Pro-German officers become mainstream in both Army and Navy
One of the reasons Japan had decided to stake the fate of the country on the Tripartite Pact was the pro-German sentiments of the Army since the Meiji Era (1868–1912). These sentiments stemmed from the time when the model of the Japanese military system was shifted from the French model to a German one after Germany defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71). Many of those who graduated from the Army General Staff College, and who were on the elite track in the Army studied in Germany. Many mainstream Army officers in the Showa Era, including Hideki Tojo, had studied in Germany. Few War Ministry bureaucrats had been assigned to work in the United States or in Britain.
One of those who made an impact on the Army was Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff. While advocating the importance of all-out war, Ludendorff’s book asserted that “war is the supreme expression of the will for the survival of the people. Therefore, politics should serve the war leadership.”
On the other hand, with British support since the Meiji period, the Japanese Navy had been formed on the model of the Royal Navy, the world’s strongest at the time. The mainstream of the Navy had long comprised pro-British and pro-U.S. staffers, initially a stark contrast with the Army.
Yet after Japan was pressed hard by Britain and the United States on the limits of Japan’s major naval vessels at international forums including the arms reduction talks in Washington (1921–22) and in London (1930), misgivings toward Britain and the Untied States among staff officers within the Naval General Staff intensified. By the mid-1930s, pro-German officers gained strength among lower ranking naval officers. The core of pro-German officers were, as a matter of course, those who studied in Germany. The Navy had traditionally sent top students of the Naval Academy to Washington, while sending high-caliber shipbuilding officers to Britain’s Royal Naval College in Greenwich. But after the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was abandoned in 1922, the Navy discontinued sending students to Greenwich.
Meanwhile, the pro-German sentiment among certain officers only grew as they saw Germany’s technological prowess, including its submarine U-boats that threatened the sea routes of Britain and the United States. As of September 1940, working-level officers in the Navy were mainly pro-German staffers, including Shigenori Kami, an officer at the First Section (Operations) of the Naval General Staff, and Katsuo Shiba, of the Naval Affairs Bureau of the Navy Ministry. Prince Fushimi (Fushimi-no-miya Hiroyasu) also studied in Germany and served as head of the Naval General Staff from February 1932 to April 1941 when Japan was leaning toward Germany. Fushimi was so influential within the Navy that there was an unspoken rule—his approval must be sought for personnel changes in the Navy’s leadership.