Operation Vengeance: an Impossible Mission

By | April 25, 2023

[April 25, 2023]  Eighty years ago, one of the most daring missions of WW2 took place that would have far-reaching implications, even today.  In April 1943, American P-38s carried out a near-suicidal mission to intercept and kill Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, mastermind of the Pearl Harbor raid.  This was Operation Vengeance.

The story of how the U.S. military intercepted and broke the secret Japanese naval communications code is fascinating.  It shows how the intelligence arms of the U.S. and the Allies played a significant role in bringing victory to the Allies and how that affects today’s Intell efforts.  A U.S. Air Force study gives us some insights (see link here).

Yamamoto was the commander-in-chief of the Japanese combined fleet.  In 1941 he organized the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.  The raid enraged the American people and initiated war between the two countries.  As a target, he was a high priority.*  Americans wanted him killed for Pearl Harbor and other war crimes.  An opportunity presented itself when in mid-April.

Eighteen pilots were selected for the mission.  They departed Guadalcanal on the morning of April 18, with Major John Mitchel leading them over the long route to the intercept point.  Due to precise calculations of where and when Yamamoto’s aircraft would be, and professional flying, the formation of P-38s arrived at the kill point.  “Bogeys!  Eleven o’clock high!”

Two Japanese bombers (escorting Yamamoto and Vice Admiral Martome Ugaki) and six Mitsubishi Zeros were spotted descending toward their destination airfield on Bougainville Island.  Both bombers were shot down.  It was determined later that Yamamoto was killed in the shot down, but Ugaki survived.

The impact on morale is predictable.  So ended one of the most daring and improbable military missions of WW2.  And the killing of Yamamoto is still subject to considerable historical and legal discussion in military and academic circles.


* https://militaryhistorynow.com/2020/10/24/operation-vengeance-inside-the-improbable-u-s-mission-to-kill-japans-admiral-yamamoto/


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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “Operation Vengeance: an Impossible Mission

  1. Valkerie

    General Satterfield, thank you for highlighting this mission that seemed farfetched and impossible. With great skill and a bit of luck for the American fighters, they found his plane and escort and took revenge for Yamamoto’s part in the killing of 4,000+ on Dec 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. He picked on a sleeping giant and lost when he awakened.

      1. Pink Cloud

        We didn’t forget and neither will Japan’s military that made one of the greatest strategic blunders in the history of humankind.

  2. Doug Smith

    Vengeance is the word used here but I think the move to kill him is a classic move to destroy the morale and fighting power of an enemy.

  3. Edward G.

    Hi Gen. Satterfield. Here is some old and original footage on YouTube that might be of interest.
    “Yamamoto Shot Down (footage from both sides)” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39-yZ_2aao0
    It shows the video that your thumbnail for this article was taken. Excellent summary of the actual destruction of Yamamoto’s plane.

    1. Pumpkin Spice

      Thank you Edward. I just reviewed the video. Excellent.

  4. Army Captain

    Much of what transpired with Operation Vengeance reveals itself in modern High Value Individuals (HVI) operations. The basic requirements of target development, via research, focused and successful intelligence collection, and analysis, which all enabled the US military to make its plans against Yamamoto, still remain requirements for modern HVI operations. Planners and operators should account for threats to the mission, as well as determine the impacts of said operations. Additionally, given the perish-able nature of most intelligence associated with HVIs, planners and operators

  5. Jonnie the Bart

    Wow, thanks Gen. S for another spot-on historical article.

  6. Max Foster

    Gen. Satterfield, it has been a long time now that you’ve written on a war event. These articles are always worth reading. Remember you history, folks. Those who fail to do so and do not remember are doomed to repeat those mistakes. Even if you don’t believe it applies to you, it does. Dr. Jordan Peterson discusses “Rescue your father from the belly of the beast.” Your past matters and best get a grasp of it now.

  7. Cat A Miss

    Nearly coughed up a hairball when I read this. Thank you Marx and Grouch and also Gen. Satterfield.

      1. Veronica Stillman

        Funny. Another reason I read the comments section.

      2. Jasmine

        Cat a Miss, you da “cat”.
        I sure love this website and have referred it to all my friends.
        If you are a student of leadership, this website is for you …. https://www.theleadermaker.com … read it every day.
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    1. Marx and Groucho

      Right. Anyone who thinks this was “murder” and some of our weak-kneed, commie, college snowflakes think it is, deserve our derision. Remember that it was Adm Yamamoto that planned and executed the Japanese Naval raid on Pearl Harbor. Remember! If you fail to find out what actually happened and remember, then you are an idiot

      1. Liz at Home

        … yes, and I might also add that if you have not got a copy of Gen. Satterfield’s books, then you are really missing out on crucial reading. Get your copies at Amazon today and leave a review.


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