Welcome to the new Program in Maritime
Willis Joe Cato II
UNDERSEA SAMURAI: IMPERIAL JAPANESE NAVY SUBMARINE DOCTRINE AND OPERATIONS OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR.
(Under the direction of Dr. Michael Palmer) Department of History, April 2003.
The purpose of this thesis is to examine the development of doctrine and design of the Imperial Japanese Navy's submarine force and its operations during the Second World War. Despite arguably superior designs and demonstrably better weapons, Japanese submarines destroyed a far smaller tonnage of enemy shipping than those of the United States or Germany. The primary aim of this work is to examine the reason for this apparent inconsistency between possibilities and performance.
The key to understanding this disparity between capability and performance lies in the doctrine developed by the Imperial Navy for a conflict with the United States. Based on the experiences of the Imperial Navy in its wars with China and Russia, this doctrine reflected the correlation of forces between the Imperial Navy and its primary opponent. Japanese naval planning called for the destruction of American naval strength in a climactic gun duel between battleships - a belief firmly embraced by the other major navies of the day. Japanese strategy called for light forces, particularly submarines, to play a key role in detecting, tracking, and weakening the American fleet so that the battleships of the Imperial Fleet would be able to engage at the most favorable opportunity. The preservation of its battleships for the decisive battle was the primary goal of Japanese doctrine. Every other element of the Imperial Navy was secondary to this requirement.
The submarine force of the Imperial Navy fell far short of the hopes held out for it by the Imperial General Staff and the submariners themselves. The war never developed along the lines presumed by Japanese planners and the efforts made to adjust doctrine to the reality of the situation were half-hearted and unsuccessful. Japanese submarines found themselves overwhelmed by the need to serve the over-riding demands of the battle fleet. Operating against an American force that had immense advantages in numbers, technology, and growing experience from defeating the U-boat menace in the Atlantic , the submarines of the Imperial Navy never achieved their potential.