|Died||1 Jan 1971|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Shigeru Fukudome graduated from the Japanese Naval Academy in 1913 and the Naval Staff College in 1926. He was multiple times the chief of staff of the Combined Fleet during the Pacific War for being well versed in naval tactics and highly capable with planning and operations. Some time between 0200 and 0230 on 1 Apr 1944, while in transit from Palau, the pilot of aircraft that carried Fukudome and 14 staff officers lost sight of land and was lost. He made a crash landing in the sea south of Cebu in the Philippines on that moonless night, about four kilometers off shore. The 11 survivors swam for eight and half hours, fighting cross currents en route, before nearing the shore. Cebu natives rescued the group in canoes, and after some questioning offered to bring Fukudome to proper medical attention. The natives carried him on a stretcher for seven days, reaching a native home where two Filipino doctors attended to him. Meanwhile, Japanese Army troops scoured southern Cebu, going from house to house, interrogating civilians, with reports of civilians being tortured and murdered during the search. As a sign of appreciation, Fukudome and his staff officer Captain Yamamoto sent out word for the search to cease, and the order was obeyed by those looking for him. The survivors were taken to the port city of Cebu, rested for two days, and then was sent to Manila to join his fellow officers on 15 Apr. He returned to Tokyo on 20 Apr and remained hospitalized until 15 May. He remained inactive until 15 Jun when he was named the commander of the 2nd Air Fleet.
Fukudome assumed the role at the 2nd Air Fleet, based in the Kyushu-Okinawa-Taiwan district, in Jul 1944. He later noted that this appointment was out of convenience, arguing that since he had no experience with air units, his assignment to a newly formed air unit must be because of the immediate need for an officer of flag rank. He also commented that the 2nd Air Fleet was really more so a training fleet than an operational fleet. On 10 Oct 1944, the headquarters of the 2nd Air Fleet moved from Katori in Chiba Prefecture to Taiwan; at the same time as the headquarters move, 200 Army aircraft present in Taiwan were assigned to him to bolster his 100-aircraft fleet, with additional aircraft coming in to him later on in smaller quantities over time. In late Oct 1944, because of the heavy losses of Japanese air units in the Philippines, Fukudome's responsibility was expanded to cover the Philippines as well. He received further reinforcements for the 2nd Air Fleet, and moved his headquarters to Manila on 22 Oct. 450 aircraft under his command reached Clark Field over the next two days to join the approximately 100 aircraft that were already there under Vice Admiral Takijiro Onishi, who became his chief of staff. He felt that the collective defensive efforts of Japanese air units in the Philippine Islands and Taiwan regions achieved "considerable success" in slowing American advances, but he also knew that it was only a matter of time before the American forces would overwhelm and overtake the region. The lack of available aircraft and experienced pilots was his biggest constraint in doing his job well; he also complained of the bad weather that hindered his operational plans during his time in the Philippines. He also authorized the use of special attack units at this time, noting that carriers and loaded troop transports as the primary targets for kamikaze pilots.
In Jan 1945, the 2nd Air Fleet was dissolved and merged with the 1st Air Fleet. With the merger of the two air fleets in the Philippines, Fukudome was transferred to Singapore to head up the 10th Area Fleet, which at the time consisted mainly of the 13th Air Fleet with 450 aircraft (mostly trainers) and the First Southern Expeditionary Fleet (2 operational cruisers and other smaller ships). He arrived in Singapore and took over command on 16 Jan 1945, and remained in this role until the end of the war. Because of the American control of air after the Philippines campaign, between Jan and mid-Feb 1945, he could not reach the Japanese home islands by sea. Between mid-Feb and late-Mar, 70% of transports bound for Singapore were intercepted by American forces, resulting in only 40,000 tons of gasoline being delivered to Fukudome's forces. Hence, he was effectively stranded in Singapore without the ability to affect the outcome of the war in a significant way. Furthermore, sea mines laid by Allied aircraft and submarines surrounded Singapore and in the Banka Strait, making travel dangerous.
After the war, he was interrogated in Tokyo between 9 and 12 Dec 1945 by Rear Admiral R.A. Ofstie of the United States Navy. Ofstie noted that Fukudome "was intelligent, talked freely, and appeared as being a markedly superior Japanese Officer". He shared his vast knowledge of high-level decisions made by him and his fellow officers during the course of the war, and offered his personal views on the war itself. It was of his opinion that the Midway fiasco was the first turning point of the war, and the loss of Guadalcanal being the second. After the two turning point events, Japan could do little but fall back onto the defensive. The loss of the Mariana Islands was when he knew the war had been lost. In addition to the cooperative interrogation with the Americans, Fukudome was also fully entrusted by the British to take charge of repatriating Japanese nationals from the Singapore area.
Although tried for war crimes, Fukudome was eventually released and later became an advisor to the Japanese government on the organization of the Japanese Self-Defense Force.
Sources: Interrogation of Japanese Officials, Reminiscences, Wikipedia.
Shigeru Fukudome Timeline
|1 Jan 1891||Shigeru Fukudome was born.|
|5 Nov 1939||Shigeru Fukudome was named the chief of staff of the Japanese Navy Combined Fleet.|
|22 May 1943||Shigeru Fukudome was named the chief of staff of the Japanese Navy Combined Fleet.|
|15 Jun 1944||The Japanese Navy formed the 2nd Air Fleet with 141st, 345th, and 762nd Air Groups with Vice Admiral Shigeru Fukudome in overall command and Rear Admiral Ushie Sugimoto as the chief of staff.|
|13 Jan 1945||Vice Admiral Shigeru Fukudome was named the commanding officer of the Japanese 1st Southern Expeditionary Fleet.|
|5 Feb 1945||Vice Admiral Shigeru Fukudome was named the commanding officer of the Japanese 10th Area Fleet while still holding command of the 1st Southern Expeditionary Fleet; Rear Admiral Bunji Asakura was named his chief of staff. On the same day, the Japanese Navy 13th Air Fleet was transferred from the Southwest Area Fleet to become part of the 10th Area Fleet; it brought in the strength of two air flotillas and seven air groups.|
|1 Jan 1971||Shigeru Fukudome passed away.|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939