In 1941, the Imperial Japanese Army had 51 divisions and various special-purpose artillery, cavalry, anti-aircraft and armored units with a total of 1,700,000 men. At the beginning of the Second World War, most of the Japanese Army (27 divisions) was stationed in China. A further 13 divisions defended the Mongolian border, due to concerns about a possible attack by the Soviet Union. However, from 1942, soldiers were sent to Hong Kong (23rd Army), the Philippines (14th Army), Thailand (15th Army), Burma (15th Army), Dutch East Indies (16th Army) and Malaya (25th Army). By 1945, there were 5.5 million men in the Imperial Japanese Army.
From 1943, Japanese troops suffered from a shortage of supplies, especially food, medicine, munitions and armaments largely due to submarine interdiction of supplies and losses to Japanese shipping, which was worsened by a longstanding and severe rivalry with the Imperial Japanese Navy. The lack of supplies caused large numbers of fighter aircraft to become unserviceable for lack of spare parts and "as many as two-thirds of Japan's total military deaths resulted from illness or starvation."
Lt Gen Arthur Percival, led by a Japanese officer (center), marches under a flag of truce to negotiate the capitulation of Allied forces during the Battle of Singapore, on February 15, 1942.
Fanaticism and war crimes
Throughout the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army had gained a reputation both for its fanaticism and for its brutality against prisoners of war and civilians alike - with the Nanking Massacre being one such example. After Japan surrendered in the summer of 1945, many Imperial Japanese Army officers and enlisted men were tried and punished for committing numerous atrocities and war crimes. In 1949, the trials were ceased, with a total of 5,700 cases having been heard.
Major General Tomitarō Horii did issue a "Guide to Soldiers in the South Seas" in late 1941, which ordered troops not to loot or kill civilians. This was intended to prevent a repeat of atrocities that the Army committed in China, however this only applied to men under his command.