By Leavitt H. W., Gowen J. W.
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Even securing the northern portion of the country would create a beachhead on the Allies’ most important remaining bastion in the South Pacific. The Japanese were well aware that Australia figured prominently in America’s calculations. There were indications that the United States intended to use it as a jumping off point for operations in the south. Capturing their base would preempt these operations. Indeed, Admiral Nagumo’s raid against Darwin was launched partly with such a goal in mind. 11 It was also advocated by the fiery Vice Admiral Inoue Shigeyoshi, an airpower visionary and now the current commander of the Navy’s Fourth Fleet (headquartered at Truk), which had authority over operations in the southern region.
Nagumo had been a member of the militaristic Fleet Faction, which opposed the treaty as if it were a national hemlock. Given that Yamamoto’s life had been threatened by extremist members of the Fleet Faction, it can be safely speculated that each man loathed the other. Yamamoto could not have been happy that it was Nagumo who was put in charge of First Air Fleet when it was formed in April 1941. This new entity, which concentrated all the large flight decks in the fleet into a single tactical unit, needed to be commanded by a vice admiral.
His ambitions to have his two sons follow him into the Navy were destined for disappointment. Nagumo was all business and rarely joked at home, seemingly always consumed with the concerns of a career Navy officer. He was often at sea, leaving his three children for long periods of time. To his junior officers, he often appeared friendly, evincing the sort of fatherly familiarity that his own son apparently rarely saw. He was always willing to lend them a helping hand and provide advice. He was also given to delegating responsibility to younger men, sometimes too much so.