This day in 1943 marked the death of the man who was probably the most famous Japanese admiral of World War II – the renowned Isoroku Yamamoto. He had the highest possible rank in the Japanese Imperial Navy – the “fleet admiral” i.e. “marshal-admiral” (Japanese: Gensui Kaigun Taishõ). This rank was held only by two other Japanese men during World War II (Nagano and Koga), and one prince of the imperial dynasty (Prince Fushimi Hiroyasu).
Isoroku Yamamoto is important due to the fact that he held the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet. It was the most important strike force of the Japanese Imperial Navy, and was so important that it had became almost a synonym for the entire Navy. Yamamoto was the commander of the famous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, where he wanted to break the spine of the U.S. Pacific fleet. Also important was Yamamoto’s role in the Battle of Midway, which was probably the most important and the most determined naval battle in the Pacific during World War II.
Admiral Yamamoto received from Hitler’s Germany the high decoration called “Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords” (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern). He was the only foreigner who received such a high military decoration in the history of Nazi Germany.
Yamamoto was killed on this day when he flew on a Mitsubishi G4M plane in a mission to inspect the hull. Apparently, American president Roosevelt personally ordered the attack on Yamamoto. The Americans sent a detachment of 16 fighter aircrafts on the Admiral’s plane. They intercepted his Mitsubishi G4M, which was followed by six Japanese Zero fighters. There was an aerial battle. The more numerous Americans were victorious and shot down the admiral’s plane. It crashed in the middle of the jungle on the Pacific island of Bougainville. When the admiral’s dead body was found, he was apparently still sitting upright in his seat, with a white-gloved hand on the handle of his katana.