Mitsuo Fuchida ( 3 December 1902 – 30 May 1976) was a Japanese captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and a bomber aviator in the Japanese navy before and during World War II.
He is perhaps best known for leading the first air wave attacks on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Working under the overall fleet commander, Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo, Fuchida was responsible for the coordination of the entire aerial attack.
After the war ended, Fuchida became a Christian evangelist and traveled through the United States and Europe to tell his story. He settled permanently in the United States but never became a U.S. citizen.
Mitsuo Fuchida was born in what is now part of Katsuragi, Nara Prefecture, Japan. He entered the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy at Etajima, Hiroshima, in 1921, where he befriended classmate Minoru Genda and discovered an interest in flying.
He graduated as a midshipman on 24 July 1924, and was promoted to ensign on 1 December 1925 and to sub-lieutenant on 1 December 1927. He was promoted to lieutenant on 1 December 1930.
Specializing in horizontal bombing, Fuchida was made an instructor in that technique in 1936. He gained combat experience during the Second Sino-Japanese War, when he was assigned to the aircraft carrier Kaga in 1929 and then to the Sasebo Air Group,
He was promoted to lieutenant commander on 1 December 1936 and was accepted into the Naval Staff College. Fuchida joined the aircraft carrier Akagi in 1939 as the commander of the air group. Fuchida was made commander in October 1941.
After recuperation, Fuchida spent the rest of the war as a staff officer. In October 1944 he was promoted to captain. The day before the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, he was in that city to attend a week-long military conference with Japanese army officers.
Fuchida received a long-distance call from Navy Headquarters asking him to return to Tokyo. The day after the bombing, he returned to Hiroshima with a party sent to assess the damage.
All members of Fuchida’s party died of radiation poisoning, but Fuchida exhibited no symptoms. Fuchida’s military career ended with his demobilization in November 1945.
Fuchida was an important figure in the early portion of the Pacific War, and his written accounts, translated into English and published in America, were highly influential.
As more Japanese source works were translated to English, the veracity of Fuchida’s statement, quoted in At Dawn We Slept, of having demanded a third-wave Attack on Pearl Harbor’s fuel tanks, and his later account of the timing of the American counter-attack in the Battle of Midway have been disputed by historians Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully.
However, in Fuchida’s memoir, Fuchida does not claim demanding a third wave. Fuchida, rather, says “I was upset [about no re-attack] and thought, “What stupidity!” But the decision belonged to the Commander. It would not do any good if I complained.”
Whether the discrepant cause is Fuchida’s or author Gordon Prange’s can not be determined. As well, Tully and Parshall have dismissed Fuchida’s uncorroborated attendance on the battleship USS Missouri during the Japanese surrender ceremony in 1945 as beyond credulity.
When asked what his views of the Hiroshima bombing was, Fuchida stated that although “it was a disaster”, it was his belief that “it saved half a million lives”.
In the 1970 film Tora, Tora, Tora, Fuchida was portrayed by Japanese actor Takahiro Tamura.
Fuchida’s hand-drawn map showing the post-Pearl Harbor attack destruction sold at auction for $425,000 in New York City on 6 December 2013. The map had previously been owned by Malcolm Forbes.