Isoroku Yamamoto (4 April 1884 – 18 April 1943) was a Japanese Marshal Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II until his death.
Yamamoto held several important posts in the IJN, and undertook many of its changes and reorganizations, especially its development of naval aviation. He was the commander-in-chief during the early years of the Pacific War and oversaw major engagements including the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway. He was killed when American code breakers identified his flight plans, enabling the United States Army Air Forces to shoot down his plane. His death was a major blow to Japanese military morale during World War II.
- Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it is not enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. To make victory certain, we would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House. I wonder if our politicians, among whom armchair arguments about war are being glibly bandied about in the name of state politics, have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.
- As quoted in At Dawn We Slept (1981) by Gordon W. Prange, p. 11; this quote was stated in a letter to Ryoichi Sasakawa prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Minus the last sentence, it was taken out of context and interpreted in the U.S. as a boast that Japan would conquer the entire contiguous United States. The omitted sentence showed Yamamoto's counsel of caution towards a war that would cost Japan dearly.
- A military man can scarcely pride himself on having "smitten a sleeping enemy"; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack.
- In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success.
- Statement to Japanese cabinet minister Shigeharu Matsumoto and Japanese prime minister Fumimaro Konoe, as quoted in Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan (1985) by Ronald Spector. This remark would later prove prophetic; precisely six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese navy would suffer a major defeat at the Battle of Midway, from which it never recovered.
- The fiercest serpent may be overcome by a swarm of ants.
- Statement in opposition of the planned construction of the Yamato class battleships, as quoted in Scraps of paper: the disarmament treaties between the world wars (1989) by Harlow A. Hyde. In this statement, Yamamoto implies that even the most powerful battleships can be sunk by a huge swarm of carrier planes. This remark also proved prophetic as both Yamato and Musashi would be sunk by overwhelming air attacks.
Quotes about Yamamoto
- In the wake of Pearl Harbor, a single word favored above all others by Americans as best characterizing the Japanese people was "treacherous," and for the duration of the war the surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet remained the preeminent symbol of the enemy's inherent treachery. The attack also inspired a thirst for revenge among Americans that the Japanese, with their own racial blinders, had failed to anticipate. In one of his earliest presentations of the plan to attack Pearl Harbor, even Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, who presumedly knew the American temperament firsthand from his years as a naval attache in Washington, expressed hope that shattering opening blow against the Pacific Fleet would render both the U.S. Navy and the American people "so dispirited that they will not be able to recover."
- John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War (1986), p. 36
- Yamamoto was an aggressive and inspiring officer, but he made the error of dividing his huge force five ways and of thinking that his foe would behave in a predictable way. After his crushing defeat on Midway, he ordered a general retreat and took ill in his cabin. U.S. naval intelligence again was his undoing. When he took off on an inspection tour from Rabaul, American fighter planes were up and waiting for him.
- C.L. Sulzberger, The American Heritage Picture History of World War II (1966), p. 212