In accordance with the Emperor’s command, gas attacks were used on the Chinese in over 300 situations in 1938, while Wuhan was being invaded.
While these were relatively small-scale assaults, Hirohito is also believed to have intervened on a much larger scale during some operations.
Even before World War II itself, the Imperial Japanese Army had acquired a fearsome reputation, both for its fanatical devotion and its brutal treatment of non-combatants and prisoners, as evidenced at Nanking.
After the war, well over 5,000 war crimes trials were held, with many officers and men being punished for atrocities carried out.
After the Imperial General Headquarters were set up in 1937, the Emperor became supreme commander of that body as well, and was therefore—at least in theory—the man who was ultimately responsible for all military decisions made in the name of the Japanese Empire.Although some of the Emperor’s requests were fairly general in nature, Japanese historians have also uncovered examples of more direct and specific commands, which were transmitted to commanders in the field by the Chief of Staff of the Army.These most notably included the deployment of chemical weapons.They stressed that captured women would be raped by American soldiers, and that men would be tortured and killed.
This was widely believed among ordinary Japanese troops and is partly responsible for incidents such as the Bataan Death March.
According to the detailed descriptions provided by a number of significant sources, such as the diaries kept by high-ranking imperial advisers and politicians, much of the Emperor’s power was in fact exerted informally.