Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mitsuo Fuchida 1902-1976

Mitsuo Fuchida was born on December 3,1902, in Japan and enrolled in the Naval Academy in 1921 at the age of eighteen. Graduating three years later, he joined the Japanese Naval Air Force and gained valuable combat experience during Japan's expansion into China during the 1930s. Over a period of fifteen years, Fuchida logged over 10,000 hours of flight time most of which was as an aircraft carrier pilot. As relations between Japan and the United States worsened, Japanese military leaders began planning an attack on U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor and Fuchida was selected to lead the air attack because of his experience. On December 7, 1941, four days after his 39th birthday, Commander Fuchida was among the first wave of aircraft launched at 6:00 a.m. and began the attack on the United States naval fleet before 8:00. At 07:53, Fuchida ordered Mizuki to send back to the carrier Akagi, the flagship of 1st Air Fleet, the code words "Tora! Tora! Tora!" The three-word message meant that complete surprise had been achieved in the attack.Due to favorable atmospheric conditions, the transmission of the "Tora! Tora! Tora!" code words from the moderately powered transmitter were heard over the ship's radio in Japan by Admiral Yamamoto and his staff, who were sitting up through the night awaiting word on the attack.For three hours, he directed fifty level bombers on their assignments and, later, climbed to a higher altitude to assess the damage done and inform his commanders. His role in the successful attack made him a national hero in Japan and he even had an audience with Emperor Hirohito. In February, 1942, Fuchida led the first of two waves of aerial attacks on Darwin, Australia and in April he led several attacks against British military forces on the island of Ceylon. An emergency appendectomy kept Fuchida out of action during the Battle of Midway, on June 6, 1942. Afterward, he served as a staff officer and by the end of the war was the Imperial Navy's Air Operations Officer. In early August 1945, he was in Hiroshima for a week-long meeting with the Army but was called away on August 5, the day before the atomic bomb destroyed the city. Once the war ended, Mitsuo Fuchida returned to his home village near Osaka and became a farmer. In From Pearl Harbor to Calvary, he wrote that he was very discouraged and had become "more and more unhappy, especially when the war crime trials opened in Tokyo." He was summoned by General Douglas McArthur to testify at the trials on several occasions.