February 26 Incident


February 26 Incident
1st Lt. Niu Yoshitada and his company on February 26, 1936
Flier “Directive to Soldiers” February 29, 1936

The February 26 incident (二・二六事件 Ni-niroku jiken?, or “2-2-6 incident”) was an attempted coup d'état in Japan, from February 26 to 29, 1936 carried out by 1,483 troops of the Imperial Japanese Army. Several leading politicians were killed and the center of Tokyo was briefly occupied by the rebelling troops. At that time, the incident was called the deplorable incident in the capital (帝都不祥事件 Teito Fushō Jiken?).

Contents

Overview

The main cause of the incident was the actions of some young activist officers (mainly below the rank of major).[1] They noted instances of political corruption and extreme poverty in rural areas and decided the solution would be to remove some of the elder statesmen in the government. Their slogan was “the Shōwa Restoration (昭和維新, Shōwa-ishin, named after Meiji-ishin)” and “Revere the Emperor, Expel the Evils (尊皇討奸, sonnō-tōkan)”.[2] Their avowed purpose was "destroying the deadly spirit that was poisoning Japan."[3]

In the early morning on February 26, 1936, the leaders of the coup, with around 1483 soldiers, put their plans in action. Most of these troops belonged to 1st & 3rd Infantry Regiments and 7th Field Heavy Artillery Regiment of the 1st (“Gem”) Division, and 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Imperial Guards Division.

Their targets were as follows;

By the end of the incident Saitō, Takahashi, and Watanabe were dead. Okada escaped assassination because the insurgents killed his brother-in-law, Captain Matsuo Denzō, by mistake.[4]

The leaders of the rebellion asked the head of Army to talk to the Emperor, and demanded the establishment of a Shōwa Restoration.[5] However, the Army and the Emperor considered their claims illegitimate. The Emperor himself was enraged and demanded that they be crushed for killing his loyal supporters, refusing even to consider ordering them to commit suicide because their "terrible atrocities" were contrary to bushido.[6] Loyal troops surrounded the rebels and eventually persuaded them to surrender.[7] After the rebel soldiers involved in the coup returned to their units, some leaders committed suicide.[7] The others surrendered and were tried for their involvement in a military court, to explain and publicize their actions.[7]

Prelude

A group of young officers including Nonaka Shirō, Kōda Kiyosada, Muranaka Takaji, Andō Teruzō, Isobe Asaichi, and Kurihara Yasuhide sympathized with the ideas of “the Shōwa Restoration” and “Revere the Emperor, Expel the Evils" as recorded in "An Outline Plan for the Reorganization of Japan" (日本改造法案大綱, Nihon Kaizō Hōan Taikō, written by Kita Ikki, a nationalistic socialist). They advocated the urge to solve social problems such as political corruption between politicians and big zaibatsu companies, and the effects of the Great Depression. The Army condemned these ideas as dangerous and had kempeitai military policemen monitor the group of officers.

Previous to the February 26 Incident, young activist Naval officers had assassinated Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi in the May 15 Incident of 1932. They were sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison, and it is said that the perception of light punishments encouraged soldiers and officers to participate in the February 26 Incident. One difference, nonetheless, between the incidents was that, during the May 15 incident, Sub Lieutenant Koga Kiyoshi and others took direct action but did not involve Imperial soldiers—only cadets, Naval officers, and civilians.

Following this was the Military Academy Incident in 1934, another attempt at a coup. Two officers involved (Isobe and Muranaka) were suspended (and later dismissed) from the Army. This caused some young officers to distrust their superiors, and on August 12, 1935, Lt. Colonel Aizawa Saburō killed Major General Nagata Tetsuzan who was the Bureau Chief of Military Affairs of the Army, in what became known as the Aizawa Incident.

Many of the young officers involved in the February 26 Incident belonged to 1st Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Regiment, and 3rd Infantry Regiment of Imperial Guards, garrisoned in Tokyo. Army leaders decided to send the 1st Infantry Regiment to Manchuria to discourage “the Shōwa Restoration”. The activists in the Regiment decided to take direct action in the early morning on February 26, 1936, before they were to depart for Manchuria.

Cautious officers like Captain Yamaguchi Ichitarō, non Kita Ikki members and Nishida Mitsugi warned that it was too early to carry out the rebellion, but the incident went ahead without their involvement.

Manifesto

The activist officers wrote their intentions and grievances in a Manifesto, which they wanted to be handed to the Emperor. Though it was signed by the name of the predecessor Captain Nonaka Shirō, it is said Muranaka Takaji revised Nonaka's manuscript.

In addition they told the Army Minister of their desire to arrest Generals Ugaki Kazushige, Minami Jirō, and Lieutenant Generals Koiso Kuniaki and Tatekawa Yoshitsugu. They also wished to dismiss General Hayashi Senjūrō and the divisional commander of the Imperial Guard Hashimoto Toranosuke.

Targets

On February 21, Isobe and Muranaka showed the list of primary and secondary targets to Captain Yamaguchi Ichitarō. Isobe's plan, including killing Saionji Kimmochi, met with opposition from Yamaguchi, who wanted Saionji to contribute to the cabinet led by Mazaki. Hayashi Senjūrō was also excluded from the list. Mazaki had replaced Hayashi in the position of the Inspectorate General of Military Training in July 1935. On February 22 it was decided that only the primary targets should be attacked, with the addition of one new person, Watanabe Jōtarō, the current Inspectorate General of Military Training. Watanabe had a reputation as a moderate, and many of the rebel officers of the February 26 Incident respected Mazaki, and blamed Watanabe for the personnel change.

Primary targets

Secondary targets

  • Gotō Fumio (Home Minister)
  • Ichiki Kitokurō (President of the Privy Council)
  • Izawa Takio (a Member of the House of Peers, ex-Governor General of Taiwan)
  • Mitsui Hachirōemon (Head of Mitsui zaibatsu)
  • Ikeda Shigeaki (Executive director of Mitsui & Co.)
  • Iwasaki Koyata (Head of Mitsubishi zaibatsu)

Development

Mustering of troops

Under command of the rebellious officers, the troops went into action early in the morning, to lessen the possibility of resistance by their targets.

Captain Yamaguchi Ichitarō, who was the commander on duty at 1st Infantry Regiment, knew of unfolding events, but turned a blind eye to their action, even when the troops involved in the incident threatened and confined NCO's guarding the powder magazine, and arms and ammunition. At 3rd Infantry Regiment the commander on duty was Captain Andō Teruzō. He mustered troops by himself, and had also prepared arms and ammunition in readiness, using his authority as duty Commander.

Having access to military training and equipment, the troops were able to overcome most of the little resistance they initially met. However, policemen and military policemen resisted strongly at the residences of Prime Minister Okada Keisuke, General Watanabe, and Finance Minister Takahashi, and the hotel where Makino was staying. Some of the military police were killed or wounded. General Watanabe also fought back with his pistol.

Attacks on Government Leaders and Chief Retainers

Okada Keisuke (left) and Matsuo Denzō (right)

Okada Keisuke

1st Lieutenant Kurihara Yasuhide commanded the troops in the 1st machine-gun company and was the leader of the first assassination squad. The second assassination squad commander was 2nd Lieutenant Ikeda Toshihiko. The third squad was led by 2nd Lieutenant Hayashi Hachirō, and the machine-gun squad commander was Sergeant Major Ojima Kenji.

When the troops attacked the prime minister's official residence, four policemen fought back and were killed. However there was an alarm bell line between the Prime Minister's residence and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. The attack was reported immediately by the policemen at the residence and the special garrison squad was dispatched immediately, only to be stopped and disarmed by the rebel troops. Policemen from nearby Kōji-machi police station ran to the residence, but all were taken into custody at the sentry line and interned.

The actions of the policemen guarding the Prime Minister gave Okada time to hide in a closet.[8] In the confusion of the attack, Reserve Captain Matsuo Denzō was shot instead of Okada. He was Okada's brother-in-law, his secretary and his guard. Officers mistook him for Okada, because Matsuo resembled Okada and moreover the wounds to his face further complicated identification. But they had no doubt about their success.

The ministry secretary Fukuda Kō, and Sakomizu Hisatsune had been able to discover that Okada had survived. They made plans to help him, with the help of military police Sergeant-Major Kosaka Keisuke, Sergeant Aoyagi Toshiyuki, and Corporal Ogura Kuraichi. The next day, February the 27th, they arranged for many people who were a similar age to Okada, to visit his residence to offer condolences. Okada disguised himself and escaped in the confusion.

Takahashi Korekiyo (left) and Saitō Makoto (right) on February 20, 1936

Takahashi Korekiyo

Takahashi Korekiyo, the Finance Minister and ex-Prime Minister, was attacked because he tried to cut the budget for the Army. In his role as Finance Minister, he attempted to escape from the depression by amongst other things, cutting down on spending for the military, including both the army and the navy. His plans made many enemies in the Army.

On February 26, rebel troops, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Nakahashi Motoaki and 2nd Lieutenant Nakajima Kanji, attacked Takahashi's private residence in Akasaka. Policeman and guard, Tamaki Hideo, resisted was seriously wounded, however he could not stop the troops from completing their task and assassinating Takahashi.

After the incident, Takahashi was raised in rank and given the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum.

After the incident, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Machida Chūji, became acting Finance Minister.

Saitō Makoto

The rebels also targeted Saitō Makoto, who was a Viscount, a Reserve Admiral, the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, ex-Prime Minister, and an attendant to the Emperor.

The attacking troops were commanded by 1st Lieutenant Sakai Naoshi, 2nd Lieutenant Takahashi Tarō, 2nd Lieutenant Mugiya Kiyosumi, and 2nd Lieutenant Yasuda Yutaka. Saitō's private residence was in Yotsuya. The soldiers succeeded in killing Saitō in spite of the resistance of the policemen on guard. He was showered with bullets, with 40 hitting his body. His wife Haruko begged them to “Shoot me in place of my husband” and stood forward to protect him, at which point she was wounded, with a bullet going through her arm, as she covered him with her body. The bullet wound caused a high fever for over a week. She remembered this incident clearly until she died in 1971, at 98 years old. No one was killed except for Saitō.

After the incident, Saitō was raised in rank and given the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum and words of condolence from the Emperor.

Suzuki Kantarō when he was the Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet

.

Suzuki Kantarō

The Grand Chamberlain Admiral Suzuki Kantarō was attacked because he was a counselor on the privy council, and as such regarded as an obstruction to the realization of ōmikokoro (大御心, the Emperor's will).

The troops were commanded by Captain Andō Teruzō, and broke into Suzuki's private residence in Kōji-machi, where Suzuki was wounded by bullets and nearly died. Captain Andō accepted the begging of Suzuki's wife Taka to not kill him, and left with a salute, leaving Suzuki to escape death. Andō had once visited Suzuki to talk about the state of affairs at that time. Andō said, “He is a tolerant person like Saigō Takamori and quite different from the rumors”.

Later at the end of World War II, he became the prime Minister and worked on terminating the war. One of his supporters was Sakomizu Hisatsune, the cabinet secretary of the Suzuki Cabinet at that time.

Watanabe Jōtarō

Watanabe Jōtarō

Watanabe Jōtarō was the Inspector General of Military Training after Mazaki Jinzaburō. Many of the rebel officers respected Mazaki and thought Watanabe as the cause of the personnel change.

2nd Lieutenants Takahashi Tarō and Yasuda Yutaka led their troops to attack Jōtarō, after the attack on Saitō. It was already after six when they attacked Watanabe's private residence in Ogikubo. A Corporal and Superior Private from Ushigome Military Police squad were wounded in the attack, and Watanabe also fought back with his pistol, but was finally killed. His young daughter Kazuko saw his death, hiding behind of a table. She remembered seeing his bone-bared legs, and the wall sprayed with his flesh and blood after the assault with machine gun bullets.

Lieutenant General Nakamura Kōtarō acted in place of the Inspectorate General of Military Training after the incident. Watanabe was raised in rank and given the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.

Makino Nobuaki

Count Makino Nobuaki was attacked because he supported cooperating with Europe and the US, and had once been the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal.

Airman Captain Kōno Hisashi commanded the team consisting of 8 members, including civilians. They attacked Kōfūsō, the annex of the hotel Itōya in Yugawara, where Makino stayed. The team forced Minagawa Yoshitaka, a policeman on guard, to lead them to Makino. Under the threat of a pistol by Kōno, he at first pretended to surrender to him, then shot at the same time as turning back. Captain Kōno and reserve Sergeant Major Miyata Akira were wounded in the shooting. During the scuffle, Makino escaped to a hill behind the hotel. Reserve Superior Private Kuroda noticed the fleeing people, including Makino, and shot at them. The bullet hit a nurse. Because of her scream and women's clothes over Makino, Kuroda overlooked him. Since Kōno thought Makino was still in the building, he decided to set it on fire.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department organized a special guard team, which was an obstacle to the insurgent troops. Captain Nonaka Shirō commanded three companies.

At 5:00 am, the troops quickly finished occupying the building of the metropolitan police department after displaying overwhelming force, rendering that Police department powerless.

Official Residence of the Home Minister

After the occupation of the Metropolitan Police Department, some of the troops, commanded by 2nd Lieutenant Suzuki Kinjirō of 3rd infantry regiment, occupied the official residence of Gotō Fumio, the Home Minister, as he had the responsibility over peace keeping. Gotō was out and escaped the attack.

Occupation of Kasumigaseki and Miyake-zaka

The troops attacked the department of the Army, the General staff office, several newspaper companies, and finally occupied the Political Centers, including Nagata-cho, Kasumigaseki, Akasaka, and Miyake-zaka.

Way to suppression

Hanzōmon, February 26, 1936
Troops occupying Nagata-cho area in Tokyo during February 26 incident

Events of February 26, 1936

In early morning Shibukawa Zensuke phoned Kita Ikki to tell the occurrence of the incident. At that time, General Mazaki Jinzaburō was told that by Kamekawa Tetsuya and promised to see Admiral Katō Hiroharu at Fushimi-no-miya residence. Then he went to the department of the Army.

According to Honjō Diary, 2nd Lieutenant Itō Tsuneo visited General Honjō Shigeru, the head of officers in attendance on the Emperor. Itō was a messenger from Yamaguchi Ichitarō, Honjō's son-in-law. He told Honjō the message “About 500 officers and soldiers of the regiment, unable to restrain themselves any longer, have decided to take direct action” and a note “More forces would participate”. Honjō ordered him to take a reply to Yamaguchi “Do whatever necessary to prevent the contemplated action from being undertaken”. But it was too late. He called military police commander Iwasa Rokurō and an officer in attendance on the Emperor, Major general Nakajima Tetsuzō. Then he went to the Imperial Palace.

The Emperor heard about the incident from the attendants and got very surprised at the news. Immediately he changed his clothes to a military uniform and went to his desk.

About 5:20 am Kido Kōichi, the head of secretary of the lord keeper of the privy seal, called superintendent general Oguri Kazuo, Saionji Kimmochi's secretary Harada Kumao, and the president of the House of Peers Konoe Fumimaro. Then he went to the Imperial Palace and discussed measures to deal with the situation with the Minister of the Imperial Household Yuasa Kurahei and the vice-chief of chamberlain Hirohata Tadataka. It was agreed and reported to the Emperor: they would focus on suppression of the troops and never permit establishment of cabinet close to the rebel troops.

The leaders of the troops Captain Kōda Kiyosada, and Muranaka Takaji and Isobe Asaichi visited the official residence of the army minister Kawashima Yoshiyuki. They passed their Manifesto and told their demands to him.

Troops threatening a picture taker

After 8:00 am General Mazaki Jinzaburō, Araki Sadao, and Hayashi Senjūrō and Major General Yamashita Tomoyuki was allowed to go through sentries.[9]

Mazaki and Katō visited the chief of the Naval General Staff Prince Fushimi Hiroyasu. They talked about proclaiming martial law and establishment of new cabinet and went to the Palace. Prince Fushimi Hiroyasu reported it to the Emperor. But he paid no attention to it.

At 9:00 am, army minister Kawashima had audience to the Emperor. He read out the manifesto and explained the situation with all due respect. The Emperor ordered him to squash the incident immediately.[10] In his report to the Emperor, the vice-chief of staff Sugiyama Hajime suggested that they should call up some units from Kōfu and Sakura.

In the afternoon ex-prime minister Kiyoura Keigo visited the Palace. He suggested the Emperor to elect new prime minister from the army and to proclaim “my lack of virtue caused such a matter”, which only displeased the Emperor, according to the diary of Mazaki Jinzaburō. Isobe wrote in his note “Kiyoura tried to go to the Palace on the morning but could not because of an obstruction by Yuasa and Ichiki”.

Just after the noon unofficial meeting was held in the Palace by Araki, Mazaki, Hayashi, and also other members of the Supreme War Council Abe Nobuyuki, Ueda Kenkichi, Terauchi Hisaichi, Nishi Giichi, Prince Asaka Yasuhiko, Prince Nashimoto Morimasa, and Prince Higashikuni Naruhiko. As the result, in the afternoon a notice was announced by the name of Army Minister Kawashima in order to settle the matter without bloodshed.[11] The statement reads:

1. The purpose of your actions has been reported to His Majesty.
2. We recognize that your motives are based on a sincere desire to clarify the national polity.
3. The current situation concerning the [inadequate] manner in which the true nature of the national polity is being clarified (including its defilement) is a matter of great regret to us.
4. All the supreme war councilors have agreed to unite and move forward in accordance with the principles stated above.
5. Beyond this everything depends upon His Majesty's will.[12]

The officers (Nonaka, Kōda, Tsushima, and Muranaka and Isobe) were notified of this statement at the army minister's official residence by Major General Yamashita Tomoyuki. They could hardly understand its intention. But then Colonel Murakami Keisaku, the head of the military section, said to them that they were making a plan of Restoration Edicts based on the manifesto. The officers considered their intent was accepted.

At 15:00 Lieutenant General Kashii Kōhei, the commander of the Tokyo Defense Command, ordered the wartime defense over the area of 1st Division including that occupied by the troops. (It was lifted on July 18.) Its purpose was defense of important buildings and keeping the peace. It meant that the troops came to belong in the chain of command under the head of 1st Div, Lieutenant General Hori Takeo. They thought that the army accepted them as the “proper” troops.

Above notice was printed and notified by the Tokyo Defense Command. But the word “Your MOTIVES (true feelings, 諸子の真意)” in the article 2 was replaced with “Your ACTIONS(諸子の行動)”. 1st Division considered the situation was ratified, and got relieved because many of the troops belonged to them. On the other hand it was thought as just a dubious document.[13]

At 16:00 1st Division order was issued. After that the troops came to be under the command of the regimental commander. At the end of the order were oral notices:

1. Consider the troops as not enemy but friendly. Do your duties of defense together and never attack each other.
2. The Supreme War Councilors shall actively persuade the troops and take measures in unison. Also the Cabinet meeting would do their best.

Afterwards this order and the notice became in question in that the action of the troops was temporally accepted. Many senior and friendly officers came and encouraged them. Even rations were served from their original units.

It was not until the afternoon that Cabinet ministers gathered. At 21:00 Home Secretary Gotō Fumio was designated for a deputy prime minister temporarily. When he handed in the resignation of ministers, the Emperor reserved it and ordered him to settle the matter to begin with.

At 20:40 the Cabinet meeting decided to proclaim martial law. In the beginning the police and the navy opposed to the decision for the fear of start of a military regime.[14] But martial law was proclaimed on early morning of Feb. 27 by the Emperor's strong will.

At 21:00 the leading officers met the members of the Supreme War Council (except for the Imperial princes). But they didn't come to any conclusion. Isobe stated in his note that they seemed to behave favorable to the activist officers, as if parents were going to make up for their children's mistakes.

Martial Law Headquarters from February 27, 1936

Events of February 27, 1936

Newspapers reported Okada’s existence and the situation following the incident

The Martial Law Headquarters was established in the officers' hall at Kudan under martial law. The commander was Lieutenant General Kashii, the commander of the Tokyo Defense Command, and the staff officer was Major Ishiwara Kanji who insisted on suppression of the troops. However, at first they called the troops “the troops going into action since the morning of February 26” and didn't define them as “rebel”.

Even still the upper levels of the army feared an attack between the troops, the Emperor's will was absolute. Finally at 8:20 am the General Staff Office reported an Imperial order “The commander of the Martial Law HQ must make the troops occupying around Miyake-zaka evacuate and return to their original units immediately.” The Emperor sanctioned it as soon as reported.

Honjō begged the Emperor for acceptance of their mind somehow. The Emperor answered “How can we condemn even the spirit of these criminally brutal officers who killed my aged subjects who were my hands and feet”[15]

The Imperial order was supposed to be issued at 5:00 on the morning of Feb.28. But the Emperor asked him about suppression again and again, finally 13 times in the day.

At 12:45 the Emperor told the army minister Kawashima “To kill the old subjects whom I trusted the most is akin to gently strangling me with floss-silk” and also he would “personally lead the Imperial Guard Division and subdue them”[16] and directed him to suppress rebels again.

At 13:27 Prime Minister Okada escaped from his official residence by the help of military police NCOs.[17] The troops didn't hear about the Imperial order yet. The upper level of the army and the rebel officers did tactics, because they feared an attack between troops each other.

At 14:00, 3 members of the Supreme War Council Mazaki, Nishi, and Abe met the officers at the army minister's residence. Before that the officers had a phone call from Kita Ikki to say he received an oracle “No one but brave Mazaki. He should come into the power for the National Justice Army. Leave all the matter in his hands.” While they wanted to leave things to Mazaki, he only asked them to return to their original units. The meeting bore no fruit.

The troops were quartered with residences of the prime minister, the minister of agriculture and forestry, the minister of education, science and culture, and the minister of railway, Sannō hotel, and a Japanese restaurant Kōraku by command.

Occupied area on February 28, 1936

Events of February 28, 1936

At 0:00 am the troops were informed that the Imperial order was going to be commanded, and it was realized at 5:00 am.

Kashii was sympathetic with the activist officers and attempted to persuade them. He tried to ask the Emperor whether he had a will for the Shōwa Restoration or not. However, the vice-chief of staff Sugiyama and a staff officer Ishiwara, who decided to suppress the troops with forces, opposed Kashii and changed his direction to subjugation.

On the noon Major General Yamashita informed the troops that the Imperial order had been commanded. Lieutenant Kurihara said it would be the only honor if an Imperial envoy made sure of their suicide. The army minister Kawashima and Yamashita intermediated between them and Honjō. The Emperor heard it from him and got so enraged to say “If they wish to commit suicide, let them do so as they please. It is out of question to dispatch an imperial agent to such men”.[18] Their wish was completely refused. In spite of such facts, the upper level of the army still attempted to settle the matters with no further victims.

Meanwhile in front of the 3rd Infantry Regiment surged hundreds of families of privates in the insurgent troops, in order to protest the officers.

At 23:00 the Martial Law HQ commanded an order to restore things to peace and order with military force. Also it defined the troops as “rebels” clearly.

Occupied area on February 29, 1936. The troops were surrounded.

Events of February 29, 1936

On early morning the orders were given to subjugation at 5:10 and to start attack at 8:30. The Martial Law HQ made neighbors take refuge from the area around and stationed military policemen NHK at Mt. Atago. From the sky, planes scattered fliers to persuade the troops to surrender.

At 8:55, on the radio an advice titled “Directive to Soldiers” (兵に告ぐ in Japanese) said: The Imperial decree has been proclaimed. The command of His Majesty has already been dispatched...[19] In addition, there rose advertising balloon saying “Imperial Command was Dispatched, Not be Defiant Any Longer. (勅命下る軍旗に手向かふな in Japanese)” in the air.

The divisional commander and other senior officers persuaded them with tears. Finally the troops had gone back their original units by 14:00. Captain Andō attempted to commit suicide but failed. At the army minister's official residence gathered the rest of the activist officers. They determined to insist on their opinion in court. They, except for Captain Nonaka, who committed suicide, were arrested at 17:00, and also private citizen Kita Ikki, Nishida Mitsugi, Shibukawa Zensuke and others were. The incident had been suppressed completely.

End of the Incident

On March 4 at 14:25, ex-reserve 2nd lieutenant Yamamoto Matashi turned himself in Tokyo Military Police Headquarter. On March 5, Captain Kōno attempted to commit suicide and died on the morning 6:40 of March 5. The troops consisted of 20 officers, and 1528 NCOs and privates. 456 were from the 1st infantry regiment, 937 from the 3rd infantry regiment, 13 from 7th artillery regiment, 61 from 3rd infantry regiment of the imperial guards, and so on.

Actions of the navy

The Navy Ministry did do-or-die resistance against the rebel since on the morning of February 26. They turned the defense of its building to prepare for action. In the afternoon, they rushed the landing force to Shibaura and Tokyo from Yokosuka Naval District, whose commander in chief was Yonai Mitsumasa, and the chief of staff was Inoue Shigeyoshi. Also the IJN 1st Fleet was dispatched to Tokyo bay. In the afternoon of February 27, they were ready to bombard of the troops from the sea.

In addition, at 9:40 of February 27, the IJN 2nd Fleet anchored to Osaka Bay for defense. Their duty finished on February 29 and returned to their work.

Measures taken following the incident

Government and the palace

After the incident, the Okada Cabinet resigned en masse. Saionji Kimmochi recommended Konoe Fumimaro as next prime minister. He was ordered by imperial command to form a cabinet but he pretended to be ill and declined it, because he was different from Saionji in thought of politics.

Then the president of the Privy Council Ichiki recommended Hirota Kōki and Saionji agreed. But the army put pressure on him with complaint about members of the cabinet. They reached an agreement to exclude 3 persons from the new cabinet.

Deprival of commissions, ranks, and honors

20 officers in the troops were deprived of their commissions on February 29. On March 2 Yamamoto was also deprived of his commission, and all 21 officers were ordered to relinquish all ranks[20] and honors.

Casualties in the line of duty

Five on-duty policemen died and one was injured during the incident. They were awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, White Paulownia Medal in addition to the distinguished service medals for policemen and firemen awarded them by the Home Minister.

  • Murakami Kamozaemon (Died)
  • Doi Kiyomatsu (Died)
  • Simizu Yoshirō (Died)
  • Kodate Kiyomatsu (Died)
  • Minagawa Yoshitaka (Died)
  • Tamaki Hideo (Seriously injured)

Six privates of the 57th infantry regiment, moving out for defense, died from carbon monoxide poisoning.[citation needed]

Leaders of Military Way Faction

Four of the supreme war councilor at the time, Araki Sadao, Mazaki Jinzaburō, Abe Nobuyuki, and Hayashi Senjūrō, retired on March 10. Honjō resigned his post and became a reserve officer in April, because he had reported things against the Emperor's will and his son-in-law Yamaguchi Ichitarō took part in the incident. Army minister Kawashima Yoshiyuki on March 30, and the commander of the Martial Law HQ Kashii Kōhei in July resigned in responsibility of the incident.

In order to avoid that these upper level officers recover their influence on the army, Military Ministers to be Active-Duty Officers Law revived since the Hirota Cabinet. The law intended to prevent generals from interfering with politics. But it finally resulted in the situation that the cabinet couldn't continue to exist unless the army recommended someone for Army Minister.

Soldiers involved in the Incident

Most of the soldiers in the insurgents didn't know the plan of the incident. They believed their actions as legal and followed the officers. Some soldiers were tried in the military court; on the other hand, many were killed at the front in the war.

Investigation and trial

Although it seemed many upper level officers took part in the incident, it was announced that the young radical officers had run wild because of certain thinkers. Since then officers sympathetic to the insurgents had lost their positions, and Tōsei Clique had increased their power in politics. Some of Judge advocate and Military police tried to find the real facts and wirepullers of the incident.

On February 28, Mutō Akira and others at military affairs of the Army ministry determined to set up a special court-martial by Imperial command of urgency. It was realized on March 4. Why it was by Imperial command of urgency was that special court-martial could be set only under martial-law area by ordinary law. Also it solved the problems of jurisdiction, because the insurgents belonged to too different units to deal with normal court. Special court-martial can be characterized, compared to ordinary one: in that it is one-tiered judicial system; completely closed; and defendants can't recuse judges; with no defense lawyer.

In Army Penal Code, article 25 defines the crime of rebellion:

Article 25
A person who assembles in a crowd and commits the crime of rebellion with armed forces and shall be sentenced according to the following distinctions:
(i) A ringleader shall be punished by death;
(ii) A person who participates in a plot or directs a mob shall be punished by death or imprisonment without work either for life or for a definite term of not less than 5 years; a person who performs other leading functions shall be punished by imprisonment either with or without work for a definite term not less than 3 years;
(iii) A person who merely follows others or otherwise merely joins in the rebellion shall be punished by imprisonment either with or without work for not less than 5 years. [21]

Sakisaka Shumpei and other Judge advocate staffs investigated the incident, commanding Military Police. In the special court-martial, the trial resulted in judgement of guilt on most of the activist officers and citizens. Isobe Asaichi had been cursing this judgement until execution of his death penalty. Also Andō and Kurihara were greatly shocked at the death penalty on so many of their companions. They believed that the Emperor would be glad if they carried out direct action.

Viewed from the present time they seem quite conceited and self-satisfied. But in fact their belief was based on several reasons. After the May 15 incident, none of the activist officers were sentenced to death, even though they murdered the prime minister. Then the officers of February 26 incident concluded that His Majesty accepted the mettle of the leaders and took the circumstances into consideration and lighter punishment. At that time it was awful honor for him if the Emperor just thinks of one soldier. Schools taught them “the Meiji Restoration is a complete reform of top-down in the confusion in the end of Edo period. His Majesty himself came to govern the nation, and his glory completely removed corrupt bandits from the center of politics. It had purified the world and made Imperial Japan as strong as the Great Powers. Therefore His Majesty is absolutely just. If any mistake, there would be disturbance by the evil.” It represents the historical view of “Imperial Japan eternity”. For the activist officers, the world looked like just in great confusion and needed restoring. So they carried out Shōwa Restoration.

Judgment

Suicide

The articles of rank, unit and position, and age are those at the time of the incident. “Directing a mob” of punishment means “participating in conspiracy or directing a mob”, and “Class” does the class of Imperial Japanese Army Academy in following tables.

Rank Name Unit and Position Class Age
Infantry CPT Nonaka Shirō the head of 6th company, 3rd Infantry Regiment 36 32
Airman CPT Kōno Hisashi Pilot Course, Tokorozawa Aviation School 40 28

Punishment sentenced by July 5, 1936

Punishment Charged Offense Rank Name Unit and Position Class Age
Death penalty Rebellion
(Ringleader)
Infantry CPT Kōda Kiyosada 1st Brigade adjutant 37 32
Death penalty Rebellion
(Ringleader)
Infantry CPT Andō Teruzō the head of 6th company, 3rd Infantry Regiment 38 31
Death penalty Rebellion
(Ringleader)
Infantry 1LT Kurihara Yasuhide Machine-gun company, 1st Infantry Regiment 41 27
Death penalty Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Infantry 1LT Takeshima Tsugio Toyohashi Military School 40 28
Death penalty Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Infantry 1LT Tsushima Katsuo Toyohashi Military School 41 27
Death penalty Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Infantry 1LT Nakahashi Motoaki 7th company, 3rd Guards Infantry Regiment 41 28
Death penalty Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Infantry 1LT Niu Yoshitada 11th company, 1st Infantry Regiment 43 27
Death penalty Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Infantry 1LT Sakai Naoshi 1st company, 3rd Infantry Regiment 44 25
Death penalty Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Artillery 1LT Tanaka Masaru 4th company, 7th field heavy artillery Regiment 45 25
Death penalty Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Engineer 2LT Nakajima Kanji Artillery and Engineer school 46 23
Death penalty Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Artillery 2LT Yasuda Yutaka Artillery and Engineer school 46 24
Death penalty Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Infantry 2LT Takahashi Tarō 1st company, 3rd Infantry Regiment 46 23
Death penalty Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Infantry 2LT Hayashi Hachirō Machine-gun company, 1st Infantry Regiment 47 21
Death penalty Rebellion
(Ringleader)
ex-Infantry CPT Muranaka Takaji 37 32
Death penalty Rebellion
(Ringleader)
ex-Accoundant's CPT Isobe Asaichi 38 30
Death penalty Rebellion
(Ringleader)
Shibukawa Zensuke 30
Indefinite imprisonment Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Infantry 2LT Mugiya Kiyosumi 1st company, 3rd Infantry Regiment 25
Indefinite imprisonment Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Infantry 2LT Tokiwa Minoru 7th company, 3rd Infantry Regiment 47 21
Indefinite imprisonment Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Infantry 2LT Suzuki Kinjirō 10th company, 3rd Infantry Regiment 47 21
Indefinite imprisonment Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Infantry 2LT Kiyohara Yasuhira 3rd company, 3rd Infantry Regiment 47 21
Indefinite imprisonment Rebellion
(directing a mob)
Infantry 2LT Ikeda Toshihiko 1st company, 1st Infantry Regiment 47 21
4 years' imprisonment Infantry 2LT Imaizumi Yoshimichi 7th company, 3rd Guards Infantry Regiment 47 21

Punishment sentenced on July 29, 1936

Punishment Charged Offense Rank Name Unit and Position Class
Indefinite imprisonment Accessoryship Infantry CPT Yamaguchi Ichitarō the head of 7th company, 1st Infantry Regiment 33
4 years' imprisonment Accessoryship Infantry 1LT Yanashita Ryōji 3rd Infantry Regiment 45
6 years' imprisonment Lead troops and Leave Position with No Reason Infantry 1LT Arai Isao 3rd Infantry Regiment 43
6 years' imprisonment Preparations ex-Accoundant's CPT Suzuki Gorō 6th Infantry Regiment 38
4 years' imprisonment Preparations Infantry 1LT Inoue Tatsuo Toyohashi Military School 43
4 years' imprisonment Preparations Infantry 1LT Shiota Toshio 1st Independent Infantry Regiment

Punishment sentenced on January 18, 1937

Punishment Charged Offense Rank Name Unit and Position Class
3 years' imprisonment Infantry LTC Mitsui Sakichi 26
5 years' imprisonment Infantry CPT Suganami Saburō 45th Infantry Regiment 37
4 years' imprisonment Infantry CPT Ōkura Eiichi Ranam 73rd Infantry Regiment 37
4 years' imprisonment Infantry CPT Suematsu Tahei 5th Infantry Regiment 39
3 years' imprisonment Infantry 1LT Shimura Mutsuki 5th Infantry Regiment 44
1 and half years' imprisonment Infantry 1LT Shiki Takato 13th Infantry Regiment
5 years' imprisonment Reserve MG Saitō Ryū 12
2 years' imprisonment Koshimura Sutejirō
3 years' imprisonment Fukui Miyuki
3 years' imprisonment Machida Senzō
1 and half years' imprisonment Miyamoto Masayuki
2 years' imprisonment
(Suspension of Execution for 4 years)
Katō Harumi
1 year imprisonment
(Suspension of Execution for 4 years)
Satō Shōzō
1 year imprisonment
(Suspension of Execution for 4 years)
Miyamoto Seizō
1 and half years' imprisonment
(Suspension of Execution for 4 years)
Sugita Shōgo

Punishment sentenced on August 14, 1937

Punishment Charged Offense Rank Name Age
Death penalty Rebellion
(Ringleader)
Kita Terujirō 52
Death penalty Rebellion
(Ringleader)
ex-Cavalry 2LT Nishida Mitsugi 34
Indefinite imprisonment Rebellion
(Participation in Plot)
Kamekawa Tetsuya
3 years' imprisonment Rebellion Nakahashi Teruo

The death penalty of Kita Ikki and Nishida Mitsugi had been executed on August 19, 1937.

Other punishments

Punishment Charged Offense Rank Name Unit and Position Age
Death penalty Mizukami Gen-ichi 27
15 years' imprisonment Reserve Infantry SGM Nakajima Seiji 28
15 years' imprisonment Reserve Infantry SGM Miyata Akira 27
15 years' imprisonment Infantry Sergeant Ujino Tokiyoshi 1st Infantry Regiment 24
15 years' imprisonment Reserve Infantry PV2 Kuroda Akira 25
15 years' imprisonment Infantry PFC Kurosawa Kakuichi 1st Infantry Regiment 21
15 years' imprisonment Watabiki Shōzō 22
10 years' imprisonment Reserve Infantry 2LT Yamamoto Matashi 42

Commemoration

There is the cenotaph of all victims relating to February 26 incident at Jinnan, Shibuya, Tokyo. It stands at the northwest corner of the site of Shibuya Government Office Complex, where 17 of the activist officers and citizens were shot to death. It has a figure of Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy), erected by effort of the family of the deceased officers. There are always flowers offered.

See also

  • Patriotism a 1966 film written and directed by Yukio Mishima dedicated and pertaining to the February 26 Incident
  • Government by assassination

References

  1. ^ Piers Brendon, The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s, p450 ISBN 0-375-40881-9
  2. ^ Piers Brendon, The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s, p452 ISBN 0-375-40881-9
  3. ^ Piers Brendon, The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s, p450-1 ISBN 0-375-40881-9
  4. ^ Piers Brendon, The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s, p451-2 ISBN 0-375-40881-9
  5. ^ Meirion and Susie Harries, Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army p 188 ISBN 0-394-56935-0
  6. ^ Piers Brendon, The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s, p452-4 ISBN 0-375-40881-9
  7. ^ a b c Piers Brendon, The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s, p454 ISBN 0-375-40881-9
  8. ^ Meirion and Susie Harries, Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army p 186 ISBN 0-394-56935-0
  9. ^ Note of Kashii Kōhei in Hiroku Ni-niroku Jiken, Nagata shobō, 1980, p15
  10. ^ Mikiso Hane, Emperor Hirohito and his chief aide-de-camp : the Honjo diary, 1933-36, University of Tokyo Press, 1982, p209 (This is translation of Honjo, Shigeru, Honjo Nikki, Hara shobō, 2005, ISBN 4-562-03949-3)
  11. ^ They used Kawashima's name with his consent, because they had no authority to announce such a notice actually.
  12. ^ Mikiso Hane, ibid., p258.
  13. ^ Abe, Genki, Shōwa Dōran no Shinsō, 2006, Chūkō bunko, ISBN 4-12-204790-0, p.231
  14. ^ Abe, ibid, p225.
  15. ^ Mikiso Hane, ibid, p213.
  16. ^ Mikiso Hane, ibid., p213.
  17. ^ Ōtani, Keijirō, Shōwa Kempei Shi, Misuzu shobō, 1979, pp.180-187.
  18. ^ Mikiso Hane, ibid, p215.
  19. ^ The words in this directive are more or less different from those on fliers. The phrase “Come back to barracks, and you'll be all pardoned” was criticized in that it was a violation of army criminal law. You can listen to it at the NHK Museum of Broadcasting http://www.nhk.or.jp/museum/index-e.html
  20. ^ Captain was Senior Seventh Rank, 1st Lieutenant was Junior Seventh Rank, and 2nd Lieutenant was Senior Eighth Rank.
  21. ^ This translation is not official but just private, referring to the translation of Penal Code (Article 77 and 106) in Japanese Law Translation http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/?re=02

Bibliography in English

  • Shillony, Ben-Ami. Revolt in Japan the young officers and the February 26, 1936 incident. Princeton, N.J: Princeton UP, 1973. Print. ISBN 0691075484
  • Honjō, Shigeru. Emperor Hirohito and his chief aide-de-camp the Honjō diary, 1933-36. [Tokyo]: University of Tokyo, 1982. Print. ISBN 0860083195

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