In 1934, Umezu was transferred to China and assumed command of the China Expeditionary Army. He achieved international notoriety when, with Ho Yingqin (Ho Ying-ch'in) in June 1935, he negotiated Japan's first formal encroachment into northern China. During the attempted coup by army junior officers on 26 February 1936, Umezu was the only member of the army's leadership to call for its immediate suppression. This decisive action helped lead to his appointment as vice minister of the army in March 1937.
While Umezu labored to reequip the army, he also worked to increase its political influence, a trend that became pronounced after the aborted coup. After the outbreak of full-scale military conflict with China in 1937, he assumed command of the No. 1 Expeditionary Forces. In 1939, he was reassigned to command the Guandong (Kwantung) Army and helped shore up the Japanese army in the wake of the clash with Soviet forces at Nomonhan.
On the collapse of the cabinet of Tojo Hideki in July 1944, Umezu became chairman of the Army General Staff and took charge of prosecuting the war. He accepted Emperor Hirohito's decision to terminate the war, and he accompanied Foreign Minister Shigemitsu Mamoru as the representative of the Japanese military to the 2 September 1945 formal signing of the surrender document on board the battleship Missouri. Tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, Umezu died of illness in Japan while serving the sentence, on 8 January 1949.
Beasley, W. G. Japanese Imperialism, 1894–1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.; Edgerton, Robert B. Warriors of the Rising Sun: A History of the Japanese Military. New York: Norton, 1997.; Frank, Richard B. Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. New York: Random House, 1999.; Harries, Merrion, and Susie Harries. Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army. New York: Random House, 1991.; Umezu Yoshijiro Kankokai (Publishing Association of Umezu Yoshijiro). Saigono sanbocho Umezu Yoshijiro (Last army chief of staff Umezu Yoshijiro). Tokyo: Fuyo Shobo, 1976.