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"Worst Japanese Blunders of World War II " Topic

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742 hits since 21 Jun 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2018 3:21 p.m. PST

"On April 7, 1945, the Japanese Navy sent the most powerful (along with her sister ship, the Musashi) battleship ever built on a one way suicide mission. The incredible amount of man-hours, money, and physical resources that went into that ship are staggering, yet the mighty Yamato never made a difference during its short life. This incident was not the only mistake Japan made during the war, so here are 10 of them…."
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Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2018 3:26 p.m. PST

Starting the war in the first place is my choice.

zoneofcontrol21 Jun 2018 3:33 p.m. PST

Yes, I have long assumed the Japanese Navy was one of its own worst enemies. They went to war with these behemoth battleships in their inventory. However, from nearly the outset, they used their aircraft carriers to conduct operations. Yes, battleships did have a function, but these monster ships seemed to be a waste of resources, construction capability, and crews.

Legion 421 Jun 2018 3:44 p.m. PST

Attack the USA for one …

The Yamato & Musashi "Super" Heavy Battleships were another waste …

14th NJ Vol Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2018 4:13 p.m. PST

Not using their submarines in wolf packs to attack the incredibly long US supply lines.

Not protecting their own long supply lines.

They never understood logistics.

Ragbones Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2018 5:18 p.m. PST

Wackmole9 for the win!

Personal logo Stosstruppen Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2018 5:37 p.m. PST

Wackmole wins the prize

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2018 12:05 a.m. PST

So many mistakes that it could easily be a comedy if it wasn't so horribly tragic.

First the fact that Japan's government had next to no control over the military and that both the Navy and Army were completely distinct entities from each other, each with their own entirely separate industry ties, production lines and procurement methods.

Next is the quasi religious fervour that took over Japan's youngest and brightest when they figured that Japan could become a dominant world power guided by divine providence. The older generals and ministers could have put a stop to this, but they figured that the young wolves could be harnessed to a profitable purpose and helped out to fill the personal bank accounts of said individuals.

Not to mention that many of them were also terrified of the young wolves as they were not averse of murdering anyone in their way, save for the emperor.

Japan being one of the more notoriously resource-poor nations in the world set out to build a colonial empire which would provide it with lavish supplies of materials and provide a paradise for Japanese colonists to live in. The end result was that experiments like China became a game where they hoped that sinking in more resources would solve every problem, which lead to them invading more bits of China to get more resources, which lead to them getting deeper into the mire, forcing them to expand …

And then the leap of logic that beats everything. In that Japan would ultimately clash and defeat the USA so that it could replace it as the dominant power in Asia and the Pacific. This logic lead to the inevitable conclusion that in order to properly attack the USA, Japan would need resources captured from Asia and to do so part of the plan was to … attack the USA !

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2018 2:16 a.m. PST

Agree with "starting the war" the Japanese seemed to rely on the fact that the USA could be beaten easily with one decisive strike. It cost many, many lives to show that wasn't true.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse22 Jun 2018 3:47 a.m. PST

Just imagine how much money they could have made. If instead of going expansionist in the 30s they invented the Nintendo 50 years earlier.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2018 4:41 a.m. PST

Nicely summarized – Japan's government was a train wreck waiting to happen

If they really, really wanted to go to war maybe acting like an actual ally of Germany and coordinating an attack on the Soviet Union might have been a thought- plus sharing a few squadrons of Zeros as escorts during the Battle of Britain given the endurance times of the Zero versus the Me-109

GROSSMAN Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2018 5:06 a.m. PST

Pearl Harbor.

HANS GRUBER22 Jun 2018 6:55 a.m. PST

Gotta agree with…
Pearl Harbor

Blutarski22 Jun 2018 8:12 a.m. PST

This is a complicated topic and takes on an interestingly different aspect when viewed from the geo-strategic perspective of Japan. Does anyone REALLY believe that Japan looked forward to going to war with the United States? The war in the Pacific was IMO a "team effort" several decades in the making.


4th Cuirassier22 Jun 2018 9:50 a.m. PST

Japan simply misread American opinion.

Her leaders thought that if they waited till all of France, Britain, the Netherlands and Russia were embroiled elsewhere, it might then fleetingly be possible for a weak country like Japan to land-grab what she wanted off them.

The obstacle was the US, which had not properly rearmed but still outnumbered Japan at sea and had an economy 10 times the size. Hence the sneak attack to enable a perimeter to be seized which they thought the US would be too decadent and feeble to attack.

The corollary to Japan's biggest mistake being to start the war at all is that constructively, no battle was especially decisive. If Japan won a battle, all it did was postpone defeat. If she lost it was just yet another step backwards. It's hard to say Midway was decisive, because had America lost, she would simply have inflicted Midway on Japan anyway at some later date.

Japan did not actually have the right navy to defend a Pacific perimeter in any case.

Fred Cartwright22 Jun 2018 10:22 a.m. PST

+1 Blutarski. The Japanese must have been very puzzled as to why the US didn't want them to join the colonial club. The US having secured their interests in South America in the 30's, through force, and having their own colonies like the Philippines, and yes I know they were planning to give it independence, but hadn't actually done it, seemed intent on preventing Japan from doing the same. Japan had played by the rules, not threatening US interests and yet Roosevelt was being provocative, sending ships to the area and refusing what seemed like reasonable requests for oil unless Japan did what the US wanted. Imagine how it would have gone down in Washington had Japan told the US to get Smedley Butler and his Marines out of Nicaragua, Honduras etc in the 30's. Yes it was a mistake for Japan to go to war with the US, but Roosevelt had pushed them into a position where they had no choice. To have rolled over and acceded to US terms would have caused a serious loss of face for the Japanese and that they would never do.

Mobius22 Jun 2018 10:49 a.m. PST

Losing the war.

Mark 122 Jun 2018 11:33 a.m. PST

+1 to Patrick R and 4th C.

The Japanese must have been very puzzled as to why the US didn't want them to join the colonial club.

Well, no. They didn't have to be too puzzled. If they were too puzzled, it was because they chose to read American history with an eye towards justifying what they wanted to justify, and ignoring the rest. Lots of people do that.

What they missed was that throughout it's history the US has generally opposed colonialism. The US experience in the Philippines was the exception, not the rule. It was highly controversial from start to finish, and it didn't take long for the US Government to conclude that having overseas colonies was not well matched to America's national will. This is why, when US colonial rule was only established at the turn of the century, by 1916 the question of statehood for the Philippines had already been considered, and with it's rejection the US Senate committed the nation to finding a path for independence for the Philippines.

All of that was available to anyone who didn't want to just read "oh the Americans were just trying to monopolize the colonialization of the Pacific". No, the US was trying to disassemble colonialism across the world. Yes, there was about a 15 year hiccup in this otherwise consistent 200 year policy. Hardly means anyone in the 1930s should have been surprised by US policy.

Yes it was a mistake for Japan to go to war with the US, but Roosevelt had pushed them into a position where they had no choice.

No choice? Roosevelt pushed them to the point of no choice?

It was not possible for the Japanese government to NOT expand their efforts to conquer, rape and massacre the Chinese?

Why not?

What catastrophe would have befallen the Japanese if they had withdrawn their troops from a failed conquest that was costing them more than they could afford?

To have rolled over and acceded to US terms would have caused a serious loss of face for the Japanese and that they would never do.

Ah yes, I see. The Japanese leadership … actually a small subset of the Japanese leadership … had painted THEMSELVES into a corner from which they could see no escape. So let's blame Roosevelt, rather than all of the decisions that had put the Japanese leadership into that corner to start with.

There is an old adage in Military Intelligence and Operational Planning, that you should plan based on your adversary's capabilities, not your adversary's intentions.

The Japanese planned based on their own projection of US intentions (which is why you don't plan based on intentions!). They planned based on how they wanted the US behave, without any contingencies for how the US was capable of behaving. Their plan assumed that the US would provide them with all the resources they needed to complete the conquest of China. That was really bad planning. They failed the first quiz in "Planning 1A Introduction to Not Making Dumb Decisions". There was no reason to accept their basic planning assumption, that the US would provide them with all the resources they needed to conquer China, other than it was a convenient way to plan for something they wanted to come true, that they could not see another path to making come true.

Let's try that model on a personal scale. I intend to live the lifestyle of the mega-rich. So I will go make financial commitments to purchase a mansion, a Rolls Royce, a yacht, a private plane, and lots of jewelry. When the bills come due, my plan assumes Fred will give me $10 USD million. Clearly if he doesn't, he will be to blame. He will give me no choice, so I will have to attack him.

Pardon me, but I can't see how anyone could suggest that Fred is to blame for the failure of my plan as described above. And I can't see how anyone could reasonably suggest that Roosevelt pushed the Japanese into a position where they had no choice. Rather, it was the Japanese who pushed themselves into a position where, if Roosevelt didn't play to their tune, they would be in a very bad situation. That was their second biggest mistake. Their biggest mistake was how they reacted to finding themselves in such a bind, which was to attack the only player that had a chance of digging them out of their bind.

(aka: Mk 1)

Fred Cartwright22 Jun 2018 11:46 a.m. PST

Ah I see they should have ignored the US actions during the 19th Century when they mudered and pillaged their way across North America and built an economy on slave labour and just concentrated on the 20th Century. But somehow they hadn't quite gotten around to giving up the Philippines of course. Then there is what the US were doing in the 20th century in South America and China. Here is what Smedley Butler himself said about his time with the US Marines.
"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 19021912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."
Pot/kettle and all that! But of course it was alright what he did, because they weren't actually colonies. The US were anticolonialist in name only.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2018 11:48 a.m. PST

Gunfreak… dude! (big smile)


Mark 122 Jun 2018 12:13 p.m. PST

Ah I see they should have ignored the US actions during the 19th Century when they mudered and pillaged their way across North America …

Contrary to what you may have been told, Montana is not a colony of the United States. Nor are Idaho, Colorado, Texas, or even California.

While on the other side, Japan had no intention of China participating in the governance of Japan. Nor Indonesia, nor the Philippines.

… and built an economy on slave labour

Now really. Even IF you are planning based on the intentions of the government of the United States, do you think you should presume that the US was going to be friendly towards the issue of slavery in the first half of the 20th century?

Perhaps you missed that part where the United States spilled more American blood to purge slavery from our own economy, than in any other war we've ever participated in? Hmmm, yeah, looking only at the 20th Century may be a bit short-sited, but not bothering to look at anything that does not support your own narrative is also maybe a bit limiting too, don't you think?

And as you look at Smedley Butler's accounts, I would suggest you take the broader perspective there as well. Smedley Butler's biggest objection is that he was NOT implementing the policies of the Government. Rather, because of the remoteness of where he was deployed, he was being used by corporate interests.

If you are in the role of Japanese policy making, do you want to plan based on the policies of National City Bank, Standard Oil, or the Government of the United States of America? Are you making the case that their planning assumptions focused on J.P. Getty rather than F. D. Roosevelt? That seems rather unlikely to me, as the Japanese military in particular seemed to look down on the merchant class.

I'm not suggesting purity, chastity and perfection were ever part of the nation's history. American history is no less messy than other nations, full of wrong turns and misdeeds. But if you look at the policies of the Government of the United States of America, from 1783 to the 1930s, except for a brief window from the 1890s to about 1910, one of the most consistent tenets of the nation's foreign policy was anti-colonialism. It continued after WW2 as well, and is a substantial contributing reason for the decline of the British Empire and it's transition to the Commonwealth in the immediate post-war era.

If there is any case where a nation might be justified in expressing surprise on the US reaction on this kind of issue, it is Argentina in 1982. The two most consistent tenets of American foreign policy -- anti-colonialism and keeping non-hemispheric powers from projecting dominance in the hemisphere of the Americas, seemed to be on the side of the Argentinians.

But other than that exception, and the ~15 years at the turn of the 20th Century, it is difficult to find another nation who's foreign policy on any particular issue has been as consistent, as long, as the USA's anti-colonialism.

(aka: Mk 1)

Blutarski22 Jun 2018 12:19 p.m. PST

Fred IMO, Japan's greatest mistake from the beginning was to view Great Britain as a geo-strategic role model. They faled to realize that they were arriving late to the party where the big dogs were already comfortably seated at the table and unwilling to share the feast with any latecomers.

Mark Elizabeth's sub-rosa Buccaneering campaign against the Spanish New World? The East India Company? The Opium Wars? Those are just off the top of my head. How do you think Britain became Great Britain?

There are precious few "white hats" in history, except in comic books.


Fred Cartwright22 Jun 2018 12:48 p.m. PST

And how would the Japanese have known that the actions of US MARINES in South America and China weren't official US policy? By the severe censure and punitive penalties visited on the offending firms by the US government perhaps?
Yes I was aware that all those regions were states not colonies, after the troublesome natives had been eliminated of course.
Yes slavery had been abolished in the US and of course all those former black slaves were enjoying unequalled prosperity and opportunity as their white neighbours were, or maybe not.
One can argue the merits of economic imperialism vs colonialism as to which is the better or more humane way of exploiting native populations. One could argue by choosing economic exploitation over colonialism the US avoided all responsibility for the welfare of the natives.
What seems unarguable, at least to me, is that for the first half of the 20th Century and beyond wherever the US had interests, US interests triumphed, backed by force where necessary.

Fred Cartwright22 Jun 2018 2:30 p.m. PST

A couple more things to ponder Mark. I don't think you can avoid being a colony simply by declaring a territory a state. The acid test is do the natives have full voting rights. Until then it is a colony in all but name if only the settlers have voting rights. On that measure the US remained a colonial power until 1962 when New Mexico was the last state to fully enfranchise native Americans.
With respect to the US position on colonialism by everyone else the US position is far from consistent. The French and Spanish were actively involved in the Rif wars in the 20's and Italy invaded and colonised Ethiopia and North Africa in the 30's. What action did the US take against those colonial powers? The League of Nations voted to impose economic sanctions on Italy, but it collapsed through lack of support. And yet Japan is singled out for US anticolonial attention. Hardly the consistent policy you suggest.

thomalley22 Jun 2018 4:03 p.m. PST

US, which had not properly rearmed …. that's finished rearming. The Naval Acts of 1938 and 1940 was already being implemented. 11 Essex carries were ordered and 5 laid down before Dec 7.
Even all four Iowas had been laid down by Dec 7.

Somehow to the Japanese this wasn't a deterrent or even a clue of the type of war they would have to fight. It spurred them on because the saw the window closing.

Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2018 4:06 p.m. PST

IMHO, the mistake was made long before Pearl Harbor. There were significant conflicts of interest between the US and Japan, and things had been building towards a breaking point from early Summer of 1941. The smart thing play would have started in '36 or '37, aiming to make sure that Japanese expansion didn't conflict with US interests. After all, they weren't going to invade California and they didn't need to take any Pacific or Asian real estate from America, so why not try to leave America out altogether? The Japanese could have gotten what they needed from people they could beat. If you make sure there is no *direct* provocation the US stays out of it and Japan could have kept everything it stole from the Chinese, Koreans, Dutch, French, and British.

The Zulus were able to keep their empire expanding for quite a while with the simple foreign policy of "attack and take but do anything to avoid conflict with the British". This worked until the British needed a war. This would have worked even better with the US.

But Zeros over London is an interesting idea…

Lion in the Stars22 Jun 2018 7:32 p.m. PST

Yes it was a mistake for Japan to go to war with the US, but Roosevelt had pushed them into a position where they had no choice.

No choice? Roosevelt pushed them to the point of no choice?

That would be the oil embargo.

At the time, the US produced about 95% of Japan's oil supply.

What the heck would you do if someone told you that you were cut off from everything you needed to have a functioning economy? You can't go to work, you can't eat, you're going to die.

That was the stranglehold the US applied to Japan.

Blutarski22 Jun 2018 9:24 p.m. PST

IIRC, there were several interesting sidelights to the oil embargo play. At the time of implementation of said embargo, Japan had already signed several very large contracts with US companies for supply of oil. The necessary export licenses had been granted by the US government and Japan had made payment to the suppliers. Roosevelt had the export licenses cancelled at the last moment and then had all Japanese assets in the USA frozen so that the money could not be recouped

I'm trying to track down the reference citation on this; it has been several years since I read it.


Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2018 6:24 a.m. PST

"…never get involved in a land war in Asia."

YouTube link

Mobius23 Jun 2018 6:54 a.m. PST

As for provoking the Japanese the halting of scrap iron sales to Japan might be one. And the freezing of Japanese assets in the US might be another.

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