hawaii tanks

anonymous asked:

What, in your opinion, were the biggest mistakes the IJN made during the war? What were the points or strategies where had they done something different they could have at least prolonged the war in the pacific? Or were they doomed from the second the bombs fell at Pearl Harbor, regardless of what they did?

The IJN could have prolonged the war had they make less mistakes.

Pearl Harbor:

The Japanese Navy did not damage the US Navy carrier force at Pearl Harbor. Had the carriers been destroyed, the US Navy would have to fight a much tougher war. At Coral Sea and Midway, it was the carriers of the Pacific Fleet that stopped the Japanese Navy in its tracks. Had they been destroyed the war would be way easier for the Japanese, since the carriers were the only ships that could stop the expansion of the Empire of Japan. 

The Japanese Navy also left the oil tanks on Hawaii intact. Had they been destroyed, the carriers and submarines of the Pacific Fleet would have no oil to run on. But the Japanese never thought that the war would last for years; they did not envision the war to become a total war of attrition. They thought they could win a quick little victory like they did in the Russo-Japanese War, so they did not think of damaging the oil storage facilities at Pearl Harbor. It was a big mistake, for every single drop of fuel in the Pacific Theater was in the oil tanks near Pearl.

Another mistake the Japanese Navy made during the Attack on Pearl Harbor was that they did not damage the shipyards and repair facilities at Pearl. Those facilities were incredibly important to the US Navy for they gave the US Navy the ability to repair its damaged ships without having to tow them back to the US. Had those facilities been destroyed the US Navy would have a lot more trouble dealing with the damaged and/or sunken ships. The Japanese could have destroyed said facilities single-handedly; had they do that the US Navy would probably take a lot longer to recover from the attack.

And the Japanese did not attack the submarine base at Pearl. Because of the undamaged status of the submarine base, the US Navy submarine force was able to continue its operations and to start sinking Japanese ships right after the attack. Again the Japanese could have easily destroyed the base but they did not. They later paid the price, a large majority of their ships were sunk by American submarines.

One more thing about the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese chose to attack the Battleship Row on a Sunday, when most of the sailors were on shore leave. Admiral Nimitz remarked that had the attack took place on a weekday, the casualties would probably be 38,000 instead of 3,800. If the Japanese Navy really had to attack Pearl, they did not attack on the right day.

Coral Sea:

Operation MO, the planned invasion of Port Moresby, was another mistake. The Japanese Navy sent two carriers of the Fifth Carrier Division, Shokaku and Zuikaku, to cover the invasion. Instead of sending all six carriers of the Kido Butai (“Mobile Force”), they only sent two. It was against Alfred Thayer Mahan’s theory of concentration of naval power, which was an important part of the Japanese naval doctrine. The reason why they formed the Kido Butai was to concentrate all the carrier air power into one powerful unit; and they decided to go against that when they sent only two carriers to support Operation MO. They chose to only send two because the rest of the carriers were in need of replenishment after the Indian Ocean Raid. Simply put, the Kido Butai was not ready for Operation MO. They could not handle one major offensive right after another. So why plan an operation that you could not handle? The result of the Battle of Coral Sea was that Shokaku was damaged, Zuikaku lost most of her air group and the invasion of Port Moresby failed. The damaged received by the Fifth Carrier Division took them out of action for a while; they were unable to take part in the Midway offensive a month later. The Imperial Japanese Navy should have sent either all six carriers of the Kido Butai to support the operation, or send no carriers at all. Had they sent all six carriers, the Japanese Navy would have a huge numerical advantage over the American forces in that battle and would probably have an easy victory. By sending only two carriers (and a light carrier), the Japanese Navy lost its numerical advantage and so the Americans had a chance of winning the engagement. In short, the Japanese Navy should have sent all six carriers to cover the invasion or send no carriers at all. They planned more operations than they could possibly handle.


The Japanese Navy originally planned to have all six carriers of the Kido Butai take part in this offensive. But because of the damage received by the Fifth Carrier Division in the Battle of Coral Sea, they could only send four carriers. Again they lost their numerical advantage over the American forces. The Americans had roughly 100 aircraft more. The Japanese lost their numerical advantage, and because of American code-breaking efforts they lost the element of surprise as well. Without the extra air power from Shokaku and Zuikaku the Japanese Navy had less planes than the US defenders had on the carriers and Midway Island. Even worse, the Kido Butai sailed one day later than scheduled and the Japanese attempts at scouting failed also. The submarines were late getting into position, the flying boats could not scout over Pearl Harbor because American warships got into the way and the scouting system of the Kido Butai itself was flawed. In short, the Japanese Navy was not prepared for this operation, just like what happened in Operation MO. The Kido Butai could only handle so many operations. They were simply not prepared well enough. Admiral Yamamoto refused to postpone the Midway offensive, and that decision cost him his most powerful fighting unit.


While the Kido Butai was not prepared for the Midway offensive, another offensive was scheduled to take place at the same time. The Aleutians offensive required roughly the same amount of ships as the Midway offensive, putting a huge strain on the Japanese Navy. Contrary to popular belief, the AL campaign was in no way a diversion. Assuming that the US Navy would send a task force up north once it receives news on a Japanese offensive in the Aleutians, the task force would not be fast enough to reach the Aleutians before the Kido Butai strikes Midway and alerts the American forces. Simply put the Aleutians offensive was another offensive similar in scale to the Midway one. The Japanese Navy was not ready for a major offensive right after the Battle of Coral Sea, not to mention two simultaneous major offensives. Even worse, the Aleutian Islands were so far away from Midway that it was impossible for ships to move between the two separate war zones fast enough. That means ships sent to the Aleutians would not be able to help with the situation near Midway. This proved to be troublesome, as the carriers Hiyo and Junyo, part of the Aleutians striking force, could not go south quick enough to aid the Kido Butai. In short, the Japanese started two major offensives that they were not fully prepared for.

Solomons campaign:

The Battle of Midway wounded Japanese naval air power. The Solomons campaign killed it. More than 100 airmen died in the Battle of Midway. More than one thousand elite Japanese aviators were killed during the Solomons Campaign, either around Guadalcanal or some place else. It was a heavy blow to Japanese naval air power, from which it never recovered. Japan lost many of its finest pilots, and it would take the Japanese so long to train new pilots, given the flawed airmen training system of the Japanese Navy. The Japanese Navy did not attempt its best to retake the Solomon Islands. Most of the fierce fighting around Solomon waters were fought by Japanese cruisers and destroyers, while the battleships mostly stayed away from battles, after the Japanese Navy lost two battleships, Hiei and Kirishima, in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. The fighting in the Solomons sort of turned into a war of attrition; after the fighting in the Solomons was done, the Japanese Navy had few experienced and skilled pilots left. The rest of the Japanese pilots, as demonstrated in the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, were nothing comparable to the experienced American airmen. The Japanese Navy still had many carriers, but they lacked skillful pilots. In short, the Japanese Navy spent too much time doing nothing remarkable while its destroyer force and naval air power got wiped out in the Solomons.

That’s about it for 1941-43. After that, the tide of the war had turned against the Japanese. 

The US Navy and Royal Navy made mistakes also, but since we are talking about the Japanese Navy let’s forget about those for a moment.

Unfortunately there is no TL,DR; version for this post.


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