Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Tanaka Raizo (1892–1969)

Japanese navy admiral who was famous for his night-fighting prowess and his supply runs to provision troops. Born in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, on 27 April 1892, Tanaka Raizo graduated from the Naval Academy in 1913 and trained as a torpedo specialist. He developed a reputation for excellence in seamanship. Promoted to captain in 1935, he held command of destroyers, the cruiser Jintsu, and then the battleship Kongo. In 1937, he took charge of a destroyer squadron.

Made a rear admiral in October 1941, Tanaka commanded the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, one of the most highly trained units of the Japanese navy and especially expert in night action. In his flagship cruiser Jintsu, Tanaka was involved in most major battles of the first 18 months of the war. He was particularly well known for the so-called Tokyo Express—nightly supply runs to Japanese army units on Guadalcanal. Called by the Americans "Tenacious Tanaka," he routinely slipped past often superior Allied naval forces equipped with radar and gained a reputation in the West as one of the most brilliant and indefatigable Japanese navy commanders of the war. In the Battle of Tassafaronga on 30 November 1942, a superior U.S. force under Rear Admiral Carlton H. Wright intercepted Tanaka's ships trying to float barrels of supplies ashore to Guadalcanal. The ships were not deployed for combat, and Tanaka lost a destroyer, but his crews used their Long Lance torpedoes to good effect and sank one U.S. cruiser and damaged three others before making their escape.

The Americans learned from their mistakes in this and other actions and developed improved night-fighting techniques. In July 1943, while Tanaka was trying to reinforce the Japanese garrison on Kolombangara in the Solomon Islands, U.S. Navy warships badly damaged his flagship, the Jintsu, which then sank. Shortly thereafter, Tanaka was dismissed from his post and assigned to command an obscure naval base in Burma, allegedly for criticizing his superiors' decision to squander scant Japanese destroyer assets in trying to supply Japanese island outposts. Although promoted to vice admiral in 1944, Tanaka did not again see combat. He died in Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, on 9 June 1969.

Hirama Yoichi


Further Reading
Crenshaw, Russell S. The Battle of Tassafaronga. Baltimore, MD: Nautical and Aviation Publishing, 1995.; Dull, Paul S. A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1978.; Russell, Jack D. Derailing the Tokyo Express. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1991.
 

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