OCEANIA

Japan And The Great Pacific Conflict

           

Edwin P. Hoyt, in his book Japan's War - The Great Pacific Conflict, discusses the War in the Pacific from the Japanese perspective. Indeed, this book is the story of the Japanese pursuit of destiny, from the opening of Japan by the West until the two great antagonists, the United States and Japan made their peace in 1951. The book is concerned with the events of 1853 to 1952 and the lessons that may be learned from them.

The extract below covers the period after the Battle of Midway until the end of the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. The Japanese lost Guadalcanal and at that time they knew that they had also lost the War in the Pacific. 

Despite the knowledge in the upper echelons of the Combined Fleet and at naval headquarters that Japan had suffered a disastrous defeat at Midway, no indication of the truth was permitted outside the fleet. As the Japanese steamed home, radio Tokyo was blaring out its braggartry about the "great victory" won by the Imperial forces in this battle. They had sunk two American carriers, one destroyer, and damaged a cruiser. (The fact was they had sunk one aircraft carrier and one destroyer.) They had shot down 179 American planes. (Actually the Americans had lost 147 planes, but not nearly that many pilots. Many pilots were rescued and the planes included those lost with the carrier Yorktown when she sank.)

Japanese losses, on the other hand, said Radio Tokyo, had been one carrier sunk and one carrier damaged. The fact was quite different. Japan had lost four carriers and one cruiser, with one cruiser badly damaged, two destroyers damaged, and one oiler, one destroyer, one battleship slightly damaged. Worse, Japan had lost 322 planes and a large number of highly skilled aircrews. Some pilots and crewmen had gone down with their planes. Others had been lost in the sinking of the carriers. So it was a dispirited Combined Fleet staff that came ashore at Japan. As for the Combined Fleet, drastic, action had to be taken to prevent the truth from becoming common knowledge in Japan. The survivors of the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, and Mikama had to be dealt with. Had it been the American navy they all would have been sent home on leave and then assigned to new construction, as replacements, or as instructors in various schools. but the Japanese system and the Japanese arrogant (which they came to call the "Victory Disease") prevented such pragmatic approach. It was deemed vital by the naval authorities that the news of the dreadful defeat be concealed. Therefore, all the enlisted men of the sunken carriers were sent to naval bases, confined to the bases, and shipped out as quickly as possible to the far reaches of empire, such as Truk. So were many of the junior officers, and the others were sworn to secrecy.

Emperor Hirohito of Japan. His reign, called Showa
(Bright Peace), brought Japan to the bloodiest war
and her first defeat in history.
(Japanese Defence Agency)

By American standards this use of trained manpower would have seemed a great waste, but the Japanese had no sense of urgency yet about their carrier situation. They did not even amplify their pilot training program, unchanged since the 1930s, to make up for the hundreds of trained airmen lost at Midway. The Japanese navy then was working on much construction and even more after Midway. But as of that point in the war, the Japanese carrier situation was still superior to the American situation in the Pacific. 'The Japanese had no particular sense of urgency. The Americans had the fleet carriers Hornet, Wasp, enterprise and Saratoga in the Pacific. That was all, the Japanese still very definitely had the edge. The fleet carrier Shokaku was under repairs in Japan. Her damage suffered in the Battle of the Coral Sea was approximately the same as that suffered by the American carrier Yorktown in that battle. The Americans repaired their ship in three days, in time for it to go to Midway. The Japanese were months at the job.

Zuikaku, another fleet carrier, had not been able to participate in the Midway battle because of a shortage of trained carrier pilots. The Japanese had never thought of bringing combat veterans back to teach, and so they suffered also from a shortage of trained carrier pilots. The Japanese had never thought of bringing combat veterans back to teach, and so they suffered also from a shortage of instructors. The Japanese also had available at the moment the light carriers Ryujo, Hiyo, Zuibo, Hosbo, and Junyo. A giant carrier, the Taibo, would be in service in a year. A supercarrier, the Shinano, was under construction, too. The Japanese naval leaders had access to a great deal of information about American naval construction through the newspapers, which reported the acts of Congress in authorizing building and the general tenor of construction. This information was picked up by Domei, the Japanese news agency, from such spots as Buenos Aires and Lisbon, and duly reported in the Japanese press. But the militarists in Japan had so conditioned themselves to believe in Japanese superiority and Western inferiority that they did not believe the reports, even in the summer of 1942. For example: Commander Yuzuru Sanematsu had been stationed in Washington at the time of the Pearl Harbour attack, and he was repatriated that summer in the exchange of diplomats. He was assigned to the Naval General Staff and appointed to give lectures on American military affairs to the Navy Staff college. He told the listeners of the enormous productive capacity of the Americans, of the shipbuilding he had seen in progress even before the war, and of what he had learned through the media as an internee of the expanded naval building program to America. His students did not believe him, and privately they called his "praise of America" nonsense and accused him of being smitten by love for the materialism of the West. That same attitude was shown by Minister Shimada and Admiral Nagano.

Admiral Yamamoto, Japan's greatest war hero of
the Pacific War, on the deck of his flagship. He was
assassinated by the orders of President Roosevelt in 1943
(Japanese Defence Agency)

So the Japanese laughed while the American built carriers. 'they were told the truth, but remained unaware of the new American emphasis on carrier building that had caused the U.S. Navy to convert nine cruiser hulls to become light carriers and to undertake a desperate program of building fleet carriers and auxiliary carriers. In June, shipbui8lder Henry Kaiser signed a contract with the U.S. government to build escort carriers and would soon be building them in a matter of weeks, and finally in days. After Midway, however, the Japanese navy had to do its best to build more carriers. Yamamoto and a few others were aware of the serious need and the limitations of Japanese shipbuilding. Even the supreme jingoists, Navy Secretary Shimada and Naval General Staff Chief Nagano could see the need at least to replace the four sunken carriers. conversion of existing hulls, never very satisfactory in terms of producing an efficient carrier, had to be most of the answer to the carrier problem. Several seaplane carriers were sent to the yards for conversion to aircraft carriers. Conversion of two battleships to short-deck carriers, retaining some of the big guns, was also begun. The trouble was ahead, however, for as Admiral Yamamoto had observed, the danger to Japan was that America would be able to bring its enormous industrial skill and resources to play before a "decisive battle" could be fought that would destroy the American fleet.

The danger grew greater each day. The Naval General Staff was so upset by the setback at Midway that a pall of secrecy was put over the affair. Not even Prime Minister Tojo was told what had happened. The secret was kept from him - the Prime Minister of the Empire - for a whole month. The Japanese public was bombarded with propaganda about the "victory" and the people never were told the truth of Midway until after the was had ended. But the navy leaders knew. Admiral Ymamoto told his staff not to criticize Nagumo and his staff for the fatal errors that led to the defeat. The responsibility was all his as commander to chief, he said. Naguno and his chief of staff, Admiral Kusaka, decided that their only recourse was to commit suicide, but they were restrained by friends. For the reputation, Nagumo might better have committed seppuku right then, for Yamamoto never trusted him again and eased him out as commander of the carrier striking force. Ultimately, Nagumo was assigned to command the land-based air force of Saipan for the Battle of the Marianas, and he died there by his own hand in the midst of the disaster.

After the Midway battle, the Imperial General Staff sensed that there had been a change in the course of the war. Little by little the media began to understand that the Midway "victory" had been a defeat, and in a left-handed editorial, Asahi Shimbun warmed that Japan had to expect to suffer some losses before achieving final victory in this war.

The surrender of Corregidor had come during the Battle of the Coral Sea and that helped perpetuate the song of victory that was being sung at home. Actually the Allies were gearing up for a war that would never let the Japanese rest again. The primary result of the Battle of the Coral Sea was failure to take Port Moresby. Japan still had two enclaves at Lae and Salamaua on the New Guinea coast, and the Imperial General Headquarters plan to capture all of New Guinea remained. The plan also still called for the capture of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Samoa. The new attempt was to begin on July 11, built around nine infantry battalions of the Seventeenth Army, with navy assistance from the Second Fleet and the air arm of the First Fleet. But as the time drew near, the navy had to admit the loss of the carriers at Midway. The army was also having some second thoughts about the southern push. Many generals preferred to move west, though the Indian Ocean, to the Suez Canal, to link up with the Germans. The army was as myopic about the course of the war in Europe as the navy was about America. So the southern plan was scaled down to fit the new army yearnings. Port Moresby was to be taken, by troops moving overland from Lae and Salamaua. The navy was to defeat the Allied air effort and destroy the Australian fleet, which was the only Allied naval body apparent in the South Pacific in July. An army unit was reconnoitering the road across the Owen Stanley Mountains that showed on the maps. What the Japanese learned was what the Australians already knew the "road" was nothing more than a mountain trail, moving across some of the steepest and muddiest terrain in the world in the Owen Stanley Mountains.

All spring, General MacArthur had been trying to make the best use of his minimal resources. What was needed to fend the Japanese off in their attempt to take New Guinea, and thus threaten all Australia, was an airfield on the southwestern coast of New guinea, and a supply of aircraft, which might come in the beginning from the Australians but would have to be augmented swiftly with a steady flow from the United States. The place chosen for the airfield was Milne Bay, at the tip of the island, where Lever Brothers (soap) had a plantation and an airstrip that would do for starters. After the Midway battle the Americans were cocky, too, and MacArthur began to believe the Japanese navy was finished. A naval command was set up by Admiral Nimitz to provide naval support. The Americans suffered to a lesser degree from the bristling independence of army and navy from each other, and the U.S. Navy was not willing to serve under MacArthur. That attitude was responsible for what might have been about a year's delay in the American prosecution of the war. Just after the Midway battle, General MacArthur suggested that the Allies capture the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul. The army in Washington approved a plan that would use three carriers, a thousand planes, one marine division, and three army divisions to force the Japanese to retreat to Truk, whereupon the whole South Pacific would be safe.

General Tojo speaking to the Japanese Diet (parliament).
He started as a constitutional prime minister, but before his
disgrace with the fall of Saipan he had become absolute dictator of Japan
(Japanese Defence Agency)

Admiral King refused. He gave reasons, but the real reason was that the navy did not want to be subordinate to the army. The feeling was mutual. finally the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the American equivalent to the Supreme War council settled the matter for setting up a navy command in the south Pacific, separate, strategically responsible to MacArthur, but tactically independent, which meant the navy had to go along with MacArthur's basic plans, but would carry them out in its own way. August 1 was set as the date that the American navy would take over Tulagi, that aborted Japanese seaplane base. In the meantime, MacArthur moved with Australian troops to take Buna, across the Owen Stanley Mountains from Port Moresby. The 19th battalion of Australian militia and a battalion of New Guinea constabulary troops were ordered to move. On July 7 they started across the Owen Stanley range on the road called the Kokoda Track. They had a force of 600 native porters and ahead of them their Australian guides had built bivouac camps. Even so, it took this force eight days to climb up and down the 100 miles of the Owen Stanley range to Kokoda. Next, two weeks later, would come four Australian army companies and a party of U.S. Army engineers. At the same time, anticipating operations, General MacArthur prepared to move his headquarters up from Melbourne to Brisbane.

When General MacArthur reached Brisbane on July 21, he was informed that the Japanese were landing at Buna. They were to go to Kokoda, cross the Kokoda Track, and then take Port Moresby. They would soon be reinforced by the remainder of Major Gneral Tomitaro Horu's South Seas Detachment. The initial force was to "put the road in order" to handle tanks and trucks. Outnumbered, the Australians began to fall back across the Kokoda Track. The battle for New Guinea began.

After the Battle of the Coral Sea, unnoticed by the Allies, the Japanese began building an airstrip in the Lunga district of Guadalcanal Island, across Lunga Strait from Tulagi. Australian coastwatchers, who had been recruited from the corps of planters and missionaries who had worked in these islands before the Japanese came, watched the Japanese and reported by radio to Australia. As the importance of the Japanese activity on Guadalcanal sank in, Admiral King decided a stroke must be made to prevent Japanese use of that airfield. The Americans must seize Guadalcanal. General MacArthur was opposed and so was Admiral Robert Ghormley, the navy's new commander of the South Pacific. But on August 7 the American landed a force on Tulagi and another on Guadalcanal and in a few days 17,000 Americans were ashore there, building the airstrip, building roads, and digging in. The Japanese had a convoy at sea on its way to New Guinea when the word came of the American landings. The convoy stopped, turned around and went back to Rabaul to await developments. Admiral Yamamoto sensed that something important was going on when the Americans invaded Guadalcanal just one week before he was to begin using the airstrip to fly off planes that would attack Australia. He ordered Admiral Mikawa, commander of the Eighty Fleet at Rabaul, to attack immediately and destroy the enemy transports so the troops could not be supplied and could not escape. Mikawa took a cruiser force down to Guadalcanal, and in a night battle on August 9 he sank four Allied cruisers, and damaged another cruiser and two destroyers. but when he got back to Rabaul he was greeted by faint praise from Admiral Yamamoto, who was privately angry that Mikawa had not followed his orders and destroyed the transporters. He issued those orders again. 

At Rabaul General Hyukatake paid but scant attention to the Americans on Guadalcanal. It was the navy's province, not his. He was concerned with New Guinea, and after the naval victory of Mikawa he felt all was well and dispatched the convoy back toward Buna. It arrived on August 13. The Japanese began sending more reinforcements and soon the number of troops reached 12,000. Soon Rabaul learned that the Japanese contingent on Guadalcanal was threatened with total defeat. A report came that thousands of Americans were on the island, but the army did not believe it. Admiral Yamamoto believed there was reason for concern at least, and he created the Guadalcanal Reinforcement Force, which consisted of a number of destroyers of Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka's Destroyer Squadron Two. At the time Tanaka was at Truk (Chuuk, one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia) loading supplies. He was told to pick up 900 men of the Ichiki Detachment and take them to Guadalcanal. The Ichiki Detachment consisted of about 5000 men, built around a regiment commanded by colonel Kiyonao Ichiki. Originally they had been scheduled as the attack force for Midway. Now they had nothing to do. Yamamoto's designation of only 900 men showed what he thought of the American activity on Guadalcanal. Admiral Tanaka was indignant but orders were orders. The Americans were to be driven off Guadalcanal by a battalion. It was odd that neither Admiral Yamamoto and General Hyukatake had any real conception in the middle of July that they faced a major American landing. General Hyukatake could be more easily forgiven because the Solomons were not his worry. but the navy's ignorance was another matter, and indicated a real breakdown in intelligence.

Admiral Yamamoto did send the Second Fleet and part of the Third Fleet to Rabaul and also moved the Eleventh Air Fleet from Tinian Island in the Marianas group to Rabaul. He decided to shift the command of the combined Fleet to Truk, where he would be closer to the scene of what might become the "decisive battle" he sought. August came. The marines were dug in but their supply line was tenuous. The eleventh Air Fleet began attacks on the airfield area. On August 7, Warrant Officer Sabhuro Sakai, who was to become one of Japan's greatest air heroes, noted an "almost unbelievable" armada of American warships and supply ships in the waters off the island. But naval air force intelligence did not get in touch with army intelligence or naval fleet intelligence. The army remained unaware of the strength of the enemy, and so did Admiral Yamamoto. On Guadalcanal on August 12, the Japanese began attacking in small groups. Planes flew over the Japanese area, dropping food packages and leaflets telling the soldiers to hold on, help was coming. On August 5 Admiral Tanaka delivered a thousand troops of the Ichiki Detachment at Taivu Point. They thought there were only 2000 Americans on the islands and that with the help of the Sasebo Special Landing Force troops who were already on Guadalcanal, they would be able to put an end to the American threat in short order. The Japanese destroyers began what became an almost nightly event, they shelled the airstrip which the Americans now called Henderson Field.

Thus, slowly, a giant naval, air, and land battle was joined.

Beginning on August 20 the Japanese attacked. Most of Colonel Ichiki's men were killed in one night battle in the early hours of August 21. Colonel Ichiki committed suicide. The Americans did not know it, but this was historic moment, pregnant with meaning for the war. colonel Ichiki had been the man in command of Japanese troops on Marco Polo Bridge that night in 1937 at the beginning of the China incident, the China incident that had triggered this Pacific War. His force had lasted less than a week on Guadalcanal. The manner in which it was sent to Guadalcanal, without adequate knowledge of what was to be found there, the idea that a thousand men would do the job of a regiment, and the tightly disciplined behaviour that caused most of the men of the Ichiki unit to charge into guns and be mowed down were all typical of the Japanese approach to the war. Admiral Yamamoto spelled it out:

"The real battle now is a competition between Japanese discipline and American scientific technology."

The Imperial army and navy, unfortunately, were wedded to the idea that fighting spirit was everything, and material resources were nothing.

During August and September the army continued to feed troops into Guadalcanal in battalion and regimental strength. They did not recognize the nature of the problem even yet. General Hyukatake had little time to worry about Guadalcanal. He was just launching the attack over the Owen Stanley Mountains against the Australians. The Japanese landed troops to attack the airfields at Milne Bay. The did not capture them. The Japanese controlled the air over Guadalcanal. They basically controlled the sea, or could have with their resources. Imperial General Headquarters gave the army the task of restoring Guadalcanal to Japanese control, almost offhandedly. If General Hyukatake had understood the nature of the American invasion, and had been able to put two divisions on the island, it could have been all over in a week or two. The American supply situation in august was very serious. but Imperial Headquarters did not pay much attention to the Guadalcanal problem, and instead of sending divisions, the army sent battalions.

The opportunity for the "decisive" sea battle seemed to arrive off the Eastern Solomons on August 23. Two of the five American carriers in the Pacific were in the area. The sea battle became a trade-off; the Americans sank the carrier Ryujo, and the Japanese damaged the Enterprise severely. Unfortunately for the Japanese and fortunately for the Americans, although Admiral Yamamoto had the gravest of misgivings about keeping him in that position. The Shokaku was damaged and so was the Zuikaku, but they were still operational at the end, on the night of August 24. In this battle Nagumo had six carriers, and Yamamoto was furious that Nagumo had by indecision and confusion once more lost a chance to wipe out the American carriers. The Americans had a chance to do the same, but they had Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, who surpassed Admiral Nagumo in timidity. Between the pair, they avoided the grand confrontation.

Guadalcanal and New Guinea became a two-ring circus. The Americans were fighting with two forces, the marines on Guadalcanal and the army, with its air forces and Australians, in New Guinea. The Japanese were fighting with one land force sent in two directions by General Hyukatake. He was supported by both naval and army air forces, but the navy was far more effective than the army. At sea, the navy won engagement after engagement with the Americans, and Admiral Tanaka's destroyer force became the night terror of the island, moving almost at will. but in time the Americans wore the Japanese down, the same Japanese ships had to fight one engagement after another and ships and crews tended to become battle-weary. On the land, Major General Seiken Kawaguchi's brigade, intended for New Guinea, finally had to be diverted to Guadalcanal, but the ships bringing it were hit by American planes, two-thirds of the ships were destroyed, and most of the equipment was lost as well as many of the men. About 4000 Japanese soldiers arrived on the island. Even in September, Kawaguchi did not know how many Americans were on the island, and there were about 20,000 by that time.

General Huyukatake offered to send a whole division, but Kawanguchi said he would not need it. As the Japanese force grew greater, battles were fought around Henderson Field. The Japanese lost all the battles. They never did have enough force to do the job in the period that they held air superiority. On the sea, the navies traded ships, the Japanese proving themselves far superior as night fighters (partly because their night binoculars were far superior to the American), but the American radar changed the ratio. Even then the Japanese torpedoes were much more effective than the American. The fighting spirit of destroyer men like Admiral Tanaka was matched by that of men like Captain Arleigh Burke. In these desperate months of the summer and fall of 1942, the war seemed to hang in the balance, although this was hardly true in the long view. The Americans, fighting on the European front and devoting most of their resources to that area, were still beginning to bring new warships into action, cruisers and destroyer escorts and carriers. The Japanese had to work mostly with the ships at hand. There was no operation for them of a change in naval strategy to match a different sort of force, as there was for the Americans.

American leadership faltered, and finally Admiral William F. Halsey took over the South Pacific command and brought to it his fighting spirit, which matched that of any Japanese general or admiral. Just before Halsey entered in October, the Japanese decided on a great push to defeat the Americans, a combined air, sea, and land assault. They had waited too long. They still had air superiority but by sheer courage the American fliers held off the Japanese attackers. X-Day was the date set for the Japanese attack. It was delayed, and Y-Day was set for October 2. That was the day the Japanese would take Henderson Field, and the day that Admiral Nagumo would find and defeat the American fleet. but Y-Day failed, and at the end of it the Americans still had Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, and the air superiority over the island was split. When the Japanese came down in force from Rabaul, they controlled. When they left, the Americans controlled. And the Americans were bringing in ever more aircraft, while the Japanese at Rabaul were scraping the bottom of the barrel to keep the old battered planes flying.

By October the Imperial Army had begun to regard the recapture of Guadalcanal as a matter of national pride. The Naval General Staff suggested that the island was not that important, and that they ought to let it go without further effort. The army said, no, the island would be retaken. The navy must supply the troops with food, clothing, and ammunition. This was the rub, for the Americans were growing stronger all the while. The new battleship Washington now came to the Pacific. She was a bigger, more powerful battleship than those trapped by the Japanese at anchor in pearl Harbour. She could make thirty knots and keep up with the new fast carriers. The new carriers were also beginning to make their appearance. Together the new fleet-carriers, the fast battleships, and the new cruisers that were also coming would make up new multi-carrier task groups, and, ultimately, the greatest carrier task force in the world. The American air forces on Guadalcanal had survived the destroyer period and were growing stronger, with reimbursements of planes and men. by November the United States controlled Guadalcanal's skies. 

Even so, the Japanese managed to land the Second Army Division on Guadalcanal and the fighting continued. Steadily, however, the Japanese were being worn down, their supplies intercepted until many troops were thin as scarecrows, moving barefoot through the worst, trying desperately to stay alive. Naval battle after battle created an immense demand for fuel, and the fuel supplies of the East Indies were not great enough to accommodate all the demands of army and navy, from Manchuria to Rabaul. By mid-November, the sea battles more or less and, as the Japanese quit dispatching ships into the waters around Guadalcanal to save fuel. Given his carrier commander, Admiral Yamamoto seemed to have given up the hope of staging the great naval battle that would bring victory. The Japanese brought still another division to Guadalcanal, the 38th Division. But once again it was a story of American air attacks that sank so many ships the division arrived without most of its equipment and without adequate food supply. By the end of the month there were 28,000 Japanese on the island and most of them were starving. The attempts to resupply the troops by destroyer did not work because too many times the destroyers had to fight. Even each desperate measures as packing rice in drums and throwing them overboard to float in to land did not work. Too many drums went out to sea. Attempts were made to supply the garrison by submarine. It was too little and too late.

Early in November 1942, General Hitoshi Imamura was sent down to Rabaul to take a new job, commander of the Rabaul area army. He flew down by way of Truk (Chuuk) and stopped off for a meeting with Admiral Yamamoto. The admiral spoke frankly to this old bridge partner from London days when he had been a delegate to the naval disarmament conferences and Imamura had been a military attache. They talked as did few admirals and generals. Yamamoto said that the Zero, a few months earlier the best fighter plane in the Pacific, had now been challenged by the U.S. Army P-38 and the improved navy and marine Grumman fighters. The worst of it was that American production was now beginning to tell in the whole of the South Pacific and Southwest Pacific. In the air the Americans had a margin of three to one in aircraft numbers. As for training, the Americans were growing steadily more skillful, while the level of Japanese pilot skill was dropping. Too many pilots had been lost in the Coral Sea and Midway battles and in the air fights over New guinea and Guadalcanal. In the past six months the navy had lost 893 planes and 2362 airmen. Under the naval system it took two or three years to train a flier. No acceleration program had been pushed through with the coming of the Pacific War, now times were being shortened. That meant the replacements coming in were neophytes, coming direct from school to battle. Too many did not survive their first mission. As Admiral Yamamoto said:

"Our emphasis on intensive training and discipline isn't wrong, but we should have made sure it was accompanied by scientific and technological improvements as well. I have a strong sense of responsibility for our failure in that regard."

General Imamura could see that his old friend was depressed and he tried to raise his spirits by telling him of his orders. He was to establish the Eighty Area Army and utilize the Seventeenth and Eighteenth armies to capture Guadalcanal and the Solomons in connection with the navy. He was also to secure the strategic points necessary to prepare for a major action the next year in New Guinea, to capture that territory. Imperial General Headquarters was prepared to employ virtually all the strength of the Combined Fleet for that purpose. Four new divisions would be brought down. What Admiral Yamamoto knew but did not tell General Imamura, was that every day the planes and pilots of his beloved carriers were being sucked away to Rabaul and battle. If the "decisive battle" had been laid out for him for the next day, and there was no timidity, no failure to meet the enemy, it was now questionable if the Japanese would have any advantage at all.

November became December and still the Japanese were trying to capture Guadalcanal. In New guinea the Americans committed thousands more troops, and at the end of November the Americans broke through the perimeter of the Japanese Buna beachhead for the first time. Early in December the Australians took the embattled town of Gona. With the army's view that the capture of New Guinea at Imperial Headquarters in Tokyo. Lieutenant Colonel Tsuji, who had behaved so badly in the Philippines, came down full of venom to see for himself what was happening on Guadalcanal, and returned to Rabaul a much chastened officer. He went on to Tokyo, and there shocked his friends of the Imperial General Staff by telling them the true situation in the south that the Americans were in control of air and land and sea around Guadalcanal, and that Japanese soldiers were starving to death. At the same time, Admiral Yamamoto had come to the conclusion that Guadalcanal was draining for too many of the navy's resources, and must be evacuated. Imperial Headquarters remained adamant: Guadalcanal must be held as a matter of pride.

The final decision was forced by the war ministry, when the army asked for 300,000 tons of ships to deliver supplies to Guadalcanal, General Shinichi Tanaka, chief of the Operations Bureau of the army, insisted flatly. He was supported by colonel Takushiro Hattori. On the other side stood General Tojo, as minister of war, as well as premier. Tojo said Guadalcanal must be evacuated. Tanaka said no. They almost came to blows. Some of their subordinates did actually come to blows. A few days later General Tanaka was transferred to a minor operational post and so was Hattori. It was the first breakdown of army unity since the beginning of the war and was followed by the seizure of operational control of the army by General Tojo through his new appointee, Major General Kitsuju Ayabe. Guadalcanal was lost. And, as Admiral Yamamoto now knew, so was the war.

Japan And The Great Pacific Conflict - Part 2

The Battle of Midway

The Battle of Guadalcanal

The Battle of the Coral Sea

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