Isoroku Yamamoto (4 April 1884 – 18 April 1943) was a Fleet Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during World War II. He was a graduate of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy and an alumnus of the U.S. Naval War College and Harvard University. He died during an inspection tour of forward positions in the Solomon Islands when his transport aircraft was ambushed by American P-38 Lightning fighter planes. His death was a major blow to Japanese military morale during World War II.
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- Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it is not enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. To make victory certain, we would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House. I wonder if our politicians, among whom armchair arguments about war are being glibly bandied about in the name of state politics, have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.
- As quoted in At Dawn We Slept (1981) by Gordon W. Prange, p. 11; this quote was stated in a letter to Ryoichi Sasakawa prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Minus the last sentence, it was taken out of context and interpreted in the U.S. as a boast that Japan would conquer the entire contiguous United States. The omitted sentence showed Yamamoto's counsel of caution towards a war that would cost Japan dearly.
- A military man can scarcely pride himself on having "smitten a sleeping enemy"; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack.
- In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success.
- Statement to Japanese cabinet minister Shigeharu Matsumoto and Japanese prime minister Fumimaro Konoe, as quoted in Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan (1985) by Ronald Spector. This remark would later prove prophetic; precisely six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese navy would suffer a major defeat at the Battle of Midway, from which it never recovered.
- The fiercest serpent may be overcome by a swarm of ants.
- Statement in opposition of the planned construction of the Yamato class battleships, as quoted in Scraps of paper: the disarmament treaties between the world wars (1989) by Harlow A. Hyde. In this statement, Yamamoto implies that even the most powerful battleships can be sunk by a huge swarm of carrier planes. This remark also proved prophetic as both Yamato and Musashi would be sunk by overwhelming air attacks.
- I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.
- Statement made after the attack on Pearl Harbor by Yamamoto as portrayed in the film Tora! Tora! Tora!, this is one of the most quoted remarks attributed to him. Though it is thought that it summarizes his sentiments well, a definite source for this quote has never been provided. William Safire wrote that there is no printed evidence to support this quote. Safire's Political Dictionary, page 666. For more information see the Wikipedia article "Isoroku Yamamoto's sleeping giant quote".
- You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.
- It has been declared this attribution is "unsubstantiated and almost certainly bogus, even though it has been repeated thousands of times in various Internet postings. There is no record of the commander in chief of Japan’s wartime fleet ever saying it.", according to Brooks Jackson in "Misquoting Yamamoto" at Factcheck.org (11 May 2009), which cites Donald M. Goldstein, sometimes called "the dean of Pearl Harbor historians", writing "I have never seen it in writing. It has been attributed to the Prange files [the files of the late Gordon W. Prange, chief historian on the staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur]".