Yamaguchi Tamon (1892-1942)

Photograph of Yamaguchi Tamon

Yamaguchi Tamon was born in Shimane prefecture and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1912. He graduated from the Naval Staff College in 1924 and attended the London Naval Conference of 1929-1930. He served as the Japanese naval attaché in the United States in 1934-1936, attending Princeton University, and he directed the recruitment of John Farnsworth as a spy. As commander of 1 Combined Air Group, he directed the saturation bombing campaign in central China in 1940.

By the time war broke out in the Pacific, Yamaguchi was a rear admiral in command of Carrier Division 2. Though not an aviator, he was probably Japan's best carrier admiral, and won the respect and friendship of Yamamoto. He was widely regarded in the Imperial Navy as Yamamoto's logical successor.

Yamaguchi was a staunch supporter of the Pearl Harbor attack plan. When the initial plan left his carrier division out of the attack force, Yamaguchi got drunk, accosted Nagumo in his cabin, and got him in a headlock until Kusaka broke up the fight. After the attack took place, he pressed for additional raids on the dock facilities, which if successful would have been at least as disastrous for the Americans as the loss of warships and aircraft. Later Yamaguchi submitted a plan for the invasion of Oahu.

While returning from the raid, Yamaguchi was dispatched to support the second invasion attempt on Wake. This second attempt was successful, but Yamaguchi avoided a carrier duel with a superior American force only because of vacillation in the American command.

Yamaguchi's flagship, Hiryu, escaped the initial disaster at the Battle of Midway and launched the counterattack that crippled Yorktown. However, Hiryu was mortally stricken by a second American strike, and Yamaguchi felt it his duty to go down with the ship.

Yamaguchi was an impulsive and highly aggressive commander who put much stock in rigorous training. He nonetheless quickly won over his aviators. By contrast with Nagumo, he was always careful of his appearance.

Service record

1892-8-17   born
1912-7-17 Midshipman Graduates from Naval Academy, standing 2nd in a class of 144. Assigned to CL Soya
1913-5-1   BB Settsu
1913-12-1 Ensign  
1914-5-27   CL Chikuma
1915-2-1   BB Aki
1915-12-13 Lieutenant junior grade
Gunnery School Basic Course
1916-6-1   Torpedo School Basic Course
1916-12-1   Submarine Division 3
1918-5-1   Staff, 2 Special Task Fleet
1918-7-5   DD Kashi
1918-12-1 Lieutenant  
1919-1-17   Temporary Submarine Division
1919-2-1   AR Kanto
1919-7-24   Yokosuka Guard Unit
1919-10-8   Kure Guard Unit
1919-12-1   Torpedo School Advanced Course
1920-12-1   Sasebo Guard Unit
1921-2-25   Resident in U.S.
1923-6-15   BB Nagato
1923-12-1   Instructor, Submarine School
1924-12-1 Lieutenant commander     
Naval College A-Course
1926-12-1   Staff, Submarine Squadron 1
  Navy General Staff
1928-12-10 Commander  
1929-9-17   Trip to U.S.
1929-11-12   Attendant to Plenipotentiary, London conference
1930-7-1   Executive officer, CL Yura
1930-11-15   Staff, Combined Fleet
1932-11-15   Instructor, Naval College
1932-12-1 Captain  
1934-6-1   Attache, U.S.
1936-12-1   CO, Isuzu
1937-12-1   Commander, BB Ise
1938-11-15 Rear admiral

1938-12-1   Staff, 5 Fleet
1938-12-15   Chief of staff, 5 Fleet
1939-11-15   Staff, 1 Fleet
1940-1-15   Commander, 1 Combined Air Flotilla
1940-11-1   Commander, Carrier Division 2
1942-6-5 Vice admiral
Killed in action


Dupuy et al. (1992)

Materials of IJN (accessed 2008-3-1)
Peattie (2001)

Prange (1982)

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