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Book Review: Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy 1887-1941

by Andrew White  |  November 12, 2018  |  Comments Off on Book Review: Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy 1887-1941

Book Review: Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy 1887-1941, David C Evans and Mark R Peattie, Naval Institute Press, 1997.

This is the most comprehensive book I will likely read concerning the background (not the battles) of the Japanese Imperial Navy. At over 660 pages with notes it’s the longest I know of. Taking a chronological perspective the authors walk us through the development, political, organization, technology, design, and military, of the navy. From its early beginnings through its experience and alliances, especially with Great Britain up until the various navel treaties after 1918 that tried to help control military build up.

What I found most interesting was the last part of the book. The authors conclude that that basic weaknesses of the naval system that faced the opportunity that presented itself was that there was no single organization to reconcile competing demands across all armed forces. Additionally, in terms of grand strategy and strategy, Japan only ever prepared for battle; never effectively for war. Victories through history taught Japanese leaders that focus of force and dominance at a key point, a single battle, with superior weapons, was all that was needed to win. A war over time is very different and Japan never looked at the long game from a militaristic viewpoint.  The main long-term concern was with resources.

The final twist? Despite the losses and eradication of a proud, historical naval tradition, the industrial skills that developed some of most advanced weapons and largest armaments, went in to design and build the cars, the cameras and computers we all came comfortable buying and using.  There are many more books that look at the WWII and Japan’s naval involvement – this is not of those.  This book explains how Japan got to that point; and helps explain how the war developed from the Japanese side.

Recommended 8 out of 10.

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Andrew White
Research VP
8 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Andrew White is a Distinguished Analyst and VP. His roles include Chief of Research and Content Lead for Data and Analytics. His main research focus is data and analytics strategy, platforms, and governance. Read Full Bio




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