After Japanese victories in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, and World War I, Japanese experience and confidence in military operations began to soar. As early as 1905, Japan had identified the United States as their primary threat and began preparations to win a war against it. Despite Japan’s vast combat experience and military buildup prior to the Pacific War, their prewar preparation was only slightly more robust than the United States and this edge was eaten away by time for three different reasons. First, Japan began the Pacific War with slight technological advantages over the United States and believed they could use higher-quality technology to defeat the ...view middle of the document...
” (Evans and Peattie, p307) In development of the Zero, Japan sought “grace and lightness in fighter design, which maximized maneuverability but not survivability.” (Millett, p345) This is an excellent example of the Japanese thought process. They believed there would be little need for survivability since the maneuverability would prevent it from being hit in the first place. It also fit perfectly with their problem of scarce raw materials. This design would require significantly less material to build and furthermore would use less fuel to power it and extend its range.
“By the eve of the Pacific War, these aircraft constituted, as a group, some of the most advanced aviation technology in the world. For speed and maneuverability, for example, the Zero was matchless; for range and speed few bombers surpassed the Mitsubishi G3M; and, in the Kawanishi H8K, the Japanese navy had the world’s best flying boat.” (Evans and Peattie, p312)
As Krepinevich contends in our reading, from 1932-1938 the United States allowed its combat aircraft inventory size to remain unchanged, however, it still maintained a variety of platforms. “Rather than invest scare resources in maintaining a large inventory of rapidly obsolescing planes, the service wisely concentrated on keeping up with technology.” (Krepinevich, p14) Technology was changing at such a rate that the United States had a hard time justifying a mass build up. Ironically, these game-changing technologies were all being developed on the heels of the Great Depression when it would appear experimentation would be considered a luxury.
Advocates touting the United States was technologically superior to the Japanese prior to the Pacific War may cite the fact that every American carrier by 1940 had radar installed on it for long-range detection. This is indeed true, however, even as far into the war as Midway, the American fleet could not use its radar efficiently enough to detect and intercept enemy aircraft in time to avert great damage. Engagements of this sort were still offensively advantageous and remained more or less unchanged from the inter-war timeframe. (Krepinevich, p15) This radar inefficiency indicates how new this technology was and how the Navy hadn’t corrected deficiencies in its tactics, techniques and procedures.
Doctrine, Training and Tactics
Amphibious warfare played a critical role for both Japan and the United States during the Pacific War and each of these naval forces had successfully conducted amphibious landings prior it. However, by 1939, Japan was the only country to have written doctrine, tactical concepts and had the forces ready for such an operation. (Millett, p50) “In terms of usable military capability Japan entered World War II as well prepared as the United States, both in terms of operational forces and published doctrine.” (Millett, p64) Clearly, Japan was at least an operational equivalent of the United States, with a head start on doctrine...