Marshal Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto
|Born||April 4, 1884|
Nagaoka, Niigata, Empire of Japan
|Died||April 18, 1943 (aged 59)|
near Panguna, Bougainville, Territory of New Guinea
|Allegiance||Empire of Japan|
|Service/||Imperial Japanese Navy|
|Years of service||1904–1943|
|Rank||Marshal Admiral (posthumous)|
|Commands held||Isuzu, Akagi |
1st Carrier Division, Naval Air Command, 1st Fleet, Combined Fleet, 1st Battleship Division
Isoroku Yamamoto (山本 五十六, Yamamoto Isoroku, April 4, 1884 – April 18, 1943) was a Japanese Marshal Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II until his death.
Yamamoto held several important posts in the IJN, and undertook many of its changes and reorganizations, especially its development of naval aviation. He was the commander-in-chief during the early years of the Pacific War and oversaw major engagements including the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway. He was killed when American code breakers identified his flight plans, enabling the United States Army Air Forces to shoot down his plane. His death was a major blow to Japanese military morale during World War II.
Yamamoto was born Isoroku Takano (高野 五十六, Takano Isoroku) in Nagaoka, Niigata. His father, Sadayoshi Takano (高野 貞吉), was an intermediate-rank samurai of the Nagaoka Domain. "Isoroku" is an old Japanese term meaning "56"; the name referred to his father's age at Isoroku's birth.
In 1916, Isoroku was adopted into the Yamamoto family (another family of former Nagaoka samurai) and took the Yamamoto name. It was a common practice for samurai families lacking sons to adopt suitable young men in this fashion to carry on the family name, the rank and the income that went with it. Isoroku married Reiko Mihashi in 1918; they had two sons and two daughters.
After graduating from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1904, Yamamoto served on the armored cruiser Nisshin during the Russo-Japanese War. He was wounded at the Battle of Tsushima, losing two fingers (the index and middle fingers) on his left hand, as the cruiser was hit repeatedly by the Russian battle line. He returned to the Naval Staff College in 1914, emerging as a lieutenant commander in 1916. In December of 1919, he was promoted to Commander.
1920s and 1930s
Yamamoto was part of the Japanese Navy establishment, who were rivals of the more aggressive army establishment, especially the officers of the Kwantung Army. He promoted a policy of a strong fleet to project force through gunboat diplomacy, rather than a fleet used primarily for transport of invasion land forces, as some of his political opponents in the army wanted. This stance led him to oppose the invasion of China. He also opposed war against the United States, partly because of his studies at Harvard University (1919–1921) and his two postings as a naval attaché in Washington, D.C., where he learned to speak fluent English. Yamamoto traveled extensively in the United States during his tour of duty there, where he studied American customs and business practices.
He was promoted to captain in 1923. On February 13, 1924, at the rank of captain, he was part of the Japanese delegation visiting the US Naval War College. Later that year, he changed his specialty from gunnery to naval aviation. His first command was the cruiser Isuzu in 1928, followed by the aircraft carrier Akagi.
He participated in the London Naval Conference 1930 as a rear admiral and the London Naval Conference 1935 as a vice admiral, as the growing military influence on the government at the time deemed that a career military specialist needed to accompany the diplomats to the arms limitations talks. Yamamoto was a strong proponent of naval aviation, and served as head of the Aeronautics Department before accepting a post as commander of the First Carrier Division. Yamamoto opposed the Japanese invasion of northeast China in 1931, the subsequent full-scale land war with China in 1937, and the Tripartite Pact with Nazi Germany and fascist Italy in 1940. As Deputy Navy Minister, he apologized to United States Ambassador Joseph C. Grew for the bombing of the gunboat USS Panay in December 1937. These issues made him a target of assassination threats by pro-war militarists.
Throughout 1938, many young army and naval officers began to speak publicly against Yamamoto and certain other Japanese admirals such as Mitsumasa Yonai and Shigeyoshi Inoue for their strong opposition to a tripartite pact with Nazi Germany, which the admirals saw as inimical to "Japan's natural interests".:101 Yamamoto received a steady stream of hate mail and death threats from Japanese nationalists. His reaction to the prospect of death by assassination was passive and accepting. The admiral wrote: To die for Emperor and Nation is the highest hope of a military man. After a brave hard fight the blossoms are scattered on the fighting field. But if a person wants to take a life instead, still the fighting man will go to eternity for Emperor and country. One man's life or death is a matter of no importance. All that matters is the Empire. As Confucius said, "They may crush cinnabar, yet they do not take away its color; one may burn a fragrant herb, yet it will not destroy the scent." They may destroy my body, yet they will not take away my will.:101–02
The Japanese Army, annoyed at Yamamoto's unflinching opposition to a Rome-Berlin-Tokyo treaty, dispatched military police to "guard" Yamamoto, a ruse by the army to keep an eye on him.:102–03 He was later reassigned from the naval ministry to sea as the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet on August 30, 1939. This was done as one of the last acts of the acting Navy Minister Mitsumasa Yonai, under Baron Hiranuma's short-lived administration. It was done partly to make it harder for assassins to target Yamamoto. Yonai was certain that if Yamamoto remained ashore, he would be killed before the year  ended.:103
Yamamoto was promoted to admiral on November 15, 1940. This, in spite of the fact that when Hideki Tōjō was appointed prime minister on October 18, 1941, many political observers thought that Yamamoto's career was essentially over.:114 Tōjō had been Yamamoto's old opponent from the time when the latter served as Japan's deputy naval minister and Tōjō was the prime mover behind Japan's takeover of Manchuria.[according to whom?] It was believed that Yamamoto would be appointed to command the Yokosuka Naval Base, "a nice safe demotion with a big house and no power at all".:114 However, after a brief stint in the post, a new Japanese cabinet was announced, and Yamamoto found himself returned to his position of power despite his open conflicts with Tōjō and other members of the army's oligarchy who favored war with the European powers and the United States.
Two of the main reasons for Yamamoto's political survival were his immense popularity within the fleet, where he commanded the respect of his men and officers, and his close relations with the imperial family.:115 He also had the acceptance of Japan's naval hierarchy:
There was no officer more competent to lead the Combined Fleet to victory than Admiral Yamamoto. His daring plan for the Pearl Harbor attack had passed through the crucible of the Japanese naval establishment, and after many expressed misgivings, his fellow admirals had realized that Yamamoto spoke no more than the truth when he said that Japan's hope for victory in this [upcoming] war was limited by time and oil. Every sensible officer of the navy was well aware of the perennial oil problems. Also, it had to be recognized that if the enemy could seriously disturb Japanese merchant shipping, then the fleet would be endangered even more.:115–16
Consequently, Yamamoto stayed in his post. With Tōjō now in charge of Japan's highest political office, it became clear the army would lead the navy into a war about which Yamamoto had serious reservations. He wrote to an ultranationalist:
Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it would not be enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. To make victory certain, we would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House. I wonder if our politicians [who speak so lightly of a Japanese-American war] have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.
This quote was spread by the militarists, minus the last sentence, where it was interpreted in America as a boast that Japan would conquer the entire continental United States. The omitted sentence showed Yamamoto's counsel of caution towards a war that could cost Japan dearly. Nevertheless, Yamamoto accepted the reality of impending war and planned for a quick victory by destroying the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in a preventive strike while simultaneously thrusting into the oil and rubber resource-rich areas of Southeast Asia, especially the Dutch East Indies, Borneo, and Malaya. In naval matters, Yamamoto opposed the building of the super-battleships Yamato and Musashi as an unwise investment of resources.
Yamamoto was responsible for a number of innovations in Japanese naval aviation. Although remembered for his association with aircraft carriers, Yamamoto did more to influence the development of land-based naval aviation, particularly the Mitsubishi G3M and G4M medium bombers. His demand for great range and the ability to carry a torpedo was intended to conform to Japanese conceptions of bleeding the American fleet as it advanced across the Pacific. The planes did achieve long range, but long-range fighter escorts were not available. These planes were lightly constructed and when fully fueled, they were especially vulnerable to enemy fire. This earned the G4M the sardonic nickname the "flying cigarette lighter". Yamamoto would eventually die in one of these aircraft.
The range of the G3M and G4M contributed to a demand for great range in a fighter aircraft. This partly drove the requirements for the A6M Zero which was as noteworthy for its range as for its maneuverability. Both qualities were again purchased at the expense of light construction and flammability that later contributed to the A6M's high casualty rates as the war progressed.
As Japan moved toward war during 1940, Yamamoto gradually moved toward strategic as well as tactical innovation, again with mixed results. Prompted by talented young officers such as Lieutenant Commander Minoru Genda, Yamamoto approved the reorganization of Japanese carrier forces into the First Air Fleet, a consolidated striking force that gathered Japan's six largest carriers into one unit. This innovation gave great striking capacity, but also concentrated the vulnerable carriers into a compact target. Yamamoto also oversaw the organization of a similar large land-based organization in the 11th Air Fleet, which would later use the G3M and G4M to neutralize American air forces in the Philippines and sink the British "Force Z".
In January 1941, Yamamoto went even further and proposed a radical revision of Japanese naval strategy. For two decades, in keeping with the doctrine of Captain Alfred T. Mahan, the Naval General Staff had planned in terms of Japanese light surface forces, submarines, and land-based air units whittling down the American Fleet as it advanced across the Pacific until the Japanese Navy engaged it in a climactic "decisive battle" in the northern Philippine Sea (between the Ryukyu Islands and the Marianas), with battleships meeting in the traditional exchange between battle lines.
Correctly pointing out this plan had never worked even in Japanese war games, and painfully aware of American strategic advantages in military production capacity, Yamamoto proposed instead to seek parity with the Americans by first reducing their forces with a preventive strike, then following up with a "decisive battle" fought offensively, rather than defensively. Yamamoto hoped, but probably did not believe, that if the Americans could be dealt terrific blows early in the war, they might be willing to negotiate an end to the conflict. The Naval General Staff proved reluctant to go along and Yamamoto was eventually driven to capitalize on his popularity in the fleet by threatening to resign to get his way. Admiral Osami Nagano and the Naval General Staff eventually caved in to this pressure, but only insofar as approving the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The First Air Fleet commenced preparations for the Pearl Harbor raid, solving a number of technical problems along the way, including how to launch torpedoes in the shallow water of Pearl Harbor and how to craft armor-piercing bombs by machining down battleship gun projectiles.
Attack on Pearl Harbor
As the U.S. and Japan were officially at peace, the First Air Fleet of six carriers attacked the U.S. on December 7, 1941, launching 353 aircraft against Pearl Harbor and other locations within Honolulu in two waves. The attack was a complete success according to the parameters of the mission, which sought to sink at least four American battleships and prevent the U.S. from interfering in Japan's southward advance for at least six months. Three American aircraft carriers were also considered a choice target, but these were not in port at the time of the attack.
In the end, four American battleships were sunk, four were damaged, and eleven other cruisers, destroyers, and auxiliaries were sunk or seriously damaged, 188 American aircraft were destroyed and 159 others damaged, and 2,403 people were killed and 1,178 others wounded. The Japanese lost 64 servicemen and only 29 aircraft, with 74 others damaged by anti-aircraft fire from the ground. The damaged aircraft were disproportionately dive and torpedo bombers, seriously impacting available firepower to exploit the first two waves' success, so the commander of the First Air Fleet, Naval Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, withdrew. Yamamoto later lamented Nagumo's failure to seize the initiative to seek out and destroy the U.S. carriers, absent from the harbor, or further bombard various strategically important facilities on Oahu.
Nagumo had absolutely no idea where the American carriers might be, and remaining on station while his forces cast about looking for them ran the risk of his own forces being found first and attacked while his aircraft were absent searching. In any case, insufficient daylight remained after recovering the aircraft from the first two waves for the carriers to launch and recover a third before dark, and Nagumo's escorting destroyers lacked the fuel capacity for him to loiter long. Much has been made of Yamamoto's hindsight, but, in keeping with Japanese military tradition not to criticize the commander on the spot, he did not punish Nagumo for his withdrawal.
On the strategic, moral, and political level, the attack was a disaster for Japan, rousing American passions for revenge due to what is now famously called a "sneak attack". The shock of the attack, coming in an unexpected place with devastating results and without a declaration of war, galvanized the U.S. public's determination to avenge the attack. When asked by Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe in mid-1941 about the outcome of a possible war with the United States, Yamamoto made a well-known and prophetic statement: If ordered to fight, he said, "I shall run wild considerably for the first six months or a year, but I have utterly no confidence for the second and third years." His prediction would be vindicated, as Japan easily conquered territories and islands in Asia and the Pacific for the first six months of the war, before suffering a major defeat at the Battle of Midway on June 4–7, 1942, which ultimately tilted the balance of power in the Pacific towards the U.S.
As a strategic blow intended to prevent American interference in the Dutch East Indies for six months, the Pearl Harbor attack was a success, but unbeknownst to Yamamoto, it was a pointless one. In 1935, in keeping with the evolution of War Plan Orange, the U.S. Navy had abandoned any intention of attempting to charge across the Pacific towards the Philippines at the outset of a war with Japan. In 1937, the U.S. Navy had further determined even fully manning the fleet to wartime levels could not be accomplished in less than six months, and myriad other logistic assets needed to execute a trans-Pacific movement simply did not exist and would require two years to construct after the onset of war.
In 1940, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold Stark had penned a Plan Dog memorandum, which emphasized a defensive war in the Pacific while the US concentrated on defeating Nazi Germany first, and consigned Admiral Husband Kimmel's Pacific Fleet to merely keeping the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) out of the eastern Pacific and away from the shipping lanes to Australia. Moreover, it is questionable whether the US would have gone to war at all had Japan attacked only British and Dutch possessions in the Far East.
December 1941 – May 1942
With the US fleet largely neutralized at Pearl Harbor, Yamamoto's Combined Fleet turned to the task of executing the larger Japanese war plan devised by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) and Navy General Staff. The First Air Fleet made a circuit of the Pacific, striking American, Australian, Dutch and British installations from Wake Island to Australia to Ceylon in the Indian Ocean. The 11th Air Fleet caught the US 5th Air Force on the ground in the Philippines hours after Pearl Harbor, and then sank the British Force Z battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse underway at sea.
Under Yamamoto's able subordinates, Vice Admirals Jisaburō Ozawa, Nobutake Kondō, and Ibō Takahashi, the Japanese swept the inadequate remaining American, British, Dutch and Australian naval assets from the Dutch East Indies in a series of amphibious landings and surface naval battles culminating in the Battle of the Java Sea on February 27, 1942. Along with the occupation of the Dutch East Indies came the fall of Singapore on February 15, 1942, and the eventual reduction of the remaining American-Filipino defensive positions in the Philippines on the Bataan peninsula, April 9, 1942, and Corregidor Island on May 6, 1942. The Japanese had secured their oil and rubber rich "southern resources area".
By late-March, having achieved their initial aims with surprising speed and little loss, albeit against enemies ill-prepared to resist them, the Japanese paused to consider their next moves. Yamamoto and a few Japanese military leaders and officials waited, hoping that the United States or Great Britain would negotiate an armistice or a peace treaty to end the war. But when the British, as well as the Americans, expressed no interest in negotiating a ceasefire with Japan, Japanese thoughts turned to securing their newly seized territory and acquiring more with an eye to forcing one or more of their enemies out of the war.
Competing plans were developed at this stage, including thrusts to the west against India, the south against Australia, and east against the United States. Yamamoto was involved in this debate, supporting different plans at different times with varying degrees of enthusiasm and for varying purposes, including "horse-trading" for support of his own objectives.
Plans included ideas as ambitious as invading India or Australia, or seizing Hawaii. These grandiose ventures were inevitably set aside as the army could not spare enough troops from China for the first two, which would require a minimum of 250,000 men, nor shipping to support the latter two (transports were allocated separately to the IJN and IJA, and jealously guarded.) Instead, the Imperial General Staff supported an army thrust into Burma in hopes of linking up with Indian Nationalists revolting against British rule, and attacks in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands designed to imperil Australia's lines of communication with the United States. Yamamoto argued for a decisive offensive strike in the east to finish off the US fleet, but the more conservative Naval General Staff officers were unwilling to risk it.
On April 18, in the midst of these debates, the Doolittle Raid struck Tokyo and surrounding areas, demonstrating the threat posed by US aircraft carriers, and giving Yamamoto an event he could exploit to get his way as further debate over military strategy came to a quick end. The Naval General Staff agreed to Yamamoto's Midway Island (MI) Operation, subsequent to the first phase of the operations against Australia's link with America, and concurrent with its plan to seize positions in the Aleutian Islands.
Yamamoto rushed planning for the Midway and Aleutians missions, while dispatching a force under Vice Admiral Takeo Takagi, including the Fifth Carrier Division (the large, new carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku), to support the effort to seize the islands of Tulagi and Guadalcanal for seaplane and aeroplane bases, and the town of Port Moresby on Papua New Guinea's south coast facing Australia.
The Port Moresby (MO) Operation proved an unwelcome setback. Although Tulagi and Guadalcanal were taken, the Port Moresby invasion fleet was compelled to turn back when Takagi clashed with a US carrier task force in the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May. Although the Japanese sank the US carrier USS Lexington and damaged the USS Yorktown, the Americans damaged the carrier Shōkaku so badly that she required dockyard repairs, and the Japanese lost the light carrier Shoho. Just as importantly, Japanese operational mishaps and US fighters and anti-aircraft fire devastated the dive bomber and torpedo plane formations of both Shōkaku's and Zuikaku's air groups. These losses sidelined Zuikaku while she awaited replacement aircraft and aircrews, and saw to tactical integration and training. These two ships would be sorely missed a month later at Midway.
Battle of Midway, June 1942
Yamamoto's plan for Midway Island was an extension of his efforts to knock the US Pacific Fleet out of action long enough for Japan to fortify its defensive perimeter in the Pacific island chains. Yamamoto felt it necessary to seek an early, offensive decisive battle.
This plan was long believed to have been to draw American attention—and possibly carrier forces—north from Pearl Harbor by sending his Fifth Fleet (two light carriers, five cruisers, 13 destroyers, and four transports) against the Aleutians, raiding Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island and invading the more distant islands of Kiska and Attu.
While Fifth Fleet attacked the Aleutians, First Mobile Force (four carriers, two battleships, three cruisers, and 12 destroyers) would raid Midway and destroy its air force. Once this was neutralized, Second Fleet (one light carrier, two battleships, 10 cruisers, 21 destroyers, and 11 transports) would land 5,000 troops to seize the atoll from the US Marines.
The seizure of Midway was expected to draw the US carriers west into a trap where the First Mobile Force would engage and destroy them. Afterwards, First Fleet (one light carrier, seven battleships, three cruisers and 13 destroyers), in conjunction with elements of Second Fleet, would mop up remaining US surface forces and complete the destruction of the US Pacific Fleet.
To guard against failure, Yamamoto initiated two security measures. The first was an aerial reconnaissance mission (Operation K) over Pearl Harbor to ascertain if the US carriers were there. The second was a picket line of submarines to detect the movement of US carriers toward Midway in time for First Mobile Force, First Fleet, and Second Fleet to combine against it. In the event, the first measure was aborted and the second delayed until after US carriers had already sortied.
The plan was a compromise and hastily prepared, apparently so it could be launched in time for the anniversary of Tsushima, but appeared well thought out, well organized, and finely timed when viewed from a Japanese viewpoint. Against four carriers, two light carriers, 11 battleships, 16 cruisers and 46 destroyers likely to be in the area of the main battle the US could field only three carriers, eight cruisers, and 15 destroyers. The disparity appeared crushing. Only in numbers of carrier decks, available aircraft, and submarines was there near parity between the two sides. Despite various mishaps developed in the execution, it appeared that—barring something unforeseen—Yamamoto held all the cards.
Unbeknownst to Admiral Yamamoto, the US had learned of Japanese plans thanks to the code breaking of Japanese naval code D (known to the US as JN-25). As a result, Admiral Chester Nimitz, the Pacific Fleet commander, was able to circumvent both of Yamamoto's security measures and place his outnumbered forces in a position to conduct an ambush. By Nimitz's calculation, his three available carrier decks, plus Midway, gave him rough parity with Nagumo's First Mobile Force.
Following a nuisance raid by Japanese flying boats in May, Nimitz dispatched a minesweeper to guard the intended refueling point for Operation K near French Frigate Shoals, causing the reconnaissance mission to be aborted and leaving Yamamoto ignorant of whether Pacific Fleet carriers were still at Pearl Harbor. It remains unclear why Yamamoto permitted the earlier attack, and why his submarines did not sortie sooner, as reconnaissance was essential to success at Midway. Nimitz also dispatched his carriers toward Midway early, and they passed the intended picket line force of submarines en route to their station, negating Yamamoto's back-up security measure. Nimitz's carriers positioned themselves to ambush the Kidō Butai (striking force) when it struck Midway. A token cruiser and destroyer force was sent toward the Aleutians, but otherwise Nimitz ignored them. On June 4, 1942, days before Yamamoto expected them to interfere in the Midway operation, US carrier-based aircraft destroyed the four carriers of the Kidō Butai, catching the Japanese carriers at an especially vulnerable moment.
With his air power destroyed and his forces not yet concentrated for a fleet battle, Yamamoto maneuvered his remaining forces, still strong on paper, to trap the US forces. He was unable to do so because his initial dispositions had placed his surface combatants too far from Midway, and because Admiral Raymond Spruance prudently withdrew to the east in a position to further defend Midway Island, believing (based on a mistaken submarine report) the Japanese still intended to invade. Not knowing several battleships, including the powerful Yamato, were on the Japanese order of battle, he did not comprehend the severe risk of a night surface battle, in which his carriers and cruisers would be at a disadvantage. However, his move to the east did avoid the possibility of such a battle taking place. Correctly perceiving he had lost and could not bring surface forces into action, Yamamoto aborted the invasion of Midway and withdrew. The defeat marked the high tide of Japanese expansion.
Yamamoto's plan for Midway Island has been the subject of much criticism. Some historians state it violated the principle of concentration of force, and was overly complex. Others point to similarly complex Allied operations, such as Operation MB8, that were successful, and note the extent to which the US intelligence coup derailed the operation before it began. Had Yamamoto's dispositions not denied Nagumo adequate pre-attack reconnaissance assets, both the American cryptanalytic success and the unexpected appearance of the American carriers would have been irrelevant.
Actions after Midway
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The Battle of Midway checked Japanese momentum, but the IJN was still a powerful force, capable of regaining the initiative. It planned to resume the thrust with Operation FS aimed at eventually taking Samoa and Fiji to cut the US lifeline to Australia.
Yamamoto remained in command as commander-in-chief, retained at least partly to avoid diminishing the morale of the Combined Fleet. However, he had lost face as a result of the Midway defeat and the Naval General Staff were disinclined to indulge in further gambles. This reduced Yamamoto to pursuing the classic defensive "decisive battle strategy" he had attempted to overturn.
Yamamoto committed Combined Fleet units to a series of small attrition actions across the south and central Pacific that stung the Americans, but suffered losses he could ill afford in return. Three major efforts to beat the Americans moving on Guadalcanal precipitated a pair of carrier battles that Yamamoto commanded personally: the Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz Islands in September and October, and finally a wild pair of surface engagements in November, all timed to coincide with Japanese Army pushes. The effort was wasted when the army could not hold up its end of the operation. Yamamoto's naval forces won a few victories and inflicted considerable losses and damage to the US fleet in several naval battles around Guadalcanal which included the battles of Savo Island, Cape Esperance, and Tassafaronga, but he could never draw the US into a decisive fleet action. As a result, Japanese naval strength was reduced.
To boost morale following the defeat at Guadalcanal, Yamamoto decided to make an inspection tour throughout the South Pacific.
On April 14, 1943, the US naval intelligence effort, code-named "Magic", intercepted and decrypted a message containing specifics of Yamamoto's tour, including arrival and departure times and locations, as well as the number and types of aircraft that would transport and accompany him on the journey. Yamamoto, the itinerary revealed, would be flying from Rabaul to Balalae Airfield, on an island near Bougainville in the Solomon Islands, on the morning of April 18, 1943.
US President Franklin D. Roosevelt may have authorized Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to "get Yamamoto," however no official record of such an order exists and sources disagree whether he did so. Knox essentially let Admiral Chester W. Nimitz make the decision. Nimitz first consulted Admiral William Halsey Jr., Commander, South Pacific, and then authorized the mission on April 17 to intercept Yamamoto's flight en route and shoot it down. A squadron of USAAF Lockheed P-38 Lightning aircraft were assigned the task as only they possessed sufficient range to intercept and engage. Select pilots from three units were informed that they were intercepting an "important high officer" with no specific name given.
On the morning of April 18, despite urging by local commanders to cancel the trip for fear of ambush, Yamamoto's two Mitsubishi G4M bombers, used as fast transport aircraft without bombs, left Rabaul as scheduled for the 315 mi (507 km) trip. Sixteen P-38s intercepted the flight over Bougainville and a dogfight ensued between them and the six escorting Mitsubishi A6M Zeroes. First Lieutenant Rex T. Barber engaged the first of the two Japanese transports, which turned out to be T1-323 (Yamamoto's aircraft). He fired on the aircraft until it began to spew smoke from its left engine. Barber turned away to attack the other transport as Yamamoto's plane crashed into the jungle.
Yamamoto's body, along with the crash site, was found the next day in the jungle of the island of Bougainville by a Japanese search and rescue party, led by army engineer Lieutenant Tsuyoshi Hamasuna. According to Hamasuna, Yamamoto had been thrown clear of the plane's wreckage, his white-gloved hand grasping the hilt of his katana, still upright in his seat under a tree. Hamasuna said Yamamoto was instantly recognizable, head dipped down as if deep in thought. A post-mortem disclosed that Yamamoto had received two 0.50-caliber bullet wounds, one to the back of his left shoulder and another to the left side of his lower jaw that exited above his right eye. The Japanese navy doctor examining the body determined that the head wound killed Yamamoto. The more violent details of Yamamoto's death were hidden from the Japanese public. The medical report was whitewashed, changed "on orders from above", according to biographer Hiroyuki Agawa.
Yamamoto's staff cremated his remains at Buin and his ashes were returned to Tokyo aboard the battleship Musashi, Yamamoto's last flagship. Yamamoto was given a full state funeral on June 5, 1943, where he received, posthumously, the title of Marshal Admiral and was awarded the Order of the Chrysanthemum (1st Class). He was also awarded Nazi Germany's Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. Some of his ashes were buried in the public Tama Cemetery, Tokyo (多摩霊園) and the remainder at his ancestral burial grounds at the temple of Chuko-ji in Nagaoka City. He was succeeded as commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet by Admiral Mineichi Koga.
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Yamamoto practiced calligraphy. He and his wife, Reiko, had four children: two sons and two daughters. Yamamoto was an avid gambler, enjoying Go, shogi, billiards, bridge, mah jong, poker, and other games that tested his wits and sharpened his mind. He frequently made jokes about moving to Monaco and starting his own casino. He enjoyed the company of geisha, and his wife Reiko revealed to the Japanese public in 1954 that Yamamoto was closer to his favorite geisha Kawai Chiyoko than to her, which stirred some controversy. His funeral procession passed by Kawai's quarters on the way to the cemetery. The claim that Yamamoto was a Catholic is likely due to confusion with retired Admiral Shinjiro Stefano Yamamoto, who was a decade older than Isoroku, and died of natural causes in 1942.
From the Japanese Wikipedia
|Grand Cordon of the Order of the Chrysanthemum (posthumous appointment, 18 April 1943)|
|Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flowers (4 April 1942)|
|Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun (29 April 1940)|
|Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure (23 March 1939; Second Class: 31 October 1931)|
|Order of the Golden Kite (1st class: 18 April 1943 (posthumous); Second Class: 4 April 1942)|
|Grand Cross of the Order of the German Eagle (Nazi Germany, 9 February 1940)|
|Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Nazi Germany, 27 May 1943 (posthumous))|
Yamamoto's career promotions
- Midshipman—November 14, 1904
- Ensign—August 31, 1905
- Sublieutenant—September 28, 1907
- Lieutenant—October 11, 1909
- Lieutenant Commander—December 13, 1915
- Commander—December 1, 1919
- Captain—December 1, 1923
- Rear Admiral—November 30, 1929
- Vice Admiral—November 15, 1934
- Admiral—November 15, 1940
- Marshal-Admiral—April 18, 1943 (posthumous)
In popular culture
Since the end of the Second World War, a number of Japanese and American films have depicted the character of Isoroku Yamamoto.
I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.— attributed to Yamamoto in Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), in reference to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
There is no evidence that Yamamoto said this in reality.
The 1960 film The Gallant Hours depicts the battle of wits between Vice-Admiral William Halsey, Jr. and Yamamoto from the start of the Guadalcanal Campaign in August 1942 to Yamamoto's death in April 1943. The film, however, portrays Yamamoto's death as occurring in November 1942, the day after the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, and the P-38 aircraft that killed him as coming from Guadalcanal.
- Rengō Kantai Shirei Chōkan: Yamamoto Isoroku (1968, later released in Canada and the United States as Admiral Yamamoto),
- Gekido no showashi 'Gunbatsu' (1970, lit. "Turning Point of Showa History: The Militarists"), and
- Midway (1976, where all of the Japanese scenes had English dialogue).
A fictionalized version of Yamamoto's death was portrayed in the Baa Baa Black Sheep episode "The Hawk Flies on Sunday", though only photos of Yamamoto were shown. In this episode, set much later in the war than in real life, the Black Sheep, a Marine Corsair squadron, joins an army squadron of P-51 Mustangs. The Marines intercepted fighter cover while the army shot down Yamamoto.
In the 1993 OVA series Konpeki no Kantai (lit. Deep Blue Fleet), instead of dying in the plane crash, Yamamoto blacks out and suddenly wakes up as his younger self, Isoroku Takano, after the Battle of Tsushima in 1905. His memory from the original timeline intact, Yamamoto uses his knowledge of the future to help Japan become a stronger military power, eventually launching a coup d'état against Hideki Tōjō's government. In the subsequent Pacific War, Japan's technologically advanced navy decisively defeats the United States, and grants all of the former European and American colonies in Asia full independence. Later on, Yamamoto convinces Japan to join forces with the United States and Britain to defeat Nazi Germany.
In the 2004 anime series Zipang, Yamamoto (voiced by Bunmei Tobayama) works to develop the uneasy partnership with the crew of the JMSDF Mirai, which has been transported back sixty years through time to the year 1942.
In the Axis of Time trilogy by author John Birmingham, after a naval task force from the year 2021 is accidentally transported back through time to 1942, Yamamoto assumes a leadership role in the dramatic alteration of Japan's war strategy.
In Douglas Niles' 2007 book MacArthur's War: A Novel of the Invasion of Japan (written with Michael Dobson), which focuses on General Douglas MacArthur and an alternate history of the Pacific War (following a considerably different outcome of the Battle of Midway), Yamamoto is portrayed sympathetically, with much of the action in the Japanese government seen through his eyes, though he could not change the major decisions of Japan in World War II.
In Robert Conroy's 2011 book Rising Sun, Yamamoto directs the IJN to launch a series of attacks on the American West Coast, in the hope the United States can be convinced to sue for peace and securing Japan's place as a world power; but cannot escape his lingering fear the war will ultimately doom Japan.
- Yamamoto Isoroku. navalhistory.flixco.info
- Yamamoto Isoroku. navalhistory.flixco.info
- Pricer, Douglas (2014). Cornerstones of Courage: The Story of Ssgt. William J. Bordelon, USMC. Xlibris. p. 73. ISBN 978-1499012514.
- Mark Stille (2012). Yamamoto Isoroku. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 59. ISBN 978-1849087322.
- Stille, Mark (2012). "The Early Years". Yamamoto Isoroku. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1849087315.
- Davis, Donald (2006). Lightning Strike: The Secret Mission to Kill Admiral Yamamoto and Avenge Pearl Harbor. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 38. ISBN 0312309074.
- Coetzee & Eysturlid 2013, p. 191.
- Making of Japanese Manchuria, Matsusaka
- Lessons in Surprise, by Primus V (Harvard Magazine, Jul–Aug 2010)
This article explains research done by Harvard alum Seymour Morris Jr who wrote of Yamamoto being taught the game of poker by his Harvard classmates and becoming very good at winning, then using his winnings to hitchhike across America and learn more broadly about the country. He continued his poker playing and travels through the country while on assignment as an attaché at the Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C.
- "Sea Mystery: Deserted Submarine Unidentified". The Dalby Herald. Queensland. December 16, 1927. p. 3. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
Captain Isoroku Yamamoto, naval attache at the Japanese Embassy
- "1920–1929". Chronology of Courses and Significant Events. U.S. Naval War College. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
- Hoyt, Edwin P (1990). Yamamoto: The Man Who Planned Pearl Harbor. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-1-58574-428-2. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
- Prange, At Dawn We Slept, p. 11
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- "December 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor Casualties". PearlHarbor.org. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
- Peattie & Evans, Kaigun; Coox, Kobun.
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- Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin.
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- Dull (1978), Evans & Peattie (1997), Lundstrom (1984), Parillo
- Lightbody, Bradley (2003). "Part 5 – Containment". The Second World War (1st ed.). London: Routledge. p. 136. ISBN 0-415-22404-7.
- Kennedy, David M. (March 1999). "Victory at Sea". The Atlantic (March 1999). The Atlantic. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- Bicheno, Hugh. Midway.
- Holmes, Wilfred J. "Jasper". Double-Edged Secrets and Undersea Victory
- Willmott, H.P. Barrier and the Javelin. Annapolis: United States Naval Institute Pres, 1983.
- Blair, Clay, Jr. Silent Victory. (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1975).
- C, Arvanitakis, Adonis (March 24, 2015). "Killing a Peacock: A Case Study of the Targeted Killing of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto". Cite journal requires
- Maffeo, Steven (2015). U.S. Navy codebreakers, linguists, and intelligence officers against Japan, 1910–1941 : a biographical dictionary. Lanham, MD. p. 493. ISBN 978-1442255647. OCLC 914224225.
- Maffeo, Steven (2015). U.S. Navy codebreakers, linguists, and intelligence officers against Japan, 1910–1941 : a biographical dictionary. Lanham, MD. p. 493. ISBN 978-1442255647. OCLC 914224225.
- Gamble, Bruce (2010). Fortress Rabaul: The Battle for the Southwest Pacific, January 1942 – April 1943. Zenith Imprint. p. 343. ISBN 978-0760323502.
- Agawa 2000, p. 364
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- ‘The Broken Seal’ by Ladislas Farago[page needed]
- "H-Net Review: Charles C. Kolb <[email protected]> on The Pearl Harbor Papers: Inside the Japanese Plans". Archived from the original on June 27, 2007. Retrieved October 21, 2006.
- Davis, Lightning Strike.
- Sensus Fidelium (January 4, 2017), The Other Americans: Loyalists, Confederates, & Other Dissenters ~ Charles Coulombe, retrieved May 21, 2019
- "The Catholic Admiral from Japan". www.catholic.com. Catholic Answers. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
- Taiheiyô no washi (1953). IMDB.com.
- Aa, kaigun (1970). IMDB.com.
- Gateway to Glory (1970). Turner Classic Movies.
- Admiral Yamamoto (1968, original title: Rengō Kantai Shirei Chōkan: Yamamoto Isoroku), imdb.com
- Gekido no showashi 'Gunbatsu' (1970). IMDB.com
- Rengō Kantai (1981). IMDB.com
- Isoroku Yamamoto, the Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet (2011). IMDB.com
- Agawa, Hiroyuki; Bester, John (trans.). The Reluctant Admiral. New York: Kodansha, 1979. ISBN 978-4-7700-2539-5. A definitive biography of Yamamoto in English. This book explains much of the political structure and events within Japan that led to the war.
- Coetzee, Daniel; Eysturlid, Lee W. (2013). Philosophers of War: The Evolution of History's Greatest Military Thinkers [2 Volumes]: The Evolution of History's Greatest Military Thinkers. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313070334. - Total pages: 994
- Davis, Donald A. Lightning Strike: The Secret Mission to Kill Admiral Yamamoto and Avenge Pearl Harbor. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-312-30906-0.
- Dull, Paul S. A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941–1945. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1978. ISBN 978-0-87021-097-6.
- Evans, David C. and Mark R. Peattie. Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy 1887–1941. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0-87021-192-8.
- Glines, Carroll V. Attack on Yamamoto (1st edition). New York: Crown, 1990. ISBN 978-0-517-57728-8. Glines documents both the mission to shoot down Yamamoto and the subsequent controversies with thorough research, including personal interviews with all surviving participants and researchers who examined the crash site.
- Lundstrom, John B. The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1984. ISBN 978-0-87021-189-8.
- Miller, Edward S. War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897–1945. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0-87021-759-3.
- Peattie, Mark R. Sunburst: The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909–1941. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2002. ISBN 978-1-55750-432-6.
- Prados, John. Combined Fleet Decoded: The Secret History of American Intelligence and the Japanese Navy in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2001. ISBN 978-1-55750-431-9.
- Prange, Gordon. At Dawn We Slept. New York: Penguin Books, 1982. ISBN 978-0-14-006455-1.
- Ugaki, Matome; Chihaya, Masataka (trans.). Fading Victory: The Diary of Admiral Matome Ugaki, 1941–45. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0-8229-5462-0. Provides a high-level view of the war from the Japanese side, from the diaries of Yamamoto's Chief of Staff, Admiral Matome Ugaki. Provides evidence of the intentions of the imperial military establishment to seize Hawaii and to operate against Britain's Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean. Translated by Masataka Chihaya, this edition contains extensive clarifying notes from the U.S. editors derived from U.S. military histories.
- Parillo, Mark (2006). "The United States in the Pacific". In Higham, Robin; Harris, Stephen (eds.). Why Air Forces Fail: the Anatomy of Defeat. The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-2374-5.
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- Yamamoto biography from Spartacus Educational
- World War II Database: Isoroku Yamamoto biography
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- "Isoroku Yamamoto" Encyclopædia Britannica
- Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Japanese Navy US Naval Historical Center
- Pacific Wrecks. Place where Yamamoto Type 1 bomber crash
- The Great Pacific War
- The Assassination of Yamamoto in 1943 (in Japanese)
- Isoroku Yamamoto at Find a Grave
- CombinedFleet.com, Isoroku Yamamoto
- Newspaper clippings about Isoroku Yamamoto in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW