On Assassinating Military Leaders

After years at war, American military and intelligence officials finally had the goods on the enemy leader whose attack plan led to the deaths of thousands of Americans in a single morning. Pentagon and intelligence officials wanted the President’s blessing to assassinate the enemy before he escaped. The President agreed, and the deed was done.

The date was April 6, 1943, and the target was the head of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the Harvard-educated Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. American signals intelligence had uncovered his Solomon Islands inspection trip itinerary. Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, brought the information and the assassination plan–an aerial intercept by six long-range P-38 fighter planes–to President Franklin Roosevelt for his consideration. Roosevelt green-lighted the plan. It took a month for the Japanese government to acknowledge Yamamoto’s loss.

The war in the Pacific would drag on for more than two years after his death, but Yamamoto’s passing meant the Japanese Navy had lost it’s most talented and inspirational leader. The IJN never won another campaign after his demise. With their leader dead and their operational planner in U.S. custody, we can only hope Al Qaeda has suffered a similar blow. Only time will tell.

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