Kurita, Takeo, born 28-04-1889 in Mito city, Ibaraki Prefecture, seven days after Adolf Hitler (did you know), was sent off to Etajima in 1905 and graduated at the head of his class of 172 cadets from the 35th session of the Imperial Japanese Navy Academy in 1907. As a midshipman he served on the cruiser Itsukushima and battleship Mikasa . After his commissioning as ensign, he was assigned to the cruiser Aso, destroyer Kisaradi and battleship Kongó . From 1912-1913, he was a naval attache to the United Kingdom. After his return to Japan, he served briefly on the Fusó, then in a number of staff positions throughout World War. From 1916-1917, he was chief Gunnery Officer on Akitsushima.
Rear Admiral Kurita commanded a cruiser division during the East Indies invasion and during the Battle of Midway where he lost the cruiser Mikuma. As a Vice Admiral, Kurita led a battleship division in the Guadalcanal campaign, bombarding Henderson Field on 14-10-942. He commanded major naval forces during the Central Solomons campaign and the Battle of Philippine Sea in June 1944. As Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Second Fleet during the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea and the Battle off Samar (the Battle of Leyte Gulf) he led the heavy battleships IJN Yamato and IJN Musashi, the battleships IJN Nagato, IJN Kongo, and IJN Haruna and ten cruisers and thirteen destroyers. Using the empty decks of the Japanese carriers as a decoy to lure the powerful American 3rd Fleet under command of Fleet Admiral William Frederic Halsey, away from the landing beaches, he braved air and sub attacks that sank the Musashi and several other ships. He fell upon the outmatched and outgunned “Taffy 3” of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet . under command of Thomas Cassin Kinkaid. Kurita did not press his attack on the beachhead in the face of determined American resistance. Kurita thought the effort a waste of ships and lives, especially since he could not get his fleet to Leyte Gulf until after the landings, leaving little more than empty transports for his huge battleships to attack. He bitterly resented his superiors, who, while safe in bunkers in Tokyo, ordered Kurita to fight to the death against hopeless odds and without air cover. In December, in order to protect him against assassination, he was assigned to be president of the Japanese Navy War College at Etajima, Hiroshima Prefecture. Admiral Kurita was criticized by the Japanese militarists for not fighting to the death. It was not until he was in his eighties that Kurita admitted privately to a former Etajima student that he withdrew the fleet from the battle because he did not believe in wasting the lives of his men in a futile effort, having long since believed that the war was lost.
Death and burial ground of Kurita, Takeo.
Kurita’s actions might well have been justified by the information available to him, but his lack of aggression effectively ended his naval career. He cooperated with American historians after the war and survived until 1977. Kurita died on 19-12-1977, at age of 88, and he is buried at the Tama Reien cemetery in Fuchu, Tokyo.