A native of Ishikawa prefecture, Tanabe graduated from the 22nd class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1910 and from the 30th class of the Army Staff College in 1918.
After serving as instructor at the Toyama Army Infantry School from 1933–1934, Tanabe served as Chief of the Economic Mobilization Section in the Ministry of War. He returned to the field to command the IJA 34th Infantry Regiment from 1936–37, before returning to the Toyama Army Infantry School as its Commandant.
With the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Tanabe was appointed Chief of Staff of the IJA 10th Army. He served as commandant of the Tank School in 1938, and returned to the field as commander of the IJA 41st Division in 1939 and as Chief of Staff of the Japanese Northern China Area Army in 1941.
Tanabe was recalled to Japan from 1941-1943 to serve as Vice Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff, and was in this position at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which he had strenuously opposed. Once the war began, he favored a defensive strategy of luring the Allies into campaigns in areas away from their bases in hopes of stretching their supply lines to Japan's advantage. He was instrumental in helping put an end to the disastrous attrition of Japanese forces at Guadalcanal.
As conditions began to deteriorate for Japan along its southern front in the Pacific War. Tanabe was dispatched to Japanese-occupied Sumatra in the Netherlands East Indies to take command of the 25th Army under the Japanese Seventh Area Army at Fort de Kock, in April 1943. He remained at this post for the remainder of the war.
At the end of the war, he was arrested by Dutch authorities in Medan and faced a military tribunal which accused him of war crimes in connection with the treatment of Allied prisoners of war. He was sentenced to death on 30 December 1948 and executed in 1949.
Read more about this topic: Moritake Tanabe
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