While countless atrocities were committed, I strongly believe that especially in the latter stages of the war, say late 1943-on, not all Japanese soldiers and sailors were crazed devils. Professional military personnel had been whittled away by the thousands by that time. Replacements were replacements: they were drafted like millions of our boys: grocery clerks, farmhands, carpenters, etc., but not as well trained as our military were.
I do feel that these young Japanese soldiers and sailors were much like our boys under the stress of combat. They griped about the monotonous chow (or absence thereof) like Old Man Jack. The heat and humidity in the harsh jungle environments wore them down just like ours – likely worse due to lack of supplies – and took its toll on morale.
I stress again I am not condoning the inhuman acts. I just wish to present a possibly different view on our Japanese adversaries during WWII… that they were not all willing to commit suicide and die on behalf of their Emperor. Yes, they hated the enemy with all their might and would lay down their lives for their buddies just like ours… but all of them DID want to go home.
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. Admiral Nagumo – placed in charge of the attack force by the Japanese Imperial Navy and NOT by Admiral Yamamoto – failed to fully execute the direct orders issued to him by Yamamoto.
b. 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.
c. The ordnance used by the attacking Japanese was inappropriate for sinking battleships. Besides, Pearl Harbor is way to shallow to allow for “sinking to the bottom of the ocean,” so to speak.
d. The first wave of Japanese torpedo bombers – although a complete tactical surprise – was a dismal failure with very few hits.
e. Failed to destroy dry docks and fuel dumps (Hawaii is an island country and had to import all fuel…like Japan). Although there is the fog of battle, Nagumo (overly cautious) did not heed the strong advice from Fuchida who urged a third wave just for such purpose.
f. In light of “e” above, Yamamoto himself had one weakness: he did not see his submarine force has an OFFENSIVE weapon. He failed to deploy them between Pearl Harbor and the West Coast of the US to target supply ships – which would have been carrying fuel, materiel and supplies to rebuild Pearl Harbor.
g. Nearly all ships damaged by the attack were refloated.
h. Insufficient training by Japanese Navy in preparation for attack.
i. 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.”
One of the few times Old Man Jack would tell me what island something happened on, it would be humorous – as humorous as he could make it.
He HAD to laugh off some of the horror. He needed to survive being under attack by his own thoughts.
On January 16, 2011, eleven months before he passed away, we decided to go to Denny’s for breakfast. He hated that place – except for their (gawd awful) coffee. He loved their coffee. And he complained about the coffee on the islands. Imagine that. Denny’s coffee couldn’t have tasted that much different. Denny’s uses ocean water, too, you know, for their distinctive flavor. Perhaps that is why he liked their coffee.
“Green Island” was Jack’s last combat station when he earned enough points to be rotated back home. He told me when they yelled out his name, he just ran straight onto this makeshift pier where a PBy was starting up. He jumped in wearing only his shorts and boots. They took off. He was on his way home.
(Click here if you wish to see official US Navy photos of Green Island when Old Man Jack was stationed there.)
In my internet research, I did come across some detailed battle history of Green Island. I printed it out and not knowing how he would react (even after 11 years of friendship), I presented it to him before the (gawd awful) coffee came. I didn’t want him to be TOO alert in case things didn’t go well. 🙂
Well, you can see his reaction. He was “tickled and pickled” I went through the trouble.
During breakfast, he told me about one detail he was assigned to on Green Island – the digging of new holes for latrines. Never mind my eggs were over-easy. But he’s gone through hell whereas I was spared. This was everyday fare for him.
He told me he picked out two “dumb new guys” who thought they knew everything for the detail. They went out where the other “used up” latrines were. He ordered them to start digging new holes in this hard coral-like stuff not too far from the other “used up” holes while he “supervised”.
I knew I would get his goat if I interrupted him. That was part of the fun.
So I interrupted him. For fun.
“Jack…dig? Why didn’t you just have them make a small hole then throw in a grenade?”
Well, I asked for it… in Denny’s… on a busy Saturday morning.
“You dumb shit,” he declared with that boyish grin. “YOU could have been one of the dumb new guys. YOU would have fit right in. We didn’t need any more craters! We had LOTS of craters – all around us! So we dug holes like we were ordered to. So shut up and listen!”
Whooo-ee. That was fun… in Denny’s… on a busy Saturday morning.
I never asked him if he read the history on Green Island. Later on, though, Old Man Jack said he had wanted to go back to those “stinkin’ islands” just to see. It felt as if he wanted to let some demons out.
He never made it back.
Perhaps he’s there now saluting his young buddies he had to leave behind.