Was Admiral Yamamoto was an early wargamer?Posted: March 10, 2016
Some years ago, whilst I was doing research into Jane’s Naval War Game, I acquired a photocopy of the 1901 edition of the rules. It included a section entitled REPORT OF A LARGE COMBINED TACTICAL AND STRATEGIC “WAR” PLAYED AT PORTSMOUTH AND ELSEWHERE IN MARCH, APRIL AND MAY 1900. Amongst the players listed as taking part is a certain “Rear Admiral” Yamamoto (i.e. a young Japanese naval officer stationed in the UK at the time) who commanding the Dupuy de Lomé, the Hertha, and the Jémappes during the opening moves of the war.
(It is interesting to note the following fates of these ships:
- Dupuy de Lomé: Totally disabled in engine room
- Hertha: Sunk by gunfire
- Jémappes: Little hurt.)
It would be great to think that this “Rear Admiral” Yamamoto was in fact Isoroku Yamamoto … but unfortunately my researches seem to indicate that it cannot be. Yamamoto was born Isoroku Takano in 1884, and only became Isoroku Yamamoto in 1916, when he was adopted into the Yamamoto clan in order to ensure that the family name did not die out. Furthermore he did not graduate from the Imperial Japanese Navy Academy as a Midshipman until 1904, just in time to serve aboard the armoured cruiser Nisshin during the Russo-Japanese War. He was wounded at the Battle of Tsushima, and lost the index and middle finger on his left hand.
It would therefore appear that these two Yamamotos cannot be one and the same person … which is a great pity as it would have made for a great bit of wargaming trivia. That said, Yamamoto was a renowned games player and gambler (he is reputed to have enjoyed playing Go, shogi, billiards, bridge, mah jong, and poker) and the Imperial Japanese Navy used naval war games right up until the end of World War II, so he must have taken part in naval wargames during his career … but not in Portsmouth in the early 1900s!
A scene from the film ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!‘ showing officers of the Imperial Japanese Navy taking part in a naval war game prior to the attack on Pearl Harbour. Whilst it makes for a dramatic film sequence, it is doubtful that the participants would have sat in neat rows as shown in this shot. It is far more likely that the post-game debrief would have looked like this.