Shizuichi Tanaka was Appointed Japanese Militray-Governor of the Philippines on June 8, 1942.
A native of Hyōgo prefecture, Tanaka graduated from the 19th class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy and 28th class of the Army Staff College. He then went on to earn a degree in English literature at Oxford University where he studied the works of William Shakespeare. He led the Japanese troops in London’s victory parade at the end of World War 1.
From 1930-1932, he was commander of the IJA 2nd Infantry Regiment. Tanaka was subsequently posted as a military attache to Washington D.C., where he met Douglas MacArthur while MacArthur was Chief of Staff of the United Staes Army. As a result of his long service in the United States and United Kingdom , and his openly pro-western sentiments he was passed over for promotions as Japan militarized. From 1934-1935, Tanaka was Chief of Staff of the IJA 4th Division.
With the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Tanaka was assigned to the IJA 5th Infantry Brigade, and was at the 1938 Battle of Wuhan. He was recalled to Japan shortly thereafter and appointed head of the Kempeitai, in the Kantō region. He returned to China as commander of the IJA 13th Division from 1939-1940.
At the start of the Pacific War, Tanaka was commander in Chief of the Eastern District Army, and was later assigned administrative positions within the General Staff. He was vocal in his opposition to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
He was sent to the Philippines in 1942 as commander of the IJA 14th Army, and was subsequently Military-Governor of the Philippines from 1942-1943. He was promoted to full general in 1943, but forced to return to Japan in early 1944 to recover from malaria. Tanaka was appointed to the Supreme War Council from 1944–1945 and also served as the Commandant of the Army War College. On 19 March 1945, was assigned to head the Eastern District Army.
When the decision to attack the naval base at Pearl Harbor was brought to the table in response to the American involvement in what Japan considered its Pacific affairs, it’s commonly believed that all of Japan supported the decision. The proud nation felt it was simply protecting its legitimate interests, and planned to remove one of its greatest obstacles through a surprise attack, but support was not unanimous. In fact, there were leaders within the Imperial Japanese military who were very vocal about their opposition to the Pearl Harbor attack.
To those against it, the attack promised only one thing – guaranteed war with the United States that would not lead to a guaranteed victory. In fact, considering the strength of the US Pacific Fleet, success was a pipe dream that would require a miracle. If the attack was initiated and the American fleet wasn’t entirely crippled, it would lead to a difficult and bloody struggle throughout the Pacific.
After December 7th, 1941, as the United States recovered from the attack, the Japanese soon found that those who had opposed hitting Pearl Harbor weren’t necessarily wrong.
One advocate who spoke against instigating war with the United States was Imperial Japanese Army General Shizuichi Tanaka. The general was outspoken against the planned attack.
Regardless of his views of the Pearl Harbor attack, Tanaka continued to serve, and it was on the battlefield in charge of the 14th Army that he witnessed the devastating losses Japan suffered at the hands of the Allies. When the Emperor of Japan planned to broadcast the nation’s surrender, Tanaka was approached to take part in a coup to overthrow the Emperor and continue the war, but again, reason drove his decision-making.
Rather than take part in the coup, he mobilized the Eastern District Army to stop it from happening. Tanaka was hailed a hero in his homeland in the August 15, 1945 incident where he aborted a rebellion planned by Major Kenji Hatanaka and others. Hatanaka sought to occupy the Imperial Palace, and to prevent the Emperor’s announcement of Japan’s surrender to the Allied Forces from being broadcast.
Tanaka felt responsible for the damage done to Tokyo (his jurisdiction) by Allied bombing. He had attempted to resign three times, after he failed to prevent damage to Meiji Shrine, the Imperial Palace, and other important sites, but his resignations were refused. After the war, Tanaka told his subordinates to destroy the unit colors, but not to commit suicide; burning the regiment’s banners would be enough payment, he said.
On August 24, 1945 at his office in Tokyo’s Dai-ichi Life Building (later Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers headquarters), Tanaka shot himself through the heart; he left his desk covered in sutras, letters to his officers and his family, a statue of Emperor Meiji and a scroll bearing Emperor Hirohito’s words to him following the August 15th incident.
Shizuichi Tanaka committed suicide on behalf of all his men.