The Pilots Who Failed to Protect Admiral Yamamoto

The video creator uses War Thunder to recreate the events of Operation Vengeance and what happened to the Japanese flight flying cover for Yamamoto’s bomber. Really well done. The second link is from the YT creator’s comments of the Yamamoto Mission Retrospective Survival Panel, also worth a watch.


From my research there are some discrepancies in the video but it seemed to be a solid effort on his part to get things correct. :+1:

In the Ingress all of the P-38 fighters flew to the target area at 50 feet.
I have posted about the mission in the past.



The two points I find interesting about this are the Japanese perspective on “failure” and how they never updated their comms encryption when it had clearly been compromised since Midway.


My understanding is that the IJN refused to believe their encryption had been cracked, despite Midway. And after the interception of Yamamoto continued to believe, and in a lot of ways this reinforced the belief, that it was the Army codes that had been broken.

It was this hubris(?) that IMHO avoided what could have been one of the greatest allied blunders of the war - the compromise of allied sigint capabilities.


I tend to agree with you Wheels. I just finished Dick Lehr’s Dead Reckoning, read this recent article at the Air & Space Forces Magazine website, and most importantly listened to Johnny Mitchell tell the story (linked video). To me it sounds like for most of the ingress the P-38s remained at low altitude (50-100 ft) in order to remain undetected by Japanese radar on the occupied islands they passed. As they neared Bougainville they climbed, but none of the articles or books that I read is very specific on this. Lehr states that as they turned east, Mitchell initially had the cover flight climb out of the haze to verify his position. But then they spotted Yamamoto’s descending flight shortly thereafter. Regardless, it was a spectacular navigation achievement. Dead reckoning indeed.


Just finished watching the video.


Nicely done and what a story. Thanks for sharing!

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Coincidentally, I just finished watching Shogun on FX, which was excellent. It brought me back to the Yamamoto intercept and the reports of the team that searched for and found the aircraft wreckage and Yamamoto’s body, still strapped in his seat, but thrown clear of the burning aircraft.

I’ve read more than one article that reported the brave admiral was found clutching his sword. Granted, I’m not a forensic examiner, nor do I possess any sort of medical training outside of elementary battlefield firstaid. But with all due respect to the admiral, the more that I consider his being shot through the shoulder and head with a .50 from pursuing P-38 Lightning aircraft, the less inclined I am to believe that the sword clutching story. Given the nature and severity of his wounds and the traumatic way that he was ejected from his stricken aircraft, it seems logical that he would not had the wherewithal or involuntary reflexes to grasp anything.

It certainly makes for a good story, one that has been retold many times by historians who attempt to piece together the facts of the mission and events following. IMHO, it attempts to add more dignity to what must have been a tragic and embarrassing loss to Japan and its armed forces. In fact, Yamamoto was reported to be found “in a state of great dignity” clutching his samurai sword. Perhaps there is a photo or corroborating reports from the descendants of the recovery team or indigenous people of Bougainville Island. I remain unconvinced, but what purpose does my skepticism provide? Only that Yamamoto appears to be given the same reverence as a Shogun.


I’ve also been suspicious of his post-mortem treatment. Quite convenient for a highly revered military leader to be thrown clear of wreckage, still holding his katana, and being “instantly recognizable” despite a .50cal round to the face. It’s also documented that the autopsy report was significantly white-washed to hide the “more violent details” about his death.

Anyone know how soon wild animals in the jungle would descend upon a body within 24 hours?

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There aren’t a lot of carnivorous animals on Bougainville that would go for a (human) body. Quolls (a marsupial), but I think they will only eat carrion if food is scarce. Other than that it is basically rats… I am pretty sure it wouldn’t take them long to have a nibble?