Japanese strategists

In World War II.  It’s not clear that there actually were any. This isn’t always mentioned in histories, but a lot of what Japan did in the Pacific made no sense at all.

For example, the Japanese occupied lots of islands. After their local naval and air forces had been defeated, we only needed a few of those islands for bases. We generally just let the Japanese forces on the islands we didn’t need sit there, usually till the end of the war. Some farmed and fished, some starved.

But island-hopping had important strategic fallout. There was only one way to send any supplies to places like Rabaul – submarines. Of course, they couldn’t carry enough cargo to make any difference – they sure couldn’t feed 100,000 men – but you gotta do something, right? This took most of the Japanese submarine fleet out of the war.

 

 

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92 Responses to Japanese strategists

  1. Interesting. I could never understand why the US forces wanted to invade any of these islands. Bringing all the US resources to capture a small island made no sense. Better to harass them, blockade them and starve them out. Attack on the mainland of Japan had a purpose, attacking islands far less.

    • dearieme says:

      I imagine they needed some islands for airfields.

      • They had aircraft carriers.

      • AppSocRes says:

        Exactly right. The US Navy’s “island hopping” strategy involved establishing as few bases as possible, whose strategic location allowed the US to make the bypassed, Japanese-occupied islands irrelevant and unsustainable strategic absurdities. On the few occassions when the US dropped the “island hopping” strategy, e.g. McArthur’s ego-driven invasion of the Philipines, the result was a blood-drenched catastrophe. If the Philippines had not been invaded by the US, the Japanese forces there would have surrendered when Japan did in August 1945. Instead, there was a brutal, eleven-month, totally unnecessary battle for the Philippines that did not end until Japan’s total surrender in August 1945, cost untold numbers of American, Philippine, and Japanese lives, and ravaged the Philippine’s, including the total destruction of Manila.

        Japan’s biggest mistake was thinking that its far-flung island bases in the Pacific could provide mutual military support to one another and then be resupplied by Japanese maru and submarines. In fact, the island bases were too far apart to support one another and unrestricted US submarine warfare and absolute air superiority ensured that their regular ressuply was a logistic impossibility.

        • mtkennedy21 says:

          Japan never had the shipping to supply their forces, even on Java and Sumatra, which are large islands. Hence the stories of cannibalism. Also, why the civilian workers were shot on Wake.

        • Magus says:

          Island hopping was right idea but was far too conservative. They took too Long to understand new naval/aerial Paradigm.

          Tawara, Peleliu, Iwo Jima Could all have been skipped. After midway and Kwajalein, straight to Okinawa.

          King sorta “got it” faster than others, though he preferred Taiwan instead of Okinawa. But same idea.

          Okinawa of course would have sufficed to bomb mainland, though really bombing was mostly useless after their ships were sunk and economy/earmarking capabilities destroyed.

        • ErisGuy says:

          The war in the Pacific almost lasted long enough for the Japanese and Americans to realize that both their strategies were nearly useless. Once an entire nation can be burned with napalm and nukes with long-range B-29s, no islands need invaded.

          We should have invaded Manchuria, Korea, and Sakhalin, then after burning Japan into mass starvation, demand the rest by treaty.

  2. Frau Katze says:

    Japan strategy went wrong when they attacked Pearl Harbor. If the Japanese had confined themselves to seizing European colonies, the US likely wouldn’t have even entered the war. The public wasn’t enthused. They certainly wouldn’t have gone to war on account of European colonies.

    There were various views among Japanese military leaders. Not all of them thought Pearl Harbor was advisable.

    • Magus says:

      US embargoed oil after invasion of Indochina.

      What were Japs meant to do, Attack Malaysia / Indonesia while leaving Phillipines as vulnerability Behind threatening supply lines?

      Maybe. But they had taken on a bigger than them adversary before in Russia. To their mindset, a quick strike on Us, then one big naval battle win (was to be Midway), then negotiated settlement, made sense.

      • mtkennedy21 says:

        Yes, but Yamamoto warned them. Pearl Harbor was a tactical success but a strategic catastrophe.

      • Frau Katze says:

        They should have known that attacking the USA would assure their eventual defeat.

        Russia in 1905 wasn’t remotely comparable to the USA in the 1940s.

        If they lacked oil because of the embargo, they should have just stayed home.

        • Lennart Edenpalm says:

          Victor Davis Hanson opinions on the subject is imo interesting.

          • Alice Ceti says:

            I’m discovering his works right now, could you elaborate on this point ?

            • Patrick L. Boyle says:

              Hanson’s thesis is completely mainstream except he gives little credit to the “Hitler was crazy” meme. Hitler did listen to his generals – at least until they tried to kill him. But he didn’t survive the war to write his memoirs and many of his Field Marshals and Generals did.

              Hanson’s main theme is to try to figure out why The Axis powers began the hostilities against the materially much stronger Allies.

              Hanson mentions “Giantism” several times. The Tiger tank is big and impressive as was the Panther but not really more effective that the Panzer IV. The Nazis had some rational decisions like building lots of cheap, effective Stug IIIs. But they also seemed to build those big fragile tanks, expensive rockets and a handful of jet fighters. They indulged in ‘miracle weapons’ and neglected more obvious approaches. They never built any four engine bombers.

              It’s an easy read.

              • Frau Katze says:

                He likely didn’t start off crazy. But there are some leaders that gradually develop megalomaniac tendencies. For a modern example, consider Erdogan of Turkey.

                Mind you, Erdogan doesn’t have the opportunity to go full out and start invading other countries (although he was and may still be supporting crazy Islamists in Syria, but he didn’t start the conflict).

                He megalomania is restricted to building a gigantic palace, having people dress in Ottoman costumes, resurrecting various Ottoman ethnic customs like marching band all decked out in period costumes.

                He’s tossed lots of journalists in jail and anyone else he suspects of plotting against him. There was a real plot, that he blamed on that Turkish man, Fethullah Gulen, currently living in the US.

                I could see him going full out crazy if he had the same opportunities as Hitler. He dislikes Kurds and they could be his Jews. The Young Turks really did commit genocide with the Armenians in WW I, so they’re gone now.

                But Hitler seemed uniquely creepy by using modern industrial techniques for at least part of the killing. We thought we had left mass killing behind. But we haven’t. Hitler justified by blaming Jews for Germany’s loss in WW I.

              • ErisGuy says:

                Hitler may not have started off crazy (debatable, from what I remember of his Vienna days), but diet, drugs, disease, and the stress of murdering millions surely made him crazy.

    • ErisGuy says:

      For an alternate history how about Japan decides to emulate Great Britain instead of Germany: a big navy, a small army, and world-wide commerce and banking. Imagine Japan, Inc in 1940: efficient, technologically capable, no nearby enemies, making money by the fistful selling armaments to foolish Europeans at war.

  3. Cloveoil says:

    Foreign sabotage in their leadership? The North Strike would’ve been a better bet in retrospect.

    • Magus says:

      Their strategic vulnerability was oil. Northern strike doesn’t solve that.

      • Cloveoil says:

        Would western powers have bothered if the Japs hit the Soviets, though? Japan’s problems were 1) war in China and 2) war in the Pacific.

        • CK says:

          The Japanese did attempt to hit the soviet union. The battles at Khalkhin Gol saw the soviets under a young Zhukov manhandle the Japanese Army. The Japanese sued for and got a renewable peace treaty with the Soviet Union. From 1939 until 1945, the Soviet Union was the only nation that fought a single front war.
          The Japanese had been trying to ” hit the soviets” since the allied invasions of Russia in 1917. While all the other invading nations ( USA, GB, Czech, etc.) had departed by 1920, the Japanese remained in Siberia until 1925 attempting to wrest the soviet far east from the soviet union.

        • JerryC says:

          The Japanese did hit the Soviets in 1939 at Khalkhin Gol, and they got their asses kicked. They considered having another go at it in 1941 when the Russians were otherwise occupied, but ultimately thought better of it.

          • NobodyExpectsThe... says:

            They had an even better chance to strike the Soviets in the autumn of 42. I think the Japanese, and the Germans, lost the war because of not doing it.

            • Lennart Edenpalm says:

              The Japanese produced one percent of the world production in oil. US produced 70 %.
              The steel production in Japan was 1/7 of the US production. There was only one way this war would end.

              The attack on Pearl Harbour was one of the daftest things in military history, the famous Yamamoto was a complete fool.

              Since Greg has written about several military conflicts, I would like to know his opinion of Victor Davis Hanson´s books. Please answer this request.

              • gcochran9 says:

                I’ve never read any of Hanson’s books. I have read some newspaper columns: in those he seemed unusually foolish.

              • Garr says:

                I enjoyed Carnage and Culture but wished he had clarified the relationship between the two apparently contradictory but probably complementary aspects of what he took to be “the Western way of war” – (1) the kind of discipline that makes for shield-walls, (2) “individual initiative.” He seemed to think that discipline requires individual initiative, and in fact one does find more discipline in places where one finds more individual initiative (e.g. Scotland vs. India) but I wish he had tried to explain why this is so. He seemed to think that Western Culture could have arisen anywhere and just happened to arise in the West rather than, say, among the Zulus. (One of his chapters is about the battle between a lot of Zulus and a few British guys, won by the latter, that was the subject of a movie.)

              • Hanson’s best book is his first, The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece. I believe it was based on his PhD thesis.

                The details of how the Greeks used the phalanx are fascinating – the difficulty of fighting in heavy bronze armor, how old men (like Socrates) were often used in the phalanx, the impact of phalanxes colliding, etc. Great stuff.

                Less interesting were the leaps Hanson made about how the Greek way of war would inform all subsequent Western warfare, making it superior to warfare’s it was practiced elsewhere in the world. But since that’s not a major part of the book I wasn’t bothered by it.

              • NobodyExpectsThe... says:

                No, there wasnt only one way. No matter how powefull the US industrial might was then, if the Axis had captured the eurasian landmass, that would have been a tremendously hard nut to crack.
                Much more sensible to come to terms.

                The Japanese didnt have a chance on their own. But they had an ally that had a chance. They only had to hich-hike to them.

          • Rich Rostrom says:

            Col. Masanobu Tsuji was one of the most rabid Japanese militarists, and an infamous war criminal. He had a huge reputation (he planned the Malaya invasion), and personal charisma. Though of modest rank, he hobnobbed with the high command and attended conferences in Tokyo. And he was in Manchuria in 1939 during Khalkin-Gol, and thereafter was dead against any attack on the USSR.

            In short, he was crazy, but not that crazy.

  4. Coagulopath says:

    Also, they didn’t convoy their ships in the Pacific Theater until late in the war.

    They fully committed their naval assets to offensive attacks against Allied strategic targets (shades of Miyamoto Musashi: “cut the enemy, whatever the means!”). Samurai mentality. The idea of using their destroyers for a passive purpose like escorting merchant ships was apparently an insulting one.

    Also, the IJA believed as a matter of doctrine that independent ships could more easily evade sub attacks than convoys. Which doesn’t make sense: merchant shipping wasn’t randomly distributed across the Pacific, it followed predictable paths (trade lines to and from ports). The Americans had some early issues with their own subs, but by the war’s end nearly the entire Japanese merchant fleet was at the bottom of the ocean.

  5. I suspect they had strategists, but due to the lack of experience with holding territory outside their archipelago, they didn’t really know what they were doing. Their main idea seems to have been “Just try harder.”

    • AppSocRes says:

      This seems to be a basic aspect of Japanese culture. An acquaintance was invited to Japan to act as a software consultant to the Japanese tech industries during their big 4GL push in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was ideal for this position since he was an experienced software engineer and had enough Japanese to get by. (For those who don’t remember, Japanese 4GL was intended to give Japan a permanent edge in computer technology. Despite the hype it turned out to be a total bust.) When my acquaintance returned after three years working in Japan he explained the Japanese failure. Their culture was totally unsuited to the give and take he thought necessary for efficient software engineering. He told us that there was a phrase he learned to dread. It would pop up after a subordinate had been given marching orders by a superior. Its essential meaning was, “Yes. I will attempt with all my power to achieve what you ask. But you and I both know this task is hopeless and doomed to failure.”

  6. Magus says:

    A lot of what Us did also made no sense. Most of the Southwest Pacific theatre under MacArthur was basically useless at large cost.

    The island hopping campaign was also far Tok conservative. Could have gone straight for Okinawa after Midway and Kwajalein, then choked out Japanese homeland.

    And of course they realised too late value of mining ports and submarine campaign in destroying Japanese economy at chokepoint vulnerability. Bombing factories and cities after that was superfluous.

    But maybe I’m being a but hindsight 2020 here; at time I’m sure they did their best (other than Southwest campaign which was idiotic and mostly just politics).

    • Christopher B says:

      Everybody thinks supply interdiction is a costless war winner, until it’s tried. Look at the experience of England in both world wars. It’s also what the Allies tried in Italy against the Germans stuck there with far fewer supply routes. Also unsuccessful.

      By 1944 the US was scrapping the bottom of the manpower and finance barrels. Granted a squeeze campaign might have resulted in fewer casualties but it would have taken more manpower for a longer time period. The Allied leadership was also set on unconditional surrender of the Axis to avoid a repeat of what happened after WWI ended by armistice. No way would the American and British publics have accepted another 4 or 5 years of trying to starve the Japanese into surrender even if it had worked. We barely accomplished it with two atom bomb strikes instead of an invasion.

      • Magus says:

        It would not have taken more manpower and would not have taken more time. Strategic analaysis adter the war came to same conclusion: the submarine (and especially harbour mining) campaig basically destroyed Japanese Economy and knocked them out of war de facto.

        The political question of getting them to officially surrender had more to do with role of Emperor, Soviet invasion, Nukes, etc.

        But there’s no question tens of thousands of Americans died that a better fought war would not have needed to die.

        • mtkennedy21 says:

          I think there is a question. Some of this was training. The American that invaded North Africa were poorly trained. A 1942 invasion of Europe would have been a disaster. I agree McA’s invasion of the Philippines was a mistake, Peleliu was worse.

          • Toddy Cat says:

            “The American (Army) that invaded North Africa were poorly trained”

            Rommel didn’t think so. He thought that they were inexperienced, but learned quickly. No Allied army covered itself with glory in it’s first encounter with the Wehrmacht. Look at how the Poles, British, and French collapsed in 1939-1940, the stunning British surrender at Tobruk in 1941, or the mass panic and rout of the Soviets in Summer 1941. The Americans in Africa did better than most in their first taste of modern war with one of history’s best armies.

      • gcochran9 says:

        “By 1944 the US was scrapping the bottom of the manpower and finance barrels”

        Really.

    • Smithie says:

      Basing the fleet at Pearl was a big mistake. Too many potential directions of attack, not enough scouting power.

      Moving carriers to the Atlantic was stupid. There was not much of a reason for an Atlantic Fleet at the time, other than destroyers.

  7. J says:

    China has occupied seven very small islands in the Pacific and is disputing the Goat Rock with Japan. Can be this “strategy” compared to Japan’s in WWII?

  8. Thersites says:

    Japan’s strategists didn’t get much better after the war- they kept sacrificing countless men and tanks against giant fire-breathing radioactive monsters for decades after it had become obvious that conventional weapons were totally useless.

  9. Toddy Cat says:

    The root of Japan’s strategic absurdity in WWII goes back to invading China before they had secured their oil supplies. Many of the terrible decisions they made after this were attempts to make up for this huge error (gotta capture SE Asia to get the oil, gotta attack Pearl Harbor so the US fleet doesn’t interfere, gotta go for Australia so the US doesn’t use it as a base, and on and on, deeper into the woods…)

    They obviously thought that China would fold quickly. Thanks to Chiang-Kai-Shek, they didn’t. Which means that Chiang and the Kuomintang, despite their massive flaws, deserve a lot more credit than they often get for the defeat of Imperial Japan. Even the ChiComs quietly admit this, which is one of the reasons that Chiang is being kinda sorta rehabilitated by the CCP.

    • The Z Blog says:

      This. In war, each move resets the board. The Japanese badly misread the nature of the war. They did not appreciate the economic elements until after it started. There was also the high risk culture of their military leadership. They liked to gamble.

      They also did not learn the key lesson of the Great War, which is war is too important to be left to generals. The English speaking countries learned this, which is why they came out on top in the second war.

    • David Chamberlin says:

      I can’t think of a more idiotic Japanese World War Two strategy than getting into a land war with China. They exhausted their limited military resources in mainland China for what? Militarily occupying a dirt poor overpopulated country as big as China was insane. They could have expanded grabbing key natural resources and left the US alone, they had a window of opportunity given them by World War Two to seize those places rich in natural resources that they were lacking but they executed a delusional plan of empire expansion that was bound to fail.

  10. harpersnotes says:

    My understanding has always been the Japanese were making a massive land-grab, everywhere, and expected to eventually make peace after a couple of years after their momentum faded by ceding some small portion of lands and islands back. They had the wrong optimization parameter and failed to grasp newer military thinking around faster mobility and the technological advantages of offense against defense. Perhaps they were stuck in a somewhat feudalistic mode of thinking in this, or 19th century.

    • mtkennedy21 says:

      They, along with Hitler, misjudged America. If they had avoided Pearl Harbor they might have won. Hitler even declared war on us when we might have focused on Japan, no matter what Roosevelt wanted.

  11. AppSocRes says:

    One interesting aspect of the Japanese war machine which is seldom commented upon is the vast difference between the culture of the JIA and the JIN. The army was much more expansionist oriented, blood-thirsty, barbaric, and ruthless. The navy expressed concerns about Japan’s ability to press the JIA’s expansionist plans. They also adhered much more closely to Western ideas about the proper conduct of warfare. (Pearl Harbor was just a recap of Nelson at Copenhagen and the japanese sneak attack that precipitated the Russo-Japanese War had been widely admired in the US and Europe.) I’ve always thought that this might relate to the fact that during the Meiji Restoration the Japanese army was modernized with the help of Imperial Germany while the Japanese navy was modernized with the help of the British.

    • mtkennedy21 says:

      Also a good point. One reason they lost at Midway was because the Japanese Navy did not use good fire control doctrine on carriers. Gasoline lines were not flushed with CO2 and the carriers burned.

      • AppSocRes says:

        The Japanese seemed to pay no attention to controlling damage. The Zero was probably the best fighter in the air at the start of the war. But its speed and maneuverability were obtained by sacrificing protection for reduced weight. As US air technology hit its stride, US planes began to out fly and out-shoot the Zero and the air war began resembling a turkey shoot.

        • Toddy Cat says:

          I’m told that there was an expression among the Samurai, “Test your armor, but only in front”. While this might be an admirable philosophy for a 14th Century sword fight, it was obviously not a particularly effective philosophy to apply in a modern global war.

    • JokerMan says:

      So Germans are more bloodthirsty than the British? Good joke.

      • gcochran9 says:

        Judging from WWII, you’d have to say yes – overwhelmingly so.

        • JokerMan says:

          Judging from the last 400 years, you’d have to say no – overwhelmingly so.

          Keep in mind that WW2 Germans were an ethnic collective in survival mode, still haunted by the memories of the British sea blockade of WW1 that starved more than 400,000 people to death, the Polish attempts of expelling the Germans from (historical) Eastern Germany when Germany was basically unarmed, and the reports of the Holodomor happening next door.

          • Anonymous says:

            You have to kidding me. Polish attempts to expell the Germans from historical Eastern Germany? Which was that historical Easter Germany and, except for demanding that every German should decide either to get Polish citizenship or leave the country (and leaving Poland was encouraged by the German government, because they thought without German clerks, engineers and teachers Poland would quickly collapse).

            Or maybe you are saying about German plans from WW1 to expel Poles from historical Polish lands (i.e. Greater Poland and Pomerania)?

          • gcochran9 says:

            In WWI, the Germans were assholes. Judging from their actions and stated intentions, they would have been far harsher in victory than the Allies were – for example annexing Belgium, and parts of Northern France, along with all of Poland and huge chunks of Russia.

            In WWII they were monsters.

          • dearieme says:

            The Poles saved Germany by defeating the Red Army in the Miracle on the Vistula in 1920.

            I don’t suppose they got much in the way of thanks.

  12. Irate eye rater says:

    “We’re going to attack a much larger nation that we have no hope of hope of defeating in a protracted struggle, but we’ll smash their existing forces to flinders in the opening and wreck up the place and that will terrify them into giving up” seems to crop up as a serious plan now and again throughout history. It also seems to pretty much always end in disaster, at least to my casually interested eye. The whole premise of the Pacific war was a fundamentally stupid idea. Worse yet, it was an apolitical stupid idea.

    So, of course, the whole war effort was full of smaller bad ideas. Once the people at the very top of an organization are stupid, it bleeds downward. The stupids get to hand out the promotions after all, so unless they happen to rise above themselves in judging the competence of others, they will go one to slowly tile the whole organization with stupidity.

    • mtkennedy21 says:

      Austria Hungary had similar blindness in 1914.

      • Toddy Cat says:

        Personally, I think that they misread the lessons of the war with China in 1894, and with Russia in 1905. They had attacked two larger countries, both of whom were in the midst of massive political turmoil, and, by a combination of surprise, fine equipment, and fantastic bravery on the part of their soldiers and sailors, got away with it. But as Richard Feynman remarked with regard to the space shuttle’s engineers, they started to define acceptable risk as “what we have gotten away with in the past”. And as with the shuttle, it was only a matter of time until it blew up in their faces. They also failed to recognize that the US in 1941 was not Tsarist Russia, and that Chiang’s China was a very different place than the decadent empire of the Manchus.

        Of course, the Japanese strategy of “the American leadership class will get sick of fighting in foreign jungles, and be willing to make peace” actually worked for the Communists 25 years later. so maybe they just mistimed things a bit.

  13. Jacob says:

    Being as intelligent as they are, why do you think they behaved like that?

    • mtkennedy21 says:

      Germans were just as intelligent. Mass hysteria is one theory. “The madness of Crowds.”

      • Jacob says:

        Germans today are around a third of a standard deviation dumber than Japanese on average. Why would it be different back then?

        But that is roughly the explanation I have as well. For whatever reason, the Japanese weren’t interested in appointing the best generals/admirals, apparently.

        Nowadays, their murder rate is deflated- like half that of South Korea, I think- and their suicide rate is high. There are a few reports of Japanese detectives marking murders down as suicides if they aren’t sure they can’t identify and/or arrest the perp. This way, their catch rate for homicide exceeds 90% and their department looks good, at the expense of the well being of society.

        For all the talk of how ‘collectivistic’ they are, they seem to spend a pretty good chunk of time doing profoundly individualistic things: ass-kissing, jockeying for status, virtue signalling, anything to get ahead.

        I have zero doubt that whoever promoted shit admirals, or neglected to teach strategy to cadets, was doing whatever was easiest or best for himself.

        • Lennart Edenpalm says:

          The question of why Hitler attacked Soviet Union and why Japan attacked Pearl Harbour has been addressed by Victor Davis Hanson and imo his answer is satisfying.

        • Ursiform says:

          When Germany allied with Japan they made the Japanese honorary Aryans because, well, otherwise they’d be allied with non-Aryans.

          • Jacob says:

            IMO this is the kind of silly horseshit that happens when you attempt to moralize the fruits of evolution.

          • JokerMan says:

            There is no hypocrisy involved. Before the end of racial anthropology, the leading class in Japan was considered to be of the “North-Sinic race” that was considered to be almost on par with the Nordic race. Even long before the Nazis. No matter what the modern day press wants to tell you, East Asians were always seen as very intelligent and dangerous to European supremacy. Since Germany had no interest in East Asia, nothing spoke against such an alliance.

        • Garr says:

          I believe that Jiu-Jitsu was invented in the basement of a late-19th Century Tokyo police-station by cops saying “Okay, let’s try this ….” It’s a way to arrest drunks.
          (Karate, like Kung Fu, is obviously just sword-fighting without the swords — hence the chops and blocks and kicks [since a kick might extend beyond the range of your antagonist’s sword.])

        • Phille says:

          “Germans today are around a third of a standard deviation dumber than Japanese on average.”
          Not true. Ethnic Germans today have almost the same PISA results as the Japanese. Of course the overall mean is dragged down by immigrants.

          • Jacob says:

            I haven’t accepted that PISA works as an IQ test between-populations. I’m aware of some evidence that it does, but that hypothesis has crappy explanatory power.

            If ethnic Germans were as smart as Lynn thought, then Ashkenazi Jews wouldn’t have been so special there.

            The sons of Germany, being so numerous as they are in the U.S., would have occupied all the space inhabited by Jews, East Asians, South Asians, and the old stock rulers (aristocrats/Episcopalians/etc).

            Terman noticed that highly exceptional children were Jewish, English, or Scottish. I don’t think he said German.

  14. Ledford Ledford says:

    They were pretty smart in WWI. They allied with the winners at almost no risk to themselves and picked up some islands from Germany.

  15. Dale Force says:

    By the time of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were heavily involved in China (in fact that is where most of the IJA was for the entire war). Almost all of their oil was cut off, since the Dutch joined in the boycott (the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia were the main supplier for Japan). Of course, the government was crazy, Yamamoto was sent to the fleet to prevent his being murdered by junior officers for opposing the war, the navy did not tell Tojo they might loss control of the sea (he heard that from Hirohito after the fleet sailed). They had little choice but to attack the Dutch at least, and taking Burma from the Brits closed the last supply line to China.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      Good point, the fact that anyone who showed a realist appraisal of the situation was in danger of being killed by military fanatics certainly didn’t help matters

  16. syonredux says:

    Has Ron Unz gone full retard?

    “The notion that an American with any appreciable trace of African, Japanese, or for that matter Chinese ancestry might serve as a general or even an officer in the U.S. military and thereby exercise command authority over white American troops would have been almost unthinkable.”

    The first Black American general was Benjamin O Davis….and he attained the rank of Brigadier General in 1940….

    • David says:

      The Army was segregated in 1940. Davis commanded blacks, not whites.

      • syonredux says:

        “The Army was segregated in 1940. Davis commanded blacks, not whites.”

        Sure…but note what Ron said:

        “The notion that an American with any appreciable trace of African, Japanese, or for that matter Chinese ancestry might serve as a general or even an officer in the U.S. military and thereby exercise command authority over white American troops would have been almost unthinkable.”

        Apparently it didn’t occur to Ron that Black officers could be assigned to Black units….

    • Taeyoung says:

      I was trying to figure out how this connected — was this apropos because of ethnic Korean generals in the IJA, like Hong Sa-ik or Prince Eun, or IJA officers like Col. Kim Sukwon?
      (I don’t think there were any Taiwanese).

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