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919 hits since 12 Sep 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2017 11:04 a.m. PST

… better chance of Winning in WWII.

"There was no possible way for Japan to compete against the US in WWII. As long as the US didn't lose their will to fight and pushed their leaders to push to victory, Washington would claim a mandate that authorized them to use the industry available in the US to turn out a nearly limitless supply of ships, tanks, planes and weapons. Japan simply had no way to keep up with their economy about one-tenth of the US economy.

But that doesn't mean that Japan could not have won the war. Sometimes the weaker party wins the fight. The legendary strategist Carl von Clausewitz notes that it can make sense for the weaker party to initiate the fight. If they believe that their chances of winning are only going to decrease over time then why not take action?

Von Clausewitz tells of three ways to win a war. First, you can destroy the enemy's forces and enforce your will upon them. Second, you can make the cost of winning more than your enemy is willing to pay. In other words, figure out how many lives, weapons, and how much money the other side finds acceptable in order to defeat you and then make it cost more than that by taking action that raises the cost or dragging the conflict out until he no longer can afford to stay in. Third, you can convince him that he will never accomplish his goal and make him lose heart…"
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian12 Sep 2017 11:15 a.m. PST

Not lose at Midway?

Timbo W12 Sep 2017 11:25 a.m. PST

Wonder what would have happened if they'd ignored US territories and just gone after the Dutch and British Empire?

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP12 Sep 2017 11:33 a.m. PST

Well, the bottom line was that if Germany lost Japan was going to lose. Even with the majority of their resources devoted to the war in Europe the Allies managed to smash the Japanese all the way back to their home islands before Germany even surrendered. Once Germany was out of the way, the Allies would have whatever resources they needed to finish the job.

Of Clausewitz's three choices, Number One was already gone after Midway. It was also quite clear by 1945 that Number Three wasn't going to happen. Only Number Two had any hope, and there was no sign that was going to happen either. The US had already slogged through one Pacific hell hole after another and if the atomic bombs had not forced Japan's surrender then Operation Olympic was going to happen in November 1945 and nothing was going to stop it.

So really, Japan's only hope of winning was to somehow help Germany win in Europe. We've already had many threads here on whether Japan attacking the USSR in 1941 could have tipped the scales. There's no telling if it would have, but it was Japan's only real hope.

boy wundyr x Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2017 11:52 a.m. PST

I suppose they could have tried the North Korea trick of just ignoring and working around any sanctions on them, maybe taking out French and Dutch holdings while they're at it; less sure about taking on the British but tying down more British probably helped Germany.

I can't see the US starting a war at that time without being attacked.

Dynaman878912 Sep 2017 1:48 p.m. PST

The WOPR said it best "The only winning move is not to play"

If Japan had not attacked the US that might have let them win the war. The US would probably have gotten involved but without the "Stabbed in the back" mentality, conviction, and foremost unity that went along with it.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2017 4:33 p.m. PST

Yes, what Timbo W said, as amplified by the above two comments. The Pearl Harbor attack (and even Midway, had it succeeded) may have been brilliant tactically, but strategically it only put American resolve at a fever pitch, negating any long-term Japanese advantage. Plus FDR, like Lincoln in 1861-65, was not a man to get the yips after a few reverses and seek to make a compromise peace. (Japan, like the Confederacy, got unlucky in who was in power in Washington at the crucial time.)

Japan's best bet was to ignore the Americans and see if they would initiate a war, perhaps only in pursuit of limited goals and not an absolute unconditional surrender. Such a limited war might result in a stalemate (maybe equaling a Japanese strategic victory). Japan should have played the long game rather than strike for the quick victory.

Mobius12 Sep 2017 6:00 p.m. PST

They could of used their submarines to interdict cargo and troop ships instead of sending them against war ships and resupply missions.

Thank goodness they didn't.

Lion in the Stars12 Sep 2017 6:50 p.m. PST

There are several issues here. The biggest one is that the Japanese were severely hurting for resources.

They didn't have enough steel to make tanks AND ships in the quantities needed. They didn't have enough fuel. They didn't have enough of ANY war-critical raw materials.

They 'needed' to have an empire, because all the first-class nations of the time were empires and Japan needed to be seen as a first-class nation (or be treated as China with unequal treaties). And honestly, the Japanese had been marching through Korea for nearly a thousand years already, so they kinda saw Korea as being 'theirs' (despite the locals difference of opinion).

I'd say that their biggest flaws were kicking off the war in 1941, not convoying their ships for protection against American submarines, and not turning their own subs loose on the American supply lines.

I've talked about it before, but there is a big mural on the wall of COMSUBPAC's office in Pearl Harbor left from WW2. It is a map of the Pacific Ocean with a 3"x5" flag at every spot a Japanese ship was sunk by an American sub. Plain 'meatball' for merchant ships, Rising Sun for warships. There are places on that map where you not only can't see the water, you cannot count the number of flags there, the entire area is covered with flags. (For some reason, you can't find pictures of this wall anywhere online)

Convoying would have greatly reduced the number of ships lost to American submarines, just like how it greatly reduced the number of Allied ships lost to German subs.

One significant problem with my last point, getting the Japanese submarines to go after anything flying an American flag, was the samurai culture of the Imperial Japanese military. No samurai wants to be a 'bandit' or 'ninja' that only goes after unarmed supply ships, they wanted to kill warships only. But a modern military is much more dependent on supplies than on warfighters (what was that line from WW2? for every 1 infantryman on the front lines, there were 8 men in supply?), so killing the supply lines is much more effective in winning the war.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2017 8:33 p.m. PST

Don't go to war with the United States.

rmaker12 Sep 2017 9:57 p.m. PST

Convoying would have greatly reduced the number of ships lost to American submarines, just like how it greatly reduced the number of Allied ships lost to German subs.

The Japanese DID convoy their ships. They were just inept at it. And half-hearted. Further, their anti-submarine technology was barley ahead of the 1918 level.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2017 3:24 a.m. PST

The Japanese were like the guy who figures he's standing with one foot in a tar pit and is slowly sinking, so he puts his other foot in to pull it out, realizes it's not working and then reaches in to pull out his foot and while wondering why he's sinking, sticks in his head …

The plan was to wage war with the USA and become a world power. This was based on two things.

1) Japan believed that they were the "new" New World, and like the US they would grow to become a huge superpower, better than the ones that came before.
2) To do so they would have to defeat the USA by building a colonial empire, grab it from the undeserving, dying and decadent European powers and quickly defeat all those that stood in their way including the USA so they could gather all the resources to build up their army to invincible levels and then challenge the USA for domination.

As you may have noticed the second part of the plan contained a small, but critical flaw.

Japan had been rapidly evolving into a liberal democracy up till the 1920's. This caused a huge conservative reaction with a military coup, where the rabidly fanatical junior officer cadre threatened both politicians and senior officers. "Follow the course we set or we'll murder you all stone cold dead."

This means that every sane, competent and able senior officer felt a bunch of crazy yahoos breathing down his neck waiting for a sign of weakness.

Everything became a matter of "When in doubt, just charge at the problem and hope it goes away."

It would make a great comedy of errors if it wasn't such a tragic event. Even those who knew better were tempted to believe they could pull it off because duty, Emperor, Stockholm Effect and a bunch of other problems sent Japan to challenge the USA so they could have the room to expand and build their forces to … challenge the USA.

Ottoathome13 Sep 2017 5:11 a.m. PST

The only hope was before the Marco Polo Bridge incident for the Emperor to order the entire high command of the Kwantung Army to commit Seppuku.

No doubt a Japanese Civil War would have ensued, but it is likely it would not have been as devastating as WWII.

Blutarski13 Sep 2017 8:39 a.m. PST

Japan should simply have applied for status as a US Territory.


badger2213 Sep 2017 9:28 a.m. PST

they should do that now! That would just make fatboy kims day!

Murvihill13 Sep 2017 10:05 a.m. PST

Improving the odds of winning:
1. Improve the pilot training program.
2. Build escort vessels before the war starts.
3. Have the emperor personally order every officer in the Japanese military not to seek death in the face of setbacks.
4. The submarine thing was mentioned.
5. Submachine guns.
6. Take Indochina and Indonesia, leave the US alone.

doug redshirt13 Sep 2017 10:29 a.m. PST

They probably lost it by thinking they won the Russo-Japanese War at the turn of the century. By the time the war ended they were out of manpower, out of credit and the Russians had several times the number of troops deployed to the front. Except for a minor Revolution going on in Russia, thetotal lost of cconfidence in the Russian officers the Japanese were about to get trounced by the big battalions. Luckily the US came along and suggested a peace.

So the military thought they could win the next war if they could hold on long enough. Of course now there was no one to suggest a peace and the US in 1941 was not Russia in 1905.

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2017 12:38 p.m. PST

Murvihill's list brings most of it together for me.

Item 6 was the biggest potential impact, the only one that really could have turned the issue of the whole conflict, but the first 5 would all have been improvements to Japan's ability to succeed tactically and/or operationally within the conflict.

I would add one more to the list:

7. Build some form of Army/Navy unified command structure, all the way to the top. Even the U.S. didn't have this at the top until after the war, but during the war at least at the theater level the Navy was subordinated to an Army commander, or the Army was subordinated to a Navy commander, depending on who the overall commander was. For the Japanese, separation of command was a real problem right up to the end.

(aka: Mk 1)

thomalley13 Sep 2017 4:39 p.m. PST

Before the war about 1/2 ( can't remember the actually number)of Japanese imports came by foreign hulls. As soon as the war started, they lost this resource, plus they now had to supply army and navy units across the Pacific. Not to fight was the best option.

Fred Cartwright14 Sep 2017 8:31 a.m. PST

Item 6 was the biggest potential impact, the only one that really could have turned the issue of the whole conflict, but the first 5 would all have been improvements to Japan's ability to succeed tactically and/or operationally within the conflict.</>

With Roosevelt actively painting the Japanese into a corner where they would have either to back down and thus lose face or go to war I don't think that would have solved the problem. the clash might have been delayed, but it would have come eventually.

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2017 10:44 a.m. PST

With Roosevelt actively painting the Japanese into a corner where they would have either to back down and thus lose face or go to war I don't think that would have solved the problem. the clash might have been delayed, but it would have come eventually.

The clash might have come eventually, but how it started _MIGHT_ have affected how the conflict played out. I highlight the "might" because I am not a big believer in the potential of Japan winning. But the path of deliberately attacking the US reduced their likelyhood of winning, while another path might have improved their likelyhood of winning (even if it was still not particularly likely).

Japan's strategy for the war can pretty much be summed up as winning by superior morale. They knew they could not win a prolonged war against US economic might. So they bet that the US would tire of war and accept a settlement on terms that were advantageous to Japanese interests.

The problem with any plan that is based on superior morale is that only half of the equation is within your control. Yes, you can drive the morale (and the tactical and operational competence) of your own forces. But you have no control over the morale (or the competence) of your opponent's forces. To plan on superiority is therefore to plan on something outside of your control.

But to say it is outside of your control does not mean that it is outside of your influence.

Winning based on superior morale was a bad plan anyway. But if it was the plan, then any steps that might influence American morale should have been very carefully considered. Pearl Harbor was a plan that definitely affected US morale. It solidified American public opinion in favor of war with Japan. It drove anger and outrage that allowed the US to withstand numerous tactical setbacks without any diminishing of commitment.

If the Japanese had instead pursued plans that would have required the US to commit to war based on US defense of foreign interests, they might have had a chance of diminishing US morale.

Newspaper stories of dead Americans came before the public because Japan initiated military action. If those stories had come because of American-initiated actions, there would have been less resolve, less commitment.

America had a substantial peace movement, a substantial isolationist streak, as well as substantial populations that felt kinship to German, Italian, and Japanese homelands. Roosevelt knew this.

Roosevelt also saw the demise of the friendly European powers, and the unification of Europe under a hostile Nazi Germany, as an existential threat to the US. But his ability to act was limited by public opinion. The US population in general had no broad-based awareness of the existential threat Roosevelt saw, and moreover was still grumbling over the WW1 / post WW1 experience.

If Japan had initiated action against the Southeast Asia colonial empires without attacking the US holdings at all, any American military reply could well have been portrayed as sending American boys to die defending British, French, or Dutch colonial interests. At that point, after a few American boys wind up dead, the nation's resolve could well have dissipated.

If you look at the correlation of forces in 1944, there was no path by which Japan could have withstood the might of American economic output. American might was orders of magnitude beyond what Japan could muster. No percentage improvements in tactical or operational proficiency could have changed the outcome. Even a catastrophic loss for the US at Midway would have meant almost nothing to the big picture -- maybe a few months delay in Japan's collapse, not more. Once the tsunami is coming, its too late to ask how you might stop it.

Japan's only chance was to attack American resolve. They took exactly the wrong path on that issue.

(That's not to say they might not have done some things better. Just that those improvements would not have changed the outcome.)

(aka: Mk 1)

rmaker14 Sep 2017 11:07 a.m. PST

Pearl Harbor was a plan that definitely affected US morale. It solidified American public opinion in favor of war with Japan. It drove anger and outrage that allowed the US to withstand numerous tactical setbacks without any diminishing of commitment.

"We have awakened a sleeping giant and filled it with a terrible resolve." – Yamamoto

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2017 2:41 p.m. PST

"We have awakened a sleeping giant and filled it with a terrible resolve." Yamamoto


Yamamoto is an interesting character. Any look into his behavior highlights the differences between U.S. and Japan at this time in history.

He knew America, probably better than any other member of the Japanese government decision-making circles. But he was Japanese through-and-through, steeped in Japanese culture and world-view.

He could foresee the results of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he knew it was effectively an act of national suicide, but he could not bring himself to do anything but go along with the consensus decision and contribute everything he could to the team effort.

At least, that's my reading.

(aka: Mk 1)

VVV reply14 Sep 2017 3:39 p.m. PST

No one mentioning the idea of improving Japanese AT defences with something like a bazooka?

Lion in the Stars14 Sep 2017 4:32 p.m. PST

Before the war about 1/2 ( can't remember the actually number)of Japanese imports came by foreign hulls. As soon as the war started, they lost this resource, plus they now had to supply army and navy units across the Pacific.

Exactly. The Japanese needed to build cargo ships to replace what used to come by foreign flags, needed to build warships to protect those cargo ships, and needed to build tanks to hold their ground in China.

They didn't have the steel mills necessary to do all that, nor did they have the fuel to run all the vehicles.

No one mentioning the idea of improving Japanese AT defences with something like a bazooka?

Eh, those weren't greatly useful in the Islands. Not a lot of tanks in play. Worse, compared to the Japanese tanks, a Sherman was like a Tiger. Huge gun, massive armor.

The Japanese really needed PAK40s to kill Shermans, though bazookas/'fausts/'Schrecks would not have been a bad idea. Depends on what is easier to supply.

The best way for Japan to avoid the war would have been for the Emperor to order the entire command of the Kwantung Army to seppuku back in about 1935.

The big problem is that the Taisho Emperor was quite probably autistic, and therefore not running the government. When the Showa Emperor took power in 1926, a lot of the groundwork for the invasion of China and Korea had already been made, and most likely couldn't have been stopped.

VVV reply15 Sep 2017 2:57 a.m. PST

The idea about the bazookas was that the Japanese did not have effective weapons to destroy enemy tanks. And bazookas ideal for short range action.
Japanese were keen on rockets and a bazooka does not take up the manufacturing capacity that a decent AT gun needs.
And if you look at the early war, Japanese tanks were used very effectively against American and British forces. The Japanese also built some of the most effective amphibious tanks of the war!

Fred Cartwright15 Sep 2017 3:46 a.m. PST

Mark, I just don't see it as a likely scenario given the way Roosevelt was playing the Japanese. For the Japanese not to attack the US they would have had to act like not Japanese. It is a bit like saying Hitler should not have attacked the Soviet Union. For that to happen would have ended a Sea change in his thinking and motivations.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Sep 2017 4:17 a.m. PST

The Japanese were in a strategic bind when it comes to not attacking the US. The presence of the Philippines astride the shipping routes to the south could not be ignored. With the US embargo, Japan needed the resources of southeast Asia and Indonesia. If they did not attack the US but went ahead and seized those territories and THEN the US turned hostile and massively fortified the Philippines with powerful air and naval forces, Japan would be in a very difficult situation. The US could interdict those vital shipments of resources, but the Philippines would be vastly more difficult to attack. The Japanese decided it was safer to take the Philippines while it was weakly held than to trust that the US would not react to their move south. I can't really say that they were wrong to think that.

Deadles17 Sep 2017 11:08 p.m. PST

I suspect even if the Japanese didn't attack Pearl Harbour or the Phillippines, the USA would've found some way to get into the fight.

The US was literally itching for it revoking a trade treaty and then slapping sanctions on Japan and freezing Japanese assets as well as massively ramping up support for Nationalist Chinese (creation of AVG, stabilisation of Chinese currency).

Basically the US commenced economic warfare on Japan pre-1940.

The US proposed a "peace plan" (Hull Memo) which basically would put Japan under US control (Japan would have to abolish extreme nationalism, trade protection, withdraw its entire military from Asia, etc etc). By the way this is what the USA got after WWII (except removal of trade protectionism).

As US Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, was apparently quoted to say in his diary on 25/11/1941:

"The question was how we should manoeuvre them [the Japanese] into firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves."

So Japan was going to get into a war with the USA whether they liked it or not and they were always going to lose.

There are parallels with Iraq and Libya here too.


This is not a defence of Japan who were on a massive empire building exercise and proved to be extremely brutal colonial masters.

But the US needed to destroy Japanese power not out of humanitarianism but rather due to the age old issue of power and control.

Skarper18 Sep 2017 12:04 a.m. PST

I agree. Notions of not attacking/fighting the USA are academic. Even if Japan could have avoided attacking in 1941 war between them and the USA was inevitable. The clash of spheres of influence and power was there.

The US wanted the old colonials powers to wither and die, but they wanted to replace them with their own version of empire.

I feel sorry for ordinary Japanese that they got dragged into WW2 when they had nothing to gain and everything to lose. I feel sadder for the people living in the areas overrun by Japan of course. But we can't say the average Japanese had any influence over their leaders in the 1930s and 1940s.

The average German didn't have much either after 1933.

Murvihill18 Sep 2017 12:23 p.m. PST

Choosing to go to war is never an inevitability. The Japanese achieved their highest standard of living after getting their tuckus kicked in WW2, not before so the idea that the US forced them into war is only true if their goal (a Japanese Empire) cannot be changed. And for the record, the US is not an empire, it's a hegemon. An empire is a collection of sovereign states under a single ruler.

Deadles18 Sep 2017 4:08 p.m. PST


The alternative for Japan was to become effectively a vassal state of the USA. They'd have to reform their whole society under the US "peace proposal" and give in to US terms. Even their military would be confined to Japanese territories and without Manchuria (an issue the US wanted to settle latter as they never recognised the conquest) their economy would have collapsed.

The only carrot offered to them was unfreezing of their own assets and renormalisation of trade relations with the USA.

Whoopee doo essentially the US said "if you surrender to us, we will give back your stuff we took."

Roosevelt did not like the Japanese and his team was looking for a reason to go to war. So whilst Roosevelt was in power and while the Japanese pursued their own interests, the war was inevitable.

In the long run, WWII in the Pacific was a gift to the USA. They got 70 years of absolute dominance in the key Eastern Pacific that wasn't significantly challenged until China just a few years ago.

It was in some way an unspoken expansion of the Monroe Doctrine that the US used to control the whole of the Americas.


As for living standards, they're irrelevant to the conduct of international politics. Indeed up to 1950s they were also largely irrelevant in the conduct of most European states internal policies (even Britain, where there was major opposition to improving living standards by the elite).

The whole modern Western preoccupation with living standards is a result of the Western humanist school of thought. It means little to those with differing perspectives on human existence.

They're also increasingly irrelevant now with inequality and poverty rising in a lot of western countries too.

Lion in the Stars18 Sep 2017 5:23 p.m. PST

Another 'morale' problem with the Japanese that probably explains why they never grokked convoys: Merchants were the bottom of the old Edo-era caste system that many of the Generals and Admirals had grown up under (or their parents had grown up under). Why protect a merchant, when he's the lowest of the low?

Remember, in the early 1900s, there were people alive that remembered what feudalism was like in Japan, because feudalism didn't end in Japan until 1868.

Blutarski18 Sep 2017 7:50 p.m. PST

The "Code of Bushido" was also actively promoted as a propaganda meme by the Japanese militarists in the decade of the 30's.

As far as matters of "war guilt" go, I will keep my opinions to myself in the spirit of this brave new age of not offending anyone's delicate political/patriotic sensibilities. Nevertheless, our good web-master Mr Armintrout should keep a watchful eye on this thread, as it has the earmarks of a topic heading for a major furball.


Fred Cartwright19 Sep 2017 4:34 a.m. PST

The simple answer to the op's point is not be Japanese with the several thousand years of culture, traditions, beliefs and mindset that came with it. It applies to the Germans too. What could Hitler and his cronies have done differently? Not be Nazis!

Bill N19 Sep 2017 9:43 a.m. PST

My suggestion is do not invade French Indochina. As I recall this was the step by Japan that resulted in the economic sanctions which threatened to strangle Japan and its war effort with China thus setting the stage for the war between Japan and Britain and the U.S. If the Japanese don't invade the continued focus of Britain and the U.S. on what was happening in Europe would have given Japan leeway in its conflict with China.

As others have said this is probably a step Japan could not culturally pass up. Plus in 1940-41 it probably looked like a good bet. France and the Netherlands were overrun by Germany. Britain was just hanging on, and the U.S. was opting for neutrality.

Murvihill19 Sep 2017 10:07 a.m. PST

Wow Deadles, your weltzeit is certainly not something I'm prepared to argue with. We'll have to agree to disagree.

Blutarski19 Sep 2017 11:52 a.m. PST

Japan could have arranged with Germany to take on the role of "protective custodian" of the Dutch East Indies, then taken a similar step with French Indochina.

The Dutch East Indies supply the oil requirement.

North Korea, Manchuria (and IIRC northern Vietnam) possess iron ore deposits.

The ball is back in Roosevelt's court.


Deadles19 Sep 2017 4:21 p.m. PST


The US withdrew from key economic treaty with Japan in 1939, a year before the invasion of Indo-China!


Didn't the Japanese enter French Indo-China based on an "invitation" by the Vichy French? And nominally the Japanese apologised for the "invasion," withdrew troops and released all French prisoners.

Sure in the real world, French Indo-China was effectively under Japanese control, but from a political and diplomatic perspective they were not.


The only way Pacific war was to be avoided in early 1940s was for Japan to withdraw from China and give in to other US demands.

In the long run the Japanese would have had to withdraw from Manchuria, assuming the Soviets didn't invade first.


I think Japan was stuck in a real bind post WWI:

1. It perceived itself as largely ignored after WWI despite siding with the Allies.

2. It was unable to get any racial equality clauses through the Paris Peace Conference.

3. It was reliant on other states for natural resources and also had a problem with a massively booming population.

4. The West hypocritically shunned Japan's attempts to build an empire despite the West continuing its empire building post WWI (eg carve up of ex-Ottoman Empire).

5. The Japanese viewed that they were snubbed in Washington Naval Treaty of 1925 as it favoured British and Americans. The Americans also required the Japanese to renounce their British alliance as part of the treaty! The Japanese were well aware they couldn't ramp up production as quick as Americans so new that their navy had effectively been restricted to second power status and lost a key alliance in the process.

All of this helped stymy more liberal elements of society and deliver the country to the militarists.

After all why embrace the West and it's political ways when the West shuns you.

In any case the seeds of conflict are sown and the Japanese are doomed to fighting a war they will lose much like the European system doomed those countries to fighting the Great War.

As such I don't think there's any possible outcome where Japan wins. Unlike Germany which might have won had they not invaded USSR.

Lion in the Stars19 Sep 2017 6:04 p.m. PST

Huh, gotta check my Eastern Civ books, I thought that the US had imposed economic sanctions after Japan invaded China (and not Korea/Indochina).

And those economic sanctions are usually claimed by the Japanese as the opening shots in the war.

Deadles19 Sep 2017 6:21 p.m. PST


Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and rest of China in 1937.

US supplied China with weapons to fight the Japanese but up to 1941 main supplier to Nationalist Chinese were the Soviets!

The 1911 Treaty of Commerce and Navigation was terminated in July 1939. Action prior to 1939 were "moral embargos"


Oh and an interesting scenario:

1. Germany doesn't invade USSR in 1941.
2. Japan never allied with Germany.
3. Would the Soviets have attacked Japanese positions in Manchuria (a continuation of previous fighting)?

4th Cuirassier20 Sep 2017 2:50 a.m. PST

The interesting thing to me in these counterfactuals is the way Japan is always spared. I see no reason why that would have happened. If Hitler hadn't invaded Russia, Japan would have been focused upon and crushed sooner. If Hitler had defeated Russia Japan would have been crushed sooner. In either event the major Axis partner was relatively secure on the continent and thus hard to crush. So the junior one would have been clobbered instead. In any scenario where she attacked the US as well she was 100% sure to get picked off regardless.

Japan's best bet would have been to stay out of the Axis altogether, wait for war between Britain and Germany, not attack the USA, and then sneak-attack Britain instead.

Only if Germany had first attacked Britain could she have risked attacking Malaya. Economically and production-wise Japan was on about a par with Italy, but was strategically worse off because she depended for oil and food on imports via long sea journeys. So there is no question that Britain would have crushed Japan one on one had there ever been an Anglo-Japanese war. It would have taken a while to mobilise the right sort of units but those were the sort of odds Japan was looking at.

Bill N20 Sep 2017 10:07 a.m. PST

@ Deadles, the occupation of French Indochina came in stages, and I do agree it is correct to put "invitation" in quotation marks.

My timeline indicates the U.S. did withdraw from the economic treaty with Japan in 1939 in response to Japanese incursions into southern China. The embargoes on petroleum and metals and the seizure of Japanese financial assets OTOH occurred after Japan went into French Indochina. The Dutch and British followed suit. I have seen nothing which indicates the U.S. had already definitively decided to cut off metals and oil and seize Japanese assets when it decided to terminate the treaty, so I think the two should be viewed as separate steps.

My logic is until the Indochina sanctions Japan can win without having to engage in a military conflict with the U.S. After that one side or the other must back down to avoid a war, and if it does come to war the Axis as a whole must win for Japan to defeat the U.S.

Deadles20 Sep 2017 3:59 p.m. PST

Bill, I'm not an expert but from what I've read the US was unable to legally place embargoes on Japan until the 1911 treaty was terminated.

My own thoughts are that assuming we don't have WWII, we have a war in aSIA at some stage.

Americans had been ramping up support for China from late 1930s. American military advisers were working in China. The Japanese had withdrawn from naval restriction treaties and were clearly expanding into Asia and threatening American interests as well as American naval superiority in the Pacific.

The Japanese were hellbent on conquering as much of China as they could.

However that large Asian war could've been as much Japan v USSR as it was USA versus Japan. Basically Japan was too aggressive and too busy aggravating all and sundry.

I think if anything the European war merely fast tracked the Asian one. (Without European War, expansion into French Indo China and British Malaya becomes implausible, but then a wider Soviet-Japanese War becomes plausible).

Of course this is just conjecture.

Lion in the Stars20 Sep 2017 5:02 p.m. PST

And for the record, the US is not an empire, it's a hegemon. An empire is a collection of sovereign states under a single ruler.

What do you think the individual States of the Union are? They're not provinces. They're actually individual sovereign states that have willingly relinquished certain parts of their sovereignty to the Federal government so that the Feds can have enough power to be effective.

But back to the original question.

A huge amount of the issues the Japanese were having was directly related to their culture. They kept trying for a military victory because they didn't recognize any other kind of victory.

It's actually kind of fun to get Japanese exchange students in the US, start talking about WW2. They are terrified out of their minds to discover that the US was beating them with the forces we assigned to hold the line, and that once Germany had been defeated we were going to really come in and curbstomp the Japanese.

Deadles20 Sep 2017 11:21 p.m. PST


Are those students also aware of the thrashing the Soviets inflicted on them in 1945? Talk about blitzkrieg!

Japan was doomed regardless.

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