Appendices - Hirohito's War
APPENDIX G: COULD JAPAN HAVE WON THE PACIFIC WAR?
Counterfactual or alternative history is useful if it sheds light on the cause and effect of actual events. Given that the Japan themselves thought that it would be possible to win the war, albeit knowing it to be a risky adventure, it seems worthwhile to pursue the idea that their victory was a possibility. In 1941 Hirohito and his ministers were not looking to suicide the nation. In this respect looking at the Pacific War in an ‘alternative’ way’ is particularly useful because of the overwhelming post-war consensus that American victory was inevitable. It was a consensus based on the fact that America’s population in 1939 (130m) was almost double that of Japan (71m) and that its economy was over ten times greater: $85bn versus $7.5bn. Even a Great Britain in decline had a GDP four times greater than that of Japan.
Economic rationalism based on size is not the only determinant of outcome in war however. Goliath defeated David; the puny city-states of Greece defeated the mighty Persian Empire of the Achaemenid dynasty and the poor upstart 17th Century Kingdom of Prussia had by the end of the 19th Century defeated the Hapsburg Empire. Having unified the states of Germany, Bismarck’s armies humbled France at the Battle of Sedan and the Siege of Paris in 1871, leading to the crowning of Kaiser (Emperor) Wilhelm I at the Palace of Versailles. Americans, inhabiting a few mainly agrarian colonies on the eastern seaboard of America defeated a mighty European power, Great Britain, in the War of Independence. Japan itself had shocked the world when it destroyed the Russian Navy at the Battle of Tsushima and the Russian Army at the Battle of Mukden. Size is an important but not a single arbiter of power – otherwise logic would dictate that the world by now would have been united by a single nation.