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The Japanese after the Coral Sea

 
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The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 10:32:42 AM   
ilovestrategy


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There is something I have always wondered. What happened to the Japanese success after the Battle of the Coral Sea? Up until then it seemed like they could do no wrong. Pearl Harbor, Philippines, Singapore, Dutch East Indies all went like clock work.

But then they changed their MO and sent 2 carriers to the Coral Sea instead of all 6 flat tops. And then a trip to Midway and we all know what happened there.

They had a minor come back at Savao Island but after Midway it seemed like they just threw away their ships, planes and men in Banzai charges and Kamakazai attacks.

It just seems to me that they could not adapt to the changing situation and did not know what to do. A classic case of self denial. The inflated combat reports by the pilots was a good example. (We sunk 16 U.S. carriers in one battle!)

Every country in the world that has been at war has had the problem with the generals and admirals back home not understanding what was going on at the front but the Japanese took that to a whole new level.

It just blows my mind that a country that started off so well in a war ended so badly.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 11:04:01 AM   
LoBaron


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A combination different things.

The Japanese never had a thought through grand strategy beyond PH and
the capture of the DEIs.
The idea was to force the US on the negotiation table after their Pacafic
fleet lay in shambles, but as we all know this did not happen, or at least
not to the extent to yield the desired result.

The US flattops were untouched and the initial strategic goals had been achieved
(capture of the oil/rubber rich regions).
The difficulties and open hostilities between the IJA and the IJN which should have
worked closely together to work out new strategies prevented the developement of
a homogenous move.
The result was half baked compromises without a governing overall strategy to satisfy
the different points of view on command level.
For example the IJN agreed to send 2 carriers to the Solomons (both badly missed at Midway)
to satisfy the needs of the IJA to defend the south, which in turn brought the IJA to
support the Midway invasion.

Add to that the combination of the Allies learning from their mistakes and the Japanese
significantly underestimating the Allied capabilities because they were easy pray in the
first months and you get the picture quite well.

Finally at some point the technical and material superiority of the Allied industry came to bear.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 12:16:36 PM   
HansBolter


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and don't forget the effect of victory disease

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 1:34:24 PM   
Shellshock


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During the interwar period the IJN had equipped itself with a strict doctrine and then built warships and planes to order to win that fight according to that doctrine. But after May and June 1942 the battles it had to fight were where not those for which it had spent years preparing. The IJN was perhaps the best navy in the world in the second half of 1941, but as the situation rapidly evolved beyond their pre-conceived concepts, it proved not to have the strength or depth to change and adapt. One of the things Yamamoto and company failed to grasp in May 1942 was that not only wasn't this the same war they had starting fighting five months ago. It wasn't the same war they had been fighting one month ago.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 5:28:55 PM   
Canoerebel


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It is amazing how quickly momentum changed sides in the Pacific in World War II. In my opinion, the two major reasons for that shift were Japanese logistical inadequacies and Allied intelligence capability. These bought the Allies the time needed for their logistics and production to overwhelm Japan.

America and the Allies had been knocked down, but by the middle of 1942 had had sufficient time to get back up, regain their equilibriums, and begin effective countermeasures and offensives. Consider that on December 7, 1941, the Japanese were able to attack all over the Pacific with effective surprise, yet just seven months later the Allies knew they were heading to Midway well ahead of time and managed to put together a force capable of winning that critical battle.

Also, it was becoming clear that Japan was incapable of sustaining effective offensive operations against decent opposition, mainly because of logistics (certainly not due to any deficiency in the quality of Japanese troops). Two months after Midway, a hastily put together and poorly supplied and supported Allied invasion of Guadalcanal succeeded and then repulsed every effort by Japan to retake the island over four months.

Already, the logistical and production inequalities between the two sides had swung the balance of power. For example, the attrition to Japanese carriers had permanetly weakened that force, while the Allies were only temporarily set back and were in the process of taking an overwhelming lead in carriers.



< Message edited by Canoerebel -- 5/17/2011 5:31:10 PM >

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 5:37:42 PM   
Nikademus


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alot of factors.....but a simple one that often gets overshadowed is the fact that when Yamamotto got his Midway plan pushed through (with a boost courtasy of James Doolittle), the assumption was that the operation would be carried out largely in secret, with the enemy responding AFTER the midway attack began. Certainly had they known not two but three carriers would be waiting for them in ambush on June 4th.....the plan would have been slightly altered.


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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 5:59:32 PM   
vettim89


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I think a number of factors come to play here.

1. The aforementioned friction between IJA and IJN and far as strategic goals. While the US had friction between CENTPAC and later SOPAC with SWPAC, they were able to get past it and found a way to be mutually supporting. The Japanese never had that level of coordination between their Army and Navy

2. Much of the early war succes was an illusion. The Centrifugal Offensive was against poorly equipped and trained troops that had eqaully poor leadership. Many of the conquered bases were unoccupied or only held by a few companies of troops. There were some warnings but the IJA failed to see them. The Aussies raised hell on Timor until the Japanese brought reinforcements. The AVG was making a good showing in Burma/China. Even looking at the situation in China you could see that the IJA could push the Chinese around but they could not defeat them.

3. The failure to develop an effective support structure cost the Japanese dearly. The Munda airfield was started shortly after the Marines landed on Guadalcanal. It was not truly operational until nearly six months later. The Allies with their support heavy structure could develop bases at a much faster pace. As an example, the Marines took the Russels in Feb '43 and it was up and running by May. That is mid-war pace. When the USA invaded Leyte in 1944, the had a fighter strip up and running in three days!!!!

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 6:42:54 PM   
Cribtop


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I will echo all of the above (especially intel) and re-emphasize the inability of the Japanese to adapt to a changing environment. If tactics didn't work, someone is cashiered and we try, try again. There was a post some weeks ago about a Zero pilot talking about the abject refusal to make decent radios that was comically heartbreaking. The inability of bad news to move to the top of the organization, and the failure to react to failure, really helped do them in. In other words, knowing your planes are inferior and trying to adapt is one thing and results in certain corrective actions. Just refusing to admit there is a problem results in a death spiral.

Also, the Japanese were not just out produced in quantity but in quality. They were unable to improve their war fighting tools due to technical challenges in their industrial base.



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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 6:52:52 PM   
mullk

 

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One of the more interesting things to me was both sides entered the war with large preconceived notions of how the other was going to behave.  Unfortunately the early war victories by Japan seemed to confirm their perception of America and to me that would end up biting them in the rear later (victory disease effect).  On the American side the drubbing the U.S. received at the start of the war seemed to dispel it's perceptions.  It seems as if the Japanese during the war always seemed to have the perception that the U.S. wouldn't fight and Japanese units just showing up on the field would cause U.S. units to rout or surrender or at least cower before the might of the Japanese empire.  It seems rather odd to me that Japan seemed quite often to not fight to the last man to achieve victory but would turn around and show suicidal bravery when winning was not possible.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 9:50:28 PM   
ilovestrategy


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A lot of points I never considered. I knew where to ask!

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 10:01:46 PM   
Yank


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'Strategy: If you've not already discovered it, I highly recommend the book "Shattered Sword" which is the story of Midway from the Japanese perspective. The book's praises have been sung on many threads in this forum and rightly so, it's a great read. Will not only give you a fascinating account of the battle from a different perspective, but also covers a lot of the other weaknesses pointed out in the Japanese strategy, tactics, material weakness, and interservice cooperation that the other posters have noted.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 10:43:11 PM   
Cribtop


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+1 to Shattered Sword, great book.

Another example of what I mean in my prior post. I was just reading up on the eventually disastrous IJA Imphal offensive in 1944. Two of the top generals were outwardly conversing with subordinates about how, with reinforcements and supplies, success was still possible. While this conversation is occurring the top two generals are using a form of non-verbal communication to convey to each other the truth, that the offensive had failed. Neither, however, wanted to take responsibility for giving the order to retreat. Burma Area Army kept issuing orders to attack, which were ignored for two months by Division commanders because the attacks could not succeed. Only then was the offensive officially called off.

That, gentlemen, is no way to run a war! Too much shame in admitting to problems resulting in wasted efforts.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 11:05:47 PM   
Canoerebel


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Here's another interesting observation on the difference between the Allies and Japan.

Long after the war, a Japanese veteran was interviewed about his experiences in the Philippines. One of the episodes he described in detail involved the rescue of a downed American pilot. He described how an American submarine surfaced and, while under fire from shore guns, managed to recover the pilot and make good its escpae. The Japanese veteran could not believe that the Americans would risk such an important asset to recover a single man.

That's a pretty telling illustration on the difference between how the Japanese and the Allies perceived the value of life. For Japan, the country was everything and the individual meant very little. But the Allies placed a premium on the value of life (and liberty and the pursuit of happiness) and conducted themselves accordingly (remember when Halsey [I think it was him] turned on the carrier's landing lights to recover an incoming flight at dusk even though they were in Indian country?).

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/17/2011 11:33:55 PM   
che200


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It was Mitscher at the Philippine Sea who turned on the lights so the pilots could land.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/18/2011 12:07:51 AM   
Local Yokel


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Canoerebel

That's a pretty telling illustration on the difference between how the Japanese and the Allies perceived the value of life. For Japan, the country was everything and the individual meant very little. But the Allies placed a premium on the value of life (and liberty and the pursuit of happiness) and conducted themselves accordingly (remember when Halsey [I think it was him] turned on the carrier's landing lights to recover an incoming flight at dusk even though they were in Indian country?).


I think this reflects a stereotype that has been too readily accepted. Two years before Mitscher issued his 'Turn on the lights' order, the commanders of the Japanese MO Striking Force in the Coral Sea issued the identical order to illuminate, and for identical reasons (see Lundstrom, 'The First Team', 1990 ed. p.216).

Only too easy to assume that Japanese commanders cared little for the lives of those they commanded, as this has so long been the popular view. On closer examination, however, evidence emerges which suggests that the Japanese way of war was more complex than the sterotype.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/18/2011 12:13:30 AM   
Canoerebel


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Judging from history Japan'd approach (as exemplified by the comments of the veteran I mentioned above and many other tactics and ideas) was very different from the Allied approach. We, as westerners, may find Japan's approach unusual and flawed, but by the same token Japan found the west's approach flawed. You might find similarities and exceptions to the rule, but it is irrefutable that the approaches were very different.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/18/2011 2:09:47 AM   
Local Yokel


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It would be astonishing if there were not significant differences between the tactics and ideas of the Japanese and their opponents. But in the case of turning ships' lights on to guide aircraft home, history reveals a striking similarity of behaviour on the part of carrier admirals on both sides. Thus Mitscher's order isn't really a good illustration of how the Allies differed from the Japanese - rather the contrary, as it turns out.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/18/2011 2:12:35 AM   
Shellshock


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I think it was a member of Yamamoto's staff who after Kawaguchi's repulse at the Battle of Edson's Ridge commented: "The army had gotten too used to fighting the Chinese." If the Japanese Navy was slow to adapt to change, the Japanese Army made them appear like wild eyed radicals. Save for the border clash with the Soviet Union in 1939, the vast majority of Japan's most recent experience of land warfare had been gained against the Chinese, who possessed scarcely any artillery or other heavy weapons. Japan's Army fell increasingly behind the technological curve established in European fighting, remaining a horse-powered, infantry-based force in an era of increasingly industrialized and specialized warfare.

The experience of World War One, as processed in the mindset of the IJA, was that hardness was a prerequisite for survival and success in modern combat. Discipline, already harsh by Western standards was tightened to the limit of everyday endurance. Bushido and spiritual factors became paramount. Cold steel was emphasized to the point that light machine guns were given bayonet attachments. Logistics were neglected in favor of foraging among the locals, which became a segue-way for brutality against farmers and peasants in the subsistence economies of Asia. The Japanese Army, which had been state of the art military force in 1905 when they fought the Russians, actually devolved in the 1930s and became a backwards institution while fighting and trying to maintain control in the primitive conditions of China.

Then in 1942 they started throwing themselves against heavily armed Marines backed by modern tanks and artillery and a vast industrial base. The Chinese 'experience' didn't help much.

< Message edited by Shellshock -- 5/18/2011 2:14:09 AM >

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/18/2011 2:27:59 AM   
Ketza


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Read Shattered Sword. It goes into great detail about Japanese planning and strategic direction in spring of 1942.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/18/2011 7:03:25 AM   
LoBaron


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quote:

ORIGINAL: ilovestrategy

A lot of points I never considered. I knew where to ask!


Happens to me all the time. Don´t search the internet, ask the WitP forum.

Some other part I came up with:

In general WWII is very unique in the way new technology, barely understood at the beginning
of hostilities - with a couple of some deciding exceptions -, changed tactics and added new
options to the arsenal within months. What was unthinkable in 41 was standart procedure in 42
and outdated in 43.

The first months were a series of complete surprises about actual capabilities as compared
to the vague estimates before the conflict. Maybe more so to the Allies but the reason for that is that
initiative was with the Japanese (and Germans).

After the first shock the Allied military evolved fast, the Japanese did not, or much slower.
I see the cause for this partly in the Japanese successes, which seemed to suggest there was no
need to change anything (Germany had the same problem), and partly in the Japanese culture which
had a much higher resistance to radical change than any of the western nations.

Obviousely the above is only another small piece of reasoning completing the whole picture.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/18/2011 10:53:32 AM   
Puhis

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Canoerebel

Here's another interesting observation on the difference between the Allies and Japan.

Long after the war, a Japanese veteran was interviewed about his experiences in the Philippines. One of the episodes he described in detail involved the rescue of a downed American pilot. He described how an American submarine surfaced and, while under fire from shore guns, managed to recover the pilot and make good its escpae. The Japanese veteran could not believe that the Americans would risk such an important asset to recover a single man.

That's a pretty telling illustration on the difference between how the Japanese and the Allies perceived the value of life. For Japan, the country was everything and the individual meant very little. But the Allies placed a premium on the value of life (and liberty and the pursuit of happiness) and conducted themselves accordingly (remember when Halsey [I think it was him] turned on the carrier's landing lights to recover an incoming flight at dusk even though they were in Indian country?).


Japanese also used subs to pick up downed pilots. Not as regularly as USN, and sertainly not under enemy fire, but they did that too.

At least during Salomon campaing RO-boat were used to rescue pilots. Also subs rescued avioators from Marianes after airfields and planes were destroyed and battles were nearly lost.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/18/2011 1:42:03 PM   
Bo Rearguard


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quote:

ORIGINAL: ilovestrategy

It just blows my mind that a country that started off so well in a war ended so badly.


I suppose you could say the same thing about the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Everything seemed to be going so beautifully for the first four months. Environmental factors like the weather didn't play the big part in the Pacific, but an over-extended smaller nation getting mired in a fight and then slowly crushed by a larger one still applies.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/18/2011 1:55:54 PM   
Fishbed


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Puhis


quote:

ORIGINAL: Canoerebel

Here's another interesting observation on the difference between the Allies and Japan.

Long after the war, a Japanese veteran was interviewed about his experiences in the Philippines. One of the episodes he described in detail involved the rescue of a downed American pilot. He described how an American submarine surfaced and, while under fire from shore guns, managed to recover the pilot and make good its escpae. The Japanese veteran could not believe that the Americans would risk such an important asset to recover a single man.

That's a pretty telling illustration on the difference between how the Japanese and the Allies perceived the value of life. For Japan, the country was everything and the individual meant very little. But the Allies placed a premium on the value of life (and liberty and the pursuit of happiness) and conducted themselves accordingly (remember when Halsey [I think it was him] turned on the carrier's landing lights to recover an incoming flight at dusk even though they were in Indian country?).


Japanese also used subs to pick up downed pilots. Not as regularly as USN, and sertainly not under enemy fire, but they did that too.

At least during Salomon campaing RO-boat were used to rescue pilots. Also subs rescued avioators from Marianes after airfields and planes were destroyed and battles were nearly lost.


Indeed. They also sent a sub after the famous Aleutians Zero once it got sighted, if I remember well.

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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/18/2011 2:00:52 PM   
Fishbed


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Ilovestrategy, give this book a try:

http://www.amazon.com/Zero-Masatake-Okumiya/dp/0743444914

Whatever was the role of Martin Caidin in writing this, don't miss the part from Masatake Okumiya (former officer on Junyo). If it's the same book as the one I read in French, that's a fantastic account from the Japanese side, and a very sober view on its weaknesses, especially during the last battle the Kido Butai ever "won" (Santa Cruz, more of a lost victory actually).

His interrogations reports are very interesting too (like this one)


< Message edited by Fishbed -- 5/18/2011 2:15:45 PM >


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RE: The Japanese after the Coral Sea - 5/18/2011 3:04:47 PM   
Banzan

 

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In the "World at War" series, serveral japanese are telling about their war-memories. One of them was talking about a soldier who just had surrendered and talked about allied victory during his interrogation.
The japanese soldier was absolute baffled, that someone who just surrendered(!) would be able of thinking about victory, instead of hiding in shame.

I guess by their own "standards", defeats like the allies took would have led to a mass suicide of the political and military leaders and it was absolute unbelivable to them, that someone who lost his "honour" would be able to recover and fight back.

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