Midway Remembered18 Jun 2003 0
Introduction: The Japanese Threat
The United States of America, in spite of years of warning, found themselves roughly thrust into a seething cauldron of war at the end of 1941. The last of the 1930's offered one evil omen after another of the inevitable involvement of the country into a world conflict that would eventually account for the death of over eighty million people. The advocates of isolationism would not be silenced until the Japanese planes swooped down on the unprepared US Naval bastion at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands.
Of particular portent was the shaping of events in the Pacific. It was evident that Japan was up to something. After removing itself from the League of Nations in 1931 rather than face censure for its invasion of Manchukuo, the richest and most industrial province of China, Japan continued with an aggressive policy towards the Far East.
A nation of four major islands, Japan was almost totally reliant on outside sources for many raw materials for industry. The horror stories coming out of China of Japan's ruthless brutality against the civilians there prompted President Roosevelt to impose a series of embargoes on the country that quickly began to threaten its dream of a United Asia.
During this same period, Japan found itself being controlled by a militaristic junta led by its new Prime Minister and head of the Army General Hideki Tojo. This new bellicose leader was hungry for conquest, hungry for war, and believed that his nation had the capabilities to hurl out the foreigner from the western Pacific. In fact, this would be necessary to insure the continued use of rich sources of materials from mainland Asia and the islands nearby.
The formation of the "Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere" was vital to Japan's economic growth. It would also firmly assert its position as the primary leader of the East. This, of course, would mean the ejection of the western powers, the establishment of strong military bases along the outer perimeter of their Pacific growth, and later a treaty with western powers to be left alone to pursue their goals.
The greatest threat to this enterprising effort was the United States. France had fallen, and Japanese troops now occupied what had been French Indochina. Britain's primary stronghold, Singapore Island at the base of the Malayan peninsula, was not thought to be a formidable problem. But US possessions and influence, primarily in the Philippines, would have to be neutralized.
Neither would Russia present a problem with the advances in mainland Asia. The Soviet Union was on the brink of disaster by the end of 1941 and would be unable to even think about fighting on two fronts. There would be no threat from the north.
So Japan's primary enemy was the United States of America. Since the confrontation between Japan and the United States would primarily be on the waters of the vast Pacific Ocean, the responsibility of that phase of Japanese expansion would lie squarely on the shoulders of the Japanese Navy.
The Japanese Army leaders did not have a cordial relationship with naval commanders. The perennial Interservice rivalry that seems to occur with every military force was existent in Japan. This rivalry between the two was quite intense and kept the two organizations at arm's length. In spite of that, the welfare of their country took precedent over organizational animosity. A common cause brought the Japanese military together as never before.
The leader of the Japanese Navy, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, was a tactical military genius for naval warfare. Having received his education in the United States and later serving as an attach