Masaharu Homma
Overview
 
was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

. He is noteworthy for his role in the invasion and occupation of the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 during World War II. Homma, who was an amateur painter and playwright, was also known as the Poet General.
Homma was born on Sado Island
Sado, Niigata
is a city located on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture, in the Chūbu region of Japan. Since 2004, the city has comprised the entire island, although not all of its total area of 855.26 km2 is urbanized...

, in the Sea of Japan
Sea of Japan
The Sea of Japan is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean, between the Asian mainland, the Japanese archipelago and Sakhalin. It is bordered by Japan, North Korea, Russia and South Korea. Like the Mediterranean Sea, it has almost no tides due to its nearly complete enclosure from the Pacific...

 off Niigata Prefecture
Niigata Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located on the island of Honshū on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The capital is the city of Niigata. The name "Niigata" literally means "new lagoon".- History :...

. He graduated from the 14th class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1907, and from the 27th class of the Army Staff College
Army War College (Japan)
The ; Short form: of the Empire of Japan was founded in 1882 in Minato, Tokyo to modernize and Westernize the Imperial Japanese Army. Much of the empire's elite including prime ministers during the period of Japanese militarism were graduates of the college....

 in 1915.

Homma had a deep respect for, and some understanding of, the West, having spent eight years as a military attaché
Military attaché
A military attaché is a military expert who is attached to a diplomatic mission . This post is normally filled by a high-ranking military officer who retains the commission while serving in an embassy...

 in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, including combat service in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in 1918 with the British Expeditionary Force.

From 1930-1932, Homma was again sent as a military attaché
Military attaché
A military attaché is a military expert who is attached to a diplomatic mission . This post is normally filled by a high-ranking military officer who retains the commission while serving in an embassy...

 to the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, where his proficiency in the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 was useful.
Encyclopedia
was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

. He is noteworthy for his role in the invasion and occupation of the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 during World War II. Homma, who was an amateur painter and playwright, was also known as the Poet General.

Biography

Homma was born on Sado Island
Sado, Niigata
is a city located on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture, in the Chūbu region of Japan. Since 2004, the city has comprised the entire island, although not all of its total area of 855.26 km2 is urbanized...

, in the Sea of Japan
Sea of Japan
The Sea of Japan is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean, between the Asian mainland, the Japanese archipelago and Sakhalin. It is bordered by Japan, North Korea, Russia and South Korea. Like the Mediterranean Sea, it has almost no tides due to its nearly complete enclosure from the Pacific...

 off Niigata Prefecture
Niigata Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located on the island of Honshū on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The capital is the city of Niigata. The name "Niigata" literally means "new lagoon".- History :...

. He graduated from the 14th class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1907, and from the 27th class of the Army Staff College
Army War College (Japan)
The ; Short form: of the Empire of Japan was founded in 1882 in Minato, Tokyo to modernize and Westernize the Imperial Japanese Army. Much of the empire's elite including prime ministers during the period of Japanese militarism were graduates of the college....

 in 1915.

Homma had a deep respect for, and some understanding of, the West, having spent eight years as a military attaché
Military attaché
A military attaché is a military expert who is attached to a diplomatic mission . This post is normally filled by a high-ranking military officer who retains the commission while serving in an embassy...

 in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, including combat service in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in 1918 with the British Expeditionary Force.

From 1930-1932, Homma was again sent as a military attaché
Military attaché
A military attaché is a military expert who is attached to a diplomatic mission . This post is normally filled by a high-ranking military officer who retains the commission while serving in an embassy...

 to the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, where his proficiency in the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 was useful. He was also assigned to be part of the Japanese delegation to the Geneva Disarmament Conference in 1932 and served with the Press Section of the Army Ministry
Ministry of War of Japan
The , more popularly known as the Ministry of War of Japan, was cabinet-level ministry in the Empire of Japan charged with the administrative affairs of the Imperial Japanese Army...

 from 1932-1933. He was given a field command again, as commander of the IJA 1st Infantry Regiment from 1933–1935, and was promoted to command the IJA 32nd Infantry Brigade from 1935-1936.

In 1937, Homma was appointed aide-de-camp to Prince Chichibu
Prince Chichibu
, also known as Prince Yasuhito, was the second son of Emperor Taishō and a younger brother of the Emperor Shōwa. As a member of the Imperial House of Japan, he was the patron of several sporting, medical, and international exchange organizations...

, a brother of Emperor Shōwa. With him, he made a diplomatic tour in Europe which ended in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. There he attended the Nuremberg rally
Nuremberg Rally
The Nuremberg Rally was the annual rally of the NSDAP in Germany, held from 1923 to 1938. Especially after Hitler's rise to power in 1933, they were large Nazi propaganda events...

 and met Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, with whom the prince tried to boost relations, following the Anti-Comintern Pact
Anti-Comintern Pact
The Anti-Comintern Pact was an Anti-Communist pact concluded between Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan on November 25, 1936 and was directed against the Communist International ....

 of 1936. He then served as the commander of the Taiwan Army of the Imperial Armed Forces, and composed the lyric of the military song, "Taiwan Army." Yamaguchi Yoshiko ("Lee Shiang Lan" in Chinese)was invited to sing the song to boost Taiwanese morale.

With the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

, Homma was appointed commander of the IJA 27th Division in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 from 1938–1940 and directed the blockade of the foreign concessions in Tientsin, where he led the negotiations with the British. After the fall of Nanking
Battle of Nanjing
The Battle of Nanking began after the fall of Shanghai on October 9, 1937, and ended with the fall of the capital city of Nanking on December 13, 1937 to Japanese troops, a few days after the Republic of China Government had evacuated the city and relocated to Wuhan...

, he declared publicly that "unless peace is achieved immediately it will be disastrous". Homma was removed from his position at the front lines, and re-assigned to become commander in chief of the Taiwan Army District from 1940-1941. He was promoted to lieutenant general in July 1938.

With the start of the Pacific War
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

, Homma was named commander of the 43,110-man IJA 14th Army and tasked with the invasion of the Philippines. He ordered his troops to treat the Filipinos not as enemies but as friends, and respect their customs and religion. In one instance, on his approach to Manila, Homma stopped his columns and ordered the men to clean up and tighten formations, knowing that unkempt soldiers are more likely to loot and rape.

This liberal approach towards Filipino civilians earned him the enmity of his superior, General Count Hisaichi Terauchi, commander of the Southern Army
Southern Expeditionary Army Group
The was a army group of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. It was responsible for all military operations in South East Asian and South West Pacific campaigns of World War II....

, who sent adverse reports about Homma to Tokyo from his headquarters in Saigon. There was also a growing subversion within Homma's command by a small group of insubordinates, under the influence of Colonel Tsuji Masanobu
Tsuji Masanobu
was a tactician of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War and later a politician. While he was never indicted for war crimes after World War II, subsequent investigations have revealed that he was involved in war crimes throughout the Pacific war including the massacre of Chinese...

. In Homma's name, they sent out secret orders against his policies, including ordering the execution of Filipino Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos
José Abad Santos
In 1919, Abad Santos would become instrumental in laying the legal groundwork as well as drafting the by-laws and constitution of the Philippine Women's University, the country's and Asia's first private non-sectarian institution for higher learning for women...

 and attempted execution of former Speaker of the House of Representatives Manuel Roxas
Manuel Roxas
Manuel Acuña Roxas was the first president of the independent Third Republic of the Philippines and fifth president overall. He served as president from the granting of independence in 1946 until his abrupt death in 1948...

, which Homma found out about in time to stop.

Homma failed to give credence to the possibility that a retreat into Bataan Peninsula
Bataan Peninsula
The Bataan Peninsula is a rocky extension of the Zambales Mountains, on Luzon in the Philippines. It separates the Manila Bay from the South China Sea...

 by Filipino-American forces might succeed in upsetting the Japanese timetable. By the time he recognized his mistake, his best infantry division had been replaced by a poorly trained reserve brigade, greatly weakening his assault force. Rather than waste his men in furious frontal assaults, he tried to outmaneuver the American forces. This brought criticism from superiors who believed he had been “contaminated” by Western ideas about conserving the lives of his men.

Worried about the stalled offensive in Luzon
Luzon
Luzon is the largest island in the Philippines. It is located in the northernmost region of the archipelago, and is also the name for one of the three primary island groups in the country centered on the Island of Luzon...

, Emperor Shōwa pressed Army Chief of Staff
Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office
, also called the Army General Staff, was one of the four principal agencies charged with overseeing the Imperial Japanese Army.-Role:The was created in April 1872, along with the Navy Ministry, to replace the Ministry of Military Affairs of the early Meiji government.Initially, the Army Ministry...

 Hajime Sugiyama twice on January 1942 to increase troop strength and launch a quick knockout on Bataan. Following these orders, Sugiyama put pressure on Homma to renew his attacks. The resulting Battle of Bataan
Battle of Bataan
The Battle of Bataan represented the most intense phase of Imperial Japan's invasion of the Philippines during World War II. The capture of the Philippine Islands was crucial to Japan's effort to control the Southwest Pacific, seize the resource-rich Dutch East Indies, and protect its Southeast...

 commencing in January 1942 was one of the most intense in the campaign. However, the deteriorating relationship between Homma and Sugiyama led to the removal of Homma from command shortly after the fall of Corregidor
Battle of Corregidor
The Battle for Corregidor was the culmination of the Japanese campaign for the conquest of the Philippines. The fall of Bataan on 9 April 1942 ended all organized opposition by the U.S...

, and he was thereafter commander of the 14th Army in name only.

The Imperial General Headquarters
Imperial General Headquarters
The as part of the Supreme War Council was established in 1893 to coordinate efforts between the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy during wartime...

 regarded Homma as not aggressive enough in war (resulting in the high cost and long delay in securing the American and Filipino forces' surrender), and too lenient with the Filipino people in peace, and he was subsequently forced into retirement, in August 1943. Homma retired from the military and lived in semi-seclusion in Japan until the end of the war.

Trial

After the surrender of Japan
Surrender of Japan
The surrender of Japan in 1945 brought hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy was incapable of conducting operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent...

, the American occupation authorities
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers was the title held by General Douglas MacArthur during the Occupation of Japan following World War II...

 arrested Homma, and he was extradited
Extradition
Extradition is the official process whereby one nation or state surrenders a suspected or convicted criminal to another nation or state. Between nation states, extradition is regulated by treaties...

 to the Philippines at the express order of General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 so that he could be tried by an American military tribunal
Military tribunal
A military tribunal is a kind of military court designed to try members of enemy forces during wartime, operating outside the scope of conventional criminal and civil proceedings. The judges are military officers and fulfill the role of jurors...

 rather than the International Allied War Crimes Commission
International Military Tribunal for the Far East
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East , also known as the Tokyo Trials, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, or simply the Tribunal, was convened on April 29, 1946, to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for three types of crimes: "Class A" crimes were reserved for those who...

 tasked with prosecuting Japanese war-time leaders for war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

s connected with starting the war.

Historian Philip Piccigallo said that Homma was convicted of the actions of his men during the march rather than having a direct hand in the actions themselves.

It is not clear whether Homma ordered the atrocities that occurred during the Bataan Death March
Bataan Death March
The Bataan Death March was the forcible transfer, by the Imperial Japanese Army, of 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war after the three-month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of prisoners.The march was characterized by...

, but it is clear that his lack of administrative expertise and inability to adequately delegate authority and control his men led to atrocities. After American-Filipino forces surrendered the Bataan Peninsula, Homma turned logistics of handling the estimated 25,000 prisoners to Major-General Yoshitake Kawane. Homma publicly stated that the POWs would be treated fairly. A plan was formulated to transport and march the prisoners to Camp O'Donnell
Camp O'Donnell
Camp O'Donnell was a facility of the United States Air Force in Capas, Tarlac, The Philippines. Before the facility was transferred to the Air Force, it was first a Philippine Constabulary post then a United States Army facility....

, which Homma approved. However, the plan was severely flawed, as the American and Filipino POWs were starving, weak with malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

, and numbered not 25,000 but 76,000 men: far more than any Japanese plan had anticipated.

Additionally, the Japanese thought that the surrender would occur some three weeks later, a point at which supplies would have arrived. In his defense at his trial, Homma also claimed that he was so preoccupied with the plans for the Corregidor assault that he had forgotten about the prisoners’ treatment, believing that his officers were properly handling the matter. He claimed that he did not learn of the atrocity until after the war.

Homma was convicted by the U.S. military tribunal for war crimes in the Philippines, including the Bataan Death March, and the atrocities at O'Donnell and Cabanatuan which followed. Homma's chief defense counsel, John H. Skeen Jr., stated that it was a "highly irregular trial, conducted in an atmosphere that left no doubt as to what the ultimate outcome would be." Associate Justice Frank Murphy
Frank Murphy
William Francis Murphy was a politician and jurist from Michigan. He served as First Assistant U.S. District Attorney, Eastern Michigan District , Recorder's Court Judge, Detroit . Mayor of Detroit , the last Governor-General of the Philippines , U.S...

 of the U.S. Supreme Court protested the verdict, stating: "Either we conduct such a trial as this in the noble spirit and atmosphere of our Constitution or we abandon all pretense to justice, let the ages slip away and descend to the level of revengeful blood purges."

Homma's wife appealed to General MacArthur to spare his life; her pleas were denied, though according to William Manchester
William Manchester
William Raymond Manchester was an American author, biographer, and historian from Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, notable as the bestselling author of 18 books that have been translated into over 20 languages...

 in American Caesar
American Caesar
American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964 is a 1978 biography of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur by American historian William Manchester...

, he ordered Homma shot, rather than sent to the gallows, the latter being considered the greater dishonor amongst military men. Homma was executed by firing squad by the Filipino and American forces on 3 April 1946 outside Manila.

Film adaptation

A project about the trial of Masaharu Homma is in development. Titled Beast of Bataan, the project is based on the book A Trial of Generals by Lawrence Eric Taylor
Lawrence Eric Taylor
Lawrence Eric Taylor is an attorney and author. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and UCLA School of Law, Taylor was a public defender and criminal prosecutor in Los Angeles County before entering private practice. He currently heads a law firm in California that limits its...

. Beast of Bataan is written by Chris Carlson and Mark Jean and produced by Jonathan Sanger and Sarah Black. Carlson and Jen had previously worked on a TV film. Fred Schepisi is attached to direct the film, which is slated to begin production in February 2008. Actor Koji Yakusho is attached to portray Masaharu Homma. Actor Hayden Christensen
Hayden Christensen
Hayden Christensen is a Canadian actor. He appeared in Canadian television programs when he was young, then diversified into American television in the late 1990s. He moved on to minor acting roles before being praised for his role of Sam in Life as a House, for which he was nominated for a Golden...

 (who is also a producer) is attached to portray the young lawyer who defends Homma, who is on trial for war crimes as charged by General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

. Actors Willem Dafoe
Willem Dafoe
Willem Dafoe is an American film, stage, and voice actor, and a founding member of the experimental theatre company The Wooster Group...

 and William Hurt
William Hurt
William McGill Hurt is an American stage and film actor. He received his acting training at the Juilliard School, and began acting on stage in the 1970s. Hurt made his film debut as a troubled scientist in the science-fiction feature Altered States , for which he received a Golden Globe nomination...

 are in negotiations to join the project.

External links

  • Honma Masaharu The Generals of World War II
  • Homma Masaharu Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
  • Homma Masaharu World War II Database
  • People & Events: Masaharu Homma PBS
    Public Broadcasting Service
    The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia....

  • The Trial of General Homma American Heritage (magazine)
    American Heritage (magazine)
    American Heritage is a quarterly magazine dedicated to covering the history of the United States for a mainstream readership. Until 2007, the magazine was published by Forbes. Since that time, Edwin S...

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