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Iwabuchi Sanji (1895-1945)


Photograph of Iwabuchi Sanji

U.S. Army.

Via eternalrefuge.com

Iwabuchi Sanji, an early Navy aviator, commanded seaplane carrier Kamoi, served with the Navy General Staff, and commanded light cruiser Kashii prior to the Pacific War. He was the prospective commanding officer of seaplane tender Akitsushima, under construction, when war broke out.

Iwabuchi was captain of battleship Kirishima when she was sunk by Willis Lee’s task force off Guadalcanal on the night of 14-15 November 1942. He was subsequently promoted to rear admiral and command of 31 Base Force at Manila; that is, kicked upstairs to a shore command.

Judging from his subsequent actions, Iwabuchi was deeply shamed and determined to restore his personal honor and that of the Imperial Navy. When the Americans invaded Luzon in early 1945, Iwabuchi ignored the instructions of Army commander Yamashita to break out of Manila, broadcasting an emotional message announcing his determination to fight to the death (Badsey 2000):

We are very glad and grateful for the opportunity of being able to serve our country in this epic battle. Now, with what strength remains, we will daringly engage the enemy. Banzai to the Emperor! We are determined to fight to the last man.

Iwabuchi fought to the death along with 16,000 sailors of the base force. The extremely bloody battle cost 6500 Allied soldiers their lives, along with 100,000 Filipino civilians, many of whom were apparently deliberately murdered by the Japanese sailors. Iwabuchi is thought to have committed ritual suicide on 25 February 1945, but his body was never found.

Yamashita was later held responsible for the Manila massacre in spite of his lack of effective control over Iwabuchi or the 31 Base Force. This has been cited in criticisms of trial by military tribunal.

Service record

1895-3-2   Born
1915-12-16     
Midshipman     
CL Iwate
1916-12-1 Ensign
 
1918-3-26   CVS Nisshin
1918-12-1 Lieutenant junior grade     
 
1919-8-5   DD Umikaze
1919-12-1   Gunnery School Basic Course
1920-5-31   Torpedo School Basic Course
1920-12-1   Yokosuka Air Group
1921-12-1 Lieutenant AP Matsue
1922-11-20   1 Naval District
1923-12-1   Gunnery School Advanced Course
1924-12-1   BB Hyuga
1925-12-1   CL Tsushima
1926-12-1   CL Jingei
1927-12-1 Lieutenant commander     
 
1928-12-10   3 Naval District
1929-4-1   Staff, 1 Expeditionary Fleet
1929-11-20   CL Yahagi
1930-11-1   2 Naval District
1930-12-1   CL, Oi
1931-10-15   CL Abukuma
1932-11-15   CA Chokai
1933-11-15 Commander BB Hiei
1934-11-15   Commander, Kure Guard Squadron
1935-7-1   2 Naval District
1937-12-1 Captain  
1937-12-15   1 Naval District
1938-3-22   Commander, Kamoi
1938-8-25   Naval General Staff
1941-4-1   Commander, Kashii
1941-11-1   Chief equipment officer, Akitsushima
1942-3-25   Staff, Combined Fleet
1942-4-20   Commander, Kirishima
1942-11-22   Staff, 11 Air Fleet
1943-2-10   1 Naval District
1943-5-1 Rear Admiral
 
1943-5-5   Chief of Personnel, 4 Naval District
1944-11-1   Staff, 3 Southern Expeditionary Fleet
1944-11-17   Commander, 31 Base Force
1945-2-26 Vice Admiral
Killed in action

References

Badsey 2000

Fuller (1992)

Materials of IJN (accessed 2007-11-2)

Spector (1985)

When Military Trial Was Unfair (International Herald-Tribune; accessed 2007-4-10)



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