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Pacific World War II Book Review  
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by Edward J. Drea
Bison Books Corp  2003
Soft cover
320 pages
Photographs, Index
ISBN 0803266383
Cover Price:
Language: English

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In The Service Of The Emperor
Essay on the Imperial Japanese Army

Edward Drea's book is a collection of twelve essays that together sheds new light about its prehistory, foundations, and its leaders. He explores crucial battles and decisions that dictated the IJA's actions during the Pacific War, and concluded with its plans for its fanatical & self-destructive defense of the Japan. For anyone interested in learning more about the truth behind one of the most infamous armies in the history of war, this book is essential reading.

Development of the Japanese Army
The first essays explore the foundations of the IJA, and its development and doctrine. Drea explores the 1939 undeclared war between Russia and Japan at Khalkhin Gol, and how the IJA failed to learn from its defeat in this largely unknown battle. They choose to ignore and avoid the painful lessons of this battle, like their lack of effective anti-tank weapons and firepower, and dependence of fighting spirit to overcome enemy armor and opposition. These unlearned lessons and losses that would be repeated again in the Pacific war, on a much larger scale.

On next two essays explore is how the IJA regarded the Soviet Union as their primary threat, and concentrated their tactics, planning and doctrine on war on the Manchurian front. Contrary to popular belief, the IJA did not even consider or have plans for a war with the United States, or even knew of the Japanese Navy to attack Pearl Harbor until month before December 7, 1941. This fact meant they were unprepared to fight a war with the USA, and infarct did not even consider them a hypothetical opponent until nearly the start of the war! Although the IJA excelled at tactical maneuvers, it failed to plan the equally important aspects of logistics and re-supply, leaving unprepared in situations other than total victory.

Japanese Recruit Training & Indoctrination
One essays deal with the experience of IJA recruits in training. Like all armies, those in Japan experienced a boot camp that indoctrinated them. Drea explores what factors and indoctrination molded recruits into the IJA private first class soldiers. A ridged and brutal existence of beating, even for the slightest infractions marked their indoctrination, and violence they would pass onto the next group of recruit. Although no essay or deconstruction can excuse or explain the brutality of the IJA, this chapter certainly helps the western reader to better understand life as a Japanese recruit, and how and why they preformed as they did in during the Pacific war.

Profile of General Adachi
Drea chooses the Japanese Army Lt. General Hatazo Adachi as the focus of a comprehensive profile / biography as one of the middle essays. This selection is particularly relevant to veterans of New Guinea, as Adachi was the commander of IJA's 18th Area army. Far beyond just a listing of his battlefield achievements and failures, this is a complete profile of the Adachi from his formative years, experiences as a recruit and early postings. The reader learns what made him typical, and also untypical of his other IJA comrades. While not the most famous and well known general of the Pacific war, this is an enlightening biography, on all levels, for his career mirrors the highs & lows of the IJA itself. His mark was made as a commander in China, who broke thought stiff Chinese resistance near Shanghai and earned the respect of his men from commanding along side them, and exposing himself to the same dangers and action they faced. His deficiencies were exposed in New Guinea, where his 18th Area army was out maneuvered, and out witted by Allied commanders and actions, leaving it isolated in remote areas of New Guinea and Wewak. Despite their hopeless position, his Army never surrendered, until the end of the war. Although he never partook in any atrocities himself, he did nothing to curtail his subordinates. Charge with these war crimes, he committed suicide in 1947 while in captivity.

Australian's Intelligence Role - Fifty Five Wireless
Other chapters of the book explore two fascinating angles, rarely covered in other Pacific history texts. The first, is the victory of Allied signal intercepts, not just the well known fact that Americans had broken many Japanese codes, and used this information to predict the attack on Midway, and shoot down Admiral Yamamoto, but the larger lessons of intelligence, gleamed by otherwise unknown units, like the Australian Fifty-five wireless section, that single handedly eaves dropped Japanese radio communications and harvested valuable data that contributed to the larger intelligence picture of the actions and movements of IJA in New Guinea.

Key Battlefield Experiences & Homeland Defense Plans
Drea explores the fighting on Leyte gulf, in great detail as an example of the doctrine differences, and what generalizations can be learned from this history. Interesting insights explored, such as how the Japanese generally excelled in battlefield maneuvers, camouflage and fire discipline, while Americans tended to rely more on overwhelming firepower, this did not overcome their general lack of complete planning, and tendency to under estimate their opponents and logistical issues.

The final essay explores Japanese preparations for Homeland Defense. Thankfully, these plans were never put into action, but their planning proved the fanatical means to which they intended to defend, including the acceptance of tactics that used civilians, and mobilized the entire population in the defense, and undoubtedly would have resulted in some utter destruction of the Japanese people and in an apocalyptic battle begriming in November 1945, with the planned American invasion.

Review by  Justin Taylan  

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019

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