Sixty-nine years ago today, the B-29 Superfortress “Dinah Mite” made the first emergency landing on Iwo Jima. The battle for the tiny sulfur island was still raging as she landed.
7,000 young US Marines and 21,000 young Japanese soldiers died violent deaths for this tiny sulfur island.
(Note: Combat was still going on the left side of the makeshift runway as they were landing. Although the B-29 was repaired and left the same day, she returned a month later for another emergency landing. She was so heavily damaged that Dinah Might was abandoned.)
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
9. The Japanese-American (or “Nisei”) Soldiers in the Top Secret Military Intelligence Service (MIS)
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
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.
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.
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.”
True stories about World War II – One war. Two Countries. One Family