Naval Historical Center #63697
Few subordinate Japanese flag officers have been
more Monday morning quarterbacking than Mikawa Gunichi. A 1910
graduate of the Naval Academy and twice a student at the Naval Staff
College, he was a
specialist in navigation and held diplomatic assignments in France
Mikawa commanded Battleship Division 3 at the
start of the Pacific War. He led the first section of his battleship
division with Pear Harbor Attack Force while
the second section provide heavy support for the Malaya invasion. However, he was
skeptical of the Pearl Harbor operation, believing it unduly dispersed
the combat power of the Japanese Navy. He likewise led the
heavy escort for the Indian Ocean
raid and the Midway operation.
Commander of 8 Fleet at Rabaul from its activation on 14 July 1942, Mikawa mustered a scratch force of cruisers and a lone destroyer in response to the Guadalcanal invasion and handed the U.S. Navy the worst defeat in its history off Savo Island. His force sank four Allied cruisers while taking only light casualties. Believing himself within easy range of U.S. carrier air power, with dawn approaching and no good picture of what lay ahead, Mikawa chose not to push his luck further and returned to Rabaul.
In fact, what lay ahead was vital transports guarded by just three cruisers and a handful of destroyers that were as unprepared for battle as the forces he had already defeated. Furthermore, the U.S. carrier support had already been withdrawn out of strike range. But Mikawa had no way to know that, and his decision seems defensible given what he knew at the time.
Mikawa continued to command Japanese forces in the Solomons, and personally led a bombardment group against Guadalcanal in November. However, his attempt to run an Army division into Lae led to the disastrous Battle of the Bismarck Sea, and he was eventually scapegoated for the Japanese defeat in the Solomons and relegated to a secondary command, Southwest Area Fleet in Manila, where he played a minor role in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He then directed “Tokyo Express” operations to Leyte. When these failed, Mikawa was recalled to Japan and retired in May 1945.
Mikawa was a gentle, soft-spoken man who came across as an intellectual. However, he was considered a courageous, aggressive leader by his peers.
|1910-7-18||Midshipman||Graduates from Naval Academy, standing 3rd in a class of 149. Assigned to CA Asama|
||Torpedo School Basic Course|
|1914-5-27||Gunnery School Basic Course|
|1916-12-1||Lieutenant||Naval College B-Course|
|1917-5-1||Naval College Majored Course|
|1918-3-5||Resident in France
||Naval College A-Course|
|1924-12-1||Staff, Bureau of Personnel, Yokosuka|
|1926-12-1||Commander||Adjutant, Navy General Staff|
||Trip to France
|1931-4-16||1 Naval District
|1931-12-1||Chief Instructor, Naval Academy
||Chief of staff, 2 Fleet
|1937-11-15||Chief, N2, Navy General Staff
|1939-11-15||Commander, Cruiser Division 7
|1940-11-1||Commander, Cruiser Division 5
|1941-9-6||Commander, Battleship Division 3
|1943-4-20||Schoomaster, Navigation School
Southern Expeditionary Fleet
|1944-8-15||Commander, Southwest Area Fleet|
of IJN (accessed 2008-2-18)
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