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Keiji Shibazaki
Born (1894-04-09)April 9, 1894
Died November 20, 1943(1943-11-20) (aged 49)[1]
Place of birth Kasai, Hyōgo, Japan
Place of death Tarawa
Allegiance  Empire of Japan
Service/branch  Imperial Japanese Navy
Years of service 1915 -1943
Rank Vice-Admiral (posthumous)
Commands held Gunboat Ataka,
Tarawa Garrison
Battles/wars World War II,
Battle of Tarawa

Keiji Shibazaki (柴崎 恵次 Shibazaki Keiji?, 9 April 1894 – 20 November 1943) was a rear admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy and the commander of the Japanese garrison on the island of Betio of the Tarawa atoll during World War II.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Shibazaki was born in Kasai city, Hyogo prefecture. He was a graduate of the 43rd class of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1915, ranking 26th out of 95 cadets. He served as midshipman on the cruiser Azuma and battleship Settsu. As a Kaigun Shōi, he was assigned to Satsuma and cruiser Yakumo. As a Kaigun Chūi, he served on the cruiser Chikuma, destroyer Kaba and battleship Yamashiro.

Shibazaki was promoted to Kaigun Taii in 1921, and after taking courses in navigation, was assigned as chief navigator to Tachikaze, oiler Kamoi and survey ship Musashi. After his promotion to Kaigun Shōsa in 1927, he was appointed aide-de-camp to Prince Kuni Asaakira from 1932-1933. In 1936, he received his first command, the gunboat Ataka. Promoted to Kaigun Taisa in 1937, he served in various staff positions, primarily in Kure and in Shanghai.

Shibazaki was promoted to Kaigun Shōshō on 1 May 1943. He arrived on Betio in Tarawa in September 1943 to take command of the Japanese garrison, including 1,122 Imperial Marines forming the 3rd Special Base Force (formerly the 6th Yokosuka SNLF), 1,497 Imperial Marines forming the 7th Sasebo Special Naval Landing Force, and 1,427 (mostly Korean and Chinese) laborers forming the 111th Pioneers construction unit, and a detachment of 970 laborers from the 4th Fleet Construction Unit.[2]

Shibazaki was a veteran of amphibious landings in China during the late 1930s and was aware of the difficulties facing an amphibious landing force. He built extensive defenses on Betio to defend its strategically important airfield, and famously boasted to his troops that "it would take one million men one hundred years" to conquer the island.[3]

Shibazaki is believed to have been killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Tarawa sometime on mid-afternoon of 20 November 1943: reportedly, he and all his senior officers were killed by naval gunfire from USN destroyers while they were walking to a secondary command post away from the front lines on the beaches.

Shibazaki was posthumously promoted to vice-admiral

References[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

  • Wukovitz, John (2007). One Square Mile of Hell: The Battle for Tarawa. NAL Trade. ISBN 0-451-22138-9. 

External links[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Nishida, Imperial Japanese Navy
  2. Stockman, Marines in World War II
  3. Wukovitz, One Square Mile of Hell


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