One of World War II’s Bloodiest Battles Could Be Japan’s Strategy to Defeat China in War

Michael Peck

Security, Asia

Think Iwo Jima. 

One of World War II’s Bloodiest Battles Could Be Japan’s Strategy to Defeat China in War

Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War. The assault by U.S. Marines in February 1945 on the small island—just eight square miles of volcanic rock—cost the United States more than 25,000 casualties. The Japanese garrison, more than 20,000 strong, fought and died virtually to the last man.

Is this a guide for how Japan can stop China?

There are lessons to be learned from the Pacific War, says Yoshiaki Nakagawa, a retired lieutenant general the Japanese Self Defense Force. To be clear, Nakagawa is not calling for Japanese soldiers to again launch suicidal banzai charges. But he does point out how the Pacific War proved that storming a defended island requires an attacker to commit vastly more resources than the defender.

Nakagawa’s analysis is part of a RAND report titled “The U.S.-Japan Alliance and Deterring Gray Zone Coercion in the Maritime, Cyber, and Space Domains.” Written by U.S. and Japanese researchers, the study examined Chinese “gray zone” warfare, or actions meant to coerce the United States and Japan while not triggering a war.” These range from fishing boats and maritime police vessels entering disputed Japanese waters, to cyberattacks, to high-profile space launches.

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The report concluded that there are strategies that the United States and Japan can pursue to stop or deter Chinese provocations. Among them are Nakagawa’s contention that Japanese ground troops can deter China from the Ryukyu (Nansei in Japan) and Senkaku islands, which are owned by Japan but claimed by China.

“Through the emplacement of an appropriately dug-in and well-provisioned defending force, the Japanese Imperial Army determined that it could force its U.S. adversary to expend between three and five times the number of forces Japan had deployed in order to occupy and use the islands,” who Nakagawa, who notes the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces have taken this lesson to heart.

Japanese troops armed with antiship missiles can foil a Chinese landing, or fight a delaying action to render the island unusable until help arrives. Assuming the Japanese navy and air force can secure…

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