Study Guide

Hideki Tojo in Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation

By President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Hideki Tojo

Sometimes a person tries and tries to change the world, to make it a better place…and all they get for their efforts is to be tried as a war criminal and hanged.

And that's the story of Hideki Tojo.

Well, maybe there's a little more to it than that.

Wannabe Dictator

Tojo, or "Razor," as his squad called him, had some definite views on what Japan's role in the world ought to be. He was a big fan of what Hitler and Mussolini were trying to do in Europe, and he sought to do the same in his own corner of the world for Japan. His whole philosophy was that, if dudes like Adolf and Benito were taking over the world, Japan needed to come up with its own dictatorial candidate to run the Eastern side of the world, and it might as well be him.

And like any wannabe dictator worth his or her salt, Tojo wanted control. Over everything.

Everything.

He amassed areas of influence like '90s kids amassed Beanie Babies, and throughout the course of his life he held titles including (but not limited to) Bureau Chief of the Japanese Imperial Army, Chief of Personnel (also in the army), Army Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of War, Minister of Home, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Education Minister, Premier, and Prime Minister. Several of those titles, he even held simultaneously.

Hideki Tojo was one ambitious dude.

But despite his ambitions, and the fact that other dictators were making it big in other countries, Tojo's despotic dreams were never realized.

For one, he was executed in 1948. So that kind of put a damper on his career aspirations.

For two, he had resigned his post(s) in July of 1944 anyway, after some of his military endeavors went south. It's hard to be a dictator without all of those dictator-type titles and responsibilities.

For three, even if he hadn't resigned or been convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death, there was the eensy weensy little matter of the Japanese imperial line that would have always stood in his way.

The Emperorship: if you ain't born into it, you ain't gonna be Emperor.

Anyway, as far as the attack on Pearl Harbor went, Tojo didn't carry it out himself. But he did organize and authorize it (though it's worth noting that he originally would've rather negotiated with the West than blitz-attack them).

It was this, along with his appalling treatment of POWs and civilian noncombatants, that earned him his final title: Class A war criminal.

And that's a title that Tojo's career—and physical existence—just couldn't overcome.