Tanaka Raizo (1892-1969)

Photograph of Tanaka Raizo

Tanaka Raizo was born in Yamaguchi prefecture and graduated from the Japanese Naval Academy in 1913, specializing in destroyers and torpedo warfare. He rose through the ranks to command of battleship Kongo before becoming a rear admiral in command of Destroyer Squadron 2. When war broke out, he was at sea with Legaspi Support Force, built around light carrier Ryujo.

Tanaka led escort forces in the Netherlands East Indies and at Midway before distinguishing himself (in American eyes) for organizing the "Tokyo Express" from Rabaul to Guadalcanal. The Americans nicknamed him "Tenacious Tanaka" for his perseverance and skill at avoiding ambushes and defeating superior forces to land troops and supplies. However, he was bedeviled throughout the campaign by conflicting orders from 8 Fleet and 11 Air Fleet, and the Japanese high command found him a convenient scapegoat for the ultimate defeat in that campaign. He was relegated him to backwater duty in Burma in early 1943 for the remainder of the war. Here he was promoted to vice admiral and given command of 13 Auxiliary Base Force at Rangoon, which was eventually forced to retreat to Moulmein (1 May 1945) and then Bangkok.

In belittling the fighting power of the enemy lay a basic cause of Japan's setback and defeat in every operation of the Pacific war. Enemy successes were deprecated and alibied in every instance. It was standard practice to inflate our own capabilities to the consequent underestimation of the enemy's. This was fine for the ego but poor for winning victories.

(Kehn 2008)

Tanaka was a close friend of Goto Aritomo, with whom he shared his concerns about the divided command (between 8 Fleet and 11 Air Fleet) during the Guadalcanal campaign.

Service record

1892-4-27   born in Yamaguchi prefecture
Graduates from  Naval Academy, standing 34th in a class of 118. Assigned to CA Adzuma
1914-8-11   BB Aki
1914-8-28   CA Nisshin
1914-12-1 Ensign  
1915-10-1   CA Kasagi
1916-8-21   Kongo
1916-12-1 Lieutenant junior grade     
Torpedo School Basic Course
1917-6-1   Gunnery School Basic Course
1917-12-1   Hatsushimo
1918-5-1   Staff, 2 Special Task Fleet
1918-7-5   DD Kusunoki
1919-8-5   Katori
1919-12-1 Lieutenant Torpedo School Advanced Course
1920-12-1   AS Karasaki
1921-11-10   Iwate
1923-3-20   Shiokaze
1923-11-10   Yura
1924-12-1   Staff, Cruiser Division 5
1925-12-1 Lieutanant commander
Instructor, Torpedo School
1927-11-1   Staff, Cruiser Division 5
1929-11-30   Staff, 2 Naval District
1930-11-21   Commander, Tachikaze
1930-12-1 Commander  
1931-10-31   Commander, Ushio
1932-12-1   Staff, 1 Naval District
1935-11-15 Captain  
1935-12-2   Naval College
1936-1-6   Naval General Staff
1937-1-7   Commander, Destroyer Division 2
1937-12-1   Commander, Jintsu
1938-12-15   Chief of staff, Mako Guard District
1939-11-15   Commander, Kongo
1941-4-15   Staff, 3 Fleet
1941-5-1   Commander, Submarine Squadron 6
1941-9-15   Commander, Destroyer Squadron 2
1941-10-15 Rear admiral
1942-12-29   Naval General Staff
1943-2-5   Commander, Maizuru Guard Force
1943-10-1   Commander, 13 Auxiliary Base Force, Burma
1944-10-15 Vice Admiral
1969-7-9   Dies

References (accessed 2007-6-30)

Crenshaw (1995)

Dupuy et al. (1992)

Fuller (1992)
Kehn (2008)

Materials of IJN (accessed 2008-2-18)

Smith (2000)

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