Made a rear admiral in 1933, Kondo became vice president of the Naval War College, and in 1935, he was chief of staff of the Grand Fleet. One year after being promoted to vice admiral in 1937, he took command of the Fifth Fleet. In 1939, he became vice chief of the Naval General Staff.
In September 1941, Kondo took command of the Second Fleet, and at the outbreak of the Pacific war, he provided support for the Japanese force invading Malaya. On 10 December 1941, Kondo's aircraft sank the British battleship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Repulse. His fleet then provided cover for Japanese forces occupying the Philippines and Java in the Netherlands East Indies.
At the Battle of Midway, Kondo commanded the Main Support Force, which did not see action. He then took a leading role in the long-running naval struggle for control of the island of Guadalcanal. He was unsuccessful in luring the U.S. naval forces into a trap in the Eastern Solomons in late August 1942, and in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on 16 to 27 October, his units provided gunfire support for the Japanese land effort to retake Henderson Field. This action also led to the crippling of the U.S. carrier Hornet and her eventual loss. In naval actions off Guadalcanal from 12 to 15 November, his forces were defeated, losing the battleship Kirishima. Their withdrawal sealed the fate of Guadalcanal. Kondo then supervised the successful evacuation from the island of Japanese ground-force survivors.
In April 1943, Kondo was promoted to admiral, and he was appointed commander in chief of the China Sea Fleet the following December. In May 1945, he became military adviser to Emperor Hirohito. Kondo died in Tokyo on 19 February 1953. Kita Yoshito
Hammel, Eric. Guadalcanal: The Carrier Battles—The Pivotal Aircraft Carrier Battles of the Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz. New York: Crown Publishers, 1987.; Morison, Samuel Eliot. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Vol. 5, The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942–February 1943. Boston: Little, Brown, 1949.