|Born||3 Dec 1902|
|Died||30 May 1976|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Mitsuo Fuchida was born in Nara Prefecture, Japan. He entered the Japanese Naval Academy at Etajima, Hiroshima, Japan in 1921, where he became interested in flight. His first active duty assignment as a pilot took place in Kasumigaura, Japan in 1928. In 1931, he became a horizontal bomber pilot attached to carrier Kaga. He served some time as a flight instructor in the 1930s, and after the outbreak of WW2 in Asia with the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, he gained combat experience against largely outdated aircraft of the Chinese Air Force. He completed studies at the Japanese Naval War Colege in 1938. In 1939, he was assigned to carrier Akagi. In Aug 1941, he was given command of all air groups of Japanese Navy Carrier Division 1. By the time the Pacific War was about to began, he had logged over 3,000 hours in the air.
On 7 Dec 1941, in command of all attacking aircraft over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, United States, Mitsuo Fuchida flew a Type 97 Model 3 torpedo bomber with the first attack wave as an air observer. He flew down the eastern coast of the island of Oahu, then turned west into the harbor. At 0740 hours, seeing the Americans were not responding, he slid open his canopy and fired a green flare to signal to all pilots that the attack was to begin as planned. At 0753 hours, Fuchida had his pilot Lieutenant Mitsuo Matsuzaki send the radio signal "Tora! Tora! Tora!" to flagship Akagi, indicating that the attack was to commence with complete surprise to the enemy; Tora was the acronym for totsugeki raigeki, "torpedo attack". Matsuzaki would go on to assist in the attack that would sink battleship USS Arizona with Fuchida on board. The aircraft remained over Pearl Harbor through the end of the second attack in order to observe the degree of damage. Upon his return, he noted that his aircraft had been hit by 21 times by anti-aircraft fire. The success at Pearl Harbor earned him a personal audience with Emperor Showa.
In Jan 1942, Fuchida designed the aerial attack plan against Rabaul. Three formations, the smallest containing 20 aircraft and the largest more than 50, attacked Rabaul from different directions on 20 Jan, two days before the Japanese Army made their landings. Observing that his aircraft were virtually unchallenged, he "felt like a hunter sent to stalk a mouse with an elephant gun."
On 19 Feb 1942, Fuchida led the first of two waves of attacks on Darwin, Australia. On 5 Apr, he led a series of carrier aircraft attacks against British naval forces in the Indian Ocean.
On 4 Jun 1942, at the Battle of Midway, Fuchida did not participate due to either appendicitis. He remained at the bridge of carrier Akagi and observed the progress of the battle. After Akagi was hit by American aircraft, large fires were started, eventually leading to the bridge being evacuated. As he was attempting to lower himself down from the bridge with a rope, an explosion threw him to the deck, breaking both ankles. He survived the battle, and would require hospitalization.
In Jun 1943, Fuchida became the senior staff officer with the 1st Air Fleet, following the group from Kanoya, Kagoshima, Japan to Tinian, Mariana Islands. In Apr 1944, he became a staff officer of air operations for the Japanese Navy and held this role until the end of the war. He was in Hiroshima, Japan attending a week-long military conference with the Japanese Army, departing the city the day before the atomic bombing, thus escaping the attack rather narrowly. The day after the attack, 7 Aug 1945, he was sent to assess the damage done to Hiroshima; all members of this assessment party would die from radiation poisoning except for Fuchida.
After the war, Fuchida was interrogated by Lieutenant Commander R. P. Aiken and Lieutenant Commander James A. Field, Jr., both of the United States Naval Reserves, in Oct 1945. He provided his knowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack, the defenses at the Mariana Islands and the Philippine Islands, and the deployment of Special Attack squadrons particularly in preparation to the Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands that did not take place. Fuchida was highly cooperative during the interrogation as noted by the interrogators. He indicated that the Japanese officers only completed the analysis of the Pearl Harbor success three days after the attack, but did not repeat an attack because it was assumed that the Americans would bring in aircraft from elsewhere immediately, including the carriers that had avoided the attack. He was called to provide testimony during the Tokyo war crimes trials; initially thought the Americans were merely delivering victor's justice, but he later doubted that belief after meeting his former flight engineer Kazuo Kanegasaki and learned of his good treatment as a prisoner of war.
Fuchida wrote the book Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy's Story in 1951 that had generally been taken as canon by the western world as the Japanese account of the battle. However, Shattered Sword by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully exposed and corrected a wide array of inaccuracies found in Fuchida's book.
In the fall of 1948, near the Hachiko statue outside the Shibuya Station in Tokyo, Japan, Fuchida was handed a pamphlet about the life of Jacob DeShazer, a member of the Doolittle Raid who was captured by the Japanese who later became a Christian missionary. In 1949, near the same location outside Shibuya Station, he purchased a copy of the New Testament of the Bible. In May 1950, he met Jacob DeShazer for the first time. In 1952, he toured the United States as a member of the Worldwide Christian Missionary Army of Sky Pilots, which would be the first of his many tours around the world as a missionary; he declared himself to be an "ambassador of peace". In 1955, he published the book From Pearl Harbor to Golgotha, also known as From Pearl Harbor to Calvary, which focused more so on his faith than military matters, but it was meant to be the subsequent volume to Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan. He became an American citizen in 1960.
Fuchida passed away from complications caused by diabetes in Kashiwara, Japan.
Bruce Gamble, Darkest Hour
Interrogations of Japanese Officials
Mitsuo Fuchida Timeline
|3 Dec 1902||Mitsuo Fuchida was born in Nara Prefecture, Japan.|
|7 Dec 1941||Mitsuo Fuchida led the Pearl Harbor attack, remaining over the target area throughout both waves of attacks to observe the degree of damage done to the American fleet.|
|19 Feb 1942||Mitsuo Fuchida led the first of two waves of attacks during a raid on Darwin, Australia.|
|4 Jun 1942||Mitsuo Fuchida was injured after being thrown by an explosion aboard Akagi, breaking both ankles.|
|30 May 1976||Mitsuo Fuchida passed away from complications caused by diabetes in Kashiwara, Japan.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945