Military Wiki
Masanobu Tsuji
Nickname The God of Operations
Born (1901-10-11)October 11, 1901
Died ca.1961 (age 59-60)
Place of birth Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Service/branch War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svg Imperial Japanese Army (IJA)
Years of service 1924–1945
Rank Rikugun Taisa (Colonel)
Battles/wars World War II (Pacific War)

Memorial statue of Masanobu Tsuji in Kaga, Ishikawa

Masanobu Tsuji (辻 政信 Tsuji Masanobu?, 11 October 1901 – ca.1961[1]) was a tactician of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War and later a politician. He was responsible for developing the detailed operational plans that allowed for the successful Japanese invasion of Malaya at the outbreak of the war.[2] He would also go on to take part in planning the final offensive during the closing stages of the Guadalcanal campaign. While he was never indicted for war crimes after World War II, subsequent investigations have revealed that he was involved in or contributed to the execution of various war crimes throughout the Pacific war including the massacre of Chinese civilians in Singapore, the mistreatment and executions of prisoners of war during the Bataan Death March, the executions of captured government officials of the Philippines, and other war crimes in China. Masanobu Tsuji was regarded as the most notorious Japanese war criminal to escape trial after the war. He was a leading proponent of the concept of gekokujō, "leading from below" or "loyal insubordination" by acting without or contrary to authorization[3]


Masunobu Tsuji was born in the Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan. He received his secondary education at a military academy and then graduated from the War College.

Tsuji served as a staff officer in the Kwantung Army in 1937-1939. His aggressive and insubordinate attitude contributed to the Soviet-Japanese Border Wars, particularly the Changkufeng Incident/Battle of Lake Khasan and the Nomonhan Incident/Battle of Khalkhin Gol.[4]

During the Pacific war he served mainly in Malaya, Burma, the Philippines, and Guadalcanal.[5] He served as a staff officer under General Tomoyuki Yamashita and was largely responsible for planning the successful Malayan invasion campaign.[6] At Guadalcanal, Tsuji planned and led the last two attempted assaults by the Japanese forces to expel the Americans from the island. Tsuji personally returned to Tokyo after these failures to urge the evacuation of the troops from Guadalcanal. He impressed the Emperor with his frankness.

In Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45, Max Hastings wrote, "Col Masanobu Tsuji [was] a fanatic repeatedly wounded in action and repeatedly transferred by generals exasperated by his insubordination. Tsuji once burned down a geisha house to highlight his disgust at the moral frailty of the officers inside it. His excesses were responsible for some of the worst Japanese blunders on Guadalcanal. He was directly responsible for brutalities to prisoners and civilians in every part of the Japanese empire in which he served. "[7]

After Japan's surrender in September 1945, Tsuji went into hiding in Thailand for fear of being tried on war crimes charges. When it was clear he would not be, he returned to Japan and wrote of his years in hiding in Senkō Sanzenri (潜行三千里, lit. Lurking 3000 li), which became a best seller. His memoirs made him famous and he later became a member of the Diet. In April 1961, he traveled to Laos and was never heard from again. Presumably a casualty of the Laotian Civil War, he was declared dead on July 20, 1968.[8]



  1. Tsuji's birthyear is disputed. Several Japanese sources use 1903, but Tsuji himself wrote it was 1901. Other sources say 1900 or 1902. The 1901 date is from David Bergamini's Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, p. 981.
  2. John Toland, The Rising Sun, page 183
  3. Budge, Kent G.. "Tsuji Masanobu". The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 28, 2012. 
  4. Coox, Alvin D.: Nomonhan: Japan Against Russia, 1939, ISBN 0-8047-1835-0
  6. Bergamini, p. 981.
  7. Hastings, Max, Retribution, the Battle for Japan, 1944-45, Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2008, p. 53.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 9.9 Tsuji, Masanobu. (1997). Japan's Greatest Victory, Britain's Worst Defeat, p. 108.


  • Peterson, James W., Barry C. Weaver and Michael A. Quigley. (2001). Orders and Medals of Japan and Associated States. San Ramon, California: Orders and Medals Society of America. ISBN 1-890974-09-9
  • Tsuji, Masanobu. (1997). Japan's Greatest Victory, Britain's Worst Defeat (Margaret E. Lake, tr.). New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-1-873376-75-1 (cloth)
  • Ward, Ian. (1992). "The Killer They Called a God" (MediaMaster). ISBN 978-9810039219

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