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Why Hitler Secretly Met With a Japanese General During WWII

May 19, 2020 in History

By Natasha Frost

Tomoyuki Yamashita and the Führer had their own separate agendas. Later, they would share a mutual interest in gold.

In December 1940, three months after Japan, Germany and Italy signed their “Tripartite Pact” World War II alliance, a convoy of Japanese military leaders headed for Berlin to learn from their new allies.

At the head of the group was General Tomoyuki Yamashita, a veteran militarist who had spent his entire adult life in the business of war-making. Now rising through the ranks of the Imperial Japanese Army, Yamashita’s ascent had barely begun. Within the space of a few years, he would grow famous worldwide as the “Tiger of Malaya”: a ferocious military leader and the brains behind the brutal Japanese conquest of Singapore.

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Yamashita and the Führer didn’t see eye to eye.

Japanese general Tomoyuki Yamashita seated between German officers during his visit to the 53rd German Bomber Wing, near Calais, France, part of his clandestine tour of Nazi World War II military operations.

Weeks after arriving in Germany, Yamashita was presented to Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader. Each had his own objective for the meeting. Hitler intended to pressure the Japanese military into declaring war on Britain and the United States. Facing the wrath of Russia and the ongoing costs of Japan’s war on China, however, Yamashita had no interest. Instead, he hoped to inspect Germany’s military techniques and improve Japan’s own prospects at war. Despite Hitler’s hearty promises of an open exchange of information, the Japanese delegation’s questions about radar and other equipment were tossed aside by top Nazi officials. The Japanese were instead treated to a kind of “greatest hits” tour of German military sites around occupied territories.

READ MORE: Why Did Japan Attack Pearl Harbor?

Privately, Yamashita was underwhelmed by the Führer. “He may be a great orator on a platform,” he told staff, “but standing behind his desk listening, he seems much more like a clerk.” Nonetheless, he played up the relationship publicly, telling the Berlin correspondent of the Asahi newspaper that Hitler had been profoundly influenced by Japan’s military power since boyhood. “Hitler emphasized that in the coming age the interests of Japan and Germany would be identical as the two have common spiritual foundations,” he said. “Hitler and Mussolini …read more


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