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Archive for April 4th, 2008

April 4, 1884 – This day marks the birth of Isoroku Takano, better known by his adopted name – Yamamoto.  He is, of course, most recognized as the mastermind of the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941.  But this soldier, who dedicated nearly his entire life to military service, is something of a paradox.

He graduated from Japan’s Naval Academy and he fought in the war with Russia in the early 1900’s.  And over the years, he rose through the ranks to become a full Admiral in the Japanese Navy.

But Yamamoto was not a man of war at all.  In fact, he was very much opposed to war, particularly war against the United States.  In 1919, Isoroku enrolled at Harvard University and studied there until 1921.  But he also spent a lot of time observing the American culture, watching the people, and learning the business of American business.  He became convinced that any future war with the U.S., given its incredible manufacturing capacity and ingenuity, would be a futile endeavor.

These lessons, as much as his classroom time, would shape his military worldview.  Upon returning to Japan, he opposed the war in Manchuria, he opposed the signing of the Tripartite Pact, and most of all, he opposed war with the U.S., all of which served to make him extremely unpopular with his peers.  He would famously say that a war with America could be sustained successfully for about six months, but after that, things would become precarious.

When the actions of his superiors made war with America inevitable, Yamamoto devised a “strike hard and fast” strategy, seeking to destroy the better part of the American fleet before it could deploy to fight, hence the Pearl Harbor operation.  The results were, as we all know, very successful…but not good enough.  The Admiral’s words about a “six-month victory spree” were eerily prophetic.

It is somewhat ironic that Yamamoto, a man of the ocean, would meet his end in the belly of an airplane…a topic that we’ll look at in just a couple weeks.

Recommended Reading: The Reluctant Admiral – Yamamoto and the Imperial Navy

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