Japanese Flag From Flagship Nagato Sold at Auction

Credit: www.ha.com
Credit: www.ha.com

The Japanese flag which flew on the flagship Nagato during the attack on Pearl Harbor was sold at an auction for £32,000.

The Nagato was the flagship for the attack and the ship which received the signal, “Torra, Torra, Torra,” which indicated that the attack had been a complete surprise to the Americans.

Over 2,400 Americans were killed during the attack which led to the US joining the Allies in World War II.

Rear oblique view of Nagato at anchor in Kure, August 1942
Rear oblique view of Nagato at anchor in Kure, August 1942

Five years after the battle, the Allies captured the 8 foot by 13 foot flag. It was brought back to the US and given to Richard Brundo, former mayor of Culver City, California, in the 1960s.

Brundo retained the flag until he died in 2016. The flag was sold by a relative through Heritage Auctions.

It was expected to sell for £10,000 but a bidding war raised the price to $40,000.

The flag was Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s rank flag. Yamamoto was the commander-in-chief of the Japanese navy.

It was on the Nagato that Yamamoto gave the famous command, “Niitaka yama nobore (Climb Mount Niitaka).” The coded command signaled the beginning of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

That attack began just before 8am with hundreds of Japanese fighter planes suddenly attacked the base. Twenty American warships, including eight battleships, were damaged or destroyed.

Nagato on her sea trials, 30 September 1920
Nagato on her sea trials, 30 September 1920

More than 300 airplanes were also damaged or destroyed. Over 2,400 Americans in total were killed in the attack.

The following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt formerly asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

Though the actual attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise to the Americans, the two countries had been heading towards conflict for decades.

The Japanese believed that the only way they could fix the problems with their economy and other issues they were facing was to grow their country by taking over Chinese territories and China’s import market. They declared war on China which led to atrocities like the Nanking Massacre.

This attitude of Japan towards China was not embraced by the American government who responded with economic sanctions and trade embargoes.

Nagato firing her main armament, 1936
Nagato firing her main armament, 1936

The US hoped that limiting Japan’s access to money and goods would convince it to stop its aggression against its neighbors. Instead, Japan doubled down on its expansion goals. Months of negotiations failed to bring the two sides any closer to an agreement.

Though surprised that they attacked Pearl Harbor, the American intelligence community was expecting an attack from Japan. They just expected it to occur in the South Pacific – the Dutch East Indies, Singapore or Indochina.

Since the Americans did not expect an attack so close to home, they had few defenses in place while nearly the entire Pacific Fleet was moored around Ford Island in Pearl Harbor with hundreds of airplanes sitting on the nearby airfields. This made Pearl Harbor an easy target the Japanese could not resist.

Fortunately for the US, none of their aircraft carriers were moored in Pearl Harbor. By WWII, battleships were not as important as the aircraft carriers.

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Also oil storage, repair shops, shipyards and submarine docks all escaped the attack relatively unscathed. As a result, the US was able to recover quickly from the attack.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE