Japanese winning move for WWII?

Historical what if discussions, hypothetical operations, battleship vs. battleship engagements, design your own warship, etc.
User avatar
Karl Heidenreich
Senior Member
Posts: 4808
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:19 pm
Location: San José, Costa Rica
Contact:

Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Wed Aug 19, 2009 11:29 pm

The Invasion of the mainland thread has awakened my curiosity in to analyse which was the real purpose of Japan´s war intent in 1941 and, if it really exists, what could have been the "winning move" in their overall strategy.

This comes because it´s quite basic and easy to address which were the moments in which Nazi Germany could have won WWII: at the Battle of Britain, or the Battle of the Atlantic, at the Gates of Moscow, with the fullfilment of Plan Blue, etc. etc. There were chances for the Germans to win.

But the Japanese? The more that I read (and admire the Japanese vessels and fleet) the more convinced I am that their Pearl Harbor attack was, in fact, a suicidal move. That is more certain after you read Parshal and Tully book about Midway and you became convinced that there was no such thing as a "clear decisive battle" there.

Let´s analyse a bit. Not granting that Pearl Harbor attack was the result of a Conspiracy we must agree, on the other hand, that the embargo that the US put over Japan lure them into the conflict. The conflict did not gave me a clear intent. The attack on Java and Indonesia is logical: the raw materials Japan need. Singapore has to be taken out: obvious. Philipines... OK, they are in the way. But maybe it was not that necesarry to attack them, after all US was neutral and at the end it was clear the MacArthur wasn´t even able to defend the islands, less to be an offensive threat. By now the Japanese look for trouble with europeans that could not defend themselves well or not at all: Great Britain and Netherlands.

US Pacific Fleet? A threat? Only if the Japanese do something that can guarantee the insertion of the US in the war.

But the Japanese attacked the three axis: Java/Indonesia, Philipines and Pearl. And they occupied the two that didn´t represent an strategic threat leaving the US wounded but not dead (serious mistake). Blame Nagumo? Nope. Blame General Tojo? Nope. I think the unthinkable: Yamamoto didn´t have a strategic plan (something that Parshall and Tully underline). How were the Japanese planning to win the war if after Pearl they let the US to armed itself at Pearl? After Pearl what did the Japanese did to surely defeat the US? Attack the Western Coast? Interdict the lines of comunication or interception of new naval units from the Eastern Coast as CVs and BBs? Weekley bombing raids over Pearl to destroy what it´s being repaired there?

No. They run wild in operations as alien to victory as Coral Sea, for example. Port Moresby? That sounds good... just that the USN fleet was not there. The Japanese waited six (6) months, an eternity, to mount an operation against Midway. Six months! They waited for the US to have not a single surviving carrier in the Pacific but three! They did everything in order to scattered their forces with the Aleutian attack (Yamamoto doing again) and finaly they wonder how on Earth they lost a battle that no living western admiral could have lost (well, I can imagine a couple of examples of westerners that could have lost it too). And then Guadalacanal. That was the place and the moment to force what them Japanese wanted, the Decisive Battle a la Tsushima. What they did: they sent old Hiei and Kirishima with lesser units. Where was Yamato and Musashi, Nagato and Mutsu, Haruna and the other Kongos? A couple of them could have given the advantage to Japan. But they sent two aging 14" BCs turned BBs. On November 14-15 maybe both Yamatos on Iron Bottom Sound could have nail the last two vessels the USN could muster in the Campaign.... But the Japanese (Yamamoto) choose otherwise.

So, I ask: which could have been the winning strategy? Not attacking the US? Attacking the US at Pearl Harbor until nothing is left standing? Blockade the Panamá Canal? Shelling San Diego and causing civilian panic? Interdicting oceanic sea lines with their very good subs (That means firing Yamamoto that never understood what the subs were for even having the German example inmediate and clear)?

It´s a good exercise.

Best regards,
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
Sir Winston Churchill

Bgile
Senior Member
Posts: 3658
Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2005 7:33 pm
Location: Portland, OR, USA

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by Bgile » Wed Aug 19, 2009 11:50 pm

They put the USA in an awkward position if they don't attack, and I'm really not sure what would have happened.

User avatar
Dave Saxton
Supporter
Posts: 2932
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Rocky Mountains USA

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Aug 20, 2009 3:28 am

Richard B Frank and other historians have studied this question. Their answer is (if I'm understanding it correctly) that the Japanese assumed that by establishing their East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere that they would establish an empire that would be too costly in blood and treasure to overthrow. The Japanese had a flawed veiw of the United States and its culture. Just as pre-war and early war pressumtions by Anglo-Americans that led to the diasters in the far east were based in part on racism, so did the Japanese have racist preconceptions. They veiwed Americans as not having the stomach to stick out a tough, bloody, war. At the same time, they thought that the Samari Spirit and superior (in their veiw) Japanese mental toughness would over come. They thought if the job looked too daunting or if losses mounted, the American people would eventually grow tired of the war and demand that American political leaders settle on a cease fire or some form of compromise peace. Early in the war the Japanese sought to undermine morale by inflicting what they hoped would be crippling defeats on the Allied military forces, thereby forcing the Allies to come to terms before the American industrial might could be brought to bear. After Midway they adopted an attrition strategy that made Allied victories as expensive as possible, while at the same time the Japanese forces would die to the last man rather than surrender. This was designed to make clear that Allied victory would be very costly and possibly not worth the price. Okinawa really depressed Allied planners, as it was on small scale what an invasion and occupation of the Japanese home Islands would have been. 1-million + American causulaties was not out of the question.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7519
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by RF » Thu Aug 20, 2009 2:12 pm

Had theJapanese view of the American response been accurate, and the US offered to cease fire on terms favourable to the Japanese, the PH attack would have been seen as a master stroke - rather like the attack on Port Arthur in 1904.....
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

User avatar
Karl Heidenreich
Senior Member
Posts: 4808
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:19 pm
Location: San José, Costa Rica
Contact:

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Thu Aug 20, 2009 8:23 pm

RF:
Had theJapanese view of the American response been accurate, and the US offered to cease fire on terms favourable to the Japanese, the PH attack would have been seen as a master stroke - rather like the attack on Port Arthur in 1904.....
Well, maybe THAT is what they expected to happen. There are two options here:

1. They expected the PH to be an overthrowing stroke (which is Dave Saxton refering) and the US will be unwilling to battle.
2. They expected a Decisive Battle to take place.

If it´s the second then they lost the oportunity to win both of those likely Decisive Battles: Guadalcanal and Philipine Seas.

Best regards,
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
Sir Winston Churchill

User avatar
Dave Saxton
Supporter
Posts: 2932
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Rocky Mountains USA

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Aug 21, 2009 3:30 am

Karl Heidenreich wrote:.....
1. They expected the PH to be an overthrowing stroke (which is Dave Saxton refering) and the US will be unwilling to battle.
2. They expected a Decisive Battle to take place.

If it´s the second then they lost the oportunity to win both of those likely Decisive Battles: Guadalcanal and Philipine Seas.

Best regards,

I doubt that they expected PH alone to be a decisive stroke. Rather they expected PH to work in combination with the establishment of the vast east asian empire and other early combat results-culminating in a decisive climatic combat, which later Midway was hoped to be.

One thing that makes analysis difficult was that the Japanese Army and Navy were never really unified in terms of goals and strategy. The inter-service rivalry was intense. The IJA continued with a China first policy and considered the Navy's adventures in the East Indies and Pacific unnecessary. The IJA was more steeped in Bushido than was the Navy and always considered that Japanese soldiers would eventually overcome American soldiers in battle.

Yamamoto and the Navy still held to a partial decisive battle doctrine, but it was modified in the sense that they hoped a decisive victory would destroy American will, and that they needed to undermine American will before the industrial might became the overiding factor.

Yamamoto looked at Guadalcanal as a means to draw the American carriers into a decisive engagement -nuetralizing the results of Midway- and undermining American will.

The IJA looked at Guadalcanal as a means of grinding it out in a gruelling, bloody, ground battle that would gradually wear down American morale. The opposite ocurred.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7519
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by RF » Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:40 am

Dave Saxton wrote:
One thing that makes analysis difficult was that the Japanese Army and Navy were never really unified in terms of goals and strategy. The inter-service rivalry was intense.
That plus the lack of a co-ordinated and joint strategy with the Germans deprived the Japanese of any chance of winning, and basically answers the question Karl posed at the start of this thread.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

User avatar
IronDuke
Member
Posts: 81
Joined: Thu Apr 01, 2010 8:28 pm
Location: Australia
Contact:

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by IronDuke » Sat Apr 03, 2010 1:19 am

I don't think they have one really. A third strike -at the oil fuel tanks and repair facilities, etc- at Pearl Harbor might have delayed US recovery a bit. If they had managed to win at Coral Sea or Midway (Difficult with the USA reading their codes) again a delay, but Japan cannot invade the US mainland and the US is still going to easily outbuild Japan and have a technology edge too, so in the end they had just as well commit Seppuku...
Ted
"It only takes two or three years to build a ship but three hundred to build a tradition" Admiral Cunningham RN

lwd
Senior Member
Posts: 3810
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 2:15 am
Location: Southfield, USA

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by lwd » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:11 pm

Only way I can see is reign in their army officers in China and settle there. Then come into the war as one of the allies. If they do it after Hitler invades France their help would probably be welcome enough to buy them considerable l attitude post war.

User avatar
IronDuke
Member
Posts: 81
Joined: Thu Apr 01, 2010 8:28 pm
Location: Australia
Contact:

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by IronDuke » Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:00 am

That's a whole new issue. Policy prior to WWII could have been different for many countries.

For example Britain might not have given in to US pressure and have followed the advice of the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers in the early 1920's and not ditched the Anglo-Japanese Naval alliance.

Britain might not have deliberately made an enemy of Italy over Abyssinnia, in the mid 1930's...

All interesting 'what ifs'.
Ted
"It only takes two or three years to build a ship but three hundred to build a tradition" Admiral Cunningham RN

User avatar
neil hilton
Senior Member
Posts: 334
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:31 pm

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by neil hilton » Mon May 10, 2010 3:45 pm

If the Japanese had staged their assaults of Java and Malaya out of French Indo China they could have bypassed the Phippines completely. No need to attack Pearl, no war with the US at least in the short term. However this would leave an opposing power in their rear and I doubt the US would have stayed out of the war completely, they would have eventually joined in, if only because of the IJAs actions in China.
If the Japanese could have tolerated the US in the Philipines which I doubt and had toned down their actions in China, its possible the US public would just shrug. So what if the British and Dutch are turfed out of SE asia?
Veni, vidi, verrimus!
I came, I saw, I swept the floor!

lwd
Senior Member
Posts: 3810
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 2:15 am
Location: Southfield, USA

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by lwd » Mon May 10, 2010 3:52 pm

neil hilton wrote:If the Japanese had staged their assaults of Java and Malaya out of French Indo China they could have bypassed the Phippines completely. No need to attack Pearl, no war with the US at least in the short term. However this would leave an opposing power in their rear and I doubt the US would have stayed out of the war completely, they would have eventually joined in, if only because of the IJAs actions in China.
The US, Britain, and Holland had made it clear that an attack on one would be considered an attack on all. The Philippines set aside the major shipping routes to Japan and the USN was stronger by a considerable amount than the IJN. If they let the US declare war first they are in deep trouble and the US is rapidly building up the defences of the Philipines. The Japanese would have had a very hard time taking them if the US had another 6 months especially if there was no surprise attack.
If the Japanese could have tolerated the US in the Philipines which I doubt and had toned down their actions in China, its possible the US public would just shrug. So what if the British and Dutch are turfed out of SE asia?
If they had "towned down thier actions in China" there would have been little reason for them to invade Indo China and likely no oil embargo. IE no need to attack the British or Dutch mush less the US.

User avatar
neil hilton
Senior Member
Posts: 334
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:31 pm

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by neil hilton » Tue May 11, 2010 1:11 pm

lwd wrote:
neil hilton wrote:If the Japanese had staged their assaults of Java and Malaya out of French Indo China they could have bypassed the Phippines completely. No need to attack Pearl, no war with the US at least in the short term. However this would leave an opposing power in their rear and I doubt the US would have stayed out of the war completely, they would have eventually joined in, if only because of the IJAs actions in China.
The US, Britain, and Holland had made it clear that an attack on one would be considered an attack on all. The Philippines set aside the major shipping routes to Japan and the USN was stronger by a considerable amount than the IJN. If they let the US declare war first they are in deep trouble and the US is rapidly building up the defences of the Philipines. The Japanese would have had a very hard time taking them if the US had another 6 months especially if there was no surprise attack.
If the Japanese could have tolerated the US in the Philipines which I doubt and had toned down their actions in China, its possible the US public would just shrug. So what if the British and Dutch are turfed out of SE asia?
If they had "towned down thier actions in China" there would have been little reason for them to invade Indo China and likely no oil embargo. IE no need to attack the British or Dutch mush less the US.
Actually I meant toned down their actions in China after the oil embargo to assuage US opinion.
But your're right about the rest. Such a situation would make hostilities with the 3 powers inevitable, ie no divide and conquor. This means Imperial Japan cannot win a war against 2 major powers on 2 fronts at the same time.

What if they had gone the diplomatic route with Java and the other Dutch possessions as they did with French Indo China, ie demanded access and moved in without invading? After all Holland was occupied just like France. That would give them oil and other booty to feed their war machine.
Veni, vidi, verrimus!
I came, I saw, I swept the floor!

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7519
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by RF » Tue May 11, 2010 1:26 pm

neil hilton wrote:
What if they had gone the diplomatic route with Java and the other Dutch possessions as they did with French Indo China, ie demanded access and moved in without invading? After all Holland was occupied just like France. That would give them oil and other booty to feed their war machine.
But Holland and France are only alike in that the mother country is occupied. France had a collaborationist Vichy government, to which the French far east forces were loyal. So the Japanese could bully their way into Indo-China as they did with Vichy already half on their side.
The Dutch colonial authorities were loyal to Queen Wilhelmina and her government in London and were already at war with Germany and Italy. In their negotiations with the Japanese they made it clear that they would fight and that attacking Dutch territory would mean war with Britain, who would suuport the Dutch.

The diplomatic route as you suggest could have worked if Germany had invaded and conquered Britain ie. the war in Europe was over.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7519
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Re: Japanese winning move for WWII?

Post by RF » Tue May 11, 2010 1:32 pm

neil hilton wrote:I
So what if the British and Dutch are turfed out of SE asia?
How are the Japanese to do this completely when the British hold Australia, New Zealand and India?

They would have to occupy totally all three, for which they do not have the logistics.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

Post Reply