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Yamamoto, Isoroku

Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 24, 2004

    One of the key players in the Japanese war effort of World War II. Yamamoto, who studied at Harvard and had been a naval attache in Washington, was Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet, and the architect of the raid on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. For all that, Yamamoto had grave misgivings about the war. He stated that “if hostilities break out between Japan and the United States, it would not be enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Franscisco. To make victory certain, we would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House.”

    American propagandists got a hold of this phrase, and twisted it into a boast that Yamamoto would dictate the terms of peace in the White House. This is reflected in Tokio Jokio (McCabe, 1943), in which a character -- not an accurate depiction -- makes the above statement as a boast, followed by a shot of the room reserved for the Admiral, which has an electric chair.

    Irnoically, Yamamoto was already dead by the time the cartoon was released on May 15, 1943. One month earlier, on April 18, 1943, American long-range fighters, tipped off by code-breakers, ambushed the plane carrying Yamamoto, killing him. In a major intelligence failure, the Japanese failed to catch on that the Americans were deciphering many of their codes, much to the relief of the American high command. His death was not publicly revealed until Radio Tokyo made the announcement on May 21, 1943, a week after the cartoon was released.

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• The Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion is © (copyright) 1996 E. O. Costello. All rights reserved.

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