Kazuo Sakamaki

Sakamaki after being captured by the US on Hawaii. The daots on his face are from where Sakamaki burned himself with a cigarette. US War Department photo.

Born: 1918
Years of Service

Born 8 November, 1918, in Awa, Japan, Kazuo Sakamaki entered the Eta Jima naval academy in the late 1930s. Graduating in 1940, the newly commissioned Ensign was assigned to submarines, and was given command of the HA. 19 midget submarine. Assigned to attack the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Sakamaki and his crewman, Kiyoshi Inagaki, were unable to penetrate the harbor's defenses, but were overcome by their sub's battery fumes before they could return to their mothership. Sakamaki was unable to scuttle HA. 19, and he and his sub were captured by the Americans the following day (Inagaki drowned). The first prisoner taken by the US in WWII, Sakamaki requested permission to commit suicide, but was denied, and held as a prisoner or war until 1945. During his time as a POW, he became committed to pacifism, and went to work for Toyota after returning to Japan. He married, and had two children. From 1969-83, he was president of Toyota's Brazilian branch, and retired from the company in 1987. Sakamaki wrote a memoir, but did not talk about his experience in WWII until 1991, when he attended a conference in Fredericksburg, Texas. At that conference, he met up with HA. 19, which is on display at the National Museum of the Pacific War. Sakamaki died 29 November, 1999, in the City of Toyota, Japan.