Appendices - Hirohito's War
OIL, RAW MATERIALS, AND LOGISTICS: ‘JUST START SWINGING’
Japan’s Air Force Logistics: The failure of Japanese logistics, its inability to build enough cargo ships and to protect its existing fleet, is relatively well documented. However logistical failures applied across the breadth of Japan’s armed forces as well. Logistical problems became particularly apparent in the Japanese Air Forces, the orphan children of the Japanese armed services. In the Army Air Force, all units were subordinate to ground force commanders while in the Japanese Fleet Air Arm, fliers were commanded by Naval officers. Although the US Navy was divided by tensions between ‘black shoe’ (sailors) and ‘brown shoe’ (fliers) Admirals, Nimitz developed a workable system whereby a ‘black shoe’ Admiral had to have a ‘brown shoe’ deputy and vice versa.
Not only was the Japanese command structure dysfunctional within services; the Japanese Army and Navy were also permanently at loggerheads. Lieutenant Commander Masataka Chihaya recalled that they “almost fought. Exchange of secrets and experienes, the common use of airplanes and other instruments, could not even be thought of.”24 The result was that both services built stand-alone logistics systems controlling their own supply vessels and aircraft service facilities. Thus, during the New Guinea campaign, the Army had to send its aircraft 1,500 miles to Manila rather than sending them to the Navy’s much closer aircraft maintenance center at Rabaul. It is an example of dysfunctional rivalry that existed on a completely different scale to the inter-service rivalry in the US armed forces.
As early as 1936 Admiral Yamamoto had outlined that in any future war, there would be a need for the Navy to occupy islands and build airports to gain air control over the areas in its vicinity. In spite of the Navy’s planning of strategies and aerial tactics for its air arm in any future war, it failed to plan logistics consistent with its imperialistic ambitions. The need to develop techniques for the rapid build of new air bases was completely neglected. In its military advances made in the early months of the Pacific War, the Japanese air forces advanced without adequate heavy equipment to build the piers, docks and roadways needed to construct airfields. Maintenance crews arrived too late and were always too few in number. Japanese commanders may have had clear focus on the development of technically advanced weaponry but completely failed to understand the scale of logistical support required for a mechanized war. Neither did the Japanese Army or Air Force have an equivalent of the US Seabees, a dedicated corps of engineers, builders and military construction workers.
In the first ten months of the war Japan managed to build just a single airfield, at Buin on the southern tip of the island of Bougainville, but even this project was highly inadequate. The concept of mutually supporting airfields may have been developed but in reality Japan never succeeded in this quest. Thus there were no auxiliary airstrips between Rabaul and the airbase that they started to build at Guadalcanal 675 miles away, before the US Marines arrived to dispossess them of their planned forward base in June 1942. Very often officers would have to employ native labor to build facilities; unskilled, often half starved and without bulldozers, power shovels or earthmoving equipment. While building an airfield on the island of Noemfoor, 2,500 Javanese were worked to their deaths. In the last resort, it was Japanese troops who were often called upon to build airfields and airbases. Barracks were often little more than slums without washing facilities, laundries or field kitchens.
Japanese airfields themselves were often little more than battered down mud flats usually without hangars. In wet weather aircraft could get stuck on soft and slippery airstrips while in dry weather clouds of dust would rapidly degrade aircraft engines. A high percentage of Japanese aircraft losses came from having to land on poor airstrips. It was noted that on wet days, as many as ten aircraft a day were damaged. On 8 October, 1942, seven out of the 15 Mitsubishi ‘Zeros’ that landed at Buin required extensive repairs. Commander Chihay complained that “When we compare [our] clumsy result with what our enemy accomplished, building huge airfields in good numbers with inconceivable speed, we ceased to wonder why we were utterly beaten. Our enemy was superior in every respect.”25
There were no airfield tractors. Airplanes had to be manhandled into position. Munitions would be carried to load up airplanes. Turnaround times for missions were inevitably slow. “The maintenance crew are exhausted,’ complained a Navy pilot at Buin, ‘but they drag their weary bodies about the field, heaving and tugging to move planes back into the jungle. They pray for tractors such as the Americans have in abundance, but they know their dreams of such “luxuries” will not be fulfilled.”26
As the Pacific War progressed Japan’s lack of standardized aircraft even within services, let alone between Army and Navy air forces, increasingly exacerbated their logistical problems. By the end of the war Japan had produced 90 basic aircraft types 53 for the Navy and 37 for the Army; with upgrades and changes taken into account there were 164 aircraft types including variations, 112 for the Navy and 52 for the Army. Even basic equipment such as instruments, radios and accessories were not standard between the two services. The Army Air Force used a 24-volt ordering system not used by the Navy. Even mounts for cannon and rocket launchers were different. Ordering, delivery and sorting of parts became a lottery as shipping losses began to create havoc to supply logistics.
As the balance of air power shifted in favor of the United States after the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, Japan’s air forces would increasingly have to hide planes in diverse locations to evade enemy bombers – further complicating logistics. Minor damage to an aircraft or a missing spare part would often force commanders to abandon easily reparable aircraft. At Clarke Airfield in 1945, the Americans found hundreds of abandoned planes. A US intelligence officer reported, “It is impossible to describe the situation as a whole beyond saying that everywhere is evidence of disorganization and general shambles.”27 Perhaps most shambolic however was the lack of foresight given to the need for pilots. Within six months of the start of the war, the Japanese Army and Navy Air Forces were bedeviled by a shortage of skilled pilots. After the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, the Japanese Navy was denuded of a high proportion of its front rank pilots. By the end of the Battle of Guadalcanal, the Navy’s air force had run through two generations of pilots; each generation became less able than the next. Not only were flying training school places limited but experienced pilots were rarely rotated into teaching jobs. General George Kenney, MacArthur’s head of the Allied Air Forces in the South West Pacific Area, reported back to Washington that, “Japan’s originally highly trained crews were superb but they are dead.”28
By the end of 1943, Japan had lost 10,000 pilots and the air force academies could not keep up. Sakai, one of the early Japanese aces, recalled that “We were told to rush men through… to forget the fine points, just teach them how to fly and shoot.”29 In addition, as the war progressed the flying academics were not provided with enough aviation fuel and pilots had to do a large portion of their training watching instruction movies or using gliders.