In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army

By Edward J. Drea | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
IMPERIAL JAPANESE ARMY STRATEGY AND THE PACIFIC WAR (1941-1945)

The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 began a string of victories that culminated with the American surrender in the Philippines in May 1942. The shock of Imperial Japan's devastating and ruthless defeat of the Western powers convinced Americans of a long-standing and detailed Japanese timetable for world conquest. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) actually had long planned for a war with the U.S. Navy, but the IJA had no long-range strategic concept for a war with the United States, because, for the army, the Pacific War was the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time and with the wrong enemy.

"Strategy," according to Carl von Clausewitz, "is the use of the engagement for the purpose of the war. The strategist must therefore define an aim for the entire operational side of the war that will be in accordance with its purpose. In other words, he will draft the plan of the war, and the aim will determine the series of actions intended to achieve it: he will, in fact, shape the individual campaigns and, within these, decide on the individual engagements."1 Based on this definition, the IJA leaders had no strategy for their war against the Western powers, nor did they develop a strategy during the course of the entire war. As a result, the leaders of the Japanese army failed to devise a strategy for the Pacific War and, more often than not, had to follow the lead of Japanese naval planners and operations officers.

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