Regular Battleship Yamato: The only thing as noticeable as Strike Witches Lack of Pants

In terms of aesthetics she is one of the most beautiful things in the show...

I started watching Strike Witches on the recommendation of a few adherents to the cult of Yuri, and while it was quite striking in many ways the omission of pants and skirts was not the only thing I noticed. I never saw the first season and while the lack of pants is distinctive, I am of mecha persuasion and as such have a greater affinity for heavy equipment than lolis, even lolis based on WWII aces. So the flagship of the SW2 Allied Fleet is the Battleship Yamato, and certainly the ship does have a revered place in anime due to Space Battleship Yamato, but it is also a cultural touchstone for the Japanese even if the ship is still lying at the bottom of the Pacific with coral for its new crew. Prior to the ascendancy of the aircraft carrier, the battleship was what every major navy wanted have fleets of, if a navy was small it was unlikely to count even a single battleship in it’s battleline and such was the expense and heavy armament of these vessels that they were not only weapons of war but also symbols of national prestige. Even during the Second World War when the twilight of the battleship was heralded at Taranto and Pearl Harbor, for Japan at least the battleship was still the ultimate symbol of Imperial might and prestige. Most naval powers have at least one ship that has such a glorious history that it is kept on the naval registers even after their obsolescence or at least kept on as museum ships; HMS Victory and USS Constitution occupy such places and had the Potempkin and Yamato survived I am sure they too would still be kept around as museums and symbols of their respective navy’s histories. The Japanese still have the Mikasa, but in anime and popular imagination the biggest battleship ever built still more easily captures the imagination than the pre-Dreadnought flagship that led them on the path to empire.

That's the sexy three sizes part, what's not so sexy was her rate of fuel consumption...

When the Yamato and her sister ship the Musashi were built they were and still are the biggest battleships to have been constructed. Japanese naval architects were able to deduce correctly that most American battleships would be limited in size by the Panama Canal which the two ocean US Navy depended upon. Keep in mind as most of their strategic mobility hinged on having the Panama Canal, as a voyage to round Cape Horn or through the Straits of Magellan would mean the loss of time and compromise secrecy of movement as ships making a long voyage would have to put into port at some point during this journey. Also, while Argentina was not involved in the war they were the most Axis friendly country in the region while the US maintained a presence in the Panama Canal. Thus due to size limitations the largest American battleships could only sport 16 inch naval rifles whereas the Japanese were only concerned with the Pacific and got to go as big as they wished, hence the Yamato and the ships of her class would have the capability to have 18 inch naval rifles as their main armament. On paper at least the Yamato and Musashi could out shoot any battleship in existence, thus both ships and their planned sisters were to be the nucleus of a Japanese battleline.

As symbols of naval might the Yamato represented a whole lot: she was the lead ship of a class that had few equals as most ships of her time sported 14 inch or smaller guns for their main batteries, represented the pinnacle of Japanese naval engineering, and was the flagship for the Imperial Japanese Navy as the Combined Fleet was the primary formation of the IJN’s striking power. In many ways the Yamato was the pride of the fleet and very physical manifestation of their naval might. Such was the importance of the Yamato and her class the Japanese expended a lot of effort in hiding their construction and towards the end of the war destroyed most of the documents surrounding her design and construction. As such while there are plenty of model kits for the ship itself the schematics for these reconstructions seem lost in the mists of time.

Still the biggest Battleship ever built, but one of the least well used.

Given the  the weight of her broadside and the smaller guns that festooned her deck the Yamato seemed like she could take on a lot by herself, and in Space Battleship Yamato she did take on a whole lot. The real ship, however, did not really get into the thick of it until Operation Ten-Go which was intended to be her final mission. Ten-Go is probably what the Japanese most remember her for since the crew was already doomed and as a potent symbol of empire and the ambition of a people even when she was sunk her legend remained. However despite the romanticism and affection I find it to be an odd cultural touchstone given the Yamato’s service record and as a symbol she also was the embodiment of a naval doctrine that was refuted but continues to influence anime. While Zeon would like to think themselves as Jerry’s inheritors, they only managed to copy his style. But as for substance every Zeke at his core is an adherent of the Kantai Kessen or decisive battle. It’s kind of a delicious irony that a Yank by the name of Alfred Mahan had introduced a naval doctrine that almost every Japanese naval officer since “The Influence of Sea Power on History” was published seem to hold that book as the be-all-end-all of naval doctrine. In the end it would be other Yanks that were to prove Mahan wrong and put an end to the Japanse Empire. To be fair Mahan’s theories were usable in the years before World War I. The stunning victory at Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese War seemed to be a total vindication of Mahan’s theories for the Japanese, but because Jerry was busy making U-boats to negate the British Royal Navy bottling them up in the North Sea, technology would soon render Mahan’s theories moot and turn the Japanese pursuit of a decisive showdown into a Quixotic Quest.

The IJN valued the Yamato and Musashi so much that both ships did not see major action during the early years of the war. The Japanese plan was pretty much to smash the American battleships at Pearl Harbor at which point the US Navy would have to mount a desperate sortie to relieve their Pacific territories. The IJN would then lure the US ships deep into Japanese held territory while harassing them along the way with submarines, and aircraft both carrier and land based. The IJN would then sortie out with the Yamato to lead the Japanese battleships to sink the weakened American battleline and achieve undisputed mastery of the Pacific and a huge empire. It sounded fine on paper but while the Yamato was big and bad she was also the equivalent to a gas guzzling SUV and very high maintenance. The cost of building her and her sisters was so expensive that other naval arms suffered as a result. The Japanese submarine fleet, while in possession of a few cool toys, lagged behind in doctrine and were bent on seeking glory by sinking warships rather than merchantmen like Jerry did. Admiral Yamamoto and a few of his men lobbied hard for more carriers and more aircraft but lost that fight, though they did manage to get more than the submariners. Still, most of the Japanese Naval Command were head over heels for the Yamato and her sisters and did not wish to put their beloved ships in unnecessary danger.

The result was that the Yamato and Musashi were not active participants at crucial battles such as Coral Sea and Midway. The first time they did see heavy action was during the Leyte Gulf campaign when the future American Overseer MacArthur was making good his promise to return to the Philippines after the Japanese had kicked him out in in the early years of the war. The Musashi got a small flesh wound from an American submarine and when a bunch of American aircraft noticed the band aid the Japanese had put on the Musashi they kept pounding the weakspot for massive damage. As for the Yamato, she was the flagship for a battle group that would enter a Legendary BIG FIGHT. However this BIG FIGHT was not to be the decisive battle the Japanese had been looking for. Instead they had hoped to sink MacArthur’s invasion fleet while their carriers, already badly mauled by Spruance, the Second Smartest Man in the US Navy, lured “Bull” Halsey away from the San Bernardino Straight. This would have given the Yamato and the rest of her squadron a clear path to those vulnerable transports and the chance to give Dugout Doug what for when they got into their base to sink their ships and kill their dudes.

The first and only time she saw surface action, t'was a legendary day.

It was to be a BIG FIGHT that the Yamato wasn’t looking for but she ran into a bunch of destroyers, destroyer escorts, and some CVE (Combustible, Vulnerable, and Expendable as known to their crews) escort carriers of task force Taffy 3. Considering the Yamato had a posse of 3 other battleships, 6 Heavy Cruisers, 2 Light Cruisers, and 11 Destroyers she had plenty of help against Taffy 3 which had 6 lightly armed and armored escort carriers, 3 destroyers, 4 destroyer escorts, and 400 aircraft. Better yet the Yamato had caught those Americans with their pants down and none of their 400 aircraft were initially armed with anti-ship weapons, only high explosive bombs and depth charges for the most part that were pretty much useless against armored cruisers and battleships. If you were a betting person your money would probably have gone to the the Yamato and her posse; the Yamato alone displaced more tonnage than all of Taffy 3 ships combined.

Whether it was the gumption and recklessness of the crews of Taffy 3, God, Zeus, dumb luck, or all of the above, in the end Taffy 3 made history by blunting an overwhelmingly superior force from wrecking the Leyte campaign for the Americans. The destroyers and destroyer escorts of Taffy 3 laid smoke to cover the CVE’s retreat while their pilots scrambled with whatever weapons they had and started to harass the Japanese ships. After the smoke was laid the Americans then charged the Yamato and the rest of her heavily armed squadron. The biggest guns the Americans had were only 5 inch guns, and their primary anti-ship weapons were the much maligned Mk 15 torpedoes which meant they had to get close to use the things. Still it was these torpedoes that disrupted the Japanese formation creating tactical havoc, and two of these inferior American torpedoes on a parallel course also caused the Yamato to disengage and play a much less active role in the fight. In fact her presence after the initial shock was hardly felt after, though with the sheer numbers of Japanese capital ships made it a very cold comfort. In the end the older battleship Kongo had claimed the honors for having the best gunnery in the Japanese flotilla.

In the end the Yamato was too far away to do her thing, and because the Japanese did not have good up to date ID charts they mistook the CVEs for full sized fleet carriers. Having sunk what they thought were two fleet carriers the Japanese withdrew instead of pressing their advantage, as despite their numbers and heavier guns the American had managed to sink 3 heavy cruisers and seriously maul 3 other cruisers, sink a destroyer and damage another. Once again the Yamato was saved for the decisive battle but that had come and gone during the battles of the Leyte Gulf Campaign. To the south some of the (raised and repaired) battleships that the Japanese had sunk at Pearl Harbor got their revenge when they annihilated a Japanese fleet in the last surface action in naval history. The last mission the Yamato embarked on was the much romanticized Ten-Go where the Yamato was to beach herself on Okinawa and fight on as a shore battery against the Allied Invasion of Okinawa. However Allied aircraft found her first and succeeded in sink her before she could accomplish her suicide mission.

The Yamato is a much more interesting symbol than for the reasons the Japanese look so nostalgically at it. It was a symbol of military might and of the empire they lost but looking at it as an outsider it is a much stronger allegory than the fiction that the Japanese created around her legend. It was a technological marvel when she was first launched, but in the end like a loser harem animu male she too failed to do much of anything. She was charging her lazors but in the end her beams did not hit much and two torpedoes made her make a fateful decision to not damn the torpedoes and go full speed ahead. Her combat record stands as a damning testament to Japan’s military incompetence when it came to doctrine. None of their prepared scenarios turned out to be true and thus while the Allies turned the tide, the Japanese were still waiting for the final battle that never came. Instead they conserved two of their most powerful battleships so lovingly that they were little more than heavily armed cruise ships while the rest of the IJN was mauled in smaller engagements that were considered too insignificant to risk their illustrious Yamato and Musashi. Still, love will never die and even when the war was raging the IJN wanted more Yamato-class ships, and only after losses at Midway did they start to reassess their priorities. I suppose there is still a desire to resurrect the Yamato as a symbol of a new more independent Japan, but that is but a pipe dream. The Yamato lost her chance just as the Japanese Empire lost it’s chance. Even if the Yamato was raised not even 18 inch naval rifles will do much against the resurgent, missile heavy, SU-27 loving PRC that their invasion helped bring to power.

The Yamato’s story and clash with Taffy 3 is like a life lesson: don’t go looking for your time to shine because it may come and go before you know it. Better to do your best everyday and expend effort towards a goal than to expect to achieve your dreams in one fell swoop. You can be blessed with all the tools to achieve greatness but it will always hinge on the decisions you make. Even the least well equipped person can achieve what is deemed impossible if they dare. When it seems like you are doomed don’t despair, better to go out fighting because once in a while you get lucky, just don’t make a habit of it or demand a miracle to save your ass.

So the Yamato was going out with her friends to beat up some evil Americans...

Too bad she spent so much time at the spa at Truk she was afraid to break a nail on two MK 15s.

Fortunately she would see more action and more success against the Gamilas.

Unfortunately it seemed as if Nagumo was running flight ops again...

Still so lovely after all this time.

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  1. Posted September 26, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Great post, a fascinating tale of mediocrity.

    Here’s a thought:

    In shonen manga and anime, there’s this whole tradition of playing DOWN to the level of your competition. Instead of defeating the opponent efficiently and elegantly, they make the opponent EARN the right to be killed with the best move, the best weapon, etc.

    (numerous examples: the best basketball player sits at the bench until the other team threatens to win in Slam Dunk; this is stupid beyond words; Prince of Tennis matches almost always follow this pattern, Samurai X, etc.)

    There’s some logic in how revealing one’s moves will prepare future opponents better, but I find this whole business excessive — at least the way it’s presented in anime and manga, and how Yamato’s story played out.

    On the other hand, you have the likes of Reinhard and Yang who agreed that the best way to handle Iserlohn was to ram the other planet-sized battlestation into it, destroying both. Symbol shmymbol, those two had the right idea.

    • Crusader
      Posted September 26, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      Indeed the Yamato’s combat record does read like a over used bad shounen tactic, guess that’s why I never embraced the genre. Understandably in the age of measured response HIDING YOUR TRUE POWER might make sense but if you want to win, you don’t hold back especially in sports. It’s like the NBA who cares if you use your special plays and super moves it makes no sense to have saved them and lose the shot at being Champions, even if its a yearly title it’s still a title. Besides hiding moves is pretty dumb and it implies that the one doing the hiding lacks the mental agility to enter the special move arms race.

      Reinhard and Yang had the right idea sadly after that there was no BIG HUEG fortress to do the suicide run there after, even if they wanted to it would have taken years just to build another one. Still Iserlohn was a heckuva home base yeah? XD

    • Kherubim
      Posted September 27, 2010 at 2:27 am | Permalink

      The ultimate battle, the showdown between two titanic forces, the epic victory, is a conceit which is as unfeasible as it is highly romanticized in epic sagas and historical fictions. It has an appeal in the same way the Hagakure has to the impressionable elite class trying to cling to some form of warriorhood. Forcing a war of attrition against an opponent obsessed with this concept may be far more effective than granting him the “mother of all battles” he wishes.

      I would rather crush the enemy, drive them before me and then hear the lamentations of the women…

      • Crusader
        Posted September 27, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        Indeed THE FINAL BATTLE seems to apply more in fiction than in the actual business of war. Yeah Hagakure while touted as the samurai manual by less well informed people, was written at a time when the samurai were not actively engaging in war and were trying to justify their station at a time when they were at best garrison troops or at worst beggars. Chipping away at a superior force is the thing to do if one wants to win the point would be to avoid a big battle if out numbered rather than risk getting wiped out in one blow, the Japanese were confident they could force the Americans in such an engagement but Nimitz wasn’t going to play that game. True the adage that he who defends everything defends nothing the US let their possessions fall early on, and later bypassed much of the IJN strongholds, as the IJN did try to defend everything.

  2. Posted September 26, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    At Leyte Gulf, TF3’s planes were launched as early as they could be, and after they made their attacks they were ordered to land at ground bases. Those weren’t equipped to reload them, so they had to sit out the battle. The reason was that the CVEs of TF3 couldn’t afford to align with the wind to allow takeoffs and landings while they were fleeing for their lives from a huge flotilla which was faster than they were (by about 10 knots).

    It was planes from the other two TF’s who harassed the Japanese ships incessantly, including making “dry runs”, simulated attacks without weapons.

    The Japanese admiral at that battle was a bumbler. When he saw the torpedo tracks approaching, he ordered Yamato to turn parallel, which made sense. But he turned the wrong way. Instead of turning TOWARDS the Americans and closing, he turned AWAY. And that’s why, once the torpedos were past, it took so long for Yamato to come back closer.

    IIRC, Yamato’s legendary big guns were never fired at enemy ships during the entire war. The whole thing turned out to be a collossal waste of resources.

    • Crusader
      Posted September 26, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      No IIRC the Yamato did fire her big guns at Taffy 3 whether or not she can claim credit for even a single kill is unlikely though she probably did help sink the Gambier Bay unless the spotter was lying through his teeth. Still for all that fire power it was likely that the Kongo did deliver most of the accurate shots that fell on Taffy 3. You are right about the planes of Taffy 3 playing less of a part since both Taffy 1 and Taffy 2 were better positioned to launch whatever they had.

      Kurita gets a lot of crap for his decisions, I personally think that considering how much they put into the design of the Yamato and how many torps and bombs that it took to sink her damning the torpedo was probably a better decision than the one he made. Still because whether he ordered the wrong turn or not he did lose tactical control. Though to be fair Taffy 3 did a disproportionate amount of damage than they should have, three sunk and three badly damaged cruisers was nothing to sneeze at. Nevertheless it was one of the great “what ifs” of the war since even if Kurita did press on he still would have faced the 7th Fleet Support force under Oldendorf who was fresh from the victory at Surigao Strait and likely the two remaining Taffy Groups with the Bull Halsey making a B-line for him. It would have been a BIG FIGHT and certainly the kind of big fight the Yamato was designed to fight, but it was in the end a wasted opportunity.

      At the very least Kurita should have finished off Taffy 3 and pressed on to the transports even in 1944 the Japanese were still good at night actions and probably should have tried to do a night raid on the transports. His battleships were still intact and even if it was Leyte Gulf there was plenty of sea to hide in.

  3. Kasrkin519
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    In terms of battleships, I think the Nagato and Mutsu were more impressive in a sense since they were built before the real advent of carrier aviation (and thus were not obsolete like the yamato and musashi when built) and were basically heavily improved Queen Elizabeths – powerful centerline armarment, good “all or nothing” armor approach with good speed. at the time of their construction, they were the best in the world and were responsible and innovative investments…unlike the SHBB’s…

    • Crusader
      Posted September 26, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

      At the time of commissioning they were impressive ships but I suppose the sheer size and weight of the Yamato’s broadside will make it more memorable even if her combat record was abysmal. I wonder what would have happened if the Japanese made copies of the Bofors 40mm since it did serve the Allies well as AA guns and as a general purpose gun when depressed. Though the Japanese would always lag in AA fire power due to the US Navy having proximity fuses for their flak rounds which they weren’t so shy about using in the Pacific as they dreaded Jerry’s reputation for copying anything innovative, as in the cases of the SVT-40 and Bazooka.

      The questionable worth of SHBBs might not have been so had they employed them better instead of having them make a grand tour of the Pacific. Given the IJN’s preference for night action both of their SHBBs might have earned a fearsome reputation as night raiders though judging by the only significant surface action gunnery would have to be improved drastically. Before 1944 they might have seen some surface action certainly in 1942 and 1941 when the US Navy had inferior carrier strength than the IJN.

  4. Posted September 26, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    I don’t care about battleships but this is an interesting read.

    I guess that the Yamato succeeded as a symbol in terms of fictional content like anime pitching her in epic battles and big victories that never happened in real life.

    • Crusader
      Posted September 26, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

      Glad you found it a useful read. Indeed within the fiction that they created around her it does seem as if deep down they wished that the Yamato had been employed better, still at least within that fiction we got Space Battleship Yamato out of it, depending on who you are you might count Star Blazers too. ;)

      The fight she never fought, the torpedo she never dared, and her gunnery speaks for itself…

      • Posted September 27, 2010 at 6:43 am | Permalink

        An impressive read, sir!

        I think the Yamato is one of the biggest blunders during Japan’s involvement in the World War. This is contrary to the usual attitude they sported in battle, wherein the saying “all or nothing” embodied each and every facet of the Imperial armed force. Or maybe they were giving Yamato too much revolutionary value for it not to be used or badly damaged in battle, which is pretty much the same as how the Shinden fared.

        • Crusader
          Posted September 27, 2010 at 8:47 am | Permalink

          The Funny thing about the Yamato and most other prestige Battleships, like the Bismarck and Hood was that they had propaganda value, but in the case of Japan her loss was late but unlike the Hood and Bismarck the Yamato did not contribute all that much to the war effort. She was designed to fight multiple ships at once but in the end she never fought such an engagement. Unlike the Shinden the Yamato not only got past the design stage she was launched and underwent sea trials long before Leyte.

          • Posted September 27, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink

            I think the Shinden also got past the design stage, albeit it got hit with major flaws before and after the first prototype’s forty-five minutes of flight, specifically on the Mitsubishi MK9D engine they installed and the plane’s vibrations on the external parts. Unfortunately it didn’t got past the production stage even though the Imperial Navy had plans to mass-produce the Shinden.

            Anyways, aside from the propaganda value, both the Shinden and the Yamato are treasured because they were considered as ace in the holes that the Japanese failed to use. And considering the nature of Japanese modern visual media, which focuses a lot on the past moments of glory of the country, the times that people considered living in because they consider Japan at its pinnacle, I think it’s not surprising that we see these two iconic war machines heavily references in a lot of visual media.

          • Crusader
            Posted September 27, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

            I remember that the Shinden was test and prototypes were built but they never went into production whereas the Yamato-class ships were still in production. Still whether or not the Shinden would have been taking out B-29s with impunity considering how most of Japan’s pilots were already lost and what remained was a core of veterans desperate to pass their skills to a new crop with less and less training time. I wonder if they would have ended up as Kamikaze planes though since fuel was short and experienced pilots were few.

          • Posted September 27, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

            The first (and only) flight test of the Shinden was August 3, 1945. A few days later the nukes were used and the war ended. Only two prototypes were ever produced, and the only surviving one is in the Smithsonian.

  5. Posted September 27, 2010 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    Technically speaking, China operates the Su-30MKK built under license by their own indigenous Shenyang Aircraft corporation, and they’re real big on nationalistic build local ideals, so the J-10 is really more the fighter of choice, but your point is taken: the battleship’s day is done.

    I think part of the symbolism of the Yamato is that the name itself is a totem – the Yamato Clan are the supposed ancestral tribe from which all of the modern Japanese stem – it’s not simply a technological marvel but it’s very christening taps into a deep font of cultural history and folklore.

    • Crusader
      Posted September 27, 2010 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      Considering the amount of effort that the PRC went to to get the SU-27 and it’s variants (I consider the Su-30 to be a derivative of the Su-27 Family, but a matter of splitting hairs I suppose), but as you say there is a huge drive for building up domestic defense industries, still while the J-10 might be domestic there is supposedly a significant amount of Russian technology left in it. It will be a while before the PRC can develop weapons on their own, but for now they will be somewhat dependent on the Russians for tech.

      The name does come with a lot of myth and cultural baggage, and while it is a bit offensive to say so I suppose even that reading of the Yamato being the Japanese people still works, They were all gussied up for war and fairly well prepared but at the moment of decision they did not dare, for all the bluster about war they have produced over the years with the touting of Samurai in the end they shrunk from an out matched task force, Nowadays they seem to have no stomach for it anymore even if they indulge in plenty of nostalgia. I suppose once the tide had turned and the taste of defeat so bitter that war kind of lost its shine.

  6. Posted September 27, 2010 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    I knew the military otaku would comment on the ships, so I won’t go there as well, but I do wanna say:

    That’s one of the best titles for an entry EVER.

    • Crusader
      Posted September 27, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for reading

  7. cxt217
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Actually, 18″ guns WERE considered for the IOWA-class, but US Navy determined there was no major advantage to the 18″ guns versus the 16″/50 which the IOWAs carried.

    Mark Pettie and the late David Evans in their book Kaigun noted that for the time they were designed and built, the Yamatos and other battleships were actually quite reasonable investment, since aviation had not proven itself as potent naval weapon, whereas the power of the battleship was well known and somewhat improved over WW2. The main difference was that a) the development of the battleship was reaching the practical terminal end, and b) aviation technology had matured at exactly the right moment to take over. In fact, the latter point tends to be overlooked but if the war had taken place a couple years before or after the point of time it did, the face of naval warfare would have been very different.


    • Crusader
      Posted September 27, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      I don’t recall ever reading that the 18″ guns for the Iowa-class ever went to the drawing board, still where did you get this information I was under the impression that since the US was still abiding by some treaty limitations even with the escalator clauses 18″ naval rifles were considered but the kind of ship that would have to carry it made the US Navy baulk and hence the use of the 16″/50s from prior cancelled projects.

      I can see the appeal of of Battleships through the 1930s but while war in 1930s to dovetail the Spanish Civil War is an interesting what if war didn’t come despite Mussolini betting the Italian farm on it happening. While a case can be made for the Musashi and Yamato as being sound investments in 1937 it was no longer the case after Taranto and certainly after Pearl Harbor and the destruction of Great Britain’s Force Z in 1941, at which point the hulls for more Yamato-class ships were still being worked on. For a limited industrial base I think the continued work on those hulls was a waste of time and resources. While Yamato and Musashi were not a total waste at the time of their launch their employment is pretty damning. The Carrier and Naval Aviation might have matured to the point that they could take over but there were still surface actions during the war and with their formidable anti-aircraft weaponry they probably should have been detached to Nagumo during Midway instead of being too far out to anything, had that had happened they could have tried a night action where carriers would have made less a difference and it would have been the IJN’s forte since they had trained extensively for night actions.

      • YF19EX
        Posted September 27, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        Well I believe the war planners had the Montana Class would have been the toe to toe successor with the Yamato. She would not have been built to Panama Canal limitations in length and width. She would have had 12×16/50 guns. In the end she came too little too late. The carrier had prevailed as the superior naval weapon, Japan had surrendered and her keel was never laid down.

        In the end, due to superior fire control and radar systems, the standard Iowa class 16/50 would have made up for any advantage the 18″ guns the Yamato would have ever had.

        On that note, battleships hold a particular place in my heart when it comes to anime and military weaponry. When I was in kindergarten, I would rush home to watch Starblazers. I was obsessed with battleships and their mighty weaponry. It would carry over into Robotech/Macross with the SDF-1 in my middle school days. My interest in the workings of such ships and mecha design would fuel a passion also for mechanics and mechanical detail that I so loved in anime that no other animation medium at the time could create.

        Mighty fleets, water or space battling it out over long ranges. The game of range finding, targeting and hitting your opponent with a massive gun had a certain appeal over any other kind or warfare carried out. Even the mighty super carrier who’s planes can strike targets hundreds of miles away, does not have the same raw appeal of a battleships gun broadside. This also runs into my appeal with navel combat simulators and space battleship combat games as well.

        I live 50 miles from where the USS Iowa is in mothball. I have been on board the USS Missouri, visited the grave of the USS Arizona and was in Kure, Japan last year, a major Naval JSDF base, shipyard and home to the construction and museum of the Yamato. They are a definite piece of naval history and warfare from a time when super powers dictated policy at the end of a barrel.

        • Crusader
          Posted September 27, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

          Fire Control and Radar were two distinct advantages the Allies had over the IJN though the Yamato did get fire control upgrades for some reason in the critical realm of radar and fire control they lagged and learned the hard way that even a powerful gun is useless if it can’t hit anything. Hence why the smaller guns of the Taffy 3 destroyers were able to wreak havoc while closing in on the cruisers.

          The Battleship has been with us for a much longer period in history so I guess there is a stronger attachment to the big guns. Then again it might be because a battleship requires a more human element in it’s gunnery than missiles. In terms of naval history the carrier is still relatively new while ships with guns have been around since the gunpowder age. They were also big and awe inspiring.

          • YF19EX
            Posted September 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

            No doubt awe inspiring. Standing under the main guns of the Missouri was a beautiful sight.

            I wish the Yamato made it out the war to become a Museum piece. But even if she did, she would have probably been scrapped along with much of Japans weaponry after the surrender.

          • Crusader
            Posted September 27, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

            I think that had she survived at best she would have either been kept as a war prize, or at least broken up for analysis. More likely though after whatever technical data could be extracted the Yamato would have been used for Operation Crossroads, had she sunk then and there it would have added a lot more weight to her story than an ill-fated suicide mission. Should she have survived that her story would still be as weighty as if she had sunk though with more uplifting interpretations, the Chrysanthemum might have been preserved but I am not sure about what the US Navy would have done with the most powerful battleship ever built, certainly if it was claimed as a war prize and deemed of value she would have seen more action in American hands in Korea and Vietnam and possibly in Gulf War I after Regan;s 600 ship navy plan. Would have been a hell of a billet to be sure.

            Imagine what she could have done with better fire controls and radar, not to mention better AA in the form of proximity shells and 40mm Bofors. Had Regan resurrected her she would have had tomahawks too.

      • cxt217
        Posted September 27, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        The 18″ did not make to the drawing board, but it was considered by the General Board, enough that the naval architects provided summaries of what the ship design would have been liked. The problem was not necessarily the design being too big for the Panama Canal – they were simply bigger than what the Navy was looking for and/or what they thought Congress would approve. If they stayed within 35K or 45K displacement, the design would have been unbalanced (Either armor or speed had to be sacrificed in that case.). As you point out, the USN went with the 16″/50 they had left over from Woodrow Wilson’s 1916/1920 program. But the US did not go with the 16″ treaty gun limit until AFTER they had discarded the 18″ gun option for the IOWAs.

        Taranto and Pearl Harbor were actually non-indicative of the supremcy of airpower in naval warfare – simply because the challenge to airpower was not sinking a ship at anchor and not expecting air attack, but sinking a ship moving at sea, ready for a fight. In that sense, Force Z was a better example – and the first. It may not be obvious looking back, but at the time there was huge unknown quality about airpower at sea that gave the airpower advocates a delusional element to their arguments that the day of battleships was over. Even the timing was important – for example, if radar had been more or less effective than it historically was, the Pacific War might look very different.

        As a point of fact, the Japanese suspended construction on the Shinano and the 4th Yamato a full year before Pearl Harbor, primarily due to the congestion of other construction. Musashi was finished after Pearl Harbor, but she was already launched and construction was pretty advanced by that point.

        • Crusader
          Posted September 27, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

          I thought as much with regards to mounting 18″ guns since the amount of speed and armor you could get was limited by size.

          I think that Pearl Harbor and Taranto were indicative that air power was something to be reckoned with since both were major bases that were supposedly better protected than most other bases. At the very least it showed that air power had increased the range of engagement well beyond the range of a battleships main battery and hammered home the importance of AA defenses. The Spanish Civil War did allude to how air power might play a role and certainly any one looking at what Jerry’s Luftwaffe was doing over the skies of Poland should have been taking note about strike capability. The severe mauling of the Royal Navy at Crete by air power ought to have at the very least impressed upon them that air power was a critical component of warfare as Jerry did not have a Navy and yet was able to beat off the more powerful Royal Navy with an air assault and airborne invasion. I think that given the severe poundings the Luftwaffe was serving that the IJN would have taken more notice. Even in their vaunted Indian Ocean Raid they did plenty to wreck the Royal Navy with just aircraft.

          I think in that critical year that was wasted on yet more non factors the IJN could have launched a couple escort and light carriers which did prove of great value to the US Navy. Not much could have been done about the Musashi and Yamato, well except use them for battle instead of a upgunned passenger ship.

          • cxt217
            Posted September 29, 2010 at 7:49 am | Permalink

            Pearl Harbor and Taranto are rather poor examples of airpower supremecy, since the US Navy and others had known that airpower was devastating against ships that were surprised, at anchor, and not ready for an attack. They pointed out the necessity of having good air defense networks, but not necessarily the vulnerability of ships to aircraft. To put it another way, if the Mike Tyson or any other world heavyweight boxing figure had blindfolded themselves and tied themselves to a lamp-post, I would give good odds that I would beat them.

            The question was whether airpower could destroy ships at sea, moving, and ready/waiting for combat. Until Force Z, it was wash.

            It would pointed out that the Luftwaffe’s record against ship (Except their dedicated maritime strike units and possibly their dive bombers.) are not all that good. As a point of fact, the Luftwaffe was absymal at anti-ship warfare – right from Dunkirk, where despite their targets were often sitting still for periods of time and suffering under the disadvantage of the crippled nature of Royal Navy air defenses at the time, still went ahead with the operation and saw less than 25% of the destroyers being hit.

            Even the battle around Crete, where the British suffered heavy damage, ignores the fact that the Royal Navy not only prevented the Germans from using sealift until the British finally moved out, but the British were able to continue the evacuation of Allied forces from Crete until they got out all they could reasonably expect to – Crete itself was lost because the British had no airpower interdict the German airlift, once Malame airfield fell into German hands. The Luftwaffe found that the skills needs for attacking land targets generally did not carry over to ships at sea (The IJN also learned the same thing.). In fact, the British probably got the wrong idea about being able to operate ships in the face of hostile air from their experience with the Germans and Italians, which led to the Force Z disaster. The later Indian Ocean raid simply reinforced that idea that against a well-trained and skilled air force capable of maritime strike, you needed a quality air force of your own to fight back, which the British sorely lacked in the Indian Ocean – but since Southeast Asia and India were close to dead last on priorities, the British were too weak in general to stand against the IJN.

            More escort carriers for the IJN would have been possible, though the IJN was generally short of shipping in general. It is hard to see where they would get extra hulls for light carriers – they were pretty maxed out on hulls/operational ships they could convert to carriers as it was. Maybe they could add Oyoda and Nisshin to the carriers they were working on/converting, but that was pretty much it.


          • Crusader
            Posted September 29, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

            I Doubt that the Germans would have been able to attempt sealift given most of their naval assets were in the North Sea and any attempt at sealift would have meant involving the Italians which at that point proved how much mettle they had, suffice to say Italian performance was generally lacking, due to poor equipment but most critically the lack of good leadership. I think the case can be made for Taranto that the Italians should have been more alert and that it was not a cake walk. The war had already been raging for some time now and that the Italians chose to ignore the potential of air assault duly then demonstarted that it was an important component.

            It has been argued that at Dunkirk political considerations took precedence over the annihilation of the BEF. Still the Luftwaffe were able to negate British Sea Power while they were within striking range to discount the Stukas, from the roll of honors is a disservice I think since they were the primary air to ground striking arm and were pretty good at their job. The Luftwaffe did not have an abysmal record at anti-shipping when they could reach Allied shipping, the Invasion of Norway was almost exclusively a Luftwaffe operation where Allied Naval superiority was negated and the Allies did take significant losses as the hands of the Stukas. Given that the Royal Navy so so badly mauled while succeeding in their mission to evacuate they failed to hold Crete in the face of an Airborne invasion they knew was coming and their expulsion proved at the very least that sea power alone was not sufficient to fend off air power indefinitely and that given time an air force can sink significant tonnage and that not even warships were safe. The Luftwaffe presence made holding Crete untenable despite naval superiority, Crete and Norway did I think prove that sea power was not going to beat out air power in a one to one fight. By then every one should have known that the air power was not a novelty. It is critical to remember that while the Royal Navy did do a good evac they still had to evac because they could not remain under Luftwaffe Air Supremacy, planes proved their worth as anti-shipping weapons and the Allies were wary of going within range of the Luftwaffe with their ships hence the Royal Navy could not dominate the North Sea nor the English Channel so long as the Luftwaffe was a force to be reckoned with hence the need for Allied air superiority before Operation Overlord could even be attempted.

            I don’t think the Force Z disaster was the direct result of the Royal Navy braving air power again after their success at Crete, IIRC it was intended merely as a show of force which the Japanese weren’t cowed by. Still prior to Japan going to war the air plane had already demonstrated how costly it could be for surface ships to operate without air cover. Early on the Luftwaffe proved how air power could negate naval superiority and devastate ground forces.

            TH IJN probably could have gotten one or more of those Yamato class hulls into fleet carriers had they started earlier instead of waiting until after Midway, grain carriers could have been converted into slow CVEs. Though you are right they had limited opinions and even if they weren’t going to get a whole lot of carrier tonnage by 1945 had they had them early they might have played a crucial role in 1943 when the balance had not decisively shifted.

  8. Marigold Ran
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    The Japanese never truly fought WWI, which was why most of their plans were outdated. The banzai charges and the reliance on battleships were very-WWI-like. Unfortunately, they ended up fighting WWII, i.e. the wrong war. In this respect, they are similar to the French.

    But blaming them for this mindset is a little excessive, I think. After all, the American military went into Vietnam thinking they were going to fight the Korean War again, and got beat. All militaries prepare for the next war by preparing for the previous one.

    It takes defeat to teach lessons. The Japanese imperial military doctrine was working pretty effectively, up until Midway, at which point it became too late for them to change their doctrine. As someone with some knowledge of military bureaucracy, it would take more than three years to change a military’s doctrinal mindset, which was effectively the time the Japanese military was alloted.

    Their real mistake was Pearl Harbor.

    • Crusader
      Posted September 27, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

      Again I have to express my opinion that they had over a decade to take into account the changes ushered in by the tank, the airplane, and the submarine. There was at least one man in the French Army that knew what was coming of age of the tank and prior to 1941 there was ample evidence that war had changed as Jerry was slicing through the French in 1940 and rolled right over Poland in 1939. Even in Early 1941 with the celebrated Airborne invasion of Crete and the severe beating the Stukas dished out the British Mediterranean Fleet. Also you had the dramatic initial success of Operation Barabrossa every major power was awe struck by Jerry’s exploits and were making mad dashes to catch up. That the Japanese were pointedly not taking notes despite being trusted allies of Jerry really says something about how arrogant and stagnant their High Command had become.

      I agree that the French and Japanese had similar problems but in the case of France they were correct in that a coherent infantry defense could defeat an armored assault, but because Jerry had different ideas about employing his future Panzers French doctrine did not take that into account until the battle was lost. Pointedly I do think both the French and the Japanese suffered from having too many old men in the high command, in the case of the French some were likely in their dotage, the IJN did have men of vision but they were ignored. At which point you had a guy like Nagumo who was put in charge of Kido Butai because of his seniority not because of his talents as a carrier commander. One of the things that was brought to my attention again was that the US military basically retired every general over a certain age while the ones who George Marshall felt had uncanny talent were promoted rapidly. Hence you had Patton working under his former subordinates Bradley and Eisenhower, while it was almost unheard of either the IJA or IJN to have younger officers commanding older ones.

      In the case of the US doctrine changed a lot during the late 1930s and early 1940s while industrial capacity enabled the application of new ways of fighting US doctrine all around was much more fluid and adaptive than the IJN and IJA. That the US took note of how WWII was shaping up to be very different from WWI makes the Japanese inability to reach the same conclusion when they had the same if not more access to the evidence of the changing face of war seem like excuses of a poor sort.

      The American defeat in Vietnam was very different than any other war up until that point, the US never lost in the field and inflicted horrendous casualties on the NVA and VC. Even Gaip admitted as much that he never beat the US in combat but he correctly pointed out why he did win in the end and that all of our victories were rendered moot. Simply put they wanted it more and were willing to accept nothing less than victory no matter the cost while the US military was hobbled by a hostile homefront that negated military victory like the Tet Offensive and turned it into an irreversible propaganda victory for Hanoi. Up until Vietnam the media did not play such a great role in shaping the outcomes of wars, nowadays it has every military chained to a free press decidedly wary.

      The thing was though Japanese military doctrine was starting to show its age, the Soviets kicked their asses hard and yet the defeat did not engender the critical reassessment and after action overview. Instead they treated that as an isolated incident and acted as if it had never happened. Initiating a war when there was ample evidence that their doctrines needed some amendments was pretty daft, Jerry demonstrated how devastating this new war could be (specifically how the airplane and tank had come of age), Italian failures in the field should have been telling, the French collapse should have sent waves through their officer corps just as it sent panic through the Allied officers. In the end it did not happen and instead their descendants mock the Italians with cries of PASTA! when their own critical failures made them seem worse for wear since they were much better prepared and did not bet the farm on World War in the early 1930s.

      • august
        Posted September 29, 2010 at 12:47 am | Permalink

        Well, I think Operation Rolling Thunder, Kham Duc, Lima Site 85, Firebase Mary Ann and Koh Tang count as American defeats, although all but the first were skirmishes. Rolling Thunder was a disaster — entire training classes of F-105 pilots were lost over Hanoi in exchange for abysmal bombing results. Also, the reliance on LORAN for bad-weather missions led to the decision to hang on to Lima Site 85 for too long.

        As for IJA unpreparedness, keep in mind that they had spent the 1930’s fighting a protracted land war in Asia against marginal conventional opponents and insurgents. In response, the IJA demodernized itself to face the immediate challenge. A similar situation is occurring right now, in that Rumsfeld considered cutting two US Army divisions to fund the Revolution in Military Affairs prior to 9/11. Now, acquisition programs are being cut to fund, in part, the expansion of American ground forces.

        But yes, I agree with your thoughts on the Yamato. it is shame that while this harbor queen gets all the attention, gallant ships like Shokaku, Yukikaze and Shigure are remembered only by naval otaku. In terms of aesthetics, I have hard time choosing between Hiei and the Takao-class. The former fitted the Yamato superstructure on the slender lines of a British battlecruiser hull (faptastic!), while the Takaos have that aura of proportion and might. Also, the Fubuki-class destroyer was a truly revolutionary design that started the gradual transformation of destroyers from battle line ancillaries to major combatants in their own right.

        • Crusader
          Posted September 29, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

          I’ll Give you Rolling Thunder, but Koh Tang was bloody but the objectives were met (I think was nominally part of the Vietnam war since Cambodia was not exactly Vietnam), as for the rest they seemed to be skirmishes that the NVA won but not without significant cost. Rolling Thunder was a strategic blunder but a lot of that had to do with politicians and Bomber generals locking horns. Despite the losses it was not the end of the USAF in fact it was to the USAF what the IJA experience against Soviets should have been. The losses of F-105s did introduce radical changes to the USAF and US Navy that were to provide great benefits to the USAF and USN. The Air War in Vietnam was being waged incorrectly and too much was expected of the USAF and USN air power, still you have to the the NVA credit for being willing to absorb losses most other countries would deem too costly.

          Rumsfeld and McNamara both seem to hold low reputations and both did much more damage than good according to most of the rank and file anyway. Still there is a critical difference though McNamara and Rumsfeld were doing damage while as civilians whereas the IJN and IJA were the ones dictating politics and were not burdened with civilian oversight that they had little recourse over. The IJA and IJN both had the disposal of all of their nation’s resources while the US Military has to cope with budget cuts that they have no control over. That the IJA and IJN had McNamara without McNamara speaks more of their officer corps being decidedly lacking than things being beyond their control, they were in control of domestic affairs and yet they still failed to appreciate some important military realities, especially in the realm of logistics and procurement which were willfully ignored as opposed to being civilian limited. Their inferior doctrine was not the result of limited resources so much as it was a serious deficiency of taking a look at the changing face of war.

          Indeed the Yamato should be remembered more for how she failed to live up to her potential but alas big and bad beat out better combat records. There were other IJN ships but as you say they remain largely forgotten while the Yamato endures in everlasting fame.

  9. Marigold Ran
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Also, the problem with a lot of these theories on warfare is that they ignore the impact of blind luck. Midway would have been a Japanese victory had it not been for heroism on the part of the bomber crews combined with SHEER CHANCE that the last bomber group found the wake of the Japanese carrier group. Had that not happened, Guadacanal would never have occurred as early as it did, and the Japanese would have fought on until 1947 or so.

    At which point Japan would have been divided into two by the Russians and the Americans, and history as we know it would be very different.

    Furthermore, it’s probably a good thing the Japanese are in no mood for fighting. The Chinese and the Japanese, after all, historically, have not always liked each other. Strange as it sounds, I suspect the Chinese are much more comfortable with an American military presence in the seas around their coasts than a Japanese military presence.

    • Crusader
      Posted September 27, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

      Blind luck had something to do with it but the Americans weren’t just consistently lucky the Japanese had their fair share of Lady lick’s favor too. Even if the Yanks got lucky by finding that wake having almost not CAP and refueling and re-arming on the flight deck is not just the Yanks getting lucky it was I think incompetence on the part of Nagumo, his pride was already stung by Genda who had asked for a third strike at Pearl Harbor and instead of sending off his already armed fighters he added the straw that broke the camel’s back. Even if Spruance was considered by King to be the second smartest man in the US Navy Yamamoto’s plan was already critically flawed and he chose to press on without and recon. His dispersal of forces ensured that most of the groups were way out of position to assist the other groups should something unexpected happen. This I think was the one time Yamamoto, brilliant as he was, got too full of himself and relied on the dumb Americans to behave exactly as he wanted, that is to me not dumb luck but a human failing that equated to a fatal, probably preventable misstep.

      Midway only gave the US Navy parity with the IJN in the number of carriers the war was still winnable for Japan had they played a better game instead Guadalcanal happened and finally Leyte. Luck does happen but I think that while the Yanks got lucky the IJN has to shoulder most of the blame for letting it to be much more telling as dumb American luck seemed mostly to amplify the pain for mistakes of their commanders. At Leyte the Yamato got pretty damn lucky when she had a clear path to a MacArthur’s invasion transports all that stood between Kurita’s Center Force and those vulnerable transports and beachheads was a small flotilla that sported less tonnage than the Yamato alone. That Taffy 3 wrecked as much as they did showed that the Yanks had put their resources and research priorities to better use, after all the miracles of science were well within Japan’s grasp they just never cared enough for what would prove to be game changing. Admittedly there is much less glory to be had in creating better fire control systems and radar as making big bad weapons is much more sexy. Still even the most powerful blow means nothing if it can’t hit.

  10. Marigold Ran
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    In other words, the Japanese military performed as well as it was trained to do. This comment is, however, not exactly a ringing endorsement.

    • cxt217
      Posted September 27, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      Well…As Peattie and Evans commented, the IJN was prepared for and trained to fight a battle, not a war. When the IJN’s concept of war was essentially deciding the issue by battle in 6 weeks, it was hard to think of that. Then again, the concept of the decisive naval battle was not exactly disproven by Big Mistake #1 – but the Japanese, unlike the USN, never thought beyond it.

      Of course, the Japanese would have fared better if they remembered the convoy escort warfare of BM1 too…


      • Crusader
        Posted September 27, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

        Certainly it seems like the IJN and IJA had issues seeing the complete strategic picture, their hatred and disregard for logistics was at least equal to Rommel’s disdain for pencil pushers. While defeat is the strongest tonic it still is a wonder how the Japanese seemed to be so adamant about not learning from the mistakes of others. WWI should have left more of an impression as even without the horror of trench warfare the US took that into account as did some Soviet Generals who later got axed by Stalin. How they could have kept a colonial war mindset when the last time empires clashed the result were years of bloody stalemate on the Western Front.

        There is an old East Asian parable about the farmer who enjoyed rabbit stew when a hare had dashed his brains out on a tree waited every day for a hare to dash himself on the same tree only to starve to death. That the Japanese were in essence waiting, hoping, and expecting the Americans to repeat Imperial Russia’s mistakes seems to border on sheer lunacy now. I agree though the IJN should have prepared their other arms as well, but for some reason copying Jerry just wasn’t in the cards for them despite the fact that there was ample evidence to analyze to glean the secrets of Jerry’s stunning early successes.

    • Crusader
      Posted September 27, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      Agreed their training could have been much better, unfortunately they were putting more effort into harsh discipline in the form of beating up junior enlisted and other unsavory vices involving brothels than the actual business of fighting and winning. Though again a failure to train properly is pretty much the fault of the IJN and IJA, not dumb luck though dumb luck amplified the problem once the Allies got real good at using Jerry’s notes and reading that magnificent bastard, Rommel’s, book.

      • cxt217
        Posted September 29, 2010 at 7:52 am | Permalink

        I would not agree with lack of training – the Japanese were well trained, probably the best trained navy in the world at that point. But as Evans and Peattie had noted, they were not trained for they situation they ultimately got. Their biggest problems were a doctrinal inflexibility and a lack of foresight. The latter was relatively common among all navies, and is why the US Navy was fortunate to have the thinkers at the Naval War College in the interwar era – the former was much more prevalent among the Japanese and did a lot to cripple them in the conduct of the war.


        • Crusader
          Posted September 29, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

          While I am sure the quality of the enlisted ratings was good or at least sufficient, the IJN was not as adept as the USN at damage control, certainly from a strictly engineering and damage control perspective the IJN seemed to have neglected a bit when it came to that at least compared the US Navy it was to come out as critical at Midway when the Yorktown was able to survive two strikes and a Coral Sea. Also at Samar IJN gunnery on the Yamato in particular was certainly lacking if the Taffy 3 destroyers were able to dodge that many guns for as long as they did.

          As for the training of IJN and IJA officers I think a case can be made that they were poorly trained in the matters of warfare given their pathological avoidance of the very importance of logistics. I think Seeckt was not off when he said that an army’s qualitative superiority derives from the quality of its officer corps, the same would apply to the IJN. Had their officers been better trained they might not have failed so badly in doctrine as they did, certainly at least logistics would not have bit them in the ass at every opportunity. Doctrine is created by the officers and poor doctrine implies a poor officer corps or at least one with severely limited tactical imagination or passion for the entire spectrum of warfare.

          I think the IJN had some talented commanders like Yamamoto, but there weren’t enough of them and the failure to retire some old warhounds from the senior officer corps. Despite being the nominal top dog in the IJN Yamamoto did not get his way when it came to building his air arm. I think that they did not lack foresight they just ignored those who had it. Again at least when it came to their officers their training was not that stellar compared to other War Colleges certainly it comes off as somewhat lacking considering the lengths that Seeckt went to in training his 100,000 men during the post WWI years. That the IJN was so inflexible makes it seem they were preaching and teaching dogma instead of training.

          • august
            Posted September 30, 2010 at 1:48 am | Permalink

            I once read a comment that on a deckplate level, IJN officers were very proficient at the technical basics of their profession. The problem was that the combination of harsh schooling, repetitive training and long sea tours burned out many officers by the time they screened for command. By middle age, professional reading and even sports became less popular hobbies.

            Arthur Marder used Nagumo as an example — he had once been a fine athlete at the academy, a dashing captain of cruisers and destroyers, and a mentor to promising subordinates. By World War II, however, his body ached from years of kendo, and his indecision at Midway is well known.

            Thus, the IJN had the best division heads, good captains, and truly mediocre admirals. Note that they did acquitted themselves quite well in the small-scale cruiser-destroyer actions in the Solomons, but failed miserably in the three Decisive Battles.

  11. Posted September 27, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Most of what can be said directly on the topic has been said by this point, just chiming in that I liked the post when I proofread it for you.

    Also, you might be interested in checking out the book Requiem for Battleship Yamato, written by a radar officer onboard the ship during its last sortie. It’s been a long since I read it back in elementary school, but I remember it being really interesting to see events from a fairly low-ranking member of the crew.

    • Crusader
      Posted September 27, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the recommendation, should be interesting coming from a more inglorious rating at that. Glad you enjoyed it comrade.

  12. AC
    Posted September 28, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Nice read, Crusader. I’ve always enjoyed military history. Heck, anyone who has read through the 1000+ page “Dreadnought” has to like naval history at least a little, right?

    Just wanted to note that HMS Hood was not a proper battleship, but rather a battlecruiser; it could not withstand hits from the large armament that it carried and used. The theory of independent battlecruiser hit-and-run units was interesting, but the ships were too fragile when integrated into fleet battle lines like they were.

  13. Marigold Ran
    Posted September 30, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of which, cruisers were a really good ship in the game, Civilization II. They were relatively cheap to build compared to battleships and they owned destroyers and transports. They were also moderately good at coastal bombardment against unfortified pre-armor units like riflemen.

    Of course, battleships raped them, but that’s a separate issue. In that game, battleships pretty much raped everything on the seas, and on the coast, and in the air, except for units stationed in cities with coastal batteries.

    • august
      Posted October 1, 2010 at 1:00 am | Permalink

      If you love cruisers, you must get “Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War” by Lacroix & Wells. I can never make the time to actually sit down and plow through the thing, but goshdarnit, I will some day!

      And no, I am not selling my copy.

  14. TBlakely
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Here are some tidbits in response to previous comments.

    The Japanese WWII military had many peculiarities when compared to western militaries. One of the lesser known was a shocking lack of discipline in the Japanese military especially in their army. Junior officers often contradicted orders that they thought weren’t aggressive enough. In fact this attitude bullied generals into issuing orders they knew were disastrous because they didn’t want to be shamed by being ignored.

    Now this brings us to one of the great ironies of WWII in the Pacific. The Japanese routinely threw away lives in doomed attacks yet in the battle of Leyte Gulf admiral Kurita backed off just when reckless aggression would have crippled the American invasion. To me this is one of the great ironies and mysteries of WWII.

    Another tidbit that is overlooked about WWII is that not only did the America successfully prosecute a two front war, is that they utterly crushed the Japanese with only about one-third of their industrial output. The Germans were deemed the greater threat and receive the majority of material and men.

  15. yf19ex
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    On a side note, I had just noticed that the Yamato Resurrection Movie has been out since August, but no one has translated it

    The live action is due this December as well.

  16. grendel
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Sidenote: the U.S.S. Constitution is a frigate. She has a mere 44 guns (though she did frequently carry +50) and a displacement of 2,200 tons. The reason we Americans keep her in active service is Not because of romantic notions regarding battleships or the like.


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