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Sunday, 17 August 2008

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Richard Overy also makes the point ("Why the Allies won") that the Japanese were extremely foolhardy to take on the Americans. Not only was much of their materiel pre-WWI vintage, and mostly tied up in China to boot, but they were almost completely unable to replace their losses in their only technically advanced forces, namely the carriers and the aircraft and crews based on them.

As H writes, the Japanese were extremely foolhardy to take on the US because of the Americans' overweening industrial might (the same goes for Germany). I know it's easy to look back and conclude that a US victory against Japan was a foregone conclusion (I'm sure this wasn't the feeling at the time in the US) but I can't imagine a scenario where the Japanese could have won. Even if every ship in the American Pacific fleet had been in Pearl Harbor on 7 December, the task for the US would have been longer and more bloody perhaps (and Australia might have found that they would have had some hand-to-hand combat outside Darwin) but I still couldn't conceive of a Japanese victory.

As to the correctness or otherwise of Hiroshimna and Nagasaki: if I'd been Truman and had to choose between 100,000 Japanese civilians being killed and up to 2 million US civilians in uniform dying I'm sure I'd have opted to drop the bombs. A nasty decision but not, really, a difficult one.

'H', you are right but from my reading it was the loss of experienced *aircrews* that really crippled their efforts after Midway. At the outbreak of war, the Jap flyers had many more flying hours (and combat experience - and better planes) than the Yanks but after Midway and the Battle of the Philippine Sea, it was exactly the opposite. Thus, the advent of the Kamikaze campaign, apart from appealing to the Japanese psyche, also suited their problem with hopelessly inexperienced pilots and not very good planes.

'Umbongo', you are right, too, in attempting to find any convincing scenario in which the Japs might have won. On the subject of the A-bomb attacks and their justification, it is not only the likely casualties amongst American servicemen invading Japan which is critical in discussions on the subject, but also the death and injuries to Japanese civilians.

The battle for the small island of Okinawa, which in relation to Japan is something akin to the Isle of Man to Britain, took from April 1st to June 21st before organised resistance was brought to an end. 7,000 US soldiers died in addition to 5,000 sailors. But, also 70,000 Japanese servicemen died AND 80,000 Okinawans, mostly civilians (1). Just imagine trying to take the whole of Japan!

(1) From the book referenced in my post.

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