Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Why the Japanese Lost - Bryan Perrett

This review has been submitted to Sabretache Magazine for publication.

Title: Why the Japanese Lost

Author: Bryan Perrett
ISBN: 978-1-78159-198-7
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Pages: 234
Photos: 44 

The author has undertaken a very ambitious goal of outlining and explaining what it was that caused the Japanese Empire to fail in their World War 2 ambitions. The causes are legion and it is necessary to cover a very wide spectrum of facets and influences in order to even begin to scratch the surface. There are, admittedly, some very obvious items: economic limitations, a lack of material depth, doctrinal shortfalls and operational errors; however, there are also a number of aspects that were just as influential but are, at best, difficult to quantify. These include martial ardour, religious philosophy, societal influences and historical context to name a few. 

Perrett has focussed his narrative on the naval aspects of the Pacific War with only very cursory mentions of China, Burma and Russia. I felt that this book was somewhat misleading in so far as it, to a great extent, only re-examined aspects of the war that have been studied in numerous other venues. His iterations on the Pacific conflict do provide a good overview of the naval war as it progressed; highlighting various battles such as Midway, Leyte Gulf, Solomon Islands and the Java Sea. It is interesting to note the degree to which the Japanese retained offensive capability even after the crushing defeat of Midway. 

Nevertheless, I was anticipating a more in-depth study of the less well known aspects of Japanese fighting doctrine and goals. A more detailed analysis of internal political-military relations, the concept of gekokujo or ‘rule from below’, command oversight challenges, logistics and the role of the Emperor all were given short shrift.  

He does provide some historical context with a brief study of the introduction of Japan into the modern community of nations and the influence that the Royal Navy had on their early years, Additionally, he devotes two chapters to the war between Russia and Japan that marked not only the emergence of Japan onto the world stage but also the Japanese navy as a force to be reckoned with.
The production value of the book is good with many high-quality photographs. I would recommend this book as a start point for the reader interested in Japanese martial history but, with its emphasis upon naval operations and a relatively cursory bibliography, there are more encompassing options available.

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