Kusaka Ryunosuke (1892-1971)

Photograph of Kusaka Ryunosuke

Wikipedia Commons

Kusaka Ryunosuke graduated from the Japanese Naval Academy in 1913, the Naval Gunnery School in 1920, and the Naval Staff College in 1926. Though not an aviator, he was deeply involved in naval aviation, of which he was an early advocate, serving as an instructor at Kasumigaura Naval Air Station and in the Naval Aviation Department. He was captain of the Hosho, the first ship laid down as an aircraft carrier, when the China war broke out in 1937. His ship carried out flight operations near Shanghai during the first few months of that conflict, and he was chief of staff of China Area Fleet at the time of the Panay incident. 

By the time the Pacific war broke out, Kusaka was a rear admiral and chief of staff of 1 Air Fleet under Nagumo. He was deeply critical of the plan for a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, going to far as to say in Yamamoto’s presence that the plan was the work of an amateur strategist. But the plan had become an article of faith for Yamamoto and went forward anyway. Given that the attack would take place, Kusaka joined Yamamoto in insisting that all six carriers of 1 Air Fleet be committed to the operation. When the first two strikes did tremendous damage to naval vessels, he strongly recommended to Nagumo that the force return to Japan without launching a third strike.

At Midway, Kusaka ordered a single-phase search plan rather than a more thorough double-phase search, which may have ensured that the American carriers were not detected in time to prevent a Japanese debacle. (In fairness, double-phase searches did not become standard Japanese tactical doctrine until 1943.) When the carriers were finally detected, he recommended to Nagumo that a strike not be launched until enough fighters were available to provide proper escort.

Kusaka subsequently served as chief of staff, Southeast Area Fleet, and chief of staff, Combined Fleet. He was effectively in command of Combined Fleet during the Halsey strikes on Formosa, since Toyoda was trapped on that island by the raids, and it was he who sent the execute order for the Sho-1 operation that led to the battle of Leyte Gulf. He ended the war in command of 5 Air Fleet on Kyushu as a vice admiral.

Kusaka was a pragmatist and was opposed to kamikaze tactics. He considered himself an air manager, in which he modeled himself after his father, a businessman. A Zen Buddhist, dedicated to cultivating spiritual serenity and devoid of the passion of the warrior, he was among the Japanese naval officers opposed to war with the United States.

Service record

1892-9-25   born
Graduates from Naval Academy, standing 14th in a class of 118. Assigned to CL Adzuma
1914-8-11   CL Otowa
1914-12-1 Ensign  
1915-7-19   BB Kawachi
1915-8-1   CL Yakumo
1916-12-1 Lieutenant junior grade     
1917-10-10   CL Kongo
1917-12-1   Gunnery School Basic Course
1918-5-20   Torpedo School Basic Course
1918-12-1   DD Kuwa
1919-12-1 Lieutenant Gunnery School Advanced Course
1920-12-1   BB Mutsu
1921-2-10   Executive officer, DD Susuki
1921-10-1   AR Kanto
1922-6-10   BB Yamashiro
1922-11-20   Adjutant, 1 Naval District
1924-12-1   Naval College A-Course
1925-12-1 Lieutenant commander     
1926-12-1   Kasumigaura Air Group
1927-6-1   Instructor, Kasumigaura Air Group
1928-12-10   Navy General Staff
1929-8-10   Trip to USA
1930-12-1 Commander Staff, 1 Air Squadron
1931-11-2   Navy General Staff
1931-12-1   Instructor, Naval College
1933-9-1   Executive officer, CL Iwate
1934-10-22   Naval Air Command
1934-11-15 Captain Chief, S1, B-Adm, Naval Air Command
1936-11-16   Commander, CVL Hosho
1937-10-16   Staff, 3 Fleet
1937-10-20   Staff, China Area Fleet
1938-1-15   Navy General Staff
1938-4-25   Chief, S1, N1, Navy General Staff
1939-11-15   Commander, CV Akagi
1940-10-15   Staff, Combined Fleet
1940-11-15 Rear admiral
Commander, 4 Combined Flying Unit
1941-1-15   Commander, 24 Air Flotilla
1941-4-15   Chief of staff, 1 Air Fleet
1942-7-14   Chief of staff, 3 Fleet
1942-11-23   Commander, Yokosuka Air Group
1943-11-20   Staff, Southeast Area Fleet
1944-4-6   Chief of staff, Combined Fleet
1944-5-1 Vice admiral
1945-6-24   Navy General Staff
1945-8-10   Staff, Imperial General Headquarters
1945-8-17   Commander, 5 Air Fleet
1945-10-10   Department of Navigation
1971-11-23   dies


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