Chūichi Nagumo

Chūichi Nagumo[lower-alpha 1] (25 March 1887 6 July 1944) was a Japanese admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during World War II and onetime commander of the Kido Butai (the carrier battle group).[3] He committed suicide during the Battle of Saipan.

Chūichi Nagumo
南雲 忠一
Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo
Born25 March 1887
Yonezawa, Yamagata Japan
DiedJuly 6, 1944(1944-07-06) (aged 57)[1]
Saipan, South Pacific Mandate
Allegiance Japan
Service/branch Imperial Japanese Navy
Years of service1908–1944
UnitKido Butai
Commands heldAki, Hatsuyuki, Kirishima, Sugi, Kisaragi, Momi, Naka, Takao, Yamashiro
11th Destroyer Division, 8th Cruiser Division, 3rd Battleship Division, Kido Butai, 1st Carrier Division, First Air Fleet, IJN 3rd Fleet, Sasebo Naval District, Kure Naval District, First Fleet, Central Pacific Area Fleet, Fourteenth Air Fleet[2]
Battles/warsWorld War II
Attack on Pearl Harbor
Bombing of Darwin
Indian Ocean Raid
Battle of Midway
Battle of the Eastern Solomons
Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands
Battle of Saipan 
AwardsOrder of the Rising Sun (3rd class)
Order of the Rising Sun (4th class)
Order of the Golden Kite (3rd class)
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure (1st class)[2]


Early life

Nagumo was born in the city of Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan in 1887. He graduated from the 36th class of the IJN Academy in 1908, with a ranking of 8 out of a class of 191 cadets. As a midshipman, he served in the protected cruisers Soya and Niitaka and the armored cruiser Nisshin. After his promotion to ensign in 1910, he was assigned to cruiser Asama.

After attending torpedo and naval artillery schools, he was promoted to sub-lieutenant and served in the battleship Aki, followed by the destroyer Hatsuyuki. In 1914, he was promoted to lieutenant and was assigned to the battlecruiser Kirishima, followed by the destroyer Sugi. He was assigned his first command, the destroyer Kisaragi, on 15 December 1917.

Nagumo graduated from the Naval War College, and was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1920. His specialty was torpedo and destroyer tactics. From 1920 to 1921, he was captain of the destroyer Momi, but was soon sent to shore duty with various assignments by the IJN General Staff. He became a commander in 1924. From 1925 to 1926, Nagumo accompanied a Japanese mission to study naval warfare strategy, tactics, and equipment in Europe and the United States.

After his return to Japan, Nagumo was appointed captain of the river gunboat Saga from 20 March 1926 to 15 October 1926, followed by the gunboat Uji from 15 October 1926 to 15 November 1927. He then served as an instructor at the IJN Academy from 1927 to 1929. Nagumo was promoted to captain in November 1929 and assumed command of the light cruiser Naka and from 1930 to 1931 was commander of the 11th Destroyer Division. After serving in administrative positions from 1931 to 1933, he assumed command of the heavy cruiser Takao from 1933 to 1934, and the battleship Yamashiro from 1934 to 1935. He was promoted to rear admiral on 1 November 1935.

As a rear admiral, Nagumo commanded the 8th Cruiser Division to support Imperial Japanese Army movements in China from the Yellow Sea. As a leading officer of the militaristic Fleet Faction, he also received a boost in his career from political forces.

From 1937 to 1938, he was commandant of the Torpedo School, and from 1938 to 1939, he was commander of the 3rd Cruiser Division. Nagumo was promoted to vice admiral on 15 November 1939. From November 1940-April 1941, Nagumo was commandant of the Naval War College.

World War II

On 10 April 1941, Nagumo was appointed commander-in-chief of the First Air Fleet, the IJN′s main carrier battle group, largely due to his seniority. Many contemporaries and historians have doubted his suitability for this command, given his lack of familiarity with naval aviation.

By this time, he had visibly aged, physically and mentally. Physically, he suffered from arthritis, perhaps from his younger days as a kendoka.[4] Mentally, he had become a cautious officer who carefully worked over the tactical plans of every operation he was involved in.

Admiral Nishizo Tsukahara had doubts about Nagumo's appointment, and commented, "Nagumo was an officer of the old school, a specialist of torpedo and surface maneuvers.... He did not have any idea of the capability and potential of naval aviation." One son of Nagumo described him as a brooding father, obsessed with and later regretful about pressuring his sons into the IJN. In contrast, Nagumo's junior naval officers thought of him as a father figure.[4]

Despite his limited experience, he was a strong advocate of combining sea and air power although he was opposed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's plan to attack the United States Navy Naval Station Pearl Harbor.[5] While commanding the First Air Fleet, Nagumo oversaw the attack on Pearl Harbor, but he was later criticized for his failure to launch a third attack,[6] which might have destroyed the fuel oil storage and repair facilities. This could have rendered the most important U.S. naval base in the Pacific useless, especially as the use of the submarine base and intelligence station at the installation were critical factors in Japan's defeat in the Pacific War.[7]

Nagumo was surrounded by able lieutenants such as Minoru Genda and Mitsuo Fuchida. He also fought well in the early 1942 campaigns, obtaining success as a fleet commander at the Bombing of Darwin and at the Indian Ocean raid on the British Eastern Fleet, the latter of which sank an aircraft carrier, two cruisers, and two destroyers, and caused Admiral Sir James Somerville to retreat to East Africa.

The Battle of Midway, in June 1942, brought Nagumo's near-perfect record to an end. The First Air Fleet lost four carriers during the turning point of the Pacific War, and the massive losses of carrier aircraft maintenance personnel would prove detrimental to the performance of the IJN in later engagements. The loss of the four carriers, their aircraft, and their maintenance crews, plus the loss of 120 experienced pilots, resulted in Japan losing the strategic initiative in the Pacific.[8]

Afterwards, Nagumo was reassigned as commander-in-chief of the Third Fleet and commanded aircraft carriers in the Guadalcanal campaign, although there his actions were largely indecisive and slowly frittered away much of Japan's maritime strength.

Final days

On 11 November 1942, Nagumo was reassigned to Japan, where he was given command of the Sasebo Naval District. He transferred to the Kure Naval District on 21 June 1943. From October 1943 to February 1944, Nagumo was again commander-in-chief of First Fleet, which was by that time largely involved in only training duties.

As Japan's military situation deteriorated, Nagumo was deployed on 4 March 1944 for the short-lived command of the 14th Air Fleet and the Central Pacific Area Fleet in the Mariana Islands.

The Battle of Saipan began on 15 June 1944. The IJN, under Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa, was overwhelmed within days by the U.S. 5th Fleet in the decisive Battle of the Philippine Sea, where Japan lost three fleet carriers and about 600 aircraft. Nagumo and his Army peer General Yoshitsugu Saito then were on their own to keep control of Saipan. On 6 July, Nagumo killed himself with a pistol to the temple rather than the traditional seppuku. His remains were recovered by the U.S. Marines in the cave where he spent his last days as the Japanese commander of Saipan.[9] He was posthumously promoted to admiral and awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Golden Kite.

Nagumo's grave is located at the Ōbai-in sub-temple of Engaku-ji in Kanagawa, next to the grave of his son, Susumu Nagumo, who was killed in battle aboard the destroyer Kishinami on 2 December 1944.

Ranks obtained

IJN Insignia Rank Date
海軍少尉候補生 Kaigun Shōi Kōhōsei
21 November 1908
海軍少尉 Kaigun Shōi
15 January 1910
海軍中尉 Kaigun Chūi
(Sub-Lieutenant/Lieutenant Junior Grade)
1 December 1911
海軍大尉 Kaigun Daii
1 December 1914
海軍少佐 Kaigun Shōsa
1 December 1920
海軍中佐 Kaigun Chūsa
1 December 1924
海軍大佐 Kaigun Daisa
30 November 1929
海軍少将 Kaigun Shōshō
15 November 1935
海軍中将 Kaigun Chūjō
15 November 1939
海軍大将 Kaigun Taishō
8 July 1944 (Posthumous)[1]
Military offices
Preceded by
Ban Jirō
Commanding Officer of the Naka
30 November 1929 - 1 December 1930
Succeeded by
Yamada Sadao
Preceded by
Sawamoto Yorio
Commanding Officer of the Takao
15 November 1933 - 15 November 1934
Succeeded by
Gotō Eiji
Preceded by
Kojima Kentarō
Commanding Officer of the Yamashiro
15 November 1934 - 15 November 1935
Succeeded by
Ookuma Masakichi
Preceded by
None, Fleet created
Commander-in-chief of the 1st Air Fleet
10 April 1941 - 14 July 1942
Succeeded by
Fleet reorganized as 3rd Fleet, CiC 1st Air Fleet next held by Kakuji Kakuta
Preceded by
Himself as CiC 1st Air Fleet, CiC 3rd Fleet last held by Takahashi Ibō
Commander-in-chief of the 3rd Fleet
14 July 1942 - 11 November 1942
Succeeded by
Ozawa Jisaburō
Preceded by
Tanimoto Matarō
Commander-in-chief of Sasebo Naval District
11 November 1942 - 21 June 1943
Succeeded by
Komatsu Teruhisa
Preceded by
Takahashi Ibō
Commander-in-chief of Kure Naval District
21 June 1943 - 20 October 1943
Succeeded by
Nomura Naokuni
Preceded by
Shimizu Mitsumi
Commander-in-chief of the 1st Fleet
20 October 1943 - 25 February 1944
Succeeded by
Fleet dissolved
Preceded by
Fleet created
of the Central Pacific Area Fleet & the 14th Air Fleet

4 March 1944 - 8 July 1944
Succeeded by
Post left vacant following Nagumo's death
Fleet dissolved 18 July 1944
  • In the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!, Nagumo was portrayed by Japanese actor Eijirō Tōno.
  • In the 1976 film Midway, Nagumo was portrayed by American actor James Shigeta.
  • In the 2011 film Isoroku, Nagumo was portrayed by Japanese actor Takeo Nakahara.
  • In the 2019 film Midway, Nagumo was portrayed by Japanese actor Jun Kunimura.
  • In the 2004 video game Axis and Allies, Nagumo is one of four playable Japanese commanders, alongside his more famous superior, Yamamoto.
  • Douglas Niles featured Nagumo in his alternate history novel MacArthur's War: A Novel of the Invasion of Japan (2007).


  1. 南雲 忠一 Nagumo Chūichi
  1. Nishida, Imperial Japanese Navy
  2. Nagumo Chuichi at
  3. Klemen, L. "Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941–1942. Archived from the original on 2012-06-30.
  4. World War II Database page on Nagumo.
  5. Evans, Kaigun, p. 529
  6. Blair, Clay, Jr. Silent Victory (Lippincott, 1975); Willmott, H. P. Barrier and the Javelin (United States Naval Institute Press, 1983); Holmes, W. J. Double-Edged Secrets (United States Naval Institute Press, 1979).
  7. Blair, passim; Holmes, passim.
  8. Judge, Sean M. (2018). House, Jonathan M. (ed.). The Turn of the Tide in the Pacific War. University Press of Kansas. p. 143.
  9. Breaching the Marianas: The Battle for Saipan


  • D'Albas, Andrieu (1965). Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II. Devin-Adair Pub. ISBN 0-8159-5302-X.
  • Dull, Paul S. (1978). A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-097-1.
  • Denfeld, D. Colt (1997). Hold the Marianas: The Japanese Defense of the Mariana Islands. White Mane Pub. ISBN 1-57249-014-4.
  • Evans, David (1979). Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-192-7.
  • Goldberg, Harold J. (2007). D-day in the Pacific: The Battle of Saipan. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34869-2.
  • Jones, Don (1986). Oba, The Last Samurai. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-245-X.
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot (2001). New Guinea and the Marianas, March 1944-August 1944, vol. 8 of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II (reissue ed.). Champaign, Illinois, US: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-07038-0.
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