Isoroku Yamamoto Biography

Isoroku Yamamoto, an educated and able Japanese Naval Chief, played a vital role in the Pearl Harbor attack that brought victory to Japan in the early phase of World War II. Despite his opposition to the invasion of Manchuria and his personal apology to the American Ambassador for the attack on a U.S. boat, Yamamoto faced the wrath of right-wing Japanese who planned to assassinate him. He also strongly disapproved of the Tripartite Pact with Nazi Germany and warned the Japanese Prime Minister of the immense power of the United States. As the mastermind behind the successful Pearl Harbor attack, Yamamoto discharged his duties sincerely as a true patriot, even though he personally did not favor war against the Americans. In his leisure time, he enjoyed playing games like Shogi, Go, bridge, and poker. Tragically, this pro-American figure was ultimately killed by the Americans as a form of revenge for the harm inflicted upon them at Pearl Harbor.

Quick Facts

  • Died At Age: 59
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Reiko Mihashi
    • Father: Takano Sadayoshi
    • Born Country: Japan
  • Quotes By Isoroku Yamamoto
  • Military Leaders
  • Died on: April 18, 1943
  • Place of death: Buin, Papua New Guinea

Childhood & Early Life

Isoroku Yamamoto was born on April 4, 1884 in Nagaoka, Niigata. He was the sixth of seven children born to Sadayoshi Takano and his second wife Mineko. Isoroku’s father was a school teacher from a samurai family. He was adopted by a wealthy landowner named Yamamoto, who had no son, and thus became Isoroku Yamamoto. Growing up in a wealthy family, he received his education at the best Japanese schools and graduated from the Japanese Naval Academy in 1904.


Yamamoto began his career as an ensign on the cruiser Nisshin during the Battle of Tsushima in 1905. He lost two fingers during the battle. After the battle, he was involved in training cruises in Korea and China, and also traveled to the United States and important ports in Australia. In 1913, he joined the Naval Staff College and graduated three years later as a Lieutenant Commander. He then went on to study economics at Harvard University and focused on the oil industry and military aviation. After graduating in 1921, he returned to Japan and was promoted to the rank of commander. He also became an instructor at the Naval Staff College. In 1923, he became the Captain of the cruiser Fuji and later undertook flying lessons. In 1926, he served as a naval attaché in Washington, which sparked his interest in naval aviation. He returned to Japan in 1928 and was given command of the carrier Akagi. He rose to the position of Rear Admiral in 1930 and played a key role in building battleships. In 1934, he participated in the Third London Naval Conference as a delegate, and in 1936, he was promoted to Vice Minister of the Navy.

Opposition to War and Pearl Harbor Attack

Yamamoto expressed his opposition to the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy at the outbreak of World War II. He warned the Japanese Premier Konoe against going to war with the Americans. However, in 1941, he obeyed the government’s decision and planned a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The attack was successful, but it infuriated the Americans who sought revenge. In 1943, Operation Vengeance was planned by the Americans to assassinate Yamamoto. He was identified by U.S. pilot Thomas G. Lamphier and his plane was shot down, resulting in his death.

Major Battles

Yamamoto fought valiantly in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, losing two fingers in battle. He also executed a surprise air attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, resulting in significant destruction.

Awards & Achievements

Yamamoto was posthumously awarded First Class in the Order of the Chrysanthemum, the highest rank ever achieved by a Fleet Admiral. He was also awarded the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves by Nazi Germany, making him the only foreigner to receive this honor.

Personal Life & Legacy

In 1918, Yamamoto married Reiko Mihasi and they had four children together. He had many mistresses and was particularly fond of a geisha named Kawai Chiyoko. Yamamoto was skilled in calligraphy and decorated geishas’ houses with his scripts. He has been portrayed in several movies, with actor Toshiro Mifune playing his role. Yamamoto was known for his skill in playing poker and bridge, which helped fund his lavish lifestyle. He lost two fingers in the Battle of Tsushima and was nicknamed “80 sen” by geisha girls, as they used to charge 100 sen for a manicure.

Leave a Comment