A prominent member of the Control Faction, Terauchi served as minister of war in the Hirota Koki cabinet (March 1936–January 1937) and was one of the leading figures in the ouster of Hirota. He next served as inspector general of military training (1937), North China Area Army commander (1937–1938), and military counselor (1938–1941). In November 1941, he took command of the Southern Expeditionary Army, which, at the start of the Pacific war, conquered the Philippines, Malaya, Burma, and the Netherlands East Indies (December 1941–May 1942). He subsequently became responsible for the defense of an area extending from Burma to western New Guinea. Promoted to the honorary rank of field marshal in June 1943 and briefly considered to succeed Tojo Hideki as prime minister in July 1944, Terauchi commanded the Southern Expeditionary Army until September 1945, the only senior general in the Japanese army to hold the same post throughout the war.
As a commander, Terauchi was essentially a coordinator who typically allowed subordinate officers great latitude in the conduct of operations. He also carried out his orders to the letter—for example, in his ruthless 1942–1943 execution of an order to construct the infamous, 265-mile "railway of death" linking the Thai and Burmese rail systems.
Thanks to the intervention of Lord Louis Mountbatten, Allied supreme commander in Southeast Asia, Terauchi, who had suffered a debilitating stroke in April 1945, avoided prosecution as a war criminal. Allowed to settle near Johore Bahru, Malaya, he died there on 12 June 1946. Bruce J. DeHart
Fuller, Richard. Shokan: Hirohito's Samurai. London: Arms and Armour, 1992.; Hayashi, Saburo. Kogun: The Japanese Army in the Pacific War. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1959.
Bruce J. DeHart