Blinded by the Rising Sun? American Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air and Naval Power, 1920-1941

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Blinded by the Rising Sun? American Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air and Naval Power, 1920-1941

Postby Admiral Piett » Sat 5 Dec 2015 20:55

Hello people of the Wargame forums. I'm here to provide something that nobody asked for!

As my thesis nears completion, I have decided to write a relatively short summary of my findings here since I'm sure it will interest at least some of you fine people. As the title of the thread suggests, I have done a lot of research and writing regarding American intelligence assessments of Japanese air and naval power during the interwar period. To begin, net assessment is done through looking at both how strong the intelligence target's forces are (their capability) and what they intend to do with that strength (their intention). I will focus exclusively on the capability side for this summary, as in my thesis. Any arguments that you see written here have primary and/or secondary sources to back them up. I have read literally thousands of American naval and military attaché reports (and other random stuff, like British intelligence intercepts from the London Naval Conference), along with all sorts of books, journal articles, etc.

You are free to ask me questions about specific points and I will expand on them as much as possible. This first post is intentionally broad as it is intended as short summary, since I don't want to rewrite my entire thesis, and you folks certainly wouldn't want to read the whole darn thing. Due to the forum rules governing image size, a lot of my images are only direct links. With that said, here we go.

Example of a typical naval attaché report (WARNING Large Photos)


Air Power in the 1920s
Spoiler : :
Image

The development of Japanese air power was extremely easy for American observers to track throughout the 1920s. Japan was new to the air power game, and as such it was heavily dependent on foreign assistance. The Imperial Japanese Naval Air Service (IJNAS) was trained by the British in 1921-1922, and the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service (IJAAS) was trained largely by the French. Foreign experts and technology were extremely prevalent throughout the 1920s, and made the tracking of Japanese aircraft, aerial tactics and industrial techniques simple because they weren't Japanese to begin with. Since all aircraft and engines were either produced under license in Japan or directly imported from other countries, including the United States, there was no shortage of accurate technical information for American observers to send back to Washington. This was made even easier as the Japan of the 1920s was a largely open society. Westerners were allowed to freely wander around the factory floors, tour air stations, small talk with personnel and observe Japanese flight operations up close. The naval attaché even regularly wrote letters to the Japanese Navy Ministry requesting detailed information about the IJNAS, and the Navy Ministry would respond truthfully, and in full!

Opinions of Japanese personnel, including pilots, were somewhat negative, but fair. These assessments were born out of direct observation of a fledgling air power which was reliant on foreign assistance. Westerners had trained many of Japanese personnel in the early 1920s, and continued to observe Japanese progress throughout the decade. Mechanics and other ground crews were generally viewed as competent, though somewhat poor at handling the newest technology. Japanese pilots were also seen as competent, though inexperienced and lacking in initiative. All Japanese personnel in the air services were considered slightly inferior to those found in the west. What may come as a surprise to some of you is that racism was almost entirely absent from reporting. Intelligence officers were professionals, and while ethnocentrism and so-called "national characteristics" would surface, they had no impact on the actual conclusions of the vast majority of reports in the 1920s. However, one correct conclusion born out of this decade would come to define American reporting later on despite its increasing inaccuracy. This was the belief that the Japanese were largely incapable of innovating in the realm of air power.

As would be the case throughout the interwar years, the main emphasis of American reporting was on the strategic and economic spheres. For every technical or tactical report, there were several which talked about Japan's industrial weakness. In short, Japan didn't have enough of anything, and the Americans knew it. Skilled labour? Not enough. Raw materials of virtually every description? Not enough. Machine tools? Not enough. Pilots? Not enough. Aircraft? Not enough. These were all issues which American observers addressed in their reports. In other words, the Americans were assessing not just Japanese air power's technology and tactics, but its ability to wage the kind of industrialised, protracted air war that the Americans intended to fight. This is a very important point, as it was the only feature of American reporting concerning Japanese air power which remained consistently correct and, ultimately, it was what ended up mattering the most.

Summary of Reports:
Technology and Tactics: Accurate
Personnel: Accurate
Industrial Strength and Strategic Issues: Accurate


Air Power from 1930-1937
Spoiler : :
Image
Image

Problems in American assessments began to arise in the early and mid 1930s. This was very much a transition period between the openness of Japanese society, and the reliance of its air services on foreign assistance that characterised the 1920s, and the extreme secrecy and independence of its air services which would come in the late 1930s. The 1930 London Naval Conference changed the entire trajectory of Imperial Japan. It was the last meaningful gasp of Japan's moderates, before the hard liners and militarists virtually seized control of the country. It also had a profound impact on the development of the IJNAS. In the 1920s, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) had turned to light fleet units (cruisers, destroyers and submarines) in order to overcome their numerical disadvantage institutionalised in the Washington Naval Treaty. However, with the signing of the London Naval Treaty, these avenues of development were removed as effective options. What was left outside the bounds of the Washington Treaty System? Something that could help whittle down the American Pacific Fleet as it attempted to move across the Pacific? Aircraft. The amount of funds the IJN allocated to the development of its air power exploded right from the signing of the London Naval Treaty. Around the same time, the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) began to take its air power a lot more seriously as well, and this shift in attitude did not go unnoticed.

American observers had open access to the budgets of the Japanese military, because debates within the diet regarding the allocation of funds was public information. The Americans knew the Japanese military was taking its air services far more seriously, but it was becoming difficult to see exactly what was going on. Open sources became common in American reporting on air power, as the traditional sources of information, such as tours of air stations, became increasingly less informative. Tours of air stations and factories were a regular occurrence from 1920-1937. However, in the 1930s, westerners were viewed with suspicion, and treated like spies. This was not unwarranted, as most civilians sent to help out at Japanese aircraft firms were tasked by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) or Military Intelligence Department (MID) to report their findings. As the 1930s progressed, reports on Japanese air stations contained less meaningful information, and instead complained bitterly about the secrecy of their Japanese hosts. In short, the Americans had been spoiled by Japan's openness in the 1920s, and assumed that this trend would continue. Instead, they were met with this:

The most striking case of Japanese paranoia came from the experience of Mr. Bertrandias of the Douglas Aircraft Company, who stayed in Japan from December 1936 to February 1937. Despite the length of his stay, Bertrandias had little information to provide in his interview. Most of the report detailed the Japanese distrust of his intentions and the tightness of security measures. His visit was intended to conduct and oversee test flights of a Douglas Aircraft Company flying boat delivered to Japan. Most of the test flights Bertrandias observed were conducted at low altitude over short distances. Bertrandias flew the aircraft on the one flight of any distance, from Kobe to Fukuoka, but was not given any maps and did not know the destination until well into the flight. He was given various courses to fly, with the obvious intention of avoiding over-flights of sensitive areas, particularly around the Kure shipyards. Once the aircraft arrived near the Straits of Shimonoseki, Bertrandias was ordered to fly overland, well south of the Straits, toward a cloud-covered mountain range. He refused to do so as he had no knowledge of the mountains, and did not want to risk hitting a peak in the clouds. When his Japanese minders argued with him, Bertrandias decided to land directly in the Straits with the intention of talking the matter over further and, if necessary, moving through the forbidden zone on the surface rather than the air. This action visibly shook the Japanese on board, who talked about the trouble this approach would cause with the gendarmerie. Their concerns were validated when the flight was redirected to Beppu and the internal security services interrogated the Japanese members of the party. The Americans were not questioned, but the Japanese press later played up the incident, stating that an American representative had deliberately broken the law with possible “ulterior motives.” After this incident, Bertrandias was barred from seeing anything of importance.


Japanese military aviation had been virtually an open door for intelligence gathering in the 1920s, but the opening gradually narrowed through the early 1930s, and slammed shut with the start of the war in China in 1937.

This secrecy understandably led to a gradual drop in the quality of American intelligence regarding the development of the Japanese air services' technology, since this same period was the time when Japan began to develop its first generation of indigenous aircraft. Remember how dependent the Japanese had been on foreign assistance in the 1920s? Well, as they moved away from this dependence, American observers refused to acknowledge that the Japanese could innovate. In the study of intelligence, this is referred to as a "preconceived notion." What had been a true assessment based on real observations in the 1920s, gradually became less and less accurate as time went on. At the same time, American assessments got more and more wedded to the idea that the Japanese could not innovate. Information which indicated the Japanese air services were moving away from their dependence on foreign assistance was downplayed or ignored, and anything which indicated they were still copying western designs and techniques was often check marked, underlined and taken at face value. In other words, American intelligence began to develop a bad case of confirmation bias. It is telling that the only report which came out of the American naval attaché's office in Tokyo from 1930-1937 which highlighted the growing independence of the Japanese air services was a translation of a 1934 Soviet book by D. Streshnevsky (the book was two years old by the time the naval attaché sent it back).

Opinions of Japanese air and ground crews varied wildly from praise to derision and everything in between. Any attempt to make a coherent and singular view would produce a generic answer of little practical use. This situation may have stemmed from continual change and expansion within the Japanese air services, along with a decrease in the opportunity to regularly observe Japanese personnel. Whatever the root causes, the lack of a clear and consistent snapshot of Japanese personnel would become a major problem in the late 1930s. Observers would skip over the muddled reporting of the early 1930s and instead rely increasingly on the negative, and badly outdated, assessments of Japanese personnel from the 1920s.

What of American industrial and strategic-level assessments? They were consistently great. All together now: In short, Japan didn't have enough of anything, and the Americans knew it. Skilled labour? Not enough. Raw materials of virtually every description? Not enough. Machine tools? Not enough. Pilots? Not enough. Aircraft? Not enough. They weren't going to win a protracted air war with the United States. Here is a 1936 summary from the military attaché in Tokyo regarding the Japanese air services in a time of war:

In time of war, Crane believed the weakness of Japanese air power would be in planes and pilots. Japanese aircraft manufacturing, which already struggled with a lack of skilled workmen, would be hindered even more after the outbreak of hostilities due to the need for expanded production while making use of the same limited pool of manpower. Additionally, Japanese industry easily could be deprived of the raw materials needed to manufacture aircraft of quality and quantity...Crane did not dismiss Japanese power, and agreed that the IJAAS and IJNAS would pose a challenge in the short term. He simply noted that Japan could not win a full-scale and prolonged air war with the United States. Pilot reserves barely met peacetime demands, meaning that Japan’s core of trained aircrew would be depleted rapidly through wartime attrition. Thus, the Japanese would shorten their pilot instruction times significantly in order to replace their losses, and send poorly trained and inexperienced aircrew into frontline service with predictable results.


Summary of Reports:
Technology and Tactics: Poor
Personnel: Confused and Contradictory
Industrial Strength and Strategic Issues: Accurate


Air Power from 1937-1941
Spoiler : :
Image
Image

American assessments of Japanese air power in the late 1930s and into the war were badly flawed at the lower levels. Japanese secrecy was extreme. Tours of air stations and factories virtually disappeared. As a result, reporting became heavily dependent on open sources, like aviation magazines and newspaper articles. These sources were stuck in the mindset of the 1920s and early 1930s, when Japan was dependent on foreign support to develop their air power. The views of these sources remained accurate when they discussed Japanese industry, but American understanding of Japan's technology and tactics was scarce and largely out of date. The number of redundant and superfluous reports skyrocketed. Many did little more than paraphrase official Japanese press releases about the war in China, or provided information so vague that they might as well have said "it is possible that the Japanese air services are, in fact, using aircraft."

Due to the level of secrecy employed by the Japanese, this drop in the quality of reporting can be partially justified. However, this period also saw a dramatic increase in American observers' reliance on the preconception that the Japanese could not innovate, as well as an increase in the influence of ethnocentrism and "national characteristics." Many assessments concluded that Japanese personnel were inherently inferior because they were Japanese. This was not something commonly found in earlier reporting. The less information the Americans had regarding Japanese military aviation, the more they fell back on the old motif of unoriginality and negative views from the 1920s, with an increasingly harsh tone. Nowhere was this shift more evident than in the discussion of Japanese technological progress. The view that the Japanese could do little more than copy foreign designs was deeply entrenched, even as evidence to the contrary continued to pile up. This was typical of such reports at a time when Japan was fully independent in aircraft design and manufacturing:

http://i.imgur.com/33taq9U.jpg

Even when the Americans obtained accurate technical information about a specific aircraft, they failed to make the connection between it and the broader implication that Japan was producing good indigenous aircraft. The Chinese had captured a fully intact B5N1 carrier attack aircraft and conducted extensive flight tests. The results were then given to the Americans. The naval attaché sent the accurate technical data back, but entirely omitted the fact that the plane was clearly not a copy of anything. Therefore, a farcical situation arose where assessments like the one above coexisted with explicit evidence that directly contradicted those assumptions. Another example was the G3M, an IJNAS medium bomber (Japanese designated it "heavy"), which was old by this point, and was first identified by the Americans in late 1937. It was immediately assumed, without evidence, that the G3M was a copy of a German Ju-86 when, in fact, it was entirely indigenous and superior to the Ju-86 in every way. A later report concluded that the aircraft was a "copy of a Heinkel design." Interestingly, the Americans could never decide from which German aircraft company, or aircraft, the Japanese had supposedly copied their design of the bomber. The only consistent feature of American assessments was that it had to be a copy of something.

Numerous reports which detailed fictional aircraft also surfaced during the period, and regardless of how absurd the report was, aircraft which existed only in American imaginations were given corresponding European designs that the Japanese supposedly had copied. William D. Puleston, the Director of Naval Intelligence from 1934-1937, assumed, without evidence, in his 1941 book that contemporary American planes were faster, more maneuverable and better designed than their Japanese counterparts, partly because the Japanese lacked inventive capabilities. This assumption would last well into the war itself. The Ki-61-I, an IJAAS fighter, was given the Allied codename 'Tony' because, after it was first confused for a Bf-109 produced under license, the Americans assumed it was a copy of an Italian design due to its superficial European-style appearance. The plane was actually an indigenous design that only made use of a DB-601A inline engine produced under license.

"Japanese unoriginality" was included in almost every report from the period. Anything which contradicted this prevailing view was downplayed or ignored outright. All of Japan's main combat aircraft from the late 1930s onward were indigenous designs. Many of these aircraft had been observed, or test flown, and the information sent back in numerous reports. Yet American observers either misidentified them as foreign copies without evidence, or failed to make the connection between one example of a capable Japanese aircraft design and the wider implication that Japanese industry was self-sufficient, and producing first-rate aircraft. This view combined with strategic surprise and shaped the initial shock which surrounded the capabilities of the Japanese air services during the start of the war. A nation which was assumed to possess a large number of obsolescent foreign copies actually had entire fleets of indigenous aircraft that were roughly equivalent to their foreign contemporaries.

Detailed assessments of Japanese personnel became scarce, but had negative conclusions. After the indecision of the early and mid 1930s, American observers concluded that Japanese personnel were of poor quality when they entered the war with China. While that experience increased this level of competence, Japanese pilots and mechanics were viewed as inferior to their western counterparts. Chinese assessments of the skill of Japanese pilots were largely ignored due to American dismissal of the Republic of China Air Force. Deliberate improvements of Japanese aerial tactics were also ignored, and occasionally misinterpreted as incompetence. Ethnocentrism and "national characteristics" were all-pervasive in this reporting. The overall impression was that the Japanese air services had began the war in China poor, and their experienced had helped them improve to a level of second-rate mediocrity.

What of American industrial and strategic-level assessments? They were consistently great. All together now: In short, Japan didn't have enough of anything, and the Americans knew it. Skilled labour? Not enough. Raw materials of virtually every description? Not enough. Machine tools? Not enough. Pilots? Not enough. Aircraft? Not enough. They weren't going to win a protracted air war with the United States. The initial shock that the Japanese air services were technologically and tactically first-rate did not prove decisive despite strategic surprise increasing the impact of mistakes made in low-level assessments. Ultimately, the industrial and strategic weaknesses of Japan were the deciding factors in the conflict, something which the Americans had been predicting since the 1920s.

In the words of a much smarter man than myself:

Greg Kennedy notes that to view “low-level successes as demonstrative of the overall ability of Japan to manifest effective, modern air power is to misunderstand fundamentally the core attributes of air power.”


Summary of Reports:
Technology and Tactics: Awful
Personnel: Poor
Industrial Strength and Strategic Issues: Accurate


Naval Power from 1920-1941
Spoiler : :
http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/images/A/k/Akatsuki__class_oni_full.jpg

The reason I will discuss naval power in one section, versus the three sections used for air power, is because American intelligence assessments of the IJN remained mostly consistent for the entire period. They never went through the radical shifts in quality that occurred with assessments of air power. Overall, assessments of the IJN could be described as "consistently mediocre." They never reached the dizzying heights of the 1920s assessments of air power, but also never reached the sickening lows of the air power assessments in the late 1930s. Part of the reason for this consistency in reporting was the Japanese were never as open with the progress of their fleet as they were with their air services. The IJN's surface fleet was virtually self-sufficient throughout the entire interwar period. Sure, they produced "such-and-such" knick-knack under license here or there, but it was out of convenience rather than necessity. Without a need for extensive foreign assistance, there was also no need to be so open about what their fleet was doing. One such example of the kind of Japanese secrecy regarding their fleet:

During the 1927 grand fleet manoeuvres, American destroyers deliberately steamed into the path of the Japanese force in an effort to gather as much intelligence as possible. As they neared Akagi, her escorts interposed themselves and laid a smokescreen to conceal flight operations. A similar event occurred in 1934, when a division of American destroyers accidentally found itself in the midst of an IJN exercise. As they made their way between the light forces and the battle line they were overtaken and harassed by several warships, including the flagship of the Japanese force. Despite these disruptions, the Americans saw two aircraft carriers operating together. The carriers’ plane guard destroyers immediately laid smoke in front of their charges in an attempt to prevent any observation. However, the commander of the American destroyers decided to seize the initiative and steamed through the smokescreen. He observed several landings, which went “very well” and also noted that these operations had been carried out in poor weather “with apparent ease and safety.” In the conclusion of the report, the American commander described the actions of the Japanese, and the laying of smoke in particular, as “most discourteous.”


The Americans made liberal use of "mirror imaging" in their reporting of the IJN. If the motto of the assessments regarding air power was "if we don't know, assume they are worse than us." The motto of assessments regarding naval power was "if we don't know, assume they are probably about as good as us." American observers conducted a large amount of "bean counting," comparing the amount of available combat power in both navies, right down to the number of gun barrels and torpedo tubes. Of course, at the very heart of this type of analysis was the assumption that the technology of both navies was at worst roughly equivalent qualitatively, and at best the Americans had the advantage. The possibility that the Japanese could develop any tactic or technology which was superior to the Americans never crossed their minds. "Mirror imaging" was most accurately summarised by a comment in Puleston's 1941 book:

It is apparent that a naval campaign in the western pacific would be a clash of two well-prepared navies, with ships of the same types, organized in similar formations, trained along similar lines, imbued with similar tactical ideas.


This was far from the case in reality, but such assumptions were not always disastrous. After all, it was much better to assume your opponent would be roughly as good as you, than to assume your opponent was far worse. The largest negative consequence of "mirror imaging" was when the two sides clashed in several night engagements off Guadalcanal. The Americans had badly neglected night training in the interwar years. Night manoeuvres were infrequent, heavily scripted and unrealistic. To say that the Americans had a pre-war night fighting doctrine is not entirely accurate, because it implies there was uniformity in training and tactical ideas. However, when the forces were thrown together under Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan in order to stop the planned Japanese bombardment of Henderson Field in November 1942, the formation lacked a common understanding of how to engage an enemy at night. In sharp contrast, the Japanese had trained rigorously, possessed a firm night fighting doctrine, had an entire formation dedicated to such an action, and would give a good account of themselves as a result. They had the best night optics in the world, and many of their vessels had been designed with torpedo-centric night attacks in mind. The Americans had identified Japan's emphasis on night fighting before the war, but these warnings were ignored because there was an assumption that it was impossible for the IJN to be superior to their American counterparts in any endeavour.

American observers' assumption that their navy could not be surpassed by the Japanese was the driving force behind the refusal to acknowledge that the IJN was using torpedoes larger than 21", despite dozens of reports to the contrary. It would take until April 1943, over twenty years since they had been approved for usage in the IJN, for ONI to acknowledge that Japan was using 24" torpedoes. The Americans refused to acknowledge that the Japanese carried a large number of torpedo reloads on board their warships, and that most of their ships were capable of reloading them in combat. They also miscounted the number of torpedo tubes which the Japanese had on their cruisers. Overall, the Americans underestimated the number of torpedoes the Japanese could fire in a given engagement by over 100%. Of course, the quality of Japanese torpedoes was also ignored. The Americans used their own Mark XV as the benchmark for Japanese torpedo quality, while the Type 93 was superior in every way, even when the former managed to function at all. Now with this information in mind, look at that ONI assessment of the Fubuki-class at the top of this post.

However, "mirror imaging" did work when assessing the Japanese battle line. Sure, there were doctrinal differences between the two sides, but nothing so Earth-shattering that "mirror imaging" wasn't useful. The Americans did a good job of tracking the modernisation of Japan's old battle wagons. Generally, their assessments of displacements were off by several thousand tons, but the capabilities of the ships were largely known. The most notable error in the assessments of Japan's aging battle line was the speed of the Kongo-class fast battleships, which remained unknown until the midst of the Guadalcanal campaign (they assumed 26 knots). Overall, the Americans had all the information they needed regarding the older battleships through simple "bean counting." People can bicker about the quality of armour, shell penetration values, fire control, etc. until they are blue in the face. At the end of the day, Japan's old battleships were roughly equivalent to the United States' old battleships from similar eras, except the Americans had more of them and then some. This was the ultimate conclusion of American observers at the time.

Now, I can see some of you getting antsy about a certain 71,000 ton elephant in the room. I'm not going to get into extreme detail regarding the Yamato-class since I feel the story is pretty well known (unless you want me to add more). They were designed and constructed under an insane amount of secrecy. One of the most important acts of deception was hiding the money required for construction behind a number of fictitious destroyers in the budget submitted to the diet, as the Americans used debates in the diet as a major source for determining the IJN's order of battle. The confusion regarding the rumoured battleships would last through to the end of the Second World War. As late as December 1944, the Yamato-class were listed in ONI's identification and technical handbook at 9x16" guns and 45,000 tons. Here is one amusing anecdote about the Yamato-class from the late 1930s:

The secrecy which surrounded the construction of the battleships paradoxically worked to increase American suspicions that they were larger than 35,000 tons. In June 1939, Hanson Baldwin, the naval correspondent for the New York Times, wanted to get a statement from the Japanese that they were not building battleships that were 45,000 tons or larger. He was against the United States building its own expensive monsters, and therefore wanted a Japanese statement to use as ammunition to shut down the USN’s ambitions. The request for information was sent to the Japanese Navy Ministry and the reply came back that the IJN could not confirm nor deny that Japan was constructing “super-battleships.” The New York Times Tokyo correspondent was told that certain officers in the IJN were willing to state definitely and in writing that Japan was not building, and would never build, “super-battleships.” However, they were overruled by the Navy Minister. On another occasion, an IJN spokesman denied that Japan was building any ships “of 40,000 or 45,000 tons.” This was technically correct, and one of the Japanese admirals present “was unable to suppress a smile.”


I was going to include the examples of the Mogami-class cruisers and aircraft carriers in this post, but this section is already extremely long. Therefore, I will leave them out unless I'm asked.

Assessments of Japanese naval personnel were largely positive, but often mentioned what the Americans viewed as a lack of ocean-going experience. The most frequent conclusion in reports which concerned Japanese personnel was a lack of initiative. In many cases, such criticism was mostly unfounded. Instead, it relied on assumptions about the Japanese people. Stuff like this was common (though usually not as negative):

[The Japanese naval officer] fears responsibility and is reluctant to assume it. This is due to his superficial knowledge of most subjects and his consequent lack of self confidence...The Japanese as a people are superficial and shallow and they almost never thoroughly master any subject, since they lack application and are led by pride and conceit and the fear of being thought slow or stupid to declare they understand a subject long before they do...The Japanese originate practically nothing. They are almost entirely lacking in the inventive faculty. Even as copyists they almost invariably produce a distinctly inferior article.


What about operational, strategic and industrial-level issues? They were all great. The Japanese openly detailed and bragged about their interception-attrition operations, so the generalities of the IJN's operational and strategic concepts were known to the Americans well before the war. As for industry? Well. I won't bother copy/pasting what I have said previously. The Americans knew Japan didn't have what it needed to fight them over the long term, hence why War Plan Orange's final form was a slow, methodical advance toward the Home Islands. In the end, these broader assessments mattered more than missing certain technical issues. Sure, not have a good understanding of Japanese night fighting and torpedo warfare capabilities hurt in the short term, but in the end Japan was ground to dust fighting an enemy that was, to many Japanese decision makers, incomprehensibly wealthy, industrious, rich in natural resources and determined. This is the real main underlying point. The Americans did not just blindly stumble into being a nearly indestructible, massive war machine. They actively planned for, and assessed their possible enemies, with this important assumption in mind.

Here is a quote from yet another man smarter than myself. It can easily be applied to American assessments of Japanese naval power as well:

Christopher Bell states that “British naval intelligence [regarding the Japanese] is often presented as a matter of incompetence leading to disaster, but it is better seen as a case of mediocrity leading nowhere at all.”


Summary of Reports:
Technology and Tactics: Poor
Personnel: Mediocre
Industrial, Operational and Strategic Issues: Accurate
Last edited by Admiral Piett on Sun 21 Feb 2016 00:44, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Blinded by the Rising Sun?: American Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air and Naval Power, 1920-1941

Postby Admiral Piett » Sat 5 Dec 2015 20:55

Additional Information

Aircraft Carriers
Spoiler : :
American intelligence regarding Japanese aircraft carriers or, heck, the interaction of aircraft with the rest of the Japanese fleet, was practically nonexistent. I read thousands of reports and other such things, and the number of ones that dealt with aircraft carriers, carrier doctrine, seaplanes, etc. was under 30. Now, since I didn't see every single report they filed, it is possible I just didn't find several boxes of them at NARA talking about carriers, but I don't think that was the case as I did read a very good sample and other historians of the subject have been rather vague on this issue as well. Anyway, the majority of reports concerning the interaction between aircraft and the fleet was regarding the installation of seaplanes on battleships and cruisers. Even then, these reports were focused almost exclusively on "this ship does or does not have a seaplane," and which ships were thought to have planes changed practically every report. That was a hazard of basing the information on "I saw Nagato from a couple miles and I think it had a seaplane." (WARNING Large Photo):

http://i.imgur.com/h42HD0m.jpg

As for information regarding aircraft carriers. Well, the Americans had a pretty good idea what the capabilities of individual vessels were by the time the war started. What they didn't know was how the Japanese were going to use them, and how good they were at using them. The latter question was easily decided however. Since the use of aircraft carriers was closely linked with the use of aircraft, that meant the "if we don't know, assume they are worse than us" motto applied. Therefore, without any evidence the Americans assumed they would be greatly superior in their use of carriers. The question of how the Japanese would use carriers was nearly impossible to answer due to intense Japanese secrecy (of which I posted one such example in the original post on naval intelligence above), which was combined with the fact that the Japanese didn't know what they were going to do with their aircraft carriers until practically right before the war. The Americans were aware of this confusion, as at one point a question they sent to the Navy Ministry in the late 1920s received such a confused response that the American naval attaché concluded the Japanese had no freaking clue how to answer it. The Japanese first thought of forming a carrier doctrine in 1928, when they formed First Carrier Division (at that time Akagi, Kaga and Hosho). However, this idea died off due to general confusion as to where these new-fangled things would fit. Finally, in 1939 the Japanese Naval Staff College sat down and decided to pen an air operations section for the IJN's battle instructions. The final pieces of the revolutionary system Japan would fight most of the war with did not come into being until the formation of First Air Fleet in April 1941! Even then, the final form of First Air Fleet did not appear until September of that year, when Third Carrier Division (Hosho and Ryujo) was detached and replaced by the brand new Fifth Carrier Division (Shokaku and Zuikaku). There was just no time for the Americans to determine what the Japanese were doing before they got to learn first hand. However, that is no excuse for not at least attempting to "mirror image" their capabilities onto the Japanese, like they did for the surface forces. It was the most the Americans could have done given that the only information they had was an occasional report vaguely describing Japanese aircraft landing on their carriers that somebody witnessed from several miles off.


The Mogami-class: A tale of what not to do in ship design, but don't worry because it all worked out in the end and it confused the heck out of western observers
Spoiler : :
Image
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Mogami-1.jpg

I consider the Mogami-class cruisers to be the most difficult technical question which faced American intelligence officers during the interwar period. Japanese secrecy combined with deception and unintentional disastrous design errors to cloud the actual capabilities of the vessels well into the war. The signing of the 1930 London Naval Treaty brought with it restrictions on the number of cruisers that the signatories could construct. Japan had reached its tonnage limit in heavy cruisers and therefore was only able to construct new light cruisers under the treaty. It officially accepted these restrictions and set out to build four 8,500 ton light cruisers armed with 6.1" guns. In secret, the Naval General Staff, which issued the design requirements for new warships, demanded that the Mogami-class be capable of rapidly switching out the 6.1" guns for 8" guns in the event of Japan's withdrawal from the Washington Treaty System. The capabilities laid out by the Naval General Staff were virtually identical to those of 10,000 ton heavy cruisers, but they demanded those capabilities out of ships intended to be 1,500 tons lighter. Large scale electric welding of the hull, machinery and fittings was to be used in an effort to save weight. Even so, the paper design proposed by the naval architects was already 1,000 tons heavier than the original requirement. Once completed, Mogami displaced 11,169 tons, breaking the treaty limits and displacing far more than the Japanese intended.

This was not an isolated event, as many of Japan's destroyers, cruisers and torpedo boats were all well over their designed weights and/or had poor dynamic stability. In March 1934, Tomozuru, a brand new torpedo boat, capsized in a storm after its roll reached 40-45 degrees. In September 1935, the Fourth Fleet encountered a typhoon while on exercise and many ships suffered heavy damage. The rolls of Fubuki-class destroyers reached upwards of 70 degrees, and the entire bow section of Yugiri was broken off forward of the bridge. Investigations into these disasters led to sweeping changes among all the light surface forces in the IJN, and future designs were revised to incorporate the lessons learned.

What of Mogami? Well. Her sea trials were an unmitigated disaster. The ship literally burst at the seams as the welding used as a weight saving measure failed spectacularly. Frames and side stringers in the vicinity of the propellers were distorted, attached shell plates loosened and several fuel tanks ruptured. Even more embarrassingly, the side plates in the bow buckled and the entire hull distorted because of wave action, which damaged the training of two turrets. The ship had nearly destroyed itself through the simple act of sailing. As a side note, I'm going with Lacroix and Wells' description of events, as other sources mention the gunnery trials being when the ship came apart at the seams. Either way, this (plus the Tomozuru and Fourth Fleet Incidents) was a massive and, more importantly for our purposes, public string of embarrassments. The Mogami-class were all heavily revised, reconstructed and basically fixed before the war. The final displacement ended up at just shy of 14,000 tons. Almost double what the original requirement had called for.

Fletcher Pratt, a popular writer of the period, relayed the story of Mogami's sea trials with its welded hull, concluding that "the whole story is typical. The Japanese are extremely ingenious at thinking up clever tricks, but the ocean, an institution without a psychology, persistently refused to be tricked." He stated that the problem was impossible to fix, and that the latest reports indicated two of the ships had one turret removed and the others were being modified with fewer guns. In 1940, United States Naval Institute proceedings debated whether one or more turrets had been removed to improve the ships' seaworthiness. In fact, the Mogami-class, as we know, was successfully up-gunned. This was even admitted publicly by Vice Admiral Baron Hiraga Yuzuru, one of Japan's most important naval architects.

This change did not go unnoticed by the American naval attaché in Tokyo. You can actually look at his entire report on the Mogami-class at the top of the original post (it is the example I used). However, the Bureau of Ordnance immediately dismissed the report, stating that the ship`s design could not tolerate the weight of the new turrets. In 1941, Puleston still stated that the Mogami-class were armed with 6" guns and displaced 8,500 tons, the official figure released by the IJN. The ships had never displaced that amount, even in paper form, but the American belief in the official figure was reinforced by the disastrous sea trials. They assumed the ships were barely seaworthy light cruisers, while the Japanese had successfully reconstructed them into highly capable, and large, heavy cruisers which would go on to do great service during the war. The Americans would not learn of their true size and armament until this photo was taken in the aftermath of the Battle of Midway:

Image

Interestingly, that was all the Americans needed to immediately estimate their displacement at 14,000 tons (see the ONI rendering above). American assessments that an 8,500 cruiser could not possibly have 15 6" guns, or 10 8" guns was entirely correct. The problem was the cruisers were never 8,500 tons. Ironically, the Americans likely would have accurately assessed the ships' capabilities before the war if the initial Japanese design had not been so badly flawed.


Visits to Tateyama Naval Air Station: A Case Study in Japanese Information Security
Spoiler : :
One rather useful example of the gradual increase in Japanese secrecy regarding its air power during the 1930s was the quality of American inspections of air stations. These inspections occurred with regularity, in some cases more than once a year, and had been an important source of information on the quality of Japanese aircraft, aerial tactics and personnel.

1930
The first tour of Tateyama Naval Air Station occurred in December 1930, only four months after it was opened.

Japanese Hosts: Answered all questions openly and one officer even expressed his low opinion of the enlisted men on site.

Extensiveness of the Inspection: The Americans were allowed to enter the machine shop, which was only partially equipped, along with pretty much all other facilities of interest. Descriptions of the buildings and what was inside them were detailed.

1932
The next inspection occurred in January 1932, reflecting a shift in access.

Japanese Hosts: The officer conducting the tour spoke English, but would only make small talk about issues other than the military or aviation.

Extensiveness of the Inspection: While many of the air station's buildings were entered, the descriptions were noticeably less detailed than the 1930 report. The naval attaché commented that "the desire seemed to be to make our visit as pleasant as possible without divulging any pertinent information."

1933
The 1933 inspection revealed the first sign of American frustration about the increasing secrecy of the Japanese.

Japanese Hosts: Couldn't really get any useful information out of them at all.

Extensiveness of the Inspection: This report was substantially shorter than the first two, and was mostly filled with complaints concerning their lack of access to the facilities. In one specific instance, the report noted that "one hangar" had been entered. The phrase was underlined, with extra emphasis scribbled around "one," as if the reader was frustrated that no others had been inspected.

1935
The 1935 inspection was actually considerably more detailed than the one which had occurred in 1933. However, it was still less informative than those of 1930 and 1932.

Japanese Hosts: The most interesting piece of information was the noticeable enlargement of a number of hangers on site. When one of the American officers asked about this change, the Japanese officer escorting them answered, to the surprise of everyone. He stated that the air station was preparing to receive "much larger bombers" of a new type (these were G3M1s, which were just about to enter service). I may be reading into things too much, but the way the naval attaché described the Japanese officer's response, seemed to reveal a level of pride. Like he was bragging about how far the IJNAS had come.

Extensiveness of the Inspection: The naval attaché rated the inspection as "very good" and noted that access had been granted to "all reasonable areas and with fairly free discussion." This revealed that although Japanese secrecy was increasing throughout the 1930s, such security measures varied by location and the officer in charge of escorting the observers.

1936
Any optimism that may have been generated from the relatively open 1935 inspection was quickly crushed. The 1936 report was vague and generic.

Japanese Hosts: The Americans were escorted by two Japanese officers who had been at the station for less than a month. Neither spoke any English, and both professed an almost complete lack of knowledge of local affairs or aviation. The naval attaché believed that the selection of such escorts was made to prevent the Americans from gaining any useful information.

Extensiveness of the Inspection: The tour of the air station was rushed, with their Japanese guides claiming they should move through in about 20 minutes. The Americans managed to stretch this time to four hours, of which about one hour was used for inspecting. The conclusion of the report generically stated that "Tateyama Naval Air Station is a modern and well-equipped establishment," but few details of any use were included. Interestingly, the 1936 inspection of Saeki Naval Air Station included, word-for-word, the vague conclusion of Tateyama's 1936 inspection report. This seems to indicate that due to a lack of meaningful information gained in later inspections, the naval attaché began to write reports to a kind of template which would allow them to superficially maintain some length, but lacked the content which was found before 1936.

I found no inspection reports for Tateyama Naval Air Station after 1936.


Trial by Fire: Japanese Aerial Tactics and the War in China
Spoiler : :
Image

The aerial tactics used by the Japanese air services were virtually unknown to American observers as soon as Japan moved away from rigidly following western methods. This was particularly true after the start of the war in China, which spurred the Japanese into making many of the same tactical revisions that other air powers would make independently over the late 1930s and into the war.

Surprisingly little reporting discussed Japanese aerial performance in China. Those few reports provided a more balanced, and accurate, assessment of Japanese capabilities compared to the heavily ethnocentric and out-dated reports which originated in Japan. One reported a "rapid increase" in quality of the IJAAS and IJNAS due to the war, especially the combat experience gained through the operations of large units. Occasionally, Chinese pilots were interviewed on their combat experience against the Japanese. Another report from September 1940 concluded that dive bombing by the IJAAS and IJNAS was "very poor," while horizontal bombing had "improved tremendously." Discipline among IJNAS medium (Japanese "heavy") bombers was rated "excellent" and the carrier air groups were given particularly high praise. The most important piece of information provided by Chinese pilots was that the Japanese sent fighter escorts with their bombers whenever possible.

Positive reports of Japanese pilots from the naval attaché's office, particularly from Chinese aviators, were rare. Moreover, given the mixed quality of the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF), their views concerning Japanese capabilities easily could be dismissed. The rapid pre-war expansion of the ROCAF had been overseen almost entirely by the Italians, and the Chinese carred many of the same flaws as their advisors, like rating all pilots, regardless of ability, as "combat ready" after completing basic flight training. This led to situations where American observers witnessed combat certified Chinese pilots turn into a stall and crash in their trainers. However, the observations of the Chinese pilots were correct and, on occasion, they overcame the Japanese air services by massing greater numbers of aircraft, as in the air battle over Wuhan on April 29, 1938.

Japan had a lot of difficulties at the beginning of the war in China, as they learned to grapple with the realities of modern air war. All other air powers faced similar learning experiences at different times. The Americans overlooked most of these changes, and sometimes identified them as weaknesses. The IJNAS lost 828 men and 1,169 aircraft in four years of air combat in China (1937-1941), most early on, while Chinese resistance remained high. The bomber branch was the hardest hit since it was initially left unescorted on missions. As a result, the Japanese quickly realised the necessity of fighter escort for bomber aircraft. The same pattern would repeat itself during the Combined Bomber Offensive against Germany.

Specific tactical reforms also took place. The three-plane shotai was the basic tactical unit of the Japanese air services at the start of the war in China. This formation was a copy of the British "vic." Combat experience in China quickly revealed that the shotai was too tight, and needed to be loosened in order to increase tactical flexibility. Larger spacing let individual aircraft manoeuvre freely without being restricted by the close proximity of their wingmen. The assistant naval attaché for air witnessed this revised shotai in 1939. He complimented the "perfect" formation, but added that it was "very open," implying that instead of being a deliberate and positive change, the Japanese were flying further apart because they could not hold the formation tighter. Another element of the shotai which may have thrown off foreign observers was the way pilots conducted themselves in combat. The formation was loose, and the wingmen used complex manoeuvres to protect each other. To an outside observer, these manoeuvres appeared disorganised, which was not the case. Whenever one member of a shotai was attacked, the others would envelop the aggressor.

The combat discipline of individual Japanese pilots increased exponentially with experience. They moved from the "traditional, 1v1 showman like duels" of the First World War, where tactical formations were mostly ignored, to formation-based aerial tactics. The "Chungking Method" was developed by the Japanese in the aerial engagements in the late 1930s. Pilots were trained to engage only when the situation was advantageous, through local numerical superiority, superior energy and/or a state of tactical surprise. Sound familiar? Well, Japanese and American aviators were trained along nearly identical lines in this regard. Right down to a preference for deflection shooting rather than tail chasing. Sakai Saburo's memoir is full of textbook descriptions of using the same "boom and zoom" tactics which the Americans employed with great success against the Japanese. The fighter tactics of both nations easily could be interchanged. Both relied on energy fighting, but the Japanese exploited the low speed manoeuvrability of their aircraft when the situation allowed it.

Ironically, the highly manoeuvrable and light Ki-43 and Zero were ill suited to the type of combat which Japanese pilots adopted. Subsequent versions of the Zero, and all later fighter designs, were adjusted to fit this tactical shift. This early contradiction between tactics and technology was noted by Mogami Sadao, an IJAAS fighter pilots, who praised his Ki-43-I for manoeuvrability, but complained that he could not catch P-40s if they refused to enter a turn fight. His unit requested that it be allowed to use captured P-40s, which was denied. Overall, Japanese aerial tactics were as effective at the start of the war as those of their opponents. However, many intelligence reports and open source works claimed, without evidence, that American pilots decisively outclassed their Japanese counterparts. In this instance, the Americans would have been better off projecting their tactical capabilities onto the Japanese ("mirror imaging"), but this never occurred.


Final Paragraph of the Actual Thesis
Spoiler : :
This work is the first to compare American assessments of Japanese air and naval power side-by-side at all levels, from tactics and technology to strategy and industry. It shows that the Japanese air services were more underestimated than the IJN, and in both cases, their most innovative rather than their more conventional components, with a larger impact during the war. The American realisation of the quality of Japanese air power occurred right from the outset of the war, paired with the surprise of the initial attacks, magnifying its significance. Japanese air power was the primary hammer wielded during the opening operations, while the IJN fought in a few small engagements or acted as an aircraft delivery system. Since the IJN never exploited its superiority on the battle line as it hoped, American failures in assessing these areas proved irrelevant. The shock from the early part of the war came from the quality of Japanese air power, not its surface fleet: the legendary reputation of IJNAS aviators and the Zero still feature in histories to this day. A consistently middling assessment of the IJN’s capabilities proved less damaging than a decline from excellence to ignorance in assessment of the Japanese air services. The American underestimation of Japanese air and naval power gave Japan a small, but not insignificant, force multiplier during the early part of the war. American pilots were caught off guard by the quality of Japanese aircraft and pilots they confronted, and many were shot down in the midst of their bewilderment. The USN found itself being schooled in the art of night fighting and torpedo warfare by a navy which American observers had assumed would be at most equal to themselves. It was in these specific instances of combat where incorrect assessments of Japanese air and naval power mattered. Ultimately, these errors did not prove decisive. The accurate assumption that Japan could not win a prolonged war of attrition against the United States was what mattered most. However, the errors in assessing Japanese tactics and technology were not irrelevant. In their haste to predict the setting of the Sun, the Americans failed to appreciate the danger of its rise.


Raw Intelligence Reports (WARNING All Large Photos)

“Third Replenishment Program (Capital Ship Construction),” January 20 1938, Selected Naval Attaché Reports Relating to the World Crisis, 1937-1943, Roll 2, RG 38, NA.


“Capital Ship Construction,” January 16 1939, Selected Naval Attaché Reports Relating to the World Crisis, 1937-1943, Roll 2, RG 38, NA.


E-8-a 10588, “Notes on Japanese Naval Officers,” August 19 1920, Naval Attaché Reports, 1886-1939, Box 730, RG 38, NA.


E-8-a 1752, “Naval Torpedo School,” March 15 1937, Naval Attaché Reports, 1886-1939, Box 726, RG 38, NA.
Spoiler : :
Note the Japanese lies and half-truths in this one. They had 24" torpedoes in service since the early 1920s (with designs ready since 1917 if I remember correctly), an electric torpedo since 1932 (To my knowledge development of it was abandoned, but the report made it sound like no electric torpedoes were in use. The Type 92 was used during the war.) and the Type 93 "Long Lance" since 1935. Overall, the Japanese were world leaders in torpedo development. Of particular interest is the "hurried visit" to a 21" inch torpedo. From the description, it seems that the Japanese were unnerved by the American question concerning torpedo size and decided to try and convince them that nothing larger than 21" was in use.
Page 1: http://i.imgur.com/uD8oErS.jpg
Page 2: http://i.imgur.com/pPIqhES.jpg
Page 3: http://i.imgur.com/w6VI1DR.jpg


F-10-d 16788-F, “Night Training and Operations,” October 18 1934, Naval Attaché Reports, 1886-1939, Box 884, RG 38, NA.
Spoiler : :
The devil is in the details with this one. Note the underlined phrase "German system" ("evidence" that the Japanese can't innovate) and the "?" written beside the second last paragraph by the reader.
Page 1: http://i.imgur.com/VVLAIJg.jpg
Page 2: http://i.imgur.com/2xFf3LV.jpg
Page 3: http://i.imgur.com/EOaQO3Q.jpg


A-1-a 21684, “British Estimate of Japanese Aviation,” February 11 1935, Naval Attaché Reports, 1886-1939, Box 10, RG 38, NA; A-1-a 21684, “British Estimate of Japanese Aviation, Continued,” May 1 1935, Naval Attaché Reports, 1886-1939, Box 10, RG 38, NA.


C-2-a 13755, “Visit to Sasebo Naval Station,” January 7 1924, Naval Attaché Reports, 1886-1939, Box 404, RG 38, NA.


“Operating Schedule of the Japanese Combined Fleet,” June 20 1939, Naval Attaché Records, 1939-1941, 1939 File 89-164, RG 38, NA.


“Comment on Japanese Air Force by Chinese Aviators,” September 17 1940, Naval Attaché Records, 1939-1941, 1940 File 125-202, RG 38, NA.


2342-192, "Yokosuka Dockyard," May 31 1941, US Military Intelligence Reports, Japan, 1918-1941, Reel 26, University Press of America.


A-1-a 21684, “Visit to Japan of American Aircraft Representative,” September 18 1935, Naval Attaché Reports, 1886-1939, Box 10, RG 38, NA.


Further Reading (Selections from my bibliography)

Pacific War Intelligence
Spoiler : :
Allen, Louis. "Japanese Intelligence Systems." Journal of Contemporary History 22 (1987): 547-562.

Baker III, A.D., ed. Japanese Naval Vessels of World War Two as seen by U.S. Naval Intelligence. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987.

Bell, Christopher M. “The Royal Navy, War Planning, and Intelligence Assessments of Japan, 1921-1941.” In Intelligence and Statecraft: The Use and Limits of Intelligence in International Society, ed. Peter Jackson and Jennifer Siegel. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2005.

Drea, Edward. "Missing Intentions: Japanese Intelligence and the Soviet Invasion of Manchuria, 1945." Military Affairs 48:2 (1984): 66-73.

Drea, Edward. "Reading Each Other's Mail: Japanese Communication Intelligence, 1920-1941." The Journal of Military History 55:2 (1991): 185-206.

Ferris, John. “‘Consistent with an Intention’: The Far East Combined Bureau and the Outbreak of the Pacific War, 1940-41.” Intelligence and National Security 27:1 (2012): 5-26.

Ferris, John. Intelligence and Strategy: Selected Essays. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Ferris, John. “‘Worthy of Some Better Enemy?’: The British Estimate of the Imperial Japanese Army, 1919-1941, and the Fall of Singapore.” Canadian Journal of History 28:2 (1993): 223-256.

Ford, Douglas. "'A Conquerable Yet Resilient Foe': British Perceptions of the Imperial Japanese Army's Tactics on the India-Burma Front, September 1942 to Summer 1944." Intelligence and National Security 18:1 (2003): 65-90.

Ford, Douglas. "British Intelligence on Japanese Army Morale during the Pacific War: Logical Analysis or Racial Stereotyping?" The Journal of Military History 69:2 (2005): 439-474.

Ford, Douglas. "Strategic Culture, Intelligence Assessment, and the Conduct of the Pacific War: The British-Indian and Imperial Japanese Armies in Comparison, 1941-1945." War in History 14:1 (2007): 63-95.

Ford, Douglas. “‘The Best Equipped Army in Asia’?: U.S. Military Intelligence and the Imperial Japanese Army before the Pacific War, 1919-1941.” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 21:5 (2008): 86-121.

Ford, Douglas. The Elusive Enemy: U.S. Naval Intelligence and the Imperial Japanese Fleet. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2011.

Ford, Douglas. "US Assessments of Japanese Ground Warfare Tactics and the Army's Campaigns in the Pacific Theatres, 1943-1945: Lessons Learned and Methods Applied." War in History 16:3 (2009): 325-358.

Ford, Douglas. “US Naval Intelligence and the Imperial Japanese Fleet during the Washington Treaty Era, c. 1922-36.” The Mariner’s Mirror 93:3 (2007): 281-306.

Kennedy, Greg. “Anglo-American Strategic Relations and Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air Power, 1934-1941.” The Journal of Military History 74:3 (2010): 737-773.

Kotani Ken. "Could Japan Read Allied Signal Traffic? Japanese Codebreaking and the Advance into French Indo-China, September 1940." Intelligence and National Security 20:2 (2005): 304-320.

Kotani Ken. Japanese Intelligence in World War II, trans. Chiharu Kotani. Botley: Osprey Publishing, 2009.

Leary, William M. "Assessing the Japanese Threat: Air Intelligence Prior to Pearl Harbor." Aerospace Historian 34:4 (1987): 272-277.

Mahnken, Thomas G. Uncovering Ways of War: U.S. Intelligence and Foreign Military Innovation, 1918-1941. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002.

Muir Jr., Malcolm. “Rearming in a Vacuum: United States Navy Intelligence and the Japanese Capital Ship Threat, 1936-1945.” The Journal of Military History, 54:4 (1990): 473-485.

Pratt, Fletcher. Sea Power and Today’s War. New York: Harrison-Hilton Books, 1939.

Puleston, W.D. The Armed Forces of the Pacific: A Comparison of the Military and Naval Power of the United States and Japan. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1941.

Spector, Ronald H., ed. Listening to the Enemy: Key Documents on the Role of Communications Intelligence in the War with Japan. Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 1988.

Tully, Anthony and Lu Yu. “A Question of Estimates: How Faulty Intelligence Drove Scouting at the Battle of Midway.” Naval War College Review 68:2 (2015): 85-99.


General - Primary
Spoiler : :
Cook, Haruko Taya and Theodore F. Cook. Japan at war: An Oral History. New York: The New Press, 1992.

Goldstein, Donald M. and Katherine V. Dillon, ed. The Pacific War Papers: Japanese Documents of World War II. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2004.

Hara Tameichi, Fred Saito and Roger Pineau. Japanese Destroyer Captain: Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Midway - The Great Naval Battles as Seen Through Japanese Eyes. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987.

Horikoshi Jiro. Eagles of Mitsubishi: The Story of the Zero Fighter, trans. Shojiro Shindo and Harold N. Wantiez. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1981.

Sakai Saburo, Martin Caidin and Fred Saito. Samurai!. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1991.


General - Secondary
Spoiler : :
Fighter Combat Comparisons No. 1: Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat vs. Mitsubishi J2M3 Model 21 Raiden ('Jack'). Teaneck: Tacitus Publications, 1989.

Agawa Hiroyuki. The Reluctant Admiral: Yamamoto and the Imperial Navy, trans. John Bester. New York: Kodansha America, 2000.

Asada Sadao. From Mahan to Pearl Harbor: The Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2006.

Barnhart, Michael A. Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security, 1919-1941. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987.

Bartsch, William H. December 8, 1941: MacArthur's Pearl Harbor. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2003.

Bartsch, William H. Doomed at the Start: American Pursuit Pilots in the Philippines, 1941-1942. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992.

Bartsch, William H. Every Day a Nightmare: American Pursuit Pilots in the Defense of Java, 1941-1942. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2010.

Beregerud, Eric M. Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific. New York: Basic Books, 2009.

Blair Jr., Clay. Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War against Japan. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2001.

Boyd, Carl and Akihiko Yoshida. The Japanese Submarine Force and World War II. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2002.

Chesneau, Roger, ed. Conway's all the World's Fighting Ships, 1922-1946. London: Conway, 1980.

Coox, Alvin D. Nomonhan: Japan against Russia, 1939. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990.

Dower, John W. War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986.

Dull, Paul S. A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2007.

Evans, David and Mark R. Peattie. Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2012.

Ferris, John. "A British 'Unofficial' Aviation Mission and Japanese Naval Developments, 1919-1929." Journal of Strategic Studies 5:3 (1982): 416-439.

Ford, Douglas. "A Statement of Hopes? The effectiveness of US and British naval war plans against Japan, 1920-1941." The Mariner's Mirror 101:1 (2015): 63-80.

Francillon, Rene J. Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War. 2nd ed. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1979.

Goldstein, Erik and John H. Maurer, ed. The Washington Naval Conference, 1921-22: Naval Rivalry, East Asian Stability and the Road to Pearl Harbor. London: Frank Cass, 1994.

Hagiwara Mitsuru. "The Japanese Air Campaigns in China, 1937-1945." In The Battle for China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945, ed. Mark Peattie, Edward Drea and Hans Van de Ven. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011.

Harmsen, Peter. Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze. Havertown: Casemate Publishers, 2013.

Hirama Yoichi, "Japanese Naval Preparations for World War II." Naval War College Review 44:2 (1991): 63-81.

Hone, Trent. "'Give Them Hell': The US Navy's Night Combat Doctrine and the Campaign for Guadalcanal." War in History 13:2 (2006): 171-199.

Hornfischer, James D. Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal. New York: Bantam Books, 2011.

Jentschura, Hansgeorg, Dieter Jung and Peter Mickel. Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869-1945, trans. Antony Preston and J.D. Brown. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1977.

Jordon, John. Warships after Washington: The Development of the Five Major Fleets, 1922-1930. Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2011.

Kuehn, John T. Agents of Innovation: The General Board and the Design of the Fleet that Defeated the Japanese Navy. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008.

Lacroix, Eric and Linton Wells II. Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1997.

Letourneau, Roger and Dennis Letourneau. Operation KE: The Cactus Air Force and the Japanese Withdrawal from Guadalcanal. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2012.

Lundgren, Robert. The World Wonder'd: What Really Happened off Samar. Ann Arbor: Nimble Books, 2014.

Lundstrom, John B. The First Team and the Guadalcanal Campaign: Naval Fighter Combat from August to November 1942. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2005.

Lundstrom, John B. The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2005.

Mahnken, Thomas G. "Asymmetric Warfare at Sea: The Naval Battles off Guadalcanal, 1942-1943." Naval War College Review 64:1 (2011): 95-121.

Maurer, John H. and Christopher M. Bell, ed. At the Crossroads between Peace and War: The London Naval Conference of 1930. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014.

Miller, Edward S. Bankrupting the Enemy: The U.S. Financial Siege of Japan before Pearl Harbor. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2007.

Miller, Edward S. War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1991.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. 15 vols. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2010.

Nofi, Albert A. To Train the Fleet for War: The U.S. Navy Fleet Problems, 1923-1940. Newport: Naval War College Press, 2010.

Parshall, Jonathan B. and Anthony P. Tully. Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway. Washington D.C.: Potomac Books, 2005.

Pauer, Erich, ed. Japan's War Economy. New York: Routledge, 1999.

Peattie, Mark R. Sunburst: The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909-1941. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2001.

Prange, Gordon W., Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon. At Dawn we Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor. New York: Penguin Group, 1991.

Ritchie, Sebastian. Industry and Air Power: The Expansion of British Aircraft Production, 1935-41. London: Frank Cass & Co., 1997.

Rubenstein, Murray. Fighter Combat Study Number One: The Curtiss P-40C vs. The Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 Zero-Sen. Biloxi: Gamescience Corporation, 1976.

Shores, Christopher, Brian Cull and Yasuho Izawa. Bloody Shambles. 3 vols. London: Grub Street Publishing, 1992.

Toland, John. The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945. New York: Modern Library, 2003.

Willmott, H.P. The Barrier and the Javelin: Japanese and Allied Pacific Strategies, February to June 1942. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008.

Zimm, Alan D. Attack on Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions. Havertown: Casemate Publishers, 2011.
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Re: Blinded by the Rising Sun?: American Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air and Naval Power, 1920-1941

Postby Admiral Piett » Sat 5 Dec 2015 21:23

Alright, everything is added for now. I might add more at some point in the future, and I will do my best to answer any questions.

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Re: Blinded by the Rising Sun?: American Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air and Naval Power, 1920-1941

Postby Shrike » Sat 5 Dec 2015 21:49

Interesting documents.

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Re: Blinded by the Rising Sun?: American Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air and Naval Power, 1920-1941

Postby Mitchverr » Sat 5 Dec 2015 22:08

TL;DR being they dun goofed i assume from the title?

Will look through when i get time, seems like it will be an interesting read.
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Re: Blinded by the Rising Sun?: American Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air and Naval Power, 1920-1941

Postby Admiral Piett » Sat 5 Dec 2015 22:22

Mitchverr wrote:TL;DR being they dun goofed i assume from the title?

Will look through when i get time, seems like it will be an interesting read.


The gist of it is the Americans made a lot of mistakes at the lower level (technology and tactics), but got the high level stuff right (strategic and economic stuff). Ultimately, it was the big picture stuff that ended up mattering more.

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Re: Blinded by the Rising Sun?: American Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air and Naval Power, 1920-1941

Postby rex88 » Sun 6 Dec 2015 00:06

Congratulations on the imminent completion of your thesis - a work of history, no less. Although, what history teaches us is that people tend not to learn from history. :lol: They'll choose prejudice over precedence, every time.

Admiral Piett wrote:The gist of it is the Americans made a lot of mistakes at the lower level (technology and tactics), but got the high level stuff right (strategic and economic stuff). Ultimately, it was the big picture stuff that ended up mattering more.


So the base determined the superstructure :!: :lol: :!:
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Re: Blinded by the Rising Sun?: American Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air and Naval Power, 1920-1941

Postby Killertomato » Sun 6 Dec 2015 00:58

Rated N for Neat.

Many assessments concluded that Japanese personnel were inherently inferior because they were Japanese. This was not something commonly found in earlier reporting.


I wonder if this came about because of the change in American views of Japan after 1937?
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Re: Blinded by the Rising Sun?: American Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air and Naval Power, 1920-1941

Postby Admiral Piett » Sun 6 Dec 2015 01:56

Killertomato wrote:Rated N for Neat.

I wonder if this came about because of the change in American views of Japan after 1937?


Thanks.

Ethnocentrism and "national characteristics" were always kind of floating around in reports, though less commonly than one would intuitively assume. First off, I should probably explain "national characteristics." This is not a term I created, it was one they used at the time. Basically, it was something beyond racism. Race could be a part of "national characteristics," but it was rolled into things such as culture, national experience, and other things beyond the colour of one's skin. In short, "national characteristics" were national stereotypes. To use a modern example, it would be like assuming most Chinese are good at math because they are Chinese. During the period, assessments of other countries had phrases like German "Teutonic efficiency," Italian "sloth and lack of martial spirit" or Russian "slowness," even though the people that made up those stereotypes were white Europeans. Heck, I read a rather amusing American report which was a translation of a French article praising the Japanese (using "national characteristics") at the same time he was damning the British and Americans (using "national characteristics"). The American naval attaché seemed to find it amusing, and concluded that it was “interesting to note the different impressions made [by the Japanese].”

Now to answer the main part of your question. I believe it was simply a matter of openness on the part of the Japanese. In the 1920s, the Americans got to observe what the Japanese were doing up close. There was so much direct evidence supporting things that nobody really bothered to let ethnocentrism or "national characteristics" inform their conclusions. However, as time went on, there was less hard evidence to base conclusions on. Therefore, they started to rely more heavily on what they had readily available: stereotypes of the Japanese. This was not always explicitly negative either. For example, a British aviation expert got to visit a Japanese air station in the 1930s and was impressed by their "British efficiency" and concluded that he could easily mistake this air station for an RAF one. Now, that is clearly a positive assessment. However, it is also crazy ethnocentric. He was equating "British" with "excellency and efficiency," which immediately took away from the Japanese achievements.

The War in China also did weird things to Anglo-American Intelligence, particularly regarding the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). A pattern set in that began to feed itself:

"Man the Republic of China Army sucks!" ---> "The IJA can't beat them. They must suck." ---> "Wow. The Chinese suck so much they can't beat the Japanese." ---> "The IJA is useless. They can't even beat the Chinese." ---> Etc.

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Re: Blinded by the Rising Sun?: American Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air and Naval Power, 1920-1941

Postby ikalugin » Sun 6 Dec 2015 03:57

I wonder if the confirmation loop is even a bigger problem nowadays not because of the information scarcity, but due to the information abundance.

Ie an observer, due to the inability to process all the availiable information, would select the information that confirms his bias.
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