Isoroku Yamamoto

Japanese Admiral

August 4,1884-April 18,1943


Lanning Rating: #77
Admiral Yamamoto was the chief designer of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. That date which was actually December 8 in Japan is the day that President Franklin Roosevelt said "will live in infamy."

Despite being personally opposed to war with the United States, Yamamoto planned and executed a nearly flawless raid. Though he would be defeated by United States Admiral Chester Nimitz less than a year later at the Battle of Midway, Yamamoto became one of Japan's greatest military heroes.

Yamamoto's father, Takano Sadayoshi, was a former member of the Japanese Samurai class. Isoroku, which means 56, Takano's age at the time of his sixth son's birth, adopted the surname Yamamoto later in life.

While still a teenager, Yamamoto joined the navy and soon found himself fighting in the pivotal Battle of Tsushima where he lost two fingers in battle. After the Russo-Japanese war ended, Yamamoto was promoted to Lieutenant and between 1914 and 1916 he attended the Imperial Navy Staff College.

He got married in 1918, but apparently not for romantic reasons. He chose a wife who would be resilient enough to live a life married to a naval officer.

Yamamoto made two visits to the United States. In 1919 he spent two years studying at Harvard University. In 1925 he returned to the United States as the naval attaché at the Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C.

Between these two visits Yamamoto was promoted to the rank of Captain. He also learned to fly. Yamamoto early on recognized the growing importance of naval aviation. He understood before most that the aircraft carrier was eclipsing the battleship in strategic importance. Soon after his return from his second stay in the United States, he was assigned command of the aircraft carrier Akagi.

In 1936 Yamamoto was appointed Imperial Navy Vice Minister and earned the enmity of Japan's right-wing because of his opposition to war with the United States. In 1939 he became Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet and from this position, despite his own personal misgivings, he planned the attack on Pearl Harbor.

For propaganda purposes, Yamamoto was portrayed by the American government as evil incarnate, perhaps second only to Adolf Hitler in despicability. In fact, however, Yamamoto was an educated, sensitive man who, based on his visits to America, realized the inherent danger in awakening the drowsy beast. His overall plan was to defeat America quickly. He knew that a prolonged war against the U.S. would be disastrous for Japan.

Yamamoto did not live to witness Japan's defeat. On April 18, 1943, based on an intercepted and decoded Japanese message that provided Yamamoto's travel schedule, American bombers shot down his plane near the Solomon Islands.

Admiral Mineichi Koga, who took over as Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Navy after Yamamoto's assassination said it very simply:

There was only one Yamamoto, and no one can replace him.

Isoroku Yamamoto- 1997 Wonderland Warrior
Published: January 15, 1997

© 1997 by the Cosmic Baseball Association