Skip to comments.A Reluctant Enemy Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto
Posted on 12/07/2011 6:21:38 PM PST by Hojczyk
By a peculiar twist of fate, the Japanese admiral who masterminded the attack had persistently warned his government not to fight the United States. Had his countrymen listened, the history of the 20th century might have turned out much differently.
Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto foresaw that the struggle would become a prolonged war of attrition that Japan could not hope to win. For a year or so, he said, Japan might overrun locally weak Allied forces but after that, its war economy would stagger and its densely built wood-and-paper cities would suffer ruinous air raids. Against such odds, Yamamoto could see little hope of success in any ordinary strategy. His Pearl Harbor operation, he confessed, was conceived in desperation. It would be an all-or-nothing gambit, a throw of the dice: We should do our best to decide the fate of the war on the very first day.
During the Second World War and for years afterward, Americans despised Yamamoto as an archvillain, the perpetrator of an ignoble sneak attack, a personification of Oriental treachery. Time magazine published his cartoon likeness on its Dec. 22, 1941, cover sinister, glowering, dusky yellow complexion with the headline Japans Aggressor. He was said to have boasted that he would dictate terms of peace in the White House.
Yamamoto made no such boast the quote was taken out of context from a private letter in which he had made precisely the opposite point. He could not imagine an end to the war short of his dictating terms in the White House, he wrote and since Japan could not hope to conquer the United States, that outcome was inconceivable.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
And for the record, before someone posts it, Yamamoto never said invading America was impossible because there would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.
The air ambush and killing of Yamamoto is my favorite WWII story. My Dad was on an LST in The Pacific and the long suppressed story of Yamamoto’s end always brings a smile to my face.
Time Mag cover:
I’ll wait with baited breath for an article from the New York Times which discusses in glowing terms such American WWII military leaders as Gen. Douglas MacArthur or Adm. Chester Nimitz.
And he also didn’t say that the Pearl Harbor attack had woken the sleeping giant. But in predicting the course of the war, he did predict six months of success but could not promise anything after that.
If there are bars in heaven, he’s probably sharing a sake with Robert E. Lee.
“I fear we have merely awoken a sleeping giant and filled him with great resolve.”
Good read and thanks for posting it.
An amazing generation and period of history with many valuable lessons we don’t recognize. History makes every arm-chair General look brilliant but we will never know the exact information these men made monumental decisions with.
In hindsight, Yamamoto’s real brilliance was his predictions prior the war. His failure was not finishing the job by taking Hawaii or finishing the fleet when he had the opportunity. Typical of Japanese leadership for his era, he saw the tremendous victory and did not want to risk defeat after achieving it. He was correct about the end result prior to the war but they might have dragged it out long enough to sue for peace with much of their gains intact.
We had our share of mistakes in WWII but we were truly blessed by bigger errors by our enemies.
My Dad served on Subs during WW2, BTW a great movie with J Cagney playing Bull Halsey during the Guadalcanal campaign and the mission that killed Yammamoto.
The Gallant Hours:
Great movie. Yammamoto was a military genius.
The declaration of was was supposed to be delivered prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor o course it didn’t happen.
Agree. The Japanese were still thinking about their naval victory over Russia that forced the Russians to negotiate a peace. Their goal in attacking the US was a major naval victory that would result in a negotiated peace. I think that’s why Yamamoto’s advice about the duration of the war didn’t carry the day in Japan. They thought they could force a naval confrontation. Of course, Japan was also stuck in China and had a serious problem with raw materials that pushed things on. And the negotiated peace looks better if you ignore US development of atomic weapons. We did the right thing for them and us by using atomic weapon. The cost was high, but lower than it would have been otherwise. Japan was pretty much controlled by the army, and it was determined to go down fighting. An honorable position, in other circumstances.
What Yamamoto did say in regards to his nation’s decision to go war against the United States and the dubious results of the Pearl Harbor attack was “All we have done I fear, is awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve’’. Yeah brother, he wasn’t kidding. The folks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki would sure find that out in time.
If Japan had either listened to Yamamoto’s advice not to attack the U.S., or had carried out his actual plan in its entirety, world history would have been very different:
Yamamoto proposed not merely destroying the U.S. fleet, but landing Japanese marines in Hawaii in sufficient force to seize control. The U.S. would have been left with San Francisco as its nearest deep water port to the Japanese home islands, and Japan would have had a forward position in which to base aircraft to harass the U.S. fleet. Fortunately, Yamamoto was not regarded as sufficiently “bushido” and his plan was watered down by folks more in the favor of Tojo and the Emperor.
The story is that of Louie Zamperini - a track and field star of the 1930’s, who participated in the Berlin olympics, was part of the US air force in WWII, was shot down over the ocean, was adrift in the Pacific for over a month, was held as a POW by the Japanese forces and finally made it back to his life and has had the courage to live it to its fullest.
The Japs make the Muslim's look like boy scouts
Thanks for the link. I marked it & will watch it soon.
Invasion or occupation of Japan or the complete destruction of the Pacific fleet would not have "finished the job," if by that you mean winning the war for Japan.
Not having Hawaii as a forward base would have greatly impeded the American counter-attack, but would not have changed the end result in any way. Though things might have gotten very dicey for Oz.
I estimate it would have taken America two additional years to defeat the Japs without Hawaii or a Pacific fleet.
But they would still have had the Bomb in '45, so it might not have taken much longer than it did anyway.
The Bomb might have been first used as a naval weapon. Say goodbye to the massed Japanese fleet.
Those who launched the attack knew perfectly well it wasn't within their power to defeat America. Some probably thought America would roll up and quit if hit hard enough.
But most realized, accurately, that American sanctions were forcing Japan into a position where they had only two choices:
Retreat to the home islands and abandon any hope of being a world power.
Launch a desperate attack in the hope that they might win despite the odds.
What they absolutely, positively could not do was stop where they were.
I’m one historian who does not believe Yamamoto’s raid could have knocked the US out of the war, even if the carriers HAD been in port.
1. Yamamoto could only expect 3 carriers to be in the Pacific anyway: Lexington (CV-2), USS Enterprise (CV-6) and Saratoga (CV-3). The Wasp, Hornet, and Yorktown were still with the Atlantic fleet. Furthermore if the Japanese intelligence network was anything near as accurate as it supposedly was, Yamamoto should have known that Saratoga had just finished her overhaul at Bremerton and wasn’t due to return to Pearl Harbor until Dec. 10th or later. So the Admiral could have only hoped for 2, possibly 3 if Saratoga was ahead of schedule, carriers to be at Pearl when he launched his attack.
2. Even after extensive damage at the Battle of the Coral Sea, Yorktown was repaired in less than a month and available for the Battle of Midway. Given that several capital ships, heavily damaged at Pearl, returned to action within the year, it is not inconceivable that at least 1 Pacific fleet carrier could have survived Pearl Harbor and returned to service by June 1942 (Battle of Midway)
3.American shipbuilders moved so quickly to rebuild the Pacific fleet that even had we lost Coral Sea and Midway, we still would have come roaring back. Replacements for the Lexington and Yorktown were already in shipyards at the time of their sinking.
Thanks for that. I got reprimanded in 3rd grade (1965) for doing "show & tell" with a "Jap" sword my Dad picked up in Okinawa. I miss political incorrectness.
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