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Chūichi Nagumo
Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo
Born (1887-03-25)March 25, 1887
Died July 6, 1944(1944-07-06) (aged 57)[1]
Place of birth Yonezawa, Yamagata Japan
Place of death Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
Allegiance  Empire of Japan
Service/branch  Imperial Japanese Navy
Years of service 1908-1944
Rank Admiral
Unit Kido Butai
Commands held Aki, Hatsuyuki, Kirishima, Sugi, Kisaragi, Momi, Naka, Takao, Yamashiro
11th Destroyer Division, 8th Cruiser Division, 3rd Cruiser Division, Kido Butai, 1st Carrier Division, First Air Fleet, IJN 3rd Fleet, Sasebo Naval District, Kure Naval District, First Fleet, Central Pacific Area Fleet, Fourteenth Air Fleet[2]
Battles/wars World War II
Attack on Pearl Harbor
Bombing of Darwin
Indian Ocean Raid
Battle of Midway
Battle of the Eastern Solomons
Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands
Awards Order of the Rising Sun (3rd class)
Order of the Rising Sun (4th class)
Order of the Golden Kite (3rd class)
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure (1st class)[2]

Chūichi Nagumo (南雲 忠一 Nagumo Chūichi?, March 25, 1887 – July 6, 1944) was a Japanese admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II and one time commander of the Kido Butai (the carrier battle group).[3] He committed suicide during the Battle of Saipan.


Early life[]

Nagumo family in 1943 with Chūichi Nagumo in the middle

Nagumo was born in the city of Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan in 1887. He graduated from the 36th class of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1908, with a ranking of 8 out of a class of 191 cadets. As a midshipman, he served in the protected cruisers Soya and Niitaka and the armored cruiser Nisshin. After his promotion to ensign in 1910, he was assigned to cruiser Asama.

After attending torpedo and naval artillery schools, he was promoted to sub-lieutenant and served in the battleship Aki, followed by the destroyer Hatsuyuki. In 1914, he was promoted to lieutenant and was assigned to the battlecruiser Kirishima, followed by the destroyer Sugi. He was assigned his first command, the destroyer Kisaragi, on 15 December 1917.

Nagumo graduated from the Naval War College, and was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1920. His specialty was torpedo and destroyer tactics. From 1920-1921, he was captain of the destroyer Momi, but was soon sent to shore duty with various assignments by the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff. He became a commander in 1924. From 1925-1926, Nagumo accompanied a Japanese mission to study naval warfare strategy, tactics, and equipment in Europe and the United States.

Nagumo (left) with his middle school friend (Ichiro Saeki) in Seattle, Washington in 1925

After his return to Japan, Nagumo served as an instructor at the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy from 1927-1929. Nagumo was promoted to captain in November 1929 and assumed command of the light cruiser Naka and from 1930-1931 was commander of the 11th Destroyer Division. After serving in administrative positions from 1931–1933, he assumed command of the heavy cruiser Takao from 1933–1934, and the battleship Yamashiro from 1934-1935. He was promoted to rear admiral on 1 November 1935.

As a Rear Admiral, Nagumo commanded the 8th Cruiser Division to support Imperial Japanese Army movements in China from the Yellow Sea. As a leading officer of the militaristic Fleet Faction, he also received a boost in his career from political forces.

From 1937-1938, he was Commandant of the Torpedo School, and from 1938–1939, he was commander of the 3rd Cruiser Division. Nagumo was promoted to vice admiral on 15 November 1939. From November 1940-April 1941, Nagumo was Commandant of the Naval War College.

World War II[]

On 10 April 1941, Nagumo was appointed Commander in Chief of the First Air Fleet, the Imperial Japanese Navy′s main aircraft carrier force, largely due to his seniority. Many contemporaries and historians have doubted his suitability for this command, given his lack of familiarity with naval aviation.

By this time, he had visibly aged, physically and mentally. Physically, he suffered from arthritis, perhaps from his younger days as a kendoka.[4] Mentally, he had become a cautious officer who worked hard going over tactical plans of every operation he was involved in.[citation needed]

Admiral Nishizo Tsukahara had some doubts with his appointment, and commented, "Nagumo was an officer of the old school, a specialist of torpedo and surface maneuvers.... He did not have any idea of the capability and potential of naval aviation." At home, Nagumo did not receive a loving description, either. One of his two sons described him as a brooding father who was obsessed (and later disappointed) with pressuring his sons to follow his footsteps into the navy. By contrast, Nagumo's junior officers in the navy viewed him as precisely the father figure his sons did not.[4]

However, despite his lack of experience, he was a strong advocate of combining sea and air power. Nevertheless, he was opposed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's plan to attack the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor.[5] While commanding the First Air Fleet, Nagumo oversaw the effective attack on Pearl Harbor, but he was later criticized for his failure to launch a third attack,[6] which might have destroyed the fuel oil storage and repair facilities which would have rendered the most important American naval base in the Pacific useless, and the submarine base and intelligence station, which were the main factors in Japan's defeat.[7]

Nagumo was surrounded by able lieutenants such as Minoru Genda and Mitsuo Fuchida. He also fought well in the early 1942 campaigns. He was the fleet commander during the Bombing of Darwin and his Indian Ocean raid on the British Eastern Fleet was a success, sinking an aircraft carrier, two cruisers and two destroyers, and causing Admiral Sir James Somerville to retreat to East Africa.

At the end of his trip into the Indian Ocean, Nagumo's personal score card saw five battleships, one carrier, two cruisers, seven destroyers, dozens of merchantmen, transports, and various other vessels. He was also responsible for downing hundreds of Allied aircraft from six nations. Destruction brought upon Allied ports also disabled or slowed Allied operations. All the while, he had lost no more than a few dozen pilots.[4]

However, at the Battle of Midway, Nagumo's near-perfect record finally came to an end. His Carrier Striking Task Force lost four carriers in what proved to be the turning point of the Pacific War, and the massive losses of carrier aircraft maintenance personnel would prove decisive to the performance of the Japanese navy in later engagements. Although 110 carrier aircrewmen were lost during the battle, their loss was not as cataclysmic as the loss of the four carriers, their aircraft, and the men responsible for their maintenance.

Afterwards, Nagumo was re-assigned as Commander in Chief of the Third Fleet and commanded aircraft carriers in the Guadalcanal campaign, but his actions there were largely indecisive, and he slowly frittered away much of Japan's maritime strength.

Final days[]

Last picture of Nagumo (center), Saipan, 1944

On 11 November 1942, Nagumo was re-assigned back to Japan, where he was given command of the Sasebo Naval District. He transferred to the Kure Naval District on 21 June 1943. From October 1943-February 1944, Nagumo was again Commander in Chief of First Fleet, which was largely involved in training duties by that time.

However, as the war situation continued to deteriorate against Japan, Nagumo was once again given a combat command. He was sent to the Mariana Islands on 4 March 1944 as commander in chief of the short-lived Fourteenth Air Fleet, and simultaneously commander in chief of the equally short-lived Central Pacific Area Fleet.

The invasion of Saipan began on 15 June 1944. Within days, the IJN—under Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa—were overwhelmed by the U.S. 5th Fleet in the decisive Battle of the Philippine Sea, costing Japan approximately 500 aircraft. Nagumo and his Army peer General Yoshitsugu Saito then were left on their own to defend the island of Saipan against the American assault. On 6 July, during the last stages of the Battle of Saipan, Nagumo committed suicide; not in the traditional method of seppuku, but rather a pistol to the temple. His remains were later found by U.S. Marines in the cave where he spent his last days as the commander of the Saipan defenders.[8] He was posthumously promoted to admiral.


IJN Insignia Rank Date
海軍少尉候補生 Kaigun Shōi Kōhōsei
21 November 1908
OF-1a - Kaigun Shōi (cuff).gif 海軍少尉 Kaigun Shōi
15 January 1910
OF-1b - Kaigun Chūi (CUFF).gif 海軍中尉 Kaigun Chūi
(Sub-Lieutenant/Lieutenant Junior Grade)
1 December 1911
Imperial Japanese Navy Insignia Lieutenant 海軍大尉.png 海軍大尉 Kaigun Daii
1 December 1914
OF-3 - Kaigun Shosa (cuff).gif 海軍少佐 Kaigun Shōsa
1 December 1920
Imperial Japanese Navy Insignia Commander 海軍中佐.png 海軍中佐 Kaigun Chūsa
1 December 1924
Imperial Japanese Navy Insignia Captain 海軍大佐.png 海軍大佐 Kaigun Daisa
30 November 1929
Imperial Japanese Navy Insignia Rear admiral 海軍少将.png 海軍少将 Kaigun Shōshō
15 November 1935
Imperial Japanese Navy Insignia Vice admiral 海軍中将.png 海軍中将 Kaigun Chūjō
15 November 1939
Japan-navy-1931-1944-sleeve 30-1-.gif 海軍大将 Kaigun Taishō
8 July 1944 (Posthumous)[1]

In popular culture[]

  • In the 1970 film Tora, Tora, Tora, Nagumo was portrayed by Japanese actor Eijirô Tôno.
  • In the 1976 film Midway, Nagumo was portrayed by American actor James Shigeta.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Nishida, Imperial Japanese Navy
  2. 2.0 2.1 Nagumo Chuichi at
  3. Klemen, L. "Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 World War II Database page on Nagumo.
  5. Evans, Kaigun, p.529
  6. Blair, Clay, Jr. Silent Victory (Lippincott, 1975); Willmott, H. P. Barrier and the Javelin (United States Naval Institute Press, 1983); Holmes, W. J. Double-Edged Secrets (United States Naval Institute Press, 1979).
  7. Blair, passim; Holmes, passim.
  8. Breaching the Marianas: The Battle for Saipan



  • D'Albas, Andrieu (1965). Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II. Devin-Adair Pub. ISBN 0-8159-5302-X. 
  • Dull, Paul S. (1978). A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-097-1. 
  • Denfeld, D. Colt (1997). Hold the Marianas: The Japanese Defense of the Mariana Islands. White Mane Pub. ISBN 1-57249-014-4. 
  • Evans, David (1979). Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-192-7. 
  • Goldberg, Harold J. (2007). D-day in the Pacific: The Battle of Saipan. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34869-2. 
  • Jones, Don (1986). Oba, The Last Samurai. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-245-X. 
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot (2001 (reissue)). New Guinea and the Marianas, March 1944-August 1944, vol. 8 of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Champaign, Illinois, USA: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-07038-0. 

External links[]

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