War in the Pacific
The closest squeak and the greatest victory. -- George C. Marshall Jr. on the Battle of Midway
During the first days of December 1941, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander-in-chief of Japan's Combined Fleet, fretted in his headquarters aboard the battleship Nagato in Hiroshima Bay. On November 26 he had directed a powerful task force under Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo to sortie from Hitokappu Bay in the Kurile Islands, under orders to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Though Yamamoto had provided that "in the event an agreement is reached in the negotiations with the United States, the Task Force will immediately return to Japan," the negotiations had by now irretrievably collapsed. There would be no turning back.1
Other Japanese naval forces were at the same time initiating the massive Southern Operation, slicing southward from Japan to land invasion troops in the Philippines, Malaya, and the great oil-rich prize of the Dutch East Indies. The Hawaii expedition was the pivot of this complex scheme. On the outcome at Pearl Harbor turned the fate of the Southern Operation, which could not imaginably succeed if its eastern flank remained exposed to the firepower of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Because of the very power of that fleet, concentrated in the midocean anchorage of Hawaii, Nagumo's mission was also the most perilous of the several huge military operations Japan now had under way.
Preparations for the assault on Pearl Harbor had been exhaustive, including repeated mock attacks on a model of the Hawaiian base set____________________