Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pearl Harbor Day Post


We recently read several excellent books about the Japanese Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere and its Imperial Navy, mostly translated memoirs, and the striking thing that comes through is how they never had a chance. The worst stupidity of fascist thinking had infected their minds at the top levels. Really the only reason the war took so long was because it took basically exactly that long for American manufacturing to get our navy back. Then the Japanese lost the remainder of the war with equipment fatally outdated (the Mitsubishi Zero was the best fighter in the world in the late 30s and early 40s, but the Japanese were forced to fight in it against new generations of entirely superior planes like the twin engine P-38 Lightning), drastically hurting for maintenance and patched together because there was nothing else, or shot themselves in the foot with their dogmatic suicidal policies. One destroyer captain learned upon finally reaching drydock at Truk that his rudder had a giant hole in it.
After two days of red tape and rigmarole, Shigure entered dry dock. As water was pumped from the dock and the destroyer's bottom became visible, every onlooker gaped in astonishment. In the center of the rudder was a hole at least two feet in diameter. Engineers closely examined the hole with its overgrowth of barnacles and shells and proclaimed that it must have been caused by a torpedo at least three months ago.
"Oh, yes," I recalled, it must be from the Vella Gulf battle of August 6-7. That was the only time torpedoes came near us."
"But," said one of the engineers, "how could you have navigated the ship since then in this condition?"
"The rudder has been sluggish in recent months," I replied...(Hara, pg 253)
Why if they were so completely beaten -- there are points at which Germany could've salvaged or turned or cut losses, but there are no equivalent points for Japan that Japan could've actually used -- did they even try it? The answer is their ideology limited their knowledge of Americans. They honestly thought, actually in a form of racism, that Americans had grown so decadent and weak that one terrifying blow would permanently scare them.
Additionally the Japanese had a sort of supremacism we place most closely to Jewish tribalism since it is deeper and much older than twentieth century pseudoscientific racism. Dower says, "The Japanese did not change their codes when they should have done so, because they did not think the Westerners could break them. In the field, they frequently left important papers behind, apparently on the assumption that Westerners could never figure out how to read them." (pg 261)
In Japanese culture this is how bullying and status play works. You get hit once, you aren't expected to come back to get hit again. In a move alien to Western hypocritical thinking but certainly familiar to Western practice you are expected to take the hit.
The Japanese continued fatally to underestimate their enemy when they should've been building up their forces because of the spectacle of the surrenders that had followed their treachery; Dower again:
"For half a year after Pearl Harbor, this impression of a soft enemy appeared to be true. The huge size of the UK force that surrendered without much of a fight at Singapore was incredible by anyone's reckoning, and the combined US and Filipino army that capitulated on Bataan was twice as large as the Japanese expected. ... [T]o the Japanese, they were months of glorious victory that once and for all confirmed their innate superiority."(pg 260)
All of this resembles nothing so much as the perfectly self-defeating Coalition Provisional Authority "led" by Paul Bremer but really representing all the anti-Arab hatred and area ignorance of the Neo-Conservative Zionist war-fomenting douchebags, as described in Patrick Cockburn's necessary book Muqtada.
In the second half of 2003 Bremer repeatedly portrays himself as decrying the timidity of the US military, the CIA, and the British, all of whim hesitated before confronting Muqtada. Their fears were understandable and, as events soon demonstrated, wholly justified.
...Bremer held two beliefs that were dangerously contradictory. For him, Muqtada was at one and the same time a powerful and menacing figure capable of tearing Iraq apart, and so weak that he would tamely submit to arrest, while his following would be too small to make effective protests. Iraqi ministers were struck by the degree of Bremer's hatred and how much he belittled Muqtada. They were told not to refer to the "[Jaysh al-Mahdi]" but to call it "Muqtada's Militia." Ali Allawi, the highly intelligent independent Islamist who was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, once tried to explain to Bremer how the Sadrists [following Muqtada as-Sadr] were the political representatives of the millions of Shia poor. Bremer furiously retorted that he "didn't care a damn about the underclass and what they [the Sadrists]
represented."(beginning pg 139)

Books relevant to this post

Japanese Destroyer Captain, memoirs of Captain Tameichi Hara translated and compiled by Fred Saito and Roger Pineau
Not only is this a smashing naval history book, but its hero stands out as the necessary, commonsensical man who like the characters of the MASH book and movie see through military and cultural stupidity. In his command he outlaws the customary Imperial basic unit of discipline (punching a failing subordinate in the face, for literally anything). After winning untouchable glory Hara insulted his superiors by saying he had accomplished nothing and all credit should go to his men, whom he had the sheer skill and professionalism to protect to an almost impossible degree in fighting against more numerous and better armed forces. He amazes (it is like the scene in Bugsy where Siegel informs Lansky that he has taken it into his head to shoot Mussolini) by trying to talk to a member of the Imperial Family about calling a spade a spade. Early in his career he devised an excellent improvement to the torpedo which proved useful throughout the war.
The Divine Wind by Rikihei Inoguchi (Captain, the original officer in charge of gathering volunteers and organizing a unit), Tadashi Nakajima (Commander, the flight officer who oversaw much of the Kamikaze unit's operations out of Leyte, also mentioned in Samurai), and Roger Pineau
These are the memoirs and apologetics of the officers who fostered the Kamikaze units. The deferential and bullshit-infused tone becomes comical as you read of meetings missed from lack of communication, parties missing each other because each had left to visit the other, and arrogant higher-ups who waste time fleeing from the Americans to argue a point with subordinates.
Samurai by Saburo Sakai (first enlisted Imperial sailor to be commissioned, his amazing achievements overcoming deliberately backward policy; they also did not give medals to the living!) with Martin Caidin and Fred Saito
It is amazing to us that single episodes within this, the memoir of the greatest ace of the war, have not already been made into a movie. There is one in particular where he struggles to reach a friendly landing strip after an ambush and a withering blind flight in maddening pain which should've killed him several times over, all for a bit of anaesthetic-free eye surgery.
War Without Mercy and Embracing Defeat by John Dower, MIT Japanologist
Read these two books together if you haven't already to grasp the Japanese side of the Pacific WWII.
Muqtada (Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq) by Patrick Cockburn, the kind of journalist who could give the profession a good name
Read this book if you want to come closer to understanding Iraq. Patrick has none of the acidic cleverness of his brother Alexander, which no doubt puts some off.

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