As the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937~1945) and the Pacific War (1941~1945)unexpectedly developed into protracted wars of attrition, Japan was eventually defeated in the Pacific theater of the WWII. Another factor in Japan's downfall was the Japanese Army's warfighting style, which had not changed from the Russo-Japanese War. A typical combat in the Pacific War saw Japanese soldiers charging into the cross fire of the enemy machineguns until their annihilation, and that became an object of awe and caricature at the same time.
This paper discusses how the Japanese Army recognized and coped with the aspect of a protracted war of attrition like the WWI and the typical WWI war fighting style that put firepower at its center.This then tries to understand the behavior of the Japanese Army that caused its eventual demise in 1945. The Japanese Army recognized the need to prepare itself for a protracted war of attrition. Several factors including Japan's limited national capacity and the confrontation among the leading members of the army, however, led the Japanese Army to move away from such a preparation and toward short-term decisive warfare. Doing so,Japan would avoid being drawn into aprotracted war of attrition.To that endeavor, the Japanese Army studied siege-and-annihilate operation in order to achieve short-term decisive warfare.
Given Japan's strategic environment such as her national strength and her potential enemies,the Japanese Army arguably made a reasonable decision in embracing short-term decisive warfare.The WWI, however, had already shown the difficulty of achieving short-term decisive warfare. A strategy focusing only on short-term decisive warfare was bound to be limited in its effectiveness.
After the WWI, the Japanese Army also tried “modernization”.namely by introducing a new weapons system.It also employed Sokaisentou at the level of squad unit in order to minimize the damage from enemy firepower.
Because ofthe lack ofthe budget, however, the “modernization” of the army failed. Thea rmy also abandoned Sokaisentou in favor of close combat assault tha temphasized will power over the actual firepower. It seems that the logic reflected the reality facing the army atthe time.As material strength became unattainable, the army had torely on intangible strengths such as will power.
From the perspective of the Japanese Army, the WWI was an opportunity to join the Western imperial powers by recognizing and coping with new patterns of warfare and war fighting style.The Japanese Army, however,failed to keep up with the times. Rather, it chose to avoid facing this new situation or to take adetour,thereby failing to participate in the new era.