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Yamamoto Isoroku

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Yamamoto IsorokuAdd To WorkspaceEncyclopжdia Britannica ArticleIndex EntryOnline SearchBrainstormerNotes ViewerMinimize ToolbarMaximize ToolbarFindPrintSaveBookmarkPreferencesNotesTake a NoteShow NotesHide Notesborn April 4, 1884, Nagaoka, Japan died April 18, 1943, Solomon Islands

Japanese naval officer who conceived of the surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Yamamoto graduated from the naval academy in 1904 and fought as an ensign in the Russo-Japanese War. He was naval attachй at the Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C., during 1926-27. He became vice minister of the Japanese navy in 1936, commander of the First Fleet in 1938, and commander in chief of Japan's Combined Fleet in August 1941.

Yamamoto opposed war with the United States because he feared Japan would lose a protracted struggle with such a powerful opponent. Once the decision to go to war was made, however, Yamamoto asserted that Japan's only chance for victory lay in a surprise attack that would cripple the American naval forces in the Pacific, after which Japan could seize the rich lands of Southeast Asia and move eastward across the Pacific unopposed. Yamamoto's plan for a carrier-based air strike on Pearl Harbor was adopted by the naval general staff, but meanwhile he was predicting that, if the war with the United States lasted more than one year, Japan would eventually be defeated.

After the success of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Yamamoto sought a decisive battle with what remained of the United States' Pacific forces, namely, its aircraft carriers. But the resulting battle, at Midway Island (June 1942), was won by the Americans. Yamamoto's ensuing campaign in the Solomon Islands was also less than successful. His death resulted when U.S. forces, having broken the Japanese communication codes, knew his whereabouts and ambushed and shot down his plane over Bougainville Island in the Solomons.

Yamamoto was Japan's greatest naval strategist during World War II. His contribution to naval strategy lies in his early recognition of the effectiveness of carrier-based aircraft in long-range naval attacks.

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