Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku was the defining Japanese naval commander of World War II. Although by no means part of the militarist clique that dominated Japanese politics in the 1930s, when war came Yamamoto was completely committed to his country's cause and planned and executed the daring pre-emptive strike on Pearl Harbor that so damaged the US Pacific Fleet and ushered in the Pacific War.
Yamamoto's career in the Imperial Japanese Navy started in the early years of the 20th century and he saw service in the Russo-Japanese War, being wounded in the battle of Tsushima in 1904, before going on to study at Harvard University and serve as a naval attach? in the inter-war years, an experience that was supposed to give him a unique insight into the American psyche. Despite his opposition to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and war with China in 1937, as well as the tripartite pact with Germany and Italy, he retained his position as commander-in-chief of the combined fleet in the warlike Tojo administration and was it was in this position that he led the IJN to war in 1941.
Despite the success of the Pearl Harbor operation, Yamamoto's subsequent handling of the Japanese combined fleet can be called into question. Seeking a 'decisive battle' against the US Pacific Fleet, Yamamoto took up an aggressive position in the Pacific and fought the US Navy at the battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 and the battle of Midway. Midway can be said to be Yamamoto's 'hour of destiny' as he planned and executed the battle. Though unaware that the Japanese Naval code had been broken, he fatally divided his forces, leaving them vulnerable to piecemeal destruction. The final campaign commanded by Yamamoto was that around Guadalcanal, where Yamamoto's myth of excellence will be totally laid bare. Despite a considerable numerical advantage over the Americans, Yamamoto never brought this advantage to bear. The result was a devastating defeat for the IJN and, eventually, the death of Yamamoto himself.
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June 19, 2012
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