Convinced that naval aviation would play a vital role in any future conflict, he successfully lobbied for appointment as chief of the Naval Aeronautics Bureau in 1940 in order to gain practical experience. In that position, he drafted a memorandum entitled "Modern Weapons Procurement Planning," in which he attacked the construction of battleships and called for greater emphasis on aircraft carriers and naval aircraft.
Inouye's views caused him to fall from favor. In August 1941, he was transferred to command the Fourth Fleet on Truk, a backwater assignment. When World War II began, he led the forces that captured Guam and Wake Islands from the Americans. As other islands fell to the advancing Japanese, Inouye's area of responsibility expanded to include Rabaul and the Gilbert Islands.
In April 1942, Inouye was charged with planning and executing the invasion of Port Moresby. He remained in Rabaul while seven naval task forces, as well as land-based naval aircraft, moved against Tulagi, Guadalcanal, and Port Moresby in early May. The resulting Battle of the Coral Sea was a Japanese tactical victory, but the unavailability of close-air support due to the loss of an aircraft carrier in the battle led Inouye, on 8 May, to postpone the landing at Port Moresby. The commander of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, was furious at this decision but unable to reverse Inouye's orders.
Inouye's Fourth Fleet was then largely relegated to logistical duties, and operations in the South Pacific were turned over to the Eighth Fleet. Inouye was relieved in October 1942 and took command of the Japanese Naval Academy. He was recognized as an advocate of peace, and when Admiral Yonai was recalled as navy minister after Tojo Hideki's fall in August 1944, Inouye became vice minister. In May 1945, he was promoted to full admiral and became a member of the Supreme War Council. He spent the next months working for an end to the war. Inouye died in Miyagi on 15 December 1975. Tim J. Watts
Dull, Paul S. A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941–1945). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1978.; Thomas, David Arthur. Japan's War at Sea: Pearl Harbor to the Coral Sea. London: A. Deutsch, 1978.; Van der Vat, Dan. The Pacific Campaign: World War II—The U.S.-Japanese Naval War, 1941–1945. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.
Tim J. Watts