Pearl Harbor, Oahu – Who Was Involved?



General Hideki Tojo served as Japan’s Chief of Staff of the Army and Minister of War. With so much power, Tojo was often thought of as a dictator. He assumed an additional position of Prime Minister in October 1941, just before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Pacific Fleet. Tojo had an extensive military career and believed in an aggressive foreign policy. He strongly opposed any plans to take Japanese troops out of Korea or China. He did however, initially support negotiations with the US but when he realized it was impossible, ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor.

He turned over the position of Minister of War to Umezu when militaries began to turn against Japan. He resigned from his remaining positions in July 1944 after the fall of Saipan, and he unsuccessfully attempted suicide shortly thereafter. He was later tried and convicted of war crimes by the Allies and executed in December 1948.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s naval career began in 1904 when he graduated from Japan’s Imperial naval academy. While participating in battle in 1905 he was wounded and lost two fingers, but recovered and continued his naval career. In 1919, Yamamoto was sent to the US where he studied English at Harvard, and learned about the strengths and weaknesses of the Country during his visit in America. After graduation from Harvard in 192l, Yamamoto returned to Japan to specialize in the new field of naval aviation.

He again returned to the United States in 1926, as the Japanese naval attaché in Washington. During this two year visit he became familiar with and developed a negative opinion of the US Navy. However, he was fully aware of the power of the US as a nation.

Upon return to Japan, Yamamoto became a driving force in developing Japan’s aircraft carriers. His demands led to the Japanese Navy being equipped with excellent carrier-launched fighters, the world’s most powerful, fast and efficient torpedoes and the Japanese Navy became one of the most modern and powerful in the world. Yamamoto strongly opposed Japan going to war. However, he was promoted to full Admiral and became the commander of the Combined Fleet. Yamamoto was to lead Japan’s entire Navy into war. Thereafter, Yamamoto devised a well thought out plan to attack Pearl Harbor and destroy the US Pacific Fleet. His plan became a tremendous success leading him to be revered as a national hero in Japan.

Six months later, Yamamoto led the Combined Fleet into the Battle of Midway, a battle which Japan lost. The US still viewed Yamamoto as its biggest enemy in the war with Japan. Shortly thereafter, a US Air Force fighter squadron shot down two Japanese bombers and one Zero fighter over Japanese airspace, killing Yamamoto.

Dorie Miller, an American War Hero, had enlisted as a mess attendant in the Navy in 1939 to earn money for his family. This was the only position offered to African Americans in the US Military at this time. Serving in the Pacific Fleet aboard the USS West Virginia, Miller was a cook and the ship’s heavyweight boxing champion. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Miller, who was collecting laundry, reported to the deck and was assigned to carry wounded sailors to safety. Thereafter, he went up on deck to help the fatally wounded Captain. Miller immediately manned a 50 caliber anti-aircraft machine gun, something he was not trained on and had never done before. When he ran out of ammunition, he was ordered to abandon ship which subsequently sunk.

He was presented with the Navy Cross for his extraordinary courage during battle, the first African-American to receive such an honor during the conflict.

In November 1943, Miller was serving on the USS Liscome Bay in the Gilbert Islands which was struck by a torpedo from Japanese submarine. The warship was sunk and Miller was presumed to be among the 646 crew members who died.

He was entitled to receive the Purple Heart Medal; the American Defense Service Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal. In 1973 the USS Miller was named in his honor. In 1991 a bronze commemorative plaque of Dorie Miller was commissioned and placed on location at the Miller Family Park in the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

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