28 January 2012

After Pearl Harbor - Part Seven: So Near To Defeat

Part One

I've done six previous posts on the subject of the Japanese campaigns in the six months or so after Pearl Harbor and learned quite a bit in the process. So I'm going to list a few thoughts and reflections that have come to mind during all of this.

  1. The forces of the Allies were seriously under-prepared and ill-equipped. The British had already been fighting a war for two years thousands of miles away. Not only were their resources and attention focussed there, it would take a couple of months to get reinforcements into theatre in any significant numbers - remember that most Allied convoys to Egypt would have to go the long way round Africa due to the Axis naval threat in the Mediterranean and that's just part of the journey. However, none of this excuses the multi-level disaster that was Singapore.
  2. The Japanese got seriously far in their empire acquisition in a relatively period of time. Berlin to the outskirts of Baku is just shy of 2,000 miles as the crow flies. Tokyo to Singapore, not even the furthest the Japanese went, is about 3,300 and it's almost 600 from south Vietnam to the latter. Japan got from Indochina to Singapore in under two months - through pretty thick jungle. This says something about Japanese martial skill.
  3. It was only really luck and good intelligence that stopped the Japanese assault in its tracks. If Nimitz hadn't found out that the Japanese were going to target Midway - or Yorktown had gone up earlier than it actually did, it is hard to see the Japanese not taking that island. The United States at worst would have sued for peace.
  4. The Japanese were just as barbarous as the Germans in the way that they fought their wars. Some of the things that I read during the course of the research for this shocked me. The Nazis generally did not leave dead British soldiers hanging on the sides of roads or force them to engage in brutal manual labour. Of course, the Japanese did not exterminate ten million people in concentration camps and ghettoes, but some of their other stuff was just as brutal i.e. using prisoners for chemical warfare experiments. The world is well rid of both of those regimes.
  5. The environs in the Pacific were worse in many ways than in Europe. I watched The Pacific a while back and the unpleasant environments that war was fought in are clear to see - hot, sweaty and damp. Sanitation was a real problem - especially for Americans and Brits who weren't necessarily used to it.
  6. Morale must have been pretty bad for the Allies in the early months of 1942. How many Allied victories were there from 1939 to mid-1942? A couple at best. In the meantime, the Axis powers won victory after victory. With the U-boats wreaking havoc on Allied shipping, I can see why some people were thinking about a negotiated peace.
I hope that you have found this series as interesting and enlightening as I did while I've researched it. I also hope that you've got a deeper appreciation of what the men and women in that conflict went through - because at the end of the day, we're the ones who have to pass the stories and ensure something like this never happens again.

I know I have.

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