Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941

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Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941

By David C. Evans and Mark R. Peattie
Naval Institute Press, 1997
661 pp. $49.95
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In the space of one generation Japan created, ex nihilo as it were, a fleet capable of defeating those of two second-rank powers -- China and then Russia. Within the space of a second generation it had a fleet that in terms of quality and, in some respects, quantity matched that of the United States or Great Britain. As indicated by the title, this scholarly work deals with the interrelationships of strategy, tactics, and technology. It is not merely a fine historical account but one of more general importance, discussing how choices about weapons reflect martial culture and operational styles. The Japanese bid for qualitative superiority and decisive victory at the first stroke, coupled with ill-understood weaknesses in systems engineering and mass production, created a navy that could inflict severe setbacks upon its American counterpart, but not, ultimately, defeat it. It is rare to find an important work so well illustrated: sketches, tables, charts, diagrams, and pictures serve the authors' purposes brilliantly. Subtle, illuminating, and profound, it is difficult to do justice to a book that will almost certainly hold the field for some decades to come.