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Hideki Tojo was the Prime Minister of Japan from 18 October, 1941 to 22 July, 1944.

He was born in 1884 to Hidenori Tojo, a vice general of the Imperial Japanese Army. He followed his father's footsteps in the Army, serving as a career officer since 1915. Since the 1920s, Tojo was a leading member of the Toseiha (Control Faction) faction among the ranks of the Army. They were opposed to the Kodoha (Imperial Way Faction) which promoted totalitarianism, militarism and expansionism. The Toseiha were politically conservative and moderate elements of the army which viewed Kodoha radicalism with suspicion. They believed that Japan should focus on strengthening its own defenses, modernize and mechanize its army before even considering engaging other powers at war. Meanwhile the Kodoha promoted preemptive strike ideas when concerning relations with the Soviet Union. While the Toseiha were also skeptical about political party politics and representative democracy, they considered that the administrative bureaucracy and Japanese industrial and financial conglomerates would play an important part in any future war effort. There were elements of totalitarian, fascist and state socialist ideology among the Toseiha as well as their opponents.

The Kodoha faction attempted a coup from 26 February to 29 February, 1936. Several politicians were killed and insurgents briefly held the center of Tokyo. However lack of support and vehement opposition by Hirohito led the coup effort to collapse, the officers involved abandoned by their own soldiers. While the Kodoha leadership was mostly court martialed and executed within the following months, Tojo led the Toseiha in absorbing lesser members to their faction. Merging both factions to what became the controlling faction of the Army. Tojo soon became the Chief of Staff of the Kwangtung Army who was assigned to capture and hold areas of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia.

In 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese War begun and Tojo moved his army in an invasion of northern China. He was recalled in 1938, becoming Vice-Minister of Army. He became Army Minister in 1941 and strongly supported the alliance with Nazi Germany and the Kingdom of Italy. Meanwhile the United States had imposed economic sanctions on Japan, including an embargo on oil and gasoline. The embargo threatened to undermine the Japanese war effort and Tojo started contemplating a possible conflict with their eastern neighbor. When War came to be seen as inevitable by both Hirohito and the entire cabinet, Tojo became Prime Minister in order to make preparations of it. Like Hirohito, Tojo was less than enthusiastic but saw no other way to force the United States to lift the embargo.

Tojo led Japan in World War II from the Attack on Pearl Harbor (1941) to the Battle of Saipan (1944). The defeat in the later battle allowed the Americans to capture Saipan and build a base from where military and naval attacks on the Philippines and air raids on the Ryukiu Islands and mainland Japan were contacted. The disaster forced Tojo and his cabinet to resign. Tojo also lost his position in the army. He retired to civilian life and seclusion. In 1945, Tojo attempted suicide to avoid capture by the American occupation forces. He shot four times at himself but the bullets ended in his stomach rather than his heart as intended. He was arrested by the occupation forces and later placed on trial by the International Military Tribunal For the Far East. He was sentenced to death and executed on 23 December, 1948.

Due to the efforts of Douglas MacArthur, Hirohito and members of the Imperial family involved in politics were granted effective immunity and not held responsible for any of their actions or decisions. All were blamed on Tojo. This has led Japanese and American historians to question whether Tojo served as a scapegoat in order to leave other influential elements blameless and untouched. He was survived by several children, including Teruo Tojo who would become an executive of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. His granddaughter Yuko Tojo (1939-) is a political activist and historical writer, devoted to the restoration of the memory of her grandfather and the Japanese military of his time.


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