Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Tanaka Shinichi (1893–1976)

Japanese army general who was a key figure in military planning for the war in the Pacific. Born in Hokkaido, Japan, on 18 March 1893, Tanaka Shinichi graduated from the Military Academy in 1913 and from the Army War College in 1923. A resident officer in Riga and Moscow between 1928 and 1931, he served as a staff officer with the Guandong (Kwantung) Army in Manchuria in 1931 and 1932. From 1933 to 1935, he was a resident officer in Berlin. On his return to Japan, Tanaka was promoted to colonel and appointed chief of the Military Service Section of the War Ministry in August 1936. The following March, he became chief of the Military Affairs Section.

At the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War in July 1937, Tanaka insisted on dispatching three divisions to China over the objections of General Ishiwara Kanji, chief of the Operations Division in the General Staff. After becoming a major general in 1939, he was appointed chief of staff of the Inner Mongolia Garrison Army and participated in the Battle of Nomonhan/Khalhin-Gol, in which the Japanese forces were defeated by the Soviets.

In October 1940, Tanaka became chief of the Operations Division of the General Staff. Promoted to lieutenant general in October 1941, he played a leading role in planning military operations leading to the Pacific war. Contrary to officials in the War Ministry, he favored an attack on the Soviet Union, and in late 1942, he also disagreed with them regarding military operations on Guadalcanal. He insisted on continuing the operations, but the War Ministry favored evacuation. During this controversy, Tanaka slapped General Sato Kenryo, chief of the Military Affairs Bureau, and verbally insulted Prime Minister General Tojo Hideki. In consequence, he was discharged from his post.

Assigned command of the 18th Division in northern Burma, from 1943 to 1944, Tanaka demonstrated superior leadership in adversity, fighting British forces under Brigadier General Orde Wingate and Chinese forces reorganized by Lieutenant General Joseph Stilwell. His outnumbered forces were gradually driven back. In September 1944, Tanaka was appointed chief of staff of the Burma Area Army. While traveling to Japan from Burma in May 1945, he was seriously injured in the crash of his airplane near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and was still hospitalized in Saigon at the end of the Pacific war. Tanaka died in Kawasaki City on 24 September 1976. His memoirs were published posthumously in 1978.

Tobe Ryoichi


Further Reading
Allen, Louis. Burma: The Longest War, 1941–1945. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984.; Tanaka Shinichi. Tanaka Sakusen Bucho no Kaiso. Tokyo: Fuyo-Shobo, 1978.
 

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