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Chūichi Nagumo
March 25, 1887 – July 6, 1944 (aged 57)[1]

Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo
Place of birth Yonezawa, Yamagata Japan
Place of death Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
Allegiance Japan Empire of Japan
Service/branch  Imperial Japanese Navy
Years of service 1908-1944
Rank Admiral
Unit Kido Butai
Commands held Aki, Hatsuyuki, Kirishima, Sugi, Kisaragi, Momi, Naka, Takao, Yamashiro
11th Destroyer Division, 8th Cruiser Division, 3rd Cruiser Division, Kido Butai, 1st Carrier Division, 1st Air Fleet, IJN 3rd Fleet, Sasebo Naval District, Kure Naval District, IJN 1st Fleet, Central Pacific Area Fleet, IJN 14th Air Fleet[2]
Battles/wars World War II
Battle of the Eastern Solomons
Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands
Indian Ocean Raid,
Attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Darwin
Battle of Midway
Awards Order of the Rising Sun (2nd class)
Order of the Rising Sun (3rd class)
Order of the Golden Kite (3rd class)
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure[2]
In this Japanese name, the family name is Nagumo.

Chūichi Nagumo (南雲 忠一 Nagumo Chūichi ?, March 25, 1887 - July 6, 1944) was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II and one time commander of the Kido Butai (the carrier battle group).

He committed suicide while defending Saipan.



Early life

Nagumo family

Nagumo was born in the city of Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan in 1887. He graduated from the 36th class of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1908, with a ranking of 8 out of a class of 191 cadets. As a midshipman, he served on the cruisers Soya, Nisshin and Niitaka. After his promotion to ensign in 1910, he was assigned to cruiser Asama.

After attending torpedo school and naval artillery school, he was promoted to sub-lieutenant and served on the battleship Aki, followed by the destroyer Hatsuyuki. In 1914, he was promoted to lieutenant and was assigned to the battleship Kirishima, followed by the destroyer Sugi. He was assigned his first command on 15 December 1917: the destroyer Kisaragi.

Nagumo graduated from the Naval War College, and was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1920. His specialty was torpedo and destroyer tactics. From 1920-1921, he was captain of the destroyer Momi, but was soon pulled to shore duty with various assignments by the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff. He became a commander in 1924. From 1925-1926, Nagumo accompanied a Japanese mission to study naval warfare strategy, tactics and equipment in Europe and the United States.

Nagumo (left) with his high school friend in Seattle, WA in 1925

After his return to Japan, Nagumo served as an instructor at the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy from 1927-1929. Nagumo was promoted to the rank of captain in November 1929 and assumed command of the light cruiser Naka and from 1930-1931 was commander of the 11th Destroyer Division. After serving in administrative positions from 1931-1933, he assumed command of the heavy cruiser Takao from 1933-1934, and the battleship Yamashiro from 1934-1935. He was promoted to rear admiral on 1 November 1935.

As a Rear Admiral, Nagumo commanded the 8th Cruiser Division to support Imperial Japanese Army movements in China from the Yellow Sea. As a leading officer of the militaristic Fleet Faction, he also received a boost in his career from political forces.

From 1937-1938, he was Commandant of the Torpedo School, and from 1938-1939, he was commander of the 3rd Cruiser Division. Nagumo was promoted to vice admiral on 15 November 1939. From November 1940-April 1941, Nagumo was Commandant of the Naval War College.

World War II

Chūichi Nagumo in Vice Admiral uniform

On 10 April 1941, Nagumo was appointed Commander in Chief of the First Air Fleet, the Imperial Japanese Navy's main Carrier battle group, largely due to his seniority. Many contemporaries and historians have doubted his suitability for this command, given his lack of familiarity with naval aviation.

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 a cautious officer who spent every ounce of his effort going over tactical plans of every operation he was involved in.[3]

Admiral Nishizo Tsukahara had some doubts with his appointment, and 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 footsteps into the navy. Contrastingly, Nagumo's junior officers in the navy viewed him as precisely the father figure that his sons did not.[4]

However, despite his lack of experience, he was a strong advocate of combining sea and air power. Nevertheless, he was opposed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plan to attack the United States at Pearl Harbor.[5] While commanding the First Air Fleet, Nagumo oversaw the effective attack on Pearl Harbor, but he was later criticized for his failure to launch a third attack,[6] which might have destroyed the fuel oil storage and repair facilities which would have rendered the most important American naval base in the Pacific useless, and the submarine base and intelligence station which were the main factors in Japan's defeat.[7]

Nagumo was surrounded by able lieutenants such as Minoru Genda and Mitsuo Fuchida. He also fought well in the early 1942 campaigns. He was the fleet commander during the Bombing of Darwin and his Indian Ocean raid on the British Eastern Fleet was a success, sinking an aircraft carrier, two cruisers and two destroyers, and causing Admiral Sir James Somerville to retreat to East Africa.

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 aircraft 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.[4]

However, at the Battle of Midway, Nagumo's near-perfect record finally came to an end. His Carrier Striking Task Force lost four carriers in what proved to be the turning point of the Pacific War, and the massive aircrew losses would prove decisive to the performance of the Japanese navy in later engagements.

Afterwards, Nagumo was re-assigned as Commander in Chief of the Third Fleet and commanded aircraft carriers in the Guadalcanal campaign, but his actions there were largely indecisive, and in hindsight he slowly frittered away much of Japan's maritime strength.

Final days

On 11 November 1942, Nagumo was re-assigned back to Japan, where he was given command of the Sasebo Naval District. He transferred to the Kure Naval District on 21 June 1943. From October 1943-February 1944, Nagumo was again Commander in Chief of the IJN 1st Fleet, which was largely involved in training duties by that time.

However, as the war situation continued to deteriorate against Japan, Nagumo was once again given a combat command. He was sent to the Mariana Islands on 4 March 1944 as commander in chief of the short-lived IJN 14th Air Fleet, and simultaneously commander in chief of the equally short-lived Central Pacific Area Fleet.

The invasion of Saipan began on 15 June 1944. Within days the IJN under Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa were overwhelmed by the US 5th Fleet in the decisive Battle of the Philippine Sea costing Japan approximately 500 aircraft. Nagumo and his Army peer General Yoshitsugu Saito then were left on their own to defend the island of Saipan against the American assault. On 6 July, during the last stages of the Battle of Saipan, Nagumo committed suicide; not in the traditional method of seppuku, but rather a pistol to the temple. His remains were later found by U.S. Marines in the cave where he spent his last days as the commander of the Saipan defenders.[8] He was posthumously promoted to admiral.


  • Midshipman - 21 November 1908
  • Ensign - 15 January 1910
  • Sublieutenant - 1 December 1911
  • Lieutenant - 1 December 1914
  • Lieutenant Commander - 1 December 1920
  • Commander - 1 December 1924
  • Captain - 30 November 1929
  • Rear Admiral - 15 November 1935
  • Vice Admiral - 15 November 1939
  • Admiral - 8 July 1944 (Posthumous)[1]



  • D'Albas, Andrieu (1965). Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II. Devin-Adair Pub. ISBN 0-8159-5302-X.  
  • Dull, Paul S. (1978). A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-097-1.  
  • Denfeld, D. Colt (1997). Hold the Marianas: The Japanese Defense of the Mariana Islands. White Mane Pub. ISBN 1-57249-014-4.  
  • Evans, David (1979). Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0870211927.  
  • Goldberg, Harold J. (2007). D-day in the Pacific: The Battle of Saipan. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34869-2.  
  • Jones, Don (1986). Oba, The Last Samurai. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-245-X.  
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot (2001 (reissue)). New Guinea and the Marianas, March 1944-August 1944, vol. 8 of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Champaign, Illinois, USA: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-07038-0.  

External links


  1. ^ a b Nishida, Imperial Japanese Navy
  2. ^ a b Nagumo Chuichi at
  3. ^ Pearl Harbor: Japanese Aircraft during and after the Raid
  4. ^ a b World War II Database page on Nagumo.
  5. ^ Evans. Kaigun. Page 529
  6. ^ Blair, Clay, Jr. Silent Victory (Lippincott, 1975); Willmott, H. P. Barrier and the Javelin (United States Naval Institute Press, 1983); Holmes, W. J. Double-Edged Secrets (United States Naval Institute Press, 1979).
  7. ^ Blair and Holmes, passim.
  8. ^ Breaching the Marianas: The Battle for Saipan


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I have lived in the United States and I know the might of their industrial complex. The United States is a sleeping giant and I am afraid that our attack has awakened it.

Chuichi Nagumo (25 March 18876 July 1944) was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II, overseeing the attack on Pearl Harbor. On July 6, during the last stages of the Battle of Saipan, Nagumo committed suicide; not in the traditional method of seppuku, but rather a pistol to the temple. His remains were later found by American Marines in the cave where he spent his last days as the commander of the Saipan defenders. He was posthumously promoted to admiral.


  • Mr. Chief of Staff [Ryunosuke Kusaka], what do you think? I feel that I've undertaken a heavy responsibility. If I had only been more firm and refused. Now we've left home waters and I'm beginning to wonder if the operation will work.
    • Quoted in "Day of Infamy" - Page 17 - by Walter Lord - History - 2001
  • I have lived in the United States and I know the might of their industrial complex. The United States is a sleeping giant and I am afraid that our attack has awakened it.
    • Quoted in "Energy Technology XI: Applications and Economics" - Page 988 - Richard F. Hill - Science - 1975
  • The success of our surprise attack on Pearl Harbor will prove to be the Waterloo of the war to follow. For this reason the Imperial Navy is massing the cream of its strength in ships and planes to assure success.
    • Quoted in "American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur" - by William Manchester - 1978 - Page 195
  • I-uh-have the utmost respect for Yamamoto-san. If it had not been for him, there would be no naval aviation. However-the most brilliant man can occasionally make a mistake.
    • Quoted in "The Rise and Fall of the Japanese Empire" - Page 12 - by I. G. Edmonds, Gary Gordon - 1962

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