How hard would invading Japan be if populace is unarmed and passive and soldiers not fight to death?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Trailboss49, Jul 10, 2019.

  1. Trailboss49 Member

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    Its a universal cliche that so many Americans feared invading Japan and most academics and military analysts agree dropping nukes was the best thing because not only did Japanese soldier have an MO of refusing to surrender and fighting to the death but also because they were arming the entire civilian populace with weapons including giving housewives of military men guns and arming civilian family's children with spears and knives. Basically estimates are always expecting millions to be killed because not only will the well-disciplined Japanese army fight to the last man but even innocent children will do stuff like throw grenades out of nowhere at American convoys and sisters of soldiers will do knife stabbing ambushes. Basically many people were expecting invading Japan to be similar to the war we've been having in Iraq (full of stuff like suicide bombings and civilians pulling pistols and shooting American soldiers from behind, etc for the last decade except 10X worse.

    However recently I read that although we tend to think of Japan as a small country who defeated much larger nations because of their culture immense self discipline, in reality Japan is not only roughly the size of Germany but also her population was a bit higher-so high that one of the main reasons they wanted to invade China was to provide livable lands to its citizens and for farming purposes.

    Because of how complex stuff gets such as the evolution of the ancient Ashigaru system from Tokugawa system that was still practised by descendents of Samurai and naval infantry that still remained despite the destruction of the Japanese navy, (and I forgot, the 1 million troops in China) I will just leave it to the assumption we are merely fighting the remnants of the Japanese army that Operation Downfall often assumes and in the manner many wargamers and netizens discuss about the sorry state of Japan in 1945.

    How would thinks end up? Documentaries, internet discussions, general history books, and pop media would have you believe the real fear of downfall was the entire populace of Japan getting spears, knives, and other last ditch weapon and doing Al Qaeda style terrorist attacks. As if the main Japanese army was so broken this point that it wouldn't matter.

    So as I said only military men involved and no Japanese civilian attempts to do Al Qaeda style attacks and last minute volunteer similar to the Last Stand of the Confederacy in WW2 by untrained young men. And Japanese soldiers get sane and surrender in hopeless situations like Germans did (such as 3 soldiers in a house waving white flags when they see a squad of Americans approaching). And because I mentioned Japan is much larger and has a higher population than many people tend to assume (70 million, 10 million more than Germany's at the time, with Japan being almost as large as Germany's total land mass), I will allow properly trained draftees that was going through bootcamp a month before the scheduled invasion to be used and other properly military use of Japan's 10 million (such as training more local militia **properly** before being sent as conventional infantry reinforcements during the first month of the IJA remains holding off the initial waves of American assault). Not the spear armed children and other idiotic Al Qaeda style nonsense guerrilla warfare defense often assumed in Operation Downfall scenarios.

    How heavy would casualty counts be? Would it be must lower than many wargamers and amateur historians assume because civilians won't be doing Al Qaeda style suicide attacks and because Japanese soldiers surrender in much larger numbers and earlier)? Or would Japan's similarity to Germany's geography(esp total area) and population numbers make a much much much bigger difference than the common assumption of civilian casualties bringing millions of deaths and prolonging the war that many internet discussions often conclude?
     
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  2. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    The reality was that the Japanese planned for spear armed farmers and children wearing explosive vests to roll under tanks. You can argue whether or not the Japanese civilians would have done this, however when you look at the mass suicides in the Marianas and how the civilians reacted on Okinawa the evidence is that this sort of thing would happen, at least for some time. As far as the Japanese soldiers not fighting to the death, why would their attitude change if the Home Islands were invaded when they had been doing that for the entire war. The Japanese government had been putting out propaganda about the horrible things the Americans (especially the Marines) would do to the civilians, and the fire bombing campaign against Japanese cities would show the man in the street that the USA was willing to be quite brutal and unconcerned about civilian casualties. On top of this there was the deep seated belief in the Emperor, which had been puffed up even more in the last 20-30 years which in essence said that the "debt" owed to the Emperor by every Japanese could never be fully repaid and sacrifice of your life in his cause was to be expected.

    As the Allies/USA advanced through OLYMPIC and the CORONET and governmental/military control became fragmented, you could see military units not fight to the death or civilians remaining passive. Given how military units in isolated garrisons needed to be convinced of the surrender by the Emperor as the war ended, and the cases of those who "fought on" for decades since they never got orders to quit, this is very iffy.

    Basically the "strategy" of the Japanese from the outset was to hurt the "weak, flabby" Americans so badly they would cry uncle and make a deal in Japan's favor in Asia. As the situation got worse for Japan, this more or less morphed in to "if we kill/maim enough Americans they will quit no matter how much blood we shed ourselves". This idea was on steroids for an invasion of the Home Islands, as those in power saw defeat as the destruction of Japanese culture and saw themselves as willing to shed more blood for an outcome that was not total defeat and occupation than the Americans would be willing to accept.

    The scenario you are proposing goes against the facts here. Obviously if the soldiers are not fighting to the death, you don't have kamikazes using everything that flies to hit the invasion fleet, no "crouching dragons" in rubber suits in the surf with explosive charges on poles to take a landing craft with them in death, then the human cost both American and Japanese is much less.
     
  3. fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    The terrain is just about perfect for defenders mountains, forests and densely populated cities that were absolute warrens.
     
  4. Trailboss49 Member

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    But would it be an easy fight? People indiscussions about Operaion Downfall have the impresion the main Japanese army is so weakened that the only real threat will be civilians doing Al Qaeda attack. Because the Japanese army was basically destroyed.

    When I learned however Japan is as large as Germany and had over 5 million people more than Germany, it brings to doubt that the only civilians would be the reason for heavy casualties.

    I mean despite German army already destroyed, they still managed to inflict over 10,000 American casualties in the last month of he war before Hitler shot himself as the Americans marched into Germany. The Soviets suffered almost half a million casualties in the siege of an extremely weakened and under defended Berlin lacking much needed manpower, ammunition, and equipment such as tanks an artillery.


    So it makes me doubt that even if Japan refused to arm civilians, did not do Kamikaze attacks and say a small platoon of IJA soldiers surrendering when they realized they are surrounded by 100 thousand marines that USA would not next to zero casualties. Because Germany did not do any of those suicidal stuff yet they still managed to inflict heavy wounds on USA, USSR, and GB in the last months of the war despite the Wheirmarcht practically being destroyed at that point.

    We are talking about nation not only the size of Germany with a bit larger population, but Japan is also considerably harder to move in with its landside being mostly mountains and divided by separate chains of island. The Americans already had a hard time fighting in smaller more manueverable mountains of Germany which had far more developed infrastructure. So I find the notion that a Japanese army thats sane enough to surrender if 1 rifleman is surrounded by 2 American platoons being easy to destroy and easy to invade Japan as silly.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
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  5. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    Oh, I agree that even against a "normal" Japanese resistance like Germany (very little fight to the death, not every civilian trying to kill you) there would be a lot of American casualties. The point is not the sort of numbers projected OTL which were refined after Iwo Jima and Okinawa to reflect that reality. Also, if the Japanese military is not fighting to the death and civilians not attacking with spears, the civilian deaths go way down. "Conventional" casualties are not the same as "walkover", an invasion of Japan would require at least two major amphibious assaults against heavily defended beaches just for starts and the terrain favors defense in many areas.
     
  6. TonyA Curmudgeon like, but nastier

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    I think the U.S. being able to pull two A-Bombs out of its butt and avoid the necessity of an actual invasion of the Japanese home islands is one of those rare instances when the expression, "God works in mysterious ways!" actually has some traction, even with totally irreligious people such as myself.
     
  7. Colonel Zoidberg Well-Known Member

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    On one hand, the Japanese has a shit-ton of war equipment at their disposal and could train civilians to use a great deal of it. On the other hand, that equipment would go to the military first, and civilians would undoubtedly be using guerrilla tactics. This would mean Allied forces (the US and Britain; if the Russians wanted in on this, they were on their own) invaded, they were up against three factors.

    1. Just like most American wars, this is essentially an away game for the Allies. They’re on Japan’s home turf, meaning Japan knows the land and has all their own resources on hand. The Allies don’t. This goes for both Japanese military and guerrillas.

    2. Japan was prepared to conscript something like 30+ million civilians. This is a disadvantage for the Allies because of sheer manpower, but it leaves open one possibility - in a lot of wars such as Vietnam, differentiation between the enemy and civilians was nigh impossible. Here, the Allies might be forced to adopt a policy of “shoot everyone who looks Japanese because they’ll probably fucking kill you if you don’t.” This means no judgment calls and no ambiguity. It means no trying to help civilians - if you’re Japanese, bang; you’re dead.

    3. At the same time, the Air Force/Air Corps would certainly keep up the fire-bombing of every major city (except Kyoto since an American higher-up had a soft spot for it) so expect the Japanese civilian response to be anywhere from desperate to really fucking desperate. This means a VERY unpredictable civilian population - some will act with nothing to lose, almost as if trying to take an invader down with them; some will beg for mercy, which the Allies may be disinclined to grant (either because they can’t or because the Japanese didn’t give mercy first so the Allies think, fuck those guys.)

    I would expect that, if the civilians don’t get involved and the Japanese act less like crazy fucks, the Allies still win and are less tolerant of the Emperor. No doubt Japan would be made into a republic afterwards. Russia tries to get involved but doesn’t get anywhere.
     
  8. wcv215 Well-Known Member

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    No it didn’t. 78 million for Germany vs 73 million for Japan. Japan’s is bigger only if you count their Asian possessions, which aren’t relevant here, and then it would be about 20 million higher.
     
  9. Barry Bull Donor

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    There was a reason the American invasion plan include tactical use of multiple atomic bombs to soften up resistance.
     
  10. Derek Pullem Butterfly Killer

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    The Navy argued to capture nearby bomber bases and the Army wanted a direct strike on Japan.

    It's a bit of an AH meme that the USSR with three men and a dinghy could take Hokkaido

    So was a Sicily style invasion of Hokkaido considered - less risk to the army and the possibility that it would be enough to force the Japanese to the table. If not you have your bomber bases right on top of Tokyo.
     
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  11. Soup Well-Known Member

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    I have long been skeptical of the AH trope of "every Japanese soldier and civilian would fight to the death/commit suicide" because on the one hand it plays really hard into the Inscrutable Oriental Horde trope and also definitely makes it more morally justifiable to drop the Bomb that way. You can't deny what happened on Okinawa though, although it's hard to say what was organic civilian mass suicide and what was forced by the IJA. Ultimately I don't think Japanese resistance (among civilians mainly) would be as horrific as is commonly thought, there's only so long that propaganda that Americans are going to do the Rape of Nanking x10 can last in the face of reality.
     
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  12. General Tirpitz Well-Known Member

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    One interesting point regarding this is the fact that mass suicides didn't happen in areas with no IJA presence. The IJA also itself massacred civilians on the islands. This was partly because soldiers didn't trust that Okinawans would be loyal to Japan.
     
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  13. Anarch King of Dipsodes Overlord of All Thirst

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    It would be ugly, but no uglier than fighting in the Philippines or Okinawa, where Japanese casualties far exceeded US losses.

    The terrain was favorable to the defense in Sicily, but there too the Allies won decisively, and IIRC with fewer casualties than just the German defenders.

    I would also note that the hold of the fanatics on the Japanese people and army was slipping in 1945. The government had been announcing victories for years, yet now the enemy was invading Japan itself. There are reports of widespread rejection of the fanatics' plans for suicide resistance.
     
  14. General Tirpitz Well-Known Member

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    Indeed. One possible contributing factor to the decision to surrender were reports made by domestic intelligence about a rising anti-government sentiment. Even criticism of the Emperor had become more common by summer 1945.
     
  15. Trailboss49 Member

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    The 80 million you include is misleading though because it includes Austria and the German ethnic populace in France and Poland as well as other capture territories. And there is the fact that some pats were annexed prior to the war and the totality of those places were added into this supposed 80 million including non-Germans as seen in Czechslovakia's annxation. As well as collaborators who sided with the German and got German citizenship including a few Italian immigrants during the war, British traitors, Swedish migranst,etc. Take away the numbers and it rounds up to around 66-70 million depending on stats.

    Lets not forget even without the Chinese and other conquered people, there were significant numbers of Japanese living in Korea and Manchuria. And while we are at it, the numbers you listed are specifically for homeland Japan. If we count the entire territory, Japan would by ethnicality have over 300 million. But the 71 million according to wikipedia doesn't count overseas Japanese and only people living on the mainland, Japan still has at least around 1-2 million more people.

    So I was sort of wrong in my original post but it doesn't disprove the fact Japan still has a higher population. Which is significant considering how difficult Germany was to defeat even after the German army was destroyed by April 1.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
  16. Cryptic Well-Known Member

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    Because the Japanese attitude was changing- though slowly and still suicidal by western standards.

    About 10,000 prisoners were taken on Okinawa, including 7,000 or so mainland Japanese (the remainder being Okinawans). The proportion of the defenders that that this figure represents can range from less than 10% to considerably higher as IJA records regarding the number of regular and militia defenders on Okinawa are very incomplete and figures commonly given for Okinawa could well be theoretical figures for the number of defenders on entire Rykuyu chain with the assumption that all local Okinawans could be armed.

    That aside, soviet landings in the Kurils resulted in an even higher percentage of the Japanese defenders becoming POWs and Soviet advances in Manchuria saw mass surrenders. The Japanese hard core never surrender types were also running out of fully willing Kamikazes after Okinawa and were resorting to more and more coercive tactics.
     
  17. wcv215 Well-Known Member

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    No it doesn’t. Those are the 1939 figures not including the non Sudeten parts of annexed Czechoslovakia.

    68 million in Germany proper plus ten from Austria and the Sudetenland, which were part of Germany proper and were available to be recruited by said country.
     
  18. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    By the time the Soviets invaded Manchuria or the Kuriles the first atomic bomb had already been dropped, and some of the Kurile actions were after the surrender broadcast. I do agree that at some point Japanese morale both civilian and military would begin to come apart. A variable is th Emperor - if Hirohito broadcasts "we must all resist to the utmost at any cost", whether or not this is faked or forced by real fanatics, then expect the predicted behavior to be sustained. If he is quiet, or broadcasts a surrender like OTL, then the fanatics really cannot fight, they can only commit seppuku.

    If anything, the Japanese military will fight more fanatically on the Home Islands than they did elsewhere - it cannot be emphasized too frequently that at this point the operational concept vis a vis the USA was to inflict as many casualties as possible, even when ratios were massively in favor of the USA, as the Japanese leaders still believed the Americans had a breaking point well before Japan would run out of assets to kill Americans.
     
  19. Alex1guy First Of His Name

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    Even if a fraction of the Japanese population decides to fight on with anything and everything, they're going to inflict lots of random casualties which will result in Allied soldiers being far more paranoid and probably trigger happy when dealing with civilians meaning even more casualties and a nasty occupation.
     
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  20. The Red A virulent, ignorant bigot

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    It’s rather hard to separate the determination of the IJA for the country to fight suicidally from the “conventional” aspects of their plan for the defence of Japan. Ketsu-Go, particularly the section related to Kyushu, was heavily predicated on the use of suicide boats, frogmen, and planes. The Japanese had amassed such a vast number of these types of Kamikaze that they believed (far too optimistically) that they could destroy almost all of the American landing force before it hit the beaches.

    That said, the conventional Japanese forces in Kyushu were formidable in themselves, over 600,000 men in August with more on the way. This was alongside much of Japan’s remaining tanks and artillery, with almost half of the country’s entire remaining ammunition stockpile and a large amount of its near-depleted fuel reserves. They realised that if the Decisive Battle was going to be fought it would have to be here and as such they had put all their eggs in one basket. The Japanese had correctly predicted where the Americans had planned to land (not especially difficult given the geography of Kyushu) and so would have their forces in the right area to launch counter-attacks shortly after the landings began.

    With the IJA conventional forces amassed in Kyushu and the Kamikaze its highly questionable whether the planned American landings could have succeeded and it’s understandable as to why the Americans were beginning to have second thoughts by July. Without the Kamikaze aspect the Olympic/Majestic plan becomes much more viable but even if the Japanese counter-attacks were repulsed the mountainous interior of Kyushu is perfect for a protracted defence. It would have been a bloodbath for both sides either way.
     
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