Sanji Iwabuchi
Historical Figure
Nationality: Japan
Date of Birth: 1895
Date of Death: 1945
Cause of Death: Suicide by hand grenade
Occupation: Soldier
Military Branch: Imperial Japanese Navy
(World War II)
Turtledove Appearances:
Days of Infamy
POD: March, 1941;
Relevant POD: December 7, 1941
Appearance(s): End of the Beginning
Type of Appearance: Direct
Date of Death: 1943
Cause of Death: Machine-gunned to death in battle
Sanji Iwabuchi (March 2, 1895 - February 26, 1945) was the Japanese rear admiral during World War II who was in command of the naval forces in Manila, Philippines in 1945. Iwabuchi sought to defend the city, which was surrounded by American forces, in the face of insuperable odds. He engaged the Americans in street-by-street fighting, with devastating consequences: the loss of 17,000 Japanese defenders (including Iwabuchi himself), 100,000 civilians, and more than 1,000 Americans. Iwabhuchi apparently killed himself with a hand grenade, but his body was never identified.

Iwabuchi's actions were in defiance of the orders of his superior, Tomoyuki Yamashita, who'd been prepared to let Manila fall and fight the Americans at Baguio City. Consequently, Yamashita was tried and convicted for war crimes in part because of Iwabuchi's behavior.

Sanji Iwabuchi in Days of InfamyEdit

Captain Sanji Iwabuchi (1895-1943) led a squad of the Japanese Special Naval Landing forces that made up part of the occupation forces in Hawaii from 1941-43. He was a vicious and tenacious leader, drilling his men regularly, screaming at them and berating them constantly.[1] When the United States retook the islands in 1943, Iwabuchi was initially in charge of the defenses of Honolulu[2] Iwabuchi became the leader of Japanese forces after General Tomoyuki Yamashita was killed.[3] He made sure that the Americans paid for every piece of ground taken in Honolulu, frequently ordering his troops to charge the enemy, usually heedless of the Japanese soldiers killed, and of any civilians caught in the crossfire.[4] Even Japanese leaders, such as Minoru Genda, were disturbed by the men wasted by Iwabuchi's tactics.[5] American intelligence was horrified to learn that Iwabuchi's mentality was hardly unique among the Japanese military.[6]

Iwabuchi fought until what was left of his command was forced out of Honolulu, and into Waikiki. There, he found himself pinned between the advancing Americans and an amphibious assault. Realizing that it was all about to end, Iwabuchi decked himself out in his ceremonial whites and led one last banzai charge at the Americans. He was cut down as he ran across the open ground.[7]


  1. End of the Beginning, pg. 235-238.
  2. Ibid., pg. 337.
  3. Ibid., pg. 375.
  4. Ibid., pg. 471.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid., pg. 512.
  7. Ibid., p. 494, paperback. Although not named, during the battle of Waikiki, Oscar van der Kirk sees a banzai charge led by an officer that resembles Iwabuchi, and watches him die.

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