Hata (on the left) with his brother before the Russo-Japanese War
Hata (left) with Field Marshal Count Terauchi Hisaichi in Xuzhou
Hata during his trial
At the age of 12, the family relocated to Hakodate, Hokkaidō, but at the age of 14, he was accepted into the prestigious First Tokyo Middle School. However, his father died the same year. Unable to afford the tuition, Hata enrolled in the Army Cadet School instead, going on to graduate in the 12th class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1901 as a second lieutenant in the artillery.
Hata served in the Russo-Japanese War. He graduated from the 22nd class of the Army Staff College with top rankings in November 1910.
Sent as a military attaché to Germany in March 1912, Hata stayed in Europe throughout World War I as a military observer. He was promoted to major in September 1914 and to lieutenant colonel in July 1918, while still in Europe, and he stayed on as a member of the Japanese delegation to the Versailles Peace Treaty negotiations in February 1919.
On his return to Japan, Hata was given command of the 16th Field Artillery Regiment in July 1921, and was promoted to major general and commander of the 4th Heavy Field Artillery Brigade in March 1926.
Hata was subsequently assigned to the strategic planning division of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff, serving as chief of the Fourth Bureau in July 1927 and Chief of the First Bureau in August 1928.
Hata was promoted to lieutenant general in August 1931 and became Inspector General of Artillery Training. He was then given a field command, that of the 14th Division in August 1933. After serving as head of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service from December 1935, he became commander of the Taiwan Army of Japan in 1936.
He was appointed as commanding general of the Central China Expeditionary Army in February 1938, to replace General Matsui Iwane, who had been recalled to Japan over the Nanjing Incident. Hata became Senior Aide-de-Camp to Emperor Shōwa in May 1939 followed by a stint as Minister of War from August 1939 to July 1940 during the terms of Prime Minister Nobuyuki Abe and Mitsumasa Yonai. In July 1940, Hata had a pivotal role in bringing down the Yonai cabinet by resigning his post as Minister of War.
Hata returned to China as commander-in-chief of the China Expeditionary Army in March 1941. He was the main Japanese commander at the time of Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign, during which Chinese sources claim that over 250,000 civilians were killed. Hata was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal (Gensui) on June 2, 1944 following Japanese victory at Operation Ichi-Go.
Hata was requested to take command of the Second General Army, based in Hiroshima from 1944 to 1945 in preparation for the anticipated Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands. He was thus in Hiroshima at the time of the atomic bombing and took command of the city following the explosion. Hata was one of the senior generals who agreed with the decision to surrender, but asked that he be stripped of his title of Field Marshal in atonement for the Army’s failures in the war.
Hata was arrested by the American occupation authorities after the end of the war, and charged with war crimes. He was the only surviving Japanese Field Marshal who faced criminal charges along with other defendants. In 1948, as a result of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Hata was paroled in 1954, and headed a charitable foundation for the welfare of former soldiers from 1958.
He died in 1962, while attending a ceremony honouring the war dead.