Captain Mitsuo Fuchida
|Born||3 December 1902
Nara Prefecture, Japan
|Died||30 May 1976 (aged 73)
Kashiwara, near Osaka, Japan
|Allegiance||Empire of Japan|
|Service/branch||Imperial Japanese Navy|
|Years of service||1924–45|
|Unit||1st Air Fleet|
|Commands held||Akagi: 1st (flag), 2nd and 3rd air squadrons|
|Battles/wars||World War II
(China, Attack on Pearl Harbor, Bombing of Darwin, Indian Ocean raid, Battle of Midway)
|Other work||Christian evangelist|
Mitsuo Fuchida (淵田 美津雄 Fuchida Mitsuo , 3 December 1902 – 30 May 1976) was a Japanese Captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and a bomber aviator in the Imperial Japanese Navy before and during World War II. He is perhaps best known for leading the first air wave attacks on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Fuchida was responsible for the coordination of the entire aerial attack working under the overall fleet commander Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo.
After World War II ended, Fuchida became a Christian evangelist and traveled throughout the United States and Europe to tell his story. Fuchida settled permanently in the U.S. but never became a U.S. citizen.
Mitsuo Fuchida was born in what is now part of Katsuragi, Nara Prefecture, Japan. He entered the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy at Etajima, Hiroshima in 1921 where he met and befriended classmate Minoru Genda and discovered the interest of flying airplanes. Specializing in horizontal bombing, Fuchida gained such prowess that he was made an instructor. Assigned to the aircraft carrier Kaga in 1929, followed by the Sasebo Air Group, Fuchida gained combat experience during air operations in the Second Sino-Japanese War in the late 1930s and was considered one of Japan’s most skillful aviators. He was promoted to lieutenant commander and was accepted into the Naval Staff College. Fuchida joined the aircraft carrier Akagi in 1939 as the commander of the air group. By that time he was an experienced aviator with over 3,000 flying hours.
Service in World War II
On Sunday, 7 December 1941, a Japanese attack force under the command of Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo consisting of six carriers with 423 aircraft was poised to attack the United States base at Pearl Harbor, Oahu. At 06:00, the first wave of 183 Japanese dive bombers, torpedo bombers, level bombers, and fighters took off from the carriers located 370 km (230 mi) north of Oahu, and headed for the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
At 07:20, Fuchida, commanding the air group at the rank of 海軍中佐 Kaigun Chūsa (Commander), led the way down the island's eastern side then banked west and flew along the southern coast past the city of Honolulu.
Meanwhile, Fuchida had ordered "Tenkai" ("take attack position"). At 07:40 Hawaiian Standard Time, seeing all peaceful at Pearl Harbor, Fuchida slid back the canopy of his Nakajima B5N2 Type 97 Model 3 "Kate" torpedo bomber and fired a green flare, the signal to attack.
At 07:49, Fuchida instructed his radio operator, Petty Officer 1st Class Norinobu Mizuki, to send the coded signal "To, To, To" (Totsugeki seyo, or "attack!") to his aircraft. Fuchida’s pilot Lieutenant Mitsuo Matsuzaki guided the B5N in a sweep around Barber’s Point, Oahu.
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!" [N 1] 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.
As the first wave of the attack made its way back to its carriers, Fuchida remained over the target in order to assess damage and to observe the second wave attack. He returned to his carrier after the second wave successfully completed its mission. With great pride, he announced that the U.S. battleship fleet had been destroyed; USS Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia, California and Nevada were sunk. Upon returning from Pearl Harbor, Fuchida inspected his "Kate" and found 21 large flak holes and the main control wires barely held together by a thread. The successful attack against the United States made Fuchida a national hero earning him an audience with Emperor Hirohito himself.
On 19 February 1942, Fuchida led the first of two waves of 188 aircraft in a devastating air raid on Darwin, Australia. On 5 April, he led another series of air attacks by carrier-based Japanese aircraft against Royal Navy bases in Ceylon, which was the headquarters of the British Eastern Fleet, in what Winston Churchill described as "the most dangerous moment" of World War II.
In June, while onboard Akagi, Fuchida was wounded at the Battle of Midway. Unable to fly while recovering from an emergency shipboard appendectomy a few days before the battle, he was present on the ship's bridge during the morning attacks. After Akagi was hit by U.S. bombers, a chain reaction from burning fuel and live bombs began the destruction of the ship. When flames blocked the doorway out of the bridge, the officers evacuated down a rope and as Fuchida climbed down, an explosion threw him to the deck, breaking both of his ankles.
After recuperation, Fuchida spent the rest of the war as a staff officer. He was in Hiroshima the day before the atom bomb was dropped, attending a week-long military conference with the Imperial Japanese Army. Fuchida had received a long distance call from Navy Headquarters asking him to return to Tokyo. He returned to Hiroshima the day after the bombing on a party sent to examine and assess the damage of the bomb. Later, all members of Fuchida's search party died from radiation poisoning but Fuchida suffered no symptoms.
After the war, Fuchida was called on to testify at the trials of some of the Japanese military for Japanese war crimes. This infuriated him as he believed this was little more than "victor's justice". In the spring of 1947, convinced that the Americans had treated the Japanese the same way and determined to bring that evidence to the next trial, Fuchida went to Uraga Harbor near Yokosuka to meet a group of returning Japanese prisoners of war. He was surprised to find his former flight engineer, Kazuo Kanegasaki, who all had believed had died in the Battle of Midway. When questioned, Kanegasaki told Fuchida that they were not tortured or abused, much to Fuchida's disappointment, then went on to tell him of a young lady, Peggy Covell, who served them with the deepest love and respect, but whose parents, missionaries, had been killed by Japanese soldiers on the island of Panay in the Philippines.
For Fuchida, this was inexplicable, as in the Bushido code revenge was not only permitted, it was "a responsibility" for an offended party to carry out revenge to restore honor. The murderer of one's parents would be a sworn enemy for life. He became almost obsessed trying to understand why anyone would treat their enemies with love and forgiveness.
In the fall of 1948, Fuchida was passing by the bronze statue of Hachiko at the Shibuya Station when he was handed a pamphlet about the life of Jacob DeShazer, a member of the Doolittle Raid who was captured by the Japanese after his B-25 bomber ran out of fuel over occupied China. In the pamphlet, "I Was a Prisoner of Japan" DeShazer, himself a former U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sergeant and bombardier, told his story of imprisonment, torture and his account of an "awakening to God."  This experience increased Fuchida's curiosity of the Christian faith. In September 1949, after reading the Bible for himself, he became a Christian. In May 1950, Fuchida and DeShazer met for the first time.
In 1951, Fuchida, along with a colleague, published an account of the Battle of Midway from the Japanese side. In 1952, he toured the United States as a member of the Worldwide Christian Missionary Army of Sky Pilots. Fuchida remained dedicated to a similar initiative as the group for the remainder of his life.
In February 1954, Reader's Digest published Fuchida's story of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Fuchida also wrote and co-wrote books including, From Pearl Harbor to Golgotha (aka From Pearl Harbor to Calvary) and a 1955 expansion of his 1951 book Midway (aka Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy's Story). HIs autobiography, titled "Shinjuwan Kogeki no Sotaicho no Kaiso" was published in Japan in 2007. This was translated into English by Douglas Shinsato and Tadanori Urabe and published in 2011 under the title, "For That One Day: The Memoirs of Mitsuo Fuchida, Commander of the Attack on Pearl Harbor." Fuchida's story is also recounted in God's Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor by Donald Goldstein, Katherine V. Dillon and Gordon W. Prange.
Fuchida was an important figure in the early portion of the Pacific War, and his written accounts, translated into English and published in America, were highly influential. As more Japanese source works were translated to English, the veracity of Fuchida's statement of having demanded a third-wave Attack on Pearl Harbor's fuel tanks and his account of the timing of the American counter-attack in the Battle of Midway have been disputed by historians Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully. As well, Tully and Parshall have dismissed Fuchida's stated attendance on the battleship USS Missouri during the Japanese surrender ceremony in 1945. Parshall asserts that "it is doubtful that any one person has had a more deleterious long term impact on the study of the Pacific War than Mitsuo Fuchida."
On the other hand, in the Naval War College Review, Martin Bennett contends that Parshall’s article against Fuchida is riddled with errors, is based primarily on conjecture and speculation, and contains misplaced confidence in unreliable sources, and that his charges are groundless and without credibility.
In popular culture
- (虎 tora is Japanese for "tiger" but in this case "To" is the initial syllable of the Japanese word 突撃 totsugeki meaning "charge" or "attack" and "ra" is the initial syllable of 雷撃 raigeki meaning "torpedo attack".
- "Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida (1902-1976." NationalGeographic.com. Retrieved: 16 July 2011.
- "Tranlators' Notes," Fuchida, Mitsuo, translated by Douglas T. Shinsato and Tadanori Urabe. "For That One Day: The Memoirs of Mitsuo Fuchida, Commander of the Attack on Pearl Harbor." Waimea, Hawaii: eXperience, inc, 2011. ISBN 0-9846745-0-0.
- Goldstein et al. 1990, p. 5.
- Agawa 2000, p. 267.
- Prange 1982, p. 515.
- Goldstein et al. 1990, pp. 178–179.
- "Jacob DeShazer: Member of the Doolittle Raid and a prisoner of Japan." georgiasouthern.edu. Retrieved: 16 July 2011.
- Fuchida, Mitsuo. "From Pearl Harbor to Calvary." biblebelievers.com. Retrieved: 9 May 2012.
- Coffman, Elesha. "Beyond Pearl Harbor." Christianity Today. Retrieved: 9 May 2012
- Fuchida, Capt. Mitsuo. "I Led the Attack on Pearl Harbor". Reader's Digest, Vol. 64, No. 382, February 1954.
- Shinsato and Urabe 2012, p. 11
- Parshall and Tully 2005, pp. 437–442.
- Parshall, Jonathan. "Reflecting on Fuchida, or A Tale of Three Whoppers." Naval War College Review, Spring 2010, pp. 127–138.
- Bennett, Martin. “Parshall’s ‘Whoppers’ Examined – Fact-Checking the Various Claims and Conclusions of Jonathan Parshall.” Naval War College Review, Winter 2013.
- Agawa, Hiroyuki. The Reluctant Admiral: Yamamoto and the Imperial Navy. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2000. ISBN 4-7700-2539-4.
- Fuchida, Mitsuo, translated by Douglas T. Shinsato and Tadanori Urabe. "For That One Day: The Memoirs of Mitsuo Fuchida, Commander of the Attack on Pearl Harbor." Waimea, Hawaii: eXperience, inc, 2011. ISBN 0-9846745-0-0.
- Fuchida, Mitsuo and Masatake Okumiya. Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan, The Japanese Navy's Story. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1955. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 55-9027.
- Goldstein, Donald, Katherine V. Dillon and Gordon W. Prange. God's Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor (The Warriors) . Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2003. ISBN 1-57488-695-9.
- Karpicky, Gregory. "Pearl Harbor - "Tiger, Tiger, Tiger"." Military History Online.com, 17 December 2005.
- Parshall, Jonathan and Anthony Tully. Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books, 2005. ISBN 978-1-57488-924-6.
- Peattie, Mark R., Sunburst: The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power 1909-1941, Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2001, ISBN 1-55750-432-6.
- Prange, Gordon W. At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor. New York: Penguin Books, 1982. ISBN 978-0-14-015734-5.
- Wright, Mike. What They Didn't Teach You About World War II. New York: Presidio Press, 1998. ISBN 0-89141-649-8.
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