sought to reduce Japan's vulnerability to Western imperialism by systematically emulating the technological, governing, social, and military practices of the European great powers. Initially, under Ōmura Masujirō and his newly created Ministry of the Military Affairs (Hyōbu-shō), the Japanese military was patterned after that of France. However, the stunning victory of Prussia and the other members of the North German Confederation in the 1870/71 Franco-Prussian War convinced the Meiji oligarchs of the superiority of the Prussian military model and in February 1872, Yamagata Aritomo and Oyama Iwao proposed that the Japanese military be remodeled along Prussian lines. In December 1878, at the urging of Katsura Taro, who had formerly served as a military attaché to Prussia, the Meiji government fully adopted the Prussian/German general staff system (Großer Generalstab) which included the independence of the military from civilian organs of government, thus ensuring that the military would stay above political party maneuvering, and would be loyal directly to the emperor rather than to a Prime Minister who might attempt to usurp the emperor's authority.

The administrative and operational functions of the army were divided between two agencies. A reorganized Ministry of War served as the administrative, supply, and mobilization agency of the army, and an independent Army General Staff had responsibility for strategic planning and command functions. The Chief of the Army General Staff, with direct access to the emperor could operate independently of the civilian government. This complete independence of the military from civilian oversight was codified in the 1889 Meiji Constitution which designated that the Army and Navy were directly under the personal command of the emperor, and not under the civilian leadership or Cabinet.

Yamagata became the first chief of the Army General Staff in 1878. Thanks to Yamagata's influence, the Chief of the Army General Staff became far more powerful than the War Minister. Furthermore, a 1900 imperial ordinance (Military Ministers to be Active-Duty Officers Law (軍部大臣現役武官制 Gumbu daijin gen'eki bukan sei?)) decreed that the two service ministers had to be chosen from among the generals or lieutenant generals (admirals or vice admirals) on the active duty roster. By ordering the incumbent War Minister to resign or by ordering generals to refuse an appointment as War Minister, the Chief of the General Staff could effectively force the resignation of the cabinet or forestall the formation of a new one.

Of the seventeen officers who served as Chief of the Army General Staff between 1879 and 1945, three were members of the Imperial Family (Prince Arisugawa Taruhito, Prince Komatsu Akihito, and Prince Kan'in Kotohito) and thus enjoyed great prestige by virtue of their ties to the Emperor.

The American Occupation authorities abolished the Imperial Army General Staff in September 1945.

Organization[edit]

The Organization of the Army General Staff Office underwent a number of changes during its history. Immediately before the start of the Pacific War, it was divided into four operational bureaus and a number of supporting organs:

Chief of the Army General Staff (general or Field Marshal)
Vice Chief of the Army General Staff (lieutenant general)

  • General Affairs (personnel, accounting, medical, mobilization planning) [1]
  • G-1 (Operations)
    • Strategy and Tactics Department
    • Land Survey Department
  • G-2 (Intelligence)
    • Russia Department
    • Europe and North America Department
    • China Department
    • Others Department
  • G-3 (Transport & Communications)
  • G-4 (Historical and Maps) [2]
  • G-5 (Fortifications) [from Jan 1889-Dec 1908]
  • General Staff College

Chiefs of the Army General Staff[edit]

Note: The given rank for each person is the rank the person held at last, not the rank the person held at the time of their post as Chief of the Army General Staff. For example, the rank of Field Marshal existed only in 1872/73 and from 1898 onward.

No. Name Portrait Rank Term of Office
Start End
1 Count Yamagata Aritomo Yamagata Aritomo.jpg Field Marshal 24 December 1878 4 September 1882
2 Ōyama Iwao Iwao Oyama 2.jpg Field Marshal 4 September 1882 13 February 1884
3 Marquis Yamagata Aritomo Yamagata Aritomo.jpg Field Marshal 13 February 1884 22 December 1885
4 Prince Arisugawa Taruhito Taruhito Arisugawanomiya 2.jpg General 22 December 1885 14 May 1888
5 Ozawa Takeo Takeo Ozawa.jpg Lieutenant General 14 May 1888 9 March 1889
6 Prince Arisugawa Taruhito Taruhito Arisugawanomiya 2.jpg General 9 March 1889 15 January 1895
7 Prince Komatsu Akihito Prince Komatsu Akihito.jpg Field Marshal 26 January 1895 20 January 1898
8 Kawakami Soroku Kawakami Soroku.jpg General 20 January 1898 11 May 1899
9 Prince Ōyama Iwao Iwao Oyama 2.jpg Field Marshal 16 May 1899 20 June 1904
10 Prince Yamagata Aritomo Yamagata Aritomo.jpg Field Marshal 20 June 1904 20 December 1905
11 Prince Ōyama Iwao Iwao Oyama 2.jpg Field Marshal 20 December 1905 11 April 1906
12 Kodama Gentarō Gentaro Kodama 2.jpg General 11 April 1906 30 July 1906
13 Baron Oku Yasukata Yasukata Oku.jpg Field Marshal 30 July 1906 20 January 1912
14 Hasegawa Yoshimichi Yoshimichi Hasegawa.jpg Field Marshal 19 January 1912 17 December 1915
15 Uehara Yūsaku Uehara Yusaku.jpg Field Marshal 17 December 1915 17 March 1923
16 Kawai Misao Misao Kawai.jpg General 17 March 1923 2 March 1926
17 Suzuki Soroku Suzuki Soroku.jpg General 2 March 1926 19 February 1930
18 Kanaya Hanzo Kanaya Hanzo.jpg General 19 February 1930 23 December 1931
19 Prince Kan'in Kotohito Prince Kanin Kotohito.jpg Field Marshal 23 December 1931 3 October 1940
20 Hajime Sugiyama Sugiyama Hajime1.jpg Field Marshal 3 October 1940 21 February 1944
21 Hideki Tojo Hideki Tojo.jpg General 21 February 1944 18 July 1944
22 Yoshijirō Umezu Yoshijiro Umezu 01.jpg General 18 July 1944 September 1945

Vice Chiefs of the Army General Staff[edit]

No. Name Portrait Rank Term of Office
Start End
1 Ōyama Iwao Iwao Oyama 2.jpg Field Marshal 5 December 1878 16 October 1879
Post vacant (16 October 1879 – 6 February 1882)
2 Soga Sukenori Soga sukenori.jpg Lieutenant General 6 February 1882 21 May 1885
3 Kawakami Soroku Kawakami Soroku.jpg General 21 May 1885 16 March 1886
4 Soga Sukenori Soga sukenori.jpg Lieutenant General 16 March 1886 26 July 1886
5 Ozawa Takeo Takeo Ozawa.jpg Lieutenant General 26 July 1886 12 May 1888
Post vacant (12 May 1888 – 9 March 1889)
6 Kawakami Soroku Kawakami Soroku.jpg General 9 March 1889 20 January 1898
Post vacant (20 January 1898 – 26 August 1898)
7 Osako Hisatoshi General 26 August 1898 25 April 1900
8 Terauchi Masatake Masatake Terauchi 2.jpg Field Marshal 25 April 1900 27 March 1902
9 Tamura Iyozu Major General 17 April 1902 1 October 1903
10 Fukushima Sei General 2 October 1903 12 October 1903
11 Kodama Gentarō Gentaro Kodama 2.jpg General 12 October 1903 11 April 1906
12 Fukushima Sei General 16 April 1906 25 April 1912
13 Ōshima Ken'ichi Ōshima Ken'ichi in 1917.jpg Lieutenant General 25 April 1912 17 April 1914
14 Akashi Motojiro Akashi Motojiroh.jpg General 17 April 1914 4 October 1915
15 Tanaka Giichi Tanaka Giichi.jpg General 4 October 1915 10 October 1918
16 Fukuda Masataro Fukuda Masataro.jpg General 10 October 1918 5 May 1921
17 Kikuchi Shinnosuke General 5 May 1921 24 November 1922
18 Nobuyoshi Mutō Muto Nobuyoshi.jpg Field Marshal 24 November 1922 1 May 1925
19 Kanaya Hanzo Kanaya Hanzo.jpg General 1 May 1925 5 March 1927
20 Jirō Minami Minami Jirō 1931.jpg General 5 March 1927 1 August 1929
21 Okamoto Renichiro Lieutenant General 1 August 1929 22 December 1930
22 Ninomiya Osamu Lieutenant General 22 December 1930 9 January 1932
23 Jinzaburō Masaki Masaki Jinzaburo.jpg Lieutenant General 9 January 1932 19 June 1933
24 Kenkichi Ueda Ueda Kenkichi.jpg General 19 June 1933 1 August 1934
25 Hajime Sugiyama Sugiyama Hajime1.jpg Lieutenant General 1 August 1934 23 March 1936
26 Nishio Juzo General 23 March 1936 1 March 1937
27 Imai Kiyoshi Lieutenant General 1 March 1937 14 August 1937
28 Hayao Tada Tada Hayao.jpg General 14 August 1937 10 December 1938
29 Nakajima Tetsuzo Lieutenant General 10 December 1938 2 October 1939
30 Sawada Shigeru Lieutenant General 2 October 1939 15 November 1940
31 Tsukada Osamu Tsukada Osamu.jpg General 15 November 1940 6 November 1941
32 Moritake Tanabe Tanabe Moritake.jpg Lieutenant General 6 November 1941 8 April 1943
33 Hata Hikosaburo Lieutenant General 8 April 1943 21 February 1944
34 Jun Ushiroku Ushiroku Jun.jpg Lieutenant General 21 February 1944 7 April 1944
35 Torashirō Kawabe Kawabe Torashiro.jpg Lieutenant General 7 April 1945 September 1945

References[edit]

  • U.S. War Department, Handbook of Japanese Military Forces, TM-E 30-480 (1945; Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1991, reprint).
  • Hayashi, Saburo; Cox, Alvin D (1959). Kogun: The Japanese Army in the Pacific War. Quantico, Virginia: The Marine Corps Association. 
  • Shin'ichi Kitaoka, "Army as Bureaucracy: Japanese Militarism Revisited", Journal of Military History, special issue 57 (October 1993): 67-83.
  • Edgerton, Robert B. (1999). Warriors of the Rising Sun: A History of the Japanese Military. Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-3600-7. 
  • Harries, Meirion (1994). Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army. Random House. ISBN 0-679-75303-6. 

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Post created 16 January 1899. Responsible for general affairs, personnel affairs, accounting, war organization and mobilization planning. Post abolished 15 October 1943 and responsibilities taken over by the General Affairs Section subordinated directly to the Vice Chief of the General Staff.
  2. ^ Responsible for cartography, military history matters, translation and archives. Post abolished 15 October 1943 and responsibilities transferred to the Second Bureau

See also[edit]