Why was Japan blind of its own weaknesses during World War II?
Warfare History Network
Japan was blind to its own weakness
The Japanese assumed away their enemy’s capabilities and underestimated their enemy’s quality, quantity, bravery, and strategic grasp, partly and no doubt subconsciously because Japan realized it could not defeat strong enemies. The most serious short-term strategic failure in estimating the enemy concerned the Allies’ ability to recuperate after the first Japanese blows. Concurrently, the Japanese woefully underestimated the length of time it would take the Allies to launch counteroffensives. The most serious long-term strategic failure was Japan’s complete inability to understand its own industrial weakness and the overwhelming industrial power of its enemies.
Japan’s Poor Use of Intelligence
The Army and Navy assigned mediocre personnel to their limited number of intelligence slots and did not appreciate what intelligence and analysis could do. The Navy considered intelligence a secondary function. Although the collection of intelligence was good, its dissemination to tactical elements was poor. The Navy’s operations division often ignored or did not believe its own intelligence, especially when that intelligence threatened planners’ assumptions. The Navy’s gross underestimation of the U.S. Navy just before Midway was a contributing factor to its disastrous defeat there.
Repeated Underestimating of the Enemy’s Strength
The Japanese Army became spoiled by easy access to military intelligence about the Chinese. The Army ignored its own counter-intelligence practices, from its peacetime organization through training and into combat. There seemed no need for an elaborate operational intelligence system because the Japanese easily obtained intelligence from the Chinese themselves. In China, Japanese officers developed disdain for their foes. It was often worse than disdain; it became a virulent, decades-long, government-driven indoctrination of contempt. The Chinese were little better than animals and insects. China could easily be subdued. In fact, as War Minister Hajime Sugiyama had assured the Emperor in 1937, Japan could crush China in a month.
Japan Counted Planes and Ships Correctly, but Overlooked the Intangibles
Because Japan had not delved deeply into the alchemy of strategic air power, no one could predict how Allied strategic air capabilities might affect Japanese plans. As a result, they underestimated its considerable impact, both on field forces and on logistics. A known known was the extent America’s 1941 aviation strength. The Japanese knew what it was. In 1941, a known unknown for the Japanese was certainly a realistic estimate of America’s projected aircraft production for 1942. The Japanese knew what they did not know. This is a warrior’s view of his enemy. It is an immediate question that can be solved.
The Tactical and Implementation Failures of the Perimeter Defense
The Japanese grandly assumed the completion of a string of heavily fortified island air bases and garrisons that would absorb and repulse U.S. mass. Completely apart from the tactical fallacies of a perimeter defense, in which 95 percent of the defensive effort is wasted when the attacker can choose the point of attack, no one sat down to plan the logistics or construction of those bases. No one had figured out the shipping needed to get construction material to the far-flung frontier, and no one had determined the shipping needed by those garrisons to sustain active battle.
The Japanese army overestimated the expected military triumphs of Germany and underestimated those of its enemies. Some Japanese doubted a strategy that was to conclude the war by negotiations rather than by some logical military culminating point. For if the enemy did not negotiate, what then? As one Japanese officer wrote after the war, “No Japanese military student possessing any basic knowledge of military logistics could fail to foresee ultimate defeat for our nation in a prolonged war.”
Maybe Japan’s problem was that no one possessed any basic knowledge of military logistics. They certainly were lacking when it came to realistic assumptions, estimates, and unknown unknowns.
(Abridged) To read the full article please visit https://nationalinterest.org/blog/reboot/why-was-japan-blind-its-own-weaknesses-during-world-war-ii-155226?fbclid=IwAR2k3_x1TNt3B2lMU0Iw22bPxUoXde0Y9SR9_bLHVFAuFrxqylmNJBKxVbg