Interservice Rivalry discusses the rivalry between the Japanese army and navy and I have listened to a video which says that a naval plane landing at a army air base would not be serviced, for example. A lot was going in Japan with prime ministers being assassinated (by military members) and the emperor having to directly diffuse the conflicts.

I know that the USA and other countries also had rivalries and certainly at the level of enlisted men, fights would break out if, say, sailors encountered soldiers while on leave but I suspect also that when it came down to things like coordinating during battles, such rivalry was largely put aside.

But in Japan, it sounds very serious and it is surprising with such hatred between services that Japan managed to succeed at all in the early stages of ww2 -- could it be that without the rivalry or if it had been less intense that Japan could have actually won or at least the war would have lasted beyond 1945?

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    We don't really do alternative history here. Could they have done better? Sure. Could all sides have done better? Very likely. So... there is not a real answer to this.
    – nvoigt
    Nov 27 '21 at 11:59
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    I'm not sure this is actually an alternate history question, as it does have an objective answer: No. There is nothing Japan could have actually done -- nothing within its real-world capabilities -- which would have won the war after Pearl Harbor. The US was too pissed and too powerful. There are certainly things the US could have done to lose the war, but they were not under Japan's control.
    – Mark Olson
    Nov 27 '21 at 13:04
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    Please cite the video you listened to. History is about sources. Because the question is about a hypothetical, it is probably not in scope, and probably does not have an authoritative answer; the best you can get is opinions, and there is no criteria that makes one opinion about a hypothetical better than another opinion about a hypothetical. That's better suited for internet discussion sites.
    – MCW
    Nov 27 '21 at 13:09
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    I'm going to let the community decide whether to close this question, but I don't think it's really a good fit here since it's about a hypothetical and success in war has many variables (equipment, training, morale, resources, manufacturing, agriculture, etc.).
    – Robert Columbia
    Nov 27 '21 at 14:19

No and probably no.

The industrial potential of Japan and the US was so disparate that Japan couldn't have won. Better coordination might have gained them a few months, which might have stretched things into 1946. Or not. Look at these numbers for aircraft production, for instance.

A much better strategic decisionmaking culture might have caused them not to attack the United States. There would still be the question where they would have gotten oil and steel. But that gets into the scope of bad alternate history novels.

  • It depends on just what you include in WW2. IF the Japanese had not attacked Pearl Harbor (and the Phillipines &c), the US might have been persuaded to remain neutral, allowing them to control much of Southeast Asia. (The colonial powers being pretty well occupied in Europe.) That would have given them access to oil & minerals, and a secure base from which to attack the US in later years.
    – jamesqf
    Nov 27 '21 at 18:20
  • @jamesqf, isn't that just what I wrote in the second paragraph?
    – o.m.
    Nov 28 '21 at 5:31
  • Not exactly. We agree that there's no way Japan could have won against the US after Pearl Harbor. I'm suggesting that if they didn't attack the US then, but took the British, French, & Dutch territories in SE Asia, consolidated those territorial gains, then later attacked the US using the resources of their new conquests, it could have won such a war. If of course you limit winning to driving the US out of the Pacific.
    – jamesqf
    Nov 29 '21 at 3:54
  • @jamesqf, do you see a scenario where they take the other southern areas without taking the Philippines on the way?
    – o.m.
    Nov 29 '21 at 5:12
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    ... Even there though, there was a military culture in pre-war Japan of unblinking Jingoism, enforced by assassination. Sober assessment of political reality was just not in their capability set. It was only a matter of time before the country blundered and blustered into a situation it wasn't capable of handling.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 29 '21 at 14:11

The inter service rivalry in the Japanese military did exist, but examples of how that degraded fighting ability are not that prominent.

The IJN made a notable effort to reinforce the IJA on Guadalcanal, and lost a lot of ships, and especially lost a lot of trained naval aviators that they couldn't quickly replace. During the battles around Guadalcanal, most notably the Battle of Santa Cruz, Japan lost over 1/5 of their carrier pilots - such training requiring about a year. These were losses they couldn't replace.

Japan never intended to defeat the US. Remember Admiral Yamamoto's quote: "You can't invade America. There will be a rifle behind every blade of grass."

The intent was to disable the US navy, and reinforce their positions around their sources of oil and raw materials, so that any US naval attack would be made over a great distance and at great disadvantage.

Japan appeared to be hoping to recreate the decisive battle of Tsushima in their war with Russia, that led to Russia's withdrawal from that conflict, after the Baltic Fleet had endured a lengthy voyage.

After a similar defeat of the US navy, Japan expected a negotiated peace, with them in possession of the oil and raw materials they wanted.

Could Japan have won or prolonged the war, absent inter service rivalries? No, Japan didn't have the resources. At most, it could have prolonged the war enough to see use of more nuclear bombs.

The playing up of inter service rivalries in post war history may well be an attempt to further degrade an opponent as foolish rather than capable, much like the post war narrative that Hitler ordering that the ME262 jet fighter carry bombs kept Germany from having more of them.

The truth on the ME262 is: They didn't make more, because Germany couldn't get enough of the rare metals to make jet engines in sufficient quantity.

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