Isoroku Yamamoto
Overview
 
was a Japan
Japanese people
The are an ethnic group originating in the Japanese archipelago and are the predominant ethnic group of Japan. Worldwide, approximately 130 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 127 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live in other countries...

ese Naval Marshal General and the commander-in-chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of the Combined Fleet
Combined Fleet
The was the main ocean-going component of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The Combined Fleet was not a standing force, but a temporary force formed for the duration of a conflict or major naval maneuvers from various units normally under separate commands in peacetime....

 during World War II, a graduate of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy
Imperial Japanese Naval Academy
The was a school established to train officers for the Imperial Japanese Navy. It originally located in Nagasaki, moved to Yokohama in 1866, and was relocated to Tsukiji, Tokyo in 1869. It moved to Etajima, Hiroshima in 1888...

 and a student of Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 (1919–1921).

Yamamoto held several important posts in the Imperial Japanese Navy, and undertook many of its changes and reorganizations, especially its development of naval aviation. He was the commander-in-chief during the decisive early years of the Pacific War
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 and so was responsible for major battles such as Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 and Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

.
Quotations

In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success.

Statement to Japanese cabinet minister Shigeharu Matsumoto and Japanese prime minister Fumimaro Konoe|Fumimaro Konoe, as quoted in Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan (1985) by Ronald Spector.

Encyclopedia
was a Japan
Japanese people
The are an ethnic group originating in the Japanese archipelago and are the predominant ethnic group of Japan. Worldwide, approximately 130 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 127 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live in other countries...

ese Naval Marshal General and the commander-in-chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of the Combined Fleet
Combined Fleet
The was the main ocean-going component of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The Combined Fleet was not a standing force, but a temporary force formed for the duration of a conflict or major naval maneuvers from various units normally under separate commands in peacetime....

 during World War II, a graduate of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy
Imperial Japanese Naval Academy
The was a school established to train officers for the Imperial Japanese Navy. It originally located in Nagasaki, moved to Yokohama in 1866, and was relocated to Tsukiji, Tokyo in 1869. It moved to Etajima, Hiroshima in 1888...

 and a student of Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 (1919–1921).

Yamamoto held several important posts in the Imperial Japanese Navy, and undertook many of its changes and reorganizations, especially its development of naval aviation. He was the commander-in-chief during the decisive early years of the Pacific War
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 and so was responsible for major battles such as Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 and Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

. He died during an inspection tour of forward positions in the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

 when his aircraft (a Mitsubishi G4M
Mitsubishi G4M
The Mitsubishi G4M 一式陸上攻撃機, 一式陸攻 Isshiki rikujō kōgeki ki, Isshikirikkō was the main twin-engine, land-based bomber used by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service in World War II. The Allies gave the G4M the reporting name Betty...

 "Betty" bomber
Bomber
A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

) was shot down during an ambush by American P-38 Lightning
P-38 Lightning
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a World War II American fighter aircraft built by Lockheed. Developed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament...

 fighter planes. His death was a major blow to Japanese military morale
Morale
Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others...

 during World War II.

Family background

Yamamoto was born as in Nagaoka
Nagaoka, Niigata
is a city located in the central part of Niigata Prefecture, Japan. It is the second largest city in the prefecture, behind the capital city of Niigata...

, Niigata
Niigata Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located on the island of Honshū on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The capital is the city of Niigata. The name "Niigata" literally means "new lagoon".- History :...

. His father was , an intermediate samurai
Samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

of the Nagaoka Domain
Nagaoka Domain
The ' was a Japanese domain of the Edo period, located in Echigo Province . It was ruled by the Makino clan for most of its history. It was also the center of some of the fiercest fighting of the Boshin War, during the summer of 1868. Nagaoka joined the Ōuetsu Reppan Dōmei during the war, and...

. "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
Yamamoto Tatewaki
' was a Japanese samurai of the late Edo period, who served the Makino clan of Nagaoka. Also known by his formal name, . Yamamoto served as a senior commander of Nagaoka forces during the Boshin War...

 (another family of former Nagaoka samurai) and took the Yamamoto name. It was a common practice for Japanese families lacking sons to adopt suitable young men in this fashion to carry on the family name. In 1918 Isoroku married Reiko Mihashi, with whom he had two sons and two daughters.

Early career

After graduating from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy
Imperial Japanese Naval Academy
The was a school established to train officers for the Imperial Japanese Navy. It originally located in Nagasaki, moved to Yokohama in 1866, and was relocated to Tsukiji, Tokyo in 1869. It moved to Etajima, Hiroshima in 1888...

 in 1904, Yamamoto served on the cruiser
Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

  during the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

. He was wounded at the Battle of Tsushima
Battle of Tsushima
The Battle of Tsushima , commonly known as the “Sea of Japan Naval Battle” in Japan and the “Battle of Tsushima Strait”, was the major naval battle fought between Russia and Japan during the Russo-Japanese War...

, losing two fingers (the index and middle fingers) on his left hand, as the cruiser was hit repeatedly by the Russian battleline. He returned to the Naval Staff College
Naval War College (Japan)
The was the staff college of the Imperial Japanese Navy, responsible for training officers for command positions either on warships, or in staff roles....

 in 1914, emerging as a Naval Major
Naval ranks of the Japanese Empire during World War II
The following graphs present the rank insignia of the Japanese navy during World War II. These designs had been used from 1931-1945, but were discontinued after World War II, when the Imperial Japanese Navy had been dissolved....

 (Lieutenant Commander) in 1916.

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. As such 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
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 (1919–1921) and his two postings as a naval attaché in Washington, D.C.. He learned to speak fluent English as a result.

He was promoted to Naval Colonel
Naval ranks of the Japanese Empire during World War II
The following graphs present the rank insignia of the Japanese navy during World War II. These designs had been used from 1931-1945, but were discontinued after World War II, when the Imperial Japanese Navy had been dissolved....

 (Captain) in 1923. On 13 April 1924 at the rank of captain, he was part of the Japanese delegation visiting the U.S. Naval War College. Later that year, he changed his specialty from gunnery
Naval artillery
Naval artillery, or naval riflery, is artillery mounted on a warship for use in naval warfare. Naval artillery has historically been used to engage either other ships, or targets on land; in the latter role it is currently termed naval gunfire fire support...

 to naval aviation
Naval aviation
Naval aviation is the application of manned military air power by navies, including ships that embark fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters. In contrast, maritime aviation is the operation of aircraft in a maritime role under the command of non-naval forces such as the former RAF Coastal Command or a...

. His first command was the cruiser in 1928, followed by the aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

 .
He participated in the second London Naval Conference
London Naval Conference
There were three major international naval conferences in London, the first in 1908-09, the second in 1930 and the third in 1935. The latter two, together with the Washington Naval Conference in 1921-22 and the Geneva Conferences , resulted in agreements between the major powers on navy vessel...

 of 1930 as a Naval Major-General
Naval ranks of the Japanese Empire during World War II
The following graphs present the rank insignia of the Japanese navy during World War II. These designs had been used from 1931-1945, but were discontinued after World War II, when the Imperial Japanese Navy had been dissolved....

 (Rear Admiral) and the 1934 London Naval Conference as a Naval Lieutenant-General
Naval ranks of the Japanese Empire during World War II
The following graphs present the rank insignia of the Japanese navy during World War II. These designs had been used from 1931-1945, but were discontinued after World War II, when the Imperial Japanese Navy had been dissolved....

 (Vice Admiral), as the government felt that a career military specialist needed to accompany the diplomats to the arms limitations talks. Yamamoto was a strong proponent of naval aviation
Naval aviation
Naval aviation is the application of manned military air power by navies, including ships that embark fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters. In contrast, maritime aviation is the operation of aircraft in a maritime role under the command of non-naval forces such as the former RAF Coastal Command or a...

, and served as head of the Aeronautics Department before accepting a post as commander of the First Carrier Division
First Carrier Division
was an aircraft carrier unit of the Imperial Japanese Navy's First Air Fleet. At the beginning of the Pacific Campaign of World War II, the First Carrier Division consisted of the fleet carriers Akagi and Kaga. The division participated in the Attack on Pearl Harbor and Indian Ocean Raid...

. Yamamoto personally opposed the invasion of Manchuria
Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

 in 1931, the subsequent land war with China (1937)
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

, and the 1940 Tripartite Pact
Tripartite Pact
The Tripartite Pact, also the Three-Power Pact, Axis Pact, Three-way Pact or Tripartite Treaty was a pact signed in Berlin, Germany on September 27, 1940, which established the Axis Powers of World War II...

 with Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 and Fascist Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

. As Deputy Navy Minister, he apologized to United States Ambassador Joseph C. Grew for the bombing of the gunboat
Gunboat
A gunboat is a naval watercraft designed for the express purpose of carrying one or more guns to bombard coastal targets, as opposed to those military craft designed for naval warfare, or for ferrying troops or supplies.-History:...

  in December 1937. These issues made him a target of assassination 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
Mitsumasa Yonai
was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy, and politician. He was the 37th Prime Minister of Japan from 16 January to 22 July 1940.-Early life & Naval career:...

 and Shigeyoshi Inoue
Shigeyoshi Inoue
was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. He was commander of the Japanese 4th Fleet and later served as Vice-Minister of the Navy. A noted naval theorist, he was a strong advocate of naval aviation within the Japanese Navy...

 for their strong opposition towards a Tripartite pact with Nazi Germany for reportedly being against "Japan's natural interests." Yamamoto himself received a steady stream of hate mail and death threats from Japanese nationalists but his reaction to the prospect of death by assassination was passive and accepting. The Admiral wrote:
The Japanese army, annoyed at Yamamoto's unflinching opposition to a Rome-Berlin-Tokyo treaty, dispatched military police to "guard" Yamamoto; this was an attempt by the Army to keep an eye on him. He was later reassigned from the Navy Ministry
Ministry of the Navy of Japan
The was a cabinet-level ministry in the Empire of Japan charged with the administrative affairs of the Imperial Japanese Navy . It existed from 1872 to 1945.-History:...

 to sea as the Commander-in-Chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of the Combined Fleet on (30 August 1939). This was done as one of the last acts of the then-acting Navy Minister Mitsumasa Yonai
Mitsumasa Yonai
was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy, and politician. He was the 37th Prime Minister of Japan from 16 January to 22 July 1940.-Early life & Naval career:...

, under Baron Hiranuma's short-lived administration 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 (1939) ended.

1940–1941

Yamamoto was promoted to Naval General
Naval ranks of the Japanese Empire during World War II
The following graphs present the rank insignia of the Japanese navy during World War II. These designs had been used from 1931-1945, but were discontinued after World War II, when the Imperial Japanese Navy had been dissolved....

 (Admiral) on 15 November 1940. This in spite of the fact that when Hideki Tōjō
Hideki Tōjō
Hideki Tōjō was a general of the Imperial Japanese Army , the leader of the Taisei Yokusankai, and the 40th Prime Minister of Japan during most of World War II, from 17 October 1941 to 22 July 1944...

 was appointed Prime Minister on 18 October 1941, many political observers thought that Yamamoto's career was essentially over. Tōjō had been Yamamoto's old opponent from the time when the latter served as Japan's deputy navy minister and Tōjō was the prime mover behind Japan's takeover of Manchuria
Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

. 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." After the new Japanese cabinet was announced, however, Yamamoto found himself left alone in his position despite his open conflicts with Tōjō and other members of the army's oligarchy who favored war with the European powers and America. 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. He also had the acceptance by Japan's naval hierarchy:

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:
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 US fleet at Pearl Harbor 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-battleship
Battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

s and as an unwise investment of resources.

Yamamoto was responsible for a number of innovations in Japanese naval aviation
Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service
The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service was the air arm of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II, the organization was responsible for the operation of naval aircraft and the conduct of aerial warfare in the Pacific War.It was controlled by the Navy Staff of the Imperial Japanese Navy and...

. Although remembered for his association with aircraft carriers due to Pearl Harbor and Midway, Yamamoto did more to influence the development of land-based naval aviation, particularly the Mitsubishi G3M
Mitsubishi G3M
The Mitsubishi G3M was a Japanese bomber used during World War II.-Design and development:...

 and G4M
Mitsubishi G4M
The Mitsubishi G4M 一式陸上攻撃機, 一式陸攻 Isshiki rikujō kōgeki ki, Isshikirikkō was the main twin-engine, land-based bomber used by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service in World War II. The Allies gave the G4M the reporting name Betty...

 medium bomber
Medium bomber
A medium bomber is a bomber aircraft designed to operate with medium bombloads over medium distances; the name serves to distinguish them from the larger heavy bombers and smaller light bombers...

s. His demand for great range and the ability to carry a torpedo
Torpedo
The modern torpedo is a self-propelled missile weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with it or in proximity to it.The term torpedo was originally employed for...

 was intended to conform to Japanese conceptions of attriting the American fleet as it advanced across the Pacific in war. 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
A6M Zero
The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a long-range fighter aircraft operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service from 1940 to 1945. The A6M was designated as the , and also designated as the Mitsubishi A6M Rei-sen and Mitsubishi Navy 12-shi Carrier Fighter. The A6M was usually referred to by the...

 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 Minoru Genda
Minoru Genda
was a well-known Japanese military aviator and politician. He is best known for planning the Pearl Harbor attack.- Early life :Minoru Genda was the second son of a farmer from Hiroshima. Two brothers were graduates of Tokyo University, another brother graduated from Chiba Medical College, and his...

, 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; both boon and bane would be realized in war. 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
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 and sink the British
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 Force "Z"
Force Z
Force Z was an Allied naval detachment consisting of the battleship , the battlecruiser , and four destroyers, , , , and . Initially an aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable was included, but she ran aground in the Caribbean, and was not replaced by HMS Hermes which was regarded as too slow.A renamed...

.

In January 1941, Yamamoto went even further and proposed a radical revision of Japanese naval strategy. For two decades, in keeping with the doctrine
Doctrine
Doctrine is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the body of teachings in a branch of knowledge or belief system...

 of Captain Alfred T. Mahan, the Naval General Staff
Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff
The was the highest organ within the Imperial Japanese Navy. In charge of planning and operations, it was headed by an Admiral headquartered in Tokyo.-History:...

 had planned in terms of Japanese light surface forces, submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

s and land-based air units whittling down the American Fleet as it advanced across the Pacific until the Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

 engaged it in a climactic "Decisive Battle" in the northern Philippine Sea
Philippine Sea
The Philippine Sea is a marginal sea east and north of the Philippines occupying an estimated surface area of 2 million mi² on the western part of the North Pacific Ocean...

 (between the Ryukyu Islands
Ryukyu Islands
The , also known as the , is a chain of islands in the western Pacific, on the eastern limit of the East China Sea and to the southwest of the island of Kyushu in Japan. From about 1829 until the mid 20th century, they were alternately called Luchu, Loochoo, or Lewchew, akin to the Mandarin...

 and the Marianas Islands), with battleship
Battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

s meeting in the traditional exchange between battle lines
Line of battle
In naval warfare, the line of battle is a tactic in which the ships of the fleet form a line end to end. A primitive form had been used by the Portuguese under Vasco Da Gama in 1502 near Malabar against a Muslim fleet.,Maarten Tromp used it in the Action of 18 September 1639 while its first use in...

.

Correctly pointing out this plan had never worked even in Japanese war games, and painfully aware of American strategic advantages in military productive capacity, Yamamoto proposed instead to seek a decision with the Americans by first reducing their forces with a preemptive strike, and following it with a "Decisive Battle" sought offensively, rather than defensively. Yamamoto hoped, but probably did not believe, if the Americans could be dealt such terrific blows early in the war, they might be willing to negotiate an end to the conflict. As it turned out, however, the note officially breaking diplomatic relations with the United States was delivered late, and he correctly perceived the Americans would be resolved upon revenge and unwilling to negotiate. Yamamoto's thoughts on this matter were later dramatically encapsulated in the apocryphal "sleeping giant"
Isoroku Yamamoto's sleeping giant quote
Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is portrayed at the very end of the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!, and in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, as saying after his attack on Pearl Harbor, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." The supposed quotation was...

 quote uttered in the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!
Tora! Tora! Tora!
is a 1970 American-Japanese war film that dramatizes the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, to the extent these facts were known at the time of production. The film was directed by Richard Fleischer and stars an all-star cast, including So Yamamura, E.G...

.

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
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

.

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 Yamamoto had planned, the First Air Fleet of six carriers commenced hostilities against the Americans on 7 December 1941, launching 353 aircraft against Pearl Harbor 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. Fleet from interfering in Japan's southward advance for at least six months. American aircraft carriers were also considered a choice target, but were not in port at the time of the attack.
In the end, five American battleships were sunk, three damaged, and eleven other cruiser
Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s, destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

s and auxiliaries were sunk or seriously damaged. The Japanese lost only 29 aircraft, while 74 were damaged from anti-aircraft fire from the ground. The damaged aircraft were disproportionately dive
Dive bomber
A dive bomber is a bomber aircraft that dives directly at its targets in order to provide greater accuracy for the bomb it drops. Diving towards the target reduces the distance the bomb has to fall, which is the primary factor in determining the accuracy of the drop...

 and torpedo bomber
Torpedo bomber
A torpedo bomber is a bomber aircraft designed primarily to attack ships with aerial torpedoes which could also carry out conventional bombings. Torpedo bombers existed almost exclusively prior to and during World War II when they were an important element in many famous battles, notably the...

s, seriously impacting available firepower to exploit the first two waves' success, so the commander of the First Air Fleet, Naval Lieutenant-General Chuichi Nagumo
Chuichi Nagumo
was a Japanese admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II and one time commander of the Kido Butai . He committed suicide during the Battle of Saipan.-Early life:...

, withdrew. Yamamoto later lamented Nagumo's failure to seize the initiative to seek out and destroy the American carriers, absent from the harbor, or further bombard various strategically important facilities on Oahu
Oahu
Oahu or Oahu , known as "The Gathering Place", is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands and most populous of the islands in the U.S. state of Hawaii. The state capital Honolulu is located on the southeast coast...

. 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 his own force might be found first and attacked while his aircraft were absent searching. Further, his aircraft also lacked appropriate ordnance for attacking the machine tools and drydocks of the shipyard, or even the revetted fuel tanks, whose destruction could have been more serious losses than the fighting ships themselves. 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 in any way for his withdrawal, which was according to plan.

On the political level, the attack was a disaster for Japan, rousing American passions for revenge due to it being a "sneak attack". The shock of the attack coming in an unexpected place, with such devastating results and without the expected "fair play" of a declaration of war
Declaration of war
A declaration of war is a formal act by which one nation goes to war against another. The declaration is a performative speech act by an authorized party of a national government in order to create a state of war between two or more states.The legality of who is competent to declare war varies...

 galvanized the American public's determination to avenge the attack. When asked by Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Japan
The is the head of government of Japan. He is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the Diet from among its members, and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office...

 Fumimaro Konoe
Fumimaro Konoe
Prince was a politician in the Empire of Japan who served as the 34th, 38th and 39th Prime Minister of Japan and founder/leader of the Taisei Yokusankai.- Early life :...

 in mid-1941 concerning the outcome of a possible war with the United States, Yamamoto made a well-known and prophetic statement: If ordered to fight, "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 for the first 6 months of the war until it suffered a shattering defeat at the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

 on June 4–7, 1942, which tilted the balance of power in the Pacific towards the U.S.

As a strategic blow intended to prevent American interference in the Netherlands East Indies for six months, the attack was a success, but unbeknownst to Yamamoto, it was a pointless one. The U.S. Navy had abandoned any intention of attempting to charge across the Pacific towards the Philippines at the outset of war in 1935 (in keeping with the evolution of War Plan Orange
War Plan Orange
War Plan Orange refers to a series of United States Joint Army and Navy Board war plans for dealing with a possible war with Japan during the years between the First and Second World Wars....

). In 1937, the U.S. Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 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
Chief of Naval Operations
The Chief of Naval Operations is a statutory office held by a four-star admiral in the United States Navy, and is the most senior uniformed officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Navy. The office is a military adviser and deputy to the Secretary of the Navy...

, Admiral Harold Stark
Harold Rainsford Stark
Harold Rainsford Stark served as an officer in the United States Navy during World War I and World War II. Stark was the US Navy's 8th Chief of Naval Operations, from August 1, 1939 to 26 March 1942....

 had penned "Plan Dog", which emphasized a defensive war in the Pacific while the U.S. concentrated on defeating Nazi Germany first, and consigned Admiral Husband Kimmel's Pacific Fleet
United States Pacific Fleet
The United States Pacific Fleet is a Pacific Ocean theater-level component command of the United States Navy that provides naval resources under the operational control of the United States Pacific Command. Its home port is at Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hawaii. It is commanded by Admiral Patrick M...

 to merely keeping the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) out of the eastern Pacific and away from the shipping lanes to Australia. Moreover, it is in question whether the U.S. would have gone to war at all had Japan only attacked British and Dutch possessions in the Far East.

December 1941 to May 1942

With the American 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
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

 and Navy General Staff
Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff
The was the highest organ within the Imperial Japanese Navy. In charge of planning and operations, it was headed by an Admiral headquartered in Tokyo.-History:...

. The First Air Fleet proceeded to make a circuit of the Pacific, striking American, Australian, Dutch and British installations from Wake Island
Wake Island
Wake Island is a coral atoll having a coastline of in the North Pacific Ocean, located about two-thirds of the way from Honolulu west to Guam east. It is an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States, administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior...

 to Australia to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

) in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

. The 11th Air Fleet caught the American 5th Air Force on the ground in the Philippines hours after Pearl Harbor, and then proceeded to sink the British Force "Z" (battleship and battlecruiser
Battlecruiser
Battlecruisers were large capital ships built in the first half of the 20th century. They were developed in the first decade of the century as the successor to the armoured cruiser, but their evolution was more closely linked to that of the dreadnought battleship...

 ) underway at sea.

Under Yamamoto's able subordinates, Naval Lieutenant-Generals Jisaburō Ozawa
Jisaburo Ozawa
was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. He was the last Commander-in-Chief of Combined Fleet. Many military historians regard Ozawa as one of the most capable Japanese flag officers.-Biography:...

, Nobutake Kondō and Ibō Takahashi
Ibo Takahashi
- Books :...

, the Japanese swept the inadequate remaining American, British, Dutch and Australian naval assets from the Netherlands East Indies in a series of amphibious landings and surface naval battles that culminated in the Battle of the Java Sea
Battle of the Java Sea
The Battle of the Java Sea was a decisive naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, that sealed the fate of the Netherlands East Indies....

 on 27 February 1942. With the occupation of the Netherlands East Indies, and the reduction of the remaining American positions in the Philippines to forlorn hope
Forlorn hope
A forlorn hope is a band of soldiers or other combatants chosen to take the leading part in a military operation, such as an assault on a defended position, where the risk of casualties is high....

s on the Bataan Peninsula
Bataan Peninsula
The Bataan Peninsula is a rocky extension of the Zambales Mountains, on Luzon in the Philippines. It separates the Manila Bay from the South China Sea...

 and Corregidor
Corregidor
Corregidor Island, locally called Isla ng Corregidor, is a lofty island located at the entrance of Manila Bay in southwestern part of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Due to this location, Corregidor was fortified with several coastal artillery and ammunition magazines to defend the entrance of...

 island, 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 a peace treaty to end the war in their favor. But when the British, as well as the Americans, expressed no interest in negotiating with Japan for any cease fire, the Japanese thoughts turned to securing and protecting their newly seized territory, and acquiring more with an eye toward additional conquest and/or attempting to force 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 the 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
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

. 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. (Shipping was allocated separately to IJN & 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
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

 and the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

 designed to imperil Australia's sea line of communication with the United States. Yamamoto agitated for an offensive decisive battle in the east to finish off the American 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
Doolittle Raid
The Doolittle Raid, on 18 April 1942, was the first air raid by the United States to strike the Japanese Home Islands during World War II. By demonstrating that Japan itself was vulnerable to American air attack, it provided a vital morale boost and opportunity for U.S. retaliation after the...

 struck Tokyo and the surrounding areas, galvanizing the threat posed by the American aircraft carriers in the minds of staff officers, 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 (MI) Operation, subsequent to the first phase of the operations against Australia's link with America, and concurrent with their own plan to seize positions in the Aleutian Islands.

Yamamoto rushed planning for the Midway and Aleutians missions, while dispatching a force under Naval Major-General Takeo Takagi
Takeo Takagi
was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II.-Biography:Takagi was a native of Iwaki city, Fukushima prefecture. He was a graduate of the 39th class of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy, ranking 17th of 148 cadets in 1911...

, including the Fifth Carrier Division
Fifth Carrier Division
was an aircraft carrier unit of the Imperial Japanese Navy's First Air Fleet. At the beginning of the Pacific Campaign of World War II, the Fifth Carrier Division consisted of the fleet carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku. These two ships participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor, using their aircraft...

 (the large, new carriers and ), to support the effort to seize the islands of Tulagi
Tulagi
Tulagi, less commonly Tulaghi, is a small island in the Solomon Islands, just off the south coast of Florida Island. The town of the same name on the island Tulagi, less commonly Tulaghi, is a small island (5.5 km by 1 km) in the Solomon Islands, just off the south coast of Florida...

 and Guadalcanal for seaplane and airplane bases, and the town of Port Moresby
Port Moresby
Port Moresby , or Pot Mosbi in Tok Pisin, is the capital and largest city of Papua New Guinea . It is located on the shores of the Gulf of Papua, on the southeastern coast of the island of New Guinea, which made it a prime objective for conquest by the Imperial Japanese forces during 1942–43...

 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 an American carrier task force in the Battle of the Coral Sea
Battle of the Coral Sea
The Battle of the Coral Sea, fought from 4–8 May 1942, was a major naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and Allied naval and air forces from the United States and Australia. The battle was the first fleet action in which aircraft carriers engaged...

 in early May. Although the Japanese sank the American carrier and damaged the , the Americans damaged the carrier Shōkaku so badly that she required dockyard repairs, and the Japanese lost the light carrier . Just as importantly, Japanese operational mishaps and American fighters and anti-aircraft fire devastated the dive bomber and torpedo plane formations of both Shōkakus and Zuikakus 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.
References: Dull (1978), Evans & Peattie (1997), Lundstrom (1984), Parillo.

Battle of Midway, June 1942

Yamamoto's plan for Midway Island was an extension of his efforts to knock the U.S. Pacific Fleet out of action long enough for Japan to fortify her 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
Unalaska Island
Unalaska is an island in the Fox Islands group of the Aleutian Islands in the U.S. state of Alaska, at . The island has a land area of . The city of Unalaska, Alaska, covers part of the island and all of neighboring Amaknak Island where the Port of Dutch Harbor is located...

 and invading the more distant islands of Kiska
Kiska
Kiska is an island in the Rat Islands group of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska located at . It is about long and varies in width from - Discovery :...

 and Attu
Attu Island
Attu is the westernmost and largest island in the Near Islands group of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, making it the westernmost point of land relative to Alaska and the United States. It was the site of the only World War II land battle fought on the incorporated territory of the United States ,...

. Recent scholarship using Japanese language documents has revealed it was, rather, an unrelated venture of the Naval General Staff which Yamamoto agreed to conduct concurrently with the Midway operation, in exchange for the latter's approval.

While Fifth Fleet attacked the Aleutians, First Mobile Force (4 carriers, 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, and 12 destroyers) would raid Midway and destroy its air force. Once this was neutralized, Second Fleet (1 light carrier, 2 battleships, 10 cruisers, 21 destroyers, and 11 transports) would land 5,000 troops to seize the atoll
Atoll
An atoll is a coral island that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.- Usage :The word atoll comes from the Dhivehi word atholhu OED...

 from the American Marines
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

.

The seizure of Midway was expected to draw the American carriers west into a trap where the First Mobile Force would engage and destroy them. Afterward, First Fleet (1 light carrier, 7 battleships, 3 cruisers and 13 destroyers), in conjunction with elements of Second Fleet, would mop up remaining American surface forces and complete the destruction of the Pacific Fleet.

To guard against mischance, Yamamoto initiated two security measures. The first was an aerial reconnaissance mission (Operation K) over Pearl Harbor to ascertain if the American carriers were there. The second was a picket line of submarines to detect the movement of the American carriers toward Midway in time for First Mobile Force, First Fleet, and Second Fleet to combine against it. In the event, the first was aborted and the second delayed until after American carriers had sortied.

The plan was a compromise and hastily prepared (apparently so it could be launched in time for the anniversary of Tsushima
Battle of Tsushima
The Battle of Tsushima , commonly known as the “Sea of Japan Naval Battle” in Japan and the “Battle of Tsushima Strait”, was the major naval battle fought between Russia and Japan during the Russo-Japanese War...

), 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 Americans 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 frictions developed in the execution, it appeared — barring something extraordinary — Yamamoto held all the cards.

Unfortunately for Yamamoto, something extraordinary had happened. The worst fear of any commander is for an enemy to learn his battle plan in advance, which was exactly what American cryptographers
Cryptography
Cryptography is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of third parties...

 had done, thanks to breaking the Japanese naval code D (known to the U.S. as JN-25
JN-25
The vulnerability of Japanese naval codes and ciphers was crucial to the conduct of World War II, and had an important influence on foreign relations between Japan and the west in the years leading up to the war as well...

). As a result, Admiral Chester Nimitz
Chester Nimitz
Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz, GCB, USN was a five-star admiral in the United States Navy. He held the dual command of Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet , for U.S. naval forces and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas , for U.S...

, the Pacific Fleet commander, was able to circumvent both of Yamamoto's security measures and position his outnumbered forces in the exact position to conduct a devastating ambush. By Nimitz's calculation, his three available carrier decks, plus Midway, gave him rough parity with Nagumo's First Mobile Force.

Following a foolish nuisance raid by Japanese flying boat
Flying boat
A flying boat is a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water. It differs from a float plane as it uses a purpose-designed fuselage which can float, granting the aircraft buoyancy. Flying boats may be stabilized by under-wing floats or by wing-like projections from the fuselage...

s in May, Nimitz dispatched a minesweeper
Minesweeper (ship)
A minesweeper is a small naval warship designed to counter the threat posed by naval mines. Minesweepers generally detect then neutralize mines in advance of other naval operations.-History:...

 to guard the intended refueling point for Operation K near French Frigate Shoals
French Frigate Shoals
The French Frigate Shoals is the largest atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Its name commemorates French explorer Jean-François de La Pérouse, who nearly lost two frigates when attempting to navigate the 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 the success of MI.) He 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 Kido Butai (Striking Force) when it struck Midway. A token cruiser and destroyer force was sent toward the Aleutians, but otherwise Nimitz ignored them. 4 June 1942, days before Yamamoto expected them to interfere in the Midway operation, American carriers destroyed the four carriers of the Kido 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 attempted to maneuver his remaining forces, still strong on paper, to trap the American 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 , were on the Japanese order of battle
Order of battle
In modern use, the order of battle is the identification, command structure, strength, and disposition of personnel, equipment, and units of an armed force participating in field operations. Various abbreviations are in use, including OOB, O/B, or OB, while ORBAT remains the most common in the...

, 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 MI has been the subject of much criticism. Many commentators state it violated the principle of concentration of force, and was overly complex. Others point out similarly complex Allied operations (such as Operation MB8
Operation MB8
Operation MB8 was a British Royal Navy operation in the Mediterranean Sea during 4-11 November 1940. It was made up of six forces—totalling two aircraft carriers, five battleships, 10 cruisers, and 30 destroyers, including much of Force H—protecting four distinct supply convoys.It consisted of...

) that were successful, and note the extent to which the American 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 Fletcher's carriers would have been irrelevant.

Actions after Midway

The Battle of Midway solidly checked Japanese momentum, but the IJN was still a powerful force and capable of regaining the initiative. They planned to resume the thrust with Operation FS
Operation FS
Operation FS was the name of the Imperial Japanese plan to invade and occupy Fiji, Samoa, and New Caledonia in the south Pacific during the Pacific conflict of World War II...

aimed at eventually taking Samoa
Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

 and Fiji
Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

 to cut the American life-line to Australia. This was expected to short-circuit the threat posed by General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 and his American and Australian forces in New Guinea. To this end, development of the airfield on Guadalcanal
Guadalcanal
Guadalcanal is a tropical island in the South-Western Pacific. The largest island in the Solomons, it was discovered by the Spanish expedition of Alvaro de Mendaña in 1568...

 continued and attracted the baleful eye of Yamamoto's opposite number, Admiral Ernest King
Ernest King
Fleet Admiral Ernest Joseph King was Commander in Chief, United States Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations during World War II. As COMINCH, he directed the United States Navy's operations, planning, and administration and was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was the U.S...

.

King ramrodded the idea of an immediate American counterattack to prevent the Japanese from regaining the initiative through the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This precipitated the American invasion of Guadalcanal and beat the Japanese to the punch, with Marines landing on the island in August 1942 and starting a bitter struggle that lasted until February 1943 and commenced a battle of attrition Japan could ill afford.

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 in the Midway defeat and the Naval General Staff were disinclined to indulge further gambles. This reduced Yamamoto to pursuing the classic defensive Decisive Battle strategy he had attempted to overturn.

The naval and land battles at Guadalcanal caught the Japanese over-extended and attempting to support fighting in New Guinea while guarding the Central Pacific and preparing to conduct Operation FS. The FS operation was abandoned and the Japanese attempted to fight in both New Guinea and Guadalcanal at the same time. Already stretched thin, they suffered repeated setbacks due to a lack of shipping, a lack of troops, and a disastrous inability to coordinate Army and Navy activities.

Yamamoto committed Combined Fleet units to a series of small attrition actions that stung the Americans, but suffered losses he could ill afford in return. Three major efforts to carry the island precipitated a pair of carrier battles that Yamamoto commanded personally at the Eastern Solomons
Battle of the Eastern Solomons
The naval Battle of the Eastern Solomons The naval Battle of the Eastern Solomons The naval Battle of the Eastern Solomons (also known as the Battle of the Stewart Islands and, in Japanese sources, as the , took place on 24–25 August 1942, and was the third carrier battle of the Pacific campaign...

 and Santa Cruz Islands
Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands
The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October 1942, sometimes referred to as the Battle of Santa Cruz or in Japanese sources as the , was the fourth carrier battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II and the fourth major naval engagement fought between the United States Navy and the Imperial...

 in September and October, and finally a wild pair of surface engagements
Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, sometimes referred to as the Third and Fourth Battles of Savo Island, the Battle of the Solomons, The Battle of Friday the 13th, or, in Japanese sources, as the , took place from 12–15 November 1942, and was the decisive engagement in a series of naval battles...

 in November, all timed to coincide with Japanese Army pushes. The timing of each major battle was successively derailed when the army could not hold up its end of the operation. Yamamoto's forces caused considerable losses and damage to the US Fleet, but he could never draw the Americans into a decisive fleet action. As a result, the Japanese Navy's strength began to bleed off.

There were severe losses of carrier dive-bomber and torpedo-bomber crews in the carrier battles, emasculating the already depleted carrier air groups. Japan could not hope to match the United States in quantities of well-trained replacement pilots, and the quality of both Japanese land-based and naval aviation began declining. Particularly harmful, however, were losses of numerous destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

s in the foolish Tokyo Express
Tokyo Express
The Tokyo Express was the name given by Allied forces to the use of Imperial Japanese Navy ships at night to deliver personnel, supplies, and equipment to Japanese forces operating in and around New Guinea and the Solomon Islands during the Pacific campaign of World War II...

 supply runs. The IJN already faced a shortage of such ships, and these losses further exacerbated Japan's already weakened commerce defense
Convoy
A convoy is a group of vehicles, typically motor vehicles or ships, traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support, though it may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas.-Age of Sail:Naval...

. With Guadalcanal lost in February 1943, there was no further attempt to seek a major battle in the Solomon Islands although smaller attrition battles continued. Yamamoto shifted the load of the air battle from the depleted carriers to the land-based naval air forces.

Death

To boost morale following the defeat at Guadalcanal, Yamamoto decided to make an inspection tour throughout the South Pacific
Pacific Ocean theater of World War II
The Pacific Ocean theatre was one of four major naval theatres of war of World War II, which pitted the forces of Japan against those of the United States, the British Commonwealth, the Netherlands and France....

. On 14 April 1943, the US naval intelligence effort, code-named "Magic
Magic (cryptography)
Magic was an Allied cryptanalysis project during World War II. It involved the United States Army's Signals Intelligence Section and the United States Navy's Communication Special Unit. -Codebreaking:...

", intercepted and decrypted a message containing specific details regarding Yamamoto's tour, including arrival and departure times and locations, as well as the number and types of planes that would transport and accompany him on the journey. Yamamoto, the itinerary revealed, would be flying from Rabaul
Rabaul
Rabaul is a township in East New Britain province, Papua New Guinea. The town was the provincial capital and most important settlement in the province until it was destroyed in 1994 by falling ash of a volcanic eruption. During the eruption, ash was sent thousands of metres into the air and the...

 to Ballalae Airfield, on an island near Bougainville
Bougainville Province
The Autonomous Region of Bougainville, previously known as North Solomons, is an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea. The largest island is Bougainville Island , and the province also includes the island of Buka and assorted outlying islands including the Carterets...

 in the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

, on the morning of 18 April 1943.

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox
Frank Knox
-External links:...

 to "Get Yamamoto." Knox instructed Admiral Chester W. Nimitz of Roosevelt's wishes. Admiral Nimitz consulted Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Commander, South Pacific, then authorized a mission on 17 April to intercept Yamamoto's flight en route and shoot it down. A squadron of Lockheed P-38 Lightning aircraft were assigned the task as only they possessed the 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 18 April, despite urgings by local commanders to cancel the trip for fear of ambush, Yamamoto's two Mitsubishi G4M
Mitsubishi G4M
The Mitsubishi G4M 一式陸上攻撃機, 一式陸攻 Isshiki rikujō kōgeki ki, Isshikirikkō was the main twin-engine, land-based bomber used by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service in World War II. The Allies gave the G4M the reporting name Betty...

 fast transport aircraft left Rabaul as scheduled for the 315 mi (506.9 km) trip. Sixteen Lightnings intercepted the flight over Bougainville and a dogfight ensued between them and the six escorting Mitsubishi A6M Zeroes. First Lieutenant
First Lieutenant
First lieutenant is a military rank and, in some forces, an appointment.The rank of lieutenant has different meanings in different military formations , but the majority of cases it is common for it to be sub-divided into a senior and junior rank...

 Rex T. Barber
Rex T. Barber
Colonel Rex T. Barber was a World War II fighter pilot. He is best known as a member of the top secret mission to intercept the aircraft carrying Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in April 1943.-Personal life:...

 engaged the first of the two Japanese transports which turned out to be Yamamoto's plane
T1-323
T1-323 was the tail number of the plane carrying Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto on an inspection tour throughout the South Pacific when he was shot down and killed by American fighter aircraft during World War II...

. He targeted the aircraft with gunfire 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.

The crash site and body of Yamamoto were found the next day in the jungle north of the then-coastal site of the former Australian patrol post of Buin
Buin, Papua New Guinea
Buin is a settlement at the southern end of the island of Bougainville, a part of the North Solomons Province, located in the northern Solomon Islands in the South Pacific Ocean.-History:...

 by a Japanese search and rescue party, led by army engineer, Lieutenant Hamasuna. According to Hamasuna, Yamamoto had been thrown clear of the plane's wreckage, his white-gloved hand grasping the hilt of his katana
Katana
A Japanese sword, or , is one of the traditional bladed weapons of Japan. There are several types of Japanese swords, according to size, field of application and method of manufacture.-Description:...

, 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 of the body disclosed that Yamamoto had received two gunshot wounds, one to the back of his left shoulder and another to his left lower jaw that exited above his right eye.

His staff cremated his remains at Buin, and the ashes were returned to Tokyo aboard the battleship Musashi, Yamamoto's last flagship. Yamamoto was given a full state funeral
State funeral
A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honor heads of state or other important people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition...

 on 5 June 1943, where he received, posthumously, the title of Marshal and was awarded the Order of the Chrysanthemum
Order of the Chrysanthemum
is Japan's highest order. The Grand Cordon of the Order was established in 1876 by Emperor Meiji of Japan; the collar of the Order was added on January 4, 1888. Although technically the order has only one class, it can either be awarded with collar , or with grand cordon...

, (1st Class). He was also awarded Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

's Knight's Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was a grade of the 1939 version of the 1813 created Iron Cross . The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was the highest award of Germany to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership during World War II...

 of the Iron Cross
Iron Cross
The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

 with Oak Leaves and Swords. Part of his ashes were buried in the public cemetery in Tama
Tama, Tokyo
is a municipality classified as a city, located in Tokyo, Japan.Its southern half forms part of the Tama New Town project, Japan's largest residential development, constructed in the 1970s....

, Tokyo (多摩霊園), and the remainder at his ancestral burial grounds at the temple of Chuko-ji in Nagaoka City
Nagaoka, Niigata
is a city located in the central part of Niigata Prefecture, Japan. It is the second largest city in the prefecture, behind the capital city of Niigata...

. He was succeeded as commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet by Admiral Mineichi Koga
Mineichi Koga
- Notes :...

.

Personal life

While other military leaders avoided the image of being "soft", Yamamoto continued to practice calligraphy
Calligraphy
Calligraphy is a type of visual art. It is often called the art of fancy lettering . A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner"...

. He and his wife, Reiko, had four children: two sons and two daughters. Yamamoto was an avid gambler, enjoying shogi
Shogi
, also known as Japanese chess, is a two-player board game in the same family as Western chess, chaturanga, and Chinese Xiangqi, and is the most popular of a family of chess variants native to Japan...

, billiards
Billiards
Cue sports , also known as billiard sports, are a wide variety of games of skill generally played with a cue stick which is used to strike billiard balls, moving them around a cloth-covered billiards table bounded by rubber .Historically, the umbrella term was billiards...

, bridge
Contract bridge
Contract bridge, usually known simply as bridge, is a trick-taking card game using a standard deck of 52 playing cards played by four players in two competing partnerships with partners sitting opposite each other around a small table...

, mah jong, poker
Poker
Poker is a family of card games that share betting rules and usually hand rankings. Poker games differ in how the cards are dealt, how hands may be formed, whether the high or low hand wins the pot in a showdown , limits on bet sizes, and how many rounds of betting are allowed.In most modern poker...

, and other games that tested his wits and sharpened his mind. He frequently made jokes about moving to Monaco
Monaco
Monaco , officially the Principality of Monaco , is a sovereign city state on the French Riviera. It is bordered on three sides by its neighbour, France, and its centre is about from Italy. Its area is with a population of 35,986 as of 2011 and is the most densely populated country in the...

 and starting his own casino
Casino
In modern English, a casino is a facility which houses and accommodates certain types of gambling activities. Casinos are most commonly built near or combined with hotels, restaurants, retail shopping, cruise ships or other tourist attractions...

. He enjoyed the company of geisha
Geisha
, Geiko or Geigi are traditional, female Japanese entertainers whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music and dance.-Terms:...

, 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. After his death, his funeral procession passed by Kawai's quarters on the way to the cemetery, perhaps with hidden purpose.

Yamamoto as a commander

Yamamoto is generally regarded as one of the most prominent leaders in the IJN for making significant changes to its organization, although he was also responsible for several critical defeats. Yamamoto is considered to be an imaginative and brave leader for formulating a plan to launch a pre-emptive attack on US forces in the Pacific Fleet. He is known as one of the very few military leaders who vocally opposed the occupation of China, the Tripartite Pact
Tripartite Pact
The Tripartite Pact, also the Three-Power Pact, Axis Pact, Three-way Pact or Tripartite Treaty was a pact signed in Berlin, Germany on September 27, 1940, which established the Axis Powers of World War II...

, and the war with the U.S., though in doing so he received death threats from nationalists.

Having studied at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

, he was reluctant to enter into war with the United States. He was aware of their overwhelming industrial capacity compared to that of Japan, and felt that only a knockout blow would remove the US threat to Japan. He also did not trust Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

; somewhat ironically, he became the only non-German to be given the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, which was awarded posthumously. He correctly anticipated that the aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

 would play a role in any decisive battle with the United States. Furthermore, he supported increasing the striking power of the air fleets by combining as many as 6 aircraft carriers into one carrier battle group
Carrier battle group
A carrier battle group consists of an aircraft carrier and its escorts, together composing the group. The first naval task forces built around carriers appeared just prior to and during World War II. The Imperial Japanese Navy was the first to assemble a large number of carriers into a single...

. Additionally, he often assigned capable individuals such as Minoru Genda
Minoru Genda
was a well-known Japanese military aviator and politician. He is best known for planning the Pearl Harbor attack.- Early life :Minoru Genda was the second son of a farmer from Hiroshima. Two brothers were graduates of Tokyo University, another brother graduated from Chiba Medical College, and his...

 to form his battle plans.

His forces suffered severely in certain areas, with Allied submarines dealing major blows to the Imperial Japanese Navy shipping and causing the war economy of Japan to be starved of resources, although the full weight of the blow began to be truly felt only in 1943, when American codebreakers
Cryptanalysis
Cryptanalysis is the study of methods for obtaining the meaning of encrypted information, without access to the secret information that is normally required to do so. Typically, this involves knowing how the system works and finding a secret key...

 cracked the merchant marine code again, and 1944, after technical deficiencies in the Mark 14 torpedo
Mark 14 torpedo
The Mark 14 torpedo was the United States Navy's standard submarine-launched anti-ship torpedo of World War II.This weapon was plagued with many problems which crippled its performance early in the war, and was supplemented by the Mark 18 electric torpedo in the last 2 years of the war...

 were finally resolved. The Imperial Japanese Navy's codes were decrypted by the United States; this proved to be a fatal development, as it resulted in the biggest direct blow to the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

. The battle proved to be Yamamoto's most prominent defeat—his force lost four aircraft carriers and 228 planes, and suffered significant casualties, losing 3500 men.

Decorations

  • The Breast Star of the Order of the Chrysanthemum
    Order of the Chrysanthemum
    is Japan's highest order. The Grand Cordon of the Order was established in 1876 by Emperor Meiji of Japan; the collar of the Order was added on January 4, 1888. Although technically the order has only one class, it can either be awarded with collar , or with grand cordon...

  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun Paulownia Blossoms
    Order of the Rising Sun
    The is a Japanese order, established in 1875 by Emperor Meiji of Japan. The Order was the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese Government, created on April 10, 1875 by decree of the Council of State. The badge features rays of sunlight from the rising sun...

  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure
    Order of the Sacred Treasure
    The is a Japanese Order, established on January 4, 1888 by Emperor Meiji of Japan as the Order of Meiji. It is awarded in eight classes . It is generally awarded for long and/or meritorious service and considered to be the lowest of the Japanese orders of merit...

  • Order of the Golden Kite
    Order of the Golden Kite
    The ' was an order of the Empire of Japan, established on 12 February 1890 by Emperor Meiji "in commemoration of Jimmu Tennō, the Romulus of Japan."-Background:...

     (1st class)
  • Order of the Golden Kite
    Order of the Golden Kite
    The ' was an order of the Empire of Japan, established on 12 February 1890 by Emperor Meiji "in commemoration of Jimmu Tennō, the Romulus of Japan."-Background:...

     (2nd class)
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
    Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
    The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was a grade of the 1939 version of the 1813 created Iron Cross . The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was the highest award of Germany to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership during World War II...

     with Oak Leaves and Swords

Yamamoto's career promotions

  • Midshipman—14 November 1904
  • Ensign—31 August 1905
  • Sublieutenant—28 September 1907
  • Lieutenant—11 October 1909
  • Lieutenant Commander—13 December 1915
  • Commander—1 December 1919
  • Captain—1 December 1923
  • Rear Admiral—30 November 1929
  • Vice Admiral—15 November 1934
  • Admiral—15 November 1940
  • Fleet Admiral—18 April 1943 (posthumous)

Media portrayals

Several motion pictures depict the character of Isoroku Yamamoto. One of the most notable films is the 1970 movie Tora! Tora! Tora!
Tora! Tora! Tora!
is a 1970 American-Japanese war film that dramatizes the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, to the extent these facts were known at the time of production. The film was directed by Richard Fleischer and stars an all-star cast, including So Yamamura, E.G...

, with Japanese actor Sô Yamamura as Yamamoto. He is seen planning the Japanese attack.
There is no evidence that Yamamoto said this in reality despite the film calling it a quote. (See Isoroku Yamamoto's sleeping giant quote
Isoroku Yamamoto's sleeping giant quote
Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is portrayed at the very end of the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!, and in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, as saying after his attack on Pearl Harbor, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." The supposed quotation was...

 for further discussion.)

The 1960 film The Gallant Hours
The Gallant Hours
The Gallant Hours is a 1960 American biopic docu-drama about Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey and his efforts in fighting against Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and the forces of Imperial Japan in the Guadalcanal campaign in World War II....

depicts the battle of wits between Admiral William Halsey, Jr.
William Halsey, Jr.
Fleet Admiral William Frederick Halsey, Jr., United States Navy, , was a U.S. Naval officer. He commanded the South Pacific Area during the early stages of the Pacific War against Japan...

 and Yamamoto from the start of the Guadalcanal Campaign
Guadalcanal campaign
The Guadalcanal Campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal and codenamed Operation Watchtower by Allied forces, was a military campaign fought between August 7, 1942 and February 9, 1943 on and around the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific theatre of World War II...

 in August 1942 to Yamamoto's death in April 1943.

Japanese actor Toshirô Mifune
Toshiro Mifune
Toshirō Mifune was a Japanese actor who appeared in almost 170 feature films. He is best known for his 16-film collaboration with filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, from 1948 to 1965, in works such as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and Yojimbo...

 (star of The Seven Samurai
The Seven Samurai
is a 1954 Japanese adventure drama film co-written, edited, and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The film takes place in 1587 during the Warring States Period of Japan...

) would play Yamamoto in three films:
Rengo kantai shirei chôkan: Yamamoto Isoroku (1968),
Gekido no showashi 'Gunbatsu' (1970), and
Midway
Midway (film)
Midway is a 1976 war film directed by Jack Smight and produced byWalter Mirisch from a screenplay by Donald S. Sanford. The music score was by John Williams and the cinematography by Harry Stradling, Jr...

(1976) (where all of the Japanese scenes had English dialogue).

In Shūe Matsubayashi's 1981 film Rengo kantai (The Imperial Navy), Yamamoto was portrayed by Keiju Kobayashi
Keiju Kobayashi
was a Japanese actor. Born in Gunma Prefecture, he began acting at the Nikkatsu studio after dropping out of Nihon University and made his film debut in 1942. In a career that spanned 65 years, he appeared in over 250 films, most famously in the "Company President" comedy films made at Toho, where...

.

The latest film depiction of Yamamoto was in 2001's Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor (film)
Pearl Harbor is a 2001 American action drama war film directed by Michael Bay and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Randall Wallace, who wrote the screenplay...

, a Jerry Bruckheimer
Jerry Bruckheimer
Jerome Leon "Jerry" Bruckheimer is an American film and television producer. He has achieved great success in the genres of action, drama, and science fiction. His best known television series are CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, Eleventh Hour, Without a Trace, Cold Case, The...

-produced epic
Epic film
An epic is a genre of film that emphasizes human drama on a grand scale. Epics are more ambitious in scope than other film genres, and their ambitious nature helps to differentiate them from similar genres such as the period piece or adventure film...

. While mostly focused on the love triangle between American characters, the film does show several scenes of the Japanese planning for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Yamamoto is played by Oscar-nominated actor Mako Iwamatsu. Like Tora! Tora! Tora!
Tora! Tora! Tora!
is a 1970 American-Japanese war film that dramatizes the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, to the extent these facts were known at the time of production. The film was directed by Richard Fleischer and stars an all-star cast, including So Yamamura, E.G...

, this film also features the sleeping giant quote
Isoroku Yamamoto's sleeping giant quote
Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is portrayed at the very end of the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!, and in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, as saying after his attack on Pearl Harbor, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." The supposed quotation was...

.

Alternate History

Yamamoto is seen in the Anime
Anime
is the Japanese abbreviated pronunciation of "animation". The definition sometimes changes depending on the context. In English-speaking countries, the term most commonly refers to Japanese animated cartoons....

 series Zipang
Zipang (anime)
is a twenty-six episode Japanese anime television series directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi and produced by Studio Deen. It aired on the Tokyo Broadcasting System in Japan from late 2004 to early 2005, and was licensed for release in North America by Geneon Entertainment with DVD release starting in...

, in which he works to develop the uneasy partnership with the crew of the JMSDF Mirai
DDG-182 Mirai
The JDS Mirai, DDG-182, is a fictional ship created for the anime series Zipang. The central point of the plot of the anime is that the modern warship Mirai is transported back sixty years through time to the year 1942 on the eve of the Battle of Midway...

, which has been transported back sixty years through time to the year 1942. In the 1993 OVA series Konpeki no Kantai
Konpeki no Kantai
is a Japanese alternate-history original video animation series produced by J.C.Staff. The series focuses on a technologically advanced Imperial Japanese Navy and a radically different World War II that was brought about by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's revival in the past due to unexplained...

(lit. Deep Blue Fleet), the original timeline proceeds until his death in April 1943. However, instead of dying in the crash, Yamamoto blacks out and suddenly wakes up as his younger self, Isoroku Takano, after the Battle of Tsushima
Battle of Tsushima
The Battle of Tsushima , commonly known as the “Sea of Japan Naval Battle” in Japan and the “Battle of Tsushima Strait”, was the major naval battle fought between Russia and Japan during the Russo-Japanese War...

 in 1905. His memory from the original timeline intact, Yamamoto uses his knowledge of the future to help Japan become a stronger military power, and eventually launching a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

against Hideki Tōjō
Hideki Tōjō
Hideki Tōjō was a general of the Imperial Japanese Army , the leader of the Taisei Yokusankai, and the 40th Prime Minister of Japan during most of World War II, from 17 October 1941 to 22 July 1944...

's government. In the subsequent Pacific war
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

, 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, Japan joins forces with the United States and Britain to defeat Nazi Germany.

In Douglas Niles
Douglas Niles
Douglas Niles is a fantasy author and game designer. Niles was one of the creators of the Dragonlance world and the author of the first three Forgotten Realms novels, and the Top Secret S/I espionage role-playing game.-Early life:Niles was born in Brookfield, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, and...

' 2007 book MacArthur's War: A Novel of the Invasion of Japan (written with Michael Dobson
Michael Dobson
Michael Richard Dobson is one of the three Dobson brothers , all of whom have made themselves known prominently in the voice acting community...

), which focuses on General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 and an alternate history of the Pacific War
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 (following a much different outcome of the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

), 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.

Sources

  • Agawa, Hiroyuki; Bester, John (trans.). The Reluctant Admiral. New York: Kodansha, 1979. ISBN 4-7700-2539-4. A definitive biography of Yamamoto in English. This book explains much of the political structure and events within Japan that lead to the war.
  • Davis, Donald A. Lightning Strike: The Secret Mission to Kill Admiral Yamamoto and Avenge Pearl Harbor. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005. ISBN 0-312-30906-6.
  • Dull, Paul S. A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941–1945. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1978. ISBN 0-87021-097-1.
  • 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 0-87021-192-7.
  • Glines, Carroll V. Attack on Yamamoto (1st edition). New York: Crown, 1990. ISBN 0-517-57728-3. 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.
  • Hoyt, Edwin P. Yamamoto: The Man Who Planned Pearl Harbor. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990. ISBN 1-58574-428-X.
  • Lundstrom, John B. The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1984. ISBN 0-87021-189-7.
  • Miller, Edward S. War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897–1945. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1991. ISBN 0-87021-759-3.
  • Peattie
    Mark Peattie
    Mark R. Peattie is an American academic and Japanologist. Peattie is a specialist in modern Japanese military, naval, and imperial history.-Career:...

    , Mark R. Sunburst: The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909–1941. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2002. ISBN 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 1-55750-431-8.
  • Prange, Gordon. At Dawn We Slept. New York: Penguin Books, 1982. ISBN 0-1-006455-09
  • Ugaki, Matome; Chihaya, Masataka (trans.). Fading Victory: The Diary of Admiral Matome Ugaki, 1941-45. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8229-5462-1. 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 the British 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.

External links

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