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Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku on ship's bridge by YamaLama1986 Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku on ship's bridge by YamaLama1986
Photograph of Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku (I am using Japanese name arrangement) on a ship's bridge, most likely his flagship unless he was touring other ships.

Below I give a long, though valuable description of Yamamoto Isoroku and the context of the decisive elements in his career, that I hope is valuable to those interested though not familiar in the history of Japan and the man himself during World War II.

Yamamoto was the Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) from 1939 to 1943. He was a veteran of the decisive Battle of Tsushima of 1905 between Japan and Russia where his left hand had been injured and he lost the top portion of his index and middle fingers on that hand, where the remains of them were amputated at the knuckles, as a result. He had studied at Harvard University and had been Japan's naval attache in the United States in the 1920s where he saw first hand the tremendous industrial capacity of the US as encompassed in the Fordist-method industrial production plants that would shape his outlook on proposals for war with the United States in 1940. He had an excellent sense of the American cultural-political mindset contrary to the more vulgar and stereotypical outlook on Americans held by many in the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). He had been an outspoken opponent of proposals for Japan to form an alliance with Germany and Italy during the 1930s. His staunch opposition to these proposals combined with the a general strong opposition within the IJN to such an alliance, made him the target of assassination attempts, and thus the Minister of the IJN in 1939 appointed Yamamoto as Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet in order to protect him from assassination.

When told that Japan was going to go to war with the US and the Netherlands (to seize the economically valuable Dutch East Indies) after the US imposed a crippling economic embargo on Japan; Japan's government figures requested estimates from him on what should be expected from the navy. He said frankly to them that Japan could only win by forcing the US to sue for peace by swiftly destroying the US aircraft carriers and other high profile targets in Pearl Harbor, as well as swiftly seizing the Philippines that had a strong US military presence there and the Dutch East Indies. Once that was done at the outset, he said that an attack had to be made against the Panama Canal - as most of the US shipbuilding industry was on the east coast and such ships built there travelled through the Canal to reach the Pacific Ocean. This would require a set of submarines specifically designed to carry and launch attack aircraft to assault the Canal.  Yamamoto stressed that this had to be done as soon as possible because the US was already expanding its fleet in preparation for potential hostilities with both Germany and Japan and that once the war began, the Fordist-method industrial production plants would be utilized for mass production of military equipment that Japan could not keep up with.

Forcing the US to sue for peace after several decisive, crippling attacks, was pivotal for success according to Yamamoto. He said to the government figures that at maximum he could win a string of decisive victories for six months, but that after that nothing could be guaranteed.

To initiate this Yamamoto employed the service of the 1st Air Fleet, the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet in history and the most powerful carrier fleet in the world at that time. This fleet was composed of six large carriers capable of launching multiple hundreds of aircraft at once. This fleet launched the attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequent major assaults on Allied forces during World War II.

A fatal error was made during the Pearl Harbor attack by the commader of the Carrier Striking Force fleet, Admiral Nagumo Chuichi, an overly cautious and nervous man, who upon hearing about the success of the first several waves of attacks in combination with the absence of the US aircraft carriers from the harbor was growing nervous about the fleet being detected by either the US carrier fleet or especially US submarines. Nagumo said that it was his duty to return this strategic task force back to Japan intact as it was needed immediately for other tasks and thus could not afford to suffer any significant damages from attacks. The US carrier fleet of the Enterprise and the Lexington led by Admiral Bill Halsey returned to see the damages at Pearl Harbor but fortunately for them, no new waves of aircraft arrived. 

Yamamoto was highly frustrated with the failure to destroy the US carrier fleet and set to work to develop a plan to draw the US carrier fleet into a battle where it would be destroyed. That became the Battle of Midway that was specifically designed to destroy the US carrier fleet. However like at Pearl Harbor, Nagumo's nervousness combined with indecision led him to make unwise decisions - including repeatedly requesting his aircraft to be rearmed as new info arose. This cost him time, and the Japanese carrier fleet was devastated by a dive bombing attack by US aircraft from the US carriers that initially destroyed three of the four Japanese carriers at the battle (Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu), and then finished off the last carrier Hiryu shortly thereafter though not before the Hiryu launched several rapid waves of attacks on the US carrier Yorktown that crippled it. This was done under the decisive leadership of Admiral Yamaguchi Tamon who took command after Nagumo's flagship Akagi was destroyed. Yamaguchi was the opposite of Nagumo - a firebrand though wise commander who had advised Nagumo at the beginning of the battle to not re-arm the aircraft but to attack the US carriers with whatever armament the aircraft had on them. Yamaguchi and the Hiryu's crew ran out of time and the Hiryu was destroyed and he decided to go down with his ship for failing in battle.

With the loss of the Battle of Midway and the loss of four of Japan's six large aircraft carriers, Japan's striking potential was devastated and it was now put on the defensive. Ironically, the six month timeline that Yamamoto said was all that he could guarantee was literally upheld nearly to the very day that Japan's carrier fleet at Midway was destroyed.

Yamamoto did his best to utilize tactics to stall US advances, hoping that he may still be able to stall them to the point that the US might sue for peace. However he fully knew that the outlook was grim after the loss at Midway. Yamamoto was unable to see the fulfilment of his defensive strategy as he was killed while travelling in an aircraft that was attacked and shot down by US aircraft over Bougainville in the south Pacific. The US had secretly broken the Japanese military codes and knew that Yamamoto was travelling in that aircraft. With the loss of the Battle of Midway followed by Yamamoto's death, the IJN was devastated, and a long, painful, protracted war continued, destroying Japan's navy, and then Japan's presence as a major power itself.
Skoshi8 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
That's the problem with aircraft carriers, they can be sunk. Very difficult to sink an airfield.
YamaLama1986 Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2015   Digital Artist
At the time aircraft carriers were a necessity for long range strikes. Now with the range of some aircraft today the aircraft carrier may be obsolete since such planes can be launched from the ground - I am not familiar with the details to make any final judgement on that though.
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Submitted on
January 4, 2015
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Shutter Speed
10/80 second
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7 mm
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Date Taken
Apr 28, 2009, 8:03:05 AM