A Statement of Hopes? The Effectiveness of US and British Naval War Plans Against Japan, 1920–1941

By Douglas Ford, published February 2015


This article reconsiders the traditional claim that the setbacks which the US and British naval forces faced during the opening stages of the war against Japan in 1941–2 were the result of poor strategic planning. It illustrates how, during the decades leading up to the outbreak of the Pacific War, naval staffs drew up a detailed course of action which paid due attention to many of the moves that needed to be undertaken to defeat the Imperial Japanese Navy, including the establishment of a clear line of communication to the western Pacific region, the development of advanced bases, and the imposition of a maritime blockade to undermine Japan’s war effort. The main cause for the failure to provide an adequate defence against the Japanese onslaught was the various obstacles which the US and British governments faced in allocating sufficient money towards naval expansion during the interwar period, which meant that by the time hostilities broke out in December 1941, neither power was able to deploy an adequate force to safeguard their interests in Asia.

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Filed under: Other (Twentieth C) | Pacific
Subjects include: Navies | Strategy & Diplomacy

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