|Born||November 8, 1918|
Awa, Tokushima, Japan
|Died||November 29, 1999 (aged 81)|
Toyota, Aichi, Japan
|Allegiance||Empire of Japan|
|Service/||Imperial Japanese Navy|
|Years of service||1940–1945|
|Commands held||HA. 19 midget submarine|
Early life and education
Attack on Pearl Harbor
Ensign Sakamaki was one of ten sailors (five officers and five petty officers) selected to attack Pearl Harbor in five two-man Ko-hyoteki class midget submarines on 7 December 1941. Of the ten, nine were killed (including the other crewman in submarine HA. 19, CWO Kiyoshi Inagaki.) Sakamaki was chosen for the mission due to his large number of siblings.
Sakamaki's submarine became trapped on a reef off Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, as it attempted to enter Pearl Harbor. The book Attack on Pearl Harbor claims that his submarine hit four coral reefs and sank. Sakamaki ordered his crewman, Kiyoshi Inagaki, to swim to shore, and Sakamaki attempted to scuttle the disabled submarine and swim to shore as well. The explosives failed to go off and Inagaki drowned. Sakamaki made it to shore, but fell unconscious once on the beach, where he was found by a U.S. soldier, David Akui, and was taken into military custody. When he awoke, he found himself in a hospital under U.S. armed security. Sakamaki became the first Japanese prisoner of war in U.S. captivity during World War II. Japanese high command struck his name from the records and told his family that he had been killed in action. His submarine was recovered and taken on tours across the United States to encourage war bond purchases.
After being taken to Sand Island, Sakamaki requested that he be allowed to kill himself, which was denied. He spent the rest of the war in prisoner-of-war camps in the continental United States. At the war's end, Sakamaki was repatriated to Japan, by which time he had become deeply committed to pacifism.
Later life and death
Sakamaki married and raised a family. He worked with the Toyota Motor Corporation, becoming president of its Brazilian subsidiary in 1969. In 1983, he returned to Japan and continued working for Toyota before retiring in 1987. Outside of writing a memoir, Sakamaki refused to speak about the war until 1991, when he attended a historical conference at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. He reportedly cried at the conference when he was reunited with his submarine (which was on display at the museum) for the first time in 50 years.
He spent the rest of his life in Japan until his death in 1999 at the age of 81.
- Four Years as a Prisoner-of-War, No. 1 (Japan). Published in the United States as I Attacked Pearl Harbor.
- Sakamaki, Kazuo (1949). I Attacked Pearl Harbor. Association Press. p. 30.
- Journal, Chieko Tsuneoka | Photographs by Hiroshi Okamoto for The Wall Street (December 7, 2021). "Japan Hid Its Pearl Harbor POW. He Survived and Left a Tale of Resilience". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
- Goldstein, Richard (Dec. 21, 1999). "Kazuo Sakamaki, 81, Pacific P.O.W. No. 1." The New York Times.
- Burlingame, Burl (May 11, 2002). "World War II's first Japanese prisoner shunned the spotlight." Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
- Mukuda, Kayo (Dec. 4, 2021). "Son of Japanese POW who survived Pearl Harbor attack reflects on post-WWII family history." Mainichi Daily News.
- Dorsey, James (July 1, 2010). "Literary Tropes, Rhetorical Looping, and the Nine Gods of War: 'Fascist Proclivities' Made Real". In Alan Tansman (ed.). The Culture of Japanese Fascism. Duke University Press. pp. 409–431. ISBN 978-0-8223-9070-1.
- Straus, Ulrich (October 1, 2011). The Anguish of Surrender: Japanese POWs of World War II. University of Washington Press. pp. 8–16. ISBN 978-0-295-80255-8. Sakamaki's experience as a prisoner of war are detailed in the first chapter "Prisoner Number One".
- Melber, Takuma (December 4, 2021). "The Lone POW of Pearl Harbor". The Wall Street Journal.
- Tsuneoka, Chieko (December 7, 2021). "Japan Hid Its Pearl Harbor POW. He Survived and Left a Tale of Resilience". The Wall Street Journal.