My “Top Ten” Reasons Why Japan Lost the Pacific War…so Quickly

USS Nevada

OK.  Relatively speaking.  “Quickly”.

But we’ve been “at war” against terrorism – both foreign and now domestic – since 2001.  More than 11 years.

But the war against Japan started officially for us on December 7, 1941.  We were caught flat-footed.

Yet it was over by August 15, 1945.

Incredible.  In 3 years, 8 months, 8 days.  How could that have happened so quickly (relatively speaking)?  Have you ever thought of this timeline?

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Well, I have removed my Kevlar flak vest for all you bloggers who love history – and who are immensely more versed and intelligent than I…or is it me?

Below herein is my “Top Ten” list of the reasons why Japan lost the Pacific War…so quickly.

I’d like to hear your opinions, corrections, or teachings.

Hunting season is open.  Rubber bullets are most suitable.

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Damage from overhead – Pearl Harbor aftermath

1. Long Range Failure of Pearl Harbor Attack

a. Attack plans skewed towards sinking of carriers (which were not there). Genda wanted to insure carriers were sent to bottom and therefore be unsalvageable. Because our carriers were not there, pilots overly concentrated on battleships or other less tactically important ships.

b. The ordnance used by the attacking Japanese was inappropriate for sinking battleships.

c. The first wave of Japanese torpedo bombers – although a complete tactical surprise – was a dismal failure with very few hits.

d. Failed to destroy dry docks and fuel dumps (Hawaii is an island country and had to import all fuel…like Japan).

e. Nearly all ships damaged by the attack were refloated.

f. Insufficient training by Japanese Navy in preparation for attack.

g. Lastly – and for some foolish reason – they attacked on a Sunday morning.

2. Breaking of the Japanese Naval Code and the failure of the Japanese to accept it was broken.

3. 24-hour Repair of USS Yorktown after Coral Sea in Preparation for Battle of Midway.

USS Yorktown afire
USS Yorktown afire

4. Innovation of US Navy to Use CO2 for Fire Suppression.

a. US Navy would flood fuel tanks on ships with carbon dioxide thereby displacing oxygen before battle.

b. Japanese ships had useless fire suppression systems with fuel right alongside ordnance.

5. Innovation of Rubber-lined Fuel Tanks and Armor Protection for Pilots on US Aircraft

An example of the advantage of self-sealing fuel tanks and armoring.
An example of  survivability with self-sealing fuel tanks and armoring.  F6F Hellcat.

a. “Self-sealing tanks” in wings.

b. Impressive armor shielding for the pilot (especially in the Grumman F6F Hellcat).

c. Japanese planes had neither, leading to insurmountable casualties and easy shoot-downs, i.e., Japanese aircraft would “flame” or disintegrate under withering fire from .50 caliber guns.

Japanese planes did not have self-sealing fuel tanks
Japanese planes did not have self-sealing fuel tanks

6. Battle of Midway

a. Huge tactical gamble by Nimitz in usage of Spruance as task force commander.

b. Tactical decision to launch torpedo planes early on by Spruance. While all but one pilot perished and no torpedoes hit, Mitsubishi Zeroes assigned to combat air patrol were at low altitudes since they shot down the torpedo planes.

c. Dauntless dive bombers (with US fighter cover) were able to dive relatively uncontested and caught Nagumo between launchings with ordnance scattered about.

d. Confusion by Japanese pilots that two US carriers were sunk. In actuality and while eventually sunk, the USS Yorktown had been hit in the first wave but the fires had been put out before the second wave attacked.

e. With the sinking of four Japanese carriers (see Fire Suppression above) and loss of valuable pilots, the Japanese Navy ceased to be an offensive force.

7. Production Might of the US

a. We had eight carriers at time of Pearl Harbor (in the Pacific and the Atlantic) but were down to two after the Battle of Midway.

b. We lost the Wasp, Hornet, Lexington and Yorktown by then.

c. The USS Enterprise was the last operational carrier. The “other” carrier, the USS Langley, was used only for training purposes and was out in the Atlantic.

d. By the time of the invasion of Okinawa in 1945, however, we had over 40 carriers as part of the assault fleet alone.

8. Semi-automatic M1 Garand rifle and the M-2 Flamethrower

a. Japanese military were burdened with reliable but bolt action Arisaka or failure-prone Nambu armaments.  (Bolt-action implies the shooter must lower his rifle to load the next round and then re-sight.)

b. The M-1 Garand took an eight-round clip.  The round had tremendous stopping power, was rugged and a rifle squad could lay down withering fire with the semi-automatic.  The shooter did not have to lower his rifle to load the next round and re-sight.

c. On Iwo Jima and other island battles, the Japanese were rarely seen. As such, the flamethrower was critical for success although accompanied by high mortality rates.

Marines carry the M1 Garand into battle at Tarawa Nov 1943
Marines carry the M1 Garand into battle at Tarawa Nov 1943
Marines Using Flame Thrower on Iwo Jima
US Marines using M-2 flamethrower against entrenched enemy on Iwo Jima

9. The Japanese-American (or “Nisei”) Soldiers in the Top Secret Military Intelligence Service (MIS)

Two of the Nisei secretly attached to Merrill's Marauders plan with General Stillwell.
Two of the Nisei secretly attached to Merrill’s Marauders plan with General Stillwell.

a. MIS secretly accompanied Marines and soldiers for every Pacific Theater amphibious assault or parachuted in with Airborne troops.

b. Nisei’s were the actual soldiers that listened in on Japanese Navy radio transmissions and NOT US Navy personnel. One transmission disclosed details on Admiral Yamamoto’s flight schedule which led to his shootdown.

c. Quickly translated captured major Japanese battle plans for Leyte Gulf (Z-Plan) and allowed for the lop-sided victory at the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”.

d. The invaluable intel provided by the MIS proved to the (generally unsupportive) top echelon that the Japanese military was near operational collapse in many combat areas.

10. The US Marine Corps

Marine catches up to comrades after covering fallen buddy with tarp and marking it with his M-1
Marine catches up to comrades after covering fallen buddy with tarp and marking it with his M-1

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OK.  So what about the B-29’s or the atomic bombs/fire bombings?  Aren’t they some of the reasons Japan lost the Pacific War?

No.  Not in my humble opinion.

Tinian
B-29 boneyard, Tinian

Historical facts will show that the B-29s were largely ineffective until the time LeMay unleashed the firebombing campaign on March 9, 1945.  The first B-29s were deployed out of India and China in the summer of 1944.  For the first missions, about 20% failed to reach their target due largely to mechanical trouble.  Of the approximately 80% that made it to target, only a couple of bombs actually hit target.  Therefore, ineffective results.

Their engines were also prone to overheating in flight.  Criminy.

As for the firebombings/atomic bombings, it is my opinion Japan had already lost the Pacific War due to the ten summarized reasons above.  Intelligence obtained by the US Army MIS Nisei’s like my dad’s predecessors support that conclusion.  When the Nisei interrogated Japanese prisoners at the front lines, it was clear they were nearly without food, water, medical supplies or ammunition.   Their morale was also devastated.  For instance, Japanese soldiers that surrendered would say, “We were terrified.  For every mortar round we would fire at the Marines, ten rounds would come back.”  The Japanese needed to make every round count; the Americans didn’t.

Japanese soldiers – dead, wounded or captured – would have uncensored letters from home on their person.  After the Nisei translated those letters on the battlefront, they disclosed that their families, too, were without much food or water…and that morale was extremely low.

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So some Greek dude said centuries ago that, “In war, truth is the first casualty.”

Pretty smart.  But that applies even today – and certainly during World War II.

We were raised with certain textbooks for our history classes.  We believed in them.  We had no reason not to.

But the truth is, there are many versions of history.  Factual versions.  Incorrect versions.  Factual versions “edited” by the victors.  Factual versions written by the losers.  And new versions.  And versions to further patriotism.

But there is one thing for sure…  Said by one of the most brilliant minds this world has known:

“I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

ALBERT EINSTEIN

103 thoughts on “My “Top Ten” Reasons Why Japan Lost the Pacific War…so Quickly”

  1. I also don’t know much about military tactics and warcraft. I think your thoughts about the Nisei are valid. Having fluent speakers able to talk and translate with the enemy (and infiltrate enemy lines) is a plus in our favor.

    1. The Nisei were truly secret weapons…at least in the Pacific Intelligence realm. Thousands were fighting out in the open in Europe. But they were but one of the reasons why the Pacific War came to such a quick close… My opinion of course. 🙂

  2. I always wondered why Japan never tried to take control of Hawaii after all of the bombing at Pearl Harbor. No land forces. Would control of Hawaii given Japan better access to the west coast?

      1. That seems like a logical move; however, remember the distance from Hawaii to Japan and the fact that the IJN was always concerned with fuel consumption. It would have been essentially impossible to sustain a force on Hawaii, given the length of the supply train that would have been required. Hence, they could have invaded and destroyed installations, but they could not have truly occupied the islands.

      2. Good point, Patrick. And given your thoughts, it is highly improbable Japan could have occupied America on its own – especially when Nazi Germany was nearing defeat herself. But oil and natural resources are what spurred the Japanese military to invade the other Asiatic countries in the first place in the early 1930s…

    1. On Christmas of 1941 my father (enlisted), along with Director John Ford (The Battle of Midway ) and Director Alfred Gilks was hauling a 35mm Michell ‘Standard’ with sticks and lead-acid batteries up a hill overlooking the lake and locks in Panama. If the Japanese had busted the Madden dam that holds the canal together, filling that lake takes a number of years. Go figure.

    2. Projecting that much power over that distance was thought to be all that could be hoped for, apart from its potential for causing the US to sue for peace. Now, knowing that that didn’t work, the question of why Hawaii was not occupied, fuel tanks destroyed, etc, and whatever else would have been ideal is often asked. At the time, however, transporting sufficient troops and supplies over that distance was just too daunting, and losing any significant portion of Kido Butai would have been disastrous..

    3. Japan was never going to invade the mainland US…Admiral Yamamoto worked in the DC in the 1930’s as a naval liason, and on his off times he travelled around and saw for himself the production capability of the US and how many people had guns. Yamamoto said; “In the US there is a gun behind every blade of grass”….please remember this fact when voting for politicians who are FOR gun control. it may seem a non issue in this day and age, but its ALWAYS better to have a gun and not need one than to need a gun and not have one…

    4. The IJN knew they couldn’t support a base that far from the home islands — US would just take it back. Same with Midway, btw.

      1. I had posted a reply via my (dumb) smartphone but it didn’t take… or perhaps it is the dumb operator…

        The key scientists were shown a movie taken of the atomic bombings’ aftermath. Several threw up while others, I understand, suffered something similar to PTSD after seeing the destruction.

        But what is more cruel? An atomic bombing or firebombing? Do you know what happens if you are caught in a firestorm but aren’t burned to death first?

        Anyways, it would be wrong today to judge people or their actions of 70 years ago. The stuff I write and comments I make are to hopefully make a few people think things over… 😉

        Thanks for all your visits from across the pond.

  3. Comprehensive list! What makes it such a good read is that there are the expected points (i.e. the code breaking, the decisive battles, the firepower, the manufacturing base in the US), but also the surprise factors like the self-sealing gas tanks and the fire suppression systems on US ships. I wouldn’t have imagined those as being war winning technologies, but if they saved the lives of experienced pilots and kept entire ships afloat to fight again another day, I can see how they helped.

    1. Thanks for the visit once again. Yes,there are many, many opinions on what brought around the end of war relatively quickly – especially much more learned ones like yourself. But when you think about it, the USS Enterprise WAS the last carrier yet had been pummeled by seven direct bomb hits plus many near-misses…yet survived. There were more aces from flying the Hellcat (with its superior armor as even compared to its contemporary, the Corsair) than any other aircraft. Sure, historians can state the skill of the Japanese pilot had declined by that time but survivability of our pilot and the Japanese losses at Midway had more of a part.

      1. Right, but Japanese pilot losses (and therefore degraded skill) were closely related to light construction of their aircraft, little armor, no self-sealing tanks, etc. As I say in my video, I guess if you have to have a short war to win, setting up a big pilot training program doesn’t make sense. May as well put your front line out there from the get-go. The Japanese lack of emphasis on damage control on ships caused many to sink when they shouldn’t have. Better to make sure Emperor’s portrait is straight.

  4. That is a very well thought out list but I have to toss in the Native Amerian Code Talkers. I’m not sure of their exact impact on the war but their codes were never broken allowing for secure communications at some vital points in the war. Did you know they were even used during WWI? Great post, keep them coming!

    1. No, Jeff, I did not know they had been utilized in WWI. I always understood the verbal code they used was developed at the onset of WWII.

      But I did consider the code talkers as one of the reasons but they didn’t fall into my Top Ten. 😉 While their transmissions were never broken as you say, they were attached to the Marines primarily. (Nisei MIS soldiers also flew in bombing missions over Japan; they listened in on Japanese radio transmissions. The Navajo code talkers were largely land based.) The Navajo Marines were also primarily for fire support and the like, not intelligence gathering. Those were my reasons for not specifically listing them but they were a tremendous “secret weapon” nonetheless.

      Thank you for your thoughts and contribution!

    2. Code talkers, while currently in the spotlight, are not in the top ten. It’s an interesting human interest story, but the fact that the codes were broken is much bigger and less appreciated, mostly because it was classified for 50 years.

  5. Your thoughts are well received. Are they in any particular order? If ranking them, I would put American Industrial Production at the top. And you know me, I would have trouble mentioning the Marines without mentioning the Army – they were a TEAM. Anyone who has REALLY studied the campaign at Guadalcanal would be remiss, at best, to not mention the fact that actions against Buna and Gona in Papua New Guinea gave the Japanese a strategic and tactical crisis for which they could never adequately cope. The two campaigns complemented each other to the point that neither would have been successful without the other.
    And somewhere in that list would be mention of the proximity fuse for antiaircraft artillery rounds.

    Now for the bullets in MY direction as I say something that may offend some people: I have read (easily) over 100 books on the War in the Pacific and have studied it most of my life. One thing that I have seen over and over in studying the battles of the Pacific is racism on the part of the Japanese as much or more than that of the Americans. Over and over, without learning from their mistakes, Japanese commanders assumed that BECAUSE THEY WERE JAPANESE they would be able to outfight and outlast their American foe and do things that soldiers of other armies could not. Their war plans lacked vision as well as the ability to adapt to a war that was changing rapidly. They never really seemed to comprehend what they were up against until it was too late. As you say, we defeated the Japanese relatively quickly, but imagine how much more disastrous (for the Japanese) and quicker it would have been had we not also been fighting Nazi Germany in Europe and Africa at the same time…remember that events like the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” were almost simultaneous with the liberation of Rome AND Operation Overlord in Europe as well as major operations on New Guinea. That was absolutely an incredible display of WORLD military dominance.

    1. Hey, Patrick, my good friend! For my blogging friends, Patrick here provides “hands on” experience to junior and senior high students by giving “WWII days”. Kids come and actually get to handle, touch or wear any of Patrick’s bona fide WWII artifacts. Very generous of him to do so. http://www.flickr.com/photos/worldwar2man/6796831592/

      (ps If you think some of those students look young, the boys that went to war were not that much older, folks.)

      Easy reply: the Top Ten is in no particular order. I just felt that all ten combined led to the “quick” end to the Pacific War.

      You bring up a very interesting point, Patrick, of the “superiority complex” exhibited by the Japanese military…and especially of their higher level officers. Some of it was a carry-over from the feudal samurai culture – like the infamous “banzai” charges. Undoubtedly, it DID hasten war’s end.

      Coupled with that is the brutal treatment given to new recruits by their officers. First hand account: my uncle’s war diary. With that brutal treatment during training and out in the field, the non-coms were pretty much doomed when an officer yelled, “Charge”.

      Proximity fuses, the Army as a team… Yes, all did contribute to hasten the end of war…and the list will go on. Love this kind of input! We can all learn…

      1. Remember, when I say “Team” I mean the Army WITH the Marines WITH the Navy WITH the Air Forces. That’s what seems to allude the Marines. I have heard plenty of accolades from the Army TO the Marines but usually only snide remarks from the Marines to the Army. It was a TEAM effort, and they needed each other.

      2. I suspect “superiority complex” also stemmed from Japan’s never having been seriously tested in war — the Chinese and Russians (seriously degraded by 1905) weren’t much of a test. Late ’41-early ’42 Europeans had their hands full and US wasn’t ready.

  6. One other thought on why the war ended in 1945 rather than later:
    Although the economy and military of Japan was almost utterly destroyed and the morale of the people very weak, the Japanese continued to fight until a key moment. There was no capitulation after the firebombing and no surrender after the first atomic bombing on 6 August. The first atomic bombing did, however, cause the Japanese government to press negotiations with the Soviet government to try and arbitrate a surrender with the U.S. in return for territory in Asia. Unfortunately for the Japanese, that was ignored and then the Soviets declared war. AFTER that happened, the Japanese had lost their last bargaining chip and had to decide whether they wanted to surrender to the U.S. (with Soviet Union present but clearly a secondary ally) or surrender to the communists under which there would absolutely have been no chance of retaining an emperor and a likely chance of a Japanese civil war as would happen in Korea a few years later.
    I would agree that the Japanese, for all intents and purposes, had been defeated by July of 1943 or June of 1944 (for sure), but they had not given up. In my opinion, they would have been annihilated eventually (and what a waste that would have been) but quit when they did, in part, because of a Soviet declaration of war.

    1. Good viewpoints as always, Patrick. I’m sure you know there was a coup led by a small military faction the day before the Emperor “broadcast” the surrender to the Japanese public. All in all, my grandmother has said (and in her eyes) that many “professional” soldiers had already perished, leaving only ordinary citizens to be drafted. I doubt they would have put up a serious fight but yes, many would have died on both sides.

    2. If I may post another excerpt from my book “Fighting on EmptyZZHow Hitler and Hirohito lost the Economic War” (available via Amazon as an e-book or paperback):

      “At the end of the war) Japan still had industrial capacity beyond any of its Asian neighbours; and it still retained a large number of technically trained workers. A study in early 1946 published by Far Eastern Survey showed there were still some functioning steel rolling mills, blast furnaces and coke ovens. Japanese refineries in 1945 still had the capacity to produce 80,000 tons of copper ingots a year, along with refined tin, zinc, lead and copper. Aluminium capacity had suffered relatively little bomb damage. A report to the United States authorities showed Japan could still manufacture 1,000 railway locomotives a year and 17,000 freight wagons; in addition, 5,469 steam locomotives remained in working order. As many as 114 merchant ships over 5,000 gross tons were still afloat, and 794 smaller freighters. While the merchant fleet had suffered horrific losses, Japanese shipyards still intact could build 176 steel ships a year and sixty-seven dry docks remained in one piece. Telephones rang in 840,245 business premises or residences in Japan, still more than had been connected in 1931. The industrial devastation was not of the scale which Germany (and much of Europe) had witnessed.”

  7. Many valid points, definately correct on about the Nisei. I already have planned a two part post for them at pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com in the future, when I get to the intelligence chapters.

  8. Great!

    No flak here.

    I was just doing my dishes and thinking how could I say what you wrote without talking flak from ferocious readers… Not that I would mine…

    I agree completely. I am no historian, but I know some historians wrote what people in command allowed them to write.

    A blog is a great way to show that the truth is not what we think in the first place.

    Remember when a god Jap was a dead Jap…?

    Makes you think of the power of propaganda then and now…

  9. The US Marines were not as spectacular as some would like to think. For one, MacArthur felt they were taking too long and losing too many men on Iwo Jima, so he sent the Americal Unit (Army w/ Nisei) to help bail them out.

    1. I was not aware of that insertion by MacArthur. I had read the “Nisei” were already selected to land in the first waves but after the Marines moved off the beach. I’d be very interested in reading that source! 😉

      1. I have read it in “The Last Great Victory” by Stanley Weintraub and “Angels: The History of the 11th Airborne Division” by Gen. E.M. Flanagan.

      1. First, thank you very much for your service!! Second, I sure wasn’t “picking-on” the Marines, my son and uncle were both USMC [both gone now] and Third, it had nothing to do with the bravery and courage of the men [I should have made THAT clear], the lack of training and experienced leaders, old equipment, etc.
        In my rush, due to lack of computer time, I was far too terse in my comment – my apologies.

      1. MacArthur was forced to work with Nimitz (no love-loss there), but Halsey and MacA worked like a well-oiled machine together. The operations would be planned as Halsey giving the left jabs until MacA came in with the right-cross. The very beginning of the war, the Marines were considered the best, so they should be thrown in – chaos and all. [As in many operations, it wasn’t the men’s fault if something went awry – the action just didn’t have experienced planners. They had never fought this type of war before. WWI was a trench-war]

      2. Up until about 20 years ago, I was an advocate for post mortem court martial of MacArthur for his actions (or lack of them) in immediate aftermath of PH attack. Upon closer examination, he was caught kind of like Nagumo at Midway — bad timing vis a vis them B-17’s.

        Imho, the Marines were used in Central Pacific campaign because they were the Navy’s “infantry” arm, not because they were thought to be the best (tho they were/are ). Marine doctrine, of course, was that you take fewer casualties by getting the battle over with, versus pussy-footin’ around. Tough to tell how the Army would have done at Iwo, Tarawa, Peleliu but, as a USMC vet, and likely therefore biased, I understood post Boot Camp how the Marines got the reputation they have.

        So you were in the S Pacific in those days? I’ve been to many of those islands (Guadalcanal, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Midway, Iwo, Okinawa, Kwajalein, Rabaul, etc). It does give one perspective.

      3. Gpcox’s father was in the 11th Airborne and made combat jumps on Leyte. He was also one of the first ones to Atsugi when MacArthur made his “theatrical” arrival. 🙂 And I am envious you made those stops in your lifetime, sir. Were you on Iwo during active service?

      4. As you mentioned elsewhere, analyzing now is far different than being there. Certainly, the telephone or radio was the extent of their “social networking”. But like commissions today and the politics, I doubt MacArthur would have been courts martialed. Even my 7th grade teacher loved him. But he “faded away”… Perhaps that was a great punishment for his ego.

        I’m just curious… Did you get to step on those yellow footprints on Parris Island? Or MCRD San Diego?

      5. Mustang: I toured those S Pacific sites with a group of veterans of those battles in 2004. Nothing like standing on Red Beach 1 on Saipan with one of the guys who went ashore in the first wave. Young stud then, old and hunched over now. This even happens to Marines .

      6. MacArthur sure didn’t have an issue with the Marine artillery who supported Krueger’s Army who landed at Leyte….many don’t know that the Marines were on Leyte…albeit not long, but they were there…and left with job well done from Mac…

    2. Ok – You have seen my posts on Iwo; Inexperienced? Old equipment? Exactly how would the other units “bail them out”? Excerpted from 36 Days of Hell” – IWO JIMA:
      Iwo Jima is a sulfurous rock of about 8 square miles, one third the size of Manhattan Island. Sulphur is crystalline; it doesn’t stick together, or compact. Foxholes can’t be dug. The beaches were knee deep in it. Where one could dig, going more than a foot down became so hot the soldiers could cook their rations in it. Mt. Suribachi, as well as the rest of the island was honeycombed with tunnels, some more than 30 feet deep leading to their heavy guns, mortars, and machine gun emplacements; though the island was bombed repeatedly for months prior to the invasion, and the Navy bombarded it for three days prior to the assault, this had little if any effect on the Japanese fortifications. Every inch of the areas were registered by the Japanese guns…

  10. Wow number nine gives me goosebumps. I knew nothing about this.
    I know a lot about WWII in Europe but way too little about Japan and the war.
    My husband and I were just talking about all the things we don’t know about Japanese history.
    I have several good friends who are Japanese and live both here and there. They are my age. They told me they were taught in secondary school about what countries dropped what bombs where in Japan.
    It seems like information is missing in both countries educational programs.
    So your blog fills an important gap.
    Thank you. It is most interesting~

    1. Thanks for your interest in WWII history… The war was won – or lost – on quirks of fate, luck, and courage. The work of the Nisei was top secret during and immediately after the war. It was only declassified in 1972. They also played a major role during the War Crimes Trials. 6,000 young Niseis were in the MIS although their family were in those camps stateside. Many of the totally fluent ones spent their schooling years like my father did in Hiroshima.

  11. This was a great read, Mustang. Like a magazine.

    Interesting comment re Hawaii – inf act all the comments were interesting! A great post.

    1. Wow…! Thanks for having the interest in reading about this (mundane) stuff… but in fact, the war did end quickly, especially considering the state of our military on Dec. 7th.

      1. This isn’t mundane stuff, Koji: it’s history, and history is infinitely interesting. What we humans do, what our leaders decide, how it affects lives – infinitely interesting.

  12. This was mostly new material to me, as I have studied the Far East POW experiences and not the battles of WWII. There were some grim weapons used (e.g flamethrowers). As you said, starvation was a problem for the Japanese as well as the POWs and the ethos was that wounded or sick personnel of either side were useless mouths.

  13. Point No. 7 alludes to the economic story, but this underplays a key reason why Japan lost: economic mismanagement. I cover this in detail in my new book, “Fighting on Empty: How Hitler and Hirohito Lost the Economic War”. Here’s the start of Chapter 2:

    “TEN MONTHS BEFORE IT was to bomb Pearl Harbor, Japan’s economic planning was still in disarray, astonishing considering how difficult the struggle would be against the financial and resources power of the United States. Shipping was just one of the problems. The Japanese military required so many vessels to maintain supplies for its army in China — in the first half of 1939 some 1.6 million gross tons, about thirty per cent of the Japanese merchant fleet, was monopolised by the military to ship troops and equipment to the Chinese theatre and also supplying Japanese forces up the Yangtze River — that it left Tokyo with insufficient numbers of merchantmen to maintain its foreign trade and, consequently, maintain its earnings of foreign exchange. But this foreign exchange imperative, and the need to conserve spending as the scope of the war effort widened, also worked against chartering of foreign vessels to fill its trade gap.
    Japan as an island nation faced a similar marine logistics challenge to that of Britain, yet its merchant marine was less than one-third the size of Britain’s. Nor could Japan turn to foreign-flagged vessels to help: the numbers of those plying routes across the Pacific was diminishing due to the war in Europe. The British had declared Danish vessels to be belligerents because of Copenhagen’s decision not to resist the Wehrmacht, and the U.S. took more than thirty of those ships into protective custody. Italian and German cargo ships also were withdrawn or seized. The Royal Navy’s blockade of German-occupied France also meant French vessels were bottled up in their home ports, or unable to reach them. In February 1941, it was reported by the Christian Science Monitor that a shortage of shipping was impeding timber exports from the Canadian province of British Columbia. Japanese companies still owned some 500 million feet of standing timber at the northern end of Vancouver Island but their shortages of money and ships was expected to lead them to sell off the timber into the domestic market.
    How do you contemplate becoming part of a world war when you do not even have enough electric power to support your domestic manufacturing industry? Well, apparently, you could if you were running Japan in 1939. Power rationing had to be introduced in 1939 when chemical and metallurgical plants were not able to get enough electricity. The shortages were caused by insufficient coal supplies. In late January 1940, Associated Press reported to the world that industrial centres in fourteen Japanese prefectures were at a standstill apart from those plants producing urgently needed supplies for the front in China. Coal shortages had meant power plants in Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and elsewhere had shut down, leaving three million factory workers idle.”

    1. Roger that to a point. We now know it didn’t work out for Japan, but it made sense for them at the time. See my on-line video “The Other Reasons Japan Lost the War”, which started out as a book, but I got no time for a book — I get into the whole issue of getting raw materials back to Japan but, as I said somewhere else, the Japanese seemed to operate on the implicit assumption that no competent enemy would be shooting back..

    2. Towards the end of the war, the Allies targeted the ships bringing coal to Japan. By 1945, intercepts of Japanese coded messages clearly indicated smelters were badly affected by coal shortages.

      1. Not just getting coal to Japan. The Japanese could not even manage to move coal from other parts of the Dutch East Indies to Java where it was needed, so they had to develop from scratch a mine on Java that had no road access and the coal was moved by locals carrying it many miles on their backs. But, as I show in my book now on Amazon, the mistakes were numerous. Why did Japan destroy the industrial base centred on Shanghai? Why did they not have a labour policy at home, so that 50% of industrial workers remained in small factories and not producing war equipment? Why weren’t women harnessed to the effort? It just gets more extraordinary every time you dig deeper into Japan’s economic war “effort”.

    3. So did the Japanese plants really have all that production capacity at the end of the war given the shortages of power and raw materials, and no boats with which to ship them? Your arguments conflict.

      1. Sorry if my writing was unclear. I was not stating the Japanese had production capability. The point was American production might, not Japan’s. By war’s end, it was in shambles. They weren’t even to produce automobiles in quantity until the late 1950’s, as an example.

  14. This is a long-time field of study for me. I have You Tube lecture entitled “The Other Reasons Japan Lost the War”, which is a 90 min lecture condensed to 58 for TV, which you find if you Google it. One rarely discussed aspect was Japan’s minimal damage control on ships. Too much training in damage control was viewed as defeatist. Prior to discovering this, I had always wondered how the Imperial Navy apparently sank so readily. Also, most of Japan’s ships (except for some very good (outside the London Naval Treaty) heavy cruisers) were antiquated designs — Haruna, Kongo, Kirishima, Hiei, etc, were essentially WW 1 designs. US equivalents were in 45 feet of water. My father, fwiw, spoke Japanese and was one of the code breakers.

    1. Sir, a definite pleasure to meet you here. I had written this about two years ago and before I “studied” MAGIC, the secrecy and their talented teams. I see your father was one of these uniquely talented individuals; it must be fascinating to hear of his stories of what really went on. Nevertheless, I would need to amend this post from two years ago to expand Code Breaking to beyond just the MIS. In fact, in hindsight, the code breaking – and the Japanese refusal to accept it was broken – was likely the #1 reason for Japan’s demise.

      I will take a look at your video, sir. Since this post, I’ve written summarized histories of what FDR knew before Pearl and MAGIC.

      Thank you.

      1. Thank you for your reply. Video leaves stuff out because a) it had to fit in 58 min, and b) editors were not historians. My basic premise is that there is no scenario in which Japan could have “won” the war but, based upon their experience, they did what made the most sense at the time, w/o a crystal ball. I love these kinds of discussions, tho. My dad told us all about why the detention camps were set up, which we just sort of assumed everyone knew, but almost no one did.

  15. Read more. Interesting you mention the Arisaka when contrasted with the Garand — I include that too and for the same reason. Wasn’t the Nambu Woodpecker a petty good light machine gun tho?

    Big part of Japan’s defeat was due to timing. They really weren’t ready, but were forced into attacking when they did by oil/steel embargo which was causing production window to close plus other events above.

    As to what FDR knew, I know of no evidence that he knew PH attack was coming — some attack, but not PH. Interested to see what you have. Big tendency by historians to cherry pick historical tid-bits and construct a case for “how could he not have known?”, but looking back and doing that is a lot different than being on the spot at the time and looking forward, not even knowing which bits of the gobs of data is even accurate or relevant. Love Joe Rochefort for that.

    1. Arm chair historian…that’s me but on an amateur level! 🙂

      In general, Nambu armaments were of inferior design and prone to jams imo. I read somewhere the rounds needed a light coat of some type of lubricant which in turn attracted dirt. Nambu was also a political friend of the IJA, yes? But the woodpecker was a perfect nickname.

      As for “how could he not have known”, I reply with the political rhetoric going on today to cover things up…or plain denial. 🙂

      If you are curious (and you know much more), my read on Pearl and broken codes: https://p47koji.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/what-did-fdr-know-part-1/

      Always love feedback and/or corrections!

  16. I hardly feel qualified to comment, but being me, I’m going to anyway! History, then, is always written by winners, and there are good reasons for their accounts to be limited, biased and sketchy. Atrocities happened on both sides – we only hear about those committed by the enemy.

    This is why the job you do, and the discussions you raise, are so valuable. They bring out the details we would sometimes rather remain buried. As for dear little parochial UK me, I was unborn while Hitler did his level best to level us, but I know our treatment of Germany after WW1 contributed to his admission ticket. And I was surprised to learn, recently, that around two thirds of the Japanese fleet was built in the twenties and thirties in British shipyards; so that’s our rather spurious claim to glory. Ah me!

    1. Most Japanese capital ships were older designs, basically WW 1 technology, obviously except for some heavy cruisers and Yamato/Mushashi built after abrogation of London Naval Treaty. Such as Hiei, Haruna, Kongo, Kirishima, etc, were battlecruisers that were upgraded to BB’s primary by changing the designation, and Fuso/Yamashiro, etc, were just plain old. This was also true of the Royal Navy, but they didn’t have the naval challenge that Japan did. I was giving a lecture on “The Other Reasons Japan Lost the War” Wednesday, and who should be in the audience but one of the 6 survivors of USS Hoel of Leyte Gulf fame. Also attending with Jack Pharris, son of the guy who basically saved the USS California at Pearl Harbor.

    2. Thank you, sir, for your thoughts. I just hope to bring to the table views on history as seen by “both” sides. There are intriguing posts on Japanese websites about WWII. While I certainly am not fluent, I get the gist of what they are writing.

  17. One of my best friends in Australia his half Japanese. His elderly mother grew up in Japan in WW2. Whenever I went to her house for a meal there would always be an incredible amount and array of delicious Japanese and western food on the table (far more than necessary for the amount of people). I asked one day why she cooked and prepared so much food. Simple response was she hated seeing people starving day in day out during the war back in Japan so she never wanted anyone to go hungry ever again! I wasn’t complaining as the food was fantastic but it was interesting that that stuck with her all those years later even when it was not necessary.

    1. Indeed, Deano, on your observation. My cousins in Hiroshima still savor Spam, which my dad took to them in his duffle bags. All the people on the short end of the stick surely felt the same. Thank you for sharing.

  18. I found Mr. Grahams information about the Japanese lack of damage control and top heavy pagoda style ships to be very informative. I also found Robins post about how the industrial capacity of Japan was still at capacity latter in the war to be of interest as well. and It seems there are many things I still am learning about Japan and the war.I read allot where Japan was doomed from the day it started its campaigns, not enough manpower, resources, technology etc.I think if they could of accomplished what they did initially, in the Pacific, the strategy conquer hold and control, in Hawaii, the outcomes would of been different. Why they chose not too is a mystery to me, as it seems everywhere they won they ruled with brute force, were fanatical on making all converts to the Japanese way. Perhaps in hawaii they would of been overextended. On a deeper level, I think you need to have had residence in Japan to really understand why they entered then latter lost the war. If your looking for definitive and logical answers, you might be disappointed as these are hard to produce in a country that puts emphasis on group cohesion at all cost; it is instead something you must experience, observe and endure, and hope to connect with someone who has shared the experience as well. From the Japanese perspective, and the Westerner immersed in it, comes forth a new insight that can be hard to describe.I think it was Grew, who had spent considerable time in Japan, reported that the Japanese could not be defeated, no matter what; they will fight to the last man woman and child. It is this mentality that I believe contributed to Japans entrance into the war, and their inability to reset and form any kind of logical cohesive plan as things fell apart. The plan was group cohesion at all cost. Its something that is rarely mentioned when discussing this subject. You can still find this mentality in Japan today with their self imposed trade embargo against foreign products and extreme protectionism. The Japanese are amazing people with their ability to concentrate on a task with extreme diligence, produce a unique Japanese product.But with this exclusion and superiority comes a certain arrogance and at times racist ideology. Its certain that their early victories in Indochina, China, Philippines etc helped to lock in this mindset. If youve had the “Japanese experience” .you could almost be forgiven for believing that Japan could of won the war, was doing everything right, but you have to step out of that paradigm and see it from the outside worlds perspective, escape this absolute view of events, to see the other reality. Its bridging these two worlds that seems to be difficult for some Japanese.

    1. Agree with all of that. One can hindsight Japan’s decisions to death, especially the ones that didn’t work out. Even their overly-complicated battle plans can be defended if one view the war from the Japanese perspective of needing a quick victory, which argues for getting as much done as quickly as possible, and even for not using your experienced pilots to train new ones — may as well have your best ones out there when the war must be won if it is to be. “Group cohesion” and, by extension decision by consensus, and by further extension obedience to orders from on high in the face of changing circumstances, cost the Japanese dearly.

  19. Wow- To only just find this posting made five yrs ago today. Got here from a link (your liking my post on Profiles) If anything, above and beyond other reasons, their loss was not wanting to take Yamamoto more seriously.
    The U.S. was very divided; if they had not attacked, left U.S. possessions including the Philippines alone, and taken the Dutch East Indies (oil,rubber, etc.) the raw materials for their military would have been obtained, and we would have continued to sit on our butts and watch.

    1. Yes, I agree with your valid opinions. My post, however, tried to highlight why I thought the Japanese lost the war so fast once Pearl Harbor happened – which is today. My post was more geared towards the ugly combat and battles. Yes, Yamamoto knew having attended Yale and such and the infighting between the more politically strong Imperial Army and the Imperial Navy had lots to do with the losing but from an high altitude view.

  20. The last 2 paragraphs of my post on why Japan lost…

    Japanese leadership at the strategic and political level was inept throughout the war. They failed to coordinate any strategy with the Germans and failed to enunciate any sort of Grand Strategy. On the operational and tactical levels the Japanese forces, especially the surface navy performed well, however as the American numeric and technologic advantage increased the Navy became less effective. After the death of Admiral Yamamoto in 1943 Japanese Naval Leadership became far less effective. The Americans as mentioned before were able to devise a Grand Strategy which not only dealt with Japan but also Germany and coordinated the efforts of forces, war production, planning and logistics to advance their war aims. At the operational and tactical level American forces, especially the Navy and Marines and later the Army Air Forces and Army became more skilled and than their Japanese counterparts with the possible exception of General Simon Bolívar Buckner at Okinawa. See Spector and Thomas Costello “The Pacific War.” In the air the Americans continued to increase their combat capabilities at the tactical and strategic level and used massed fire bombing raids to devastate the Japanese homeland. The Japanese in contrast due to inexperienced pilots and fewer competitive aircraft were forced into suicide or Kamikaze missions as the war neared Japan.

    The outcome of the Pacific war was directly related to the ability of the Americans to adjust strategy to the realities of the Pacific war as well as the unity of effort which enabled the American superiority in industrial, technological and logistical capabilities to overwhelm the Japanese. The Japanese after initial success did little to adapt and were hamstrung by inter-service rivalries and inadequate industrial capacity and limited natural resources, fell behind in technology and were unable to replace losses among the ships, men and aircraft that they needed to fight an effective war. Japanese leaders at many levels failed to adapt strategy, tactics or methods to match the reality of the war and the places that they did do so were done by local commanders and never instituted throughout the Japanese military.

    To read the entire post…

    https://toystoreyspot.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/1-why-japan-lost-ww2/

    1. I certainly agree with your comments above. My “Top Ten” were directed to why they lost the war so quickly after Pearl (which was today) and were more from the brutal combat level – the actual most fierce and ugly combat and why Japanese losses became so insurmountable.

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