Tamon Yamaguchi

Tamon Yamaguchi bigraphy, stories - Japanese admiral

Tamon Yamaguchi : biography

17 August 1892 – 4 June 1942

was a Japanese admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy in World War II and an alumnus of Princeton University (1921–1923). 


Born in Koishikawa Tokyo, Yamaguchi graduated from the 40th class of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1912, ranked second out of 144 cadets. As a midshipman, he served on the cruiser and battleship . After his commissioning as an ensign, he was assigned to the cruiser and battleship .

Yamaguchi attended naval artillery and torpedo school in 1915–1916, and was then assigned to the destroyer Kashi.

By 1918, Yamaguchi had been promoted to lieutenant and was assigned to a navigation unit with the naval squadron escorting Imperial German Navy submarines received by the Japanese government as part of reparation payments from Germany at the end of World War I. He then traveled to the United States and attended Princeton University from 1921-1923. On his return to Japan the following year, he served on the battleship for six months, before graduating from the Naval Staff College with honors in 1924. Yamaguchi was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1924.

A member of the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff in 1927, Yamaguchi was promoted commander the next year and later assigned to the Japanese delegation at the London Naval Conference in 1929-1930. On his return to Japan, he was assigned as executive officer on the cruiser .

Promoted to captain in 1932, Yamaguchi was the naval attaché to Washington, DC from 1934-1937. On his return to Japan, he was assigned as captain to the cruiser (from 1936–1937), followed by the battleship (from 1937–1938).

Promoted to rear admiral on 15 November 1938, he was commander of the First Combined Air Group during the early stages of the Second Sino-Japanese War. As Chief of Staff for the IJN 5th Fleet from the end of 1938 he directed the saturation bombing campaign in central China, until his appointment as commander of the 2nd Carrier Division, consisting of the aircraft carriers and in 1940.Peattie, page 219

Yamaguchi′s carrier force was part of the attack on Pearl Harbor, sheltering many of the planes that would attack the port. Yamaguchi commanded a force of planes at the Battle of Wake Island, saving his comrade Eiji Gotō’s force from destruction, and subsequently participated in the Indian Ocean Raid.

During the Battle of Midway, Yamaguchi sparred with his superior officer, Admiral Chūichi Nagumo, upon a reconnaissance plane discovering an American aircraft carrier () near Midway. At the time, the Japanese carriers′ planes were armed with bombs. Nagumo wished to switch the armament to torpedoes. Yamaguchi demanded that no time be wasted and that the planes be launched to attack the American carrier with bombs. Nagumo rejected this; shortly afterward, American carrier aircraft destroyed all the Japanese carriers except Yamaguchi′s flagship Hiryū. Yamaguchi quickly ordered two successive attacks on Yorktown which crippled it. Shortly afterward, another carrier air strike against Hiryū resulted in hits by aircraft from .

Yamaguchi was killed in action, choosing to go down with the sinking aircraft carrier. Legend has it that he and the captain of Hiryū went down with the stricken carrier while calmly admiring the moon. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of vice admiral.


Tamon Yamaguchi

  • Midshipman – 17 July 1912
  • Ensign – 1 December 1913
  • Sublieutenant – 13 December 1915
  • Lieutenant – 1 December 1918
  • Lieutenant Commander – 1 December 1924
  • Commander – 10 December 1928
  • Captain – 1 December 1932
  • Rear Admiral – 15 November 1938
  • Vice Admiral – 5 June 1942 (Posthumous)Nishida, Imperial Japanese Navy

Media portrayals

In Toei’s 2011 war film Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet Yamamoto Isoroku (聯合艦隊司令長官 山本五十六), Yamaguchi was portrayed by Hiroshi Abe. at IMDB.com

In the 1976 film Midway, Yamaguchi was portrayed by Hawaiian actor John Fujioka. at IMDB.com

In the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!, Yamaguchi was portrayed by Susumu Fujita.

In the 1960 film Hawaii Midway Ocean Combat; The Storm in The Pacific (ハワイ・ミッドウェイ大海空戦 太平洋の嵐), Yamaguchi was portrayed by Toshiro Mifune.