Discussion: Japan at war in -39

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Rubicon, Feb 17, 2011.

  1. Rubicon Lost Banned

    Aug 6, 2009
    Tossing the dice
    This is merely a discussion, no timeline (yet) Long Post

    Assumption number 1.
    Japan does not enter war with China.

    Assumption number 2.
    A paradigm shift in the Japanese supreme HQ occurs and staffers realise that the Philippines is no threat to Japanese SLOC as long as the USA is neutral or friendly.

    Japan enters the war on Germanys side in late -39 (November/December) against France and Great Britain.

    What would the consequences be?

    How would the USA respond if Japan claim this only to be a colonial war? (remember no war with China)

    Allied Strongpoints:
    (dates are for the information available OTL)
    Hong Kong (September 1st 1939)
    Hong Kong Brigade - Two battalions of Infantry, one MG battalion

    Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps -
    Seven companies (roughly two battalions) of HKVDC

    5th Cruiser Squadron
    CA.54 HMS Kent
    CA.56 HMS Cornwall
    CA.40 HMS Dorsetshire
    CL.19 HMS Birmingham

    CV.94 HMS Eagle

    21st Destroyer Flotilla
    DDH.75 HMS Decoy
    DDH.07 HMS Defender
    DDH.38 HMS Delight
    DDH.64 HMS Duchess
    DDH.53 HMS Dainty
    DDH.16 HMS Daring
    DDH.49 HMS Diana
    DDH.22 HMS Diamond

    DDH.51 HMS Scout
    DDH.04 HMS Tenedos
    DDH.86 HMS Thracian
    DDH.29 HMS Thanet
    DDH.50 HMS Stronghold

    9 Minesweepers

    15 submarines

    Various patrol boats and other smaller crafts

    French Indo-China (May 10th 1940)
    Divison du Tonkin - One colonial infantry regiment, one mixed colonial infantry regiment, one Foreign Legion regiment, three Tonkineese tirailleurs regiments, one colonial artillery regiment

    Divison de Cochinchine-Cambodge - One colonial infantry regiment, two Annamese tirailleurs regiments, one Cambodian tirailleurs regiment, one colonial artillery regiment

    Bridgade d'Annam-Laos -
    One colonial infantry regiment, one mixed colonial infantry regiment, one South Anam Montagnard tirailleurs battalion.

    Groupe Aérien Autonme 41 - 9x Potez 25, 4x Farman 221

    Groupe Aérien Autonme 42 - 10x Potez, 6x Potez 542

    Groupe Aérien Mixte 595 - 7x Potez 25

    Groupe Aérien Mixte 596 - 6x Potez 6

    Esc. 1/C.B.S. - 8x Loire 130, 4x CAMS 37 & 55

    5th Cruiser Division
    CL Lamotte-Picquett
    CA Suffren

    1 Submarine

    Small number of gunboats

    Malaya (September 1st 1939)
    Federal Malay States Volunteer Force - Four battalions of FMSVF

    Penang Fortress - One Punjab battalion, one SSVF battalion, one artillery battalion

    Three Independent battalions (one Malay, one SSVF one Johore Volunteer Force)

    (September 1st 1939)
    12th Indian Brigade - 3 Infantry battalions, one artillery battalion

    Malay Brigade - 2 Infantry battalions, one MG Battalion

    Straits Settlements Volunteer Force - two battalions of SSVF

    No. 11, 34, 39, 62 Squadrons with unknown number of Blenheim I
    No. 100 and 36 Squadron with unknown number of Vildebeest III
    No. 205 Squadron with six (6) Singapore III
    No. 230 Squadron with unknown number of Sunderland I

    Question: How much of these forces (particularly naval forces) had been withdrawn to Europe in the first two months of the war?

    Japanese Forces
    Nihon Kaigun (late 1939)
    IJN Kaga
    IJN Akagi
    IJN Soryu
    IJN Hiryu

    INJ Ryujo

    IJN Kongo
    IJN Hiei (under reconstruction, finished January 31st 1940)
    IJN Kirishima
    IJN Haruna
    IJN Fuso (under modernisation finished September 15th 1941?!)
    IJN Yamashiro
    IJN Ise
    IJN Hyuga
    IJN Nagato
    IJN Mutsu

    IJN Furutaka
    IJN Kao
    IJN Aoba
    IJN Kinugasa
    IJN Myoko
    IJN Nachi
    IJN Haguro
    IJN Ashigara
    IJN Takao
    IJN Atago
    IJN Maya
    IJN Chokai
    IJN Mogami
    IJN Mikuma
    IJN Suzuya
    IJN Kumano
    IJN Tone
    IJN Chikuma

    IJN Tenryu
    IJN Tatsuta
    IJN Kuma
    IJN Tama
    IJN Kitakami
    IJN Oi
    IJN Kiso
    IJN Nagara
    IJN Isuzu
    IJN Yura
    IJN Natori
    IJN Kinu
    IJN Abukama
    IJN Naka
    IJN Sendai
    IJN Jintsu
    IJN Yubari

    11 Mutsuki-class destroyers
    20 Fubuki-class destroyers
    4 Akatsuki-class destroyers
    6 Hatsuharu-class destroyers
    10 Shiratsuyu-class destroyers
    10 Asashio-class destroyers (a few still being completed in late -39)

    44 Submarines

    Numerous smaller vessels

    Naval Aviation
    A5M mainly in use
    A6M production began in March 1939
    B5N1 production began in 1938 (B5N2 production began in 1939)
    D3A1 production began in December 1939
    G3M1 production began in 1936

    Imperial Army (December 7th 1941)
    44 Triangular Infantry division
    8 Square Infantry divisions
    22 Independent mixed brigades
    3 Independent mixed regiments
    10 Mongolian Cavalry Divisions
    3 Armoured Brigades
    1 Armoured Regiment
    1 Cavalry Brigades
    1 Paratrooper Division

    Army Aviation

    Ki-27 Mainstay fighter (unknown number)
    Ki-30 production began in 1938
    Ki-32 production began in 1938

    Unfortunately I have not been able to find any sources regarding the Imperial Japanese Army in summer/autumn 1939. Logically it would be smaller, but how much? Particularly if we factor in the assumptions at the start. That of no war with China. How much smaller would be reasonable?

    How would this turn out? My hypothesis is that the Japanese would attack in two stages. The first stage is a strike first at Hong Kong and Indo-China with naval landings at Haiphong, Hue and Saigon in Indo-China. But how would Hong Kong be taken? Direct landing at Hong Kong Island or at the mainland?

    The second stage would be conducted after Hong Kong have been neutralised and Indo-China occupied. Basing out of Saigon and Camh-Ranh-bay, covered by aircraft, the Japanese would land close to where they did historically and then march down the Malay peninsula towards Singapore.

    Allied Response:
    What would the French the British response be? How much forces can they divert from Europe? I can see naval forces being reasonable, particularly from the Royal Navy, as the French are able to tie up the Italians should they get involved. But how strong naval forces dare Royal Navy send to the East Indies? Two battleships? Three? A battlecruiser? A precious aircraft carrier after having lost both HMS Glorious and HMS Courageous?

    Ground forces then? I bet the Australians and New Zealanders will not go to North Africa. Indians troops sent to Burma and maybe Malaya instead of North Africa? In what numbers?

    Air forces? I think none can be spared. Britain and France were both strapped for aircraft as it was.

  2. Typo Banned

    Jul 3, 2007
    What's no war with China mean, no 1937, or no 1931?
  3. Rubicon Lost Banned

    Aug 6, 2009
    Tossing the dice
    A sorry, should have been more exact. No Sino-Japanese war in 1937. Japan still controls Manchucko.
  4. Gridley Well-Known Member

    Aug 20, 2010
    Everett, WA, USA
    The US Military, especially the USN, will still view Japan as the most likely near-future enemy. However, without events like the Rape of Nanking and the associated Panay Incident the US public won't be as hostile. FDR probably won't be able to get support for the oil embargo.

    US "short of war" assistance will happen in the Pacific as well as the Atlantic. A lot depends on how the Japanese react to this. The US actually has a better case to make for things like escorting convoys most of the way across the ocean in the Pacific then they do in the Atlantic.

    On the OrBat questions, are you familiar with Dr. Niehorster's site? You can find OrBats for the commencement of hostilities for every major power in amazing detail, for example Great Britain:

    Won't help on the Japanese side, much, but you can find out exactly what the Commonwealth and the French had in the Pacific in September 1939.

    On the Japanese side, the IJA is probably going to insist on attacking the USSR when Germany does at the latest. I don't know if the entire IJA would be capable of holding their ground against the Far East TVD circa 1941, but I can't see it taking any less force than was committed in China IOTL.

    Bottom line, the US is still going to get into the war at some point, probably more like mid/late 1942 though the trigger incident is hard to predict. When it does, Japan is doomed. A very lucky Germany with Japan as a junior partner (does Mussolini bring Italy in in 1939 as well, following Japan's example to keep from being marginalized? Or does he hang back like he did IOTL?) from late 1939 and with the US becoming involved later might do enough better to survive.
  5. Rubicon Lost Banned

    Aug 6, 2009
    Tossing the dice
    Thanks for the reply.

    Yes, I'm quite familiar with that excellent site :), I used his site as source for most the British and some of the French troops in South East Asia. Unfortunatly his site is a bit limited in that you can't track troop movements easily.

    I have been searching for any OOB for the Japanese Army and Army Aviation at the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in -37 to compare with those on December 7th 1941 to find how/if the Japanese army expanded in any way during that timeframe. No luck as of yet.
  6. Rubicon Lost Banned

    Aug 6, 2009
    Tossing the dice
    What Benny the Moose would do, was never easy to predict. What one can expect though is for him to try and sieze the oppurtunity and fail at it.

    On one hand I can see Benny reasoning just as you write, that he would have to join in earlier to keep from being marginalised. At the same time I can see him using the same argumentsas he did in real life, and that he will remain neutral untill France is on the ropes.

    Could go either way I think.

    Must say I am a bit saddened by the lack of interest, when you do some serious research and there are hardly any replies :(
  7. Pangur The Cat Donor

    Dec 28, 2010
    A few questions

    Intresting idea, got a few questions

    1: How does Japan start the war?
    2: I take it there was no oil sanctions ?
  8. Rubicon Lost Banned

    Aug 6, 2009
    Tossing the dice
    I would suspect with naval and airstrikes at Hong Kong, maybe a naval landing at the mainland.

    Simulataneously with the attack on Hong Kong landing at Haiphong, Hue and Saigon in French Indo-China would occur. These landing would likely be supported by the Kido Butai as it is outside the range of land-based aircrafts out of Formosa.

    Northern Borneo and Malaya is to far away for landings at this stage, after the fall of French Indo-China and the establishment of airbases there, the Japanese would likely attack these British colonies as well.

    No war in China = No apparent threat to the political leadership in the USA. Thus no oil embargo, particulary not in 1939.
  9. Citizen Samuel A sage of mickle lore

    Mar 2, 2008
    "Hell is a city much like London"
    How is Tokyo able to restrain the Kwangtung Army? If there is no war in China, why does Japan attack Britain and the Netherlands?
  10. fireclaw722 Active Member

    Feb 1, 2011
    The New World
    For their Colonies in Southeast Asia. Britian has colonial claims in Hong Kong, and the Netherlands has claims in Indonesia.
  11. Rubicon Lost Banned

    Aug 6, 2009
    Tossing the dice
    It is always heartwarming when people respond without even reading what you actually wrote.

    A) It is assumed for the sake of the discussion that the junior officers of the Kwangtung army is 'restrained' from opening hostilites. The how and why is irrelevant.

    B) The declaration of war in 1939 would be against Great Britain and France not the Netherlands.
  12. Hendryk Banned

    Aug 24, 2004
    IMHO the assumption that Japan doesn't go to war against China requires elaboration. That war didn't come out of the blue, it was the end result of a policy of creeping encroachment on China that started with the invasion of Manchuria and then continued until the Nationalist regime had no choice but to fight back. Preempting war against China means making major changes to Japanese policy and mode of governance, since much of the problem was that by the 1930s the military was virtually autonomous from the civilian government.
    Kwantung, not Kwangtung. Kwangtung is the Wade-Giles transliteration of Guangdong, which is thousands of kilometers to the south.
  13. Rubicon Lost Banned

    Aug 6, 2009
    Tossing the dice
    Why would that need an elaboration?

    This is an discussion on what would happen if Japan had ignored China and waited for the oppurtune moment to strike at the resource rich European colonies. Not how Japan would get smarter.

    For all intents and purposes, you can assume that I either have already come up with interesting idea of how to make the necessaryt changes if I were to write an timeline, or that I will come up with such an idea. Not the point of the discussion.

    I blame the copy-paste function and general laziness. I know it's Kwantung.
  14. Bearcat Banned

    May 21, 2009
    I agree its not going to be an easy POD. Maybe the Army loses some of its influence, somehow, during the mid-1930s, while the navy gains at its expense? The IJN was far more interested in a 'Southern Strategy' than the Army. Maybe the spate of assassinations in the 30s might provide some sort of trigger. I don't know the details of that time well enough myself, but someone else might be able to work out something plausible.
  15. Hendryk Banned

    Aug 24, 2004
    Well, because it's your POD and your entire TL rests on it.
  16. Pangur The Cat Donor

    Dec 28, 2010
    I think I am going to like this TL

    Ok, I have only two questions, if there were no sanctions then why would Japan go to war in the first place?

    If the answer to above is that it was a land grab then if Japan waited until say May 1940 when the UK,France & the Dutch they would have had an easier time. However if you stick with 1939 then would that have given the French enough of a wake up call so the Germans have no where near the success they did have ?

    Which ever year they attack I can see them not attacking Singapore which was one of the largest naval bases in the region (that may have been implied in the mention of Malaya. The more I think about it the nastier the implications - no war with the US leasts ways for now, no US involvement in the war in Europe maybe or at least not as early. I would guess than Japan would have won and if they left it at that most likely hung on to it. Mind you would they have had to try to get as far as India ?
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2011
  17. Ward The sick old fart

    Mar 4, 2004
    West Mich
    Join the Club I very seldom get a replies at all .
  18. Wyragen-TXRG4P Banned

    Jun 30, 2009
    Is Japan able to seize French Indochina and Malaysia?

    In spring 1940, they would then begin to move toward Dutch Indonesia, soon making an oil embargo kinda useless.

    Assuming there is still a campaign of France and an attempt to obtain air advantage over the UK, Japan obtain an additional advantage and possibly seizes Myanamar/Thailand by late 1940.

    Would Churchill press on remaining at war with Japan, while having to fight the european axis too?

    The United States enter war against the european axis and disregards Japan in 1943, that or Roosevelt looses the elections in 1944 for trying to press forth a declaration of war.

    In the former case, Japan eventually becomes an allie against communism in the years following WW2, a war start between Japan and the chinese nationalists but the US eventually disregardes China, as Japan is the strongest allie against the Soviet-Union.

    In the latter case, a smaller western Germany dominated by the military (no unconditional surrender politics ITTL) is left after WW2, other half is occupied by the Red Army. The Red Army destroys the Japanese armies in Mandchuko and Korea, in 1947 Mao start his offensive from Manchuria and unites China (Taïwan is still Japanese), later advance into Indochina and all the way to the Indian border. The United States becomes increasingly worried about communism and leaves isolationism a few years later. Imperial Japan and the asian cooprosperity sphere becomes a noble allie against the horrible bolcheviks.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2011
  19. Citizen Samuel A sage of mickle lore

    Mar 2, 2008
    "Hell is a city much like London"
    Alright, that's not particularly realistic but I suppose one can let it slide.

    I queried this point because China was the central foreign policy concern of Japan for decades leading up to WW2. Interwar China was weak and divided in civil war, and the Japanese military leadership saw this as their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to keep China permanently subjugated as a pliant market for Japanese industrial goods. If they waited, China once unified would turn Japan into a 2nd rank player in east Asia by its sheer size and population. You can handwave this away, but I don't think it's particularly realistic.

    OK. Why does Japan attack the UK and France? What is it hoping to achieve? OTL the justification was to seize oil resources to keep the war in China going, but that's not an issue in this TL.

    This would also lead to an American oil embargo, which would necessitate the invasion of the Dutch East Indies quite soon. After that, American intervention from the Philippines cutting Japanese supply lines is only a matter of time.
  20. Gridley Well-Known Member

    Aug 20, 2010
    Everett, WA, USA
    This is true, but not unsolvable. While the Army wouldn't be happy with it, Hirohito/GHQ might decide that China had been kicked enough for now, and western support was the real problem (China was getting support from Germany, and supplies and weapons from the US and elsewhere). As a grand strategic move, grabbing Indochina is a step towards isolating China completely makes quite a bit of sense. A non-aggression pact with the USSR with a secret codicil that prohibits trade with the Nationalists (Stalin would probably sign such a document, and probably even abide by it - he can still supply the communists, who are much less of a problem for the Japanese) and China is pretty well cut off; bring Siam into the fold as was done later on OTL and the job is essentially done. Japan would plan to make peace in trade for the UK and France ceding their Pacific possessions, digest their gains, and then hit China from all directions.

    Probably, but would that be apparent to the Japanese leadership? Their ability to rationalize things their own was way fairly impressive. Also, even if they believe the US will intervene eventually, if it takes the US two years to ramp up they might expect to be done with their war and ready to take the US in another smash-and-grab short war.

    Again, remember that their plans only need to be rational based on what they believe will happen, not what we know will happen with 20/20 hindsight.