Kuribayashi Tadamichi (1891-1945)

Photograph of Kuribayashi Tadamichi

Wikipedia Commons

Kuribayashi Tadamichi was born in Nagano prefecture to a notable family of samurai. He was nearly expelled from high school for leading a strike, but was likely spared because of his outstanding scholastic record. He was particularly fond of literature. Graduating from the Japanese military academy in 1914 as a cavalry officer, he served as military attaché to the United States and Canada and was more realistic than most Army officers about Japan’s chances in a war against the United States (Venzon 2003):

The United States is the last country in the world Japan should fight.... Its industrial potential is huge, and its people are energetic and versatile. One must never underestimate the Americans' fighting ability.

At the start of the Pacific War, Kuribayashi was chief of staff of 23 Army at Canton, and planned the Hong Kong operation. He was given command of 2 Imperial Guards Division in June 1943 and was sent to Iwo Jima with 109 Division in May 1944. He left his sword at home when he departed for this assignment, a sure indication that he did not expect to come back. His expectations were fulfilled; he was not among the Japanese survivors of the battle, committing ritual suicide on 27 March 1945. His final message to Tokyo admitted defeat but pledged that his spirit would return to witness Japan's ultimate victory.

Kuribayashi faithfully executed the new shūgettsu ("bleeding strategy") on Iwo Jima (Wheeler 2007):

We would all like to die quickly and easily, but that would not inflict heavy casualties. We must fight from cover as long as we possibly can.

At 5'9", Kuribayashi was relatively tall, but had a bit of a pot belly. Leckie (1962) describes him as "... curt, stern, cold —one of those moon-faced, pudgy men who are all ruthless energy and driving determination. The troops did not like him." Some of his subordinates believed he was too concerned with details.

Service record


Born in Nagano prefecture
Second lieutenant     
Graduates from Military Academy

Deputy military attaché, United States
Commander, 7 Cavalry Regiment

Chief, Horse Administration Section, Military Administration Bureau, Ministry of War
Major general
Commander, 2 Cavalry Brigade

Commander, 1 Cavalry Brigade

Chief of staff, 23 Army
Lieutenant general     
Commander, 2 Imperial Guards Depot Division

Eastern District Army

Commander, 109 Division, Bonin Islands

Commits suicide, Iwo Jima


Drea (2009)

Dupuy et al. (1992)

Fuller (1992) (accessed 2008-3-25)

Hastings (2007, 2011)

Leckie (1962)

Pettibone (2007)

Venzon (2003)

Wheeler (2007)

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