Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is portrayed at the very end of the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!, and in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, as saying after his attack on Pearl Harbor, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." The supposed quotation was abbreviated in the film Pearl Harbor (2001), where it merely read, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant."
Neither At Dawn We Slept, written by Gordon Prange, nor The Reluctant Admiral, the definitive biography of Yamamoto in English by Hiroyuki Agawa, contain the line.
Randall Wallace, the screenwriter of Pearl Harbor, readily admitted that he copied the line from Tora! Tora! Tora!. The director of Tora! Tora! Tora!, Richard Fleischer, stated that while Yamamoto may never have said those words, the film's producer, Elmo Williams, had found the line written in Yamamoto's diary. Williams, in turn, has stated that Larry Forrester, the screenwriter, found a 1943 letter from Yamamoto to the Admiralty in Tokyo containing the quotation. However, Forrester cannot produce the letter, nor can anyone else, American or Japanese, recall or find it.
In The Reluctant Admiral, Hiroyuki Agawa, without a citation, does give a quotation from a reply by Admiral Yamamoto to Ogata Taketora on January 9, 1942, which is strikingly similar to the famous version: "A military man can scarcely pride himself on having 'smitten a sleeping enemy'; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack."
Yamamoto believed that Japan could not win a protracted war with the United States, and moreover seems to have believed that the Pearl Harbor attack had become a blunder — even though he was the person who came up with the idea of a surprise attack. The Reluctant Admiral relates that "Yamamoto alone" (while all his staff members were celebrating) spent the day after Pearl Harbor "sunk in apparent depression." He is also known to have been upset by the bungling of the Foreign Ministry which led to the attack happening while the countries were technically at peace, thus making the incident an unprovoked sneak attack that would certainly enrage the enemy.
The line serves as a dramatic ending to the attack, and may well have encapsulated some of his real feelings about it, but it has yet to be verified. After the war, a similar rumor disseminated among Occupation insiders that upon learning the attack had been a success, Admiral Yamamoto had said to those around him, "Gentlemen, we have just kicked a rabid dog." This would have been a tactical metaphor and not intended as an insult, since he was generally fond of America and Americans.
The other common quotation attributed to Yamamoto predicting the future outcome of a naval war against the United States is: "I can run wild for six months … after that, I have no expectation of success".  As it happened, the Battle of Midway, the critical naval battle considered to be the turning point of the war in the Pacific, indeed did occur six months after Pearl Harbor (Midway ended on June 7th, exactly 6 months later).
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