This documentary focuses on the famed Japanese admiral, Isoroku Yamamoto, who was against war with the United States of America and Japan’s Axis relationship with Germany and Italy in World War II, yet when asked (advised strongly) to put his personal feelings aside, planned Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and was also the architect of the legendary Battle of Midway in early June of 1942, a defeat that changed the tide of the war in the Pacific against the Japanese.
We visit Isoroku Yamamoto’s home city of Nagaoka in northern Japan where there are monuments and museums dedicated to one of World War II’s most famous leaders and where his ashes are buried. We hear about the admiral in an extremely rare interview with his grandson, Gentaro and local historians. This documentary also takes the viewer to Bougainville island in Papua, New Guinea where on April 18th, 1943 American P-38 fighters based on Guadalcanal executed an almost flawless mission to intercept Yamamoto’s Betty Bomber and shoot it down, killing Yamamoto. A mission that changes the course of the war by removing Japan’s top strategist and commander-in-chief of the Combined Naval Fleet from any future battles.
But who really was Isoroku Yamamoto? Was he a warmonger or a realist when it came to war with America? Was is his legacy in Japan today? Did he really claim he would “dictate surrender terms from the White House” when Japan defeated the United States in WWII? Why didn’t the Japanese military establishment listen to his repeated warnings about the industrial might of the United States prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor? Was this a man who really liked the United States? He had spent much time studying its history and culture while living in America. Yamamoto admired such Americans as President Abraham Lincoln, so why did he wage war with a nation he respected and liked? He even enjoyed watching college football while stationed in the United States.
In the end, Yamamoto was a gambler when it came to games of chance and in life too. He also gambled when it came to “awakening a sleeping giant” in the United States. Who was Admiral Yamamoto? What is his place in WWII? What was his early like in Nagaoka? Why did American President Franklin D. Roosevelt hardly hesitate to give the go-ahead to kill him when the opportunity presented itself?