How the U.S. Assassinated the Japanese Admiral Who Planned the Pearl Harbor Attack

    Michael Peck

    Security,

    Some sixty-eight years before U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden, America conducted an assassination of another kind.

    But what’s really interesting is that compared with the controversy over today’s targeted assassinations, there was remarkably little fuss made over the decision to kill Yamamoto. The U.S. military treated it as a purely military matter that didn’t need civilian approval. Admiral Nimitz authorized the interception, and the orders were passed down the military chain of command. There was no presidential decision nor Justice Department review. It’s hard to imagine that the killing of a top Al Qaeda leader, let alone a top Russian, Chinese or North Korean commander, would be treated so routinely.

    Some sixty-eight years before U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden, America conducted an assassination of another kind.

    This time, the target wasn’t a terrorist. It was the Japanese admiral who planned the Pearl Harbor operation. But the motive was the same: payback for a sneak attack on the United States.

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    In early 1943, Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, commander in chief of the Japanese Navy, was one of the most hated men in America. He was seen as the Asian Devil in naval dress, the fiend who treacherously struck peaceful, sleeping America. And when the United States saw a chance for payback in April 1943, there was no hesitation. Hence a code name unmistakable in its intent: Operation Vengeance.

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