Rising Sun Victorious

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Rising Sun Victorious presents ten counterfactuals of Japan winning in WW2 — or getting a negotiated settlement:

“Hokushin: The Second Russo-Japanese War” by Peter Tsouras has Hitler pressuring the Japanese with a full court press before Operation Barbarossa in 1941. The Soviets stripped out their best divisions from Siberia in summer 1941 which are lost in great encirclements at Kiev and outside of Moscow. The Japanese have a successful offensive from Manchuria and seize a part of the Soviet Union’s Far East.

“Be Careful What You Wish For: The Plan Orange Disaster” by Wade G. Dudley. The Japanese don’t attack Pearl Harbor but the Philippines. The U. S. Pacific Fleet charges headlong to destruction under Adm. Kimmel. This is one instance where Japan could have possibly achieved its goals.

“Pearl Harbor: Irredeemable Defeat” by Frank R. Shirer. Nagumo sends in the third wave on the attack on Pearl Harbor. Much more damage including the fuel tanks and the channel blocked by the sunken U. S. S. Nevada. Pearl Harbor is unusable as a base until April 1942.

“Coral and Purple: The Lost Advantage” by James R. Arnold. The Battle of the Coral Sea caused Adm. Yamamoto to make changes to the upcoming offensive against Midway Island.

“Nagumo’s Luck: The Battles of Midway and California” by Forrest R. Lindsey. The Battle of Midway goes badly against the Americans. MacArthur is recalled from Australia to take command of the Western Defense Zone. The Battle of California has the Americans dealing with a Japanese raid on aircraft manufacturing plants in California. This was an imaginative scenario.

“Samurai Down Under: The Japanese Invasion of Australia” by John H. Gill. The Japanese successfully take the island of New Guinea and decide to take Australia out of the war by direct invasion. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

“The Japanese Raj: The Conquest of India” by David C. Isby. The Japanese attack India after successfully taking Burma. British control collapses holding on to Pakistan only.

“Guadalcanal: The Broken Shoestring” by John D. Burtt. Adm. Halsey does not replace Adm. Ghormley as commander of naval forces at Guadalcanal in fall 1942. Ghormley loses his nerve and evacuates the Marines from the island.

“There are Such Things as Miracles: Halsey and Kurita at Leyte Gulf” by Christopher J. Anderson. The Japanese pull out a miracle victory at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Japan is able to negotiate a peace where it keeps Indochina, Manchuria, and most of China.

“Victory Rides the Divine Wind: The Kamikaze and the Invasion of Kyushu” by D. M. Giangreco. The invasion of Japan has Pearl Harbor II with the destruction of thirty-eight Liberty ships, a score of destroyers, and twenty-one other vessels within sight of the invasion beaches by kamikazes. There is a Cold War with Japan going on in 1965.

As one reviewer puts it, “The overriding theme of the book is that, with very few exceptions, an Allied victory was inevitable once the US manufacturing juggernaut was fully mobilized.” In retrospect, the key was not waking the sleeping giant and filling him with a terrible resolve.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    In terms of manufacturing, especially ship building, the US is today v.v. China much the same as Japan was v.v. us in 1940.

  2. Adar says:

    One year of intense warfare followed by a negotiated peace much to the advantage of the Japanese.

    This indeed was the Japanese intention from the start? And with Pearl Harbor and Malaya things did start off right for them.

  3. Bomag says:

    Interesting that Japan expected, or hoped for, an American collapse after Pearl Harbor, but didn’t get it; likewise the Nazis expected a collapse of the Soviets after Barbarossa, but didn’t get one.

    France collapsed; Britain collapsed in the Pacific; Britain almost collapsed in Europe, but Churchill prevailed.

    So Japan and Germany were almost correct in expecting a collapse from their targets.

  4. Buckethead says:

    Friend of mine back in college wrote a paper for one of our poli sci courses about Japanese foreign policy 1945–50. He titled it “We So Sorry!” Prof. K. laughed, then made him change it.

    I’ve read most of Tsouras’ anthologies; he generally picks good ones. He also wrote a decent Civil War alt-history trilogy, Britannia’s Fist. The point of divergence is the Trent Affair, and the whole bloody conflict lurches into world war with Britain.

    Harry Harrison wrote a similar trilogy with the same break point. Tsouras has better alt-history; Harrison is a better fiction writer. Both series are fun reads.

  5. Ezra says:

    Same as with the END of the war with Japan too. Japanese WERE trying to surrender but wanted a negotiated settlement somewhat favorable to themselves. Military not dismantled. Formosa and Korea as colonies still intact. No occupation of Japan or and end to the ruling clique, no war crimes tribunal, etc. Expectations even at the end of the war too excessively optimistic to be even hardly realistic.

  6. Kirk says:

    The interesting thing to me about the question of what the hell the Germans and Japanese were thinking is the level of “magical thought” that took place in their thinking about war aims and all the rest. Same thing with the belligerents in WWI–What the hell were they thinking?

    I spent the majority of my adult life as a professional soldier; you put my ass in charge of the politics, and there is no way in hell I’d be the guy who threw the dice for war. WWI and WWII were both conflicts of choice–The Germans didn’t have to start the war, nor did the Japanese. If they’d both buckled down and did the same things they did during the post-war era, they’d have achieved the same economic success, albeit likely a bit slower. So, what the hell was the point…?

    South Park had a bit about a business plan thought up by some “Underwear Gnomes”, where Step One was “Gather underwear”, Step Two was “??????”, and Step Three was “Profit!!”. That’s about as good an analogy for the strategic thinking that went on with both the Germans and the Japanese, when you get down to it.

    Japan might have managed to sink the Pacific Fleet if Kimmel had followed War Plan Orange. What then? Now, you’ve got the United States totally enraged, and the calculus that the US would back down after getting its collective pee-pee slapped was outright insane–The effect of Japan winning a War Plan Orange engagement in ’42 would have likely seen even more destruction for the Japanese than Pearl Harbor earned them, especially coupled with the whole Philippines prisoner issue. I can’t see them doing any better, and the unrestricted submarine warfare they’d have had to deal with while the US rebuilt the surface fleets would have absolutely strangled the economy.

    And, all for what? So they could build their little economic prosperity zone on the dead bodies of Chinese civilians? The whole enterprise they were engaged in with China was nuts. Tiny little island nation like Japan is going to take over and run something the size of China, and build an empire in the South Pacific, simultaneously? Same with Hitler; Germany was 90 million, and he thought he’d build a trans-European empire? Where the hell was he going to get the manpower to garrison the place, when he was done?

  7. ASDF says:

    Britain controlled most of the world with a tiny island nation. Is Japan controlling China any more insane than the British controlling India?

    Germany went to war because of Nazi ideology + they were broke and (the regime) needed plunder to survive.

    Japan went to war because some factions wanted it and they killed basically anyone that got in their way (even the highest government officials). They didn’t call the Japanese government “government by assassination” for nothing. They probably figured they could have pulled off another Sino-Japanese War for Russo-Japanese war (both conflicts that “on paper” everyone thought they had no shot). Sure, there are reasons us Monday morning QBs can point to why the USA would be different, but if pulling back means possibly getting assassinated you start putting on the rose colored glasses.

  8. Kirk says:

    There’s a qualitative difference between what the British pulled off, and what the Japanese were trying in China. And, had previously tried (for momentary effect, anyway–Witness the justifiable hatred Japan has there, today) out in Korea. The British were moving into a vacuum of both piss-poor governance and lack of much of anything, same as the Spanish moving into the Americas, where epidemic disease created a vacuum in front of them.

    Japan, on the other hand, was moving in on a fettered giant, a former empire which they’d taken much of their own culture from. As such, there was going to be a lot more “governance” required, and more garrisons. Without the manpower, or the ability to co-opt it the way the Brits did, they were screwed.

    The Germans, if you squint and look at it from the right angle? They were trying to make a new America in central Eurasia, only instead of epidemic disease used to depopulate the place, they were going to have to do it by hand, themselves.

    Unconsciously, I think the Germans and the Japanese were seeking to emulate the re-population of the Americas after the inimical effect of the Columbian Exchange. Didn’t work out so well for either of them, although you can see in the existence of Unit 731 an inkling of how it all might have worked out, had they not ran smack into the evangelizing values of the United States…

  9. Buckethead says:

    If the Japanese and Germans hadn’t been such colossal dickheads, they might have done a little better. If you can’t use the American model of moving into a vacuum — well, there are others.

    In China, there was at least a precedent for a foreign military power establishing themselves as a new dynasty. The Japanese might have done that, or at least aimed for it rather than, say, doing the Rape of Nanking.

    Likewise the Germans could have probably made better use of the Ukrainians who hated the Russians for their very recent brutality. Coopt and rule, use them as reinforcements; might have been more productive than using them as target practice. Even using the methods they generally used in the west would have given better results.

  10. Graham says:

    I am not sure that’s quite right on the India comparison, but compared to the China and USSR cases it gets at the heart of the matter.

    I think of India and China as akin to Europe and perhaps to the more nebulous Middle East/SW Asia — great subcontinental regions of Eurasia isolated from one another by distance and physical barriers, with varying numbers of entry points via Central Asia. Europe is the one most tending to disunity, China to most to unity, with India in between. Maybe the ME is the one most disunited, but the rest are about right in relation to one another.

    China may not have had a national consciousness, it fell apart often enough, and it has fissures, but it had an idea of civilizational and political unity wildly more survivable than anything India developed until late modernity, and more so than the relatively loose ideas that tied the ME or Europe into culture zones. So it may have been a wreck in the 1930s, but it was a big nut to crack and it had big players fighting to rule it all with either a long tradition or a Marxist ideology to back that up. Not as tough a nut as the USSR, but something. Add that to the scale of the country compared to Japan and, yes, Japan was basically biting off a mouthful akin to what Germany was doing in Russia.

    India in the 18th century had had some experiences of imperial/civilizational unity, notwithstanding the many freligious, linguistic, ethnic and class barriers. Quite strong ones, under empires of all three of its top religions, over millennia, and its ruling classes had even tried on harmony between Hindus and Muslims and some common identity.

    The last, the Mughals, controlled the largest territory and the only one to encompass almost all modern India, Pakistan, Bdesh, and some other bits. But when they fell, fast and hard, many new and old identities asserted themselves, and many Mughal viceroys carved out states for themselves based on some old patterns.

    The Mughals had been fantastically rich and powerful, and many of the successor states were too. Though they already relied on handfuls of European officers to bring their armies up to scratch. But they warred on each other, hard, from before 1700 onward, without much interruption. THe East India Company just got itself a firman to govern territory and became a player in the 1750s. They just gamed the other states, won battles, and became the new top dog, for a while behind a facade of Mughal authority. All in the traditional way. By the time they ruled much territory they had won many other princes to their side, became their protectors against some of India’s major terrors of that era — Persian or Afghan invasion, which wreaked multiple havocs in the 18th century, being the big ones. And that’s how you get a whole subcontinent/civilization for an empire.

    No matter how divided China was in the 1930s, or how fragile Stalin might have been, neither country was offering its would-be ruler that set of magic circumstances, or a century in which to build.

  11. ASDF says:

    Sure, there are reasons why India worked out and China didn’t. I’m just saying that if you WANT to believe you can do it, it’s not the same level of fantasy as having Luxembourg fight of the third Reich.

    Agree that the primary problem Japan and Germany had was that they were the equals of the Anglo americans in terms of quality, but the riches of the new world/colonialism allowed them to gain a leg up on the late comers that they couldn’t match.

    With hindsight we could say that they should have just demilitarized and traded, but we forget what a brutal world it appeared to be back then. Conflict seemed like an inevitability.

  12. Sam J. says:

    “…With hindsight we could say that they should have just demilitarized and traded, but we forget what a brutal world it appeared to be back then. Conflict seemed like an inevitability…”

    I think we’re skipping something. All the various governments WOULD NOT allow trade to threaten their trade in their colonies. They were trapped with no colonies.

    The USA after the war allowed Germany and Japan to rape our country, [we're the colony], to avoid war. It’s cost us a fortune or the middle class anyways.

  13. Graham says:

    Every nation ends up flavoring its free trade with a bit of mercantilism.

    The British approached unilateral free trade most closely when they were riding high and it benefited them to do so. The US never got as close but talked a good game in the postwar era when it was for a time the only big industrial producer left. It has selectively backpedalled ever since.

    The logic of free trade and comparative advantage, the logic today of globalization, works best and ultimately leads to a borderless, nation-free world. That’s how you get a pure market in capital, goods, services and labor. Or near enough.

    If you actually want to have a nation, you can’t make unlimited commitment to that your only strategy. Probably not even in the 1930s–40s when the long-term results were not so clear.

    It’s a pity, as someone noted if the Germans of 1914 had elected peace they might have dominated Europe economically soon after, as they do now — except much more so and from a position of greater strength and capacity than they do now. Whether, absent the wars, they would still be in a demographic crisis, I can’t speculate. Maybe not. On the other hand, in 1914 it looked to the Germans, and not only to them, that Russia was the medium- to long-term winning horse. It was growing and building by leaps and bounds, and it had the colossal lead in resources already. Not so clear that Germany’s gamble wasn’t necessary after all.

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