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Mitsuo Fuchida
Captain Mitsuo Fuchida
Born (1902-12-03)December 3, 1902
Died 30 May 1976 (1976-05-31) (aged 73)
Place of birth Nara Prefecture, Japan
Place of death Kashiwara, near Osaka, Japan
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Service/branch  Imperial Japanese Navy
Years of service 1924–45
Rank Captain
Unit 1st Air Fleet
Commands held Akagi: 1st (flag), 2nd and 3rd air squadrons

World War II:

Other work
  • Christian evangelist
  • Author

Fuchida in training for attack on Pearl Harbor

Mitsuo Fuchida (淵田 美津雄 Fuchida Mitsuo?, 3 December 1902 – 30 May 1976) was a Japanese captain[1] in the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and a bomber aviator in the 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. Working under the overall fleet commander, Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo, Fuchida was responsible for the coordination of the entire aerial attack.

After the war ended, Fuchida became a Christian evangelist and traveled through the United States and Europe to tell his story. He settled permanently in the United States but never became a U.S. citizen.[2]

Early life

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 befriended classmate Minoru Genda and discovered an interest in flying.[3] He graduated as a midshipman on 24 July 1924, and was promoted to ensign on 1 December 1925 and to sub-lieutenant on 1 December 1927. He was promoted to lieutenant on 1 December 1930.[citation needed] Specializing in horizontal bombing, Fuchida was made an instructor in that technique in 1936.[4] He gained combat experience during the Second Sino-Japanese War, when he was assigned to the aircraft carrier Kaga in 1929[5] and then to the Sasebo Air Group,[6] He was promoted to lieutenant commander on 1 December 1936 and was accepted into the Naval Staff College.[4] Fuchida joined the aircraft carrier Akagi in 1939 as the commander of the air group.[7] Fuchida was made commander in October 1941.[citation needed]

World War II

Pearl Harbor

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On Sunday, 7 December 1941, a Japanese force under the command of Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo—consisting of six carriers with 423 aircraft—was ready to attack the United States base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. At 06:00, the first wave of 183 dive bombers, torpedo bombers, level bombers and fighters took off from carriers 370 km (230 mi) north of Oahu and headed for the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.

At 07:20, Fuchida, who by this time had achieved the rank of commander, led the way down the island's eastern side, then banked west and flew along the southern coast past the city of Honolulu.

He ordered "Tenkai!" ("Take attack position!"), and then at 07:40 Hawaiian Standard Time, seeing no enemy activity 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!"—"Attack!") to the other aircraft. Fuchida’s pilot, Lieutenant Mitsuo Matsuzaki, guided the bomber in a sweep around Barber’s Point, Oahu.

At 07:53, Fuchida ordered Mizuki to send the code words "Tora! Tora! Tora!" [lower-alpha 1] back to the carrier Akagi, the flagship of 1st Air Fleet. The message meant that complete surprise had been achieved.[8] Due to favorable atmospheric conditions, the transmission of the "Tora! Tora! Tora!" code words from the moderately powered transmitter were heard over a ship's radio in Japan by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the wartime naval commander, and his staff, who were sitting up through the night awaiting word on the attack.[9]

As the first wave returned to the carriers, Fuchida remained over the target to assess damage and observe the second-wave attack. He returned to his carrier only after the second wave had completed its mission. With great pride, he announced that the U.S. battleship fleet had been destroyed. Fuchida inspected his craft and found 21 large flak holes: the main control wires were barely holding together. The successful attack made Fuchida a national hero who was granted an audience with Emperor Hirohito himself.

Other actions

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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.[citation needed]

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 on the ship's bridge during the morning attacks by U.S. aircraft. After Akagi was hit, a chain reaction from burning fuel and live bombs began the destruction of the ship. When flames blocked the exit from the bridge, the officers evacuated down a rope, and as Fuchida slid down, an explosion threw him to the deck and broke his ankles.

Staff officer

After recuperation, Fuchida spent the rest of the war as a staff officer. In October 1944 he was promoted to captain. The day before the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, he was in that city to attend a week-long military conference with Japanese army officers. Fuchida received a long-distance call from Navy Headquarters asking him to return to Tokyo. The day after the bombing, he returned to Hiroshima with a party sent to assess the damage. All members of Fuchida's party died of radiation poisoning, but Fuchida exhibited no symptoms.[10] Fuchida's military career ended with his demobilization in November 1945.[citation needed]

Postwar activities

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 surprise, and 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"[11] 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."[12] 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.[13]

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.[14] 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.

According to Fuchida's son, his father had a green card allowing permanent residence in the U.S. but he never obtained U.S. citizenship. This is contrary to the assertions of several authors.[quantify][15]

Fuchida died of complications caused by diabetes in Kashiwara, near Osaka on 30 May 1976 at the age of 73.

Published works

Fuchida was the author of three books, one on the Battle of Midway, one a memoir, and one on his conversion to Christianity.

  • Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy's Story was coauthored with Masatake Okumiya. In a section entitled "Five Fateful Minutes", Fuchida (as translated) writes "Five minutes! Who would have believed that the tide of battle would shift in that brief interval of time? ... We had been caught flatfooted in the most vulnerable condition possible—decks loaded with planes armed and fueled for attack."[16] Later scholarship (Parshall et al.) dispute Fuchida's description.
  • For That One Day: The Memoirs of Mitsuo Fuchida, the Commander of the Attack on Pearl Harbor was his memoir. In it, Fuchida makes a claim that has not been corroborated by others: "In my role as Staff of General Navy Headquarters, I was assigned miscellaneous tasks to help the Japanese side's preparations. Since I was not an official attaché, I was watching the signing ceremony from the upper deck along with the crews of the USS Missouri."[17]
  • From Pearl Harbor to Calvary, originally published as From Pearl Harbor to Golgotha, is the story of Fuchida's Christian conversion.

Historical controversy

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, quoted in At Dawn We Slept, of having demanded a third-wave Attack on Pearl Harbor's fuel tanks, and his later account of the timing of the American counter-attack in the Battle of Midway have been disputed by historians Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully.[18] However, in Fuchida's memoir, Fuchida does not claim demanding a third wave. Fuchida, rather, says "I was upset [about no re-attack] and thought, "What stupidity!" But the decision belonged to the Commander. It would not do any good if I complained."[19] Whether the discrepant cause is Fuchida's or author Gordon Prange's can not be determined. As well, Tully and Parshall have dismissed Fuchida's uncorroborated attendance on the battleship USS Missouri during the Japanese surrender ceremony in 1945 as beyond credulity.[20]

In popular culture

In the 1970 film Tora, Tora, Tora, Fuchida was portrayed by Japanese actor Takahiro Tamura.



  1. (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".



External links

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