Isoroku Yamamoto (Isoroku Takano)
Isoroku Yamamoto was born on April 4, 1884, in Nagoka, Japan, the last of seven children. His first name "Isoroku" translates into the number "56", which was his father's age when he was born. He lived near Nagaoka, entered the Imperial Naval School at age 16 and was an ensign on a cruiser during the Battle of Tshushima on May 27, 1905, during the Russo-Japanese war, in which he lost two fingers on his left hand. He was adopted by the Yamamoto family and took their name. Read more... married. He traveled to the US to study economics at Harvard and to also learn about petroleum. During World War I he discovered the importance of military aviation. He was fond of playing Go and Shogi, and was a guest at many dinner parties, picking up an aptitude for bridge and especially poker, at which he became extremely skillful. In 1923 he was appointed head of the air training base at Kasumiguara and became a naval attaché in Washington, DC. He returned to Japan a few years later and became Vice-Minister of the Navy. Favoring air power as a basis for war, Yamamoto championed new aircraft carriers for Japan's navy but opposed the Tripartite Pact of 1939, which formed an alliance among militarist Japan, Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. In August 1939 he was promoted to full admiral and became the commander-in-chief of Japan's Combined Naval Fleet. He did not wish to go to war with the US, knowing well the full industrial might and will of the Americans, who he believed would prevail in a war against Japan if only by attrition. However, once the military leaders decided on a war, Yamamoto devoted himself, albeit reluctantly, to the task of giving Japan the upper hand by masterminding the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, which officially brought both Japan and the US into World War II. Having seen the Japanese defeat in the Battle of Midway in 1942, Yamamoto knew that Japan's chance of winning the war was lost. In 1943 he toured the Solomon Islands during the Battle of Guadalcanal, and took over naval operations. On April 18, 1943, American intelligence, which had been tracking Yamamoto's movements and looking for an opportunity to eliminate him, discovered that he was in a plane flying near the island of Bougainville. A squadron of fighters was quickly dispatched to intercept it, with orders to shoot it down at all costs. The fighters swarmed over Yamamoto's aircraft, and it was soon shot out of the sky, crashing in flames on the island and killing all aboard, including Yamamoto. He was 59 years old.