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“After successfully executing operations in the Southeast and the Southwest Pacific by the spring of 1942, what should Japan have done next?”

“I can run wild for six months … after that, I have no expectation of success.”

Unconfirmed quotation attributed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief Japanese Combined Fleet.

Setting the stage Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is believed to have foretold of the suffering that was to befall Japan, and in fact was said to have argued heavily against waking a “sleeping giant.” Did Yamamoto recognize the shortcomings of Japan’s war strategy even before the first shots were fired? Planners of the first strike at Pearl Harbor, including Admiral Fukodome, argue that the
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Even in the years leading up to the war, Japan’s military believed in the superiority of their technology and personnel. For instance, even when Japanese naval leaders correctly perceived the shift of carrier-based aircraft becoming the predominant offensive capability, they made the error of believing that American naval air would never be a worthy opponent. 2 pg. 359
Once success is tasted, the possibility of failure becomes less believable. The Japanese were able to move so swiftly in the Pacific in the first 6 months of war that they seemingly believed that they could continue uncontested indefinitely. Once again, as in their early victories in the Russo-Japanese War over three decades earlier, Japan possessed in the stronger hand at the outset of conflict, because they were the initiators the conflict and had the capability to plan for all of the moves they would make at the outset. Their opponents in both wars were initially left with no choice but to only be able to react to Japanese attacks, and in only limited fashion were the opponents able to turn the tables and force the Japanese to react. An example of being able to ‘turn the tables’ was the April 1942 Doolittle raid, which forced the Japanese to change their operational plan to one of requiring the destruction of the U.S. carrier fleet. The fact