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Thread: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

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    Default Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Thanks to the marvels of the electric internet, this is most of the final chapter of a book I'm just finishing: The Pearl Harbor Papers, Daniel M Goldstein & Katherine V Dillon (eds), Brassey's, Washington, 1993

    It reinforces the fatal problems caused by the separate wars fought by the IJA and IJN as well as various failures in Japan's war planning and its conduct of the war, while drawing comparisons with Britain and especially America which highlight Japan's many failings.

    It's hard to escape the impression that Japan managed to combine the ability to adapt rapidly to the practical aspects of Western technology with an inability to adapt as rapidly to the global and intellectual aspects of contemporary grand strategy and strategic warfare, which pretty much doomed it to eventual defeat before it fired the first shot.

    http://books.google.com.au/books?id=...esult&resnum=1
    ..
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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Sorry I didn't see this post until now.

    I have had a good look at the book on line, using a few different searches terms to access more of it. Google books is a great resource.

    I also recall a book by a French journalist who was stuck in Japan throughout the war. His view, very simplified here by me, was that Japan as a society lacked the moral courage to think deeply about what it was up to.

    Because it was so - obedient.

    Japanese business and politics still shows features of this collective problem.
    Skeptical mensurer, and audio scavenger.

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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbo in Oz View Post
    I also recall a book by a French journalist who was stuck in Japan throughout the war. His view, very simplified here by me, was that Japan as a society lacked the moral courage to think deeply about what it was up to.

    Because it was so - obedient.

    Japanese business and politics still shows features of this collective problem.
    True, but obedience wasn't unique to Japan.

    Germany travelled a similar path, for different reasons and, somewhat surprisingly, from a cultural and intellectual background much more aligned with notions of individual liberty than the family/nation ideas embedded in Japanese culture at the time, and to a lesser or perhaps just less strident extent now.

    The Allied nations were, for all their proclamations of individual liberty, a long way from modern Western notions of individual liberty, and that obtained in varying degrees until the second half of the 1960s and reduced steadily afterwards.

    All that said, Japan in the lead up to WWII was still a society which had historical and cultural features which, while in many respects no different to other Asian cultures, enabled it to be controlled and exploited by its authoritarian military regime in ways which weren't possible in the Allied nations, and not least because of the importance of and loyalty to the Emperor manufactured by the militarists who, true to Japanese tradition, had in effect captured the Emperor for their own purposes, not that he was an unwilling participant despite the bullshit he and his "The Emperor knew nothing." supporters presented after the war.
    ..
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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbo in Oz View Post
    I also recall a book by a French journalist who was stuck in Japan throughout the war. His view, very simplified here by me, was that Japan as a society lacked the moral courage to think deeply about what it was up to.
    That was perhaps true from about the late 1930s or 1940, in the same way that it was true once the Nazis got solidly into power in Germany, but there was a vigorous and largely public debate in Japan about Japan's destiny in various social, journalistic, academic, commercial and government circles during the 1920s and well into the 1930s.

    I think it is selective to criticise Japan for lacking the moral courage to think deeply about what it was up to.

    The same criticisms could more accurately be directed at America, Britain and the Netherlands which just assumed from their cultural arrogance, positions of power and colonial histories that right was on their side and, if it wasn't, then might was.

    America and Britain in particular didn't bother to think deeply about what they were up to in contesting with Japan for interests in China, on moral or any other grounds beyond national commercial advantage.

    Australia and America didn't bother to examine the moral or any other aspects in deciding to exclude Japanese from migrating to their countries. They just focused on narrow commercial interests affecting their own people, but then went on to impose trade sanctions on Japan which unfairly harmed Japan while trying to preserve the trade advantages of the Western nations.

    While there is no justification for the appalling conduct of Japan in China and the Pacific 1933-45, its war was otherwise as justifiable as any of the wars which the Allies had fought to acquire colonies and exploit less powerful nations (notably China).

    Any deficiency in Japanese thinking and any deficiency in Japanese moral courage in questioning its aggression was mirrored in much that had gone before and was still occurring under Allied control.

    Why was it alright for Britain to have India, Burma, Malaya, Ceylon, and bits of China, but wrong for Japan to grab them?
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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Why was it alright for Britain to have India, Burma, Malaya, Ceylon, and bits of China, but wrong for Japan to grab them?
    Because might makes right in THIS world. And at the time Japan was not, despite what they thought, a world power capable of taking what they wanted.

    Their ships and air power was not backed up by the industrial power needed to sustain them in a serious battle of attrition. Their incessant focus on 'the decisive battle', which harked back to the Russo-Japanese war, was myopic and left them vunerable to the very type of war the Allies excelled in.

    Japan knew their great dependency on oil, from so few sources, was bound to keep them on a short leash, yet even Admiral Yamamoto’s advice that he could only hold America back for a year was not enough to spur them to increase the capability of production for either oil or weapons before the war.

    As Vince Lombardi said, "It's not the will to win that counts, it's the will to prepare to win that matters".

    Japan had the will to win, but they did not have the will to prepare to win. That preperation would have taken far more time.

    And always keep in mind that might does make right in this world. Never think it doesn't.

    Deaf

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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Quote Originally Posted by Deaf Smith View Post
    And always keep in mind that might does make right in this world. Never think it doesn't.

    Deaf
    Perhaps, but nations have never bothered about right when they have the might.

    However, my point about Japan taking India etc was based on the fact that at the time it was acceptable for European powers to retain colonies taken by force, so why shouldn't Japan be entitled to the same 'right'?
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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    Perhaps, but nations have never bothered about right when they have the might.

    However, my point about Japan taking India etc was based on the fact that at the time it was acceptable for European powers to retain colonies taken by force, so why shouldn't Japan be entitled to the same 'right'?
    Sure Japan did have the same 'right', IF they could take it by force! But to try to take India would bring alot of force against Japan, thus Japan had no 'right'.

    Only now and then countries talk about taking the 'high road'. Usually they say that when they can't politicly take the 'low road'.

    And speaking of the 'high road'.... as Leo Durocher said, "nice guys come in last". Most of the time that is the way it is.

    Deaf

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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Looked at with the benefit of hindsight - always much easier - it's clear that WW2 was among the very last of the nakedly imperialist wars. The Germans & the Japanese didn't realize that it was the end of an era instead of the beginning of a new one with them in charge. They mistook the initial weakness of those they sought to capture or enslave as a golden opportunity instead of the fatal trap that it really was. They miscalculated in both Europe and Asia that their "military superiority" was a permanent condition instead of a fleeting moment in time. If you're going to bash a hornets nest with a stick, you better be prepared to kill all of them and neither Germany nor Japan were factually capable of doing that.
    Last edited by royal744; 10-25-2009 at 06:08 PM. Reason: Spelling

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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Im not so sure that it was the end of an era more than the catalyst for it becoming so. WW2 probably brought about this change rather like WW1 was the precursor to ending an imperialist building era.

    On to Japan then. I think the very reason that they concentrated on a swift decisive victory is that they definitely knew that they couldn't match the US especially in a protracted war. And so they developed a doctrine that reflected their belief in an offensive 'killing blow'. Of course this lead directly to Peal harbour with the belief that the US would come to terms after this killing blow by somehow realising that Japan had won.

    I find it pretty ironic that the Japanese contrived the very circumstance in which the US would enter an all out war to the finish rather than simply grab the resources that they wanted and ignore the US by NOT attacking them in the first place. If they hadnt attacked the US but instead the British and Dutch possessions alone I dont think the US would have been justified in entering the war (the US public probably wouldnt have wanted to go to war for colonialist forces).

    This reflects the Japanese navies emphasis on the decisive battle, which time after time caused them more problems. On reflection, Pearl harbour was their biggest mistake, instead a more decisive battle would probably have happened if they had just attacked the Philippines and let the US navy sortie to their defence.

    The Japanese could then have attacked the US Navy in mid ocean with their full six carrier 'Kido Butai' which in 1941 was the most formidable naval striking force in the world. However, no matter what Japan would have done, the end state would have been the same as US industrial power would still have prevailed.

    The Japanese simply didnt have the persistence to fight a protracted war. In fact an amazing fact I recently read about the Japanese is that in the whole of 1942 they actually made less than 50 navy aircraft.

    As a footnote, and getting back on track to the original post, the Japanse Navy and Army practically hated each other, this probably caused them more problems than the enemy did for a long time.

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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Quote Originally Posted by Firefly View Post
    The Japanese could then have attacked the US Navy in mid ocean with their full six carrier 'Kido Butai' which in 1941 was the most formidable naval striking force in the world.
    In battle, yes. Otherwise, no.

    The 'decisive battle' mentality resulted in Japan building most its capital and many other ships in the expectation of the decisive battle in the ocean not too far east of Japan.

    Consequently the Pearl Harbor fleet lacked the range to reach Pearl and had to be refuelled several times on the way there and on the way back, which was an issue of considerable concern to the planners and operational commanders in (a) meeting the rendevous points (b) being exposed while refuelling (c) having the tankers to do the job and (d) even if successful actually getting home again.

    The power of the striking force was determined as much by the capacity of merchant tankers as any inherent mobility in the striking force ships, although that was true to varying degrees of all navies.
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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    I cant agree with your assessment there, all fleets refuelled at sea and the US had to do the same to fly the doolittle raid etc around the same time.

    From Pearl to Midway the Japanese cariers steamed in excess of 50000 miles ranging from Australia to Ceylon.

    I do agree though that they were obsessed by the 'decisive' battle and it was this that continually got them into trouble time after time. Again though, their assessment that they had to bring about a decisive battle was probably right, its simply the manner they went about it was wrong.

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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Quote Originally Posted by Firefly View Post
    I cant agree with your assessment there, all fleets refuelled at sea and the US had to do the same to fly the doolittle raid etc around the same time.
    The need for all fleets to refuel isn't disputed, but the Japanese needed to refuel more often than other fleets because their ships weren't designed for long distance voyages as a result of the obsession with the decisive battle which was intended to occur close to Japan. The refuelling aspect was critical to the Pearl Harbor planning.

    The source for this view is the chief of staff of the IJN First Air Fleet at the time of Pearl Harbor, Vice Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka quoted in Goldstein & Dillon's book The Pearl Harbor Papers mentioned in my first post and which, thanks to Googlebooks, has the relevant section here: http://books.google.com.au/books?id=...age&q=&f=false and relevant biographical details of the vice admiral here: http://books.google.com.au/books?id=...age&q=&f=false

    See also the comments at the end of p.151 onto p. 152 here http://books.google.com.au/books?id=...age&q=&f=false regarding concerns about attacks while refuelling and how the refuelling aspect bore on the decision not to land troops on Hawaii.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 10-29-2009 at 08:32 PM.
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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Yup. Point very much taken, but all militaries should conform to their chosen doctrine and I suppose the Japanese suffered more from theirs than the US.

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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Quote Originally Posted by Firefly View Post
    Yup. Point very much taken, but all militaries should conform to their chosen doctrine and I suppose the Japanese suffered more from theirs than the US.
    One of Japan's problems was that in comparison with the Allies it didn't have a cohesive or particularly coherent military or, more importantly, strategic doctrine so far as taking on much of the rest of the industrialised world and holding Japan's gains was concerned.

    That comes back in large part to the IJA nationalist elements' political dominance in running the nation and war, compounded by a lack of experience and understanding of the West in the IJA and hubris created by silly beliefs in 'spirit' over, say, field hygiene and medical services; and victories in China against a disorganised enemy with none of the West's organisation or industrial capacity which did not begin to extend Japan's army, navy and logistical capacity as did the thrusts southwards and westwards.

    At one level Japanese military, notably IJA, doctrine focused on personal 'spirit' which supposedly could overcome all. The absurdity and deficiency in this was that the excellent military medical services which the Japanese had at the time of the Russo-Japanese war no longer existed by WWII because the idiots running the show proclaimed that 'spirit' would overcome illness and injury. Meanwhile the Allies knew that field hygiene and medical services which kept soldiers in the field were a great return on investment in those services.

    At another level IJA doctrine focused on infiltration and envelopment from section level upwards, which was stunningly successful in the advance phase 1941-42 by creating confusion and provoking retreats by the Allies. But there was an inability to adapt to changed circumstances, as shown by Slim's successful 'stand and fight' response to those IJA tactics in Burma.

    Japan was brilliant at winning land, sea and air battles in its advance phase but due to a failure to appreciate what was required to hold what it gained in those advances (in every aspect from supplying its troops to defending against enemy advances) it was bound to lose the war before it started. Unless the US was taken out of the war against Japan, which was most unlikely after Pearl Harbor. And not something, as Japan knew, that Japan could ever achieve on it own.
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    Default Re: Withering assessment of IJN & IJA

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    ...the IJA nationalist elements' political dominance in running the nation and war, compounded by a lack of experience and understanding of the West in the IJA and hubris created by silly beliefs in 'spirit' over, say, field hygiene and medical services....

    Not too mention machine guns, submachine guns, tanks, self-loading rifles, trained pilot replacements, dug in enemy infantry supported by artillery, et cetera...

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