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

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

Postby steppewolf » Sun 24 Jul 2016 11:58

Just stumbled upon this thread last evening and couldn't stop reading. Pacific War was one of my favorite topics back in high school and uni.

Congrats, it's an awesome read! I hope you'll find work soon, good luck with that. I remember 12 years ago I was in the same situation; I worked in my home town which wasn't that bad, warmish to say but without great perspectives and than I decided to look to other areas and I don't regret at all. Maybe worth looking to other options as well.

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

Postby serg123 » Sun 28 Aug 2016 17:32

wow. somehow i found a brilliant post after all the crap in this section.
Admiral Piett wrote: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.

I have a question, if it is not too late. Some time ago i ordered the book titled as 'old friends new enemies' by A.Marder, 1981. Here is an extract from it that looks very interesting (p.346):
... the only full analysis of Japanese naval efficiency made in the Royal Navy during the inter-war period. It took the form of a paper in 1935 by the Naval Attache in Tokyo, Captain J.G.P. Vivian. He singled out four 'national characteristics' that, he claimed, affected the efficiency of the officers and men, and hence of the Navy as a whole. 'Slowness of Mind' was the first: the Japanese were slow in the uptake.
(a) The japanese have peculiarly slow brains. Teachers in this country have assured me that this is fundamentally due to the strain put on the child's brain in learning some 6,ooo Chinese characters before any real education can start.
(b) This inertia shows itself by an inherent disability to switch the mind from one subject to another with rapidity. It requires time to readjust the mental outlook to a new line of thought.
(c) I am convinced that it is for this reason that the japanese people are a race of specialists. By concentration and intense application a man becomes good, possibly very good, at one particular job but is seldom capable of taking on another, slightly out of his own line, at short notice.
(d) There are, of course, exceptions and it is apparent that these officers who rise to high rank in the Navy are those who are least affected by this disability.

... A quarter of a century earlier, in January 1909, the Naval Attache in Tokyo had made the same claim: 'They are too slow and too methodical, and require time to think where a smart officer should act instantly .. '


Of course technical and tactical aspects are important but that's not really the whole story. So my question is, what US attaches wrote in his reports about efficiency of the IJN people. Just wondering if they treated japanese in a similar way to british reports ("slow brains" etc) or maybe they had some respect for opponents.

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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 28 Aug 2016 19:05

serg123 wrote:Of course technical and tactical aspects are important but that's not really the whole story. So my question is, what US attaches wrote in his reports about efficiency of the IJN people. Just wondering if they treated japanese in a similar way to british reports ("slow brains" etc) or maybe they had some respect for opponents.


Marder's work is excellent, I haven't had a chance to read it myself though.

This kind of stuff did appear quite often in US reports. Some reports were solely dedicated to it:

Page 1: http://i.imgur.com/wrHzl8y.jpg
Page 2: http://i.imgur.com/r6xT54F.jpg
Page 3: http://i.imgur.com/Rsxendj.jpg

Others just mentioned that kind of thing off-hand, or used "national characteristics" to inform their conclusions. For example, an IJN naval review that went according to plan was used as evidence that the Japanese were incapable of dealing with a situation where improvisation was needed:

Evidence of Japanese lack of initiative often took on a farcical nature. The American naval attaché’s observation of the 1936 grand naval review was positive overall, and concluded that the fleet was “well handled and formidable.” However, he noted that the manoeuvres were scripted, something typical of a naval review, and that everything had gone “as planned.” These last two words were underlined, as if the reader viewed this comment as confirmation of the Japanese people’s lack of originality or flexibility. The naval attaché concluded by extrapolating without evidence that “any last minute change would have been too upsetting to the methodical but unimaginative Japanese mind.”


You would see lots of little digs like that in a lot of reports. Overall, British and American assessments of Japanese air and naval personnel were similar:

In a report on Japanese personnel from 1922, the phrase which was underlined stated that the Japanese had an “almost universal lack of initiative.”

This trend continued in 1927 with a summary of Japanese personnel provided for the United States congress. It openly stated that “certain basic traits of character of the Japanese as a race” had to be considered, since they shaped the IJN’s effectiveness. The summary argued that IJN officers possessed “racial characteristics” that prevented them from being able to make up their minds quickly or to assume individual responsibility. Japanese personnel were “inferior in basic intelligence, education, and initiative as compared to our men.”

In 1934, a negative report on the ship handling of Japanese officers at sea explained their supposedly poor station keeping by proposing that “the Japanese do not learn by experience as quickly as American or British officers.” This statement was underlined by the reader. Puleston believed that Japanese enlisted personnel were slower mentally and less capable of reacting to an unexpected situation. The lessons drawn from such observations were reiterated in numerous reports, and consisted mainly of adopting a policy which prevented the Japanese from observing any western technology or tactics, so that they could not learn anything new. The implication was that the Japanese could not develop any new technology, tactic or training method that was not somehow derived or directly copied from a western source.


steppewolf wrote:Snip.


Thanks!

As an aside, I added the final paragraph of my thesis to the OP.

Edit: I added the paragraph to the second post. The first one refused to edit, I would assume because it is too big.

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

Postby Yakhont » Sun 28 Aug 2016 19:22

Any opinions for this video?

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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 28 Aug 2016 20:57

Yakhont wrote:Any opinions for this video?


I have actually spoken with him, and we have exchange sources and the like. He is a very smart guy. That video is 99% great, though I have a small technical nitpick: The N1K series was never intended to be a replacement for the Zero, hence the completely different designation:

N = Float plane Fighter
1 = First Version
K = Kawanishi
1/2 = Variant 1/2
-J = Converted for land-based use

I believe they did eventually develop one carrier-based prototype, but I don't think it worked right. The A7M was the true successor, but they didn't get it working and ready for production until 1945. By that point it was a pretty pointless endeavour. The N1K2-J was a perfect example of the widespread redundancy within the Japanese aircraft industry though. The IJAAS and IJNAS shared virtually nothing. The N1K2-J was ready to go around the same time as the Army's Ki-84. Both were land-based, intermediate altitude, multi-purpose fighters. Yet both went into serial production, when any sane system would have put the two designs head-to-head and selected whichever one came out on top. This kind of redundancy took on farcical levels:

The Army developed the Ho-103 heavy machine gun (IJAAS classified it as a "cannon") from the M2 browning. They made it smaller than the browning, increased the RoF and chambered it in 12.7mm Breda. It was a perfectly good aircraft HMG, and certainly would have fit in the nose of a Zero or other such Navy aircraft, but NOPE. Hell would freeze over before the ARMY gave the NAVY the ARMY'S HMG. Therefore, the navy went off and developed its own aircraft HMG, derived from the M2 Browning and chambered in 13.2mm Hotchkiss. In the end you had two different aircraft HMGs derived from the same source, but chambered in completely different calibres. That kind of thing was widespread in Japan.

The lack of efficient radio communications in aircraft was also important, as he noted. Here is an example of that lack of communication in action. These are a bunch of highly experienced pilots, including multiple aces, working with a hand-semaphore and wing wiggling system. It works well for them, but you can easily see how such a system could fall apart under high pressure or if the pilots involved are less experienced. This is a full-blown recreation btw, since this is quite possibly the best documented dog-fight of the Second World War. We have detailed accounts from both sides:


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

Postby serg123 » Mon 29 Aug 2016 22:36

Admiral Piett wrote: You would see lots of little digs like that in a lot of reports. Overall, British and American assessments of Japanese air and naval personnel were similar:


Thanks for answer, in fact it is very useful information to me. I have pretty good collection of the naval books but i dont remember that i have ever read 'politically incorrect' reports by western attaches. The only exception is a Marder's book probably.

Yesterday i started reading your work. You had raised an interesting question. Its a racial prejudice of the 'white' observers.
Seems, it really difficult to judge without reading an original reports at least. But not sure that even reports can help here..

Can you upload a part of the attache report with Moffett's observations?

p.s. about 3,500 IJN pilots. Its unclear to me who was counted as a navy pilot. In https://archive.org/details/fifthairforceinw00unit on p59 figure 29 we could see another data: only ~1300 navy pilots in the beginning of war. Most of them have superb flight time over 600 hours. Army pilots were almost at same level, according to same source.

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

Postby Admiral Piett » Tue 30 Aug 2016 00:18

serg123 wrote:Yesterday i started reading your work. You had raised an interesting question. Its a racial prejudice of the 'white' observers.
Seems, it really difficult to judge without reading an original reports at least. But not sure that even reports can help here..

Can you upload a part of the attache report with Moffett's observations?

p.s. about 3,500 IJN pilots. Its unclear to me who was counted as a navy pilot. In https://archive.org/details/fifthairforceinw00unit on p59 figure 29 we could see another data: only ~1300 navy pilots in the beginning of war. Most of them have superb flight time over 600 hours. Army pilots were almost at same level, according to same source.


I was so confused when you mentioned Moffett by name, because I don't remember ever mentioning him in this thread. However, I assume you have actually found my real thesis? :lol:

I have uploaded it here:

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

Page 1: http://imgur.com/610G5PI
Page 2: http://imgur.com/GS33sYx
Page 3: http://imgur.com/pZuazfA

As for the number of pilots, I really can't give you a firm answer. Sunburst is a pretty reliable source, but I didn't have much to compare it to at the time. One thing that could throw people off is that most IJNAS air groups were actually land-based (think USMC air + USN air). Perhaps some sources only count carrier pilots?

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

Postby serg123 » Tue 30 Aug 2016 20:38

Yes, you guess right. Google rules the world ))

Thanks again.
I see. The northrop attack plane is a gamma 2e with wright sr-1820-f3 710hp engine, only 2 was sold to japan. Maybe its a reason why most (if not all) japanese pilots/mechanics were so poor, according to Moffett's report. Probably they never met this engine before.

This is still unclear to me. You wrote that
The navy’s slow and rigorous pilot training programs produced a small number of graduates who were much better trained individually than their British or American counterparts...

Its probably true for the british pilots. But after reading more recent researchers (Lundstrom, Zimm) im not sure about the last. For example, Zimm:
'The Japanese training program, in terms of flight hours, was not superior to that given to American pilots during the interwar years. In contrast, in 1939 Canadian recruits were given 100 hours of flight training before receiving their wings and being transferred to combat duty in Britain'.

I need some explanation here.

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

Postby Admiral Piett » Tue 30 Aug 2016 23:04

serg123 wrote:This is still unclear to me. You wrote that
The navy’s slow and rigorous pilot training programs produced a small number of graduates who were much better trained individually than their British or American counterparts...


Its probably true for the british pilots. But after reading more recent researchers (Lundstrom, Zimm) im not sure about the last. For example, Zimm:
'The Japanese training program, in terms of flight hours, was not superior to that given to American pilots during the interwar years. In contrast, in 1939 Canadian recruits were given 100 hours of flight training before receiving their wings and being transferred to combat duty in Britain'.

I need some explanation here.


Yes, that is just a case of dated historiography on my part. :oops: There are a handful of things like that which I didn't have time to update as I was racing to meet my deadline. I'm not too happy with some of my sourcing regarding USN warship design later on in the thesis as well. What I wrote about USN development isn't wrong, but given more time I would have dug into Friedman and the like for far better information. That kind of stuff happens with MA theses in particular unfortunately, since you only have a year to write it with other things going on in the background. Anyway, the Japanese training program itself was exceptionally demanding, but not necessarily in practical ways (i.e. flight hours). What I should have focused on was the combat experience of Japanese aircrew thanks to the war in China, though Zimm also points out that not every Japanese pilot benefited from such experience, particularly those aircrews from CarDiv 5 (Shokaku and Zuikaku).

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

Postby Darkmil » Fri 21 Oct 2016 21:57


As soon as I saw the title I knew it was yours ! It's a great thing to have your thesis exposed like this as well !
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