Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Annals of Military Intelligence

Reading a new book on the intelligence services of World War II, on which more to come. Meanwhile, here is this:
After Japan's defeat Col. Shinobu Takayam of the army's Operations Department acknowledged ruefully that it would have been prudent to research America's actual and potential warmaking powers before embarking on a conflict with it.

4 comments:

G. Verloren said...

The Japanese war effort hinged utterly on rapid early victory. They believed, quite correctly, that if they could wipe out the US fleet and control the Pacific Ocean (and vital oil and rubber sources in the region), then the Americans would have not any real means to retaliate and would have to negotiate terms.

It could have worked. The Japanese had the misfortune to strike Pearl Harbour when a number of our more important ships weren't present, and they overestimated the strength of the blow they dealt. A more aggressive and thorough followup, including concerted strikes against our major Pacific ports and shipyards to prevent rebuilding, could have knocked us out of the running in the Pacific theatre entirely.

The Axis nations really only failed in the long run because they couldn't end their wars fast enough, nor secure vital resources well enough (and simultaneously deprive their enemies of the same).

John said...

I don't believe it ever could have worked. Losing all the aircraft carriers in the Pacific might have slowed the US for a year, but no longer. In December 1941 e already had six more building in shipyards. Besides, the Americans could have brought Japan to its knees using no weapons but submarines, as Japanese war games showed in the late 1930s.

American industrial capacity was more than ten times Japan's, and no amount of surprise or cleverness can overcome that sort of disparity.

G. Verloren said...

I'm aware we had six more carriers in building, but as I said above, I think had the Japanese been more aggresive and followed up on their initial bombing, going on to attack our Pacific shipyards and ports, they might well have pressed us to capitulate.

The entire point of blitzkrieg is to exploit the element of surprise as much as possible, not only dealing damage to unprepared military targets, but also disrupting vital supply lines and manufacturing capability, crippling both the enemy's capacity and desire to make war.

The optimal scenario is of course to storm the capital and effectively unseat the government itself, but even without that you can still seek to put an opponent in such dire straights quickly enough that all will to fight goes out of them. When you have someone caught off guard, reeling with shock, hurting and panicked and without their full wits or resolve about them, they're at their the most likely to surrender, for fear that further fighting will cost them even more than giving up would in that moment.

The German Reich nearly achieved exactly that against the UK. Their pivotal blunder was the switch away from attacking military targets in favor of the ultimately counter-productive terror bombing of London, which allowed the RAF and Royal Navy time to regroup and consolidate while the outrage of the civilian bombings hardened the resolve of the nation and kindled a fierce spirit of resistance and desire to continue the war to the bitter end.

If they had instead stayed the course, systematically destroyed Britain's remaining air and naval power in the field, and projected the open threat of landing an invasion force (even simply as a bold faced bluff), I think a German victory in Europe could indeed have been achieved. Thank goodness it wasn't, but I honestly think much of the world's fate rested more on the mistakes made by the Axis than on the wise choices made by the Allies.

David said...

Verloren is describing basic Axis strategy: a furious assault can shock fundamentally stronger but less initially well-prepared powers into surrendering. The fact that this failed in the four most essential cases--China, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the US--is a pattern too strong and consistent to be ignored. The pattern indicates that, although there might have been a chance of success, the gamble was a basically desperate one against the odds. And if they failed to succeed with the initial shock, Axis prospects in a long war were extremely dim--as both German and Japanese strategists recognized before the fact.