Thursday, March 1, 2012

Jisaburo Ozawa

Ozawa was probably the most courageous officer in the Imperial Navy. He... interpreted Horatio Nelson in terms of the Samurai code and lived accordingly.
A First Mobile Fleet carrier captain.

Amidst all their setbacks, at Midway, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and, most recently, in the Marshalls, Japan was still determined to fight on against the American onslaught. On March 1, 1944, the First Mobile Fleet was created by Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa. Despite the name, there was never a second, and, as historian Barrett Tillman has written, "Apart from few other assets, Ozawa commanded a force ill prepared for a major engagement."

Vice Admiral Jisaburo "Gargoyle" Ozawa.
History is typically written by the victors, and the Second World War, especially in the Pacific, is no exception. In light of the failures Mars had bestowed upon him, first at the Philippine Sea, then at Leyte Gulf, Ozawa has been painted as one of those incompetent Japanese commanders who had far more tenacity than military ingenuity. Tall and, it was said, ugly ("Gargoyle" people called him), brains were one of the key characteristics he brought to the table.

If that was not enough, he brought considerable experience in the Imperial Japanese Navy as well as a knowledge of his American opponent. After graduating from the naval academy in 1909, Ozawa specialized in torpedoes and became a captain of several warships. In 1930, he visited the United States, seeing its might just as Yamamoto and Kuribayashi had. Seven years later, he became the Combined fleet chief of staff, a position he held to the following year. While World War II was just beginning in Europe, the innovative Ozawa was one of the leading proponents of uniting all the carriers under a single command, advice that Isoruku Yamammoto took and got the vast majority of the credit for. Then, in the eastern portion of the globe, war clouds started gathering.

With such a tense relationship between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan, Ozawa took command of the Southern Expeditionary Fleet, the conquerer (once war was declared, of course) of the Dutch East Indies and Malaya. In the aftermath of the disaster at Midway, he replaced Vice Admiral Nagumo, and in that position and in reaction to the fast carrier task force of his enemy, he created the First Mobile Fleet.

Seven days after that fleet was born, Admiral Mineichi Koga, the commander of the Combined Fleet, (Yamammoto had died the previous year, one of the many casualties of the war) promulgated Operation Z, which envisioned that the ultimate battle between the American and Japanese naval forces would take place in New Guinea, the Palaus, and the Marianas. The road to the Battle of the Philippine Sea had begun... and the First Mobile Fleet's baptism of fire.

No comments:

Post a Comment