Military Transformation and the Pacific War

In some ways the Pacific War -- the Pacific segment of the Second World War -- offers some especially clear insights into the issues involved in military transformation. I have recently explored these in two major papers and a supporting report, all linked below. All of this work was done under the sponsorship -- intellectual as well as financial -- of Mr. Andrew W. Marshall, the Director of Net Assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The first two of the reports I list here are complementary and may be read together or separately, in either order.

Military Transformation as a Competitive Systemic Process, June 2003. One unique aspect of the Pacific War was that both the Japanese and American militaries thought that a clash between them was likely to come and had decades in which to prepare themselves. Neither had very much money to spend on preparation -- see below -- but their resources were roughly equivalent. So this is a very useful case for comparative analysis, which is what this this report undertakes. An alternative source (in different format, less well adapted to printing out) is here.

The first report revealed some mysteries. It appeared that there were some aspects of the performance of the two sides in the early stages of the Pacific War that could not be entirely explained by their pre-war preparations. This second report, Transformation and the Officer Corps, September 2005, first confirms that both sides were about even in terms of the resources they were able to put into the first two years of conflict -- before the massive American buildup began to come into play in the Pacific. It also demonstrates that during the period from mid 1942 to the end of 1943, the Japanese suffered far more severe losses in matériel and manpower than did the U.S. in the Pacific fighting. Then it goes on to show how differences in the officer corps of the two nations played a major role in determining this disparity in results, and analyzes how these differences came about. There is also a relatively brief paper, History, Modern Analysis, and Future War, that summarizes the main points of this report.

The third report supports the first, but also has some independent interest. It is titled Interwar U.S. and Japanese National Product and Defense Expenditure, which expresses the content well. So far as I know, it is by far the most comprehensive comparative analysis of this topic. An alternative source is here.


Updated 29 Jan 2009

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