World War II: Japanese Military Training


Figure 1.-The Yokaren Naval Preparatory Flight Training Program was begun in 1930. It was a rigorous, intensive training program. This is a training session which began with gliders. Japan thus began the Pacific War with the finest, most superbly trained naval aviators in the world. It was a force perfectly suited for scoring a knockout blow against an enemy force which it demonstrated at Pearl Harbor and winning a short war. The carrier aviators was, however, a very small force and totally unsuited for a protracted war against the United States with its large population and massive resources. Japan did nor bring its experienced pilots back to help train new recruits. They staid on station until shot down. And as they gradually were lost, especially after Midway and the Solomons, Japan was left with poorly trained naval aviation receuits who could hardly land on their carriers. The Japanese attempted to expand the pilot training program and the number of entrants to the Yokaren program inceased dramatically in the last 2 years of the War, but the new trainees were rushed through with minimal training and flight time. Numerous Yokaren-trained pilots and crew members carried out the kamikaze attacks on American invasion forces (1944-45). Many more recruits were still in training preparing to crash into the expected American fleet preparing to invade the Home Islands when Japan surrendered. About 80 percent of the graduates of the Yokaren died in the Pacific War. This snapshot came from a Japanese aviator's scrapbook. Click on the image to see the page with some writing. Perhaps some of our Japanese readers can read the writing on the page.

The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) established the Office of Inspectorate General of Military Training ((教育総監部 Kyoiku sokanbu--OIGMA) (1898). Its mission was to provide centralized oversight for the Imperial Japanese Army training efforts. This included the Imperial Japanese Army Academy, specialized weaponry and technical training schools, and the various military preparatory schools located around the country. The OIGMA was also responsible for tactical training. Over time the OIGMA acquired added responsibilities concerning over Army logistics, transportation, and support matters. The OIGMA also acquired considerable prestige and political power within the Japanese Army. He reported directly to the Emperor through the Imperial General Headquarters rather than to the Army Minister or the Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office. The IG post thus by the 1930s had become the third most powerful position within the Imperial Army. As a result, the IG position was one of intense competition among senior Army commanders. Competition for the IG post played a role in February 26 incident in which IJA soldiers staged a coup d'etat in Tokyo (1936). The Imperial Japanese Navy also had a training agency. The tactical competence of the IJA officer core proved lacking during World War II. There was no lack of discipline in the IJA, but tactical competence is a different matter. The Japanese proved highly effective against poorly led and armed Chinese troops. And they scored a major victory over the British in Malaya, but against well led Allied trips the Japanese fared badly. Officers were prone to lead frontal attacks into entrenched positions. This proved disastrous on Guadalcanal (1942). They did prove adept at defensive tactics designed to kill as many Americans as possible, although Japanese soldiers were sacrificed in much larger numbers. The quality of naval training seems much higher than that of the IJA. There was also military training in Japanese schools, although we have few details on such training at this time. We think school military training was primarily in the secondary schools, although in the final year of this War this seems to have been extended to the primary schools as part of the Ketsugo program. There were also gender differences. The military training was primarily for the boys. We note school girls being mobilized for factory work.

Army Training

The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) established the Office of Inspectorate General of Military Training ((教育総監部 Kyoiku sokanbu--OIGMA) (1898). Its mission was to provide centralized oversight for the Imperial Japanese Army training efforts. This included the Imperial Japanese Army Academy, specialized weaponry and technical training schools, and the various military preparatory schools located around the country. The OIGMA was also responsible for tactical training. Over time the OIGMA acquired added responsibilities concerning over Army logistics, transportation, and support matters. The OIGMA also acquired considerable prestige and political power within the Japanese Army. He reported directly to the Emperor through the Imperial General Headquarters rather than to the Army Minister or the Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office. The IG post thus by the 1930s had become the third most powerful position within the Imperial Army. As a result, the IG position was one of intense competition among senior Army commanders. Competition for the IG post played a role in February 26 incident in which IJA soldiers staged a coup d'etat in Tokyo (1936). The tactical competence of the IJA officer core proved lacking during World War II. There was no lack of discipline in the IJA, but tactical competence is a different matter. The Japanese proved highly effective against poorly led and armed Chinese troops. And they scored a major victory over the British in Malaya, but against well led Allied trips the Japanese fared badly. Officers were prone to lead frontal attacks into entrenched positions. This proved disastrous on Guadalcanal (1942). They did prove adept at defensive tactics designed to kill as many Americans as possible, although Japanese soldiers were sacrificed in much larger numbers.

Naval Training

The Imperial Japanese Navy also had a training agency. The quality of naval training seems much higher than that of the IJA. The ship to ship fighting in the Slot during the Guadalcanal campaign showed the quality of Japanese naval training.

Air Training

Not only were the Japanese unable to compete in industrial terms with the United States, but the Japanese pilot training program was an abject failure. Both the Army and Navy had aviation training programs. At this time we know mostly about the naval program. The Japanese Navy before the War had perhaps the best pilot training programs in the world. The Japanese carrier pilots were superb aviators as demonstrated by their performance in the early months of the Ware. In the final action at Midway after three Japanese carriers were sunk or crippled, a handful of pilots from Hiryū scored repeated hits on heavily defended Yorktown. One shudders to think what Admiral Nagumo would have achieved had he succeeded in launching a full-scale attack on the American carriers from all four of his carriers. The Japanese pilot training program, however, was geared to producing a relatively small number of superb aviators to man the air units of the Imperial Fleet at a time that the United States was significantly limiting military spending. The Japanese pilot training was adequate for a peace time Navy. The question for Admiral Yamamoto was could Japan force the United States to make peace before his corps of superb naval aviators was worn down. And in fact as the Pacific War was fought out, the corps of well-trained naval aviators proved totally inadequate for the Pacific War when the United States did not sue for peace and instead mobilized its massive resources. The United States very rapidly expanded the U.S. Navy and in particular naval aviation, much more rapidly than the Japanese thought possible. The United States very rapidly established an effective pilot training program aimed at training a large number of well trained, competent but not superb aviators. The existing Japanese training program was so intensive that it could not be expanded to train large numbers of merely competent naval aviators. Nor did Japanese commanders move to do so. The Japanese did not respond after losing most of their pre-War aviators with a comparable training program. Not only did they fail to create an effective training program, but fuel shortages because of American submarine attacks on the Matu fleet limited training time in the air. As a result, when the Imperial Navy carriers finally emerged to give battle in the Philippines Sea (June 1944), its poorly trained aviators were slaughtered in what became known the Marianas Turkey Shoot. This is when the Japanese began to shift to Kamikazee attacks, using young men whom knew little more than how to take off and steer.

Schools

There was also military training in Japanese schools, although we have few details on such training at this time. We think school military training was primarily in the secondary schools. We note images of Japanese school children doing military drill. We have, however, very few details about school military training. While the concentration was on the secondary schools, during the final year of the War, military training seems to have been extended to the primary schools as part of the Ketsugo program. There were also gender differences. The military training was primarily for the boys. We note school girls being mobilized for factory work.







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Created: 6:13 AM 7/13/2011
Spell checked: 8:52 PM 11/3/2013
Last updated: 8:52 PM 11/3/2013