On the perils of armed bureaucracy

The ineffectiveness of kamikaze pilots is one of those ‘counterintuitive’ factoids that we tend to learn in middle school history (though through searching just now, apparently they actually were fairly effective). I guess the problems in the Japanese air force during the second World War extended throughout the institution:

The first of these errors was the conclusion Tokyo drew from its initial successes in aerial warfare. Japanese rulers became convinced that Japan would conquer China, because its fighters ruled the skies and its land-based bombers could fly long distances to wreak havoc on helpless cities.

The second major mistake was to gamble, in late 1941, that Japanese naval airpower could carry out a surprise attack on US naval and air forces so devastating that it would knock the American colossus permanently out of the war. Ironically, Japan’s leaders were erroneously led to this conclusion by the fielding of several outstanding new aircraft. Introduction of these airplanes helped convince Japanese leaders that the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force was at its peak.

…The early successes of the Japanese in Asia also prevented recognition of just how harmful the rivalry between the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force and the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force was. It ranged from the absurdity of not sharing technical information on aircraft being developed for both services to the travesty of Japanese Army radar stations not informing their Navy counterparts about incoming US air raids.

…The American people did not react as planned, however, and slowly but inexorably, the industrial might of the United States responded in a way undreamed of by all but a few of the Japanese leaders. Over the next four years, Japan slowly increased the number of aircraft it produced from about 5,000 in 1941 to just more than 28,000 in 1944. Japan’s total aircraft production from 1941 through 1945 was about 66,000, compared to more than 300,000 by the United States in the same period.

In other news, the spiritual sequel to Band of Brothers is about to start! I can’t wait for The Pacific.

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