The Imperial Japanese
Army (IJA; 大日本帝國陸軍 Dai-Nippon
Teikoku Rikugun; "
Army of the Greater Japanese Empire") was the
official ground-based armed force of the
Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan from 1868 to
1945. It was controlled by the Imperial Japanese
Army General Staff
Office and the Ministry of War, both of which were nominally
subordinate to the
Emperor of Japan
Emperor of Japan as supreme commander of the army
and the navy. Later an
Inspectorate General of Aviation became the
third agency with oversight of the army. During wartime or national
emergencies, the nominal command functions of the emperor would be
centralized in an
Imperial General Headquarters
Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ), an ad-hoc body
consisting of the chief and vice chief of the
Army General Staff, the
Minister of War, the chief and vice chief of the Naval General Staff,
the Inspector General of Aviation, and the Inspector General of
1 Origins (1868–1871)
1.1 Boshin war
1.2 Struggles to form a centralized army
2 Foundation of a national army (1871-1873)
2.1 Establishment of the Imperial guard
2.2 Institutional reforms
3 Further development and modernization (1873-1894)
3.1 Foreign assistance
3.2 Taiwan Expedition
4 First Sino-Japanese War
5 Boxer Rebellion
6 Russo-Japanese War
7 World War I
8 Inter-war years
8.1 Siberian intervention
8.2 Rise of militarism
9 Conflict with China
10 Conflict with the Soviet Union
11 World War II
12 Post-World War II
12.1 Ground Self-Defense Force
12.2 Continued resistance
13 Growth and organization of the IJA
15 See also
18 Further reading
18.1 Primary sources
19 External links
In the mid-19th century, Japan had no unified national army and the
country was made up of feudal domains (han) with the Tokugawa
shogunate (bakufu) in overall control, which had ruled Japan since
1603. The bakufu army, although large force, was only one among
others, and bakufu efforts to control the nation depended upon the
cooperation of its vassals' armies. The opening of the country
after two centuries of seclusion led subsequently led to the Meiji
Restoration and the
Boshin War in 1868. The domains of Satsuma and
Chōshū came to dominate the coalition against the shogunate.
Main article: Boshin War
Ukiyoe, depicting the retreat of shogunate forces in front of the
Yodo Castle is shown in the background.
On 27 January 1868, tensions between the shogunate and imperial sides
came to a head when
Tokugawa Yoshinobu marched on Kyoto, accompanied
by a 15,000-strong force consisting of troops that had been trained by
French military advisers. They were opposed by 5,000 troops from the
Satsuma, Chōshū, and Tosa domains. At the two road junctions of Toba
and Fushimi just south of Kyoto, the two forces clashed. On the second
day, an Imperial banner was given to the defending troops and a
relative of the Emperor, Ninnajinomiya Yoshiaki, was named nominal
commander in chief, in effect making the pro-imperial forces
officially an Imperial army (官軍, kangun). The bafuku forces
eventually retreated to Osaka, with the remaining forces ordered to
retreat to Edo. Yoshinobu and his closest advisors left for Edo by
ship. The encounter at Toba–Fushimi between the imperial and
shogunate forces marked the beginning of the conflict. With the court
Kyoto firmly behind the Satsuma-Chōshū-Tosa coalition, other
domains that were sympathetic to the cause—such as Tottori (Inaba),
Aki (Hiroshima), and Hizen (Saga)—emerged to take a more active role
in military operations. Western domains that had either supported
the shogunate or remained neutral also quickly announced their support
of the restoration movement.
The nascent Meiji state required a new military command for its
operations against the shogunate. In 1868, the "Imperial Army" being
just a loose amalgam of domain armies, the government created four
military divisions: the Tōkaidō, Tōsandō, San'indō, and
Hokurikudō, each of which was named for a major highway.
Overseeing these four armies was a new high command, the Eastern
Expeditionary High Command (Tōsei daisō tokufu), whose nominal head
was prince Arisugawa-no-miya, with two court nobles as senior staff
officers. This connected the loose assembly of domain forces with
the imperial court, which was the only national institution in a still
unformed nation-state. The army continually emphasized its link
with the imperial court: firstly, to legitimize its cause; secondly,
to brand enemies of the imperial government as enemies of the court
and traitors; and, lastly, to gain popular support. To supply food,
weapons, and other supplies for the campaign, the imperial government
established logistical relay stations along three major highways.
These small depots held stockpiled material supplied by local
pro-government domains, or confiscated from the bakufu and others
opposing the imperial government. Local villagers were routinely
impressed as porters to move and deliver supplies between the depots
and frontline units.
Struggles to form a centralized army
Initially, the new army fought under makeshift arrangements, with
unclear channels of command and control and no reliable recruiting
base. Although fighting for the imperial cause, many of the units
were loyal to their domains rather than the imperial court. In March
1869, the imperial government created various administrative offices,
including a military branch; and in the following month organized an
imperial bodyguard of 400 to 500, which consisted of Satsuma and
Chōshū troops strengthened by veterans of the encounter at
Toba–Fushimi, as well as yeoman and masterless samurai from various
domains. The imperial court told the domains to restrict the size
of their local armies and to contribute to funding a national
officers' training school in Kyoto. However, within a few months
the government disbanded both the military branch and the imperial
bodyguard: the former was ineffective while the latter lacked modern
weaponry and equipment. To replace them, two new organizations were
created. One was the military affairs directorate which was composed
of two bureaus, one for the army and one for the navy. The directorate
drafted an army from troop contributions from each domain proportional
to each domain's annual rice production (koku). This conscript army
(chōheigun) integrated samurai and commoners from various domains
into its ranks. As the war continued, the military affairs
directorate expected to raise troops from the wealthier domains and,
in June, the organization of the army was fixed, where each domain was
required to send ten men for each 10,000 koku of rice produced.
However, this policy put the imperial government in direct competition
with the domains for military recruitment, which was not rectified
until April 1868, when the government banned the domains from
enlisting troops. Consequently, the quota system never fully worked as
intended and was abolished the following year.
The Imperial forces encountered numerous difficulties during the war,
especially during the campaign in Eastern Japan. Headquarters in
Kyoto often proposed plans at odds with the local conditions,
which led to tensions with officers in the field, who in many cases
ignored centralized direction in favor of unilateral action. The
army lacked a strong central staff that was capable of enforcing
orders. Consequently, military units were at the mercy of individual
commanders' leadership and direction. This was not helped by the
absence of a unified tactical doctrine, which left units to fight
according to the tactics favored by their respective commanders. There
was increased resentment by many lower ranked commanders as senior
army positions were monopolized by the nobility together with samurai
from Chōshū and Satsuma. The use of commoners within the new army
created resentment among the samurai class. Although the nascent Meiji
government achieved military success, the war left a residue of
disgruntled warriors and marginalized commoners, together with a torn
Foundation of a national army (1871-1873)
Prince Aritomo Yamagata, a field marshal in the Imperial Japanese Army
and twice Prime Minister of Japan. He was one of the main architects
of the military foundations of early modern Japan.
After the defeat of the
Tokugawa shogunate and operations in
Northeastern Honshu and Hokkaido a true national army did not exist.
Many in the restoration coalition had recognized the need for a strong
centralized authority and although the imperial side was victorious,
Meiji government was weak and the leaders had to maintain
their standing with their domains whose military forces was essential
for whatever the government needed to achieve. The leaders of the
restoration were divided over the future organization of the army.
Ōmura Masujirō who had sought a strong central government at the
expense of the domains advocated for the creation of a standing
national army along European lines under the control of the
government, the introduction of conscription for commoners and the
abolition of the samurai class.
Ōkubo Toshimichi preferred a small
volunteer force consisting of former samurai. Ōmura's views
for modernizing Japan's military led to his assassination in 1869 and
his ideas were largely implemented after his death by Yamagata
Aritomo. Yamagata had commanded mixed commoner-samurai Chōshū units
Boshin war and was convinced of the merit of peasant
soldiers. Although he himself was part of the samurai class,
albeit of insignificant lower status, Yamagata distrusted the warrior
class, several members of whom he regarded as clear dangers to the
Establishment of the Imperial guard
A contingent of the Imperial Guard during an inspection in 1872.
In March 1871, the War Ministry announced the creation of an Imperial
Guard (Goshinpei) of six thousand men, consisting of nine infantry
battalions, two artillery batteries and two cavalry squadrons. The
emperor donated 100,000 ryō to underwrite the new unit, which was
subordinate to the court. It was composed of members of the
Satsuma, Chōshū and Tosa domains, who had led the restoration.
Satsuma provided four battalions of infantry and four artillery
batteries; Chōshū provided three battalions of infantry; Tosa two
battalions of infantry, two squadrons of cavalry, and two artillery
batteries. For the first time, the
Meiji government was able to
organize a large body of soldiers under a consistent rank and pay
scheme with uniforms, which were loyal to the government rather than
the domains. The Imperial Guard's principal mission was to protect
the throne by suppressing domestic samurai revolts, peasant uprisings
and anti-government demonstrations. The possession of this
military force was a factor in the government's abolition of the han
The military ministry (Hyōbushō) was reorganized in July 1871; on
August 29, simultaneously with the decree abolishing the domains, the
Dajōkan ordered local daimyos to disband their private armies and
turn their weapons over to the government. Although the government
played on the foreign threat, especially Russia's southward expansion,
to justify a national army, the immediately perceived danger was
domestic insurrection. Consequently, on August 31, the country was
divided into four military districts, each with its own chindai
(garrison) to deal with peasant uprisings or samurai insurrections.
The Imperial Guard formed the Tokyo garrison, whereas troops from the
former domains filled the ranks of the Osaka, Kumamoto, and Sendai
garrisons. The four garrisons had a total of about 8,000
troops—mostly infantry, but also a few hundred artillerymen and
engineers. Smaller detachments of troops also guarded outposts at
Kagoshima, Fushimi, Nagoya, Hiroshima, and elsewhere. By late December
1871, the army set modernization and coastal defense as priorities;
long-term plans were devised for an armed force to maintain internal
security, defend strategic coastal areas, train and educate military
and naval officers, and build arsenals and supply depots. Despite
previous rhetoric about the foreign menace, little substantive
planning was directed against Russia. In February 1872, the military
ministry was abolished and separate army and navy ministries were
Marquis Nozu Michitsura, a field marshal in the early Imperial
Japanese Army. He was appointed as chief of staff of the Imperial
Guards Brigade in 1874.
The conscription ordinance enacted on January 10, 1873, made universal
military service compulsory for all male subjects in the country. The
law called for a total of seven years of military service: three years
in the regular army (jōbigun), two years in the reserve (dai'ichi
kōbigun), and an additional two years in the second reserve (daini
kōbigun). All able-bodied males between the ages of 17 and 40
were considered members of the national guard (kokumingun), which
would only see service in a severe national crisis, such as an attack
or invasion of Japan. The conscription examination decided which group
of recruits would enter the army, those who failed the exam were
excused from all examinations except for the national guard. Recruits
who passed entered the draft lottery, where some were selected for
active duty. A smaller group would be selected for replacement duty
(hojū-eki) should anything happen to any of the active duty soldiers;
the rest were dismissed. One of the primary differences between
the samurai and the peasant class was the right to bear arms; this
ancient privilege was suddenly extended to every male in the
nation. There were several exemptions, including criminals, those
who could show hardship, the physically unfit, heads of households or
heirs, students, government bureaucrats, and teachers. A conscript
could also purchase an exemption for ¥270, which was an enormous sum
for the time and which restricted this privilege to the wealthy.
Under the new 1873 ordinance, the conscript army was composed mainly
of second and third sons of impoverished farmers who manned the
regional garrisons, while former samurai controlled the Imperial Guard
and the Tokyo garrison.
Initially, because of the army's small size and numerous exemptions,
relatively few young men were actually conscripted for a three-year
term on active duty. In 1873, the army numbered approximately
17,900 from a population of 35 million at the time; it doubled to
about 33,000 in 1875. The conscription program slowly built up the
numbers. Public unrest began in 1874, reaching the apex in the Satsuma
Rebellion of 1877, which used the slogans, "oppose conscription",
"oppose elementary schools", and "fight Korea". It took a year for the
new army to crush the uprising, but the victories proved critical in
creating and stabilizing the Imperial government and to realize
sweeping social, economic and political reforms that enabled Japan to
become a modern state that could stand comparison to France, Germany,
and other European powers.
Further development and modernization (1873-1894)
The early Imperial Japanese
Army was developed with the assistance of
advisors from France, through the second French military mission
to Japan (1872–80), and the third French military mission to Japan
(1884–89). However, after France's defeat in 1871 the Japanese
government switched to the victorious Germans as a model. From 1886 to
April 1890, it hired German military advisors (Major Jakob Meckel,
replaced in 1888 by von Wildenbrück and Captain von Blankenbourg) to
assist in the training of the Japanese General Staff. In 1878, the
Army General Staff Office, based on the German
General Staff, was established directly under the Emperor and was
given broad powers for military planning and strategy.
Other known foreign military consultants were Major Pompeo Grillo from
the Kingdom of Italy, who worked at the Osaka foundry from 1884 to
1888, followed by Major Quaratezi from 1889 to 1890; and Captain
Schermbeck from the Netherlands, who worked on improving coastal
defenses from 1883 to 1886. Japan did not use foreign military
advisors between 1890 and 1918, until the French military mission to
Japan (1918–19), headed by Commandant Jacques-Paul Faure, was
requested to assist in the development of the Japanese air
Main article: Japanese invasion of Taiwan (1874)
Japanese artillery unit, at the
Koishikawa arsenal, Tokyo, in 1882.
Photographed by Hugues Krafft.
The Japanese invasion of
Taiwan under Qing rule
Taiwan under Qing rule in 1874 was a punitive
expedition by Japanese military forces in response to the Mudan
Incident of December 1871. The Paiwan people, who are indigenous
peoples of Taiwan, murdered 54 crewmembers of a wrecked merchant
vessel from the
Ryukyu Kingdom on the southwestern tip of Taiwan. 12
men were rescued by the local Chinese-speaking community and were
Miyako-jima in the Ryukyu Islands. The Empire of Japan
used this as an excuse to both assert sovereignty over the Ryukyu
Kingdom, which was a tributary state of both Japan and Qing
the time, and to attempt the same with Taiwan, a Qing territory. It
marked the first overseas deployment of the Imperial Japanese
Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors
Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors of 1882 called for
unquestioning loyalty to the Emperor by the new armed forces and
asserted that commands from superior officers were equivalent to
commands from the Emperor himself. Thenceforth, the military existed
in an intimate and privileged relationship with the imperial
Top-ranking military leaders were given direct access to the Emperor
and the authority to transmit his pronouncements directly to the
troops. The sympathetic relationship between conscripts and officers,
particularly junior officers who were drawn mostly from the peasantry,
tended to draw the military closer to the people. In time, most people
came to look more for guidance in national matters more to military
than to political leaders.
Count Nogi Maresuke, a general in the Imperial Japanese
Army and the
third governor of Taiwan.
By the 1890s, the Imperial Japanese
Army had grown to become the most
modern army in Asia: well-trained, well-equipped, and with good
morale. However, it was basically an infantry force deficient in
cavalry and artillery when compared with its European contemporaries.
Artillery pieces, which were purchased from America and a variety of
European nations, presented two problems: they were scarce, and the
relatively small number that were available were of several different
calibers, causing problems with ammunition supply.
First Sino-Japanese War
Main article: First Sino-Japanese War
Japanese troops during the Sino-Japanese War.
In the early months of 1894, the
Donghak Rebellion broke out in
Korea and had soon spread throughout the rest of the country,
Korea capital Seoul, itself. The Chinese, since the
beginning of May had taken steps to prepare the mobilization of their
forces in the provinces of Zhili,
Shandong and in Manchuria, as a
result of the tense situation on the Korean peninsula. These
actions were planned more as an armed demonstration intended to
strengthen the Chinese position in Korea, rather than as a preparation
for war with Japan. On June 3, the Chinese government accepted the
requests from the Korean government to send troops to help quell the
rebellion, additionally they also informed the Japanese of the action.
It was decided to send 2,500 men to Asan, about 70 km from the
capital Seoul. The troops arrived in
Asan on June 9 and were
additionally reinforced by 400 more on June 25, a total of about 2,900
Chinese soldiers were at Asan.
From the very outset the developments in
Korea had been carefully
observed in Tokyo. Japanese government had soon become convinced that
Donghak Rebellion would lead to Chinese intervention in Korea. As
a result, soon after learning word about the Korean government's
request for Chinese military help, immediately ordered all warships in
the vicinity to be sent to
Pusan and Chemulpo. On June 9, a
formation of 420 rikusentai, selected from the crews of the Japanese
warships was immediately dispatched to Seoul, where they served
temporarily as a counterbalance to the Chinese troops camped at
Asan. Simultaneously, the Japanese decided to send a reinforced
brigade of approximately 8,000 troops to Korea. The reinforced
brigade, included auxiliary units, under the command of General Oshima
Yoshimasa was fully transported to
Korea by June 27. The Japanese
stated to the Chinese that they were willing to withdraw the brigade
under General Oshima if the Chinese left
Asan prior. However, when
on 16 July, 8,000 Chinese troops landed near the entrance of the
Taedong River to reinforce Chinese troops garrisoned in Pyongyang, the
Li Hongzhang an ultimatum, threatening to take
action if any further troops were sent to Korea. Consequently, General
Seoul and commanders of the Japanese warships in Korean
waters received orders allowing them to initiate military operations
in the event that any more Chinese troops were sent to Korea.
Despite this ultimatum, Li, considered that Japanese were bluffing and
were trying to probe the Chinese readiness to make concessions. He
decided, therefore to reinforce Chinese forces in
Asan with a further
2,500 troops, 1,300 of which arrived in
Asan during the night of July
23–24. At the same time, in the early morning of July 23, the
Japanese had taken control of the Royal Palace in
Seoul and imprisoned
the King Gojong, forcing him to renounce ties with China.
During the almost two-month interval prior to the declaration of war,
the two service staffs developed a two-stage operational plan against
China. The army's 5th Division would land at
Chemulpo to prevent a
Chinese advance in
Korea while the navy would engage the Beiyang fleet
in a decisive battle in order to secure control of the seas. If
the navy defeated the Chinese fleet decisively and secured command of
the seas, the larger part of the army would undertake immediate
landings on the coast between
Shanhaiguan and Tientsin, and advance to
Zhili plain in order to defeat the main Chinese forces and bring
the war to a swift conclusion. If neither side gained control of
the sea and supremacy, the army would concentrate on the occupation of
Korea and exclude Chinese influence there. Lastly, if the navy was
defeated and consequently lost command of the sea, Japanese forces in
Korea would be ordered to hang on and fight a rearguard action while
the bulk of the army would remain in Japan in preparation to repel a
Chinese invasion. This worst-case scenario also foresaw attempts to
rescue the beleaguered 5th Division in
Korea while simultaneously
strengthening homeland defenses. The army's contingency plans which
were both offensive and defensive, depended on the outcome of the
Clashes between Chinese and Japanese forces at Pungdo and Seongwhan
caused irreversible changes to Sino-Japanese relations and meant that
a state of war now existed between the two countries. The two
governments officially declared war on August 1. Initially, the
general staff's objective was to secure the Korean peninsula before
the arrival of winter and then land forces near Shanhaiguan.
However, as the navy was unable to bring the
Beiyang fleet into battle
in mid-August, temporarily withdrew from the Yellow Sea to refit and
replenish its ships. As a consequence, in late August the general
staff ordered an advance overland to the
Zhili plain via
order to the capture bases on the Liaodong Peninsula to prevent
Chinese forces from interfering with the drive on Beijing. The
Army with two divisions was activated on September 1. In
mid-September 17, the Chinese forces defeated at
occupied the city, as the remaining Chinese troops treated northward.
The navy's stunning victory in the Yalu on September 17, was crucial
to the Japanese as it allowed the Second
Army with three divisions and
one brigade to land unopposed on the Liaodong Peninsula about 100
miles north of Port Arthur which controlled the entry to the Bohai
Gulf, in mid-October. While, the First
Army pursued the remaining
Chinese forces from
Korea across the Yalu River, Second
the city of
Dairen on November 8 and then seized the fortress and
harbor at Port Arthur on November 25. Farther north, the First army's
offensive stalled and was beset by supply problems and winter
Main article: Boxer Rebellion
Soldiers of the Imperial Japanese
Army in 1900
In 1899–1900, Boxer attacks against foreigners in
resulting in the siege of the diplomatic legations in Beijing. An
international force consisting of British, French, Russian, German,
Italian, Austro-Hungarian, American, and Japanese troops was
eventually assembled to relieve the legations. The Japanese provided
the largest contingent of troops, 20,840, as well as 18 warships.
A small, hastily assembled, vanguard force of about 2,000 troops,
under the command of British Admiral Edward Seymour, departed by rail,
from Tianjin, for the legations in early June. On June 12, mixed
Boxer and Chinese regular army forces halted the advance, some 30
miles from the capital. The road-bound and badly outnumbered allies
withdrew to the vicinity of Tianjin, having suffered more than 300
casualties. The army general staff in Tokyo became aware of the
worsening conditions in
China and had drafted ambitious contingency
plans, but the government, in light of the Triple Intervention
refused to deploy large forces unless requested by the western
powers. However, three days later, the general staff did dispatch
a provisional force of 1,300 troops, commanded by Major General
Fukushima Yasumasa, to northern China. Fukushima was chosen because
his ability to speak fluent English which enabled him to communicate
with the British commander. The force landed near
Tianjin on July
On June 17, with tensions increasing, naval Rikusentai from Japanese
ships had joined British, Russian, and German sailors to seize the
Dagu forts near Tianjin. Four days later, the Qing court declared
war on the foreign powers. The British, in light of the precarious
situation, were compelled to ask Japan for additional reinforcements,
as the Japanese had the only readily available forces in the
region. Britain at the time was heavily engaged in the Boer War,
and, consequently, a large part of the British army was tied down in
South Africa. Deploying large numbers of troops from British garrisons
in India would take too much time and weaken internal security
there. Overriding personal doubts, Foreign Minister Aoki Shūzō
calculated that the advantages of participating in an allied coalition
were too attractive to ignore. Prime Minister Yamagata likewise
concurred, but others in the cabinet demanded that there be guarantees
from the British in return for the risks and costs of a major
deployment of Japanese troops. On July 6, the 5th Infantry
Division was alerted for possible deployment to China, but without a
timetable being set. Two days later, on July 8, with more ground
troops urgently needed to lift the siege of the foreign legations at
Peking, the British ambassador offered the Japanese government one
million British pounds in exchange for Japanese participation.
Shortly afterward, advance units of the 5th Division departed for
China, bringing Japanese strength to 3,800 personnel, of the
then-17,000 allied force. The commander of the 5th Division, Lt.
General Yamaguchi Motoomi, had taken operational control from
Fukushima. A second, stronger allied expeditionary army stormed
Tianjin, on July 14, and occupied the city. The allies then
consolidated and awaited the remainder of the 5th Division and other
coalition reinforcements. In early August, the expedition pushed
towards the capital where on August 14, it lifted the Boxer siege. By
that time, the 13,000-strong Japanese force was the largest single
contingent, making up about 40 percent of the approximately 33,000
strong allied expeditionary force. Japanese troops involved in the
fighting had acquitted themselves well, although a British military
observer felt their aggressiveness, densely packed formations, and
over-willingness to attack cost them excessive casualties. For
example, during the
Tianjin fighting, the Japanese, while comprising
less than one quarter (3,800) of the total allied force of 17,000,
suffered more than half of the casualties, 400 out of 730.
Similarly at Beijing, the Japanese, constituting slightly less than
half of the assault force, accounted for almost two-thirds of the
losses, 280 of 453.
Main article: Russo-Japanese War
Japanese riflemen in the Russo-Japanese War
Viscount Kodama Gentarō, a general in the Imperial Japanese Army, and
government minister during Meiji-period Japan. He was instrumental in
establishing the modern Imperial Japanese military.
The Russo–Japanese War (1904–1905) was the result of tensions
between Russia and Japan, grown largely out of rival imperialist
Manchuria and Korea. The Japanese army inflicted
severe losses against the Russians; however, they were not able to
deal a decisive blow to the Russian armies. Over-reliance on infantry
led to large casualties among Japanese forces, especially during the
siege of Port Arthur.
World War I
Main articles: Asian and Pacific theatre of
World War I
World War I and Japan
during World War I
Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan entered the war on the Entente side. Although
tentative plans were made to send an expeditionary force of between
100,000 and 500,000 men to France, ultimately the only action in
which the Imperial Japanese
Army was involved was the careful and well
executed attack on the German concession of
Qingdao in 1914.
Main article: Japanese intervention in Siberia
During 1917–18, Japan continued to extend its influence and
China via the Nishihara Loans. During the Siberian
Intervention, following the collapse of the
Russian Empire after the
Bolshevik Revolution, the Imperial Japanese
Army initially planned to
send more than 70,000 troops to occupy
Siberia as far west as Lake
Baikal. The army general staff came to view the Tsarist collapse as an
opportunity to free Japan from any future threat from Russia by
Siberia and forming an independent buffer state. The
plan was scaled back considerably due to opposition from the United
In July 1918, the U.S. President, Woodrow Wilson, asked the Japanese
government to supply 7,000 troops as part of an international
coalition of 24,000 troops to support the American Expeditionary Force
Siberia. After a heated debate in the Diet, the government of
Terauchi Masatake agreed to send 12,000 troops, but
under the command of Japan, rather than as part of an international
coalition. Japan and the
United States sent forces to
bolster the armies of the
White movement leader Admiral Aleksandr
Kolchak against the
Bolshevik Red Army.
Once the political decision had been reached, the Imperial Japanese
Army took over full control under Chief of Staff General Yui Mitsue;
and by November 1918, more than 70,000 Japanese troops had
occupied all ports and major towns in the Russian Maritime Provinces
and eastern Siberia.
In June 1920, the
United States and its allied coalition partners
withdrew from Vladivostok, after the capture and execution of the
Army leader, Admiral Kolchak, by the Red Army. However, the
Japanese decided to stay, primarily due to fears of the spread of
communism so close to Japan and Japanese-controlled
Manchuria. The Japanese
Army provided military support to the
Japanese-backed Provisional Priamurye Government, based in
Vladivostok, against the Moscow-backed Far Eastern Republic.
The continued Japanese presence concerned the United States, which
suspected that Japan had territorial designs on
Siberia and the
Russian Far East. Subjected to intense diplomatic pressure by the
United States and Great Britain, and facing increasing domestic
opposition due to the economic and human cost, the administration of
Katō Tomosaburō withdrew the Japanese forces in
Rise of militarism
In the 1920s the Imperial Japanese
Army expanded rapidly and by 1927
had a force of 300,000 men. Unlike western countries, the
a great deal of independence from government. Under the provisions of
the Meiji Constitution, the War Minister was held accountable only to
the Emperor (Hirohito) himself, and not to the elected civilian
government. In fact, Japanese civilian administrations needed the
support of the
Army in order to survive. The
Army controlled the
appointment of the War Minister, and in 1936 a law was passed that
stipulated that only an active duty general or lieutenant-general
could hold the post. As a result, military spending as a
proportion of the national budget rose disproportionately in the 1920s
and 1930s, and various factions within the military exerted
disproportionate influence on Japanese foreign policy.
The Imperial Japanese
Army was originally known simply as the Army
(rikugun) but after 1928, as part of the Army's turn toward romantic
nationalism and also in the service of its political ambitions, it
retitled itself the Imperial
Conflict with China
Main article: Second Sino-Japanese War
In 1931, the Imperial Japanese
Army had an overall strength of 198,880
officers and men, organized into 17 divisions. The Manchurian
incident, as it became known in Japan, was a pretended sabotage of a
local Japanese-owned railway, an attack staged by Japan but blamed on
Chinese dissidents. Action by the military, largely independent of the
civilian leadership, led to the invasion of
Manchuria in 1931 and,
later, to the Second Sino-Japanese War, in 1937. As war approached,
the Imperial Army's influence with the Emperor waned and the influence
Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy increased. Nevertheless, by 1938 the
Army had been expanded to 34 divisions.
Conflict with the Soviet Union
From 1932–1945 the
Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan and the
Soviet Union had a series
of conflicts. Japan had set its military sights on Soviet territory as
a result of the
Hokushin-ron doctrine, and the Japanese establishment
of a puppet state in
Manchuria brought the two countries into
conflict. The war lasted on and off with the last battles of the 1930s
Battle of Lake Khasan
Battle of Lake Khasan and the Battles of Khalkhin Gol) ending in
a decisive victory for the Soviets. The conflicts stopped with the
signing of the
Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact
Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact on April 13,
1941. However, later, at the Yalta Conference, Stalin agreed to
declare war on Japan; and on August 5, 1945, the
Soviet Union voided
their neutrality agreement with Japan.
World War II
Main article: Imperial Japanese
Army during the Pacific War
Army uniform between 1941 and 1945
In 1941, the Imperial Japanese
Army had 51 divisions and various
special-purpose artillery, cavalry, anti-aircraft, and armored units
with a total of 1,700,000 men. At the beginning of the Second World
War, most of the Japanese
Army (27 divisions) was stationed in China.
A further 13 divisions defended the Mongolian border, due to concerns
about a possible attack by the Soviet Union. From 1942, soldiers
were sent to
Hong Kong (23rd Army), the
Philippines (14th Army),
Thailand (15th Army),
Burma (15th Army),
Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies (16th
Army), and Malaya (25th Army). By 1945, there were 5.5 million men
in the Imperial Japanese Army.
From 1943, Japanese troops suffered from a shortage of supplies,
especially food, medicine, munitions, and armaments, largely due to
submarine interdiction of supplies, and losses to Japanese shipping,
which was worsened by a longstanding rivalry with the Imperial
Japanese Navy. The lack of supplies caused large numbers of fighter
aircraft to become unserviceable for lack of spare parts, and "as
many as two-thirds of Japan's total military deaths [to result] from
illness or starvation".
Post-World War II
Ground Self-Defense Force
Main article: Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounced the right to use
force as a means of resolving disputes. This was enacted by the
Japanese in order to prevent militarism, which had led to conflict.
However, in 1947 the Public Security Force was formed; later in 1954,
in the early stages of the Cold War, the Public Security Force formed
the basis of the newly created Ground Self-Defense Force. Although
significantly smaller than the former Imperial Japanese
nominally for defensive purposes only, this force constitutes the
modern army of Japan.
Main article: Japanese holdout
Separately, some soldiers of the Imperial Japanese
Army continued to
fight on isolated Pacific islands until at least the 1970s, with the
last known Japanese soldier surrendering in 1974. Intelligence officer
Hiroo Onoda, who surrendered on
Lubang Island in the
March 1974, and Teruo Nakamura, who surrendered on the Indonesian
Morotai in December 1974, appear to have been the last
Growth and organization of the IJA
Main articles: Organization of the Imperial Japanese
Army and Ranks of
the Imperial Japanese Army
Disposition of Japanese
Army Ground Forces in Japan at the time of
capitulation, 18 August 1945.
1870: consisted of 12,000 men.
1873: Seven divisions of c. 36,000 men (c. 46,250 including reserves)
1885: consisted of seven divisions including the Imperial Guard
In the early 1900s, the IJA consisted of 12 divisions, the Imperial
Guard Division, and numerous other units. These contained the
380,000 active duty and 1st Reserve personnel: former Class A and B(1)
conscripts after two-year active tour with 17 and 1/2 year commitment
50,000 Second line Reserve: Same as above but former Class B(2)
220,000 National Army
1st National Army: 37- to 40-year-old men from end of 1st Reserve to
40 years old.
2nd National Army: untrained 20-year-olds and over-40-year-old trained
4,250,000 men available for service and mobilization.
1922: 21 divisions and 308,000 men
1924: Post-WWI reductions to 16 divisions and 250,800 men
1925: Reduction to 12 divisions
1934: army increased to 17 divisions
1936: 250,000 active.
1940: 376,000 active with 2 million reserves in 31 divisions
2 divisions in Japan (Imperial Guard plus one other)
2 divisions in Korea
27 divisions in
China and Manchuria
In late 1941: 460,000 active in 41 divisions
2 divisions in Japan and Korea
12 divisions in Manchuria
27 divisions in China
plus 59 brigade equivalents.
Independent brigades, Independent Mixed Brigades,
Amphibious Brigades, Independent Mixed regiments, Independent
1945: 5 million active in 145 divisions (includes three Imperial
Guard), plus numerous individual units, with a large Volunteer
includes 650,000 Imperial Japanese
Army Air Service.
Army in 1945 had 55 divisions (53
Infantry and two
armor) and 32 brigades (25 infantry and seven armor) with 2.35 million
Army Labour Troops
1.3 million Navy Labour Troops
Special Garrison Force
Total military in August 1945 was 6,095,000 including 676,863
Imperial Japanese Military
Imperial General Headquarters
Imperial Japanese Army
(Dai Nippon Teikoku Rikugun)
Army Air Service
Railways and Shipping Section
Imperial Japanese Navy
(Dai Nippon Teikoku Kaigun)
Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service
Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy Land Forces
List of ships
List of aircraft
Army rank insignia
Naval rank insignia
Military History of Japan during World War II
Over the course of the Imperial Japanese Army's existence, millions of
its soldiers were either killed, wounded or listed as missing in
Taiwan Expedition of 1874: 543 (12 killed in battle and 531 by
First Sino-Japanese War: The IJA suffered 1,132 dead and 3,758 wounded
Russo-Japanese War: The number of total Japanese dead in combat is put
at around 47,000, with around 80,000 if disease is included
World War I: 1,455 Japanese were killed, mostly at the Battle of
World War II:
Between 2,120,000 and 2,190,000 Imperial Armed Forces dead including
non-combat deaths (includes 1,760,955 killed in action),
KIA Breakdown by Theatre:
Army 1931–1945 [China: 435,600 KIA, Against U.S. Forces: 659,650
Burma Campaign: 163,000 KIA, Australian Combat Zone: 199,511 KIA,
French Indochina: 7,900 KIA, U.S.S.R/Manchuria: 45,900 KIA,
Others/Japan: 58,100 KIA]
Navy: 473,800 KIA All Theatres.
672,000 known civilian dead,
810,000 missing in action and presumed dead.
7,500 prisoners of war
Artillery of Japan
Double Leaf Society
Ethnic Taiwanese Imperial Japan Serviceman
Uniforms of the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese rations
Imperial Way Faction or Kodô-Ha
Japanese army and diplomatic codes
Army and Navy Strategies for South Seas areas (1942)
Army Railways and Shipping Section
Japanese holdouts ("stragglers") who surrendered after 1945
Japanese military ranks
Army ranks of the Japanese Empire during World War II
Japanese war crimes
Kokuryū-kai—The Black Dragon Society
List of Bombs in use by Imperial Japanese Army
List of Japanese
Army military engineer vehicles of World War II
List of Japanese government and military commanders of World War II
List of Japanese military equipment of World War II
List of Radars in use by Imperial Japanese Army
List of Japanese
Military Medals of Honor (Japan)
Rikugun Shikan Gakko
Strike North Group
Strike South Group
Mudan Incident of 1871
^ Jansen 2002, p. 60.
^ Drea 2009, p. 8.
^ Jaundrill 2016, p. 86.
^ a b Jaundrill 2016, p. 87.
^ a b c Ravina 2004, p. 154.
^ a b c d e f g Drea 2009, p. 10.
^ a b Drea 2009, p. 19.
^ a b c Drea 2009, p. 20.
^ Jansen 2002, p. 343.
^ Jaundrill 2016, p. 96.
^ Jansen 2002, p. 397.
^ a b c d e f Drea 2009, p. 29.
^ a b c Jaundrill 2016, p. 95.
^ Drea 2003, p. 76.
^ Drea 2009, p. 23.
^ a b c d e f Drea 2009, p. 24.
^ a b Jaundrill 2016, p. 107.
^ Harries & Harries 1994, pp. 22-29.
^ Harries & Harries 1994, pp. 20-24.
^ Harries & Harries 1994, p. 363.
^ Harries & Harries 1994, p. 28.
^ a b c d Olender 2014, p. 42.
^ Olender 2014, p. 43.
^ a b c d e Olender 2014, p. 44.
^ Olender 2014, p. 45.
^ a b c Drea 2009, p. 79.
^ Drea 2009, p. 80.
^ Olender 2014, p. 56.
^ Drea 2009, pp. 82-83.
^ a b c d Drea 2009, p. 83.
^ a b Drea 2009, p. 97.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k Drea 2009, p. 98.
^ a b c Drea 2009, p. 99.
^ Harries & Harries 1994, p. 109.
^ Harries & Harries 1994, pp. 110–111.
^ Humphreys 1996, p. 25.
^ a b Harries & Harries 1994, p. 123.
^ Harries & Harries 1994, p. 124.
^ Harries & Harries 1994, p. 193.
^ Kelman, p.41
^ Harries & Harries 1994, p. 197.
^ a b c Jowett 2002, p. 7.
^ Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact April 13, 1941. (
Avalon Project at
^ "Battlefield –
Manchuria – The Forgotten Victory", Battlefield
(documentary series), 2001, 98 minutes.
^ Jowett 2002, pp. 15–16, 21.
^ Bergerund, Eric. Fire in the Sky (Boulder, CO: Westview Press,
^ Gilmore 1998, p. 150.
^ Harries & Harries 1994, p. 471.
^ Harries & Harries 1994, p. 487.
^ Kristof, Nicholas D. "Shoichi Yokoi, 82, Is Dead; Japan Soldier Hid
27 Years", The New York Times. September 26, 1997.
^ "The Last PCS for Lieutenant Onoda", Pacific Stars and Stripes,
March 13, 1974, p6
^ a b "Onoda Home; 'It Was 30 Years on Duty'", Pacific Stars and
Stripes, March 14, 1974, p7
^ a b "The Last Last Soldier?", Time, January 13, 1975
^ The Japanese
Army 1931–1945 (2) Osprey Men-at- Arms 369 Page 3 by
Phillip Jowett Copyright 2002/03/04/05 ISBN 1 84176 354 3
^ pg 217–218, "The Army", Japan Year Book 1938–1939, Kenkyusha
Press, Foreign Association of Japan, Tokyo
^ "Dispositions and deaths". Australia–Japan Research Project. 1964.
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