The Japanese decission to strike America rather than Russia, allowed the Soviets to shift Siberian reserves west to help stop the Germans. Unlike the Allies, the Axis made no real effort to coordinate their war effort. Hitler did not inform the Japanese or Mussolini about his plans to invade the Sobviet Union nor did the Japanese inform the NAZIs of their plans to strike Pearl Harbor. Mussolini in part out of pique suprised Hitler with his invasion of Greece, a decesion that complicated Hitler's Barbarossa preparations. A German journalist (Soviet agent) in Tokyo informed Stalin well before the actual attack on Pearl Harbor. Most historians agree that the Japanese decesion to strike America rather than join in the NAZI assault on the Soviets was the critical decesion of World War II. America was not yet in the War, but President Roosevelt's diplomatic resistance to Japanese operations in China and Indo-China and decession to move the Pacific Fleet to Pear Harbor appears to have caused the Japanese to confront America rather than the Soviet Union. Their experience in the 1939 border war with the Soviets was probably another factor. The failure of the Axis to coordinate strategy doomed Barbarossa and in the end was a central factor in the eventual Allied victory.
Unlike the Allies, the Axis made no real effort to coordinate their war effort. Hitler did not inform the Japanese or Mussolini about his plans to invade the Sobviet Union nor did the Japanese inform the NAZIs of their plans to strike Pearl Harbor. Hitler hinted to the Japanese, but provided no real advanced warning. The Japanese did even less. Hitler hinted to Japanese diplomats in early 1941 that war was likely with the Soviet Union. Japanese diplomats gave Hitler reason to believe that the Japanese would join him if war broke out. Foreign Minister Matsuoko visited Germany and met with Hiter several times (March 27, 1941). Hitler hinted at war with the Soviets. Matsuoko offered his personal opinion that he could not conceive of Japan not striking at the Soviets if war broke out. [Boyd, p. 19.] The Japanese situation, however, became more complicated when Matsuoko return home from Berlin signed a neutrality treaty with the Soviets (April 13). Although there were informal diplomatic exchanges, the AXIS partners never coordinated their strategy. Hitler did not consult with the Japanese about invading the Soviet Union and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came as a surrise to Hitler (and the Japanese diplomats in Berlin). There was no consulations by military staffs on either of these monentous decesions. Mussolini in part out of pique suprised Hitler with his invasion of Greece, a decesion that complicated Hitler's Barbarossa preparations. The failure of the Axis to coordinate strategy doomed Barbarossa and in the end was a central factor in the eventual Allied victory.
One of the unanswered questions of World War II is why the Barbarossa planners did not involve tthe Japanese in the Barbarossa planning. While Hitler was convinced the Soviet regime would collapse, Wehrmacht planners were under no such allussion. They were aware of the size of the Red Army and the enormity of the Soviet Union. Surely they must have seen the adbantages of involving the Japanese in the attack. We do not know, however, if the possibility of coordinting with the Japanese was raised amnd at what level. We know the idea must have occurred to Hitler. We know he gave hints to the Japanese Ammbassador about a possible war with the Soviets. We do not know why he did not approach them about a coordinated attack. We suspect he did ot want go share the spoils, but this is jut conjecture. I do not know of any reports s to his thinking on the subject.
The NAZIs struck the Soviet Union with the most massive military invasion in the history of warfare. The Soviet frontier units were shatered and three powerful forces, Army Group North, Ceter, and South, drove deep into the Soviet Union. German Panzers execulted sweeping pincer moveements encircling and destroying Soviet armies. Soviet losses were ememse and Germaan as well as foreign military assessments were that the Soviet Union would collapse within weeks.
The Wehrmacht executed 20 encirclement battles, advanced 600 miles and overran almost 400,000 square miles of Soviet territory. They killed an estimated 4.0 million Soviet soldiers and capturing another 3.5 million. They catured or destroyeed over 14,000 tanks and 25,000 artillery pieces. This was in military terms an accomplished unmatched in military history. The situation did encourage the Germans to encourage the Japanese to enter the war and join the campaign. Only in November did the situation bevome difficult for the Germans and by that time the Japanese were alreaddy prepring the attack on Pearl Harbor.
While the Strike North Faction was initially the preminent Arny faction, a series of shocking events after Japan's invasion of China led to the victory of thec Strike South Faction within the Imperial Army. The Japanese were shicked at the very vocal American reaction to their war in China. This was of some consequence, not because of the moral outrage, but the fact that Japan was very dependant on America for raw materials, espoecially oil. The American Moral Embargo (July 1938) was thus a very real threat. Next came the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact (August 1939). NAZI Germany was Japan's principal ally against the Soviet Union which the Strike North Faction wanted to attack. NAZI diplomats had not consulted with the Japanese before signing the pact. This led to the Japanese questiining the value of the Anti-Comintern Pact and their German ally. Perhaps the most important development was an undeclared and poorly reported border war with the Sovirt Union (August 1939). The Red Army routed the Japanese along the Khalka River. This seems to have significantly reduced the Imperial Army's enthusism for invading the Soviet Union. The result was the Strike South Faction emerging as the dominat group in the Imperial Army.
Japan did not take advantage of the opportunity presented to strike north and deliver the coup d'grace to the Soviet Union. This decession appears to have been taken in the beginning phase of Barbarossa, well before the extent of the Soviet debacle was clear. The Japanese replaced Foreign Minister Matsuoka (Who favored a strike at the Soviets) with Admiral Toyoda Teijiro (who favored the southern advance) (mid-July 1941). Ambassador Oshima urged Tokyo to strike at the Soviets from Manchukuo (occupied Manchuria). Tokyo did not answer many of the Ambassador's queries. Once set on war with America even the Japanese miltarists were not interested in war with America and the soviet Union at the same time.
Magic was the cryptonym assigned to United States World War II efforts to break Japanese military and diplomatic codes. The United States Army Signals Intelligence Section (SIS) and the Navy Communication Special Unit coordinated efforts to monitor, intercept, decode, and translate coded Japanese messages. Intelligence information gathered from the messages was sent to military command at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The American success in reading Japanese communications was a major asset, escpecially in the early phase of the Pacific War. Even before Pearl Harbor, Magic proved of benefit. Japanese Ambassador to Germany, General Oshima Hiroshi, had access to Hitler and other NAZI officials and reported their many confidences to Tokyo. He also had unprecedented access to German military and civilian officials. As aesult he reportedto Tokyo on German Barbarossa preparations. Because of Magic intercepts, America code breakers were reading these messages. Thus the United States had good information on Barbarossa, even in the planning stage. Incredibly, Ambasador Oshima throughout, of course without his knowledge, the war would prove to be America's most valuable source in Berlin. The British through Ultra had access to Wehermacht the same
communications and were also aware of Barbarossa preparations. Both the President amd Prime Minister alerted Stalin, but he refused to believe their warnings, seeing it as an Anglo-American plot to spark a NAZI-Soviet conflict.
Most historians agree that the Japanese decesion to strike America rather than join in the NAZI assault on the Soviets was the critical decesion of World War II. The Japanese decission to strike America rather than Russia, allowed the Soviets to shift Siberian reserves west to stop the Germans. A German journalist (Soviet agent) in Tokyo informed Stalin well before the actual attack on Pearl Harbor. It was the desperate military situation, however, that probably convinced Stalin to act on this report. The Soviets rushed 40 well-equipped Siberian divisions west to pasrticipaste in the defense of Moscow. The siberins were well-trained and eqyuipped for winter warfare.
It was the Japanese carrier attack on Pearl Harbor that brought America into the War. While Pearl Harbor was a stunning tactical victory, it was a strategic blunder by the Japanese of incaluable proportions. It was a stunningly successful military success, brilliantly executed by the Japanese. Eight battle ships, the heart of the American Pacific fleet were sunk. But the three carriers were not at Pearl. Despite the success of the attack, it was perhaps the greatest strtegic blunder in the history of warfare. The Japanese attack on the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor changed everything. A diverse and quareling nation, strongly pacifistic was instantly changed into a single united people with a burning desire to wage war. The issolationism that President Roosevelt had struggled against for over 7 years instantly disappeared. Even Lindburg asked for a commision to fight for the United States.
The Axis Alliance was a defensive alliance. It required the three countries to come to the other's aid in case of attack, but did not require any action if one of the three attacked another country. Thus after the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor Hitler was not required to come to Japan's assistance, Foreign Minister Von Ribontrop stressed this in meetings with Hitler. Up to this time Hitler had avoided attacking the United States, even when President Roosevelt launched was in effect an undeclared naval war in the North Atlantic. Thus Hitler's decession to declare war on America (December 11) is largely unexplained. Speaking before an audience of NAZI luminaries, Hitler announced his decession, explaining that America with its mixture of races would not be an important factor in the War. America was in fact the only country on which Hitler declared war. It was like the other important war decessions, a decession he made personally without any kind of staff discussion. He never explained his desission to his inner circle and historians today can only speculate concerning the decession. Even more unfathomable, he made the decession just as the Soviets launched their offensive before Moscow, clearly demonstrationg that Operation Barbarossa had failed to knock the Soviets out of the War in a quick summer campaign. Most surprisingly, Hitler made the decesion without even requesting the Japanese to declare war on the Soviet Union.
The Ally that as Barbarossa bogged down, the NAZIs most wanted was Japan. Germany's Axis ally in many ways held the key to the success or failure of Operation Barbarossa. It was not immediate apparent to Hitler and the Wehrmacht OKW such their euphoria with the early successes of Barbarossa. The NAZIs assumed that the Japanese would eventually join their anti-Communist campaign. Ambassador Oshima in Berlin was briefed in detail about the progress of Barbarossa. He met with Hitler in his Rastenburg Headquarters and visited the Eastern Front. Oshima reported the progress of Barbarossa to the Foreign Ministry. The reports contained an accurate picture of the extent of the German victories.
Boyd, Carl. Hitler's Japanese Confidant: General Oshima Hiroshi and Magic Intelligence, 1941-1945 (Lawrence: Kansas University Press, 1993), 271p.
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