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Sunday, 12 October 2008


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Mr. Duff,

I've read some on the "navigator's story" but it's been a bit, and cannot off the top of my head, recall precisely where I read it. Anyway the story goes something like this:

The bomb destined for Hiroshima was uranium based. The plane which dropped it rode at a relatively low altitude. The reason this is important is because the specific aircraft type was the first to be able to encounter a phenomena known as the "jet stream."

Earlier attempts to employ the aircraft (at its' designed altitude) resulted in bomb runs that were ineffective due to jet stream effects. Then AAF General Curtis LeMay ordered the aircraft to lower altitudes where firebombing could be rather more "on-target" and thus more effective.

When the first bomb was dropped it was from this lower altitude but as a result more subject to concussive effects. Which I suppose might be problematic. And given that the second bomb was plutonium enhanced, a rather more pronounced concussive effect was expected, and thought to be somewhat outside the aircrafts' design parameters.

And so the second delivery was made from a higher altitude. I can't recall specifically whether the "higher altitude drop" did in fact become subject to jet stream forces, but it might be something to consider where the "navigator's heart wasn't in it."

However, when it comes to the use of either atomic or nuclear weapons, a two-mile targeting error against paper houses shouldn't pose too much of a problem.

And as you note, the enemy did "own up."

Did the Germans lose WW1 in the first 6 months? As I recall they had effectively knocked Russia out of the war at Tannenberg in August 1914. The U-Boat war had (almost) brought Britain to its knees by 1917 by which time the French Army (after the mutinies on the Western Front) was a busted flush. The all-out Atlantic campaign (which included sinking US merchant ships in UK waters) was not enough to bring the US into the war - that required the both the crass stupidity of the events behind the Zimmerman Telegram and the subtlety of the intelligence department of the Royal Navy. I reckon - although I stand to be corrected - that had the Germans not needlessly infuriated the US, they could have fought the Allies to a standstill by mid-1918: not necessarily a victory, but not a defeat either.

'JK', I have expanded on the topic in the post above.

Good to see you again, 'Umbongo'.

Perhaps I failed to express myself clearly but what I meant to say was that the Japs lost *their* war in the first six months (when the heart was ripped out of their carrier fleet at Midway), rather as the Germans lost *their* war in the first two months of 1914 when the Schlieffen/Moltke plan failed to knock France out of the war. That was always the grand strategic aim of the whole exercise and when it failed they were doomed and it simply became a matter of time. Of course, I write that with all the certainty of the 20/20 vision of hindsight, but you must permit me some hyperbole!

I know you have an interest in this subject, so can I recommend this excellent book to you:
The Politics of Grand Strategy: Britain & France Prepare for War 1904-1914" by Samuel R. Williamson
What an 'old sly boots' that Grey was, but I still can't decide whether Asquith was really a ditherer or just plain canny!

Fascinating reading, and will see if I can get myself a copy of the 1971 tome on eBay. If not, will await your further dissertation...!

Welcome to Duff & Nonsense, 'TT', and may I suggest you try They are linked to just about every second-hand book shop in the English-speaking world. Good hunting!


Good to be back - and many thanks for the recommendation - I'll add it to my list!

I certainly agree that Midway was the end of any hope of Japanese victory. Even so, their estimate of their fighting ability and prospect of victory was coloured by the fact that (I think I'm right in saying) they'd never been defeated in war prior to this - even by their "traditional" foes, the Chinese. If so, the idea that they could actually lose - although obvious now (and, to a disinterested observer, obvious then) - must have been difficult to take on board.

As to the Germans: again, I agree that the Schlieffen Plan failed and was followed by the "race to the sea" and a four-year slug-fest. Even so, a disinterested person analysing the position in early 1917 would not have bet too much on an Allied victory. Both sides were near exhaustion (in terms of men, materiel and finance): the entry of the US saved the day for the Allies. It would have been sensible for the Germans to have entered into serious armistice negotiations in April 1917 when the US entered the war: but, if they'd been "sensible", they would have negotiated an armistice in 1914 when the Schlieffen Plan went awry.

BTW I seem to remember (I may be totally wrong on this - I can't find any reference at the moment) that some high-level Allied-German negotiations took place early in 1915 but came to nothing - have you read anything about this?


One of the epic stories of the US involvement in WWI is stopping the German offensive against Paris in April/May 1918. The Germans broke through the French lines and the French did not have troops on position. The only thing between them and Paris was the first three US divisions (2 ½ Army ½ Marine) still finishing up training, who rushed into stop the Germans. Of course they were successful, the Third Infantry Division is still the Rock on the Marne Division and the Marines still celebrate Belleau Woods (Bois de Belle Eau.)

Being a spoilsport I rather think the French would have scraped something together, but it was close.


As I remember Gen LaMay switched from daylight bombing to night time bombing because the intelligence on just where the good targets were was not as good as Germany, and he did not have fighter escorts until Iwo Jima and later Okinawa were secure. And I suspect he was a disciple of Douchet and Trenchard and did not really believe in precision bombing. The easiest way was night raids at low altitude. The wind I’m sure had something to do with it but gravity bombs from high altitude aren’t vary accurate.

You're mostly correct of course Hank, admittedly my memory plays tricks on me at this stage, but the switch from daytime to nighttime wasn't entirely due to the lack of escorts. B-29's could reach altitudes out of the effective reach of their opponents.

Too, the switch had to do with the nature of targeting. Japanese heavy industry was fed by so-called, "cottage industry" and these cottages were located in primarily residential areas. That is why I took pains to mention "paper houses."

To avoid wearing my already thin fingers to the bone-admittedly this brief history doesn't go into Mr. Duffs' time period:


Thanks for the link. Good stuff.

My father was sationed in Japan after the war. He told of seeing assembly lines, one station in each house down the street. He said that apparently there was some suprise to find these.

My David,

My initial analysis my have overshot the target a bit. I thought you must be older than me by at least a decade. I "think" I may've made an error.

In the waning days of the war my own Dad had been in China (he was a sort of military type "writer/analyzer") sometime after the end of hostilities he was re-assigned to Japan. Perhaps we have some sort of connection?

Anyway, I happened to be born in the same little backwater town MacArthur was born in, (waaayyy later of course) but I feel compelled to admit, my Dad was no big fan of the guy. Felt him shallow.

Gentlemen, I apologise for the delay in responding to your interesting comments.

'Umbongo': But the Japs did contemplate defeat, not once but twice, and *before* Pearl Harbour - see "More surprises from Tokyo Rose" above. Also, long before the war ended, Hirohito and his advisors formed a so-called 'Peace Faction' which was specifically designed to deal the inevitable defeat - according to Bergamini. I will look up your reference to diplomatic contacts in 1915 - it didn't ring any bells in what passes for my memory these days!

Hank: Yes, the 1918 German attack was critical but can be classed as a last frantic throw of the dice in a game that was already lost.

JK: Thanks for the fascinating air force history link. As for MacArthur, it appears that history has not judged him well. I simply don't know enough about his conduct of the occupation - a political task rather than military - to hold an opinion, except to say that Japan appears to have come out of it fairly well.
"Dad had been in China (he was a sort of military type "writer/analyzer")" - is that shorthand for spy?

He did look at "cottage industries" but I think his role was more after the fact. He simply (I suppose) looked on his personal role as an assayer.

He definitely switched roles after Korea, and left three wars on his bronze foot-plaque.

His son delved of course. Though I don't consider either ever felt a "spy."

PPK's, beautiful "moviely" exoticly willing women never seemed to be in the area. Just a whole bunch of talcumy sandusky, too terribly hot places. And foul aromas. All smelling of petrol, ill-tempered animals. Mostly mammalian.

Looking further back is nicer.

"...My father was sationed in Japan after the war. He told of seeing assembly lines..."

David. Was your father a spy?

"Was your father a spy?"

I don't think so, more likely he was a motor racing driver because he disappeared very fast upon news of my less than immaculate conception!


No denial here that the Japanese "knew" they would lose. But 1. which Japanese? and 2. who was really running Japan?

AFAIAA by the 1940s the Japanese government was in essence ruled by the equivalent of a military junta despite on the face of it having democratic forms with a facade of rule by the Emperor. It was the military - particularly the army - which was pushing for continuation of the war in China. The army general staff knew that with the imposition of an American ban on exports of oil to Japan that (as your cited passage says) Japan had until mid-1943 before the whole edifice collapsed unless something altered the picture.

in 1940/1 Japan had two options: (a) virtual surrender to US demands and a withdrawal from China. As the Japanese saw it this would effectively mean Japan becoming a dependency of the US, or (b) a daring and risky strike to neutralise the US (even temporarily), a grab for the oil resources of Indonesia and an all-out effort to complete the defeat of China (presenting the US with a fait accompli).

I think (a) above was impossible for the Japanese to contemplate. The loss of face would have been too horrible to bear. Even if the Japanese "knew" that they would be defeated, the Japanese psychology was influenced by the fact that they'd never been defeated in war. Also the news coming out of Europe in 1940 was very good news for the Japanese. The colonial powers (Britain, France and the Netherlands) were either defeated or on the verge of defeat: there was no better time to attack the Western Empires in the Orient.

Coming to the position of Hirohito: the Japanese system of government had the Emperor at the head: everything was done in his name. Hirohito certainly had more power than George VI but he was just as circumscribed by tradition and constitutional convention. However, I would say that Hirohito's power was, as the Romans put it, in auctoritas rather than potestas. His power was the power of influence deriving from respect for his position. He had no military capability loyal only to him personally (although all the Japanese military were loyal to the Emperor). He could influence, he could persuade, he could even negotiate privately with foreigners (but not force through any agreement made thereby). Consequently, in the end, he could do very little if the holders of real power in the state - the military - were determined on a different course: and they were.

'Umbo', according to the thesis of Bergamini's book (I am on p. 250, so only about 750 to go!), the notion that the emperor was a tool in the hands of the military is quite wrong. The emperor was the guiding hand in Japan's expansion and what took place in the 20th c. was merely the latest extension of his predecessor's grand strategic aim of conquering a defence zone around Japan in order to keep the foreigners at bay following the shameful infringement of Japanese isolation by Cdr. Perry in the 19th century. His introduction puts it this way:

"I perceived that Hirohito, at the very least, was not the passive dupe of history that he has been made out to be. From the mouths of his own Chamberlains he emerges as a powerful autocratic protagonist. [...] Until 1945 he was said to have kept up with every detail of government, to have consulted constantly with officials of all sorts, and to have maintained always an over-all view of world affairs. His powers - civil, miltary, and religious - were acknowledged to have been absolute, but he was said to have exercised them only ceremonially and was said to have rubber-stamped the recommendations of his state ministers. Yet in anecdote after anecdote he was shown keeping abreast of his ministers' deliberations and putting in a word now and then to steer them toward recommendations which could be acceptable to him. It was even admitted that he had occasionally decided between opposing view points, accepted a minority viewpoint, or disregarded a recommendation altogether."

I am simply not qualified to debate the issue in detail. Probably like you, I am suspicious of anything pretending to be "revisionist" history - not that it is wrong, just that you need to look at it hard. The only thing that is as clear to me as the nose on my face in the shaving mirror, is that with Japanese society, what you (apparently) see is definitely not what you are likely to get! Do try and get a copy of this book from 'abebooks', I would value your thoughts.


I don't disagree with the notion that H was not a passive dupe but, from what little I know of the subject, H had no real power. He could insist on being heard and I've no doubt that where two equally powerful groups disagreed he would be asked respectfully for his opinion - and, on those rare occasions, his opinion might have been followed.

Coming back to my analogy with George VI. He had no real power yet Churchill always consulted him on major and minor aspects of the war. George kept up with all the details of war. Had we lost the war I'm sure George (and Churchill) would, had they been captured, been tried and executed as war criminals. In a sense George was "responsible" for the control of the war since everything was done in his name. I'm sure had he been a different person he would have been much more assertive with Churchill and (as Bergamini implies vis-a-vis Hirohito) might have run his own policy in parallel with the military. I'm pretty certain, had Edward VIII not abdicated this is exactly what would have happened.

My problem with the revisionist view of Hirohito is that he had no personal military power to back him up. The military would not disobey a direct order from him (if he ever gave one): they would just not go to him for permission in respect of a matter which they knew he would not like. As you imply the Japanese are inscrutable and subtle and nothing is at it seems to an outsider - wasn't that true of us once?

Well, 'Umbo', all I can do is repeat my suggestion that you buy the book. Certainly yours is the orthodoxy that hitherto I have accepted, now I'm not so sure.

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