Understanding Japan’s Pacific War Strategy
By Lieutenant Commander Daniel T. Murphy, USN
“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor ”1 – Bluto Blutarksy, Animal House, 1978.
Most People know that it was Japan, not Germany that treacherously attacked the U.S. Navy fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A smaller proportion of individuals are conscious of the truth that it was the United States, not Japan that fired the first photographs of the war on that day. The destroyer USS WARD was patrolling close to the entrance to Pearl Harbor when the minesweeper USS CONDOR reported a periscope at 0342. A PBY patrol airplane positioned a smoke marker on the placement. WARD carried out a floor assault with guns, followed up with depth costs, and reported the sub sunk. The midget sub sunk by WARD was discovered by a University of Hawaii analysis submersible on August 28, 2002.2
It’s true that WARD’s assault was a minor element in the bigger context of the Pearl Harbor attack. And, it does not materially change the truth that Japan was the belligerent on that day. But for sixty years, WARD’s story was de-emphasized in the historic commentary. Was WARD’s attack de-emphasized as a result of it didn’t improve the commentary of Japanese treachery Or, was it because we didn’t have material evidence of the attack until the sub was positioned in 2002 Both method, it’s a minor element, right
Perhaps. The issue is that a number of the “less-minor” strategic elements of stone island sale meadowhall the story of the Pacific Warfare have been de-emphasized as nicely. As a result of we (the United States) were the victors within the conflict, we’ve got owned the historic narrative of the battle. Our version of the Pacific Conflict turned the model of the Pacific Battle. “Vae Victis” (Woe to the vanquished).3
Our handy and succinct story of the Pacific Conflict was that Japan was hell-bent on conquest within the South Pacific. The United States only needed peace. They raped Nanking. We initiated an oil embargo. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto crossed the Pacific along with his provider fleet and treacherously destroyed our battle fleet at Pearl Harbor. It is a handy and succinct story, repeated by millions of troopers, sailors, and residents in the course of the struggle and within the years after the conflict. However it’s an incomplete narrative. Listed here are some much less simple and less convenient elements in the story:
Tokyo was executing a grand technique that the United States had urged to them. Japan was an aggressive state as a result of, for quite a couple of years, we had inspired them to be aggressive.
For Japan, their naval battle in opposition to the U.S. was a sideshow in a much greater conflict on the Asian continent. In today’s U.S. army nomenclature, Japan’s Pacific operations could be called “ancillary” operations.
If Tokyo had stayed true to its authentic Mahanian-based mostly naval doctrine, Japan might probably have defeated the United States in the Pacific Battle. Or, they may have at the least achieved their political targets.
Big Dragons Puffing Smoke
Contrary to their representation in war-period and put up-warfare-period film and media, Japan was not hell-bent on conquest just because they had been evil. Japan was in search of to construct an empire in Asia because that is what the United States had encouraged and skilled them to do.
Until the middle of the nineteenth century, Japanese ports have been closed to all but just a few Dutch and Chinese language traders. On July 8, 1853 Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay with a squadron of U.S. Navy vessels led by the USS POWHATAN. Perry’s “giant dragons puffing smoke” (steam ships) were supposed to terrify. And in 1854, the United States and Japan signed a treaty agreeing that the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate can be opened to U.S. vessels to purchase coal and other supplies.Four For the U.S. it was a Mahanian play. The new coaling stations would enable our Navy to venture seapower and protect our commercial sea lanes into the Asian continent. Japan can be America’s stepping stone to China, and the new ports can be particularly helpful for the American whaling fleet. In 1872, retired U.S. Basic Charles LeGendre traveled to Tokyo and first suggested to the Japanese that they need to have their very own Asian “Monroe Doctrine.” In the following years, LeGendre acted as a trusted advisor to Tokyo, encouraging the Japanese to take Taiwan and instigate the first Sino-Japanese Conflict of 1894-1895. When Japan defeated Russia in the 1904-1905 struggle to increase Tokyo’s territories on the mainland, American magazine articles defined “Why We Favour Japan in the current War” and “Russia stands for reaction and Japan for progress.” U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt felt an excited tingle for the Japanese victory. He advised his good friend Japanese Baron Kentaro Kaneko, “This is the best phenomenon the world has ever seen . . . I grew so excited that I myself grew to become nearly like a Japanese, and i couldn’t attend to official duties.”5
When Japan invaded and took over Korea in 1910, U.S. foreign minister to Korea Horace Allen cabled to Washington that Tokyo had turn into Korea’s “rightful and pure overlord.”6 Roosevelt wrote to Secretary of State John Hay, “The Japs have performed our recreation as a result of they’ve performed the game of civilized mankind . . . We could also be of genuine service . . . in stopping interference to rob her of the fruits of her victory.”7 And in a letter to Vice President Taft he wrote, “I heartily agree with the Japanese phrases of peace, insofar as they embody Japan having management of Korea.”8
LeGendre’s Monroe Doctrine conversation with Tokyo continued thirty years later by Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft in 1905. Taft travelled to Tokyo to push the Monroe Doctrine idea with the Meiji emperor. Roosevelt pushed the thought with Japanese envoy Baron Kaneko Kentaro in Washington – “Japan is the one nation in Asia that understands the principles and strategies of Western civilization . . . All of the Asiatic nations are now confronted with the pressing necessity of adjusting themselves to the present age. Japan needs to be their pure leader in that course of, and their protector through the transition stage, a lot as the United States assumed the leadership of the American continent many years in the past, and by the use of the Monroe Doctrine, preserved the Latin American nations from European interference, while they had been maturing their independence.”9 The American president had invited Tokyo to dominate her Asian neighbors. The U.S. had awakened a sleeping dragon to guard America’s open door to the Chinese language continent. The dragon went on a fifteen-year fireplace-breathing shooting spree. And in 1940, Japanese Overseas Minister Yosuke Matsuoka argued, “If the United States may rely upon the Monroe Doctrine to help its preeminent position within the Western Hemisphere with a view to maintain American economic stability and prosperity, why could not Japan do the same with an Asian Monroe Doctrine ”10
Within the years leading as much as 1941, while Japan definitely recognized the United States as a possible enemy, Tokyo’s primary foreign coverage priority was China. An American military analyst named Hector Bywater wrote a captivating guide in 1925 about a fictional struggle between Japan and the United States touched off by a land dispute in China. Bywater stated Japan’s “capitalists and merchants loved a digital monopoly in Southern Manchuria, in addition to holding a controlling interest within the mines, railways, and industries of Jap Interior Mongolia…Even the coal and iron mines of the Yangtse Valley had been exploited to a big extent by Japanese nationals…Without Chinese minerals her industrial machine could not be stored going; it required to be fed with a constant supply of the coal, iron, copper and tin from the mines of Shansi, Shantung and Manchuria.” Thus, for Japan, it was “essential that China ought to stay disunited and impotent.”11
Commodore Perry had gone to Tokyo with the concept of making a stepping-stone to China. The assumption was that China would stay an “open door” to all nations. Nonetheless, by the 1920s it was becoming clear that America had awakened a sleeping dragon. As Japan expanded her presence in Manchuria through 1932 and Mongolia by way of 1937, the U.S. and European governments anxious that Tokyo was taking control of the Stone Island Jumpers Jackets open door. Without permission from Tokyo, the Japanese Army leaders initiated the Second Sino-Japanese Struggle in 1937, which would ultimately require thirty-six Japanese Military divisions. Tales of atrocities circulated across the globe, together with the massacre of a quarter million Chinese language civilians and disarmed soldiers in Nanking in 1937. The U.S. and Europe were running out of endurance with Tokyo.
Within the fight against the Japanese Army, Chinese language forces imported arms and fuel by French Indochina, by way of the Sino-Vietnamese Railway. To sever China’s supply line, Japan invaded French Indochina in September 1940. In response, in 1940, the U.S. stopped selling oil to Japan. Japan had been reliant on the United States for greater than eighty p.c of its oil. The embargo would power Tokyo to resolve between withdrawing from Indochina (a U.S. pre-condition) and negotiating or finding oil elsewhere. Ultimately, Japan determined to take the Dutch East Indies by power for its oil and rubber. The Netherlands had been defeated by Nazi Germany in Could 1940, and was powerless to react. Tokyo expected the U.S. to respond with drive, and subsequently prepared for war.
Thus, to continue to combat their primary war over minerals, foodstuffs, and different pure resources on the Asian mainland, Japan was compelled to provoke a secondary war (A collection of secondary operations that today’s U.S. planners would call “ancillary lines” 12) against the U.S. to secure the brand new vitality sources in the Dutch East Indies and the rest of its Asian conquests. China remained the first adversary. The U.S fleet would change into the secondary adversary. Protecting those ancillary strains meant denying the U.S.’s means to stage operations towards those traces. Thus, Tokyo adopted its perimeter defense strategy which required the invasion and fortification of island chains from the Kurile Islands in the north by the Philippines and all the best way south to New Guinea.13 In other phrases, the technique was to guard the new useful resource areas by occupying the islands adjacent to these areas and in the sea lines between these areas and the house islands. Within the geometry of warfare, Japan would have the benefit of quick, more easily re-enforceable strains of operations (LOOs), and the U.S. would have the drawback of longer, weak LOOs. Finally nevertheless, the U.S. was capable of negate that benefit via fleet measurement and sea management that constantly crept west.
Mahan With a Dash of Clausewitz
The Russo-Japanese Conflict ended in 1905 with Tokyo feeling slighted. Japan had defeated Russia on land and at sea, and had helped safe the open door for itself and for the West to the “teeming Yangtze Valley.”14 But while Roosevelt and different European leaders stated positive things concerning the Japanese victory, they pressured Tokyo to just accept a negotiated settlement with Russia that didn’t embrace a battle indemnity. Roosevelt’s honorary Aryans15 felt humiliated. Relations between the U.S. and Japan would grow worse. In 1906, struggling to deal with a wave of Japanese immigration into San Francisco, the San Francisco faculty board segregated Japanese college students. Tokyo cried foul. American journalists wrote about a “yellow peril.” And in 1907, Roosevelt despatched Admiral Dewey and the nice White Fleet all over the world to wave the massive stick. Japan viewed Dewey’s cruise as a direct risk. California then handed an alien land regulation in 1913 prohibiting “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from proudly owning agricultural land that caused the U.S.-Japanese relationship to degrade additional. By 1916, Japan’s naval operations chief said, “The nation with who a clash of arms is most likely in the close to future is the United States.”16
As the U.S. Navy became probable adversary number one, Tokyo started considering when it comes to Mahanian doctrine. From 1904 by way of 1930, naval strategist Ogasawara Naganari taught Mahanian concepts at Japan’s Naval Warfare School. Akiyama Saneyuki, the “father of modern Japanese naval strategy” visited Mahan twice in New York, and incorporated his ideas into Japan’s Naval Battle Directions of 1910. Akiyama created Japan’s technique of “interceptive operations” which might include the Japanese fleet lying in await the American fleet to succeed in Japan’s dwelling waters and then “engaging in a Mahanian encounter.”17 Kato Kanji served as president of the Naval Conflict School in 1920, Second Fleet Commander (1923-1924), Combined Fleet Commander (1926-1928), Chief of the Naval Common Employees (1930) and Supreme Army Councilor (1930-1935). He used Mahanian doctrine as the premise to justify the naval finances and the enlargement of the fleet.18
Japan embraced a Mahanian doctrine to counter the U.S. as a result of they’d proven the doctrine against Russia. On the Battle of Tsushima, on the 27th and 28th of Could 1905, the Japanese Navy annihilated the Russian Navy, sinking thirty-5 of thirty-eight ships, killing 5,000 sailors and taking greater than 7,000 prisoners. Japan lost only a hundred and ten sailors.19 Between 1908 and 1911, the Japanese Navy performed studies and battle video games focusing particularly on a conflict with the U.S. fleet as the adversary. Japan would seize Luzon Island within the Philippines, defeat U.S. forces there, and occupy Manila. They’d lie in look forward to the American battle fleet to cross the Pacific. When the U.S. fleet approached residence waters, they would be annihilated in a decisive battle west of the Bonins, as the Russians had been annihilated at Tsushima. Japan would have the strategic benefit with their quick interior lines of operation to their house islands. This was the interceptive operational strategy that the Japanese Navy would maintain by means of 1941 and beyond.20
After Germany was defeated in the first World Battle, Japan occupied Germany’s possessions in the South Pacific – the Marshalls, the Carolines, and the Marianas. Accordingly, Tokyo’s new Normal Plan for Strategy in 1918 pushed the deliberate decisive engagement with the U.S. fleet eastward. The Tsushima replay would now happen someplace west of the Marshalls.21 But the larger challenge for Tokyo was the buildup of the U.S. fleet in the Pacific. It was an arms race that the U.S. didn’t really need, and that Japan could probably not afford. In 1922, Japan signed the Five Energy Naval Treaty at the Washington Conference and agreed to a 6:10 capital ship ratio with the United States.
The prolonged island possessions plus the 6:10 capital ship constraint prompted Tokyo to add a further ingredient to their interception operations technique. The 6:10 ratio meant that the Japanese fleet could not take on the U.S. fleet equally in a Mahanian battle with out first reducing the U.S. fleet all the way down to a fightable dimension. In Bywater’s fictional tale, Japan detonated an explosive-laden service provider ship to collapse the Panama Canal in order that America’s Atlantic and Pacific fleets couldn’t join forces.22 In the actual world, to create parity, Japan once more looked back on the Battle of Tsushima, and opted to inject a Clausewitzian ingredient into the Mahanian recipe.
In April 1904, Rear Admiral Zinovy Petrovich Rozhestvensky took a substantial portion of Russia’s Baltic fleet on an 18,000-mile journey to combat the Japanese Navy within the Pacific. Rozhestvensky’s passage was filled with what Clausewitz would name frictional events.23 Issues went dangerous early when an intelligence failure within the North Sea caused the Russian fleet to mistakenly open hearth on a British fishing fleet. In response, British, French, and Portuguese ports had been closed to the Russian fleet for nearly all of their passage. They had been forced to re-coal in the open ocean or in anchorages alongside the best way. The lack of supplies, lack of shore depart, irregular mail supply, and the heat of the tropics took an additional toll on the gear and crews – “Malaria, dysentery, tuberculosis, boils, mental derangement, prickly heat, fungoid infections of the ear, wrought havoc”24 within the fleet. Like how Napoleon’s and Hitler’s land forces suffered the consequences of attrition (Clausewitz’s friction) in their marches to the east, Rozhestvensky’s fleet suffered comparable effects of attrition in its passage to the east. Rozhestvensky’s degraded fleet was then wiped out in the nice Mahanian battle on 27-28 May 1905.
To make up for the 6:10 capital ship drawback against the United States, Tokyo opted to create comparable circumstances of friction for the U.S. fleet. Japan’s new attrition doctrine would give attention to submarines, cruisers, destroyers, torpedoes, and land-based mostly and ship-primarily based aircraft that may regularly degrade the U.S. fleet because it transited west throughout the Pacific. After the American fleet had been reduce all the way down to a extra equitable dimension, the Japanese battle fleet would come forth to deliver the Mahanian coup de grace.25
Thus, after the Washington Convention, the Japanese Navy began building giant, excessive-velocity fleet submarines. By the early 1930s, Tokyo was constructing 2,200-ton 23-knot submarines. Admiral Suetsugo mentioned, “The decisive battle would totally rely upon our attrition [submarine] technique.”26 Along with the submarine enhancements, gentle cruisers and destroyers had been re-organized into torpedo squadrons and skilled for evening assaults.27 New cruiser and destroyer designs (Yubari, Furutaka, Myoko, Takao, Mogami and Fubuki) were introduced within the 1920s and thirties together with a brand new Kind ninety three oxygen torpedo that had a variety of 40,000 meters and a pace of 36 knots.28 Japan constructed the 30,000-ton (Akagi) and 38,200-ton (Kaga) carriers in the late 1920s and early thirties, the service-based mostly Kind ninety four “Susie” bomber and the land-primarily based Kind 96 “Nell” bomber. By December 1941, Japan’s navy had ten carriers and three,300 aircraft, all meant to be used within the interception-attrition technique against the U.S. fleet.29 The Mahanian coupe de grace would now be delivered by the brand new 64,000-ton Yamato-class battleships, which would use the larger vary of their 18-inch guns to destroy the U.S. battle fleet from afar.30
Mismanaging the Trinity
A Mahanian strategy with a dash of Clausewitz could presumably have worked. Naval Battle School professor Brad Lee defined Japan’s interception-attrition strategy by way of Clausewitz’s trinity. First, a naval victory towards the U.S. fleet would degrade the U.S.’s potential to undertaking army power within the Asia-Pacific region. Second, the defeat would affect public choice within the United States, and “cripple America’s will to keep combating.”31 The American individuals would settle on isolationism, or at the least demand a Europe-first technique. Third, the defeat would drive a wedge between the American president (Roosevelt) and the Congress, and degrade government consensus for a struggle within the Pacific. Ultimately, Tokyo hoped to be left alone to consolidate its good points in Asia.32
The Trinitarian strategy made sense. Nonetheless, in 1941, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto added a last ingredient to the mix that changed the equation. Yamamoto did not need to permit the United States to commerce space for time. He knew that invading the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, and Singapore would draw an American naval response. But what if the U.S. opted to delay their response for a year or two till their fleet was sufficiently augmented by its new shipbuilding applications Like Napoleon and Hitler, Yamamoto wanted to combat the decisive battle earlier, fairly than later, while he held numerical superiority in the Pacific. Thus, in 1941, he added the Pearl Harbor operation to the operational combine.
Ultimately, the Pearl Harbor attack did briefly degrade America’s skill to challenge energy within the Pacific (the navy dimension of Clausewitz’s trinity). However the attack had the other of Yamamoto’s intended results on the folks and governmental dimensions. On December 8th, the American people demanded battle. The U.S. president requested for a declaration of battle and demanded unconditional surrender. The House of Representatives voted 388 to 1, and the Senate voted 82 to zero in favor of warfare towards Japan.
“Were we higher than the Japanese, or just luckier ”33 – Henry Fonda as Admiral Nimitz in Midway.
The historical narrative of a battle is written by the war’s victor. And that narrative is just too often stored simple and handy. This is one thing we must keep in our minds as we seek to be taught from past conflicts. To study from the Pacific Struggle, we should beware the cursory narratives of that battle: That Japan was hell-bent on conquest in Asia for no obvious cause, whereas we only wished peace; That the Japanese had been sneaky, however we have been honorable; That they were incorrect and we were right.
Dig a bit deeper into the historic element, and we see that, while it’s true that Japan was an aggressive state hell-bent on conquest, we helped them formulate their strategy and inspired their imperial designs. If Yamamoto had not added the Pearl Harbor assault to his operational combine, would the American folks and the U.S. Congress have opted to struggle a significant battle on faraway shores
Understanding the wartime methods of our past adversaries might help us better perceive the strategies of today’s adversaries. Once more, the problem is to push past cursory. Can we replicate on issues we’ve accomplished in previous many years that might have precipitated an ally to change into an adversary Do we consider the fact that an adversary may consider us to be their Priority Two, fairly than their Precedence One Will we give our adversaries ample credit score for using entire-of-government methods How often do we predict about how an adversary (or a so-known as ally) will search to inject conditions of friction into our operations
The Pacific Battle turned inevitable when the United States assumed Japan would come to the negotiating desk, slightly than selecting battle. Japan’s disastrous finish became inevitable once they assumed that an assault on U.S. soil wouldn’t awaken a giant force, or a minimum of degrade it sufficiently to render it militarily impotent. If the U.S. and Japan had both dug deeper into the strategic panorama, the battle may have been averted or de-escalated. Maybe the U.S. would have realized that there was no chance that Tokyo would negotiate for oil. Maybe Tokyo would have realized that America’s pivot from isolationism would be quick and horrible.
Daniel T. Murphy is a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, currently serving within the Workplace of Naval Intelligence. In his civilian profession he’s a full-time professor at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and an adjunct college member at Northeastern College. Lieutenant Commander Murphy earned his bachelor’s diploma from the University of Massachusetts, and master’s levels from Georgetown University and from the National Intelligence College.
The views expressed on this paper are these of the author and don’t replicate the official coverage or position of the Department of Protection, the U.S. Navy, or the U.S. Authorities.
 National Lampoon’s Animal Home, directed by John Landis, Common Pictures, 1978.
 “Researchers discover 1941 Japanese midget sub off Pearl Harbor,” Faculty of Ocean & Earth Science & Expertise webpage, http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/SOEST_News/PressReleases/Japanese%20mini%20sub.htm, (accessed April eleven, 2012).
[Three] Stated by Brennus the Gaul when he sacked Rome in 390 B.C.Livy, in Ab Urbe Condita (Ebook 5 Sections 34-49).
 “Commodore Perry and the Opening of Japan,” U.S. Navy Museum webpage, http://www.historical past.navy.mil/branches/educate/ends/opening.htm (accessed April 29, 2012).
 James Bradley, The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and Conflict New York: Little Brown and Company, 2009), 236.
 Bradley, 227.
 Bradley, 226.
[Eight] Bradley, 223.
 Bradley, 217.
 Bradley, 319.
[Eleven] Hector Bywater, The good Pacific Battle: A Historical past of the American-Japanese Marketing campaign of 1931-1933 (Bedford, MA: Applewood Books, 1925), 2.
 Milan Vego, Joint Operational Warfare: Idea and Follow (Newport, RI: U.S. Naval Struggle School, 2009), IV-64 and 65.
 James B. Wooden, Japanese Army Strategy within the Pacific Conflict: Was Defeat Inevitable (Lahnam, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007, 24-27.
 Sadao Asada, From Mahan to Pearl Harbor: The Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2006), 15.
 Bradley 300-319.
[Sixteen] Asada, fifty two.
 Asada, 32.
 Asada, 52.
 Shannon R. Butler, “Voyage to Tsushima,” Naval Historical past (Annapolis: United States Naval Institute), June 2012, fifty eight.
 Asada, 50.
 Asada, fifty five.
 Bywater, 22.
 Carl von Clausewitz, On Conflict, trans. and eds. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ: Princeton College Press, 1967) 119.