The Deadly Timeline That Lead To Yamamoto Death
7. April 4th, 1884: Future General Is Born
It is important to understand why General Isoroku Yamamoto was important in the first place. Born on the date above, he was adopted by Isoroku Takano, a samurai.
He graduated from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy at the age of 20 and served on a cruiser during the Russo-Japanese War. He lost two fingers during the conflict.
He made his way up in the navy very quickly as he was a fast study and even went to Harvard University for two years. As a matter of fact, he spoke fluent English as served as a naval attachê in Washington D.C.
Over the next two decades he turned the Imperial Navy around, focusing on aviation and making them more ready for assaults rather than transport. He made many decisions that were not favored by the Japanese such as advising the emperor to avoid the Berlin Pact with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy which made him a target for assassination.
Eventually he succumbed to the pressure.
6. December 7th, 1941: “I fear all we have done today is to awaken a great, sleeping giant…”
Most of you know this quote. Although it’s been disputed as to whether or not Yamamoto said exactly that, everyone knows what it means which ever way he said it. With Japan forced to pick a side in a World War, Yamamoto began making strategic preparations for Japan’s first move.
The attack of Pearl Harbor which immediately brought the fight to his doorstep, began his inevitable demise.
5. February 1943: Guadalcanal Becomes The Final Blow
After suffering a major blow at the Battle of Midway, Yamamoto was given one more immense blow by the United Stated Navy and the Marines. With the airstrip at Guadalcanal being a central hub which enabled occupying forces to reach further into the Pacific Theater, the U.S. took the island in what became one of the more known battles of World War II.
The major impact of this loss was not so much the loss of a physical and strategic point on the map, but that it started a chain of events which led to Yamamoto’s death.
Following the crushing blow, Yamamoto decided to go on a tour to reinvigorate his troops. His plan was to do inspections throughout the South Pacific and reassure everyone that victory is still possible.
This tour required significant flight time however and the U.S. knew it already.
4. April 14th, 1943: Operation “MAGIC“
During World War II the United States was relying on their Army Signals Intelligence Service and Navy Communication Special Unit. As their names suggest, they were cryptologic agencies which in layman’s terms means that they decoded messages.
Magic was just a name of the operation that gathered all the best cryptologists from around the country that eventually made up the Research Bureau. On this day in history they intercepted and decoded the almost exact times and locations of Yamamoto’s morale boosting tour and gave them to the Air Force.
Believe it or not Yamamoto’s advisers warned him in the following days not to continue with his tour in fear of an ambush, but he disregarded their concerns. For the last time.
3. April 18th , 1943: “Go Get Him”
Yamamoto left in an unarmed G4M bomber with six escort Zeroes on the morning of April 18th. He would never make it to his destination.
The day before, a “Top Secret and Urgent” mission was authorized by two U.S. Admirals to intercept him over the Pacific islands. They carefully selected 16 P-38 Lightning pilots for the mission. All they were told was that their target is an “important high officer” and the time and location to be there.
Yamamoto’s planes were intercepted en route and a dogfight ensued. The escorts were shot down as they were outnumbered. First Lieutenant Rex T. Barber unknowingly hit the first transport plane he saw which turned out to be Yamamoto’s. The engine caught fire and the plane plummeted toward the thick jungle.
2. April 19h, 1943: Dead Against A Tree, Grasping Katana
With the mission a success, Japanese forces knew of the attack almost immediately. They sent a search party the very next day to scour the jungles of Bougainville where the plane was last seen.
An army engineer Lieutenant Hamasuna found Yamamoto still strapped to his seat. He was thrown from the wreckage and according to his account, was grasping the handle of his katana. He was hit twice; .50 caliber bullets cut through his left shoulder while another hit his jaw and came out over his eye. The latter was determined to be the cause of death.
1. June 5th, 1943: Funeral And Respects
A war hero, Yamamoto’s body was cremated and transported to Tokyo via battleship Musashi. He was given posthumous awards to commend him for his achievements. These included a promotion to Marshal which at the time was Japan’s highest rank. He also received Nazi Germany’s Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leave and Swords which is one of the highest awards given out by the Nazi’s.
His ashes were scattered in a public cemetery in Tokyo with some placed in his ancestral burial grounds.