Kondo Nobutake (1886-1953)

Naval Historical Center Photo #NH 63696

Kondo Nobutake was born in Osaka prefecture and graduated from the Japanese naval academy in 1907 and from the Naval Staff College in 1919.  Recognized early in his career as a future admiral, he served in an unusual number of staff positions.  He also traveled extensively abroad, and studied in Germany.  Though he became pro-German, and was considered anti-British, he shared Yamamoto’s belief that Japan could not successfully wage war against the United States.  His anti-British attitude seems ironic, given that he was described as a “British gentleman officer type” and that he played the British commander in the war games preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor.

When the Japanese considered turning against Russia in support of the German blitzkrieg of June 1941, Kondo argued against the plan, claiming that it would cost a hundred submarines.  It is unclear what basis he had for this claim, particularly since Japan did not have nearly that number of submarines in commission.

Kondo was commander of 2 Fleet at the start of the Pacific War, and led the escort forces for the Malaya invasion.  He joined Nagumo for the raid into the Indian Ocean in early 1942, and commanded the forces that unsuccessfully pursued Halsey’s task force after it had launched the Doolittle Raid.

Kondo was a critic of the Midway operation, arguing unsuccessfully that the invasion forces should assemble in Truk rather than Saipan, so that they would be better masked against signals intelligence. Nevertheless, he dutifully led the invasion covering force.  He fought in the Solomons campaign, including the battles of the Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz, but lost his flagship (the Kirishima) in November 1942 when it was sunk by a deadly volley from the Washington under Willis Lee. Thereafter he was reposted to command of China Area Fleet in 1943. In the immediate postwar period, he operated under the British against Viet Minh guerrillas in French Indochina.

Kondo was apparently a very likeable officer, always willing to hear out a subordinate and adept at winning over former enemies.  He was an efficient commander and capable bureaucrat.  He survived the war to become a successful businessman.

Service record

1886-9-25   Born in Osaka prefecture
Graduates first in his class from Naval Academy. Assigned to CA Itsukushima
1908-7-28   BB Mikasa
1908-12-25 Ensign  
1909-10-1   CA Aso
1910-7-25   Gunnery School Basic Course
1910-12-1 Lieutenant junior grade     
1910-12-15   Torpedo School Basic Course
1911-4-20   DD Kisaragi
1912-4-20   Trip to UK
1912-12-1   Kongo
1913-12-1 Lieutenant Naval College B-Course
1914-5-27   Gunnery School Advanced Course
1914-12-1   Kure Navy Yard
1915-2-26   Fuso
1915-9-8   Staff, 2 Fleet
1915-12-13   Staff, 1 Fleet
1916-9-1   Staff, Combined Fleet
1916-10-14   Staff, 1 Fleet
1916-12-1   CA Akitsushima
1917-12-1   Naval College A-Course
1920-12-1  Lieutenant commander      Resident in Switzerland
1920-12-7   Resident in Germany
1923-6-11   BB Mutsu
1923-12-1 Commander  
1924-2-5   Aide-de-camp, Crown Prince
1926-12-1   Staff, Combined Fleet
1927-11-15   Instructor, Naval College
1927-12-1 Captain Instructor, Naval College and Army College.
1929-11-30   Commander, Kako
1930-6-18   Staff, Navy General Staff (Chief, S1, N1)
1932-12-1   Commander, Kongo
1933-11-15 Rear admiral
Chief Instructor, Naval College
1935-3-15   Chief of staff, Combined Fleet
1935-11-15   Navy General Staff
1935-12-2   Chief, N1, Navy General Staff
1937-12-1 Vice admiral
1938-12-15   Commander, 5 Fleet
1939-9-29   Navy General Staff
1939-10-21   Vice chief, Navy General Staff
1941-9-1   Commander, 2 Fleet
1943-4-29 Admiral  
1943-8-9   Supreme War Council
1943-12-1   Commander, China Area Fleet
1945-5-15   Supreme War Council
1953-2-19   Dies


Dupuy et al. (1992)

Fuller (1992)

Materials of IJN (accessed 2008-2-18)

Prados (1995)

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