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China’s Sunken Warships – Part 3

April 2, 2010

The  Changing Fortunes of Nations

                              (Part 3)

1. The First Sino-Japanese War 8. Technology Dividend 
2. Gunboat Diplomacy 9. Technology Compromise 
3. Dawn of the 20th Century 10. Overwhelming Odds 
4. Realising an Empire 11. Chemical and Bacteriological Warfare 
5. Encirclement  12. Defeated but still Defiant 
6. Investing in War  13. A True Representation ? 
7. Tipping the Balance of Power  14. Picture Gallery 


The Shifting Balance of Power

Comparisons with the First Sino-Japanese War underscore the shifts in the balance of power and the long running friction between the two nations. Earlier, in Part 1, it was stated that “In 1937 the Chinese Navy reportedly totalled only 59 vessels none of which exceeded 3,600 tons.

However, another source states that as of August 1937, the Chinese Navy consisted of: 7 old cruisers; 2 light cruisers; 3 old destroyers; 4 old torpedo boats; 19 old gunboats and 7 modern gunboats (a total of 42). [1]

There are signs that the Chinese government was addressing the problems of an ageing fleet. In the mid 1930s they purchased both MTB from the British Thornycroft shipbuilder and E-Boats from Germany (see Part 2).

Left: Thornycroft MTB under trial at the factory, circa 1939.

Details of purchases of Italian MTBs are almost too sketchy to be relied upon. We know no details except that they were purchased in 1921 and “stricken” in 1933.

The military forces available for deployment for any given period are frequently referred to as the ‘Order of Battle’. For comparison purposes, therefore, it might be interesting to compare China’s and Japan’s relative naval strengths in the late 19th and into the 20th century.

1.The First Sino-Japanese War

Comprehending the mind set and posturing of both China and Japan in the inter war years is best served by an elementary grasp of previous wars between the two nations.

At the start of hostilities in the First Sino-Japanese War, 1894 – 95, the Imperial Japanese Navy reportedly contained a fleet of just 12 modern warships, one frigate (the Takao 1,600 tons), 22 torpedo boats, and numerous auxiliary/armed merchant cruisers and converted liners (aka armed merchantman ?).

Politically, both Japan and China were beset with their own internal problems during the 1880s. In China, by the middle of the 1890s, the Qing Dynasty was losing its grip on the country. It was also losing the desire to keep ahead in the naval race with its traditional rival, Japan. Lack of funding, internal corruption, compensation payments  and incompetence gave rise to an ageing fleet and an overall reduction in China’s fighting ability.

Based on what would subsequently be a lack of naval victories, one also has to question whether nepotism rather than meritocracy held sway over fleet appointments.

Temperamentally the Japanese were more belligerent and the Chinese more acquiescent; the one seeking to impose it will on others and the other searching always for a political acclamation; in this the leading figure of the era was the Chinese statesman Li Hongzhang. Among modern literature his place in modern Chinese history is controversial. He is seen as bringing China to its knees as often as being it’s salvation.

Reportedly, China’s Beiyang Fleet was said to be the “Best in Asia” and “The 8th largest in the world” during the late 1880s. However, the ships were not maintained properly and indiscipline was common. [2]

Economically, the Japanese government was little better placed. It simply did not have the resources or budget to build a large navy. It did not have the infrastructure to build battleships of the size that could counter the heavier vessels of the Chinese Navy.

Japan, therefore, had to adopt the radical and untried theory of using smaller, faster warships to out- manoeuvre the unwieldy Chinese ‘ironclads’ of that era.

Japan, which by 1875 had forged strong links with the British Royal Navy, chose smaller, less expensive ships that were lightly armoured. A feature of their selection was to opt for smaller calibre but longer range guns than China, and not to rely purely on massive single or double barrelled guns of say 12″ (310 mm).

Most of Japan’s armoured ships were British built. The Fusō, Japan’s first ‘Ironclad, was ordered in 1875, as part of Japan’s first steps towards building a modern navy (NB. it was half the size of China’s Ironclads). All her protected cruisers were British designed and built with only the Matsushima Class being designed and built in France.

At the same time Japan’s naval officers were trained in Britain and the whole service was modelled along British procedures and gunnery drills.

The Matsushima class was exceptional in several ways. It featured a massive single barreled 12.6″ (320 mm), mounted aft of the superstructure and pointing astern. This made it impossible to engage an on-coming enemy vessel.

The Japanese soon realised their mistake and the impractical design was never repeated. However, that was not the end of their worries. In choosing vessels of small displacement another problem arose – the strain on  th efabric of the vessel fromthe huge recoil of a cannon of that size. Other impracticalities discovered were the re-loading times and the length of the barrel.

Notwithstanding these difficulties, the Matsushima class still managed to acquit themselves well during engagements in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894 – 95).

The table below (Table 1) would seem to indicate that despite reports that Japan chose faster, lighter ship designs (giving rise to perhaps a margin of 5 knots), the difference in speeds is here shown at their lowest, e.g. Chih Yuen 15 knots v Matsushima 16 knots, and the Fuso could only manage 11 knots in comparison with Dingyuan’s 14 knots (it is for another time to reconcile these anomalies and validate whether the speed differences were substantial or not).

Table 4. First Sino-Japanese War (1894 – 95)

Yalu River engagement – 17th Sept 1894.


Chinese (Beiyang) Naval Fleet



Japanese Naval Fleet


Ship Tons / Speed / Guns Fate   Ship

Tons / Speed/ Guns

Ironclad Battleships Dingyuan (flagship), 1882, Stettin Germany 7,670 / 14 kts / 4 x 12”, 2 x 6”  Torpedoed & scuttled 1895    Fuso 1877 British built Ironclad.Collided with Takachiho & sank 1889. Re-floated & upgraded. Scrapped 1910. *  3,717 / 11 k / 220 ft /  4 × 9.4”, 4 × 6.6“, 4 x 7.5mm 2 x Nordenfeldt, 2 x 14” torpedoes   
Zhenyuan (aka Chen Yuan) 1882, Stettin  7,670 / 14 k / 7,430 / 12 k / 4 x 12” 2 x 6”  Captured 1895       Zhenyan, Prize Ship
Armoured Cruisers King Yuen (sp ?) 1887, Armstrong / Stettin, aka Ying Yuen & King Yuan ?  2,850 / 10 k, 2 × 8.3”, 2 × 5.9”, 8 × machine guns, 4 x 18” torpedo  Sunk Sept 17, 1894        
Lai Yuen 1887, Vulcan, Stettin, Built in Germany.  2,830 / 10 k  Damaged / Sunk 1895         
Protected Cruisers Chih Yuen *1887Alterative for Chih Yuen ?/ Chi Yuen ? / Jijuan ? (Elswick design ?)  2,300 / 15 k /  2 x 8”, 1 x 6”, 4 x 3”, 6 x 2” 4  x 14” torpedo  Sunk Sep 1894 /1895 / Nov 1904   Matsushima (flagship), Matsushima class. 1890 French built (3 sister ships). Sank 1908.  4,217 tons / 16 k / 301 ft / 1 × 12.6”.  11-12 × 4.7”,  5-6 × 6 lbs, 2-5 × 3 lbs guns, 4 × 14” torpedo Chih-Yuen / Jijuan Prize Ship. (Sunk Nov 1904 ?) 
Zhiyuan * 1887 Elswick. Alterative for Chih Yuen ?  2355 / 18 k / 3 x 8.3”, 2 × 5.9”, 8 x 2.2”, 4 x 18” torpedo     Itsukushim (Matsushima class). 1889. French built Scrapped 1926  4,278 / 4,347 tons / 301 ft / 1 × 12.6”, 11 × 4.7”, 5 × 6 lbs, 5 × 3 lbs. • 4 × 14” torpedo.  
Ching Yuen 1887 Elswick(sp Ching Yuan ?) aka Jingjuan  2,850 / 14 k / 2,355 /, 18 k / 3 x 8.2”, 2 x 5.9”, 8 x 2.2”, 4 x torpedo Sunk 1895   Hashidate Matsushima class1891, Yokosuka Naval Arsenal 4,278 / 4,347 / 301 ft / 1 × 12.6”, 11 × 4.7”, 6 × 6 lbs, 2 × 3 lbs, 4 × 14” torpedoes  
Ching Yuen 1887 Elswick.(sp Ching Yuan ?) aka Jingjuan  2,850 / 14 k / 2,355 /, 18 k / 3 x 8.2”, 2 x 5.9”, 8 x 2.2”, 4 x torpedo Sunk 1895   Yoshino Elswick type (sank after collision May 1904)  4,150 / 23 k 4 × 6” quickfire guns,  8 × 4.7” quick-firers,  22 × 1.9” quickfire, 5 × 14” torpedo  
        Izumi 1883 Elswick type   2,920 / 18 k / 2 x 10”, 6 × 6” + 9 other & 3 x 15” torpedoes  
        Akitsushima 1892, Yokosuka Naval Arsenal. Became Training ship 1921. Scrapped 1927.  3,100 / 18 k / 19 k / 300 ft / 4 × 6”,  6 × 4.7”, 4 × 2” all rapid-fire guns,  4 × 14” torpedo   
        Naniwa 1885. Based on Elswick type. UK built The Naniwa & Takachiho together cost £546,980. 3,650 / 18 k / 2 × 10”, 6 × 5.9”, 2 × 6 lbs, 10 × quad Nordenfelt,  4 × Gatling guns,  4 × 15” torpedo  
        Takachiho 1885 Naniwa  class (Elswick type ?). British built. Sunk by torpedo Oct 1914.   3,650 / 18 k  / 299 ft / 6 × 5.9”,  2 × 6lbs, pounder, 10 × quad Nordenfelt guns,  4 × Gatling gun, 4 × 15” torpedo  
        Yaeyama Scrapped 1911 1,684 / 20 k  / 318  ft / 3 × 4.7”, 8 × 1.9” quick-firing guns, 2 × 18” torpedoes  
Cruisers Torpedo Cruisers –             
  Tsi Yuen  / aka Chi Yuan. 1883, Stettin  2,440 / 15 k / 2 x 8”, 1 x 6”, 4 x 3”, 6 x 2”, 4 x 15” torpedoes. Captured March 1895       Prize ship. Renamed Saien Sunk Nov 1904
  Chaoyong 1881,  Birkenhead  1,350 / 15 k / 2 x 12”, 4 x  4.7” quickfire, 2 x 1”, 3 x torpedo tubes (Or 2 x 10”, 2 x twin 9lbs, 4 x 11mm gatling gun 4 x 37mm, 2 x 4 barrelled Nordenfeldt). Sunk 17 Sept 1894   Chiyoda 1888. UK built. Discarded 1927.  2,439 / 19 k / 310 ft / 10 × 4.7”  rapid-fire guns,  14 × 1.9” Hotchkiss guns, 3 × Gatling guns, 3 × 14” torpedoes  
  Huang  No data found

– –

  Kwang Ping ## (sp Kwang Ping ?) 1,000 / 3 x 4.7”

– –

  Ping (Ping yuan? 1889, Navy Yard at Foochow)    No data found

– –

  Yangwei # 1881, Birkenhead  Identical to Chao-yong  / 1,350  / 5k /  2 x 10”, 4 × 4.7”, 2 × twin  9 lbs, 4 × 11 mm Gatling guns, 4 × 37mm Hotchkiss  2 × 4 barrelled Nordenfelt

– –

Coastal warship Pingyuan 1888 Foochow Arsenal  2,100 / 6 k / 2,150 / 10 kts / 1 x 10”, 2 x 6”, 8 x machine guns, 4 x 18” torpedo  Captured in 1895 at Weihaiwei     Takao (frigate) Yokosuka ship yard 1,600 / ? No data Pingyuan Prize Ship  
Corvette Kwan Chia (Kuang Chia ? ) 1290 / 10 k / 14 k / 1 x 6”. 4 x 5”,  6 x 37mm  Total loss 1894   Hiei         1877. British built. Damaged at Yalu River. Scrapped circa 1911.  2,200 / 2,250 / 9 k / 14 k /  3 × 6.7” Krupps,  6 × 5.9”, 2 × 3” 1 lbs breechload 4 × 25mm quad-mount repeating guns, 2 × 11 mm dual-mount repeating guns, 1 × 14” torpedo  
          Kongo     (Heie class)1877 UK built Scrapped 1910   2,250 t / 13 k / 220 ft / 3 × 6.7” Krupp, 6 × 5.9”, • 2 × 3” 1 lbs, 4 × 25mm, 2 × 11mm  repeating guns,  1 × 14” torpedo   
Others 13 or so Torpedo boats, numerous gunboats and chartered merchant vessels” Some 69 / 16 k / Some 128 / 15k      22 torpedo boats, and numerous auxiliary/armed merchant cruisers and converted liners.”    
Total / Losses / Prizes

13 / 16 ex – ‘others’

  Losses 3 *8  

 12 ex–‘others’

   Sunk 0  Prize 2
Source:  and Beiyang Fleet and &* The original source states “35mm torpedoes” but this would be less than 2” in diameter. RW has therefore substituted to 35cm or 14”.
NB The cruisers Chaoyong and Yangwei (products of Laird’s shipyard, in Birkenhead), joined the Beiyang Fleet in 1881 but were prudently kept, in reserve by Li Hongzhang, during the Sino-French War (1884-85).# Both ships are described in Wikipedia as “obsolete vessels [with] wooden hull ships covered with just a layer of metal.” * After the Yalu River and the Weihaiwei battle Chinese losses were 8 ships.


Some reports of the Battle of the Yalu River state that the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyed 8 out of ten warships of the Chinese Beiyang Fleet (note; not Beijing), off the mouth of the Yalu River on 17th Sept 1894. However, as the above table shows, it is possible that 13 Chinese ships took part of which only2 might have been sunk that day with the remaining 6 captured or sunk later.

What then was the difference that made Japan the convincing victor at the battle of the Yalu River ? It was probably tactics and an audacious use of ships and fire power.

If so, they were the same factors that 40 years later distinguished the Spanish Civil War navy of Franco from that if the Republican governments.

The First Sino-Japanese War ended at the Battle of Weihaiwei of January to February 1895, when more Chinese ships were sunk (Table 1).

One account recounts how the Dingyuan laid down withering fire on the shore based Japanese near Weihaiwei.

Another source records that at the battle of Weihaiwei, 1895, the Chinese Beiyang Fleet had 15 warships (the ironclad Dingyuan, Zhenyuan, and 13 torpedo boats). [3]  The source also states the Japanese navy had 25 warships and 16 torpedo boats, thus giving it a numerical advantage.

Other summaries of how many ships were in each fleets (re: First Sino-Japanese War), include the 2,355 ton Jiyuan (15 knots) for the Chinese. [4]  The source adds a little more detail about the ‘torpedo-boats’ being 128 tons and 15 knots and 69 tons and 16 knots – but not their quantities or names. [5]

Yet another list itemises the Chinese fleet as including what it describes as ‘cruisers’ (but which may not accord with the modern definition):

1. the Jinguan, 2. the Zhiyuan, 3. the Jinguan, 4. the Chiyuan, 5. the Guangjia, 6. the Guangyi, and 7. the Guanpong. [6]

Helpfully it also lists the names of the ‘gunboats’, though in common with the cruiser list above, no displacement or speeds are given:

1. the Zhenpang, 2. the Zhenzhong, 3. the Zhendong, 4. the Zhenxi, 5.  the Zhennan, 6. the Zhenbei.

However another source, Wikipedia, is elsewhere able to state that these boats were identical gunboats which so impressed Li Hongzhang (a leading statesman of the time), that he decided to keep them for the Beiyang Fleet even though they were originally ordered for the Nanyang Fleet. By way of compensation the Nanyang Fleet were given with four elderly gunboats that had served with the Beiyang Fleet since 1876 (a difference of 3 years constitutes ‘elderly’ ? – RW).

 Table 5. Gunboats of the Beiyang Fleet

Name Launch / Laid down Length Displacem’t Speed (kts) Engine Main Guns Torpedo / Secondary Fate
Zhenzhong  1879, Laird, Birkenhead    440 tons  10 kts    Two 22-lb guns  (1 x 35-ton Armstrong ?) – –
Zhenpang  1879, Birken-head    440 tons  10 kts    Two 22-lb guns  (1 x 35-ton Armstrong ?) – –
Zhendong  1879,  Birken-head    440 tons  10 kts    Two 22-lb guns  (1 x 35-ton Armstrong ?) – –
Zhenxi,  1879,  Birken-head    440 tons  10 kts    Two 22-lb guns  (1 x 35-ton Armstrong ?) – –
Zhennan 1879, Birken-head    440 tons  10 kts    Two 22-lb guns  (1 x 35-ton Armstrong ?) – –
Zhenbei  1879,  Birken-head    440 tons  10 kts    Two 22-lb guns  (1 x 35-ton Armstrong ?) – –


The Fulong is listed as Chinese ‘torpedo boat’ (as opposed to a gunboat) and the Zhenhai and the Caojiang are listed as Auxiliary Ships which could mean ‘armed merchantmen’.

The Kangji and the Weiyuan are listed there as ‘Training Ships’ and the Liyun is recorded as a ‘Transport’.

For Japan, the same list itemises the Akagi (615 tons, 8 knots [2-4.7, Sakamoto] and a 2,913, ton merchantman, the Saikyo (10 knots [small guns, Kano]).

Systematic records of smaller craft were not kept by the Beiyang Fleet but it is known that they had Four torpedo boats built in 1883 at the Vulcan yard in Stettin (each weighing 16 tons) for the use of the battleships Dingyuan and Zhenyuan. These four craft, known respectively as Dingyuan No. 1 and No. 2 and Zhenyuan No. 1 and No. 2, joined the Beiyang Fleet in October 1885.

The outcome of the Yalu River engagement gave Japan control of the upper reaches of the Yellow Sea and the Bay of Korea (see map below).

The destruction of the Beiyang Fleet was followed up by the complete annihilation of China’s Northern Fleet at Weihaiwei – commanded on both occasions by Admiral Ting.

The Japanese launched a series of night attacks by torpedo boats sinking the Dingyuen and 3 other ships. Of the 13 Chinese torpedo boats which attempted to escape towards Yentai, 6 were destroyed and the remaining 7 captured by the Japanese. The protected cruiser Ching-yuen was sunk on  9th Feb 1895. The Japanese flag flew on the surrendered battleship Zhenyuen, the cruisers Ping-yuen, Tsi-yuen, and Kwang-ping, and six gunboats.

The subsequent fall of Weihaiwei served to secure for Japan command of the sea, coast and naval facilities.

Mention is made in one commentary of “the island fortress Leukungtan” as being Ting’s base (alternative spelling, Leu-kung-tan). The map (left) puts this south west of Port Arthur but the string of small islands in that area are more south eastwards and no Leukungtan can be found.

Left: the First Sino-Japanese theatre of war.

The Gulf of Chihli seen in the adjacent map is also called the Gulf of Bashio or Bohai Sea.

Japan was able to secure its grip on the whole of the Korean peninsular, up to the Yalu River and even northwards into the hinterland of Manchuria (see map left). There then followed numerous skirmishes and demi-wars, notably the Russo-Japanese conflict of 1904 – 05.


2. Gunboat Diplomacy

It is remiss of this commentary to have assumed that Gunboat Diplomacy was a term already well understood by all readers. In Part 1 and Part 2, gunboats, gunboat diplomacy and nation bully, have all been mentioned or hinted at.

Gunboat Diplomacy is not an historic phenomenon limited to the 19th century aot took only one form; it occurs to this day is various guises.

The pursuit of foreign policy objectives is where gunboats and gunboat diplomacy have been traditionally used. Gunboat diplomacy can achieve diplomatic resolutions with the aid of a conspicuous display of military power in the locality of the targeted country, e.g. the US bombing of Libya in 1986, the US invasion of the Caribbean island nation of Grenada 1983.

This commentary can do no better than quote from the British diplomat and naval thinker James Cable who spelt out the nature of gunboat diplomacy in a series of works published as recently as 1971 and 1994.  He defined the phenomenon as:-

“the use or threat of limited naval force, otherwise than as an act of war, in order to secure advantage or to avert loss, either in the furtherance of an international dispute or else against foreign nationals within the territory or the jurisdiction of their own state.”[1]

He further broke down the concept into four key areas:

  • Definitive Force –  the use of gunboat diplomacy to create or remove a fait accompli.
  • Purposeful Force – application of naval force to change the policy or character of the target government or group.
  • Catalytic Force –  a mechanism designed to buy a breathing space or present policy makers with an increased range of options
  • Expressive Force – use of navies to send a political message – interestingly this aspect of gunboat diplomacy is undervalued and almost dismissed by Cable.

 Gunboat diplomacy is in essence a willingness and capacity to ‘project force’ overseas. Today, it is the aircraft carrier that is the vehicle for projecting that force overseas.

Simple demonstrations of a nation’s ability to ‘project force’ overseas meant that in the 19th century those nations with naval power, especially Britain, could establish military bases (for example, e.g. Diego Garcia and Hong Kong.

Economically advantageous relationships around the world stemmed from this without the need for military conquest. It was pre-eminently the most cost effective method of increasing trading partners, establishing colonial outposts, and thus expensing into an Empire (the USSR did this with eastern Europe, post-1945).

To copy what the British Empire had achieved in depth and breadth, using military means alone would have been ruinously expensive, slow and with no guarantee of success.

Those lacking the resources and technological advancements of European empires, e.g. China and Japan, found that their own peaceable relationships were readily dismantled in the face of such pressures.

In many instances these colonial countries came to be dependent on the imperial nations and the imperial nations dependent on access to raw materials and overseas markets.

China found it could not turn these factors around to its own advantage but Japan, after their rude awaking in Tokyo Bay did.


3. Dawn of the 20th Century

The years between 1895 and 1914, when World War I began, saw an increase in both countries’ navies.

Both China and Japan benefited too in the post-war period by the reparations programme enforced on Germany and the confiscation of former German ships.

What is often overlooked are the territorial gains for comparatively few sacrifices Japan harvested as a party to being on the side of the victors.

The German Second Reich territories of Namibia and East Africa, e.g. Kenya, Togoland, Tanganyika etc, were of immediate concern to Britain and presented an ideal opportunity to consolidate her central African presence.

In the Far East the Second Reich’s territories included the Mariana Islands, the Caroline Islands and the Pelew Islands. The Marianas are an archipelago of 6,000 islands far enough away from any great power to be of interest. [7]

The Marianas – which infamously include Guam and Saipan – are South-by-Southeast of Tokyo and East-by-North from Manila. The Caroline Islands are considerably further south from Tokyo and East-by-South from Manila and only a stepping stone away from New Guinea (see map above).

Due south from Tokyo was the German Protectorate of New Guinea – 80%  the distance to Dutch Indonesia and British Malaya.

As a member of the “Triple Entente” treaty, Japan began to occupy the islands in 1914. This   occupation was legitimized when all former German controlled islands in the Pacific were entrusted to Japanese control, as mandated territories, by the League of Nations. These islands included the Northern Mariana Islands, but not Guam.

Germany’s loss was Japan’s gain – she could do a lot more with the neighbouring Marianna Islands than Germany ever could. From Japan’s perspective it must have seemed fated by the gods that the building blocks of an Eastern empire were falling into her lap.

Table 6. Japanese Naval Order of Battle

1914 – 18

Warship type

Strength  at Aug 1914

Wartime additions

Wartime losses 1914 – 18


2 4 1


1 3 – –

2nd class Battlecruisers 

4 – – 1
Pre-dreadnought battleships 10   – – – –
Armoured cruisers   – – – –
Protected cruisers 15 – – 2
Light cruisers 6 – – – –
Aircraft and seaplane carriers 1 – – – –
Destroyers 50 circa 27 – –
Coast defence ships 4 – – 1
Submarines 12 3 – –
TOTAL 113  37 5

Japan significantly benefited from of the “Triple Entente” treaty. At a time when Germany was prohibited from building large offensive warships, submarines, tanks/armoured vehicles and aeroplanes, Japan was given free rein to make good her naval losses. 

As an ally of France and Britain, Japan had lost several useful warships during the war and it was perfectly reasonable that she should seek to replace them. The war, therefore, provided the perfect excuse to substantially increase her fleet.

As Table 6) shows, during World War 1 Japan’s fleet increased by 37 ships from a baseline of 113 and she lost only 5. She thus ended the hostilities far better placed to undertake her long term ambitions. in common with other nations the longevity (expected service life) of warships at that point in history is remarkable. One only has to think of the age of the ships sunk at Pearl Harbour and in Japan’s case the Kongō class of 4 battlecruisers (more at the end of this article).

Japan, as we have seen above, was already in occupation of both sides of the Yellow Sea and in command of the Korea Bay region before World War I (see map above).

After World War I she took possession of the former German neutral zone in China, former German shipping and property. At the time this was the price it was thought Germany should pay, world wide, for starting the war and a punishing regime of reparations was introduced. This soon gave rise to nationalism and Hitler.

It is obvious now that the terms of the Armistice and the subsequent Versailles Treaty were unfair. Indeed, they were recognised very shortly afterwards when the Dawes Plan of 1924 had to revoked and the Young Plan, 1929, adopted.

4. Realising an Empire

To understand the 1931 war between Japan and China we have to spend some time understanding the events in Japan.

The 1920s saw Japan falling out of step with other world powers and western public sentiment. By the 1930s she was completely out of step with the mood of the time. Her atrocities were coming to the attention not just of world leaders but to the public at large.

Japan seemed unconcerned at the universal revulsion. She was not interested in policies of “appeasement” or in limitations being placed on the size of warships and guns. Her exit from the League of Nations epitomised this stance.

It would be wrong to suppose that the world and the great powers in particular, did nothing to dissuade Japan by her military careerism. They went to extraordinary lengths to influence Japan both at the diplomatic level and economically. Pressure was put on Japan to conform to the 20th century world’s expectations of civilised behaviour in the League of Nations and at every international conference and treaty occasion.

By the time of the London and Washington Naval Treaties (1922) it was recognised that an arms race would hurt recovering economies and increase rivalry and tensions. This dovetailed with the fashionable movement of pacifism and “appeasement” which was de riguerre in Europe following the Versailles Treaty and “The war to end all wars”; while in America isolationist policies were adopted by both political parties.

Either approach might have looked wholly rational and acceptable by those nations who already had empires or who like the US professed not to be interested in empires, but Japan believed she had never had the opportunity of real territorial expansion and resented being constrained by world public opinion or confined to just annexing Korea.

The occupation of the latter was seen in Japan as purely self-interest and precautionary; their German military adviser had, in the 19th century, described Korea as a dagger pointing at the heart of Japan.

Feeling increasingly isolated, Japan retreated into the comfort zone of her South East Asian surroundings and set about building an empire – economically and geographically. Needless to say this did not provide a comfort factor for her neighbours.

Even after the collapse of the League of Nations and the declaration of war in 1939 the western powers continued efforts to discourage Japanese from her militarist course. Britain, Australia, the United States and the Dutch government in exile (which controlled the oil-rich Dutch East Indies) stopped selling oil, iron ore and steel to Japan. The intention of these governments was to deny Japan the raw materials needed to continue its activities in China and French Indo-China.

This action was known unofficially as the “ABCD encirclement” (American-British-Chinese-Dutch).

Japan interpreted these embargos as acts of aggression – imported oil made up about 80% of domestic consumption, without which Japan’s economy, let alone its military, would grind to a halt. This would trigger the attack on Pearl Harbour (see ‘Encirclement’ below).

But in the late 1920s and mid 1930s Japan realised her ambitions of empire would require her to further expand her military capabilities. Japan was well placed strategically. Geographically she was in command of the seas around her and the land masses to the north and west, with only the south, China and the pacific islands beyond the Mariannas, not yet under her influence, i.e. unconquered (see maps used in Part 2).

With appeasement and pacifism as the political backdrop Japan could afford to seriously look southwards at the mineral rich colonial territories, e.g. Dutch East Indies, the Philippines and Malaya (oil, rice, rubber etc), and take by force what was might be denied them by trading.  Dutch warships in the East Indies were not numerous and Spanish Civil War duties had tied down 70% of Britian’s destroyer fleet.

She had already built on her Korean gains of 1895; taken over the former German enclaves on the Shantung Peninsula (see Part 1 and map above), now she could exploit her gains from the Tsarist Russia of the Russo-Japanese War (1904 – 1905).

Japan had been able to capitalise on the then lack of Russian focus following the 1917 Bolshevik convolutions and the internal war that followed, e.g. White Russian forces and the international military intervention at Archangel (1918 – 1919), mainly from the West. [8]

Now in the 1930s she could build on the territories gifted her by the League of Nations. In a world where the ‘great powers’ were not interested in taking an active military role to curb excesses, Japan felt more than able to freely act in her own self-interest.

A national plan, one worthy of inspiring the Japanese people, was needed to galvanise the nation and fire up the country’s imagination. The ‘Greater Asian co-prosperity sphere‘ was the result. It promoted idea of self-sufficiency among Asian countries (see Annex A, ‘An Unintended Success’).

Ostensibly it would free Asia from Western imperialism with the key word being “co prosperity” for Asian nations and peoples would be free of the Western powers. It promised much but the hollow reality was that the fanaticism which drove the Japanese made them worse than the Western powers and significantly more brutal towards native workers.

It was by these serendipitous circumstances – sometimes designed, sometimes fortuitous – that Japan had overtaken China. The money China was paying Japan – almost as Danegeld – financed much of Japan’s military expansion  (see “12. Defeated but still Defiant” below). Her fleet, not China’s, was now the largest and most modern in that region of the world. Any fleet that might have considered challenging her was, literally, half a world away. 

Since the Second Sino-Japanese War is not especially well is not especially well known in the West and documented records incomplete, a blind spot exists in occidental undestanding. Measuring progress and change has to be done by using known datum points of  World War 1 and then making comparisons with known data from World War II.

This necessitates a temporary diversion into Japan’s naval track record.

Nothing quite underlines Japan’s need to secure her place at the top table of the great powers as her systematic ship building agenda. This not only increased her regard by the rest of the world but increased her sense of invincibility in preparedness for carving out her own empire. The title of a book by Naoko Sajima and Kyochi Tachikawa, “Japanese Sea Power – a Maritime Nation’s Struggle for Identity” perhaps best sums up the Japanese psyche.

In the 1920s she began a programme of building 12 Mutsuki class destroyers. These had a displacement of 1,772 tons and had an astonishing top speed of 37 knots (pictures and a little more detail can be found at “14. Picture Gallery”).

In choosing, as it had in the 40 years earlier, destroyers firing torpedoes as opposed to a reliance on the gunnery of ironclads and dreadnoughts, Japan showed it valued flexibility and low cost platforms to inflict maximum damage (Table 6 above).

In a later age this would be popularised as getting “the biggest bang for the buck”, with the term ‘cost-effectiveness’ and military-industrial-complex becoming mainstreamed into American military culture by Robert McNamara.

The theme of low cost solutions was followed by another key military decision to embrace the new technology of aircraft carriers (influenced perhaps by their experience of Royal Navy trials using aeroplanes with the fleet).

Was it part of the calculation that for the loss of one or two (or even five or six) inexpensive aircraft an expensive capital ship could be sunk be made to feel vulnerable and so deterred from approaching closely ?

Did this factor in the human dimension, namely, for the loss/death of say 6 aircrew, 200 or even 900 men could be irreplaceable lost on a sinking ship ?

Was it also in the calculation that in the time it would take to produce a replacement warship scores if not hundreds of aeroplanes could be produced ?

If this was the assessment it was a priceless prediction that would prove pivotal to Japan’s total success in China and its early military successes of World War II in Indo-China which would cost the Allies dearly.

Where Japan came unstuck was in falling victim to the vanities of traditional navies. It should never have yielded to the temptations of building the biggest capital ship the world had ever seen (when aircraft carriers were the new technology).

5. Encirclement

Countries who believe themselves to be surrounded by hostile countries continually intent upon gaining something from them are often verging on the paranoid. in the past this has skewed political processes and warped the thinking of politician’s in many areas of the world – and will probably continue to do so.

The pressures and embargos placed on Japan by the West left  her with a choice between refusing to comply and economic collapse, or complying and avoiding economic collapse.

The first choice could not be considered and the second felt like surrendering their national sovereignty to outside countries (a modern day but less serious equivalent might be the attitude posed today by Russia to other country’s seeking her to comply with contracts for heating gas or seeking extradition for criminal offences committed overseas, or requesting China not to execute people convicted of lesser crimes, say, theft).

The Japanese Imperial Army and Navy, therefore, had to begin planning for a war with western countries while in the middle of their war with China (a war on two fronts). Some reports say that planning began in April or May 1941, but a total war with the western powers –  for it would be a war to the death – would, one suspects, have already been in it embryonic stage by 1937, if not fully refined by then.

The reason for thinking this is the long lead times required for ships, planes and tank building required to fight on two fronts with any hope of success.

Japanese military planners’ expectation of success rested in large measure on Britain and the Soviet Union having their main forces tied up in Western Europe combating the threat Germany posed to each.

All the colonial territories in the Far East were isolated from their home country as Germany, one by one, overran each capital, e.g. France and Holland.

The Soviet Union, geographical adjacent to Japan, was seen as unlikely intervene or commence hostilities following her pact with Hitler. The desperate lack of military preparedness as a result coupled with the long (and poor) lines of communication by the very vastness of the country eastwards would present Russian military planners with a near impossible task.

The only viable opposition pre-Pearl Harbour was Britain’s Royal Navy which was out- numbered in the Far East but which had successive fall back positions that the Japanese would have to take one by one.

Any attack on Britain and America, the only other nation with ‘deep water’ capabilities (in a post-Pearl Harbour scenario), must be a hammer blow from which recovery was all but impossible. Japanese admirals must have realised by June 1942 their gamble had failed. The deep water capabilities of neither America nor Britain had not been destroyed at Pearl Harbour, Dec 1941, or at Singapore, or at Trincomalee in April 1942.

6. Investing in War

That said, a fleet does not materialise overnight and the lead time for construction is measured in years not in days for an aircraft. It is not surprising that we find that a few years after the end of World War I that Japan is again increasing her armed forces in readiness for China and the wider Pacific Ocean.

By 1921 Japan had completed building her first operational aircraft carrier, the Kaga (commissioned in 1928), with a displacement of 42,541 tons 28 knots.

By 1925 she had competed and launched another aircraft carrier, the Akagi, of 41,300 tons and a speed of 31 knots (commissioned in 1927). [9]

Between 1928 and 1930 Japan completed and launched a further 18 destroyers, all of 2,090 tons and capable of 38 knots (the Fubuki class)

The carrier Akagi, was followed in 1931 by the Ryujo, designed as an escort carrier capable of 29 knots and displacing just 12,732 tons. She was commissioned in 1933.

Cruisers, as defined in the post Washington Naval Agreement era, were not overlooked. Both heavy and light cruisers were built. For example, the Kongō class battlecruisers, and five Kuma-class light cruisers of 5,832 tons, capable of 32 knots were completed in 1920, followed by many others.

China did not have a comparable ship building programme.

7. Tipping the Balance of Power

By the time of Japan’s attack the United States at Pearl Harbour, it naval aviation wing comprised of six large carriers and several more fleet or escort carriers, e.g. the Ryujo.

It had, by Dec 1941, 63 ocean going submarines and other smaller ones. By the end of the war, in 1945, it had completed the building of 174 submarines (their near non-combative use and lack of contribution to the war effort is the subject of other specialised commentaries).

This does not mean Japanese submarines were inferior in any way. It is not enough appreciated that Japan’s submarines were not only among the largest ever built but were almost as fast as the fabled German Walther designed ‘hydrogen-peroxide’ type. The aerodynamic Walther U-boats (Type XXII – A and B) were capable of 25 knots when submerged (using its HTP drive) compared with the more normal 5 knots for submarines when running submerged on batteries alone.

Lacking this crucial technology Japan nonetheless produced a very fast conventional submarine, the Sen Taka Type, capable of 15.75 knots and 19 knots when submerged. [10]

In terms of speed and duration this was more than equal to the legendary streamlined German Type XXI U-boats – more commonly known as “Elektroboote“, which had a submerged speed of 17.2 knots.

During, and prior to, World War II, there were 56 submarines larger than 3,000 tons in the entire world and over 50 of them were Japanese. Among these were the Type J2 completed in 1935 at 3,061 tons; Type J3 completed in 1938 (3,583 tons); all Type Cs of 1940 were over 3,000 tons, as were the Type As (4,149 tons), with the I-400-class submarine, the “Sen Toku Type“, completed in 1944 weighing in at 6,560 tons. 

It is therefore fair to say that Japan invested a lot of research, development and huge amounts of money into a militarised economy with the intention of building a world beating array of warships. The same cannot be said of China.

If Japanese submarines had any weaknesses it was that they were rated as less manoeuvrable and could not dive as deep as Germans U-boats. They suffered too from ‘brittle’ hulls and were more prone to terminal damage from depth charge attacks.

Stitching these gains and changes together – the military and the geographic – makes it abundantly clear why the Second Sino-Japanese War was, even without touching on aircraft design and production, a foregone conclusion. When the world lacked any appetite for more warfare the timing the Sino-Japanese War for the 1930s could not have been better.

8. Technology Dividend

The advent of the Whitehead torpedo (1866) deliverable by in-shore craft altered the balance of naval power.

Hugely costly battleships, ironclads and heavy cruisers, which were the virility symbols of traditional navies, suddenly became vulnerable to much smaller and inexpensive ships (onFeb 5th 1895, it was a Japanese torpedo which seriously damaged the Dingyuan laying it open to cannon fire and its sinking).

The threat was that totally expendable, very agile high speed boats were capable of launching torpedoes from a distance that, in effect, render the traditional battleship not only too slow to react but immediately obsolete.

At only 6 knots the first torpedoes were remarkably slow and of limited range. But by 1906 their speed had increase to 34 knots (albeit still limited to 1,000 yards). In spite of these initial limitations improvements rapidly followed; increased speed; enhanced accuracy; elimination of tell-tale bubbles; and increased warhead power.

Developments in torpedo technology culminated by 1941 in the high-speed (48 kts), long range Japanese “Long lance” – a 24” torpedo with a range of over 30,000 yards (17 miles).

                 Table 7.  Properties of the Japanese Type 93 ‘Long Lance’ Torpedo 

Model Diameter Length OA Total Weight Explosive Charge Range Wander (max)
Type 93 24″ 29′ 6″ 5952 lbs. 1080 lbs. 20,000m @ 48 kts
32,000m @ 40 kts
40,000m @ 36 kts
500m / 20,000m
1,000m / 32,000m
1,500m / 40,000m

 From the very earliest days the prospects of inexpensive ships, torpedo boats, easily crippling a capital ship lead to the creation of the torpedo boat destroyer (later, shortened to simply ‘destroyer’). The role of the ‘destroyer’ was to deter and/or quickly intervene should a torpedo boat threat arise.

But on the cusp of this new era, both types of vessels, the craft launching the torpedoes and the vessels intercepting them were confusingly referred to as ‘torpedo boats’. It would take some years before the nomenclature was better defined.

In some contemporary references of the period matters are helpfully clarified by the description “Torpedo Boat Destroyer” (TBD), meaning a destroyer, to distinguish them from the craft – launching the torpedo, the torpedo boat – which, today, we would call motor torpedo boats or MTBs.

It was soon realised that these TBDs (destroyers), which were fast, agile and relatively inexpensive had far better sea-going qualities and lent themselves to carrying torpedoes, so the ability to deliver knock-out blows to capital ships far from base switched to them.

Such TBDs – what we might today call frigates, sloops, escorts, or destroyers – because they were designed with fleet escort duties in mind, had a far larger radius of operation.

Thus, the capacity of destroyers to project power to places further afield, which was denied to small coastal craft due to their limited endurance, was enhanced.

By the time of the First World War (1914), torpedo technology had significantly advanced to see torpedoes being used in both submarines and surface vessels. Japan’s gamble of lighter, faster craft seemed to be paying dividends.

These light faster craft could be used for a variety of roles and not reserved for heavy fleet-to-fleet broadsides.

9. Technology Compromise

Warships use what is called burner oil as fuel in their boilers (sometimes known as fuel oils bunker oil or RFO, i.e. residual fuel oil). These are refined products and it was damage to the Graf Spee’s oil cleaning pumps inflicted by shells – not hull or structural damage – that brought her to her knees and ended her iconic reign.

A warship’s boiler room produces high pressure steam which is used to move and clean raw fuel from the storage bunkers into ‘day tanks’, i.e. fuel tanks ready for immediate use. A single 8” shell from HMS Exeter was found to have penetrated Graf Spee’s not inconsiderable armour and demolished her fuel supply cleaning pumps. [11] The destruction of the desalination unit meant that fresh water, essential for the running of diesels (and the crew), was no longer available.

In effect this damage signed the death warrant of the Graf Spee. With no possibility of continuing to fight outside Montevideo or of outrunning her pursuers on the open sea her fate was sealed – scuttling was the only option.

Witnesses who came out to see the Graf Spee leave Montevideo, in Dec 1939, remarked how  her engines were ‘spluttering’ prior to her scuttling.

Her Captain and chief engineer immediately recognised this as a fatal design fault, a structural weakness in her armour which would be common to her sister ships. It had to be kept secret not just from the British but from rival commanders inside the German Army and Air Force eager that naval expenditure could be diverted into their branches of the armed services.[12]   The subsequent service history of her sister ships show they were withdrawn for front line service for the rest of the war after this 1939 assessment.

The Japanese faced a not too dissimilar situation in the closing stages of the Pacific War. Its ships relied on the high grade oil from the Dutch East Indies, Burma and French Indo-China. Difficulties at refining facilities meant that the Japanese Navy had to use this high quality crude oil unrefined, undistilled, and burn it directly in their boilers.[13]

Crude oil while quite functional as a boiler fuel nonetheless carries a hazard connected with the lighter elements not having been distilled out. In this unrefined form highly flammable vapours can form in the ship’s fuel tanks.

Should a shell penetrate the compartment or venting pipes during battle this could result in a fuel tank explosion?

Prior to it acquisitions of the Dutch East Indies, Burma etc the Japanese Navy relied on refined products from the oil shale plant at Fushun, in Manchuria. This refinery used, under licence, a German refining technique and was capable of producing of 200,000 tons of shale oil per annum. It is reported that small scale oil shale extraction took place in Jehol province.

 10. Overwhelming Odds

Compared with China, Japan could have had no real worries about successfully expanding into China (and beyond) to realise her ambition of securing the much needed mineral resources of China.

Such a course of action would necessitate a second Sino-Japanese War but this time Japan was far better equipped than in 1894, and had built up its military power to the point where, in 1941, it was arguably the most powerful navy in the world (it had 10 aircraft carriers and 11 battleships by 1941).

When Japan’s force of 1,500 pilots (naval and air force) fell upon the US and allied interests in the Far East they were already highly trained and proficient from their experience in China. The list of sunk and captured Chinese warships (1937 and 1938) listed in this commentary underlines the point.

Whereas the Chinese were able to successfully land 4,500 troops near the Yalu River in the First Sino-Japanese, by the time of the Second Sino-Japanese the balance in military resources had swung against China.

Facing the mountain of Japanese military might, the Chinese had 3 if not 4 lesser fleets located along their long coastline. They appear to have been under no unified command; each had their own admirals and operated semi-independently of each other. Personal squabbles, egos and pecking orders had to be accommodated before concerted action could be contemplated – something the Imperial Navy did not have to contend with.

Unlike Spain in 1937, the world did not move to create an International Intervention Force to reduce the death and havoc to neutrals and civilians when the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in July 1937 (see  Consequently the engagements on land and sea were unrestrained, bloody and vicious. What ‘the west’ (or the colonial powers as they might have been termed in that era) did do was set up no-go or safe areas recognised by Chinese and Japanese alike, e.g. the Shanghai Bund.

The photographic record, left by the Swiss Karl Kengelbacher who had emigrated to Shanghai, documents the events of the Japanese onslaught on Shanghai. [14]

Kengelbacher records the Chinese making shipping barrier on the Whangpoo between Nanpad and Pootung (August 11, 1937); the arrival of the USS Augusta and on Sept 19th 1937, the arrival from San Diego of American Marine from the transport ship USS Chaumont (European powers already had troops stationed in the country or in nearby countries, e.g. Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong.

Once again, in common with the Spanish Civil War, we see the deliberate targeting of the civilian population by the primitive ‘carpet bombing’ of urban areas (re: Guernica v Shanghai). [15]

 Against the above backdrop of a growing menace from an expansionist Japan, itemised above, and an unravelling of civil order, a re-appraisal of Chiang Kai-shek’s tactics and options is called for.

An examination of the tonnage, age and fire-power of the Chinese vessels throws into sharp contrast what an impossible task Chiang Kai-shek and his commanders faced. Whereas it was earlier speculated that a coastal navel battle might have been possible, it is clear from the tables below, e.g. Table 4, 5 and 6, that the draughts, speed, armaments and tonnage precluded that option. Chiang Kai-shek appears to have had no alternative but to sacrifice ships to play for time and preserve his army manpower, i.e. its capacity to fight. Gambling on one spectacular battle would have ended in a rapid defeat and opened the door to India and beyond.

Chiang Kai-shek probably gambled that the loss of his entire fleet and perhaps their crews – of, say, 50 or 200 per ship – would be infinitely preferable and less costly than whole brigades being defeated, taken as PoWs and or then executed by the Japanese who tended to have a penchant for that solution.

11. Chemical and Bacteriological Warfare

The war with Japan now entered what is known as the ‘Second Period’ which started on Oct 25th 1938 with the fall of Wuhan and ends on Dec 1941 when the Allies declared war on Japan.

During this period, the Chinese main objective was to prolong the war as long as possible – as surmised earlier in the sacrificing of ships by scuttling them (below a typical scene).

The Chinese began to adopt the strategy of “trading space for time” by putting up planned fights to delay Japanese advance to northern and eastern cities.

Right: China’s rivers are littered with scuttled blockships.

This allowed the Home front, civilian, assets, along with professionals and key industries, to retreat ever more westwards into the interior province of Chongqing – half way to India (a tactic later imitated by Stalin). The objective as to exhaust Japanese resources and buy time to build up China’s military capacity. [16]

A scorched earth strategy was combined with ‘trading space for time’; dams and levees were intentionally sabotaged to extensive flooding. The consequence was that the Japanese advances slowed and by late 1938 had stalled.

Right: Extent of Japanese Army occupation by 1940 (shaded Lilac).

The importance of waterways is clearly visible on the map (right). The rivers create ‘fingers’ of advance for the Japanese.

The National Revolutionary Army adopted the concept of “magnetic warfare” to attract advancing Japanese troops to closely defined points where they would be subjected to ambush. An example of this tactic was the successful defence of Changsha in 1939 and again in 1941 when heavy casualties were inflicted on the Japanese Army.

Meanwhile, the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) together with other local Chinese guerrilla forces continued their resistance in Japanese occupied. The Japanese Army thus had one enemy in front of it and a second behind it.

Therefore, in the regions held by the CCP, Japan had only “points and lines”, i.e. it controlled road and rail connections, economic centres and key towns, everything else as held and controlled by the CCP – in a situation not unlike Vietnam in the 1970s. Points and lines were vulnerable to being severed, railway lines could be cut and towns or outposts laid siege to; mines and factories sabotaged by explosives.

The constant harassment and frustration provoked the Japanese army into the “3 all policy” (kill all, loot all, burn all).

It was at about this time that the grossest of Japanese atrocities began and chemical and bacteriological weapons used against the Chinese army and civilians.

The picture below shows Japanese soldiers wearing gas masks and rubber gloves during a chemical attack in the battle for Shanghai.

Right: Japanese soldiers wearing gas masks and rubber gloves during a chemical attack on Shanghai.

Poison gas, i.e. chemically harmful and ‘noxious gases’, were flatly outlawed in the Versailles Peace Treaty. They were as unbecoming, underhand, cowardly and ‘unsporting’ in warfare and put on a par with submarines. [17]

The abhorrence with which poison gas is viewed is with us today in the recent execution by hanging in 2008 of Hassan al-Majid, who is more widely known as Chemical Ali, (executed for sanctioning the gassing of the Kurdish tribes in northern Iraq).

Japanese use of poison gas was world knowledge by May 14th 1938 when the League of Nations condemned her for using it of poison gas against the Chinese. Sixty years later and Japan is still “in denial” (Annex B).

As a footnote to this sorry chapter Japanese historians, Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Seiya Matsuno, identify the Emperor, Hirohito (and now dead), as personally ordering the use of poison gas – but how much of that is modern day political map re-drawing is difficult to determine. Apparently, the army chief of staff received authorisation the use of poison gas on 375 separate occasions during the battle of Wuhan (Aug – Oct 1938).

One would have thought that given the demi-god status of the Emperor that his permission once given would have sufficed. Surely it would have risked his displeasure to interrupt him nearly 400 times in 3 months for mundane military matters ?

It is far more likely that the Kwantung Army group did not apply for permission or simply sought out some sympathetic politician to sign the approval or authorisation on behalf of the Emperor.

Right: Japanese troops stage a poison gas attack in China.

Allegedly poison gas was also used during the invasion of Changde when the orders again came not from army commanders but this time Prince Kotohito Kan’in with General Hajime Sugiyama as a second choice candidate. [18]

The Kwantung Army group (also spelt Guandong), based in Manchuria was, as mentioned in Part 2, the largest and probably the most prestigious of Japan’s regiment / group. Steeped in a heritage of Prussian officer training, it came to politically dominate Japan’s military cabinet, e.g. Hideki Tojo, and in effect compromised the Army General Staff command.

As it has been said by others, it was only nominally answerable to the Imperial General HQ, so one must assume that this semi-autonomous freedom of action allowed it to use poison gas without referral to Army Command – aand if this did occur then not too much debate ensued, one imagines.

It was the Kwantung Army leadership which engineered the Mukden Incident and the subsequent invasion of Manchuria in 1931 in what was a massive act of insubordination by any standards. [19] Particularly so when this was a flagrant disobedience of express orders of the political and military leadership based in Tokyo.

During the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials 1945 of Japanese war criminals it was disclosed that bacteriological weapons had been used extensively in China.

Left: Shiro Ishii – Japanese mass murderer and torturer.

In 1940, the Japanese Army Air Service bombed Ninbo with bubonic plague carried by fleas. In 1941 one of the accused (Major General Kiyashi Kawashima (testified that some 40 members of ‘Unit 731’ (a covert biological and chemical warfare research unit) air-dropped plague-contaminated fleas on Changde. The attacks caused outbreaks of plague on an epidemic scale.

Unit 731 was based in Manchuria and headed by Shiro Ishii. Shiro Ishii’s germ warfare and human experiments killed around 580,000 souls. More than 95% of the victims who died in his camp were Korean and Chinese. Only a few Allied PoWs are recorded as having been murdered in this way.

The penalty paid for these crimes – nothing. The ‘intelligence gain’ to the American armed forces meant Shiro Ishii was spared execution and served no jail time.

In fact, the longest sentence handed out during the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials for biological and chemical warfare atrocities was 25 years, with many of 18, 15 and one for 3 years. [20]

Many more Nazi war criminals were hanged than Japanese for comparable ‘crimes against humanity’ with no obvious reason given. Mussolini was killed by the mob; Hitler committed suicide rather than be executed; Nazi collaborators throughout eastern and western Europe were hanged as were German functionaries – but Emperor Hirohito wasn’t even arraigned or charged. Is it any wonder that the rest of the world still secretly views Japan as a ‘pariah state’ (see Annex B).

By the time the ‘Second Period’ of the Second Sino-Japanese War had ended (Dec 1941) and Japan had launched itself against the often lightly defended far eastern outposts, the map of the eastern pacific looked radically different.

In broad strokes, Japan more or less takes all these territories (shaded red on the map)between Dec 7th 1941 and June 1942.

Left: Japan’s fleeting Co-Prosperityempire.

What the map does not show is the provisional nature of Japan’s occupation in some territories. Japan was immediately under counter-attack  – in April 1942 a squadron of US planes bombed Tokyo (the Doolittle raid), at Guadalcanal (Aug 1942), in Burma (Sept 1942), and New Guinea (Jan 1943). After securing Guadalcanal, American forces moved north to Tarawa (in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands), which was taken in Nov 1943.

With China and Britain to the west and the Americans and Australians to the south and east, Japan found that within 12 months her empire was being ‘rolled back’ by the Allies.

There are always parallels to be found in world events, sometimes they are cursory, sometimes profound and some might be unexpected. It is into this last category that the parallels between Britain’s struggle with Germany and China’s with Japan that fall.

Both stood alone for two years while the world looked on. Both were facing an aggressor ambitious for empire at any cost and who wanted the control of lesser humans and whose extermination was of no consequence. Both countries played a delaying military hand and both were ‘saved’ from  Japan by her war on America.

How different would the outcome of the war have been had the USA not been forced out of its isolationist comfort zone ?  Japan could still have invaded say Java and /or Indonesia with a less than 50/50 chance of the USA actually intervening on the scale she did in World War II.

12. Defeated but still Defiant

Even in defeat Japan could not face up to the standards required for the manly virtues of honesty and sincere contrition. Her public rebuffs of measures she should adopt for reparation – suggested by many world governments – demonstrate that psychologically Japan is not repentant

Still in deceitful mode, Japan has resisted all attempts since 1945 to pay compensation to the millions she a). killed, b) tortured, c) starved to death, d) experimented upon (e.g. live vivisection), e) poisoned and maimed with gas, and f). imprisoned.

Under the terms of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951 the Japanese government paid a one-off payment to ex-prisoners that were held by the Imperial Japanese armed forces.

For British soldiers this came to £76-10/- 0d (£76.50p). In Australia, it was £102. 50p per person. In the United States between 1948 and 1952, former POWs were paid, it is claimed, around $3,000 each.

Even if the latter figure is true, it is still not true compensation.

The money used by Japan was simply the proceeds from the sale assets that Japan knew it could never realise (confiscated, as it knew they would be, as a defeated enemy combatant). Consequently, the Japanese people failed to feel the searing effect and discomfort of having to pay compensation in real money.

The British government has ‘shamed Japan’ by agreeing to pay what Japan has always refused. In May 2009 Britain agreed to pay British servicemen held POW by the Japanese £10,000 ($15,000) each because the Japanese government would not.

Left: How the average Allied soldier looked when liberated from Japanese camp, 1945. These living skeletons are human beings – they have names; Lee Rogers (left) and John C. Todd.

There are estimated to be only 16,700 former POWs, including camp survivors and their widows left alive.

Australian author Russell Braddon was a prisoner of the Japanese and is book The Naked Island chronicles the inhumanities and brutality. The sketches made by prisoners are particularly harrowing – more than any photograph. The cartoonist Ronald Searle was also a prisoner of the Japanese.

New evidence unearthed in archives show that even the present japanned prime minister Mr. Taro Aso’s family owned mining company exploited slave workers – 101 British, 197 Australian, 2 Dutch prisoners along with several thousand Korean and Chinese forced labourers.

The Aso mines, say historians, were notorious for their brutal treatment of prisoners (until January 2009 the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Aso, had steadfastly refused to confirm that his company had employed slave labourers during World War II).  [21]

Right: Well fed Japanese guards now prisoners in their own camp,  1945.[22]

The perennial reason given by the Japanese government is not only that they made the 1951 payments, equivalent to £19 for each year of imprisonment. If Germany can do far better than that, then so too can Japan.

It is widely assumed that the Japanese did not sign the Geneva Conventions but that is not strictly true. Japan signed the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. These distinctly ban chemical weapons and protect prisoners’ rights. [23]

Table 8. Compensation Paid By Their Own Governments To Those Held Captive As PoWs By The Japanese

Country Date Amount
Canada, 1999 $24,000 CAD
United Kingdom  2000 £10,000
Australia, 2001 $25,000 AUD
New Zealand, 2001 $30,000 NZD
Netherlands  2001 3,500 guilders
Source:  June 2009

 The atrocity crimes and inhumanities committed by Japan fall under other aspects of international and Japanese law. Many of the alleged crimes committed by Japanese military personnel during World War II broke Japanese military law and should have been subject to a court martial.

 In addition, the Japanese government also signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact (1929), thereby rendering its actions in 1937-45 liable to charges of ‘crimes against peace’ – “Class C” war criminals were those guilty of ‘crimes against humanity’.

To put it in simple terms, the Japanese justify their posture vis-à-vis prisoners because the court martials took place in re-captured regions (5,000 executed) and not on the Japanese mainland – where only government ministers and top generals were tried by the international tribunal. So although the government recognised the other courts’ decisions no one in the middle ranks had technically been found guilty of ‘war crimes’ in their mind.

The Japanese position rely heavily too on the Treaty of San Francisco (1952). The treaty does not mention the legal validity of any / the tribunal. The argument runs that had Japan certified the legal validity of the war crimes tribunals in the San Francisco Treaty, the war crimes would have become open to appeal and overturning in Japanese courts. This would have been unacceptable in international diplomatic circles. But this did not happen after Nuremburg ? Why are the diplomats operating double standards ?

Clause 16 of the San Francisco Treaty stated that Japan would transfer its assets and those of its citizens in countries which were at war with any of the Allied Powers or which were neutral, or equivalents, to the Red Cross, which would sell them and distribute the funds to former prisoners of war and their families. Accordingly, £4,500,000 was paid out to the Red Cross by the Japanese government and private citizens.

According to historian Linda Goetz Holmes, many funds used by the government of Japan were not Japanese funds but relief funds contributed by the governments of USA, UK and Netherlands and sequestred (i.e. confiscated) and held in the Yokohama Specie Bank during the final year of the war.

According to the Japan Times:-

“The statement [Feb. 6th), as paraphrased, implies that the government of Japan paid compensation to Allied prisoners of war in accordance with the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Those funds were not Japanese government funds, but several million dollars of relief funds contributed by the governments of the United States, United Kingdom and Netherlands via the Swiss National Bank, and sequestered in the Yokohama Specie Bank (now the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ) by the Japanese government during the final year of the war. [24]!”

Japan should have no excuse for not paying compensation nor should it be shocked because one of the many factors contributing to the bankruptcy of the Qing government (19th century Qing dynasty) was ‘reparations payment’ (a war launched against China but for which costs china was asked to pay).

The Chinese continually paid huge amounts of silver to Japan as a result of the many treaties se was forced to sign, e.g. Sino-Japan Amity Treaty (1871), Treaty of Shimonoseki [first Sino-Japanese War] / the result of the Treaty of Shimonoseki was the Triple Intervention of France Germany and Russia. Russia had aspitrrions on Port Arthur and was concerned with japans occupation of them under the Sino-Japan Amity Treaty. Japan only agreed to vacate Port Arthur if China paid her an additional indemnity of 30 million taels or 450 million yen. China was still further burdened after the boxer rising and eh Boxer Protocol of 1901 that followed, under tis ters china had to pay at the exchange rates at the time, 450 million taels – roughly was equal to US$ 335 million dollars in gold or £67 million (approximately equal to US$ 6.653 billion in today’s money).

The Qing government paid a total of 340,000,000 taels of silver to Japan for both reparations and “booty”, equivalent to (then) 510,000,000 Japanese yen, or about 6.4 times the annual revenue of the government of Japan. [25] (320,000,000 Japanese yen was then equivalent to two and half years of Japanese government revenue).

The payments from the Qing government were used by Japan for the expansion of its Navy (38.2% of the payment), ad hoc military expenditures (21.6%), direct expansion of the Army (15.6%), and development of naval battleships (8.2%).

Without these payments to Japan it is highly debatable whether Japan could have afforded to be so aggressive and put itself in a position to declare war on the West.

In one regard the Chinese people did very badly out of Japans meagre post-war offer of reparations. Firstly, many of Japan’s victims—especially the Chinese and North Korean victims—are not covered by the Allied Treaty. Secondly, for some unaccountable reason both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Tse-tung (nowadays called Mao Zedong), waived japans offer of reparations (in 1952 and 1972 respectively).

According to a Chinese specialist’s calculation, Japan would have had to pay out 52 trillion yen.

Was this waiving of reparations a trade off for japans’ political recognition of the newly founded countries of Taiwan and the people’s republic of china – if so it was a bargain.

Therefore despite Japan’s had great economic power by the 1970s (its 1972 GNP was US$ 300 billion), Japan did not pay a penny to the purples republic of china (PRC) for the war.

Is it this sense of fraud that is at the seat of the constant aggravation and tension in Sino-Japanese relations?

Japan has been inconsistent in its position regarding compensation payments. Only a few years after the signing of the Allied Treaty, Japan and Switzerland entered into a bi-lateral treaty whose terms provided that Japan would pay Swiss victims a significantly greater amount than the $14 per POW and $0 per internee that had been stipulated under the Allied Treaty. In ‘equity’ this rends it obligatory that Japan pay this same greater sum to all Allied nationals and not exclusively to the Swiss for the same / comparable degree of suffering.

13. A True Representation ?

The Japanese government considers that the legal and moral positions in regard to war crimes are separate.

Yet what is a ‘legal system’ if it is not the codified and distilled wisdom of morals ?

The following tables and official compensation amounts paid are merely a repetition of the official position and are not intended to be a defence or validation of Japanese moral delinquency

Table 9. Japanese Compensation Paid to Countries it Occupied During 1941-45

Country  Amount in Yen  Amount in US$  Date of treaty 



November 5, 1955




May 9, 1956




January 20, 1958




May 13, 1959

 Total ¥ 364,348,800,000 US$ 1,012,080,000  
 NB This appears to be Government to Government payments – and not Government to People payments.
Source: ‘Japanese War Crimes’


The cost to Britain of actually fighting on 2 fronts for so many years rather than being quickly overrun in a few moths as some of these countries were, was enormous. Britain’s infrastructure was devastated by 5 years of bombing and attrition.

Britain had essentially run out of money by 1945. It had sold its assets, given away islands and had to turn to the US for a loan the day the war ended because Congress pulled out the rug from underneath her. Not realising the ramificatiosn of living in a war zone Congress’s position and Truman’s (though he later realised his mistake), was; “The war’s now ended; why do you still need money ?”.

The Washington Loan Agreement (aka Anglo-American Loan) was the upshot. It was to get Britain back on its feet and was for the huge sum of $3,750m ($3,750,000,000) and with lines of credit added in, worth $4.4 billion.

However, it proved a disaster and was as crippling – if not more so – than the cost of the Japanese invasion of, say, Burma. The reason for this is that in 1945 the conversion rate was approx. US$4 to £1, so a loan of £930m, in 1945, was easily manageable.

But the conditions attached to the loan included that Sterling should be freely convertible and that the USA have free access to British Commonwealth country markets. This lead to Commonwealth and other countries with Sterling reserves asking for dollar equivalents. This drove the exchange rate down to $2.8 to £1, and as the loan was in dollars, it doubled the cost to Britain.

The last payment to the USA of this loan was made in 2006. How easy it would have been for the Americans to work with Britain and contra Japanese assets for the loan ? For instance, compensation paid to countries listed in Table 8 amounted to US$ 1,012,080,000 or approx £253m at 1945 exchange rates. Similarly, Japan found another £25 million (379m Yen) for other countries (Table 9).

Table 10.  Japanese overseas assets in 1945

Country / Region

Value  in 1945,  (Yen 15 = US$1)

 Korea  70,256,000,000
 Taiwan  42,542,000,000
 North East China  146,532,000,000
 North China  55,437,000,000
 Central South China  36,718,000,000
 Others  28,014,000,000



Source: ‘Japanese War Crimes’

But in 1945 a State Dept survey of Americans found that, despite everything, Britain was one of the least trusted countries !

The moral obligation of venerating one’s ancestors is the foundation of the Japanese nation and of the Shinto religion endorses this view. Accordingly, the new left and the new right in Japan are now viewing convicted war criminal as martyrs. This is deeply worrying.

 There is a Japanese saying that, roughly translated says; “Obligation is the backbone of society.” If this is true, then Japan has yet to demonstrate its backbone by freely recognising its obligations to those it violated if it is ever to find permanent peace of mind.

14. Picture Gallery


Below: the Hosha, in 1922, (9,330 tons) reputedly the world’s first aircraft carrier (but see also HMS Argus 1918, and HMS Furious, 1917).

The flight deck is not the full length of the hull and on the earlier version it projected over the original cruiser gun turrets (this is better seen in the Akagi pictured below).

Below: the Hosho with her island removed (1923).






Left: HMS Argus 1918 (15,775 tons) in anti-U-boat ‘dazzle’ camouflage






 Below: HMS Hermes built on the experience of HMS Furious and HMS Argus. Note the pointed flight deck. This was only ‘squared off’ in a later 1930s refit.

Some sources state that the “hurricane bow”, i.e. one that completely encloses the hangar deck, was first seen on the American Lexington-class aircraft carriers.

However, as this picture (below right) shows, HMS Hermes could be said to be distinct from her contemporaries in not having an open bow (see Hosho above and Akagi below).








In the pioneering days of aircraft carriers there was no established conventions regarding flight deck, hull design that whether the “island” or superstructure should be placed on the port or starboard side.

Hence the Akagi for example started life with 3 fight decks and an open bow.

Left: the Akagi.

The lower 2 decks extended towards the mid-point of the hull. The two lower decks were later plated over



Below: Taking off from Akagi (circa 1940). Note the ‘island’ unconventionally on the port side.  Her 3 decks have now become one, and it runs the whole length of the ship. The Akagi has also adopted the ‘squared off’ flight deck, so familiar to modern carriers.




  Left: the Akagi. 


Operational throughout the 1930s the carrier Akagi supported the Japanese invasion of China. Her planes took part in the strafing and bombing of China, in particular of Shanghai.

Right; Akagi pictured at the high point of Japan’s carrier task force’s  fortunes. Leaving “Port Stirling” (this is probably a spelling error and should read Starling Bay), in the Celebes – an old Dutch port – enroute for the Indian Ocean with heavy escorts in the background (26th Mar 1942).


Right: the Akagi 1942.

The Japanese force, had six carriers: Akagi (36,500 tons), Ryūjō (10,600 tons), Hiryū (17,300), Sōryū (15,900 tons), Shōkaku (25,675 tons) and Zuikaku (29,800 tons). All bar two were capable of 34 knots. The British has only 2 operational carriers, HMS Formidable  and HMS Indomitable in the Indian Ocean Fleet. HMS Hermes, though obsolete by 1942, was still useful (by 1939 it was recognised she was too lightly armed with anti-aircraft guns and had limited high-speed endurance).

The plan was to draw out, engage and annihilate the lesser fleet that Britain has stationed in the Indian Ocean. However, the British already knew the carrier task force’s size and destination. They opt for a variation on a “fleet in being” approach following the shock of the loss of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales sunk by 86 land based bombers and torpedo bombers off the Malayan coast in Dec 1941.

The Japanese force also had 4 battleships, 7 cruisers, 19 destroyers, 5 submarines and 350 aircraft. The British commander had on paper a comparable number of warships with 7 cruisers and 15 destroyers but his 5 battleships were not of comparable quality.

Right: HMS Warspite, simply known  to all asThe Warspite” entering Valetta harbour.

All were of the Revenge class battlecruisers from World War 1 when 23 knots for a 30,000 ton battleship carrying 15” guns counted as fast and lethal in one-on-one naval conflicts. Some like the Resolution could manage 30 knots. In addition, the fleet had an icon of the times the battleship HMS Warspite (33,000 tons, 23knots). If she too was sunk in a similar manner to HMS Repulse it would be a propaganda coup for the Axis powers. The “wing turrets” mounted inset on the gunwales and port and starboard of the super- structure give away the age of these old ladies (see HMS Warspite above).  It was a design popular in the days of “dreadnought”.

The incursion by such a large carrier task force convinced planners that Vichy controlled Madagascar could be a likely joining point or combined naval base for Germans U-boats and surface raiders and Japanese submarines, already active in the Indian Ocean, many of which had a range of 10,000 miles. 

Vice Admiral Sommerville was in command of the Far Eastern Fleet and had already decided to divide his fleet into two – one fast, the other slow.

Force A, the Fast Force, was made up of  Indomitable, Formidable, Warspite, cruisers Cornwall, Dorsetshire, Emerald, Enterprise, Napier, Nestor (both Australian Navy), Paladin, Panther, Hotspur, and Foxhound.

Force B, the Slow Force, under Vice Admiral  Willis was composed or Resolution, Ramillies, Royal Sovereign, Revenge, Hermes, Caledon, Dragon, Jacob Van Heemskerck (Dutch Navy), Griffin, Arrow, Norman, Vampire (both Australian Navy), Decoy, Fortune, Scout, Isaac Sweers (Dutch). All the smaller ships were capable of over 32 knots.

The cost of discretion, of keeping in reserve for another day, was the sinking Cornwall and Dorsetshire, Hermes and Vampire in what must be described as really unlucky circumstances plus approx. 20 assorted commercial craft of various sizes were sunk. This has to be off-set by the successful invasion of Madagascar.

The British commander was also out-numbered 3 to 1 in carrier borne aircraft. Against enemy air power all his capital ships would, without proper air cover, be unable to adequately defend themselves. An open engagement in 1942 was deliberately avoided with a view to conserving forces for a more propitious time

Using radar the British fleet monitored and avoided the Japanese fleet until it was deemed safe to let HMS Hermes return to Ceylon for urgent repairs. Unfortunately, she was discovered by a Japanese reconnaissance plane and sunk by aircraft close to shore

After the triumphant “sortie” into the Indian Oceans in March – April 1942, the high point of Japan’s fortunes went into decline. It is interesting to note that 50% of that Japanese force had been sunk by the end 1942 and 80% by 1944 – mainly faling victim to Allied airpower.

Right:  the end of the Amagi (22,400 tons), pictured in 1946 at Kure.


The Amagi was an ‘Unryū’ class aircraft carrier, commissioned 1944, she never saw action and was sunk by Allied aircraft at her moorings in July 1945. She was scrapped in Aug 1946.

Below: Also destined never to see combat action were other a brand new and unfinished Japanese aircraft carriers.  


This Unruya class aircraft carrier, above, is pictured in Sasebo Bay in 1945. Note the submarine on her port side with yet more submarines in the middle ground.

The Kongō class of 4 battlecruiser / battleship (26,230 ton, length 728 ft), were the most active capital ships of the Japanese Navy during World War II. Only the Kongō was built in England (Barrow-in-Furness, Aug 1913). She was active during World War I and afterwards as one of the fastest units, at 27 knots, of Japan’s battle fleet.

In 1929-31, Kongo was modernized at Yokosuka Dockyard, and was thereafter rated as a battleship.

Left: the Kongo underway, with her configuration after her 1929-31 reconstruction. 


She was again modernised at Yokosuka in 1936 – 37, receiving new machinery and a lengthened hull to increase her speed to over 30 knots. As a result she may have missed the early part of the Second Sino-Japanese war.

Freed from the Washington Naval Treaty her displacement after modernisation was 36,600 tons, and her speed to 30 knots.

Not only is she notable for her longevity and adaptability to changing demands but her high speed, plus heavy 14” guns, made the Kongo and her sisters uniquely valuable warships, and they were used heavily in World War II combat operations, eg the bombardment of ‘Henderson Field’ at Guadalcanal. Her armaments comprised: 8 × 14” (4 turrets of 2), 16 × 6” (8 turrets of 2), up to 118 × 25mm (1”) AA guns, 4 × submerged 21” torpedo tubes.


The Mochizuki and the  Nagatsuki were just two of many Mutsuki class destroyers built in the 1920s.

Left: the Mochizuki, a Mutsuki class destroyer

With a displacement of 1,772 tons they had an astonishing top speed for the day of 37 knots. Their slightly unconventional layout sees no foc’sle on which both A and B turrets are mounted but a single turret succeeded by a recess which would probably hold the triple tube torpedo launchers. Turret B can be found in between the two funnels, with X and Y turrets at the stern but facing in opposite directions.

As originally armed they had 4 × 4.7” guns and 2 x 7.7mm machine guns, 2 x triple bank torpedo tubes, 12 × 24” torpedoes, 18 x depth charges and 16 x naval mines.

Right: the Mochizuki, a Mutsuki class destroyer.

Note the curved bow profile when at speed and the low gunwales in both pictures. By Sept 1944, and perhaps reflecting the naval situation, the number of depth charges carried had increased to 36.

Annex A

An Unintended Success

The ‘Greater Asian co-prosperity plan’

It was this promise of imagined national freedom that induced the treason of collaborators like Mohan Singh and Subhas Chandra Bose. Japan and the other Axis powers used disaffection among Indian PoWs to recruit around 43,000 a pro-Axis battalions called the INA (the First Indian National Army). In Europe that were used by the Germans in ways that can only be described as ‘cannon fodder’ and in Burma as a distraction and in a sabotage role.

Their propaganda value to the Axis far outweighed their military effectiveness which was insignificant. They were poorly equipped being dependent on British equipment captured by the Japanese. They were given nothing more frightening than rifles and hand grenades and it would be fair to say they were ill-used by their new masters. As might be predicted, internal squabbling led to the setting up under Subhas Chandra Bose of a ‘Second INA’.

Clarity in the waters of politics was an aspiration of Gandhi in any post-colonialist India. However, those waters were turned into a cess pool from which India has never recovered. The two factions of the INA should have stood trial after Japan’s defeat and some of the 16,000 INS captured by Allied forces, executed for treason (see Red Fort Trial, Nov 1945).

But political leaders – Muslim and Hindi – could not show the statesmanship needed to distinguish loyalty required to militarily defend social life against Japanese Imperialism as tasted in the Philippines, China and Malaya, and loyalty to those soldiers (white and black) who had fought to bring India to the point where a smooth transition towards real independence was possible.

Nehru, who was later to become India’s first Prime Minister, was among the legal team defending Mohan Singh and Subhas Chandra Bose. He was also closely linked to the orchestrated street politics and unrest that made it unsafe to continue with a trial of any INA members.

Members of the INA were simply released from jail, cashiered and banned for life from ever serving in the Indian Army. The factional in-fighting and grubby politicking that followed in the period before Independence (in Aug 1947), saw former INA men used as surrogates by both Muslim and Hindi agendas.

It can be argued that lack of statesmanship combined with the INA religious factions lead to the break up (partition) of India into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The consequence was the massacre of one million fleeing their brother Indians. The INA thread can still be found today in the conflict and dispute over Kashmir, the disappearances in the Punjab, and the radicalised nature of religion within Indian political parties.

The irony is that Mohan Singh’s dream ended when he, as a Sikh, was forced out of his homeland of Pakistan and was made both homeless and landless. The fate of Subhas Chandra Bose, the pro-Nazi Indian, was no better. He had attended the 1943 “Greater East Asia Conference” in Tokyo (part of the ‘Greater Asian co-prosperity plan) but his second visit in 1945 ended with his plane crashing in Taiwan.

The ‘Greater Asian co-prosperity plan’ failed everywhere and at every level except in its inadvertently advancing the independence for nations around the western Pacific.

Annex B

Japanese Still in Denial about Atrocities

Tanaka Masaaki, in common with too many Japanese is still “in denial” about his country’s atrocities and war crimes during the years leading up to World War II.

His essay, “What really happened in Nanking”, referring to the massacre and rape in 1937, is symptomatic of a generation that cannot, in the cold light of day, face up to the brutalities performed in the name of the Emperor.

To mount an argument against him serves no purpose, rather we let his own words and perhaps sheltered upbringing, convey to depth of the denial he and other Japanese retain:

Quote 1.

“A major battle was fought in Nanking, and it claimed the lives of a large number of soldiers. The Battle of Iwo Jima, waged between Japanese and American forces, claimed many more lives (at least 27,000), but no one speaks of an “Iwo Jima Massacre”.”

Quote 2.

“We are saddened by the claims that Japanese military personnel were guilty of a massacre in Nanking, and that all who died during or as a result of the hostilities – be they soldiers who died in combat, stragglers killed during subsequent sweeps, or Chinese troops masquerading as civilians, who were apprehended and executed – were victims of a massacre. However, we are confident that anyone who reads this book will realize that nothing remotely resembling a massacre took place in Nanking.”

Quote 3.

“Even among Japanese scholars, the number of “victims” varies considerably. Former Waseda University professor Hora Tomio, a historian and arguably the leading proponent of the “massacre” argument, believes there were 200,000 victims. Nihon University professor Hata Ikuhiko, who is viewed as a moderate in this controversy, has arrived at the figure of 40,000. Independent researchers Itakura Yoshiaki and Unemoto Masami, both of whom oppose the “massacre” theory, have posited 6,000 – 13,000 and 3,000 – 6,000, respectively.”

Non-Japanese scholars put the casualties inflicted by the Japanese in the millions – not the low thousands           

Nowhere is the phrase poison gas or mustard gas mentioned in the essay.

When the reader reaches Chapter 7 he is greeted by the title “Report of Mass Murders of Prisoners of War Fabricated.

Later Tanaka Masaaki concludes by stating, “Irresponsible reporting of this sort distorts the perception of history, and insults and disgraces the Japanese people.”

Well, that is very unfortunate for the dignity of Japan but it cuts no ice with those families who have relatives with personal experience of atrocities carried out in the field  by Japan’s army.

How does Tanaka Masaaki intend to give back the dignity to those who have been tortured and who died a slow death ?

“What really happened in Nanking – the refutation of a common myth”, by Tanaka Masaaki.




[1] See

[2] See

[3] Battle of Weihaiwei

[4] The ship also has the following notation “2-8.2, 1-6, Fang-Bo-Qian” as a suffix.

[5] Battle of the Yalu River (1894)

[6] ‘Ironclad warships’

[7] In 1899 Germany paid 837,500 German gold marks to Spain for the Mariana archipelago See

[8] See Archangel  campaign 1918-1919

[9] From a technical point it is worth noting that the world’s first aircraft carrier was HMS Hermes; ordered in 1917, launched in 1919 and commissioned in 1923. Japan’s first aircraft carriers was actually the Hosho, designed originally as a seaplane tender but with the assistance of a British technical mission was commissioned on 27 Dec 1922 (13 months before HMS Hermes) as an aircraft carrier. Hosho provided valuable lessens for the succeeding carriers, e.g. Akagi and Kaga. and

[10] See




[14] Peter Kengelbacher, a series of 102 pictures and Peter Kengelbacher, © 1998, courtesy of Peter Kengelbacher of St.Gallen (near Lake Constance).

[15] It could be argued that 20th century city bombing was begun by the numerous Germans bombing raids on cities all over in England in 1914. However, although terrifying and the populace defenceless, it was not on a systematic or carpet bombing scale. See also Guernica hyperlink

[16] This strategy was called “winning by outlasting” by American General Stilwell.

[17] See also Article 23, Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907. and Article V of the Treaty in Relation to the Use of Submarines and Article 171 of the Versailles Peace Treaty.


[19] A brief explanation is given at


[21] Picture above

[22] Pictured above well fed Japanese.


[24] Masami Ito’s Feb. 7 article, “Aso Mining POWs seek redress”: The Japanese government should clarify without delay a misleading statement it made on Feb. 6th.


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