Minoru Genda (16 August 1904 – 15 August 1989) served in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) before and during World War II. Genda was the strategist behind the successful December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
After the war, Genda joined the the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, eventually attaining the rank of general. He also entered politics, and was elected to the House of Councillors. His politics were generally hawkish on Japanese military defense.
Minoru Genda in Days of Infamy
By 1941, escalating tensions between the United States and Japan climaxed with a U.S.-imposed oil embargo against Japan. The Japanese government had resolved to declare war on the United States. Realizing that Japan could not definitively defeat the U.S., the Japanese military decided to strike at the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in the hopes of crippling the American Pacific fleet.
However, Minoru Genda believed that such an attack would be insufficient. Instead, he argued that Japan must conquer the whole of Hawaii in order to gain any strategic superiority over the United States. Genda presented this plan to both the Imperial Japanese Army and the Navy, specifically Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, in March 1941. Genda successfully persuaded Yamamoto who in turn convinced the navy and the army, and the planned attack became a planned invasion.
Genda helped oversee both the attack and the invasion. He was on board the Akagi with Admiral Chuichi Nagumo and air commander Mitsuo Fuchida. Genda convinced Nagumo that the American fleet posed no threat to the Japanese fleet. This, along with the optimism expressed by Lieutenant Saburo Shindo convinced Nagumo to continue the attack, and the invasion began.
Genda gained substantial prestige for his actions during the invasion. He was present during the formal surrender of U.S. forces by Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Short in February 1942. He and his friend Fuchida also participated in the selection of Stanley Owana Laanui as monarch of the reconstituted Kingdom of Hawaii.
Genda demonstrated his devotion to duty when, despite having been diagnosed with pneumonia, he forced his way onto the bridge of the Akagi to witness the rout of the U.S. invasion fleet steaming for Hawaii in June 1942. Although Admiral Yamamoto had the situation well in hand, he nonetheless praised Genda for his sense of duty and honor.
As 1942 came to a close, U.S. incursions against Hawaii via air raids and submarine attacks on shipping grew particularly worrisome. The Japanese army, and General Tomoyuki Yamashita in particular, were critical of the Navy's inability to halt these attacks. Genda found himself called to the Yamashita's office at Iolani Palace on several occasions. During one of these, he had an encounter with the queen of Hawaii, Cynthia Laanui. Genda discerned a mutual attraction, and initiated an affair with the queen.
In 1943, the anticipated U.S. invasion arrived. Genda witnessed the U.S. fleet's attack aboard the Akagi until a torpedo hit it amidships. Genda escaped. He and Queen Cynthia had one last rendezvous in a hotel room, where both realized that neither was going to escape from the island. Genda was also saddened to learn that his friend Mitsuo Fuchida had died over the Pacific.
Genda was offered the chance to escape in a Japanese submarine. He did not go to the meeting point, but instead stayed on the islands, resigned to his fate. He returned to Pearl Harbor briefly, finding himself in the company of Senior Private Yasuo Furusawa, the last surviving member of the 5th division. While Furusawa was technically derelict in his duty for retreating, Genda could not fault the young man for his decision.
As Pearl Harbor fell to the Americans, Genda and Furusawa made their way to Iolani Palace, so Genda could at least see Queen Cynthia one last time. He was present when King Stanley and Queen Cynthia walked into a room and closed the door. Stanley shot Cynthia, and then himself.
Genda then committed seppuku, with Furusawa acting as his second. Furusawa shot Genda in the head as the latter began disemboweling himself.