Time for NATO to Close Its Door
The Alliance Is Too Big—and Too Provocative—for Its Own Good
JAPANESE ideas of sea power differ radically from those of the western world. But the inquiries made into this subject by foreign observers have adhered to western ideas and formulae and thus the true essence of Japan's strategy and tactics has frequently been misinterpreted or lost.
One error has been to assume that a Japanese fleet would always act in the conventional western manner, for example that it would always seek a decisive engagement at the first opportunity. As often as not, this was the very thing a Japanese admiral might not desire. Had western authorities scrutinized Japanese theory as well as Japanese practice they would have come closer to the truth. Of course, there were good reasons why they did not do this. The British and American peoples were averse to maintaining large armies and had come to rely completely upon their naval establishments. They hoped that their potential enemies could be defeated at sea. Any line of reasoning tending to show that Japan might have to be met in full strength on distant land fronts would have been highly unacceptable. Yet that is the very conclusion which becomes inevitable when we realize the divergency between Japanese theories and those of the West.
Decisive battle and pressure of blockade hold first place in Anglo-American naval doctrine. On first analysis it would seem that both were likewise honored in Japanese theory. In her wars with China in 1894-95 and with Russia in 1904-05, Japan gave evidence of seeking fleet action. On these occasions, and also in her undeclared war against China, Japan showed that she understood the significance of the blockade. Yet in the struggle which began on December 7, 1941, the Japanese not only have avoided fleet action as such, but appear to have done very little either to break the naval blockade of their enemies or to apply a counter-blockade. Their strategy has been in harmony with the fundamental Japanese belief that victory can be won by land forces, if the navy will protect their communications. The Japanese do not believe in risking ships for any other purpose.
Japan's position with regard to the Asiatic continent has frequently been compared with Britain's with respect to Europe. However, this is a proper parallel mainly from the strictly geographic standpoint. The British possessed an empire, a series of naval bases, and an ocean trade that called for, supported and serviced a mighty navy. Japan had no distant dominions or possessions; and at no time could she have protected her overseas trade, because she lacked far-flung naval stations and sufficiently powerful fleets to station at them. Having no designs on the neighboring continent, modern Britain developed a strategically defensive sea power. She demanded little more of it than the ability to defeat an enemy on the high seas. (This was also true, incidentally, of the United States and the American Navy.)
There were many factors favoring any maritime aggression Japan might choose to undertake. Among them were the military weakness of the other countries of China and the other countries to the south; the immense distances separating that whole region from any important military and naval concentrations of the western Powers; the commanding position which the Japanese islands held as regards the western Pacific littoral; and the way in which closely-spaced islands led from Japan down to the rich areas in the south. The bellicose spirit of the Samurai further dictated that a navy was to be used for the transport or escort of troops rather than that it should itself serve as a fighting force on the high seas.
"Troopships" had in fact brought the Japanese to Japan in the first place. They came by sea to the islands they now occupy and after centuries of bitter fighting exterminated the aborigines or drove them northward. In these operations the newcomers made ample use of their warships, or more properly speaking, of their transports. While the principal invading armies moved by land, important fleets skirted the coasts and landed strong forces on the flanks of the enemy in precisely the way the Japanese squadrons functioned during the early part of the present war.
It was thus that Jimmu-Tenno -- who lived from 660 to 585 B.C., and who is referred to as the first emperor of Japan -- moved from Kyushu, the most southerly of the main Japanese islands, through the Inland Sea to a point near which Osaka now stands. For hundreds of years the Inland Sea was a Japanese military thoroughfare. In the numerous wars between the leading Japanese clans the ship was the favorite means of locomotion; but land was the element selected for battle.
As a result of this employment of shipping the Japanese became impressed with the concept of a vessel as a means of transport rather than for its own fighting capacities. A subsidiary influence was the close relationship perceived between the land and sea. The transports generally coasted, and their principal function otherwise was to embark or disembark land forces. The naval tactics formulated during the medieval days of Japan clearly show this influence. The terms assigned to the various dispositions to be assumed by a fleet frequently included a relationship to land. One such term signified that the fleet was drawn up in a certain order with respect to a nearby mountain, or to a pair of mountain peaks. Another indicated that the fleet was stretched across the mouth of a bay -- drawn up either in a line or in crescent formation, depending upon the terminology used.[i]
As fighting at sea then differed little if any from fighting on land, and as the Japanese were customarily on the offensive against land objectives, fleet and squadron formations appear to have been designed with a view to coöperating with and protecting expeditionary forces. A tactical disposition astride a bay would seem to imply that a fleet was protecting an embarkation or disembarkation under way in the sheltered waters of the inlet against hostile naval interference. To the basic theory of the "transport-fleet" would be added the important theory of the "protective squadron." These theories were put to successful use about the year 200 when the Japanese crossed over to Korea and conquered that land.
In the years 1274 and 1281 the attempted invasions of Japan by the Mongol Kublai Khan profoundly affected Japanese naval thought. The enemy seized the Tsushima Islands and landed many troops on Kyushu. While battles were taking place on the beaches, the Japanese ships, smaller and in a minority, were repeatedly defeated despite their reckless attacks.[ii] Their nimbleness, however, brought them some success and impressed upon the Japanese the value of speed. The enemy, on the other hand, contrived to protect himself by lashing his vessels together in fortress-like groups, a defensive improvization which was not lost on the Nipponese mind. Eventually, Kublai Khan's armada was destroyed by a violent typhoon.
The Japanese then turned to piracy on a large scale. In the period 1400-1600 they ravaged the coasts of the Far East from Korea (whence they had been driven many years previously) to Singapore, Sumatra, Borneo and the Philippines. At a number of points the pirates -- organized under the control of Japanese feudal chieftains -- established beachheads. These were the forerunners of those established by the Japan of today.
In the year 1592 Toyotomi Hideyoshi, hailed by the Japanese as the founder of their navy, set out to reconquer Korea. After organizing an army of 300,000 men he called upon the princes whose dominions were on the seaboard to prepare a large fleet. Hideyoshi himself supervised the construction of some of the larger ships, including the kikan, or flagship, Nihon Maru. This vessel and its attendant craft again were transports rather than fighting ships. The mind that built these "square-enders" was thinking more in terms of a military headquarters on the coast of Korea than of a battle squadron intended for action in the Straits of Tsushima or the Yellow Sea.
In the campaign against Korea the two main Japanese armies landed in the south and quickly seized the capital. Cruising squadrons, protecting the communications, met and drove off a number of enemy squadrons attempting to interfere with the operations. A third Japanese expeditionary force was dispatched to outflank the Koreans from a point on the west coast, and another movement, through the Yellow Sea and against China herself, was contemplated. At this critical moment a Korean admiral, Yi-sun, appeared aboard an armor-plated kopukson or "turtleback" dreadnaught, leading a vast concourse of ships which may have included other units of the same novel type. The invading warships and transports moving up the west coast were annihilated; the protective squadrons were shattered. Cut off from Japan, Hideyoshi's armies fell back to the coast. But for intrigues in the Korean court, which possibly had been instigated by the invaders and which resulted in the dismissal of Yi-sun, the Japanese would have been driven out of the country altogether.
In this campaign the Japanese had made no attempt to secure command of the seas as a preliminary to invasion. And, judging from their future actions, the lesson which they derived from this bitter experience was not that they should secure command of the sea, but simply that their transports and warships should be assured better protection from a material as well as from an organizational standpoint. Hideyoshi's admirals might have attempted to destroy the Korean fleets at the start of the war. But this would have meant long delays, during which Korea and China could prepare to repel the invaders.
In a few years the essential soundness of the Japanese theories was to be proved. In 1597 Hideyoshi repeated his attempt against Korea. He had contrived to maintain beachheads there and the reduced Korean fleet had almost rotted away at its anchorages. Hideyoshi, on the other hand, had constructed a new fleet. A naval battle occurred which was a complete victory for the Japanese, yet it was fruitless. Since the first invasion, the Koreans (now ably assisted by the Chinese) had so fortified their country that Hideyoshi's forces, which on the previous occasion had advanced easily and rapidly, were slowed down and finally brought to a stop at the capital, Seoul. The Japanese military position rapidly deteriorated and became hopeless when Yi-sun, recalled to command the Korean fleet, inflicted a defeat of secondary importance upon the invading armada. The Nipponese land forces promptly evacuated the country. During the withdrawal Yi-sun fell upon the troopships and inflicted heavy losses on them.
Hideyoshi was primarily a landsman, and while he attributed this disaster to the discomfiture of his fleet rather than of his armies, he revealed the amphibious nature of Japanese strategy by stating that his land and sea forces had not properly supported each other. The conclusion drawn was not that Japanese naval theories should be revised but that no time should be wasted or measures overlooked to guarantee success on land.
Japan retired from international society at a time when galleys were plying the Mediterranean and before the clumsy galleon had developed into the ship-of-the-line and frigate that were to hold sway during the seventeenth, eighteenth and part of the nineteenth centuries. Japan awoke to find herself in an era of steam and of iron ships. She lost little time adapting the new instruments to her special needs. She considered that old, dormant naval theories had been strengthened rather than weakened by the new developments. She realized that any costly victory would leave her at the mercy of Powers with larger reserves.
While the modern Japanese Navy adhered to the old principles, it adopted special means to avail itself of the latest weapons as well as to adjust itself to new conditions. The vital dependence of overseas expeditionary forces on their communications made it necessary for Japanese admirals to watch hostile naval forces more closely than Hideyoshi had done. On the other hand, the factor of speed was eagerly adopted by Tokyo because it fitted so perfectly into a set of theories that had become traditional. In the British Navy, engine speed meant ability to force an enemy to accept battle. While American technical opinion long favored armor rather than speed in capital ships, the doctrine of speed as well as armor gradually found favor in the United States also. To the Japanese, however, speed was so admirable because it meant an ability to fight at long range or to break off action at will. It also spelled an ability to force an enemy to conform to Nipponese "flanking" movements -- a favorite Nipponese stratagem in all elements, including, in a sense, the air. Fast ships were also particularly well adapted to rapid fire, a method of gunnery at which the Japanese have always been adept.
Speed made it possible for the Japanese to translate their strategic thinking into the domain of tactics, of battle practice. It meant that the Japanese could strike fast, retire if hard pressed, and limit their risks as the occasion required. In the field of strategy it had been deemed necessary to inflict only that amount of damage which could be counted upon to keep an enemy away from "troopship" waters. Tactically, the Japanese aim was so to injure a portion of a hostile fleet as to compel it to turn away from these waters. Greater damage was to be inflicted only at a considerable reduction in accepted risk.
The amount of naval pressure employed by the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895 was not much more than was necessary to guarantee the unimpeded progress of their land forces. To attempt more appeared unnecessary and hazardous, because a ship lost in an unnecessary battle or prolongation of a battle would not be on hand in the course of a necessary battle, one upon which the fate of the troopships might depend.
The essential differences between this thinking and the orthodox theories of the West could hardly be better shown than by comparing the practices of Admiral Nelson with Japan's "minimum-risk" sea fights against even the weak Chinese fleet in this war, and her employment of naval forces against land objectives. In 1796 Nelson wrote that he could not "help being more than commonly displeased" at the plan to use British ships to coöperate with land forces. He stated that his task was to "hunt" for enemy ships, and added "if I find them in any place where there is a probability of attacking them, you may depend they shall be either taken or destroyed at the risk of my Squadron." [iii]
The outbreak of war with Russia in 1904 found Admiral Ito in full charge of all Japanese operations, with the sea forces under the command of Admiral Togo. Six years previously an American army had not been allowed to proceed to Cuba until the Spanish fleet had been located and destroyed. The Japanese, however, lost no time in dispatching transports to the enemy coast. The American delay eliminated risk to the American transports without affording any benefit to the enemy. Admiral Ito, however, could not allow the Russians time in which to grow stronger. A strong but poorly indoctrinated Russian battleship force was at Port Arthur and a small cruiser squadron rode at anchor in Vladivostok waters. In time the Tsar would be able to send his Baltic Squadron to the Far East. The Japanese could not afford to beat the Port Arthur fleet at the risk of being left too weak to deal with the Russian reinforcements. On the other hand, the seizure of the Russian-dominated coasts in the Far East would automatically eliminate any naval threat to Japan.
Admiral Togo acted defensively in order to protect the Japanese armies rather than offensively in order to dispose of the enemy's naval forces. This conclusion is substantiated by the opening sentences of the official Japanese report dealing with the early naval activities of the war: "The Japanese combined fleet had successfully made a threatening movement against the enemy's fleet, causing them to abandon their departure from Port Arthur . . . . Commander-in-Chief Togo, in order to aid the army's operations . . . issued orders . . . to the Saien divisions . . . to divert and threaten the enemy in order to aid the third army."[iv] In other words, by causing the enemy to "abandon their departure from Port Arthur" a naval battle was avoided; and the transports leaving Japan with troops were safeguarded. No such report would or could have been written about the actions of a Nelson or a Perry, a Drake or a Paul Jones.
Before Port Arthur fell the Russian fleet attempted to escape to Vladivostok. Tokyo could not look upon a siege of Vladivostok without grave misgivings; the region was highly defensible and had little intrinsic value to Japan -- the rich prizes lay to the west. In the battle of the Yellow Sea, August 10, 1904, which followed the sortie of the Russian fleet, Admiral Togo showed himself more interested in thwarting the Russian plan than in destroying the Russian fleet. He fought at long rather than at short range, and although the Russian line was thrown into confusion he took little advantage of this result. The approach of night and the presence of Russian destroyers led him to break off the action. One Russian battleship, badly damaged and much confused, reached Kiaochau safely, while the others reëntered Port Arthur. British official historians have criticized Togo for breaking the "cardinal rule of warfare that once battle is accepted no effort should be spared to make the result decisive." They did not realize that it was not a cardinal rule in the Japanese system of naval warfare.
When the Russian ships had been driven back to their harbors the Japanese Army proceeded against Port Arthur with great energy. The key to the whole situation was 203-Metre Hill, which permitted the forces occupying it to observe the shelling of the fleet sheltered in the harbor. After a series of furious infantry assaults costing some ten thousand men, the hill was captured and equipped with an observation post. Now that the Japanese siege guns could be accurately directed against the Russian ships it was only a matter of hours before they destroyed them.
After the fall of Port Arthur the Japanese overhauled their navy, mined Vladivostok against the egress of the few ships it contained, and awaited the arrival of the Russian Baltic fleet -- officially known as the Second Pacific Squadron -- which was commanded by Admiral Rojdestvensky. The Port Arthur fleet no longer existed, a decisive land campaign had been fought and won, and the journey-worn Baltic fleet could not constitute a serious menace as regards the final outcome of the war. Nelson had pursued the French fleet of Villeneuve across the Atlantic to the West Indies and thence back to Trafalgar. Admiral Togo showed not the slightest inclination to anticipate the Russians by steaming into the Indian Ocean, and there is little doubt that, had Admiral Rojdestvensky changed his mind when in the vicinity of Shanghai, no attempt would have been made to prevent his return to Europe. The Japanese fleet was a dynamic barrier rather than a javelin. In prior operations the enemy fleet had been driven back to its base, and the base had been captured. This time the enemy was to be kept away from his base rather than engaged in formal combat. This is borne out by Togo's actual tactics. As much damage was to be inflicted upon the enemy as would frustrate his plan without weakening the attackers. That this damage resulted in annihilation was due far more to Russian mistakes than to Japanese planning. The plan, which had correctly appraised the true strength of the Russians and had provided an economical means of defeating them, was essentially sound -- in the eastern rather than in the western sense.
Between the close of the Russo-Japanese War and the beginning of the First World War the Japanese gave expression to their naval theories in the design of their warships. They emphasized speed rather than armor and took care to construct ships which could withstand the impact of torpedoes. Rapid firing was insisted upon, and director control was introduced so as to permit the instantaneous discharge of all turret guns. The turrets themselves were fitted with both hydraulic and electric power to reduce the risk of their being immobilized.[v] In later years the Japanese were to be much criticized for overgunning their warships, notably their cruisers and destroyers. As the rapidity of fire of the individual gun reached its limit, they evidently tried to increase the rapidity and volume of fire by adding more guns to their ships. Their strategic and tactical thinking also remained unchanged, and, as ever, the general political plan was all-important.
Japan's war against Germany in 1914 brought fresh evidence of the nature of Japanese naval strategy. At the time the war began a western thinker would have conjectured that Japan, as a major Pacific sea Power, would grasp at the opportunity to seek out and destroy the German Far Eastern squadron under Graf von Spee. But it was in line with Japanese theory for the high command to pay only scanty attention to the German warships provided they did not interfere with Japanese land operations. The capture of the German base at Tsingtau by land assault, supported by naval bombardment, and the seizure of the numerous German islands in the Pacific Ocean, were in accord with Japanese naval precedent rather than with prevailing western concepts of sea power.
The mandate which Japan acquired over the former German islands in the Pacific provided the Japanese Navy with a considerable number of natural "aircraft carriers." Despite Japan's contrary obligation to the League of Nations and to her late allies, these "carriers" were promptly and efficiently incorporated into the Imperial naval establishment.
The Washington Treaty was the equivalent of a major naval victory for Japan. It guaranteed that the susceptibility of enemy ships in regard to torpedo and mine damage could not be reduced; and it gave assurance that any enemy fleet approaching Japanese "troopship waters" would do so at extreme peril in view of the prospective development of air power. Indeed, the airplane accorded perfectly with the Japanese ideal of rapidity of fire and minimum of risk.
In the undeclared war with China proper which began in 1937 the Japanese made considerable use of the troopship and occasional use of the new naval weapon, the aircraft carrier. They did not risk modern warships but employed antiquated craft to cover landings. Principal reliance was upon the army and land-based aircraft. Some of the Nipponese statements at this time might have given a hint of things to come, e.g. one reported by the Associated Press, February 27, 1937, from Vice Admiral Yonai, Minister of the Navy, who pointed out that "the policy of the Navy is to destroy enemy air bases before enemy planes can reach the Japanese mainland." It will be recalled that Hideyoshi had contrived by diplomatic means to maintain valuable beachheads in Korea, and that the Japanese had always made it a point to remove any threat of naval attack by seizing the bases whence it might spring. Now by securing Chinese ports and coastal airfields they not only denied the possible use of them to the western Powers but secured for themselves bases close to intended areas of action. This involved hostilities with China; but they remained steps "short of war" so far as the other nations were concerned. On the plea of wartime necessity Japan also entered French Indo-China. Then by intrigue in Thailand she advanced her positions to the frontier of Malaya.
The theories pursued by Premier Tojo differed in no essential respect from those followed by his predecessors. Fleet action was generally to be avoided, certainly under circumstances involving that appreciable risk which American and British admirals had always willingly accepted. In 1893 a Japanese emperor had warned that "if one mistake is made in matters of national defense, its consequences may be felt for a century." [vi] This thought was as fresh in 1941 as it had been half a century or centuries earlier. More expendable means -- troopships, armies and air squadrons -- were to bear the brunt of attack. Some portion of the fleet was to be used, as usual, against land objectives. But the main battle force was to be withheld as a last reliance, and then to engage only under highly favorable circumstances. The only essential change was geographic. In the past Japan had faced west. Once established along the western littoral of the Pacific, she directed her attention to the east and south, to the islands of the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaya.
The general war began in the Pacific on December 7, 1941, with a repetition of the Port Arthur type of peacetime raid. The Japanese assailants failed to press their attack home by actually invading Hawaii. They may have feared that United States aircraft carriers would cut them off from Japan, or elected to husband their own vessels of this type for employment elsewhere.
Just as the principal Japanese objective in Port Arthur had been the Russian fleet, so the United States Pacific fleet was the objective in Hawaii. To the extent that Tokyo believed the latter had been put out of action, the desirability of the actual seizure of the islands was diminished. Midway Island was, in a sense, and from an aerial viewpoint, the modern counterpart of 203-Meter Hill at Port Arthur. From safe bases in the mandated groups the Japanese could send bombers to a forward and almost equally safe victualing point at Wake Island, whence Pearl Harbor via Midway could be subjected to repeated attack (the bomb replacing the 11-inch howitzer shell used against the Russians). The Japanese therefore seem to have felt justified in sending a powerful maritime force against Midway Island in that shattering type of attack which has characterized Nipponese operations in the past. The attempt was frustrated by the timely arrival of United States aircraft carriers, which presumably evaded or silenced Japanese scouting submarines. The Japanese suffered the rudest shock they had ever experienced since the days of Yi-sun -- a greater shock, in fact, because this time no novel weapon was employed by their opponent. They furthermore discovered that they could not break off action in the naval sense so long as their enemy had land or carrier based planes with which to undertake a pursuit.
In the meantime Japan was developing other maritime moves in the Far East rapidly. It was generally assumed by western theorists that the Japanese would first land in Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines and thence march upon Manila. Instead, they directed their early efforts against northern and eastern Luzon. Within two weeks they were at Davao, on the south coast of that island. By seizing such positions they evidently hoped that the passage of United States vessels through or around the Philippine group could be prevented by means of air and submarine attack.
In strict keeping with established theory was Japan's withdrawal of a small naval force before the guns of the United States Far Eastern fleet off Luzon. So was the successful aerial attack on H.M.S. Prince of Wales and Repulse off Malaya. Tokyo still valued its ships in terms of beachheads they could seize, not of the hostile ships they could subject to shellfire. A destroyer heavily laden with marines might take a strategic airfield site which would be more desirable than to sink an enemy destroyer -- especially as such a sinking involved some risk of being in turn sunk.
In Malaya the Japanese operations were but an enlarged version of the ancient attacks upon the aborigines of Japan proper and of the operations against Korea, Manchuria and the peninsula upon which Port Arthur stands. After having escorted the Japanese troopships to the initial beachheads the Japanese Navy proceeded to protect the landing of forces which would outflank the defenders already under frontal attack. Naval and air positions were established around the perimeter of the Philippines, in Malaya and western Borneo. The invaders then fanned out into the Netherlands Indies from the north, closing all waters against the arrival of enemy reinforcements. Considerable use was made of aerial scouting to determine whether or not such reinforcements were approaching. The Japanese did not hesitate to hurl their troopships against all these various objectives, oblivious to losses and disregarding theories which would call for the preliminary establishment of an absolute command, by air and sea, of the beachhead under assault.
A number of changes were evidently called for in Japan's naval planning because of the fact that this time the enemy was not intrinsically weak. For the distinctly inferior warships of Admiral Rojdestvensky were substituted the highly efficient vessels of the United States and Great Britain. For the ineffective destroyers of old China and Tsarist Russia were substituted aircraft which early established their decided qualitative superiority over those of Japan. Last but not least, Japan was compelled to give much thought to defensive as distinguished from offensive or defensive-offensive operations.
Especially in or near enemy-dominated waters the Japanese found it necessary to substitute night for daytime naval attack in order to reduce the aerial risk. Old theories were evidenced in a "run in" attack by Japanese forces against a United Nations cruiser squadron on patrol off Savo Island at the time of the first American landings in the Solomons. Though they were successful they withdrew without pursuing their advantage. A subsequent night operation, wherein a strong force was repulsed in an attack on the American position on Guadalcanal, showed that night still held the disadvantages feared by both Ito and Togo. The darkness that sheltered the attackers from airplanes failed to avail against determined action by fast surface ships.
As Japanese theories of naval strategy and tactics are the reflection of geographic and political considerations, it is to be expected that changes in the latter have affected the former. Throughout the course of Japanese history the Navy had been primarily a protective shield for the homeland and for military transport. The insular territories which have now been seized require either continuous maritime communications or provisioning to stand a long siege, supplemented by aërial transportation. The intervening narrow waterways might be closed to hostile use by a sufficiency of air power. In the final analysis, the Imperial Navy has been strictly a servicing unit for the Japanese armies. In so far as such servicing might be more economically rendered by other instruments, such as air power, the Navy's significance would diminish as far as concerned the defense of the homeland and conquered territories, and hence greater risks could be accepted. But Japanese sea power would still retain its old significance with respect to coastal maritime moves.
The loss of certain strategic positions and the presence of strong hostile forces at points near Japan -- as well as the fact that Japan's present enemies are imbued with an offensive as distinguished from the defensive spirit of most of her enemies in the past -- may well have a profound influence upon Japanese concepts of naval warfare. As there is no evidence of the employment of Japanese naval forces on decisive operations of an oceanic nature, it is not possible to consider the status of Japanese naval thought on that subject. Any such employment would represent a revolutionary change in theory from the defensive, in the sense outlined above, to an outright offensive; and in the light of history it seems hardly likely that this would be done so long as the defensive qualities of sea power were required nearer home. Japanese surface ship operations in great strength and far at sea would be some evidence that Tokyo considered that the strategic position on the home front could be adequately defended by air power plus land forces, the latter being the most expendable commodity in militaristic nations. In oceanic fighting, it is logical to assume that Japanese theory would tend to conform to that of the West in all cases where the enemy was strong at sea. One may speculate, none the less, as to how much tradition, based on the lessons of the past, will continue to color Japanese operations.
Any discussion of current Japanese naval thinking obviously is handicapped by the lack of full and detailed information. For example, beyond the fact that Japan has employed extremely small submarines we know little as yet about Japanese theories with respect to that weapon generally. While the torpedoing by submarines of damaged ships is suggestive of the torpedo-boat action at Tsushima and elsewhere in the Russo-Japanese war, it is nothing new in naval warfare and was to be expected in such a vast region as the Pacific.
To summarize briefly. The Japanese Navy has been a floating wing of powerful armies occupied with offensive operations in an area which is militarily far weaker than Europe or North America. It was inevitable that Japanese theories and practices should differ considerably from those accepted in the United States and Great Britain, where the navy is usually a powerful defensive force backed by a relatively small army. It was also inevitable that Japanese theories should differ from those in France and Germany, whose objective usually was on land and attainable by means of land power alone. There are similarities between Japanese and Italian naval thought; both employed both sea power and air power to effect relatively nearby conquests. But Italy's coördination of the various arms was distinctly inferior to Japan's. Japanese naval theory as here revealed is not a revolutionary system. It merely represents the application of aggressive political thinking to the problem of how best to utilize sea power under different conditions from those obtaining in the regions where orthodox concepts of sea power were formulated.
As a lesson for the future, we may conclude that the Far East can no longer be regarded as a sphere for the exercise of the naval arm exclusively. We see that peace in this part of the world will depend upon the ability and willingness of the United Nations to employ there promptly, as occasion requires, a sufficiency of land and air power, flanked by amphibian wings, and secured by command of the sea. The history of Japanese diplomacy shows that in dealing with Japan we shall not be able for a long time to come to rely on words in treaties as a substitute for weapons.
[i] Captain Viscount Ogasawara, "Historical Essay on the Japanese Navy." Translated in Revue Maritime, Paris, v. 200, January-March 1914, p. 96-97.
[ii] Nakaba Yamada, "Ghenko, The Mongol Invasion of Japan." New York: Dutton, 1916, p. 185.
[iii] Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas, "The Dispatches and Letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson." London: 1846, v. 7, p. lx, lviii.
[iv] United States Naval Institute Proceedings, September-October 1914, p. 1283.
[v] Revue Maritime, Paris, July-September 1913.
[vi] Ogasawara, op cit., p. 123.