Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact

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By Moteki Hiromichi,

By Moteki Hiromichi
If I were to say that Japan had a formula (and a viable one at that) for victory in World War II, what sort of reaction would I get? Perhaps most people would be dismissive, wondering how I could be suffering from such a delusion at this late date. Certainly most citizens of the Western world would react that way.
In Japanese Military Strategy in the Pacific War: Was Defeat Inevitable? James B. Wood broaches this topic. The Williams College history professor suggests that Japan was not reckless in waging war against the Allies. His opinion is very much a minority one among Europeans (and of course, Americans). Wood sums up the mentality of the Western world regarding this topic very well, as follows.
“Why were the Japanese so crazy as to take on the United States?” or “How could a country with a GNP about that of Italy or Canada, expect to win?” or “Why should we expect anything else from a country with a feudal warrior code and culture, emperor worship, racial supremacy notions, and a total lack of sympathy or respect for her neighbors?” The implication is that those responsible for Japan’s path to war were ignorant or irrational, perhaps a blend of both, as well as basically evil — a perfectly other counterpoise to the victor of modernity in all respect, the United States.1
Nevertheless, how do we explain the fact that ignorant, backward Japan, defeated in war and reduced to ashes, managed to recover so thoroughly that 23 years later, its GNP was second only to that of the US? And are the proponents of this negative view of Japan aware that prior to World War II, Japan had a greater naval presence than the US, since the Americans needed sea power on two oceans. I will provide details in due course, but to cite an example, Japan had 10 aircraft carriers in the Pacific, while the US had only two. The US had others, if one includes those operating in the Atlantic, but only seven altogether. They called the Japanese ignorant and irrational, but don’t those adjectives better describe the Americans at that juncture?
1 Wood, James B., Japanese Military Strategy in the Pacific War: Was Defeat Inevitable? (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), 1.
James Wood goes on to write, “Of all the books written during the recent fiftieth
anniversary of World War II, only one has clearly taken on such deterministic explanations
of the course of the war.” That book is Richard Overy’s Why the Allies Won. An excerpt
Why did the Allies win World War II? This is such a straightforward
question that we assume it has an obvious answer. Indeed the question itself
is hardly ever asked. Allied victory is taken for granted. Was their cause not
manifestly just? Despite all the dangers, was the progress of their vast forces
not irresistible? Explanations of Allied success contain a strong element of
determinism. We now know the story so well that we do not consider the
uncomfortable prospect that other outcomes might have been possible. To
ask why the Allies won is to presuppose that they might have lost or, for
understandable reasons, that they would have accepted an outcome short of
total victory. These were in fact strong possibilities. There was nothing
preordained about Allied success.2
On the basis of a similar philosophy, Professor Wood discusses Japan’s accomplishments
and failures. He also describes thoughts about the sort of world we would have today if the
Japanese had had the opportunity to conduct a more manageable war.
Some of Wood’s arguments are extremely useful and instructive. I shall be referring to
them throughout this book and elaborating on them, as I demonstrate that Japan had a
master plan, a formula for victory, but ended up fighting a war that did not adhere to that
plan. I will also delve into the reasons for that failure.
On November 15, 1941, three weeks prior to the Pearl Harbor strike, the Japanese
government and Imperial General Headquarters held a liaison conference. Those present
discussed the Draft Proposal for the Promotion of the End of the War Against the United
States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Chiang Kai-shek), and decided to
execute it. I consider this the master plan, the plan for victory, and will be analyzing it with
the aid of practical simulations throughout this book.
The essentials of that master plan are laid out in Section 1 of Objectives (see Figure 3).
First, to ensure self-sufficiency and exercise the right to defend their nation, the Japanese
military would expeditiously destroy bases established by the US, the UK, and the
Netherlands in the Far East. Additionally, they would take action to facilitate the surrender
of the Chiang government, and then form an alliance with Germany and Italy. They would
use that alliance to effect the capitulation of Britain, which would cause the US to lose the
will to continue hostilities against Japan.
Then, after securing Southeast Asian resource-rich regions, they would proceed to the
Indian Ocean, where they would block shipments to Great Britain by cutting off supply
lines linking it with Australia, New Zealand, and India. The Pacific Ocean, a force of nature,
2 Overy, Richard, Why the Allies Won (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1995), 15.
would serve as their weapon against the US. The Japanese military would lure American
naval forces into the Pacific, and then ambush and destroy them, using whatever means
were necessary.
The Pearl Harbor strike, which does not appear in the Draft Proposal, was a deviation. I
will provide a detailed analysis of the attack and why it was made in Chapter 4. Operation
11, which involved dispatching two Army divisions and the main strength of the Navy to
destroy the British Far East Fleet and occupy Ceylon. The Japanese were fully prepared to
execute this operation in July 1942, but did not.
In a communiqué from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to US President Franklin
Roosevelt sent on April 15, 1942, Churchill expressed his frustration at being unable to
halt Japanese advances in Southeast Asia.
I must revert to the grave situation in the Indian Ocean … arising from the
fact that the Japanese have felt able to detach nearly a third of their battle
fleet and half their carriers, which force we are unable to match for several
months. The consequences of this may easily be: (A) The loss of Ceylon.
(B) Invasion of Eastern India with incalculable internal consequences to our
whole war plan and including the loss of Calcutta and of all contact with the
Chinese through Burma. But this is only the beginning. Until we are able to
fight a fleet action there is no reason why the Japanese should not become
the dominating factor in the Western Indian Ocean. This would result in the
collapse of our whole position in the Middle East, not only because of the
interruption to our convoys to the Middle East and India, but also because
of the interruptions to the oil supplies from Abadan, without which we
cannot maintain our position either at sea or on land in the Indian Ocean
Area. Supplies to Russia via the Persian Gulf would also be cut. With so
much of the weight of Japan thrown upon us we have more than we can
I ask readers’ indulgence as I demonstrate that the Japanese formula for victory was
decidedly not a grandiose delusion, but a solidly realistic plan replete with potential.
Moteki Hiromichi
21 June 2019
3 Kimball, Warren, ed., Churchill & Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, vol. 1, Alliance Emerging
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 452-3.
The panic of 1929 and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff
Proliferation of economic blocs leads to fragmentation of world’s markets
The Stimson Doctrine
Comintern embraces revolutionary defeatism
Americans abrogate Japan-US treaty
Was the Pearl Harbor strike a sneak attack?
Economic blockades are acts of war
MacArthur’s testimony before the US Senate in 1951
Declarations of war not mandatory
Roosevelt approves plan for bombing of Japan in July 1941
1. Destroy American, British, and Dutch bases in Far East
2. Eliminate Chiang government; establish coalition government
3. Form alliance with Germany and Italy to force surrender of UK
Lure main strength of US Navy into the Pacific, then attack and destroy
Procedures to follow after forming alliance with Germany and Italy
Steps to be taken by Germany and Italy
Use offensives against UK to discourage US from continuing hostilities
Japan had sufficient submarines to destroy American sea lanes
China policy and overthrow of Nationalist government
Major stumble: USSR policy
Japan-USSR alliance: national strategy against US and UK?
Peacemaking opportunities, propaganda, peace talks
Historians discredit Draft Proposal
Akimaru Agency surveys military capabilities of other countries
Study (Allied Economic Power of US and UK) informed Draft Proposal
Victory possible only after pinpointing enemy’s weak points
I. Premises of the simulations
1. Japan had superior war potential at start of conflict
2. War potential is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from base to
battle site
Pacific Ocean: one of Japan’s most powerful weapons
Distance principle proven at Guadalcanal
Lt. Gen. Ishiwara’s evaluation of Battle of Guadalcanal
3. Indian Ocean: main artery of Allied transport
II. Simulations
1. Destroy US, UK, Dutch bases in Far East (Phase 1 operations)
Secure main transport routes and long-term supply chains
Simulation conducted in strict adherence to Draft Proposal
Shedding inferiority complex
2. Take bold steps to topple Chiang government (Phase 2 operations)
Operation 11 (Western Asia, Ceylon)
Enemies feared Japanese offensive in Indian Ocean
Operation 5 (land invasion at Chongqing)
3 Align with Germany and Italy to force UK to surrender (Phase 2 operations)
Indian Ocean main artery for US cooperation with USSR
4 Strip US of will to continue hostilities
2 Potential for Indian independence increases
Objectives of Draft Proposal were attainable
“If I had been Chief of the General Staff, Japan would have prevailed!” (Ishiwara Kanji)
Did Japan’s leaders fail to understand the Draft Proposal?
Did Yamamoto Isoroku understand the Draft Proposal when he attacked Ceylon?
Outline of instructions for conduct of the war (Phase 2 operations, March 7)
IGHQ chief senses a crisis
Success at Pearl Harbor disrupted all plans
Combined Fleet and Naval General Staff became equals
Pearl Harbor strike: tactical victory, strategic defeat
A visit to the US is just that; no insight gained
Did Yamamoto Isoroku spy for the Americans?
Suspicions of espionage and conspiracies: signs of idiocy
The real reason: Yamamoto’s lack of knowledge about strategy
“Send 5 Army divisions to Guadalcanal en masse”
Had anyone thought of the need for supplies?
Why did the Army defer to the Navy?
Navy issued exaggerated war reports
Most egregious instance of hyperbole: aerial battle off Taiwan
Possible violation of Emperor’s position as commander in chief
Split in supreme command authority of Army and Navy
Why Saipan fell so quickly
Violation of absolute defense perimeter
Defense of Pacific islands required Army-Navy cooperation
An economist is an economist, regardless of political positions
From “Report on Allied Economic Capacity for War” to Draft Proposal
Adherence to Draft Proposal would have brought victory
Chief of General Staff: “Burn every last one of them!”
Et tu, Brute?
Another Brutus!
Only Akimaru Agency showed the path to victory
20:1 ratio was inflated popular opinion
Fabricators scoff at newly unearthed historical fact
Mass media broadcast manufactured “news”
Bring honesty back to academia
Unraveling the mystery of Akimaru Agency’s phantom report
Arisawa-Akimaru produced a viable strategy