Stop Japan Now!

by James R Young
James R Young knows Japan and its people as well as any American could know them. For 13 years he covered the Orient for the International News Service in Tokyo. Born in Rushville, IL, he attended the University of Illinois. started his newspaper career with Scripps-Howard. He now is touring the US lecturing on his experiences in Japan.
—Ed.
American sea and air power can halt Japanese aggression immediately if used now, the author contends. He advocates the US call Nippon's bluff.
"Several months ago I stated that. before this war was over. our Government would have to engage in war with Japan. I know of no better time than now to do the job."
—Allen I Ellender, Senator from Louisiana

Japan's threat in the Far East is perpetuated by an Axis plan to keep our Pacific Fleet from being released for immediate convoy duty in the Atlantic. America can and must call Nippon's bluff and free our Naval squadrons in the Pacific, if we are to get the necessary aid to Britain in time. This is the hour to act. Japan is vulnerable to an attack by our Army and Navy air units operating from bases in Alaska, the Philippines and even China. Almost single-handed our air power, as it now stands, can cut the lifeline of Japan's only real menace — her navy — destroy her crowded cities, demoralize her army and render the nation worthless to the Axis.

Just as the German war machine smashed through the Low Countries and pinched the Balkans the Nazis plan, by using the Japanese as a stumbling block to keep America silent and busy with "peace negotiations" and afraid to use force against the Land of the Rising Sun. In this way, Japan can become the key pivotal point whereon the Axis can whirl to threaten the United States. The first part of the plan is to eliminate Russia. Already Japan is organizing White Russians in Harbin, Tientsin and Shanghai in preparation for a puppet regime in Siberia. As we ship planes and vital war supplies to Russia through Siberia, they are being immobilized in a sense by increased Japanese forces numbering nearly 1,000,000 in Manchuria. When and if the Soviets should be overcome by the so far victorious Nazi machine, America will be in a tough spot Japan will be free to go south and, jointly with Ger many, bludgeon China through a pincer move which will be followed with a push around to India. joining in Africa the German thrust through the Balkans. The only safe action for the United States to take to prevent such a move is to strike now at Japan with the full force of our air, sea and land forces.

If we permit the totalitarian countries to control the Far East, we are inviting Japan to threaten our Pacific Coast, just as Hitler's futuristic plan is to attack our Atlantic shores and disrupt Western Hemisphere solidarity. But. if we weaken Japan now and. at the same time, the German force is defeated in Europe, then the democracies can re-establish in Europe and the Orient.

Right now the Orient is an international boiling pot. If Stalin should quit or sue for peace with Germany, we would immediately face Japan. Knowing the vacillations of the Kremlin in the past, l would not be surprised if, because of our indecision to act in the Far East, the Soviet would turn, under forced collaboration with the Axis, against the United States and Great Britain. This would put China out of the picture. The Philippines would be joined with Thailand to Axis Japan. Singapore would become isolated and our channels for rubber, mica, tungsten, manganese and tin would be cut off by Japan's southward knifing. If we permit Japan to continue we will find ourselves in a perpetual state of agitation. If we do not take the initiative. we will be forced to "bai1 out" with our Navy in the Pacific, leaving that ocean under Nazi-Japanese domination.

Our job is to thwart Japan's encirclement. We must give her "Hobson's choice" and, if the Japanese do not accept, we must drop our compromise policy and face the dilemma with firmness and force.

There are three trends of thought in America today:

  1. Japan cannot attack America.
  2. The United States cannot defeat Japan.
  3. By using our combined air power and fleet, we can eliminate any further "mug-wumping."

The possibility of a Japanese attack on our shores was minimized by Russia's turn against the Axis. Until that time, Japan was in a position to encircle the Philippines. Now Japan is encircled on the north by the Soviet and on the south by strengthened American, British and Dutch forces — and by China in the middle.

Virtually, Japan is caught in a web of modern citadels of air and sea power. She is 1,500 miles from Dutch Harbor, 500 miles from Russia's Komandorski Islands. Her southernmost navy post is Camranh Bay, 2,500 miles away. Her South Sea mandated islands in another direction are 2,000 miles distant. Less than 1,300 miles away from her industrial centers near Tokyo., at Alaskan air bases, are US Army Air Force bombardment groups, standing ready for action. And facing her Gibraltar of the Pacific, Formosa (largest island in the Japanese group), are strong US land, sea and air forces in the Philippines. Japan could not withstand the highly developed and speedy striking ability of America's new Pacific might. She would quickly crumble.

Actually, Tokyo. is a military aviation officer's dream of pandemonium. An attack on water reservoirs and any of the baker's dozen major hydraulic and thermal generating plants will cause complete disruption. Fifty suburban electric interurban railways depend on several centrally-located electric power houses.

Rivers — narrow, shallow and rapid — are useless as supplemental navigation, when railways and bridges are blown up. A poorly equipped 200-mile-long street car system, using burdensome double trolleys, and trying to carry 3,000,000 Tokyo. passengers daily, will be paralyzed by the military expedient of wrecking suburban electric power plants. Also two million bicycles jam the narrow streets.

Tokyo's suburbs, which have mushroomed thousands of armament factory smokestacks, can be decommissioned by enemy planes. Cutting water pipes connecting the reservoirs which feed the city's fire plugs, homes and industrial water tanks will create uncontrollable havoc.

Trains run on narrow gauge rails which — with curves, tunnels and mountains and allowing for landslides and earthquakes — reduce express trains to a 35 mph average. The British-type small freight car, the size of an American caboose, transports freight at an average of 20 mph. More freight cars move from sundown to dawn on the Norfolk & Western than shuttle in one week over any parallel Japanese trackage.

Much mileage is electrified — particularly the main line from Tokyo. to Nagoya (the center of aircraft production) — and industrial Osaka. Bombers will aim at the one main line and at transformers and transmission lines which web Japan like neon signs on Broadway. Four railroad lines lead from Tokyo. The main line — the Tokido — winds through 20 tunnels (the longest is five miles) to the end of the islands, 700 miles away. Twenty passenger trains run every 24 hours, taking 20 hours each. Imagine the composite facilities of New York City limited to a double track to Chicago, over one major railroad bridge a third the size and quality construction of the George Washington over the Hudson! North from Tokyo., two lines carry traffic 400 miles over plains and through mountains. Through the backdoor of Tokyo. is another railway penetrating a mountain chain. A flight of bombers will find, in one glance, three vehicular bridges and approaches of the mile-wide Shinagawa River south of Tokyo. — the Empire's sole traffic arteries connecting highly industrialized sections of Yokohama where automobile, rubber, chemical and electric manufacturing plants stand in open, reclaimed land.

Bombers over Osaka will intercept the flow from the Yodogawa reservoir, set fire to giant cotton and rayon-spinning mills, wartime chemical plants and industrial alcohol units. Japan's war productivity centers at Osaka, 50 miles closer to Vladivostok than Tokyo.

Westward 250 miles is the arsenal terminal of Japan, the coal mine center — unprotected by mountain ranges — concentrated near the seacoast 600 miles from Vladivostok and bordering the Pacific. A combined air attack from the north and carriers from the south could practically disable the region in one trip.

Imagine the huge Ford River Rouge industries — the equivalent in size of Japan's arsenal industrial acreage of coal, water, electricity and ore rations — coupled with a shortage of skilled labor, and you have a picture of the midget proportions of Japan's wartime effort. Remember; it is contrasted with one American company at Dearborn, MI, which produces more and better than the combined assembly lines of all Japan.

One effective attack from an American aircraft carrier, bombers from Siberia, or a squadron from China could cripple Japan's transportation system. Night attacks on any part of Japan will leave her practically helpless. If bad weather prevails they will not be able to patrol the island and return to any base, due to the limitation of their flying fields. One open spot in Japan could be a focus point to navigate and bomb with considerable success, due to the small area and the cities being so closely adjacent to each other. In other words, it will almost permit her enemies to do blind bombing and still be very effective.

Important naval bases also will be vulnerable to bombardment, in view of the fact that antiaircraft defense cannot function until the attacking forces are over their objectives. Such airports as Japan has could be bombed completely out of commission, as they have few such bases and cannot move freely to newer fields, due to the condition of the terrain.

Then the Japanese are not up to par with other countries in night and blind-flying operations. They have been lax in this phase of aviation; only in the last few years have they installed night-flying equipment on certain air routes. American military and Naval aircraft could protect themselves easily against any pursuit action of present-day Japanese airplanes.

All of this will leave Japan in a precarious position if organized aerial warfare is made from Siberia, China, Alaska and from carriers in the Pacific.

The island of Japan — being limited in size and its major cities and industries located so close together on the shoreline — does not permit them to locate antiaircraft defenses sufficiently distant from those cities to endanger an approach by enemy aircraft. Even if their antiaircraft defense is effective, the enemy will have already reached his objective before the Japanese can attack.

The concentrated effect of an American and Soviet bombardment of Japanese rail heads will seriously handicap Japan; they have not yet developed main highways between their major cities. Where they have done so, they have made only single roads. All shipbuilding industries are located in the main ports; Japanese naval bases and shipyards are extremely vulnerable because of the lack of antiaircraft defense.

Primarily Japan's geographic condition is not favorable to the development of aviation. The country is small and population centers are comparatively close together. It is very mountainous and this, coupled with the fact that rice fields cover most of the level country, makes emergency landing places extremely scarce.

Weather conditions in Japan — particularly in winter — are a major obstacle. Because of the few airports, heavy snows would handicap them in sending up aircraft to fight off bombardment. Any formation of airplanes attacking Japan, carrying only a small number of incendiary bombs, will be so effective over the helpless country that they will be able to carry all the gasoline necessary to permit long-range operation. Weather conditions are such that the center of Japan, when completely overcast, will permit enemy aircraft to take off from distant places, attack in comparative safety and return to their bases while Japanese defensive aviation remains grounded.

Particularly notable is the fact that the roads are so narrow from even the largest factories to their airports, they must assemble their airplanes at the field instead of in the factory. Almost all of their fields are natural turf and little effort has been made to install good runways for operations during heavy rains.

Notwithstanding Japan's recent reorganization of her army and navy air forces, with Gen Kenji Doihara (described many times as the Japanese Lawrence of Asia) as head of the air arm — Japan's present air power and material strength are no match for our modern bombers and 400 mph fighters.

Production of planes in Japan is variously estimated. The generally accepted figure is 250 a month. Their plan was to increase the output in 1942 to 360 planes. But the lack of essential materials cuts their production figure from a normal 250 to about 150 per month. Lack of materials and worn and overworked American precision tools have slowed the aviation industry.

But, most important, she is totally deficient in every essential war material — iron and steel, aluminum, modern machine tools, copper, cotton, tin, wool, scrap, oil and gasoline, lead and manganese. Her war machine at home — which might be called her fourth front — would be paralyzed. She has no reserve material, is economically exhausted, financially ruined and paralyzed from America's freezing order.

In aviation, as in the auto industry, the Japanese have always had something of everything from everywhere. A big handicap is the development of carburetors to contend with notoriously bad Japanese weather conditions. They have French carburetors, American piston rings, German and Italian cylinder heads, Swedish ball bearings and all kinds of machine tools — plus American cotton, Dutch rubber and imported aluminum.

One cannot estimate Japan's accumulated stocks and reserves, but in a searching, conservative analysis — and having observed the world's greatest armament producing power — I believe it is suicide for Japan to start a shooting match with any organized force.

Principal Japanese aircraft factories are located in Tokyo. and Nagoya. The largest engine factories are centered in Tokyo. One of the strongest points regarding the vulnerability of Japan from air attack is the fact that all of the large industrial cities which contain factories are adjacent to the seacoast. They have no way of defending these cities from air attack. In Europe, antiaircraft defenses are not only located within the cities themselves, but many miles away and in the logical path of approaching aircraft. But Japan cannot have such defenses because it will be practically impossible to organize sufficient antiaircraft defense on boats to strike at enemy aircraft before they arrive at their objectives.

Japanese manufacturing industries are operated for the national defense and all companies are closely supervised by the Army and Navy. There are eight large aircraft companies in Japan. Largest is the Mitsubishi Aircraft Works, which produces pursuit and bombardment airplanes, engines, propellers and aircraft accessories. Nakajima Aircraft Company is another major producer. The Kawanishi Aircraft Company manufactures seaplanes. The Aichi Aircraft Company, Showa Aircraft Company and Tokyo. Gas & Electric Manufacturing Company also are among the Big Six.

For a number of years the Japanese have developed aircraft through adapting a type purchased through a manufacturing license from some other country. These licenses and designs have become obsolete by the time they have gone into production. However, all of this has been an educational factor with them and they recently endeavored to design their own airplanes, particularly fighters. They have had some success, but these airplanes are limited in range and usually have excessive landing speeds, necessitating almost perfect ground facilities. They are far behind with regard to the development of armor plate and bulletproof gas tanks.

Their bombers are a combination of various adaptations from German Junkers and Heinkel types. The majority of Japanese engines are of foreign design and low horsepower. It has taken them considerable time to tool up to producing these engines, as well as airplanes, and today are more handicapped than ever in their attempt to change their tooling for the manufacture of newer types of airplanes and engines recently obtained from Germany.

Their aviation factories do not compare with European or American plants. They still use a great deal of hand work. It is true that they have been successful in building large steamships, but that industry has been educated for a long time in the development of freighters and large passenger-carrying vessels under foreign supervision. The aircraft industry, however, has only recently been developed and the Japanese have encountered many difficulties in the development of forgings and castings. Japanese castings, for instance, are far below US standards. As a result, they have many casualties from airplane accidents caused by engine failures.

Japan's air force is believed to total 5,000 planes. Several hundred, or as many as a thousand, are perpetually grounded for repairs, because they cannot now import spare parts. They do not have materials, patterns or the metallurgical ability to make parts. Of the 5,000 planes, 3,000 are navy and 2,000 army. The total first-line fighting planes in their army and navy is about 3,000, including about 1,000 trainers. The remainder are transports and other types. Distribution of Japanese army and navy planes places approximately 400 in Manchuria, 700 in North and Central China and 300 in South and Indo-China. With all their aircraft planning, however, they are frightened at news of the United States' program. They look eastward and worry about our two-ocean, $10,000,000 Navy of 338 large and small warships and 400.000 skilled men. With our expanded fleet including 12 aircraft carriers, 15 battleships, 54 cruisers, 197 destroyers and 74 submarines — thereby increasing our fighting ships from 338 to 691 — our Navy will have tonnage which Japan cannot hope to equal. Also we have a Navy training program of 6,000 pilots to be attained by the end of December. Again, the Japanese have noted with worried brows that our expanded air force will include 17,000 men. As the Japanese look south they find that, almost overnight, we have joined with the British and the Dutch to treble our reinforcements in the Pacific.

Military aviation in Japan had its beginning in 1911. Two young army officers had been sent to France in 1909 to study aeronautics. Returning home, they formed the nucleus of an observation unit. The effectiveness of the airplane as an offensive weapon was brought to the attention of Japan's high command when a mission of 22 officers and 70 mechanics visited Italy in 1918 and returned with eyewitness accounts of air battles over the various World War fronts.

The following year, a group of 60 French army aviators was invited to Tokyo. to give instruction to Japanese army aviators. The first Japanese aviation school opened near Tokyo. in 1920, with an enrollment of about 100 commissioned and noncommissioned officers. Two other schools were established in 1922 and aviation was added to the curriculum of the Imperial Military Academy 15 years ago. Improved machines were purchased from abroad and government and private factories then began manufacturing by copying them in fairly large quantities. An independent army air corps was established in 1925; thereafter, the Japanese kept up an expansion program of building air units from company to battalion to regiment.

The aviation department of the Japanese Military Academy became an independent institution known as the Military Aviation School, with its own airport and workshops. The school specialized in developing strategy in combat. Original ideas and technique, peculiar to the Japanese, were experimented with. However, they have not been successful in creating individual tactics and individual ingenuity; the inability of a Japanese to disengage himself from group thinking in an emergency largely has been responsible. In other words, the military academy could not make them into individuals. It, therefore, reverted to mass performance and group thinking. Consequently, like the Italians, they are lost without their leader.

When the Sino-Japanese "incident," as they call it, broke in July, 1937, the air arm of Japan's military comprised 10 regiments including 11 reconnoitering, 11 fighting and four bombing companies, with two balloon corps. German-trained parachutists were adopted only two years ago; their first landing in China was reported in October, 1941, when a Japanese paratroop detachment was killed or driven away by the Chinese and Chuchow. This, however, may be an indication of preparation for an invasion of the Philippines.

Expansion by conscription of flyers has been part of the Japanese program at numerous new schools. The first had an enrollment of 400 five years ago and now is training men by the thousands. But Japan never will equal American airmen in quality or quantity, mainly because of inherent physical handicaps.

Japanese pilots have no fear. In temperament and psychology, the Japanese are like the Germans; they have a fanatic and religious devotion to their leader and they believe their bombing missions are holy acts of a manifest destiny. They will deliberately crash themselves into an objective. In such suicide attacks they plunge with the thought that their spirits will be enshrined in the temple of Imperial worship.

Japan's best pilots are in the navy. This may be due to the fact that many of them have been trained abroad and the physical and the educational requirements bring a higher type than to the army, but in either branch of the service they are not natural flyers any more than are the Chinese. They cannot adapt themselves from a life of work in the rice fields to flying in the air. There is an instability in their functioning and their reflexes simply do not correlate under pressure at great altitudes.

Nor can they get away from book learning. The Japanese think and operate in groups. They memorize mechanical equipment, but do not take to it naturally. In military tactics they are all right as long as everything is going according to the book, but when they encounter a discrepancy or problem, and they have arrived at the last page of the manual, they are lost.

Most Japanese youths come from the country where, despite a government campaign, mothers still carry children on their backs. This handicaps Japanese pilots with eye trouble since the head, from infancy, is held with the eyes skyward.

Lack of blind-flying training, as I have pointed out, is a major handicap. As the terrain in Japan does not permit many emergency landings, they would lose many planes in wartime through lack of blind-flying ability. American and European aviation experts who have been in Japan, and who have been stationed as exchange officers with Japanese air regiments, have noted in particular that, while they can fly almost any type of airplane — providing everything functions normally — they have extremely limited knowledge of the mechanical operation of their equipment with respect to limitations and safety factors. The percentage of pilots who could be considered first class is extremely small and consists mostly of men who have been fortunate enough to get by for a number of years and who have acquired a fairly good knowledge of the points necessary to make a good flyer. The younger conscripts are extremely inefficient. Considerable question is raised by competent observers as to Japanese ability to handle armament. In addition to bad marksmanship, they do not seem able to coordinate speeds.

Their ability to land airplanes runs from one extreme to another. They either land far in excess of the speed required, or they make stall landings. This is due to their lack of knowledge of the speed limitations required for landing. They never seem to hit a happy medium and in no way do they appear to have a finesse to coordinate mentally exactly what they themselves and the airplane are going to do.

I had never given much thought to the physical condition of Japanese flyers until the day I received a cabled request from a Sydney, Australia, newspaper. The paper asked whether the increased vertigo of Japanese aviators at altitudes could be attributed to the lack of eating beef. This was a new type of request for a foreign correspondent and I was interested in the followup:

Basically, the Japanese diet is raw fish, seaweed, bean curd and uncooked vegetables. Naturally such food is not substantial for anyone in active work. I found that the Japanese navy in particular had had to establish a special diet for its aviators, based on a combination of rich vitamin-producing Japanese- and American-style food. (The Australian inquiry was a bit mercenary; if it could be established that vertigo in Japanese flyers was increasing, an enterprising Australian beef salesman expected to open a new market.)

So Japan's downfall will be the poison of her own reasoning to the effect that she is invincible. The answer in dealing with such a nation is to take Vladivostok, Dakar and Martinique — and do the arguing afterward. If we find we do not need the bases, we can hand them back. A hermitage empire, helpless, isolated, Japan cannot maintain a major military assault. Her present leaders are blind if not cognizant of the high industrial mortality from airplane attacks.

But as the late ambassador to Washington — Hirsohi Saito — remarked: "Japan has crazy men."

A Japanese "Secret"

The Japanese always are buying the latest inventions — to copy. They purchased an American passenger job years ago. An American engineer brought the plane to Japan to make delivery. As soon as it was unloaded, the plane became the property of the Japanese army and automatically became a national secret. Not even the American salesman was allowed thereafter to see his plane.

One purpose in sending him to Japan was to demonstrate the ship. The plane was the largest the Japanese had ever seen. The gadgets simply had them dizzy but, typical of Japanese psychology, they figured they would learn fast, copy at once and the sky soon would roar with the great winged production from America. The American insisted that he show them how to take off and land. "No," he was told, "this plane is a secret." So he left for San Francisco — but was not halfway across the Pacific when he received a wireless message advising him that the $250,000 plane was half in the water and half on the ground at the Haneda airport, outside Tokyo. The secretive Japanese had attempted to bring her down on their first test flight and had landed on the edge of a concrete pier.

They bought another plane.

Nipponese Statistics

The Japanese army used its first balloon in 1877.

In one of many internal wars between 1831. and 1859, a Japanese hit on the plan of sending a man up on a kite to observe the enemy's position.

The Japanese claim that, in 1894, one of their people made the first model of a machine resembling an airplane.

Japanese stories relate that, once upon a time, a man who invented a flying machine fell into a cherry blossom party being given by a feudal lord. The date of this catastrophe is not given but it probably is about 1825.

Japan today has 35 airports. Commercial airlines cover about 10,500 miles. Commercial lines have four 21-passenger Douglas DC-3s and several 10-passenger Lockheeds. Passengers number about 25,000 a year.

Tokyo is 587 miles from Sapporo, which is the northernmost branch of the civil air service, 1,400 miles to the end of the line in Manchuria and 2,034 miles to Tientsin. Hanoi, Indo-China, the latest acquisition, is about 3,000 miles.

Japanese plane losses in China have been heavier than generally believed. In four years they have used up, had shot down and crashed in accidents about 3,100 planes. The Chinese have lost, according to Japanese figures, 1,985 planes.

The first Japanese to fly a plane was Capt Kumazo Hino, who flew a German monoplane December 14, 1910, to an altitude of 99 feet, using a 24 hp engine and reaching a speed of 36 mph. Five days later another Japanese piloted a Henri Farman, two-seater, with a 50 hp Gnome engine, at 41 mph. Japan's greatest aviation accomplishment was the flight of a home-made plane in 51 hours from Japan to Europe, using a Nakajima 550 hp engine and at a maximum speed of about 312 mph.

This article was originally published in the December, 1941, issue of Flying and Popular Aviation magazine, vol 29, no 6, pp 14-17, 58, 62, 64, 100.
The original article includes 12 photos, plus a thumbnail portrait of the author and one of Senator Ellender with Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Two sidebars are included above.