The author is an experienced military historian and this is a worthy addition to his catalogue. He has provided a compelling argument for the rapid rise and fall of Japan in the 1940s. There is good illustration in a photo plate section to compliment the readable and well argued text. There have been a number of attempts to explain the rise and fall of Japan by historians, military officers, diplomats and enthusiasts. This book stands well to the fore and this reviewer considers it the best available account. A very useful addition to the library of any enthusiast or professional.
NAME: Why the Japanese Lost, The Red Sun’s Setting
AUTHOR: Bryan Perrett
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: World War Two, , Second World War, WWII communications, natural resources, trading block, imperial expansion, Japan, US, UK, France, Netherlands, Asia co-prosperity zone, pre-emptive attack, Pearl Harbour, nuclear weapons, Pacific, China Seas, Seas of East Asia, carrier strikes, submarine wolf packs
DESCRIPTION: The author is an experienced military historian and this is a worthy addition to his catalogue. He has provided a compelling argument for the rapid rise and fall of Japan in the 1940s. There is good illustration in a photo plate section to compliment the readable and well argued text. There have been a number of attempts to explain the rise and fall of Japan by historians, military officers, diplomats and enthusiasts. This book stands well to the fore and this reviewer considers it the best available account. A very useful addition to the library of any enthusiast or professional.
The difficulty in approaching this subject is that the success and eventual failure of Japan is a complex subject that inevitably involves the colonial powers that Japan had to defeat to achieve its objectives of creating a trading area under its control.
Japan and China had both been reluctant to engage with the rest of the world and considered themselves superior to any other races. That inevitably gave way to war between China and Japan over the centuries and the Japanese usually came out on top or at least repulsed any Chinese attempt to invade and conquer the Japanese islands. Both countries had forced on them the trading interests of Europe and America. Japan was challenged in that it could not modernize and industrialize without access to raw materials that were principally controlled by European colonial powers and the expanding interests of the United States. It was therefore almost inevitable that Japan would attempt to gain control of natural resources by force and this in many respects had close parallels with the development of the British Empire, where a relatively small population with a maritime tradition, based in a small group of islands, faced a large and generally unfriendly land mass.
The difficulty that Japan faced was that any expansion would not only make enemies of European countries with interests in the area, but it would inevitably involve the United States. That meant that Japan could not repeat its invasion of China with a long term conflict where Japan could wear down the huge Chinese population. Any war of attrition with the US would inevitably end in defeat for Japan. The only answer would be a lightning war, advancing across enormous areas of land and water. To achieve that, the US would have to be severely damaged in a single surprise attack, allowing Japan to roll up the colonial powers who had become complacent and failed to strengthen their forces against possible Japanese expansion. The hope had to be that Japan would rapidly dominate the Pacific and then be in a position where its enemies would be unable to challenge the new status quo. That hope was only possible because the Japanese considered themselves immortal and superior to other races.
It could therefore be argued that Japan never ever stood a real chance of achieving its objectives. In cold logic that is a credible conclusion and it has been born out by the historical reality of WWII in the Far East. A more intelligent diplomatic stance by the colonial powers and the US could and should have stopped Japan before war was joined. That diplomatic failure encouraged the Japanese to believe themselves invincible. They were further encouraged by the failure of their potential enemies to reinforce their military capabilities and take the Japanese threat seriously. The success of the British in destroying much of the Italian Fleet in port by a surprise attack with carrier aircraft was carefully studied by Japan and seen as a military action that would readily transfer to the Pacific and China Sea.
In the event, Japan underestimated its potential enemies as badly as they underestimated Japan. In particular, the Japanese under estimated the speed with which the Allies bounced back, halting the Japanese expansion and then breaking the Japanese forces down in a bloody war of attrition as amphibious landings moved across the island chains, forcing Japan to give up its short conquests and taking Allied forces to within range of the Japanese home islands.
Progressively, Japan lost ships and aircraft that they could not replace. The dropping of two nuclear weapons on Japan has been hotly debated, as have the real reasons that may lay behind the decision to destroy two Japanese cities with two bombs. For the Allies, the bitter fighting and the fanatical resistance of Japanese forces did suggest that Allied casualties in taking the home islands could be very serious, perhaps more than democracies could bear. The political considerations of how the US and Europe would deal with Soviet Russia certainly provided some motivation to stage a display of the power of the new weapons. Whatever the motives, the two bombs proved the final blow that convinced the Japanese that they were not invincible after all and that the Allies could just destroy city after city until there were only smoking ruins. How much extra persuasion was required is open to argument. By that point, Japan had lost superiority at sea and in the air. However fanatical their troops, the preceding landings on the islands leading to Japan had shown the Allies could accept casualties and use their strong technologies to destroy Japanese resistance.
The author has dissected, analysed and explained, working through all of the key factors to build a case that is persuasive and compelling. This is an important book on the subject and deserves to be widely read as history is beginning to repeat itself.