Japanese Imperial Navy

ďThe key to national greatness is a strong industrial economy coupled with
a powerful navy.Ē


It was 8 AM at in the Pacific on December 7, 1941, and a harbor filled with a
few warships was being bombed. It wasnít uncommon for a harbor bombing during
the times of World War II. What was uncommon was the fact that the harbor
belonged to the United States, a country that wasnít involved in the war yet,
and the country bombing it was Japan, a country that had come out of isolation
just eighty years earlier and whose economy was just one seventh the size of the
United States. A few months later one may think that Japan, being as small and
new as it was that it would have been obliterated, yet it wasnít. In fact,
after five months Japan had created an almost perfect record for its name. With
the attack on Pearl Harbor, the sinking of two Royal Navy ships, the Prince Of
Wales and Repulse, four separate engagements around Java, and operations in the
Indian Ocean in April, the Japanese had inflicted heavy loses on the Allies and
destroyed most of the Allied opposition around Japan itself with exceptionally
minute loses.

How could a country that has only been mingling with other countries for
eighty years attack with great skill another country that was at the time, one
of the most powerful countries in the world? Simple, Japan had been preparing
for a war just like this one for since they came out of isolation in the early
1860ís. Although the war wasnít planned against the United States and was in
fact against Russia and China, the knowledge that they had acquired in new
technologies, ship building, aviation, training, and tactics was all put to use
when they did.

Why Japan Attacked

Imperialist Japan in the 1920ís and 1930ís was surviving on imports from
other countries, especially from the United States. Imports such as iron and oil
made up 90% of what Japan used in a year. The Japanese saw this, and because
they had wanted to become more of a self-sufficient country, saw the need for
expansion to lessen this gap. Japans government saw the perfect place in China
that could feed a going economy with all of the raw materials that it needed. It
planned and invasion on the northern parts of China and proceeded to do so with

The United States saw what was happening and warned Japan that they didnít
like what they were seeing. They had had not intervened and Japan did not take
our warning as it should have. It continued to invade parts of China, and soon
seized all of French Indochina. The United States, replying to a request made by
the French, placed an embargo on Japan. Japan, who received most of its imports
from them was trapped and saw the only way out was to start a war with them. Not
a war in the sense that they would land troops on the coast of California and
invade the United States, but one that would be small and unpopular in the
United States. What they hoped would happen was the United States would receive
enough disapproval from its citizens and would grow tiered of the war and would
negotiate a treaty with Japan, given them what they wanted.

Ship Development

Although the Japanese Imperial Navy was inferior to the United States Navy in
the number of ships that were war ready and the aggregate tonnage, there wasnít
any other country in the world that surpassed the Japanese on a combat ship to
combat ship basis (Greene 10). The Japanese warship designs emphasized speed and
offensive firepower while placing less importance on structural strength,
stability, protection, and range. All of their ships were combat ready for night
actions and were up to date on most technologies. It should be noted that this
was almost impossible to accomplish without breaking most of the pre-war naval
treaties that Japan had signed, but it should be noted the Japan wasnít alone.
Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union, and France also did break these treaties.

The Imperial Navy was formed in the middle of the 1860ís and was shaped
after the British. Even the naval academy Etajma was designed after the British
academies. In the beginning of the formation of the Imperial Navy, the Japanese
bought their warships from prominent British shipyards. Of those British
shipyards was Vickers and Yarrow. The Japanese then began importing large
quantities of foreign naval material and soon developed an ability to support
their own naval ambitions. Japan had help from