The Info List - Mitsumasa Yonai

Mitsumasa Yonai
Mitsumasa Yonai
(米内 光政, Yonai Mitsumasa, March 2, 1880 – April 20, 1948) was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy, and politician. He was the 26th Prime Minister of Japan
Prime Minister of Japan
from January 16 to July 22, 1940.


1 Early life and naval career 2 Naval Minister 3 Prime Minister of Japan 4 Subsequent political activity 5 Characteristics

5.1 Minister of the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
(1937-1939) 5.2 Pre-prime minister 5.3 Time as prime minister (January 16 to July 16, 1940) 5.4 The Emperor’s trust

6 Honours 7 Notes 8 References 9 External links

Early life and naval career[edit] Yonai was born in Morioka city in Iwate Prefecture
Iwate Prefecture
as the first son of an ex-samurai retainer of the Nanbu clan
Nanbu clan
of the Morioka Domain. He graduated from the 29th class Imperial Japanese Naval Academy
Imperial Japanese Naval Academy
in 1901, ranked 68 of 125 cadets ( Japan
Center for Asian Historical Records, n.d.).[1] After midshipman service on the corvette Kongō, and cruiser Tokiwa he was commissioned as ensign in January 1903. He served in administrative positions until near the end of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, when he went to sea again on the destroyer Inazuma and the cruiser Iwate. After the war, he served as chief gunnery officer on the cruiser Niitaka, battleship Shikishima, and cruiser Tone.[2] After his promotion to lieutenant commander in December 1912, he graduated from the Naval War College and was assigned as naval attaché to Russia during the height of World War I, from 1915 to 1917. While overseas, he was promoted to commander; after the collapse of the Russian Empire, he was recalled to Japan
and later became executive officer on the battleship Asahi.[2] He rose to the rank of captain in December 1920 and was subsequently sent as naval attaché to Poland from 1921 to 1922.

in Chief of the Combined Fleet, 1936

On his return to Japan, he was captain of the cruisers Kasuga (1922–1923) and Iwate (1923–1924), and battleships Fusō (in 1924) and Mutsu (1924–1925). Yonai was promoted to rear admiral on December 1, 1925.[2] He became Chief of the 3rd Section of the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
General Staff in December 1926. Within the Navy General Staff, he served on the Technical Council of the Navy Technical Department.[2] He was appointed Commander-in-Chief
of the First Expeditionary Fleet, sent to the Yangtze River
Yangtze River
in China in December 1928. Following the success of this mission, he was promoted to vice-admiral in December 1930 and placed in command of the Chinkai Guard District, in Korea. Yonai was given command of the IJN 3rd Fleet in December 1932, following which he again commanded the Sasebo Naval District
Sasebo Naval District
(November 1933), IJN 2nd Fleet
IJN 2nd Fleet
(November 1934) and Yokosuka Naval District (December 1935) before receiving appointment as Commander-in-Chief
of the Combined Fleet
Combined Fleet
and concurrently the IJN 1st Fleet in December 1936.[2] While in command at Sasebo, the Japanese Navy was shaken by the Tomozuru Incident, when it was determined that the basic design of the Chidori-class torpedo boats was flawed, thus calling into question the basic designs of many of the warships in the Japanese navy. While in command at Yokosuka, the February 26 Incident
February 26 Incident
erupted in Tokyo. Yonai was visiting his mistress in Shinbashi
the night the attempted coup d'état began, only a couple of blocks away, but knew nothing of the situation until he returned to base the following morning. Naval Minister[edit] Yonai became full admiral in April 1937 and Navy Minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Senjūrō Hayashi
Senjūrō Hayashi
in 1937. He served in the same position under the subsequent first Fumimaro Konoe
Fumimaro Konoe
and Kiichirō Hiranuma administrations, through August 1939.[2] After Nobuyuki Abe became Prime Minister, Yonai remained on the Supreme War Council. While Navy Minister, Yonai was known as a man of few words. His speeches tended to be short, and were delivered in his almost indecipherable Nambu accent. Written records of his speeches are only about half the length of his contemporaries. As Navy Minister, Yonai was alarmed by the growing tension between Japan
and Great Britain and the United States, at a time when the bulk of the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
was tied down in an apparently unending quagmire in China. His efforts to promote peace made him unpopular with ultranationalist extremists, and (as with Admiral
Isoroku Yamamoto) he was the target of several assassination attempts. However, Yonai supported the construction of the Yamato-class battleships in an effort to maintain a military balance with the world's other two naval superpowers. Prime Minister of Japan[edit]

Yonai reading a memo during the House plenary session in February 1940.

Yonai was appointed Prime Minister of Japan
Prime Minister of Japan
from January 6, 1940, largely with the backing of Emperor Hirohito. As Prime Minister, he continued the strong pro-British, pro-American stance he held as Navy Minister and continued his strong opposition to the Tripartite Pact with Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
and fascist Italy. Following the German occupation of the Low Countries and France in May–June 1940, the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
began to show dissatisfaction with Yonai's anti German policy. The disagreement became apparent in early July 1940, as Minister of War Shunroku Hata began to criticize the Prime Minister openly.[3] When Hata resigned, Yonai was subsequently forced to resign on July 21, 1940. The Japanese Constitution required the Minister of War to be a general from the Army, and no other general would accept the position, due to the pro-Axis stance of the Imperial Japanese Army.[4] The Tripartite Pact was signed on September 27, 1940. Subsequent political activity[edit] Yonai served as Deputy Prime Minister and concurrently as Navy Minister again under the cabinet of Prime Minister Kuniaki Koiso
Kuniaki Koiso
from July 22, 1944, during which time he returned to the active duty roster from the reserve list. By this time, Saipan
had fallen to the Allies. Yonai remained Navy Minister under the administration of Prime Minister Kantarō Suzuki. In the last few weeks before Japan's surrender, he sided with Prime Minister Suzuki and Foreign Minister Shigenori Tōgō
Shigenori Tōgō
in support of acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration in opposition to Minister of War Korechika Anami, Chief of Naval General Staff Admiral
Soemu Toyoda
Soemu Toyoda
and Chief of the Army General Staff General Yoshijirō Umezu. Yonai remained Navy Minister in the cabinets of Prime Minister HIH Higashikuni Naruhiko
Higashikuni Naruhiko
and Prime Minister Kijūrō Shidehara
Kijūrō Shidehara
from August 1945, during which time he presided over the final dissolution of the Imperial Japanese Navy. He played a major role during the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in working with the major defendants, such as Hideki Tōjō, to coordinate their testimonies so that Emperor Hirohito
would be spared from indictment. According to his interpreter Suichi Mizota, in March 1946 Bonner Fellers
Bonner Fellers
asked him to make Tōjō bear all responsibility for the Greater East Asia War
Greater East Asia War
[5] After the war, Yonai devoted rest of his life to help to rebuild devastated Japan. Yonai suffered from high blood pressure most of his life, but he died of pneumonia in 1948 at the age of 68. His grave is located at the temple of Enko-ji in his hometown of Morioka. Characteristics[edit] Minister of the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
(1937-1939)[edit] Yonai was a man of few words, but people listened when he spoke. Because of his work as a military attaché in Russia and Poland and his travels around European countries, he had a broader perspective of world affairs than many other senior Japanese military officials. In the late 1930s Yonai already analyzed the naval capabilities of the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
and allied countries, versus those of Germany and Italy and he concluded that Japan
should not ally itself with Germany and Italy. In addition to his experience as an attaché, he had participated in the Battle of the Japanese Sea (known in the West as the Battle of Tsushima), during the Russo-Japanese war as a Lieutenant, so he understood the realities of naval warfare. Hence, on August 8, 1939, at the five-ministry commission that was intended to make a plan for war, the minister of finance, Ishiwata, asked Yonai, "Is it possible for the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
to triumph over America and Britain?" (Agawa, n.d.). Yonai answered, "No. The Imperial Japanese Navy is not designed to open fire against them. The Third Reich and the Italian Navy are out of question." (Agawa, n.d.). Since the historical triumph of the Battle of the Japanese Sea in 1905, as a part of the Russo-Japanese War, the Imperial Japanese Navy had been the world’s third strongest. By the end of World War I Japan
had a powerful battle fleet. In the 1930s, following the Washington Naval Treaty, Japan
built a strong naval aviation arm with excellent aircraft and pilots. Even so, the Imperial Japanese Navy could not compete against the Royal Navy and the United States Navy, the top two navies in the world. Consequently, the much smaller Kriegsmarine (German Navy) and the Regia Marina (Italian Navy) could not defeat these two dominants. Furthermore, the Imperial Japanese Navy had been made overconfident by its victory in the Naval Battle of the Japanese Sea and was not willing to acknowledge its inferiority. However, his unique experiences made him convinced of his view. Therefore, Yonai clearly announced his opinion: the Imperial Japanese Navy will lose if it attacked the Royal Navy and the United States Navy.[6][7] Pre-prime minister[edit] Before he was chosen as the Prime Minister, Yonai showed strong leadership particularly in crisis. On February 26, 1936, there was a coup d'état led by young officers of the Imperial Japanese Army. The generals of the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
struggled to decide the appellation of the rebellion troops, whom the generals were hesitant to refer to as rebellion troops because it was extremely shameful for them to admit an internecine strife. In addition, one of the commanders of the rebellion was a son-in-law of the general. Hence, the generals were hesitant. On the other hand, Yonai, the commander-in-chief of the Sasebo Naval District, instantaneously labeled them as "Insurrectional troops", (Agawa, n.d.) and let the chief of his staff, Admiral
Inoue Shigeyoshi, publish his position to all the Sasebo Naval District. Because of this immediate announcement, navy officers in the Sasebo Naval District
Sasebo Naval District
were compelled to stop participating with the rebellion troops. Yonai's prompt action as the supreme commander tranquilized the Sasebo Naval District.[6] Time as prime minister (January 16 to July 16, 1940)[edit] Despite not being famous, Yonai made significant decisions that depict his strong moral character. At his appointment as Prime Minister, he retired from active service of the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
without being asked to. He intended not to control his cabinet ministers by naval influences. This verdict was momentous. Because once military personnel retires, he loses effects on the military, hence all the generals and admirals rebuffed to retire. Indeed, Tojo Hideki, the 40th Prime Minister did not retire at his promotion to Prime Minister. He persisted with active service in the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
to uphold his effects over it, and the cabinet participants. Because of Yonai’s retirement from the Imperial Japanese Navy, the Yonai Cabinet was cooperative. One prominent evidence of this was that: nevertheless his cabinet had continued just a half a year, his cabinet members and followers formed a friendly reunion right after his resignation in 1937, and it still lasting in the Heisei period (1989–present). This reunion is named Ichi-Roku Kai, which means sixteenth gathering, because Yonai's appointment and resignation as a Prime Minister both happened on the 16th day of their months.[6] The Emperor’s trust[edit] Emperor Showa trusted Yonai’s strong moral character. On July 1944, the situation of World War II was apparently against Japan. As for this difficult circumstance, the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
was in a confusion. Supreme commanders of the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
decided to appoint Yonai as the Minister of Navy because he had popularity and charisma enough to unite the Imperial Japanese Navy, although Yonai had already retired from the navy. To assign Yonai as the Minister of Navy, the Emperor’s consent was necessary. Meanwhile, Admiral Suetsugu was also a candidate. The Emperor selected Yonai because Suetsugu was famous for his ambition, and allowed only Yonai to be the Minister of Navy as an active service military person. This appointment demonstrated Showa’s trust in Yonai because he is the only one person in the Imperial Japanese Navy’s history to return from retirement and be posted to the supreme position of the Minister of Navy. After the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
was defeated, the Emperor called Yonai to his castle. The Emperor amiably invited Yonai to have lunch together. After that, the Emperor said, "I really appreciated your reign and effort not to begin the war. I think we are not going to meet often like before". He put a pen and inkstone into a case and said, "These are the things that I have used. I would like to present this as a gift to you." (Agawa, n.d.). This action is extremely rare because having presented the belongings of the Emperor is the supreme honor and the utmost expression of amiability.[6] Honours[edit] From the corresponding article in the Japanese

Order of the Golden Kite, 5th Class (1906) Order of the Sacred Treasure
Order of the Sacred Treasure
(January 1933) Order of the Rising Sun
Order of the Rising Sun
(April 1934) Order of the Golden Kite, 1st Class (April 1942)


^ http://www.jacar.go.jp/DAS/meta/image_C06091304400?IS_KIND=SimpleSummary&IS_STYLE=default&IS_TAG_S35=InfoFolder&IS_KEY_A1=%E5%B8%AD%E6%AC%A1&IS_LGC_S35=AND&IS_LGC_S7=AND&IS_TAG_A1=InfoD&IS_LGC_S6=AND&IS_KEY_S1=%E6%B5%B7%E8%BB%8D%E5%85%B5%E5%AD%A6%E6%A0%A1&IS_TAG_S7=cat_type&IS_TAG_S1=InfoD&IS_TAG_S6=data_type&IS_LGC_A1=AND& ^ a b c d e f Stewart, Admirals of the World, p. 292. ^ The Ambassador in Japan
(Grew) to the Secretary of State, July 17, 1940, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1940, vol. IV, p. 964 ^ "Japanese Destroyer
Captain, Tameichi Hara, Naval Institute Press, Chapter 12 ^ Herbert Bix, Hirohito
and the making of modern Japan, Perennial, 2001, p.584. ^ a b c d Agawa, H.(n.d.), Yonai Mitsumasa, Koubunsha ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 24, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 


Bix, Herbert P. (2000). Hirohito
and the Making of Modern Japan. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-019314-0; OCLC 247018161 Frank, Richard B. (2001). Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. Penguin (Non-Classics); Reissue edition. ISBN 0141001461.  Jansen, Marius B (2002). The Making of Modern Japan. Belknap Press.  ISBN 9780674003347; OCLC
44090600 Sims, Richard (2001). Japanese Political History Since the Meiji Renovation 1868-2000. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-23915-7.  Spector, Ronald (1985). Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan. Vintage. ISBN 0-394-74101-3.  Stewart, William (2009). Admirals of the World: A Biographical Dictionary, 1500 to the Present. Mcfarland & Co Inc. ISBN 0-7864-3809-6.  Takada, Makiko (1995). Showa Tenno to Yonai Mitsumasa to. Hara Shobo. ISBN 4-562-02694-4.  Takagi, Sokichi (1982). Yamamoto Isoroku to Yonai Mitsumasa: Fu Rengō Kantai Shimatsuki. Kojinsha. ISBN 4-7698-0173-4. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mitsumasa Yonai.

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Mitsumasa Yonai

Annotated bibliography for Mitsumasa Yonai
Mitsumasa Yonai
from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues Nishida, Hiroshi. "Materials of IJN: Yonai, Mitsumasa". Imperial Japanese Navy. Retrieved August 3, 2007. 

Military offices

Preceded by Takahashi Sankichi Commander
of the Combined Fleet Dec 1936 – Feb 1937 Succeeded by Nagano Osami

Political offices

Preceded by Nagano Osami Minister of the Navy 2 February 1937 – 30 August 1939 Succeeded by Yoshida Zengo

Preceded by Nobuyuki Abe Prime Minister of Japan Jan 1940 – July 1940 Succeeded by Fumimaro Konoe

Preceded by Nomura Naokuni Minister of the Navy 22 July 1944 – 1 December 1945 Position abolished

v t e

Prime Ministers of Japan

Empire of Japan, 1868–1947

Meiji Period, 1868–1912

H. Itō Kuroda Sanjō Yamagata Matsukata H. Itō Kuroda Matsukata H. Itō Ōkuma Yamagata H. Itō Saionji Katsura Saionji

Taishō Period, 1912–26

Katsura Saionji Katsura Yamamoto Ōkuma Terauchi Hara Uchida Takahashi To. Katō Uchida Yamamoto Kiyoura Ta. Katō Wakatsuki

Shōwa Period, 1926–47

G. Tanaka Hamaguchi Shidehara Hamaguchi Wakatsuki Inukai Takahashi Saitō Okada Gotō Okada Hirota Hayashi Konoe Hiranuma N. Abe Yonai Konoe Tōjō Koiso K. Suzuki Higashikuni Shidehara Yoshida

State of Japan, 1947–present

Shōwa Period, 1947–89

Katayama Ashida Yoshida I. Hatoyama Ishibashi Kishi Ikeda Satō K. Tanaka Miki T. Fukuda Ōhira M. Itō Z. Suzuki Nakasone Takeshita

Heisei Period, 1989–

Uno Kaifu Miyazawa Hosokawa Hata Murayama Hashimoto Obuchi Aoki Mori Koizumi S. Abe Y. Fukuda Asō Y. Hatoyama Kan Noda S. Abe

Italics denote acting Prime Ministers

Imperial Japanese Navy

Admirals Aircraft Battles Fleets Ships Weapons

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 35801322 LCCN: n82099067 ISNI: 0000 0000 2288 8929 SUDOC: 115119299 BNF: cb166830906 (data) N