The Japanese admiral who planned the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway was shot down and killed over a Solomon Islands jungle after a secret message was intercepted and decoded by U.S. Naval Intelligence.
Isoroku Yamamoto had counseled against starting a war with the United States, but he was overruled by a cabal of more powerful army generals.
Code breakers intercepted and decrypted a message in April 1943, learning that Yamamoto was flying on a morale tour of Japanese bases in the Solomons. Advised of the development, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to “Get Yamamoto.”
On April 18, a flight of American P-38s from Guadalcanal surprised two Mitsubishi G4M transports and an escort of six Zero fighter planes. First Lt. Rex T. Barber attacked the first transport, shooting it down. Yamamoto’s remains were later recovered from the jungle and identified by American soldiers.
The sixth son of Sadayoshi Takano, Isoroku Takano was born April 4, 1884. His name means “56” which was his father’s age the time of his birth. In 1916, following the death of his parents, the 32-year-old Takano was adopted into the Yamamoto family and assumed their name. It was common custom in Japan for families without sons to adopt one so that their name would continue. While serving as a lieutenant commander in 1918, he married Reiko Mihashi with whom he would have four children.
At age 16, Yamamoto entered the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy at Etajima. He graduated in 1904 ranked seventh in his class. He was assigned to the cruiser Nisshin. While on board he fought in the decisive Battle of Tsushima and lost two fingers on his left hand. Recognized for his leadership skill, Yamamoto was sent to the Naval Staff College in 1913.
In 1919, Yamamoto departed for the United States where he spent two years studying the oil industry at Harvard. Returning to Japan in 1923, he was promoted to captain and given command of the cruiser Fuji. The following year he changed his specialty from gunnery to naval aviation after taking flying lessons. Fascinated by air power, he soon became the school’s director and began to produce elite pilots for the navy. In 1926, Yamamoto returned to the United States for a two-year tour as the Japanese naval attaché in Washington.