Koga’s End

They brought what was left of Mineichi Koga to Tokyo in a special train. He had done no great deeds, but he had died (they said) in action—and he was the Commander in Chief of Japan’s Fleet. They enshrined him as a minor Shinto god; the Emperor granted him two decorations and a promotion to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet; the radio implored Japanese to “live the Koga way.”

Thus did Koga, a small, taciturn man with an egg-shaped head, pass from the stage. But he left it in a whirl of mystery more impressive than his life.

Only eleven months earlier, Koga’s famed predecessor, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (“I am looking forward to dictating peace in the White House . . .”) was shot down in his airplane in the South Pacific. The announcement of Koga’s death was strangely like that of Yamamoto’s: “. . . died at his post in March while directing general operations from an airplane at the front. . . .”

Allied observers and Japan’s civilians could only speculate on the rest: was Koga killed in the U.S. air and naval raids on Truk and Palau on March 29? Was he intercepted by U.S. fighters en route to some Pacific base? Or did he, as Chungking suggested, honorably disembowel himself presumably in protest against the last naval reshuffle (TIME, Feb. 28)?

Almost forgotten in the flurry of speculation was the appointment of the new FleetCommander: puffy-faced, 59-year-old Soemu Toyoda, a skilled naval technician, who had thus far sat this war out in and near Tokyo, cannily managed to be known as a bitter-end jingo. –Time Magazine (1944-05-15).

By the way, this Koga is considered to be a very great organizer and strategist. So much for the propaganda.