Why the Man who Planned the Attacks on Pearl Harbor Advised Against them
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto Planned Attacks
“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
-From the diary of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto
Yamamoto was a man of humble beginnings. Raised by a lower-class samurai warrior, Yamamoto’s name was originally Takano. After graduating from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy, he served aboard an armored cruiser. Eventually, after losing two fingers at the Battle of Tsushima, Takano returned to school at the Naval Staff College, and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander after graduation. After his promotion, he was adopted into the Yamamoto family, higher-class samurai with nobility.
During his tenure as Lieutenant, he was a strong opponent to military invasion and preferred to use intimidation tactics to scare his enemies into compliance. Referred to as “gunboat diplomacy”, Yamamoto would station ships with powerful artillery off of the coast of potential combatants as a show of military might. He was an advocate against the use of the naval fleet as an invasion force.
Ready to learn more, Takano returned to college in 1919, attending Harvard University to study economics. In his career as a student at Harvard, he learned a lot from American culture. Sharpening up his skills as both a businessman and a military strategist, he pressed on and became the senior naval attaché for Japan, stationed in Washington D.C..
After 4 years of Living in America and becoming very fond of the United States, Takano returned to Japan and was promoted through the ranks of the Aeronautics department. Eventually, the extremist politics of Japan at the time became dangerous to his safety as assassinations were commonplace.
Takano was an opponent of a Tripartite Pact, the agreement that would form the alliance of Japan and Nazi Germany. Some considered his opposition to be against Japan’s “natural interests”, and he received death threats on a regular basis for his passive political stances.
In 1940, Isoroku Takano was promoted to the rank of Admiral and was transferred to the combined fleet to escape persecution and potential assassination for his political views.
Now commander-in-chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, the largest seafaring component of the Japanese Imperial Navy, he was tasked to organize a strike on the United States.
Tensions were high in America in the years leading up to World War II. With most of the country barely bouncing back from the Great Depression, many found it difficult to stay optimistic. People couldn’t help but feel another conflict was just around the corner, despite the best efforts of the U.S. to remain neutral to stay out of the next Great War.
Before the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. and U.K. had stopped trade of oil and other resources to the Japan in an effort to weaken them. Japan was now between a rock and a hard place, low on resources and facing resistance on every front. They decided to invade British and Dutch territories in the South Pacific which were rich in resources.
Knowing that direct engagement with British territories in the South Pacific would lead to engagement from the United States, the government of Japan decided conflict with the U.S. was inevitable and it was necessary to neutralize the U.S. Naval forces in a preemptive strike. The responsibility of planning this coordinated offense fell on the shoulders of Yamamoto.
Yamamoto said in a conversation with Prime Minister of Japan Prince Konoe;
“I can guarantee to put up a tough fight for the first six months but I have absolutely no confidence about what would happen if it went on for two or three years.... I hope you will make every effort to avoid war with America.”
With his experience and education in the United States, Admiral Yamamoto knew of the industrial might that America had at it’s disposal. With their backs to the corner, Japan decided to go through with the plan anyways against his discretion. Although Yamamoto himself seemed to prefer an alternative approach, his status as commander-in-chief obligated him to orchestrate the raids on Pearl Harbor and dozens more attacks against the Allies in WWII.
Yamamoto was killed in an attack by American forces after codebreakers decrypted a Japanese Navy message outlining the inspection of three front-line bases in the Solomon Islands. After receiving approval from Commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Nimitz, American aircraft shot down the Japanese air convoy en-route to their destination. Yamamoto’s body was later recovered by a search and rescue party.
A breadth of information is available on the ships in the harbor the days of the attacks and the crews on board at the various Pearl Harbor Historic sites. The Arizona Memorial and USS Missouri battleship are top tourist destinations for those visiting Pearl Harbor. Reserving spots in advance guarantees entry at your convenience, enabling you to take your time throughout the tours without stress.
There are several historic sites within walking distance of one another and all together will make for fun-filled day for everyone in the family to enjoy. There are special features at each site, so it’s a good idea to learn more about the various tours available before your visit. Planning out the day in advance will make it easier to have fun and relax while exploring everything the historic sites have to offer.