Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs
Major La Guardia poses with two other early aviation enthusiasts, Captain Poggi of the
Italian Army and Captain Isoroku Yamamoto of the Japanese Navy at the Austro-Italian Front, 1918.
During World War I, Fiorello La Guardia left his seat in Congress to serve in the Eighth Aviation Center in Foggia, Italy. While in Italy he met officers from other countries interested in aviation, including Isoroku Yamamoto, a Japanese naval attaché and later the architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago today. (See photo above and attached.)
Ironically, as Ian W. Toll recounts in today’s New York Times Op-Ed, “A Reluctant Enemy,” Yamamoto had been an opponent of attacking the United States. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/07/opinion/a-reluctant-enemy.html?_r=1&ref=opinion) Before Pearl Harbor, he had traveled widely in the U.S. and Europe and based on his observations of the U.S. and its industrial might concluded that “Japan lacks the national power for a naval race with America.”
The photo captures the chance encounter of two young men on divergent paths. La Guardia was on his way to becoming the United States’ greatest mayor, while Yamamoto would become infamous for the attack on Pearl Harbor. While we do not know what conversations La Guardia and Yamamoto had, one wonders if Yamamoto’s impressions of the brash, outspoken congressman from New York City added to his reluctance to attack the United States.