Italian Forces and Industry in Early World War 2 (1939-1940)


Prior to World War 2 both Hitler and Mussolini were boasting about their military forces to each other. Mussolini announced in 1934 that he can mobilize 6 Million soldiers, in 1936 he increased the number to 8 million and in 1939 to 12 million. (Schreiber, Gerhard: S. 54, in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3) If those numbers sound a bit off, well, Operation Barbarossa was largest military invasion in history and it was conducted by around 4 million soldiers. Nevertheless, the Italians managed to mobilize around 3 million soldiers, yet these soldiers were basically worse equipped than the Italian troops in World War 1. Quite in contrast to the German and Japanese forces, the Italian forces were not ready for a war against any major force.(Schreiber, Gerhard: S. 54, in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3)

The question is why the Italian Armed Forces were not ready, there are several reasons for this, in general the Italian and Fascists system was quite inefficient. First, the Italy had a limited amount of industries, which weren’t properly prepared for arms production. Second, the allocation of resources and organization was limited, additionally similar to Germany and Japan, Italy also had a severe lack of resources. Third, the wars in Ethiopia and Spain required resources that the Italians couldn’t spare, after all those conflicts dragged on far longer than anticipated. As a result the Italian forces were not ready when the war started in 1939. Mussolini was quite aware of this problem, after all, he insisted on a period of peace during the negotiations of the Pact of Steel – “Stahlpaket” with Germany and didn’t join the war until June 1940 by declaring a war on France. (Schreiber, Gerhard: S. 54-56, in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3)

Organization before the war

At first, some word about the general organization of Italian Army before the war. Like other countries Italy drew lessons from experiences in Spain and Ethiopia, yet their forces were still in reorganization when the war started and the industry couldn’t match the requirements for the required motorization or even the basic equipment that was needed.

In 1937 the Italian Army restructured its divisions from the common system of tripartite to a bipartite system, the so called “binary” system, where each infantry division only consisted of 2 infantry regiments instead of 3. Something that is also portrayed in Hearts of Iron III and Hearts of Iron IV, as you can see here for the division builder of an Italian division in 1939 and a British division in 1939, but be aware though that the Hearts of Iron IV basic divisions layouts lack artillery regiments, furthermore the so called support companies historically usually were battalions, as you can see here with a basic German infantry division from 1940. Yet, from a game design perspective it makes sense to call them companies, because so you can’t mix them up with your regular battalions when writing about division compositions on the forums. Anyway, if you want to learn more about unit organizations, check out the playlist on my various organization videos.

Now, the intention of the binary system was to make the units more capable for mobile warfare, the units should be easier to command and be more mobile. The lack in manpower should be countered with modern equipment, yet, this was wishful thinking because the Italian industry couldn’t even provide basic equipment in sufficient numbers. On the outside the binary system created more divisions, but basically this was only useful for propaganda and didn’t increase the capabilities of the Italian Army. (Schreiber, Gerhard: S.56-57 , in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3)

Next up, is a brief look at the Situation in September 1939 and then a more detailed look at the state in June 1940.

Situation in September 1939

Let’s look at the state of the Italian forces in the beginning of the War in September 1939, when Italy was still at peace. In short the Situation of the Italian Armed forces in September 1939 was abysmal. Yet, you need to keep in mind that Italy didn’t enter the war before June 1940.


At first the Army, it had had 67 divisions without the units in Ethiopia, these divisions consisted of
43 Infantry
3 Tank
2 Motorized
3 Fast division
5 Alpini, and
11 other division for special purposes.

Yet, only 16 of these division were completely restructured, furthermore there was a lack of artillery, tanks, transport-vehicles, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns. Even basic supplies like quality food was lacking, so basically the Army had a severe lack of almost everything. (Schreiber, Gerhard: S.58-59 , in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3)


The Navy was better equipped in terms of basic supplies like food and ammo, but it also lacked anti-aircraft capabilities on its ships and in its bases. Yet, there was severe lack of fuel. Still, in comparison with the other branches the Navy was the best equipped and prepared.

Air Force

The Italian Airforce the “regia aeronautica” also had major problems, there was a vast amount of different aircraft types and additionally the ground crews were of limited quality, this lead to low number of operational aircraft of less than 50 % in September 1939, when only 1190 planes were operational out of 2586. Furthermore, most aircraft were usually underpowered and under-armed. [Something most War Thunder players are highly aware off “Spaghetti guns”.] (Schreiber, Gerhard: S.58-59 , in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3)
As a result of that dire state of the Armed forces and the severe lack of ammo, weaponry, fuel, transport capacity and personnel, the ministry for war production in December 1939 advised Mussolini that only an army of 73 division would be feasible instead of the originally planned number of 126. Yet, still the industry wasn’t capable in equipping those units sufficiently til the entry of Italy in into the war in June 1940, but nobody assumed that Italy would enter the war that early. Well, seems like Mussolini had a tendency for premature – declarations. (Schreiber, Gerhard: S. 58-59 , in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3)

The Situation in June 1940

Now, after the Italian declaration of war in June 1940 the situation was a bit different, but not much, but let’s take a more detailed view.


First the Army, in June 1940 Italy entered the war with a total of a bit less than 1.7 million soldiers (1 687 950) and a total of 73 divisions..
Whereas in 1915 the Italian army joined the war with more men, it was also an army that had similar quality weapons and equipment like other majors, but in 1940 this was clearly not the case. (Schreiber, Gerhard: S. 59 , in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3)

Of the 73 divisions only 19 had the required amount of personnel, equipment,weapons and transport capacity. Another 34 division were operational, but lacked personnel (25 %) and transport capacity. The last 20 divisions lacked more than 50 % personnel, a significant amount of equipment and 50 % of transport capacity. (Schreiber, Gerhard: S. 59-60 , in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3)

The infantry formed the mainstay of the Italian army, but the firepower of an Italian infantry division was according to Gerhard Schreiber only about 25 % of a French Infantry division or around 10 % of a German infantry division. (Schreiber, Gerhard: S. 61 , in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3) Now, I don’t know how the author determined those numbers, but here is a direct comparison on the numbers of a Italian and German Infantry division with the intended equipment and personnel:

Comparison between an Italian and German Infantry Division in 1940

Ital. ID (1940) German ID (1940)
449 Officers 518 Officers
614 NCOs 2573 NCOs
11916 Men 13667 Men
12 Heavy howitzers (sFH) 15 cm
6 Heavy infantry support guns 15cm
12 100mm howitzer 36 Light howitzers (lFH) 10,5 cm
24 75mm guns 20 Light infantry support guns 7,5 cm
8 65 mm mountain guns
8 47mm anti-tank gun 75 3,7cm anti-tank guns
8 20mm anti-air guns
30 Mortar 81mm 54 mortar 8,1 cm
126 Mortars 45mm 84 mortar 5cm
80 Heavy machine guns 110 Heavy machine gun
270 Light machine gun 425 Light machine guns
(Source for the German Division: Alex Buchner: Handbuch der Infanterie 1939-1945)

The most important differences here are the low number of NCOs in the Italian division, NCO form the backbone of every army, thus this lack of leadership definitely didn’t improve the overall quality of the division. Furthermore, the biggest Italian gun had 100mm and only 12 were assigned to a division, whereas the Germans had 3 times that and additional 18 guns with 150 mm of caliber. Now, the Italians had a variety of guns ranging from 75mm to 20mm, but almost all in low numbers and of various types this is basically a logistical nightmare with limited firepower, especially in combination with the severe lack of transport capacity and weak industry. Also in terms of infantry support weapons like mortars and machine guns the Germans had an advantage.
Based on that data, I assume the firepower difference was calculated based on how much shell weight each division could deliver for a specified amount of time. At first you can’t spot a 1 to 10 difference, but you need to consider the weight differences of higher caliber guns. Let’s take a look at the weight of a 15 cm howitzer shell, it was about 50 kg whereas the 10,5 cm howitzer could only deliver a shell of around 15 kg. The shell weight and thus the resulting firepower can easily missed, if one looks only at the caliber alone. (Source: and )

Resource Problems

Yet, this comparison assumes that the division was fully equipped with artillery, but Italy had a severe lack of modern artillery and anti-aircraft guns, it lacked about 15 000 modern artillery guns and the industry could only put out less than 100 per month. This meant that the Italians had a limited amount of modern artillery and since that wasn’t bad enough there was also a lack of ammo. The situation with tanks was not much better and those tanks were also to a large degree simple light tanks of limited combat capabilities. (Schreiber, Gerhard: S. 61-65 , in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3)
Resource Problem
Furthermore, the Italian industry had a lack of resources, how dire the situation was can be best expressed with some numbers. These are the percentages on the Italian estimate for meeting the requirements of 1940:
Artillery (all types) 6 %
Ammo, small caliber 25 %
Ammo, medium caliber 7 %
Ammo, heavy caliber 10 %
Rifles (Model 1891) 35 %
Machine Guns 10 %
Mortar 81mm 70 %
Ammo, Mortar grenades 81mm 10 %
Planes 42 %
Engines 40 %
Bombs under 1000 kg 40 %

(Schreiber, Gerhard: S. 66 , in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3)
One can assume that Mussolini would get führious from the “insufficient resources” icon popping up all the time, if he would play Hearts of Iron.
One can assume Mussolini would have gone mad from the “insufficient resources” icon popping up all the time, but he was probably already mad already.


Now, the Italian Navy was by far the strongest part of the Armed Forces. For the Mediterranean the numbers of the Italian fleet were quite considerable: (Schreiber, Gerhard: S. 77 , in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3) Here is a comparison between the Italian, British and French Fleets assigned to the Mediterranean.

Italy UK France
Type Number Tonnage Number Tonnage Number Tonnage
BB 4 117240 5 148350 5 116165
CV 0 0 1 22600 0
CA 7 70000 0 0 7 70000
CL 12 74630 9 51000 7 51723
DD & TP 125 120335 35 48200 57 67250
Submarine 113 88000 12 13000 46 49000

Note that 2 of these 4 Italian battleships weren’t fully operational yet in June 1940. Also, due to the lack of the Italian industry these numbers can be a bit misleading from strategic point of view, because the British had way better capabilities to construct new ships in contrast to the Italians, thus losses on the Italian side had a greater strategic impact. (Schreiber, Gerhard: S. 75-78 , in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3)

Furthermore, these numbers don’t represent the quality of the ships, its crews nor other important factors. Nevertheless the Italian ships meet the international standards unlike their army units. Although, there was some major problems. First the lack of air coverage by land based aircraft due to range and insufficient coordination with the air force, of course the aforementioned missing naval air arm was also a major flaw in the Italian Navy structure. Second, the power plants of the ships had limited reliability and there was a general lack of anti-aircraft weapons for the ships and harbors. Third, the lack of a radar on Italian ships had a crucial impact during the Battle of Matapan against the British. The Germans had their own radars, but only after the loss at Matapan informed the Italians about their radar and provided assistance. (Schreiber, Gerhard: S. 75-78 , in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3)

Air Force

Now, let’s take a brief look at the Air Force. In June 1940 the “regia aeronautica” had 1796 operational planes and 554 non-operational ones (total 2350), thus it clearly had a higher readiness ratio than in September 1939, the total number of planes is actually a little lower than in 1939, this is probably due to the fact that this number doesn’t include training planes. Yet, a major problem was the lack of a proper naval aviation, which is quite problematic for a country that has a quite extensive coastline. Although Italy had some good air frame designs it lacked mostly powerful engines and also its production capabilities were not the best to put it very mildly, well, time for an international comparison. Schreiber writes about the Italian aircraft industry the following:

“Italy basically achieved between 1940 and 1943 an average output per year that was slightly above the British monthly average of produced aircraft in 1943.”

(Translated & cited from the German version of Germany and the Second World War – Volume III)

“Italien erreichte also zwischen 1940 und 1943 im Durchschnitt eine jährliche Fertigungsquote, die etwas über dem lag, was die britische Luftfahrtindustrie 1943 in einem Monat ausstieß.”

(Schreiber, Gerhard: S. 71 , in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3)


There is a strong tendency to give the Italian soldiers a bad reputation for being cowards and unreliable, which certainly is influenced by the fact that in World War 1 the Italians turned against their former Allies the German and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Nevertheless, in World War 2, Italian soldiers fought as brave as their allies and foes, thus there is no reason for the continuous disrespect about their combat capabilities, which was mostly a result of the poor state of their industry, equipment, weaponry and supply situation.
As said before soldiers deserve our respect, even if we don’t share their side and/or views.



Germany and the Second World War – Volume 3: The Mediterranean, South-East Europe, and North Africa 1939–1942 ( affiliate link)

Buchner, Alex: The German Infantry Handbook 1939-1945 ( affiliate link)

Schreiber, Gerhard: Politische & milititärische Entwicklung im Mittelmeerraum 1939/1940, in: Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3 ( affiliate link)

Buchner, Alex: Das Handbuch der deutschen Infanterie 1939-1945; Gliederung – Uniformen, Bewaffnung – Ausrüstung, Einsätze ( affiliate link)


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Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à.r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden können.

Online Resources

15 cm Kanone 16

10.5 cm leFH 18

Why the Imperial Japanese Air Forces Failed in World War 2


The Second World War to a large degree was determined by the disparity of the economic capacities and manpower between the Axis and the Allies. Yet, solely looking at production numbers and men can lead to a deterministic or even fatalistic interpretation that prevents us from looking at other factors that also played a vital role in the defeat of the Axis Forces.
This video is based on the article: The Imperial Japanese Air Forces by Osamu Tagaya. (See Description)

High Level Organization

The Japanese leadership was well aware of its limited capabilities in both resources and industrial capacity. Yet, it failed to unify the two branches of the Japanese Armed Forces, notably the Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy to focus on one strategy in the years leading to the war. The Army for a large part saw as their main enemy in Russia and later the Soviet Union, while the Navy determined the United States of America as their principal foe. Both branches couldn’t agree and since they were not subordinates of the Japanese Government, there was no unifying power to force them into cooperation. This lead to two different strategies that were competing with each other for resources, manpower and equipment. This also lead to parallel development of similar aircraft types, like bombers and prevented the creation of uniform standards. (Tagaya: p. 178-180) Such inefficiencies and waste of resources are problematic in general, but in combination with limited industrial capacity and resources such effects weigh several magnitudes higher than for industrial giants, like the United States.

Army Shortcomings – The Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF)

Let’s take a look at the shortcomings of the Japanese Army Air Force. Since the Japanese Army Air Force was mostly developed for tactical support of a land war against Soviet Union, it lacked capabilities for naval navigation and long-range capabilities, something that was crucial for their use in South East Asia and especially the islands of the Pacific. As a result the Navy had to fly long-range bombing missions in the Philippines for the Army. (Tagaya: p. 179-180)

One major problem was that the Japanese Army lacked strong advocates for air power in its ranks. This was due to the fact that the Japanese had a very limited amount of army officers with air combat experience. Although the Japanese were among the first to use combat aircraft in World War 1, it was a short a limited engagement in 1914. These experiences were too limited to convince enough officers of the importance air power. The army initiated two times the creation of an independent air force as a third branch, like Germany and the United Kingdom with the Royal Air Force. Yet, the Navy disagreed, because they feared that similar to the British RAF that the Fleet Air Arm would only play a marginal role in an independent branch. (Tagaya: p. 180-185)
The main roles for the Army Air Force lay in recon and air combat, whereas bombing missions received only limited attention. This is reflected in the slow build-up of its bomber squadrons in the 1920ies.(Tagaya: p. 182)

For a short time the Army like the Navy saw the United States as their main opponent, during that period the development of a large four engine bomber was started. Furthermore, there were projects to use aircraft catapults on land-bases in order to circumvent the problem of building long air strips after an invasion of the Philippines. Yet, once the Army focused again on Russia and Asia, these projects were discontinued in the early 1930ies. Due to annexation of Manchuria by the Japanese an extended land border to the Soviet Union changed the strategic situation. Furthermore, the development of the TB-3 bomber by the Soviets put the Japanese home islands into the range of the Soviet Air Force. (Tagaya: p. 182-185)
Around the mid 1930ies the Army started a major expansion of its air arm and in 1937 declared the destruction of the enemy’s air force as the primary mission. Yet, in the conflicts in China and with the Soviet Union the Army Air Force mainly contributed on a tactical level. Furthermore, in 1940 the emphasis on destruction of the enemy air force was weakened and the offensive power remained mostly on a tactical level. (Tagaya: p. 185)

The main problem with Japanese Army aviation lay in a lack of initiative and a conservative senior leadership that was mostly reacting to international developments instead of formulating its own doctrines. This lead to a shortage of officers with proper experience during the rapid expansion. (Tagaya: p. 186)
“This often resulted in poor leadership and unimaginative staff work, giving rise to operations that where questionable in their effectiveness and all too predictable and conventional in nature.” -Osamu Tagaya:The Imperial Japanese Air Forces, p. 186 (link in the description)

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN)

IJN Achievements

Now, before we take a look at the shortcoming of the Imperial Japanese Navy, which were quite different to those of the Army. Let’s take a look at their initial achievements first.
The Navy unlike the Army had strong advocates for air power in its ranks. This is due to the fact the modern Navies usually have a more open attitude towards technology and innovation. After all an infantry division consists mostly of men, whereas a battleships consists mostly of steel with a lot of technological components and a handful men.
The Imperial Japanese Navy was a pioneer in naval aviation. It built the world’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier the HIJMS Hōshō in 1922. Furthermore, it introduced the first operational deployment of an all-metal monoplane carrier-fighter plane in 1937. And in 1940 it was able to perform the mass deployment of torpedo and dive-bombers in coordination with fighters launched from several aircraft carries, something no navy at that time was able to do. Right before Pearl Harbor, the IJN had more aircraft carriers than any other Navy and had the world’s leading naval air arm.

Furthermore, there were some other aspects were the IJN achieved leading roles. In terms of aircraft the Zero outmatched all it counterparts and sometimes even land-based aircraft. Furthermore, the IJN possessed a strong land-based naval bomber force the so called “rikko” units, which were initially developed to counter the limits on the number of carriers due to Naval Treaties. These units sank the Royal Navy’s battleships the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse early on in the War. Also the attack on Pearl Harbor and the following half year the IJN basically marked the start of domination of aircraft carriers in naval warfare. (Tagaya: p. 186-187)

IJN Shortcomings

Yet, despite all these achievements in naval aviation, it is quite surprising that the IJN didn’t drop the battleship as a core weapon prior or after these initial successes of carriers. Its fleet organization still focused on the battleship and didn’t create a complete carrier task force organization, unlike the US Navy later in the War. Although, the enormous amounts of resources put into building the Yamato and Musashi super-battleships are to a certain degree understandable, because before the war in the pacific, it was not clear how important carriers would be, but the reluctance to change the naval organization was major flaw. This is also reflected by the presence of Japanese Battleship fleet at the Battle of Midway in June 1942. (Tagaya: p. 187-189)
One major flaw of the IJN was its focus to primarily target enemy warships and often ignore the enemy supply ships. Like after the defeat of the Allied cruisers at the battle of the Savo Island, where the transport ships were left unharmed. This was not just one incident, the IJN submarine doctrine focused on destroying enemy warships as did the Japanese air men. To some degree this maybe hindsight bias, but misjudging the strategic value of merchant ships and supplies, probably stemmed from the focus on a classical decisive battle thinking.
In defense of the Japanese, we need to take into account that even the Western Allies that focused on strategic warfare early on didn’t focus on the German supplies in their bombing campaigns, it took them until May 1944 to focus at fuel production, which severely limited the mobility and combat effectiveness of all German forces. (Deutsche Reich & 2. WK: Band 7; S. 483-485) In the Pacific with its long supply lines between the islands, the strategic value of attacks against merchant shipping was about as crucial as fuel for Germany. Because, without supplies and fuel ground, naval and air forces are extremely limited in their effectiveness. (Tagaya: p. 188-189)

Japanese Capabilities

Let’s take a look at Japanese capabilities. As mentioned before the focus of the Japanese Army and the Japanese Navy was on supporting battles. This narrow view lead to a neglect of logistics and other crucial elements. Similar to the German Luftwaffe there was a certain neglect for all elements that didn’t surround actual combat, yet to a far greater extent. After all, the Luftwaffe possessed one of the leading air transport arms in the beginning of the war quite contrary to the Japanese that lacked transport aircraft. For instance the Japanese lacked pilots for ferrying aircraft to the front lines and their capabilities to construct airfields was limited. Furthermore, there was a severe lack of warning and communication equipment like radar and effective radios sets for fighters. (Tagaya: p. 189; Corum: p. ) Unlike the German Air Force in Western Europe, the Japanese couldn’t rely on an existing infrastructure in the Pacific, thus these shortcomings reduced the combat effectiveness and readiness of their units. As a result naval bombers were used several times to drop supplies, because there were no transport aircraft available. This was in stark contrast to the Allies that airlifted an infantry division from Australia to New Guinea. Furthermore, the Japanese periodically used combat pilot to ferry planes due to lack of ferry pilots.
The lack of mechanized engineering equipment to create and improve existing airfields also had severe long term effects. It not only resulted in a huge delay and back-breaking labor on the Japanese side, additionally, the resulting installations were often very limited in size. As a result Japanese airfields were usually congested with planes that were parked closely to each other on several occasions this lead to severe losses when those air fields were attacked. (Tagaya: p. 189-190)

Often these attacks occurred without any warning, due the Japanese lack of radar equipment. Although the Japanese were once among the leaders in radar technology, they fell behind by not investing and employing the technology for military purposes.

In general the Japanese efforts and capabilities surrounding communication and coordination were limited. There was a lack of effective shortwave radios, thus Japanese fighter pilots basically communicated with visual signals. This prevented to a large degree that they could fully exploit their initial advantages in training and equipment. Furthermore, it also prevented the creation of a proper ground- or carrier-based-control capabilities like the British used during the Battle of Britain or the US Navy developed throughout the war. (Tagaya: p. 189-191)

Japanese Priorities and their Consequences

Let’s take a look at the Japanese Priorities and their consequences. The Japanese focus on battle and combat units was the determining factor throughout the war and the lack of unified strategy between the Navy and Army showed a lack of foresight and strategic perspective. The missing unified strategy prevented a proper and effective allocation of Japans limited resources before and during the war. In contrast even though the United States enjoyed an abundance of industrial capacity and manpower, it still committed to the Grand Strategy of “Germany First” with the British. (Tagaya: p. 191-192)

The Japanese aircraft industry lagged behind in terms of powerful engines, this problem was circumvented by using no armor plates and self-sealing fuel tanks in their early models. Due their experiences fighting the Chinese although they assumed that these measures were sufficient. Unlike the Germans that improved their aircraft after their experiences in the Spanish Civil war.
Thus, during the Guadalcanal campaign Japanese losses increased and their highly-trained airmen thinned out quickly. The lack of proper training programs were similar to the Germans and since the Western Allies put a strong emphasis on training early, this soon lead to a situation where the average Japanese pilot was less trained than the average Allied pilot. (Tagaya: p. 191-193)
“In the end, the initial margin of superior training and experience exhibitied by its airmen proved insufficient to prevent serious attrition.” (Tagaya: p. 193)

Japanese Aircraft Industry

Let’s take a look at the Japanese Aircraft industry. Japan before and shortly after the First World War was dependent on Western technology and imported aircraft and equipment at that time. During the 1930ies they reached self-sufficiency in engine and air-frame design, but their development cycles were still quite long. Furthermore, in aircraft components and subsystems, like radios Japan was still very dependent on Western imports. The duration of the development cycles was a problem. Yet, this could have been dealt with by ordering follow-up types early enough, but the Japanese didn’t issued specifications for follow-up designs early enough. Prior to April 1942 there was serious effort invested to create a successor for the Zero fighter plane. If these measures would have been taken in 1940, then the Japanese could have had an aircraft to counter the Corsair or Hellcat when they arrived, but they still had to fight them with their modified version of the Zero. Furthermore, the initial successor of the Zero the A7M “Reppu” failed and wasn’t abandoned soon enough thus delaying the N1K1-J “Shiden”, which entered combat in October 1944 and its improved version the “Shiden-Kai” (also known by older war thunder players as the UFO) was ready in March 1945. Hence, even though the development cycles of the Japanese were not as fast as that of the United States, this problem could have been averted by ordering a replacement at an early stage. (Tagaya: p. 193-195) As a result the end of the war, the Japanese only fielded a handful of types that introduced during the war, whereas the United States replaced a large amount of its pre-war models.

Result of Training and Industry Policies

As a result, in June 1944 the Japanese faced highly trained US pilots with new superior planes in their slightly upgraded planes flown by poorly-trained pilots. This resulted in an ineffective air force, which had almost no other option but to resort to Kamikaze attacks due to insufficient training and equipment. Note that we are talking about average pilots here, because those win the war not a small number of extraordinary aces. (Tagaya: p. 192-193)


To conclude, similar to Germany, Japan wasn’t ready for a war long-war on a global scale in terms of its industrial capabilities. But only looking at the industrial side of a country when it comes to analyzing a war can be misleading, because one might miss important areas of improvement. One way to avoid this is, to take a look at engagements, when the economic power of the winning factions wasn’t yet the determining factor. For the War in the Pacific these were the Guadalcanal campaign and the Battle of Midway. In both cases the Japanese committed various errors and the United States proved to be a skillful enemy even without superior numbers. Thus, the turning point of the war in the Pacific was before the United States could bring its full numerical advantage to the table. Something that was clearly different from the war in Europe. (Tagaya: p. 196-197) Finally, the Japanese reluctance to move away from their strong focus on combat at the cost of logistics and support, played an important role in the reversal after their initial successes. (Tagaya: p. 196-197)


The video a summary of the article listed in the sources.


Books & Articles

  • Tagaya, Osamu: The Imperial Japanese Air Forces, In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail
  • Corum, James S.: Defeat of the Luftwaffe, 1935-1945, In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail


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Why the Luftwaffe Failed in World War 2 – Failures, Shortcomings and Blunders


Note the following is the script for the video NOT an article, furthermore it might be a bit different to due last minute changes. There is usually also a bit more detail in the script. Continue reading “Why the Luftwaffe Failed in World War 2 – Failures, Shortcomings and Blunders”