From the ground up: Japan's Siberian Intervention of 1918-1922 from the perspective of infantryman Takeuchi Tadao

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Abstract

Japan’s Siberian Intervention was the nation’s most signifcant strategic and political failure between the Russo-Japanese War and the Asia-Pacifc War. While historians have focused on its military and diplomatic aspects, the individual experiences of soldiers in this messy “forgotten war” remain little explored.

This article foregrounds the perspective of ordinary Japanese soldiers dispatched to Siberia between 1918 and 1922. In particular, it draws on archival material left by Takeuchi Tadao, a conscripted farmer who spent six months in the Russian Far East in 1920. A talented artist, Takeuchi produced two richly illustrated accounts, the only examples of non-photographic visual narratives of the Intervention available today. These provide a unique view of the conflict “from below.” For the higher echelons of the Imperial Japanese Army, the occupation of Siberia had the potential to increase Japan’s influence in Northeast Asia, and to showcase the army’s might and efficiency. To the rank-and-file servicemen, however, the rationale for combat was unclear. Their frustrations were compounded by impossible logistics, excruciating cold, and uncertain allegiances in a zone of lawlessness and brutality. Mounting public opposition at home and the failing military strategy in Siberia made 1920 an especially challenging time. Takeuchi Tadao’s records reveal an implicit criticism of the Siberian operations, highlighting the strategic and situational confusion surrounding them, and hence the prospect of a meaningless death that confronted ordinary soldiers in Siberia that year.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-127
Number of pages30
JournalJapan Review
Volume38
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Siberia
  • Imperial Japanese Army
  • view from below
  • Russian Civil War
  • Bolshevism
  • strategic confusion

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