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Early Success of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto - Pearl Harbour Campaign

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It was late fall in 1941. Negotiations between Japan and the United States had broken down. Neither nation was in any mood to compromise. On December 1st of that year, at the Imperial Conference, the Japanese Government made the decision to go to war.

In agreement with Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's plan as Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the aircraft carrier strike force, commanded by Vice Admiral Nagumo Chuichi, sailed eastwards and reached Hawaii undetected. From there and in the early morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, an attack was launched in two waves at the United States Pacific naval base at Pearl Harbour. The numbers of casualties suffered, fatalities inflicted and assets destroyed were far more compared to the Japanese side. In her attempts to pursue control of Greater East Asia, Pearl Harbour campaign was the first event that brought Japan into the Second World.

The purpose of this essay is to draw insights from studying Admiral Yamamoto's leadership during the Pearl Harbour campaign. This essay uses the primary colours model to analyse Yamamoto's command effectiveness and to identify the fundamentals that can be learnt or applied in the contemporary environment.

In Admiral Yamamoto's correspondence to his closest classmate, Vice Admiral Shimada, during the tension time between Japan and the US, "If... it is felt that war cannot be avoided, it would be best to decide on war with America from the beginning and to begin by taking the Philippines, thereby reducing the line of operations and assuring the sound execution of operation ... " . The attack on Pearl Harbour was primarily Yamamoto's original plan, where he was fully committed to the emperor's grand strategic plan in pursuing new resources in the region even though he did not agree with the grand strategic plan of Greater East Asia bringing Japan to war.

Sweetman and Hughes stated that, Admiral Yamamoto believed and prophesied Japan will only be successful in maintaining success for a year or at most eighteen months in war with the US. Before picking up a plan, Yamammoto already understood the constraints and limitations of having the US take part in the war. Understanding the consequences, Yamamoto insisted on Pearl harbour due to the fact that bringing the US Pacific Fleet to their knees was the only way Japan will ever take over East Asia without any significant resistance. With his determination and persistence, the emperor and the Naval General Staff adopted Yamamoto's Plan on Pearl Harbour campaign even though they were skeptical of it. This shows that Yamamoto's leadership competencies at that higher level as autocratic and result-focused. Though the higher authorities questioned the credibility of Yamamoto's plan, they all agreed with the plan due to the fact that Japan had no other alternatives after the signing of the Tripartite Pact (Alignment with Germany and Italy).

Taking the helm of the combined fleet was a heavy burden for Admiral Yamamoto but due to his loyalty to the emperor and nation, he aligned himself to fulfil the mission at his utmost capability. By commanding the combined fleet which consisted of the Imperial Air Force and Imperial Navy, he set their purpose, vision, mission and values for the successful attack over US Pacific Fleet. His entire commander subordinates understood the intent of the hierarchy which in turn created the alignment of strategic and interpersonal domain.

In strategic domain, Yamamoto during the initial phase of planning showed the critical factor in achieving the vision and making sense of the probable outcomes when Japan made the fateful alignment with Germany and Italy. With no other choices, Yamamoto created plans and influenced the hierarchy to respond with high hopes of bringing down the mighty American Navy in which to make further plans in advancement of the Imperial Army south towards Malaya and the Philippines. Organisation values, which reside in most of Japanese culture, well known as 'Samurai' tradition , held dearly by most service men in the Imperial services, may well be the factor that held the spirit de corps amongst the top level officers in Yamamoto's staff.

During Yamamoto's planning of the campaign, it was agreed that his plan was far from perfect and near impossible to be implemented due to the nature and geographical limitations which needed to be overcome. By exercising mission command, Yamamoto directed his staff and laid the plan to them and consequently his subordinates brought the matter within their areas of expertise . In exercising mission command, Yamamoto gained trust in his subordinate commanders and achieved mutual understanding in his strategic intentions. In this context, Yamamoto gave empowerment to his subordinates to dwell in the problems clouding the attack plan and consequently brought out innovation and team work in his people and ultimately perfecting his plan. In contrast, Yamamoto's plan was perfected by Commander Minoru Genda who specialised in air combat. Genda spent most of his time in adopting and perfecting the plan with other specialists who were proud to be in the planning circle. Yamamoto carried the rank, position, prestige, and driving force whereas Genda possessed the greater technical knowledge in the project of attacking Pearl Harbour . Yamamoto's empowerment to his subordinates definitely showed two areas of overlap in the primary colours model; planning and organising and creating alignment with his staff. Yamamoto may not have the sharpest of brains but he had his resources of capable staff under his command which he utilised as the best tools in solving problems.

Yamamoto worked well in this environment, had no quarrels in seniority amongst his subordinates and formed a team which excelled in producing an exceptional plan. He possessed strategic vision, and can be correctly credited as the catalyst for transformation of the combined fleet. He foresaw the evolving nature of the strategic threat to the nation and hence developed innovative concepts for the organisations to adapt to and remain relevant during that time. Yamamoto was considered a true believer for converting the imperial navy from a battleship focused fleet to an aircraft carrier focused fleet. He led by intimidation, did not accept criticisms, and liked original thinking - provided it was his own or from someone he could manipulate.

During the planning stages of the campaign, the plan was very secretive where Yamamoto only revealed his intentions to his closest circle of acquaintances. This may prove difficult to analyse what qualities



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