What Role Did Hideki Tojo Play in WWII?

General Hideki Tojo was the head of Japan's government for most of World War II. He became a near-dictator under the emperor and supported Japanese expansion throughout Southeast Asia and aggression against the United States. After Japanese defeats in the Pacific, he resigned from office before Japan's surrender.

As an army officer before WWII, Tojo was an advocate of hostilities against China and took part in battles in Inner Mongolia. Returning to Tokyo, he became army vice minister in 1938 and army minister in 1940, advocating alliances with Germany and Italy through the Tripartite Treaty. Tojo became prime minister of Japan in October 1941. Although at first he favored diplomatic efforts to forgo open warfare, eventually he gave approval to open aggression against nations in Indochina and the South Pacific, including the bombing of the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

As early Japanese victories bolstered Tojo's prestige, he assumed more administrative authority. Besides being prime minister and army minister, during the war years he became the minister of home affairs, foreign affairs, education, and commerce and industry. His fortunes turned as U.S. forces began driving the Japanese back in the South Pacific, until in July, 1944 he submitted his resignation. Tojo attempted suicide when he was arrested after Japan's surrender, but he was unsuccessful. On Dec. 23, 1948, the Allied forces hanged him as a war criminal.