|Born||25 Mar 1887|
|Died||6 Jul 1944|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Chuichi Nagumo was born in Yamagato, Japan in 1887. He joined the Japanese Navy in 1908, and by 1917 he was at the helm of his first commission, a destroyer. His specialty was torpedo and destroyer tactics. In the 1920s, Nagumo was part of a mission to tour and study naval warfare in Europe and the United States. Upon his return to Japan in 1929, Nagumo was promoted to the rank of Captain and served at the Naval Academy. When Japan's eyes looked upon Manchuria, the energetic Nagumo was commissioned the light cruiser Naka to command the 11th Destroyers Division. He later commanded the battleship Yamashiro and the heavy cruiser Takao. As a Rear Admiral, Nagumo commanded the 8th Cruiser Division to support Japanese Army movements in China from the Yellow Sea. As an officer of the militaristic Fleet Faction, he also received a boost in his career from political forces.
As the war began in Europe, Nagumo, at the time the head of the Naval War College in Tokyo, was promoted to the rank of vice admiral in preparation for Japan's entry into the global conflict. By this time, he had visibly aged, physically and mentally. Physically, he suffered from arthritis, perhaps from his younger days as an athletic kendo fencer. Mentally, he had become an officer who spent every ounce of his effort going over tactical plans of every operation he was involved in. Very soon after his promotion he was named the commander of the Japanese First Air Fleet. Admiral Nishizo Tsukahara had some doubts with this appointment; he commented, "Nagumo was an officer of the old school, a specialist of torpedo and surface maneuvers.... He did not have any idea of the capability and potential of naval aviation." At home, Nagumo did not receive a loving description, either. One of his two sons described him as a brooding father who was obsessed (and later disappointed) with pressuring his sons to follow his foot steps into the navy. Contrastingly, Nagumo's junior officers in the navy viewed him as precisely the father figure that his sons failed to do.
Although Nagumo had plenty of critics in the navy, his seniority landed him the job of the commander of the mobile fleet that had been tagged for the task of attacking Pearl Harbor. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Combined Fleet, probably wished to assign the job to another admiral, perhaps one who had more experience with naval aviation, but strict rules of seniority left Yamamoto little choice. All Yamamoto could do was ensure the non-innovative Nagumo was surrounded by able lieutenants such as Minoru Genda and Mitsuo Fuchida.
When Nagumo's fleet struck, it became one of the most devastating attacks in the history of the United States Navy, disabling the entire Pacific Fleet's battle line with one swift strike. Despite the successful raid, Nagumo was largely criticized for his failure to launch the third wave of attack against Pearl Harbor's oil tanks and naval facilities, which might had rendered the greatest American naval base in the Pacific useless, and without Pearl Harbor, the United States would have no major advance base in the Pacific. Such criticism based on what-if scenarios might be unfounded, however, as Japanese naval doctrine of the time placed shore targets very low on the priority list, thus even if Nagumo did indeed launch a third strike, the aircraft would likely continue to target warships much like the previous two waves.
After Pearl Harbor, Nagumo was responsible for raids all across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. At the end of his trip into the Indian Ocean, Nagumo's personal score card saw five battleships, one carrier, two cruisers, seven destroyers, dozens of merchantmen, transports, and various other vessels. He was also responsible for downing hundreds of Allied aircrafts from six nations. Destruction brought upon Allied ports also disabled or slowed Allied operations. All the while, he had lost no more than a few dozen pilots (although having 20-20 hindsight today, we understand these elite pilots lost would have significant consequences later in the war). After the raid in the Indian Ocean, Nagumo returned to Japan a national hero with an impressive resume:
- He had sailed from Kurile Islands to Pearl Harbor, returned to the western portion of the South Pacific, and then sailed into the Indian Ocean.
- He had destroyed five battleships, one carrier, two cruisers, seven destroyers, dozens of merchantmen, transports, and various other vessels.
- He was responsible for destroying hundreds of aircraft from six nations.
- He brought destruction upon Allied ports, disabling or slowing Allied operations.
- The damage brought upon Allied forces were at a cost of no more than a few dozen pilots.
Although by now Nagumo's name was associated with the wild successes of the Japanese navy, Yamamoto still believed that the fleet carriers of the navy should be commanded by someone who was more daring and believed more in the strength of air power. Nagumo, however, had secured himself in his command based on his seniority over any other officer who had been available for Yamamoto to choose as a replacement. At the Battle of Midway, Nagumo's near-perfect record finally saw an end. With a combination of reasons such as Admiral Osami Nagano's insistence of a simultaneous Aleutian operation and Yamamoto's overly-complex fleet operations, Nagumo saw a devastating loss of four fleet carriers at the conclusion of the battle. Nagumo later sought revenge against the American advances in Guadalcanal, but actions there was largely indecisive, and in hindsight the actions there would slowly fritter away Japan's maritime strength.
After Guadacanal, Nagumo was demoted to various unimportant posts before being given command of a small naval flotilla in the Marianas. On 15 Jun 1944, days after the failed Philippine Sea offensive by Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa cost Japan 500 Japanese aircrafts, Nagumo and his Army peer General Saito attempted to defend Saipan in the Mariana Islands against the American juggernaut. On 6 Jul, during the last stages of the Allied conquest of that island, Nagumo committed suicide for his failure to hold Saipan. His remains was later found by United States Marines in the cave where he spent his last days as the commander of the Saipan defenders.
Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully, Shattered Sword
Dan van der Vat, The Pacific Campaign
Chuichi Nagumo Timeline
|25 Mar 1887||Chuichi Nagumo was born.|
|2 Dec 1905||Chuichi Nagumo entered the Japanese naval academy.|
|21 Nov 1908||Chuichi Nagumo graduated from the Japanese naval academy and was promoted to the rank of midshipman.|
|2 Sep 1909||Chuichi Nagumo was assigned to armored cruiser Nisshin.|
|1 Dec 1909||Chuichi Nagumo was assigned to protected cruiser Niitaka.|
|15 Jan 1910||Chuichi Nagumo was promoted to the rank of ensign.|
|5 May 1910||Chuichi Nagumo was assigned to armored cruiser Asama.|
|20 Apr 1911||Chuichi Nagumo enrolled at the naval gunnery school.|
|4 Aug 1911||Chuichi Nagumo enrolled at the mine warfare school.|
|1 Dec 1911||Chuichi Nagumo was promoted to the rank of sublieutenant.|
|24 May 1913||Chuichi Nagumo was assigned to destroyer Akizuki.|
|1 Dec 1913||Chuichi Nagumo enrolled at the Japanese naval war college.|
|27 Sep 1914||Chuichi Nagumo studied an advanced course at the mine warfare school.|
|1 Dec 1914||Chuichi Nagumo was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and was assigned to battleship Kirishima.|
|3 Dec 1915||Chuichi Nagumo was assigned to destroyer Sugi.|
|22 Dec 1915||Chuichi Nagumo was married.|
|28 Aug 1916||Chuichi Nagumo's marriage certificate was made official.|
|1 Dec 1916||Chuichi Nagumo was attached to the Fourth Fleet.|
|28 Mar 1917||Chuichi Nagumo was attached to the Third Fleet.|
|15 Dec 1917||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commanding officer of destroyer Kisaragi.|
|21 Jan 1918||While conducting a night exercise, Chuichi Nagumo's destroyer Kisaragi collided with sailing vessel Miyajima Maru; Nagumo was sentenced to two days in the brig.|
|1 Dec 1918||Chuichi Nagumo studied an advanced course at the Japanese naval war college.|
|1 Dec 1920||Chuichi Nagumo was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander and was named the commanding officer of destroyer Momi.|
|1 Nov 1921||Chuichi Nagumo was named the chief of staff of the First Minelayer Flotilla.|
|1 Dec 1922||Chuichi Nagumo was assigned to the Navy Ministry.|
|8 Sep 1923||Chuichi Nagumo was named the chairman of a special Japanese Navy rescue committee in the wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake.|
|10 Nov 1923||Chuichi Nagumo was name an instructor at the Japanese naval war college.|
|1 Dec 1924||Chuichi Nagumo was promoted to the rank of commander.|
|1 Jun 1925||Chuichi Nagumo began a tour to Europe and the United States.|
|20 Feb 1926||Chuichi Nagumo returned to Japan after a tour of Europe and the United States.|
|30 Mar 1926||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commanding officer of gunboat Saga.|
|15 Oct 1926||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commanding officer of gunboat Uji.|
|15 Nov 1927||Chuichi Nagumo was name an instructor at the Japanese naval war college.|
|30 Nov 1929||Chuichi Nagumo was promoted to the rank of captain and was given command of the light cruiser Naka.|
|1 Dec 1930||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commanding officer of the 11th Destroyer Division.|
|10 Oct 1931||Chuichi Nagumo was attached to the naval headquarters.|
|16 Feb 1932||Chuichi Nagumo was named a representative to the Second Geneva Naval Conference.|
|25 Feb 1932||Chuichi Nagumo was assigned to the Japanese Navy investigation board over the First Battle of Shanghai.|
|4 Aug 1933||Chuichi Nagumo was assigned to the committee establishing a training program for naval aviation.|
|15 Nov 1933||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commanding officer of heavy cruiser Takao.|
|15 Nov 1934||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commanding officer of battleship Yamashiro.|
|15 Nov 1935||Chuichi Nagumo was promoted to the rank of rear admiral and was placed in command of the First Minelayer Squadron.|
|1 Dec 1936||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commanding officer of the 8th Cruiser Division.|
|15 Nov 1937||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commandant of the mine warfare school.|
|15 Nov 1938||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commanding officer of the 3rd Cruiser Division.|
|14 Oct 1939||Chuichi Nagumo was placed on a committee studying capital ship bridge design.|
|15 Nov 1939||Chuichi Nagumo was promoted to the rank of vice admiral.|
|1 Nov 1940||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commandant of the Japanese naval war college.|
|10 Apr 1941||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commanding officer of the First Air Fleet.|
|14 Jul 1942||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commanding officer of the Third Fleet.|
|11 Nov 1942||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commanding officer of the Sasebo Naval District.|
|17 Nov 1942||Chuichi Nagumo was granted audience with Emperor Showa.|
|21 Jun 1943||Chuichi Nagumo was named the commanding officer of the Kure Naval District.|
|20 Oct 1943||Chuichi Nagumo stepped down as the commanding officer of Kure Naval District, Japan and was given command of the First Fleet.|
|4 Mar 1944||The Japanese Navy formed the 14th Air Fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo with Rear Admiral Hideo Yano as his chief of staff; the fleet had the sgrenth of two air flotillas and one seaplane tender.|
|6 Jul 1944||Chuichi Nagumo committed suicide for his failure to hold Saipan, Mariana Islands.|
|8 Jul 1944||Chuichi Nagumo was posthumously promoted to the rank of admiral.|
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Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, at Guadalcanal