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Thread: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

  1. #1
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    Default What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    I never understood why the Japanese adopted the ABCD doctrine. Viewing themselves at war with America, Britain, China, the Dutch before the war began.

    Since their primary objective was the oil fields in the Dutch East Indies, why not just annex the Dutch East Indies in the same way that they annexed French Indochina?

    America had no treaty obligations to defend the Dutch East Indies. The British obligations were being met by empty words.

    While on paper it looks like the Japanese invasion force would be putting its head into a noose, with the British on their right flank and the Americans on their left flank, the reality was that even if the British, Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders acted in concert with the Dutch, the forces that could be brought to bear to stop the invasion were too pitiful to be successful and were separated by hundreds or thousands of miles of ocean.

    While a tactical surprise was impossible, a strategic surprise might have been possible. Local commanders would have seen the invasion force steaming toward Dutch territories but would they have acted on their own initiative to stop them? And by the time that word got to London, Washington, Batavia, Canberra, and Wellington and the politicians had their jawing sessions, and then word got back to the local commanders would it be in time to stop the invasion?

    If the annexation of the Dutch East Indies was launched soon after the fall of French Indochina the Allies were woefully underprepared to stop them.

    The British and the Americans had said that they would not tolerate a change in the status quo of the Dutch East Indies, but were they prepared to go to war to prevent it? Would the American public have agreed to a war to defend the Netherlands' overseas empire?

    By the time sufficient Allied forces were assembled off Malaysia, the Phillipines, or Australia to contest the matter the campaign would have been over.

    A gamble yes, but I think it was a gamble worth taking. And no more of a gamble then sending air craft carriers thousands of miles to bomb Pearl Harbor.

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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    If we had a war where we still had our fleet and airforce in the Phillipines, I have no doubt we would have cut off their oil from Balikpapan and kept them at bay for the year or so it would have taken them to run out.

    Deaf
    “We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality” Ayn Rand

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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deaf Smith View Post
    If we had a war where we still had our fleet and airforce in the Phillipines, I have no doubt we would have cut off their oil from Balikpapan and kept them at bay for the year or so it would have taken them to run out.

    Deaf
    Are you talking about the air force that was destroyed in a matter of hours historically? And the US Asiatic fleet that was pounded both from the air and the sea everytime they showed themselves?

    Or are you suggesting that after Japan annexed the Dutch East Indies that the US would have relocated the Pacific Fleet and the air forces to the Philippines?

    Wow, that would have been a disaster of magnitude that would have made Pearl Harbor look like the gunfight at the OK Corral.

    The Japanese would have had air and naval superiority and would have been able to force a showdown at the time and place of their choosing, which is what they had planned for.

    Unless you mean that the US would have gone on a war footing and sent the kind of fleet they were able to muster in 1944, then you might be right.

    I don't see the US going to war to protect the Dutch empire though.

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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    Quote Originally Posted by curious View Post
    Are you talking about the air force that was destroyed in a matter of hours historically?
    But that happened only because the Japanese attacked the Philippines, which wouldn't be the case if they confined their action to annexing the NEI. It also happened because MacArthur went into a funk on the first day of the war and refused to give his air force commander the pre-arranged order to bomb Formosa, so the bombers remained in the Philippines.

    Quote Originally Posted by curious View Post
    I don't see the US going to war to protect the Dutch empire though.
    Most probably not, but depriving the Japanese of NEI oil is a different issue, especially as annexing the NEI would frustrate the oil embargo imposed by the US and improve Japan's ability to wage a future war against the US or its interests.
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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    Quote Originally Posted by curious View Post
    Since their primary objective was the oil fields in the Dutch East Indies, why not just annex the Dutch East Indies in the same way that they annexed French Indochina?
    Because they couldn't.

    The Japanese got their forces into Indochina initially through agreement with the Vichy government, although the Japanese soon broke the agreement.

    The Dutch government, and particularly Queen Wilhelmina who Churchill once described as the only man in the Dutch government in exile, were steadfast in denying Japan access to the NEI.
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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    Quote Originally Posted by curious View Post
    I never understood why the Japanese adopted the ABCD doctrine.
    They didn't.

    China was irrelevant in the NEI.

    It was ABDA = American British Dutch Australian.

    And that was purely an Allied and largely ad hoc organisation, which had no doctrine but merely a common purpose to resist Japan, which it did under a fairly hastily organised and somewhat confused leadership structure despite plenty of warning of what was coming.

    Japan's war strategy was focused on the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere notion which represented Japan's expansion rather than anything to do with enemy nations affected by that expansion.

    Quote Originally Posted by curious View Post
    Viewing themselves at war with America, Britain, China, the Dutch before the war began.
    Why wouldn't they?

    Japan had been fighting in China for years. Largely to contest the European and American interests which were also happily exploiting China.

    Britain and America had imposed crushing embargoes on Japan.

    Quote Originally Posted by curious View Post
    While on paper it looks like the Japanese invasion force would be putting its head into a noose, with the British on their right flank and the Americans on their left flank,
    The NEI if fully occupied by Japan do not fit that geographic position, not least because the Philippines are somewhat north of the NEI.

    Quote Originally Posted by curious View Post
    the reality was that even if the British, Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders acted in concert with the Dutch, the forces that could be brought to bear to stop the invasion were too pitiful to be successful and were separated by hundreds or thousands of miles of ocean.
    Perhaps not.

    If the ABDA forces combined to defend only the NEI then they could have concentrated the forces which were dispersed elsewhere.

    Or they might have concentrated not to defend the NEI but to blockade them, which would have dispersed the Japanese forces and risked depriving them of the gains in the NEI.

    Which is the point at which these "what if" questions go nowhere, as if the earlier ones went anywhere anyway.
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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    It also happened because MacArthur went into a funk on the first day of the war and refused to give his air force commander the pre-arranged order to bomb Formosa, so the bombers remained in the Philippines.
    And not to hijack this thread but if only MacAuthur had done just that on the first day. Bet that would have changed the war timeline quite a bit.

    Deaf
    “We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality” Ayn Rand

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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deaf Smith View Post
    And not to hijack this thread but if only MacAuthur had done just that on the first day. Bet that would have changed the war timeline quite a bit.

    Deaf
    I'm inclined to think that in the total scheme of the war it probably didn't matter whether Formosa was bombed or not.

    But if the bombers were available in the first week or two to resist the Japanese invasion of the Philippines that might have been a lot more significant.
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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    Hello,

    "Annexing" in the context used here just means seizing militarily...The Dutch had plans in place dating back to about 1936 for the destruction of their oilfields. As did the British in NW Borneo. Had the Japanese attempted an "annexation" the fields would have been blown regardless, I feel certain. But, neither the British nor the Americans would sit by idly and permit Japan to "annex" the NEI, despite the absence of written agreements or treaties. They were not in as weak a position as the French after that nation fell to Germany, for example.One must also recognize the huge amounts of time/money/technology U.S. & British oil firms had already invested.


    The Japanese did indeed refer to the encirclement as "ABCD" in their media, but obviously the situation was created by their own expansionist policies, and not by external threats.

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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    If we had a war where we still had our fleet and airforce in the Phillipines, I have no doubt we would have cut off their oil from Balikpapan and kept them at bay for the year or so it would have taken them to run out.

    I think Curious is right.
    People seem to forget that the US could not have unilaterally gone to war against the Japanese in the absence of an attack on American forces because the 1) Neutrality Act and 2) the War Powers Act made that impossible. Roosevelt could not have done it by himself. He would have needed an act of congress to do it and he probably would not have gotten that. It would take a direct attack such as at Pearl Harbor to do it. The Japanese were so incredibly stupid and ignorant of the way the American government worked. They could have taken the NEI and dared the English to do something, anything, to resist them, but the Americans would have been powerless.

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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    Quote Originally Posted by royal744 View Post
    If we had a war where we still had our fleet and airforce in the Phillipines, I have no doubt we would have cut off their oil from Balikpapan and kept them at bay for the year or so it would have taken them to run out.
    This is a highly questionable premise.

    The Asiatic Fleet (a few old cruisers, a collection of ancient destroyers, and a handful of subs armed mostly with defective torpedoes) and the US Far Eastern Air Force were primarily defensive in nature and were certainly not strong enough to challenge the Japanese by "cutting off" the transport of oil from Borneo to Japan; attempting to do so would have meant an immediate declaration of war from Japan. US Forces in the Philippines had not a snowball's chance in Hell of preventing Japan from seizing the Southern Resources Area, nor of denying Japan oil until it ran out.

    Quote Originally Posted by royal744 View Post
    I think Curious is right.
    People seem to forget that the US could not have unilaterally gone to war against the Japanese in the absence of an attack on American forces because the 1) Neutrality Act and 2) the War Powers Act made that impossible. Roosevelt could not have done it by himself. He would have needed an act of congress to do it and he probably would not have gotten that. It would take a direct attack such as at Pearl Harbor to do it. The Japanese were so incredibly stupid and ignorant of the way the American government worked. They could have taken the NEI and dared the English to do something, anything, to resist them, but the Americans would have been powerless.
    The Neutrality Acts had more to do with Americans trading with and traveling to and from belligerent powers, and nothing to do with declaring war; in any case, the Neutrality Acts had largely been repealed by November, 1941. The only significant provision that remained in effect (and still is in effect) was the requirement for obtaining a license to sell arms to a foreign government.

    The "war powers" of Congress certainly would have prevented an immediate declaration of war against Japan without Congress' consent, but the President definitely had the authority to take military action that would have left Congress with no choice but to declare war on Japan. An example of this would be Roosevelt's September, 1941, order to the US Navy to escort convoys and to attack any German naval units encountered in the western Atlantic.

    President Roosevelt certainly would have given similar orders to protect US trade with the NEI and the Japanese would not have tolerated such acts, leading to an early declaration of war between the US and Japan.

    In planning the conquest of the Southern Resources Area, the Japanese were well aware of the potentiality of this situation, and that is why they planned to attack the US and Britain instead of just the NEI; they assumed (correctly) that Roosevelt would find a way to declare war on them if they seized the NEI.

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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    Quote Originally Posted by royal744 View Post
    If we had a war where we still had our fleet and airforce in the Phillipines, I have no doubt we would have cut off their oil from Balikpapan and kept them at bay for the year or so it would have taken them to run out.
    I don't know to what extent it would have supplied Japan's needs, but there was a decent amount of oil produced in Burma which Japan would have acquired (albeit with refineries destroyed by the retreating British) early in 1942.

    Production figures, which I can't find, would show whether the conquest of Burma could have allowed Japan to continue even with the Philippines bypassed.
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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    I don't know to what extent it would have supplied Japan's needs, but there was a decent amount of oil produced in Burma which Japan would have acquired (albeit with refineries destroyed by the retreating British) early in 1942.

    Production figures, which I can't find, would show whether the conquest of Burma could have allowed Japan to continue even with the Philippines bypassed.
    It doesn't matter how much oil was produced in Burma in 1941, to get it to Japan the Japanese would still have to ship it past Luzon which, theoretically, would make it vulnerable to interdiction by hostile forces based in the Philippines.

    However, as I have already expressed elsewhere in this thread, I question just how much practical ability the US had to threaten oil shipments to Japan from anywhere in the Southern Resources Area to Japan. The US Asiatic Fleet was far too weak to do much more than control the local waters around Luzon. It's submarines were rendered ineffective by defective torpedoes and poor tactical doctrine. The 35 B-17's and the hundred or so P-40's would not have been sufficient to challenge the massive Japanese airpower the Japanese had assembled on Formosa (Taiwan). The Japanese could have successfully convoyed it's oil through the Taiwan Straits between that island and the Chinese coast with a modicum of air and naval assets.

    Since reinforcement of US forces in the Philippines would have required the implementation of the old US War Plan Orange strategy, which had been abandoned in the late 1930's as impractical in view of the world situation then prevailing, it would be extremely unlikely that the US would have attempted to interdict the oil from the SRA, except possibly through submarine warfare. From the Japanese perspective, however, this was enough to warrant eliminating US forces in the Philippines, thus they planned to strike British, Dutch, and US interests in the western Pacific, rather than just seize the NEI (including Borneo and Burma).

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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    It's submarines were rendered ineffective by defective torpedoes and poor tactical doctrine.
    But sadly we didn't know that till after the shoot'en started. In fact we didn't know that till way way after the shoot'en started!

    I guess if we still had B-17s in the Phillippines we would have gone after the source of the oil and not the ships.

    Deaf
    “We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality” Ayn Rand

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    Default Re: What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deaf Smith View Post
    But sadly we didn't know that till after the shoot'en started. In fact we didn't know that till way way after the shoot'en started!

    I guess if we still had B-17s in the Phillippines we would have gone after the source of the oil and not the ships.

    Deaf
    Yes, but we're discussing an alternate history, a "what-if" scenario and that can only be done in hindsight.

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