Germany-Japan: The Exchange of Strategic Resources

One of the avowed war aims of the Axis powers was to fashion conquered lands and satellites into self-sufficient economic “spheres” that would serve the strategic and economic needs of each master race. During the Second World War, however, neither Germany nor Japan nor any of the wider areas they brought under their temporary control was fully self-sufficient in the raw materials and industrial techniques needed for modern warfare. Germany and her “sphere” were deficient in a large number of industrial raw materials, among which rubber and certain ferroalloys had been traditionally imported from East and Southeast Asia. Japan lacked raw materials and manufacturing skills, among them certain techniques —particularly in the chemical, machine-tool, and precision-instrument industries—which were available in Germany. The failure of the two powers to work out a satisfactory exchange, trading what they had for what they needed, is further proof of the weakness of their wartime alliance.

When the Second World War broke out in Europe, there existed no general program for economic or technological coordination between the two countries. The recent Russo-German pact had left the Japanese in no mood to collaborate. A general economic treaty, considered by the two countries for over a year and finally initialed in late July 1939, was suspended by the Japanese in early September in the wake of the political rupture between the two nations and because of the difficulty of conducting ordinary business transactions with German companies under wartime conditions.

In the fall of 1939, the outbreak of the war in Europe naturally affected the German economy more decisively than it did the Japanese, because Germany’s new status as a belligerent and the British blockade cut her off immediately from some of her most important overseas sources of imports. By contrast, Japan still had access to the American market and to the raw-material resources of Southeast Asia on which her war economy primarily depended. Her peacetime pattern of trade had been only slightly affected by the undeclared Sino-Japanese war and the recent (July 1939) American decision to cancel the Japanese-American trade treaty as of early 1940.

Germany therefore depended on Japan more than Japan did on her. In particular, the Germans expected Japan to defy the British blockade and to provide the Reich with materials produced both in the area which Japan controlled politically and militarily (Japan, Manchuria, and parts of China) and in other countries, primarily of Southeast Asia and South America, where Japan could act as a purchaser of German imports. Unfortunately for Berlin, the condition of the Japanese economy and the policy of her government during the period of the “phony war” made a defiance of the British blockade neither feasible nor desirable from the Japanese point of view. Japan’s own dependence on the markets of the Empire and of other areas in part susceptible to British influence made it inopportune for her to risk British displeasure for the sake of Germany.

Political considerations such as these were chiefly responsible for the limited amount of assistance which Japan lent the German war economy during the first few months of the war. Economic considerations also played a role, though smaller, Germany’s cancellation of a number of Japanese orders for heavy equipment contracted before the outbreak of hostilities and heavy German commitments for the export of capital goods to the Soviet Union (in the wake of the German-Soviet pact) convinced the Japanese that they stood to obtain little from those sectors of German industry in which they were anxious to place their heaviest orders.

A Trickle of Aid

To recount in detail the story of Germany’s disappointment over inadequate Japanese assistance during the “phony war” would be tedious. It will be sufficient to mention a few of the areas in which Japanese aid fell sorely short of German expectations. One critical area for Germany was that of edible oils and fats, since domestic production provided only 60 per cent of the amount needed. Before the war, imports of soybeans and similar crops from Manchuria had played an important role in closing the German “fat gap ‘ (Fettlücke). With the outbreak of the war, German imports dropped precipitately; during the “phony war” period, German soybean imports from Manchuria sank to about 4 per cent of their prewar level; during the second half of 1940, they climbed back to about 12 per cent of their prewar level, while during the first half of 1941 they approached only 30 per cent.

The steep decline of German soybean imports was felt all the more bitterly in Berlin since ample means of transportation from Manchuria were available during the first twenty months of the Second World War. In fact, as early as September 1939, the Soviet Union had granted Germany a 50-per-cent reduction in freight rates for the shipment of soybeans over the Trans-Siberian Railroad. This favorable arrangement was renewed in the German-Soviet commercial treaties of early 1940 and early 1941 and continued in force down to the outbreak of the Russo-German war. Against this background of Soviet cooperation, the Germans held the Japanese solely responsible for frustrating German bean imports from Manchukuo. Specifically, the Japanese were accused of succumbing to British pressure to cut bean exports to the Reich, and of having reduced the amounts available to Germany by their own increased purchase of Manchurian beans. It is perhaps further evidence of an inability or failure of each country to imagine the point of view of the other, a weakness already noted more specifically earlier, that Germany ignored the hostility she had invited among the Japanese by her pact with Russia. Thus the German charges could well have been true, if curiously unimaginative. In any case, there is no doubt that Japanese exports to Germany from areas under her immediate control fell far below what Berlin had anticipated.

Germany fared hardly better with her hopes that she would benefit from Japanese purchases on her behalf in Southeast Asia and South America. Berlin was most interested in having Japan purchase rubber in Southeast Asia, tin in Malaya and South America, and a number of ferroalloys in China and Southeast Asia, without which German steel production was gravely handicapped. No specific import figures for the period of the “phony war” are available, but a study by OKW’s Office for War Economy and Armament of September 1940 gives totals for Japan’s purchases on behalf of Germany during the entire first year of World War Two.

Rubber, for example, was one of the strategic commodities which Germany had previously imported largely from Asia. Despite the progress of her synthetic-rubber production, Germany was still dependent in 1939 on imports of natural rubber, because the synthetic needed an admixture of natural rubber and still met only a part of the German need. The great hopes placed in Japan were once more disappointed, since Japan managed to purchase no more than 2800 tons of rubber on Germany’s behalf, under 5 per cent of Germany’s annual peacetime imports from Asia. The Germans therefore were very short of rubber during the first nine months of the war, particularly since German rubber stockpiles at the beginning had covered only a two-months supply. In June 1940 the situation eased considerably when large Dutch and French stocks of raw and manufactured rubber fell into German hands. By this time Japan also seemed to change her attitude toward the German war economy’s needs.

The story of tin and tungsten is similar. With Japan’s help, Germany was able to acquire during the first year of the war somewhat over 5 per cent of her prewar annual tin imports from Asia and somewhat less than 5 per cent of her prewar tungsten imports.

In some respects, however, the German shortages of tin and Far Eastern ferroalloys turned out to be less damaging to her war production than might be expected from the crude comparison of prewar and wartime import figures. For one thing, German stockpiles in almost all the nonferrous metals and ferroalloys were considerably larger than her rubber stockpiles at the outbreak of the war. Tin and tungsten reserves, for instance, were adequate for approximately one year and alternative supplies were available in Europe. Moreover, booty from the occupied countries and scrap drives at home made up in part for the imports which were no longer available. Most significantly, however, technical ingenuity permitted the production of less highly alloyed steels with little loss in quality, which meant that, despite sharply curtailed imports, German steel production was never seriously hampered by a shortage of ferroalloys.

Since Japanese purchasing of the materials requested by Germany was still unhampered during the first twelve months of the war by the British policy of “control at source” (pre-emptive buying, etc.) which became so important after the autumn of 1940, and since Germany apparently made adequate supplies of currency available to Japan, the conclusion that Japan made fewer exertions on Germany’s behalf than she might have made seems unavoidable. The heavy blow dealt to German-Japanese relations in August 1939 accounts for the very modest exertions which Japan made on behalf of her former friend during the opening months of the European war. The late summer of 1940 marks, here as elsewhere, a turning point in German-Japanese relations, While the German ambassador had spoken as late as the second half of April of “serious German displeasure [Verstimmung] caused by the inadequate economic support on the part of Japan,” a mutually more advantageous though not always agreeable relation was worked out after the fall of 1940. The political rapprochement of the two powers, the acquisition of greater Japanese control over the resources of Indo-China, and the continued availability of overland communications through Siberia—all these three factors account for the more intensive economic relations between the Axis powers in the period from the autumn of 1940 to June 1941.

Cooperation and Competition

In Indo-China, Germany could now purchase directly, since hostilities with France had ceased. In Thailand, the German purchasing organization had been improved since the beginning of the war. Even so, German raw-material purchases proved difficult and less rewarding than she had expected. Where the Reich had previously battled British blockade measures, she now found herself competing with Japan in those parts of Southeast Asia which were newly accessible to her. The amounts of the Indo-Chinese rubber harvest of 1940 which had not been sold at the time of the Franco-German armistice were quickly bought up by the Japanese and the Americans and eluded Germany. But with her close relations to Vichy, Germany could expect to obtain a sizable portion of the total 1941 harvest, estimated at some 70,000 tons. Although Germany had played a distinctly minor role in the Indo-Chinese rubber market before the war, she now concluded agreements with France (in September 1940 and January 1941) which allotted to her 25,000 tons of the anticipated 1941 production. A substantial share of the French quota of 18,000 tons was also promised to the Reich. The German effort to secure such a considerable share of the 1941 harvest ran into immediate opposition from Japan, however. Japan’s objections to the impropriety of direct Franco-German dispositions concerning Indo-China have already been mentioned. Yet Japan did not object for reasons of prestige alone. The allotments to Germany and France and the 25,000 tons assigned to the United States (in order to acquire badly needed dollars for the French colony) threatened to leave Japan with practically no rubber imports from Indo-China. Japan was by now feeling the effects of Britain’s policy of “control at source,” which was directed against both Germany and herself. With imports from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies curtailed, she competed more fiercely with the Reich for a share of Indo-Chinese rubber production.

In the end, and as a result more of competition in the market than of political agreement, both nations were remarkably successful in obtaining the share they had wanted, Germany secured for herself the whole 25,000 tons, out of which she had initially promised to satisfy Japanese demands, and Japan acquired almost that much, at the expense of the shipment initially intended for the United States. Despite the lack of any formal agreement, the situation seemed tolerable for both sides.

It might seem that the Japanese occupation of French Indo-China (the northern part in September 1940; the southern in July 1941), reducing the political influence Germany might exercise there via Vichy, should have added to the German-Japanese strain. But on balance Germany profited economically from the military hold which Japan, partly with German assistance, had established over the French colony. Without Japanese occupation, the British policy of pre-emptive buying, supported by the United States, would have greatly reduced the rubber quota available to the Germans. Instead, Japanese pressure on the French authorities in Indo-China probably explains the colony’s failure to cooperate fully in British economic warfare—a cooperation initially promised by the French early in 1941. In the absence of Japanese garrisons, a pro-de Gaullist uprising might have removed Indo-China completely from German influence.

Whatever the extent of Japan’s indirect assistance to Germany by virtue of her military presence in Indo-China, her aid in matters of transportation during this phase of the war is beyond doubt. All the Indo-Chinese rubber that reached Germany via the Trans-Siberian Railroad during the first five months of 1941 (some 12,000 tons) had been transported from Indo-China to Manchuria in Japanese bottoms. Additional quantities had in fact been taken by Japanese vessels to Manchuria, where they could not be loaded because of the outbreak of the Russo-German war.

The German success in obtaining rubber, however, obviously owed much to a special combination in Indo-China, Neither a general plan nor Japanese determination to cooperate assured as much success with other materials, as the quest for nonferrous metals and ferroalloys showed. No German or Japanese figures are available and it is necessary to rely on Russian data for transshipments from the Far East. According to Stalin, the following commodities passed through the Soviet Union from the Far East in this period: 1,087 tons of tungsten ore (compared with a German annual prewar import of 9,000 tons from China alone); 587 tons of tin ore and 538 tons of tin (compared with prewar annual imports from China and the Dutch East Indies together of about 13,000 tons of ore); 260 tons of antimony ore and 42 tons of antimony (compared with a prewar annual import of about 2,600 tons of ore from China alone). Again, as in the first year of the war, imports of these metals from the Far East satisfied only a fraction of Germany’s annual needs. But for reasons already mentioned (and also because ferroalloys were made available by Spain, Russia, and Finland) Germany’s failure to obtain more of these metals from East Asia did not restrict the German steel industry seriously.

Several factors will suggest why Japan’s help in the procurement of these metals was not greater. Just when the Japanese became politically ready to aid the German war economy by purchases in third countries, the British shifted their blockade effort from control at sea to control at source. Pre-emptive buying in areas under British control and in the Dutch East Indies thus reduced the amounts Japan was able to import, and consequently to re-export to Germany. Since Germany’s enemies considered her shortage in ferroalloys to be one of the chief bottlenecks in her war industry, their pre-emptive buying and export controls were particularly stringent and effective in the case of these metals.

The areas which Japan controlled directly produced only a small share of the metals requested by Germany. Indo-China, partly subject to Japanese control and the main source of Germany’s rubber imports during this phase of the economic war, produced few of the required metals in sufficient quantities. China’s production of these metals, it is true, was more abundant than Indo-China’s. Yet Japan’s partial occupation of China was of relatively little use to her or her ally, since most of the tin and tungsten production took place in Free China where the whole output was under government control. There the amounts produced in 1940 and 1941 had been allotted to the Soviet Union and the United States, where they served as collateral for some of the loans Chungking had secured, particularly those from Washington.

Furthermore, Japan herself was experiencing shortages in the very materials Germany requested her to purchase. This was due in part to the Allied policies already referred to, but also to the Japanese policy of stockpiling for a war which seemed to come ever closer. With limits on her own metal imports from China, the Dutch East Indies, the British colonies, and America, Japan reserved whatever amounts she could secure exclusively for her own needs. Japanese pressure on Saigon, for example, helped her acquire practically all of Indo-China’s 1941 metal production for her own needs. When the Germans tried to obtain guarantees of delivery from the French, as they had for rubber, they were told that the disposition of metals was out of the hands of Vichy. Finally, after July 1941, Japanese buying, both for Germany and for herself, was drastically reduced as a result of the American, British, and Dutch embargoes, and so was Japan’s capacity to re-export strategic materials to the Reich.

By this time, however, an even more significant obstacle to German-Japanese economic exchanges had arisen with the closing of the Siberian overland route after June 22, 1941. Several of Hitler’s advisers had tried to dissuade the Führer from the attack on the Soviet Union by calling attention to the serious economic consequences of the rupture of Germany’s last overland connection with the Far East. But Hitler decided, as Keitel aptly phrased it, “not to let himself be influenced by these economic difficulties.”17 What was a minor consideration for the German leader proved to be for the British “the real turning point in the economic war.”

Transportation Problems

Just as Germany began to make sure of her sources of supply—with the aid of a better purchasing organization in Southeast Asia established after Wohlthat’s arrival in Tokyo in late April 1941—her road from the Far East was cut. As if to increase the irony, the supplies waiting for her at the end of the blocked road grew to enormous proportions after Pearl Harbor, when Japan put large quantities at Germany’s disposal out of the stocks and supplies she had conquered in the south. German raw-material stocks accumulated in Far Eastern ports and warehouses to the point where insurance and storage charges became a real burden. By December 1941 total German stockpiles in the Far East amounted to about 90,000 tons; a considerable portion of this amount probably consisted of soybeans and other oil-producing substances and oils stockpiled in Japan proper or in Manchuria. From 1942 on, extensive German stocks of some of the Southeast Asian raw materials accumulated in Japanese and Malayan warehouses. In July 1942 the German purchasing mission in Tokyo reported to Berlin that Japan had put a total of 60,000 tons of rubber from the 1942 harvest at Germany’s disposal. One thousand tons of tungsten had also been promised, though on the whole the procurement of tungsten still proved difficult even in Japanese-dominated Asia. In most other respects, German-Japanese competition for raw materials now gave way to an expansive generosity on the part of the Japanese, who had brought the produce of Malaya and the Dutch East Indies under their control and who, no doubt, also attempted to improve their own chances of obtaining German economic aid by making generous offers of raw materials.

With transportation a critical need by early 1942 and an overland route out of the question, Germany had to consider the possibilities of shipping by sea. French shipping had aided in the transport of Indo-Chinese raw materials to Axis Europe in 1940 and 1941 but seems to have played no role after Pearl Harbor. Japan had suspended shipping to Europe after August 1940 and was unable or unwilling to put vessels at Germany’s disposal for the purpose of blockade running. Germany therefore had to fall back on her own ships and a few that Italy made available. In addition, a number of German merchant ships had either been caught in Japan at the time the war broke out in Europe or had escaped to Japan from British and South American waters afterward. With that small fleet, the blockade was challenged.

German and Italian blockade-breakers operated during a total of four shipping seasons, one prior to the German-Russian war and the others in the three winter seasons that followed. For all practical purposes, blockade running was restricted to the period from October to March, when heavy fog and bad seas in the Atlantic, where interception was most effective, hindered the hunters more than the hunted.

Of the five ships that had started on their way to Europe before June 1941, three reached their destination.20 During the 1941-1942 season, eleven ships in all were sent from the Far East to Europe. All took the route through the South Pacific and around Cape Horn, with remarkable success. Nine ships reached Europe safely, one was intercepted by American forces in the Atlantic and detained, and only one was sunk—by a German submarine by mistake.

The departures from the Far East during the next shipping season were even more numerous, though the number remained behind earlier goals. Sixteen ships left the Far East, but only four reached Axis Europe. Among the other twelve, four returned to Japan or were recalled, two were sunk, and six scuttled themselves when they were intercepted by the Allied blockade. Most of these losses occurred in the North Atlantic or the Bay of Biscay when the ships had completed nine-tenths of their voyage. The route during the 1942-1943 shipping season was around the Cape of Good Hope, where Japanese control of the eastern Indian Ocean presumably gave the ships a certain measure of protection. The Allied occupation of North Africa after November 1942 and the consequent control of the sea approaches to southwestern Europe explained the drastic decline in successful blockade breaking from one year to the next. During the winter of 1943-1944, results were even more disastrous. Only five ships departed from the Far East, and only one of them reached Europe. Blockade breaking with surface vessels was therefore abandoned.

In spite of the tremendous losses sustained, especially after late 1942, the blockade-runners had contributed much to the German war economy. During the four shipping seasons from 1940-1941 to 1943-1944, more than 200,000 tons of cargo were sent to Germany from East and Southeast Asia and over half of it reached the Reich. Of that half, 44,000 tons were rubber, over 50,000 tons edible oils and fats, over 6000 tons metals and ores (an exact breakdown is not available), and the remainder minor quantities of mica, quinine, wood oil, tea, etc.

The heavy losses of the 1942-1943 season had already turned the German government’s attention to the possibility of blockade breaking by submarine. In January 1943, Hitler gave orders to build special cargo submarines with a loading capacity of 500 tons. Twenty boats were scheduled to be completed by mid-1944, after which, it was estimated, Germany might count on them to ship 20,000 tons from the Far East annually (20 boats times 2 annual trips times 500 tons).24 In the meantime, standard submarines with a very much smaller loading capacity (seldom much over 200 tons) had to be put in operation. The Italians, who had contributed four surface vessels to run the blockade, now made a number of submarines available. The Japanese, too, were prevailed upon during the latter part of 1943 to participate with two submarines in the blockade-running program.

Despite the apparent superiority of submarines on some counts—their ability to escape detection and sail year round—they fared badly. Allied radar had made such progress by the time the submarine program got under way in the second half of 1943 that the losses were almost as heavy as were those of the surface vessels. A large number of boats were lost on the way to the Far East. Many others could not make the return journey because of damages sustained en route or the need for extensive repairs. Of the twelve submarines that left Japan for Europe, only four reached their destination. Of the two Japanese submarines, only one reached Europe, and it was lost on the return voyage.

The results of the submarine transport program, if measured in bulk alone, can hardly have been large. The maximum cargo that could have reached Europe on the five boats which made the trip safely may have been around 1000 tons. To judge from the loading schedule of one of the boats, most of this tonnage must have consisted of rubber, with some tungsten and small amounts of quinine and opium.

Germany-Japan: Transportation

Transportation Problems

Just as Germany began to make sure of her sources of supply—with the aid of a better purchasing organization in Southeast Asia established after Wohlthat’s arrival in Tokyo in late April 1941—her road from the Far East was cut. As if to increase the irony, the supplies waiting for her at the end of the blocked road grew to enormous proportions after Pearl Harbor, when Japan put large quantities at Germany’s disposal out of the stocks and supplies she had conquered in the south. German raw-material stocks accumulated in Far Eastern ports and warehouses to the point where insurance and storage charges became a real burden. By December 1941 total German stockpiles in the Far East amounted to about 90,000 tons; a considerable portion of this amount probably consisted of soybeans and other oil-producing substances and oils stockpiled in Japan proper or in Manchuria. From 1942 on, extensive German stocks of some of the Southeast Asian raw materials accumulated in Japanese and Malayan warehouses. In July 1942 the German purchasing mission in Tokyo reported to Berlin that Japan had put a total of 60,000 tons of rubber from the 1942 harvest at Germany’s disposal. One thousand tons of tungsten had also been promised, though on the whole the procurement of tungsten still proved difficult even in Japanese-dominated Asia. In most other respects, German-Japanese competition for raw materials now gave way to an expansive generosity on the part of the Japanese, who had brought the produce of Malaya and the Dutch East Indies under their control and who, no doubt, also attempted to improve their own chances of obtaining German economic aid by making generous offers of raw materials.

With transportation a critical need by early 1942 and an overland route out of the question, Germany had to consider the possibilities of shipping by sea. French shipping had aided in the transport of Indo-Chinese raw materials to Axis Europe in 1940 and 1941 but seems to have played no role after Pearl Harbor. Japan had suspended shipping to Europe after August 1940 and was unable or unwilling to put vessels at Germany’s disposal for the purpose of blockade running. Germany therefore had to fall back on her own ships and a few that Italy made available. In addition, a number of German merchant ships had either been caught in Japan at the time the war broke out in Europe or had escaped to Japan from British and South American waters afterward. With that small fleet, the blockade was challenged.

German and Italian blockade-breakers operated during a total of four shipping seasons, one prior to the German-Russian war and the others in the three winter seasons that followed. For all practical purposes, blockade running was restricted to the period from October to March, when heavy fog and bad seas in the Atlantic, where interception was most effective, hindered the hunters more than the hunted.

Of the five ships that had started on their way to Europe before June 1941, three reached their destination.20 During the 1941-1942 season, eleven ships in all were sent from the Far East to Europe. All took the route through the South Pacific and around Cape Horn, with remarkable success. Nine ships reached Europe safely, one was intercepted by American forces in the Atlantic and detained, and only one was sunk—by a German submarine by mistake.

The departures from the Far East during the next shipping season were even more numerous, though the number remained behind earlier goals. Sixteen ships left the Far East, but only four reached Axis Europe. Among the other twelve, four returned to Japan or were recalled, two were sunk, and six scuttled themselves when they were intercepted by the Allied blockade. Most of these losses occurred in the North Atlantic or the Bay of Biscay when the ships had completed nine-tenths of their voyage. The route during the 1942-1943 shipping season was around the Cape of Good Hope, where Japanese control of the eastern Indian Ocean presumably gave the ships a certain measure of protection. The Allied occupation of North Africa after November 1942 and the consequent control of the sea approaches to southwestern Europe explained the drastic decline in successful blockade breaking from one year to the next. During the winter of 1943-1944, results were even more disastrous. Only five ships departed from the Far East, and only one of them reached Europe. Blockade breaking with surface vessels was therefore abandoned.

In spite of the tremendous losses sustained, especially after late 1942, the blockade-runners had contributed much to the German war economy. During the four shipping seasons from 1940-1941 to 1943-1944, more than 200,000 tons of cargo were sent to Germany from East and Southeast Asia and over half of it reached the Reich. Of that half, 44,000 tons were rubber, over 50,000 tons edible oils and fats, over 6000 tons metals and ores (an exact breakdown is not available), and the remainder minor quantities of mica, quinine, wood oil, tea, etc.

The heavy losses of the 1942-1943 season had already turned the German government’s attention to the possibility of blockade breaking by submarine. In January 1943, Hitler gave orders to build special cargo submarines with a loading capacity of 500 tons. Twenty boats were scheduled to be completed by mid-1944, after which, it was estimated, Germany might count on them to ship 20,000 tons from the Far East annually (20 boats times 2 annual trips times 500 tons). In the meantime, standard submarines with a very much smaller loading capacity (seldom much over 200 tons) had to be put in operation. The Italians, who had contributed four surface vessels to run the blockade, now made a number of submarines available. The Japanese, too, were prevailed upon during the latter part of 1943 to participate with two submarines in the blockade-running program.

Despite the apparent superiority of submarines on some counts—their ability to escape detection and sail year round—they fared badly. Allied radar had made such progress by the time the submarine program got under way in the second half of 1943 that the losses were almost as heavy as were those of the surface vessels. A large number of boats were lost on the way to the Far East. Many others could not make the return journey because of damages sustained en route or the need for extensive repairs. Of the twelve submarines that left Japan for Europe, only four reached their destination. Of the two Japanese submarines, only one reached Europe, and it was lost on the return voyage.

The results of the submarine transport program, if measured in bulk alone, can hardly have been large. The maximum cargo that could have reached Europe on the five boats which made the trip safely may have been around 1000 tons. To judge from the loading schedule of one of the boats, most of this tonnage must have consisted of rubber, with some tungsten and small amounts of quinine and opium.

Japan Formulates Her Demands

Germany’s aid to Japan differed only in kind, not in spirit, from Japan’s to Germany. While Japanese requests were presented in Berlin as urgently as were German demands in Tokyo—and frequently with as little appreciation of the ally’s own needs—Japanese demands were not primarily for raw materials, but for manufactured products, including capital goods, and for German production techniques, blueprints, designs, and samples. Little is known about Japanese imports from Germany through regular commercial channels during the first year of the war. Though there was some curtailment of deliveries, it is by no means impossible that some heavy German equipment reached Japan or Manchuria. Most of it would have come on orders placed before the war by private Japanese companies; the Japanese or Manchurian governments probably played only a small role, if any, in securing or contracting for any of these imports.

A Japanese government program for German aid to the Japanese economy was formulated only in the summer and fall of 1940 in the course of the negotiations and deliberations which preceded the Tripartite Pact. By this time it had proved impossible to negotiate a new economic treaty with the United States; furthermore, as America began to embargo a number of commodities which Japan needed for her war economy and which she had traditionally procured in the United States, the Japanese became increasingly dissatisfied with their economic dependence on that country. Closer ties with the one remaining industrial power which did not oppose her foreign policy became one of Japan’s chief objectives during the summer and autumn of 1940.

The Japanese thought of German economic and technological aid both in immediate and in long-range terms. Short-term aid, they expected, would be forthcoming in the shape of German machine tools, armaments, and a few critical raw materials. In the long run, they expected German technical know-how to benefit their own synthetic industries, thus lessening Japanese dependence on foreign supplies of strategic raw materials. German investment goods, particularly heavy equipment needed in such processes as the production of synthetic rubber and oil, and German aid in the development of the Japanese armaments and airplane industries, seem to have been under consideration in Tokyo in the fall of 1940.

Other Japanese officials thought that it was not too early to secure promises of future German investment in Greater East Asia so as to prevent German postwar capital exports from going to the Soviet Union alone.28 Some Japanese seem to have contemplated a fairly drastic reorientation of the Japanese industrial economy, so far largely patterned on and supplied by the American economy. As one foreign ministry official explained, in the jargon of another era which pitted the “have-not” against the “have” nations:

America’s heavy industry is rich in materials. In other words, it is a heavy industry of the rich—and Germany’s is that of the poor. As for Japan, it is necessary for her to learn Germany’s poor man’s heavy industry.

In pursuit of these goals, the Japanese secured a general German promise of technical assistance in the first secret annex to the Tripartite Pact. Simultaneously, the Japanese cabinet formally decided on September 27, 1940, to seek technological aid from the new ally; shortly, the Japanese began to survey specific needs and to formulate a program to be submitted to Berlin. To collect further information and present Japanese demands, the Japanese army and navy each dispatched a mission to Berlin in December 1940. The missions were headed by General Tomoyuki Yamashita (later to be known as the “Tiger of Malaya”), who stayed in Berlin from January to June 1941, and Admiral Naokuni Nomura, who stayed on there until 1943 and became the Japanese member of the Tripartite military committee. Shortly after their arrival in Berlin, the Japanese missions in early February 1941 presented their demands to the German government. The itemized lists have not been found, but the demands seem to have been substantial in the fields of artillery, radar and optical equipment, submarine and airplane models and parts, precision instruments and machine tools. Among the German services, only the navy’s response to the Japanese requests is known. In view of the navy’s close interest in strategic cooperation with Japan at this time, its reservations about the Japanese aid program are particularly interesting. The navy recommended that only those requests be granted which would enable Japan to take effective military action against the Anglo-American powers in the near future. Deliveries which would only strengthen Japan’s war potential some years hence ought not to be made, and all Japanese attempts at industrial “espionage” should be forestalled.

Similarly, German business was reluctant to turn over to the Japanese secret manufacturing techniques which, it feared, Japan might divulge to the United States or exploit to Germany’s disadvantage in the postwar market. Luckily for the Japanese missions, the doubts of the navy and of business circles were not shared by OKW and Hitler. Whatever their concern about the economic consequences of armaments aid to Japan, Hitler and the OKW were convinced that the military advantages of such assistance were on Germany’s side. They were convinced that Japan stood ready to strike at Britain in the Far East, and that assurance of German technical aid would embolden the Japanese to open hostilities. Whether the Japanese had intentionally fostered this illusion in Berlin to obtain deliveries or whether they merely failed to correct Germany’s misconception is not clear.

The connection between arms aid and the German hope for military cooperation against Britain can be traced in a number of statements which link the visit of the Japanese missions with the Fëhrer directive of early March concerning military collaboration with Japan, Reporting on the requests of Admiral Nomura for arms and technical aid, General Jodl informed Hitler on January 29, 1941:

The proposals of Admiral Nomura have raised the question of the German attitude towards military cooperation with Japan. One could deduce from them that Japan desired the formulation of joint operational plans of the three powers and intended to approach Germany and Italy with demands for materiel.

Two weeks later, Hitler similarly linked the two issues when he gave directions for the drafting of the directive on cooperation with Japan:

It was Germany’s aim to cause Japan to act decisively in the Far East at the earliest opportunity. . . . Japan would have to capture Singapore…. In return, Germany should allow the Japanese a generous look at German war and combat experiences, and should give her permission to copy modern weapons and implements. That the present Japanese government would change its course seemed unlikely to him.

The Führer directive on cooperation with Japan, issued on March 5, 1941, ordered the services to fulfill Japan’s demands generously and comprehensively and not to insist on reciprocal benefits. But despite the order from Hitler, the Japanese made little progress with their negotiations in Berlin. A host of German ministries and agencies managed to delay the Japanese program for reasons which had little military relevance.

German Hesitations

The foreign ministry insisted that negotiations with the Japanese be conducted through it. The ministry was just then dispatching the Wohlthat mission to Tokyo and was determined to use Japanese requests for technical aid as a bargaining point in the negotiations for the general economic treaties which Wohlthat was instructed to discuss in Japan. To be in a position where it could bargain most advantageously, the foreign ministry insisted that all Japanese demands for technical and armaments aid be consolidated in one list (the so-called Wunschliste) and that no orders be placed with individual German firms until the list had been approved by the German government. The Japanese services complied with the ministry’s instructions; yet negotiations still made little progress.

The delay had several causes. For one thing, the foreign ministry had to obtain the views and coordinate the decisions of a large number of agencies, both military and civilian, which claimed the right to be heard in the matter of deliveries to Japan. If Japanese specifications on the consolidated list were insufficient, time-consuming queries for clarification had to be dispatched to Tokyo. Whether the political estrangement of Germany and Japan in the spring of 1941—particularly the beginning of the Japanese-American negotiations in April 1941—had any influence on the treatment of Japanese demands is not known.

The original Japanese list had not been acted upon when the outbreak of the Russo-German war and the closing of the Siberian route changed some of the basic assumptions underlying the Japanese program. Certain items in the Japanese list would have to be dropped; for example, a large airplane factory which was to have been built in Manchukuo with heavy German equipment that could only be brought over the land route. Under the changed circumstances, the Japanese reapplied for single samples, designs, and manufacturing licenses for a large number of the items they had previously expected to import in quantity, planning to construct in Japan what they could no longer obtain from the Reich. At the same time, Foreign Minister Ribbentrop instructed the economic division of the foreign ministry to scale down the Japanese Wunschliste so that it might be fulfilled under existing limitations of transport, ability to pay, and German production capacity.

It took the German authorities from June to September 1941 to agree on a scaled-down Japanese list. The reasons for the delay were explained in a memorandum, submitted along with the revised list, by the director of the economic division of the foreign ministry to Ribbentrop. The memorandum also assessed the potential political-military returns for technical aid more realistically than the OKW had in the preceding spring:

The purpose of compiling [the reduced list] was to keep the Japanese on our side [bei der Stange halten] and to destroy any doubts they may have had concerning our readiness to support them, as far as possible, in the build-up of their armament and armaments industry.

My efforts in compiling this reduced list have met considerable resistance among the [German] internal agencies; the military authorities plead reasons of military secrecy of weapons and procedures; the Economics Ministry and the Four-Year-Plan object to the transfer of valuable German intellectual property to a competitor on credit and without sufficient quid pro quo; all agencies finally object on the grounds that German industrial capacity is fully employed for our own production and leaves no room for deliveries to Japan.

Though they realized that Germany’s raw-material imports and possibly Japan’s political friendship were at stake, the Germans continued to move slowly. The revised list was not even submitted to Japan before Pearl Harbor. Once Japan had come into the war, the Germans dropped some of their reservations about disclosing to her the latest German weapons developments. Yet the two countries remained far apart. A scaled-down German list (of 62 items) was finally presented to Japan in February 1942, only to be followed by a Japanese counterdemand for 216 items in early July 1942. When the Germans countered with still another offer in August, its size was shaped by German foreign exchange needs as much as by the military needs of Japan.

The Japanese would probably have been happy to purchase a sample or two of each of the items on the latest German list. With the help of such samples, they would start production in Japan. German industry and OKW, however, were reluctant to turn over samples of the most modern German equipment, unless Japan also purchased the expensive manufacturing licenses and technical data that went with each product. The Japanese, confident that they could start production without the German data, and reluctant to pay the high costs of the licenses, appealed the issue to Hitler. As usual, the Führer gave a more favorable decision than had lower German echelons. Japan was to be sold samples, even if she did not acquire the licenses. On the basis of Hitler’s decision, OKW now gave security clearance for the items on the German list and the Japanese began to work out conditions of payment and delivery with the individual German manufacturers.

Germany-Japan: The Dimensions of German Aid

To give a quantitative picture of German assistance to the Japanese is impossible. It is clear that German deliveries were drastically limited by the shipping problem, just as were shipments from the Far East to Europe. The chief means of transport, in the absence of Japanese vessels, were the German and Italian blockade-breakers which went to the Far East to pick up raw materials for Germany. There is evidence that some of these ships departed for the Far East without being fully loaded. Presumably, the delay in negotiating the Japanese requests in Berlin or in obtaining delivery from the German manufacturer explained this situation. Since the ships were German and Italian and not Japanese, it is understandable that they followed a shipping schedule determined by German rather than Japanese needs and departure times.

During the 1941-1942 shipping season, eight ships reached the Far East; they carried a total cargo of 32,500 tons. During the 1942-1943 season, another eight ships reached the Far East, with a total cargo of 24,447 tons. No tabulation of losses incurred en route to the Far East is available. Originally, seven ships were slated to leave for the Far East during the 1943-1944 season, but in view of the heavy losses of ships returning from Asia during the previous shipping season and the general hazards of blockade breaking at the time, it is unlikely that more than one or at most two ships left. Whether any arrived is not known.

After the second half of 1943, a total of twenty submarines reached the Far East in order to take cargo back to Europe. As some of the boats carried out assignments in the Indian Ocean before going to Japan, they could not have carried a full load of cargo. Nor did any of the Japanese submarines used in blockade breaking succeed in making the return trip to Japan. The total number of boats being limited, their capacity small, and the imports desired by the Japanese difficult to crate and pack on a submarine, Japan must have derived little benefit from this phase of blockade breaking.

The maximum freight that reached Japan by sea during the period 1941-1944 was therefore in the neighborhood of 60,000 tons, roughly two-thirds of the amount that reached Germany on the more numerous voyages from the Far East. How much Germany had sent to Japan over the Siberian route prior to its closing is not known, but the amount probably did not match what the Germans received, since the Japanese government’s program was only presented in early 1941 and not acted upon for another fifteen months.

Because of the kind of commodities acquired by the Japanese, a description in terms of amounts would be less informative than similar information about the German imports. A full description by type, though it would mean more, cannot be given, since the German and Japanese data are incomplete. It is possible, however, to indicate the general areas in which Japanese purchases were strongest, to list some of the more important German products disclosed and sold to the Japanese, and to indicate in very general terms the value which these purchases seem to have had for the Japanese war economy.

The Germans shared with Japan a number of manufacturing techniques useful to the Japanese war economy—such as a special Krupp process for making cartridge steel and methods for the construction of barrel linings and for electric welding in the construction of naval vessels. Among finished war implements, the Japanese requested and obtained several pieces of artillery—the 10.5-centimeter and the 12.8-centimeter antiaircraft guns, Germany’s famous 8.8-centimeter antiaircraft and antitank guns, and a 7.5-centimeter antitank piece. Some lighter artillery, including two types of machine guns, was also acquired by the Japanese. In view of Japan’s general inferiority to Germany in artillery, all these acquisitions had great potential value to Japan. The value of the 10.5-centimeter antiaircraft gun was enhanced when Germany made available to her ally the combination radar-optical range finder and director which went with this caliber and which the Japanese could not match in quality.

Though it is not known what use Japan made of them, articles from the German optical industry must have been of great value to her. The German records disclose that numerous Leica cameras were given to the Japanese for reconnaissance, especially air reconnaissance, though manufacturing licenses and blueprints seem not to have been divulged, at least not by Leitz. The Japanese acquired a bombsight (specifications unknown), which was probably better than their own, though not as good as American models. A German stereoscopic range finder was also of great potential value.

Germany shared with Japan some of her developments in the radar field and in anti-enemy radar devices. Copies of the Würzburg and Rotterdam sets were turned over to the Japanese as was a homing device (unidentified).

In 1944, a Tiger tank was sold to Japan. The ‘Japanese Tiger’ got as far as Bordeaux. Then it was given to sSS PzAbt. 101 in late 1943/early 1944 and was lost in the Normandy campaign. In view of Japan’s inferiority in armor, reproduction of the Tiger tank in Japan might have become significant in the event of an Allied landing and protracted fighting on the Japanese home islands.

Among items for the Japanese navy, the Germans turned over a gun stabilizer for surface ships. This should have been very beneficial to the Japanese, who, though generally competent in gun control, were outclassed in this respect by the Germans. For that reason, too, the Japanese may have benefited from a torpedo fire control unit for surface ships which should have enabled them to make better use of their already excellent torpedoes. Further, Germany made available a 750-ton submarine hull, which probably aided Japanese ship designers since the German model was more pressure-resistant than any Japanese design. Finally, the Japanese acquired the German navy’s automatic E-switch, a control device for computing and adjusting fire against enemy aircraft. Its use would have remedied a pronounced Japanese weakness.

Equipment for the Japanese air force would seem to have been of less value. Japan acquired specimens of the fighter planes Me-109 and FW 120, which probably were better than her own comparable types, although the United States had learned halfway through the war to cope with these planes on the European theater. A pursuit plane, the Me-163, and the jet Me-263 were also given to Japan. However, like Germany herself, Japan did not obtain and produce the jet early enough in the war to enable its superiority to offset the enemy’s greater numbers.

During the early war years, the Germans released to Japan only those items which had passed beyond the development stage. Japan was offered access to V-l and V-2 data but refused the latter. Whether she acquired data on the submarine Schnorchel is not known.

It is difficult to measure the benefit which Japan derived from the German samples she acquired and the occasional manufacturing data she procured. Reproduction of the German-made items in Japan seems to have presented greater difficulties than either Germany or Japan at first expected. Possibly this was because Japanese engineers were not skillful enough and German technicians were sent to Japan only in rare cases. Shortages in labor and raw materials may also account for Japan’s failure to make better use of the German samples and data.

Two examples illustrate this point. In 1943 Germany had presented Japan with two submarines. These were to be examined and copied to enable Japan to wage a more effective warfare against enemy merchant shipping, presumably mainly in the Indian Ocean. Of the two boats one was lost en route to the Far East, the other one was gratefully received, and even acknowledged in a personal telegram from Hirohito. Production of the boat, however, was never begun in Japan.

Another notable example of the failure of technological assistance is the case of the German jet plane Me-263, then the only military jet in the world. A specimen of the Me-263 was acquired by the Japanese in 1944. When the plane and the accompanying Messerschmitt technicians were lost en route from Singapore to Japan, the Japanese tried to construct the plane from the blueprints, which had been flown ahead. Numerous delays occurred and instead of having the plane in production by March 1945, as they expected, the Japanese only flight-tested the first craft in July. It crashed. The story is told best in the words of the director of Mitsubishi’s aircraft production division:

Investigation disclosed that the engine failure was due to fuel feed stoppage. This was explained as follows: Because of the need for hurrying the test, Yokosuka airfield was used. This was known to be too small for safety so a minimum of fuel was loaded. So small an amount was loaded that, with high acceleration and steep angle-of-climb soon after take-off, the fuel surface dropped below the outlet level and the flow of fuel failed. As a result of this finding the whole fuel system had to be redesigned. The drain part was relocated and enlarged and a jet pump was installed. Before the next prototype engine could be built, however, the Japanese surrender occurred.

Perhaps the Japanese were more successful in copying German products of less revolutionary design. Their representatives in Berlin certainly continued right up to early 1945 to send samples and blueprints to Japan—either by submarine or eventually by military courier via Turkey and the Soviet Union. Since the Japanese did not have to pay for manufacturing licenses and data after March 1944, however, it may well be that their sustained interest in German manufacturing methods reflected what the Germans chose to call “industrial espionage” rather than the expectation of concrete military benefits.

If German technical aid was of limited value to the Japanese services and Japan’s wartime industry, one explanation can certainly be found in the lateness of the aid. The attempt to make up for lost time played a fatal role in the crash of the test jet. Loss of time and delay of negotiations in Berlin also meant that the German designs reached Japan when she was no longer able to take full advantage of them. By 1944, when many of the most important German designs reached Japan, her industry was already too badly disrupted by her disastrous supply situation and the massive American air raids to permit her to put German-made items into serial production.

Private Benefits and Public Vices

The delays may reflect certain inadequacies in Japanese planning procedures, as the German authorities complained from time to time. More often, they resulted from the inability of the Nazi regime to subordinate private or militarily irrelevant interests to the major objective of winning the war. Even after Hitler had promised generous support of the Japanese aid program in the spring of 1941, subordinate German government agencies invoked nonmilitary considerations, including pleas from industry to protect future profits, to delay or subvert a program which ought to have been of vital interest to the Nazi regime. The interplay between private and public interests can be illustrated by certain aspects of the German-Japanese negotiations about manufacturing licenses (Nachbaurechte).

When the revised list of items was cleared by Hitler in August 1942, Japan was free to enter into direct negotiations with the German manufacturers about samples and manufacturing licenses, technical data (Erfahrungen) and know-how. Although Hitler had ruled that Japan need not purchase a license for every sample she acquired, the Japanese apparently found it in their interest to acquire numerous licenses. Presumably only the sale of a manufacturing license would Induce the German manufacturer to surrender the technical data and blueprints which would make production in Japan feasible at an early time.

As soon as the Japanese approached the German companies about the sale of manufacturing licenses, disagreements over prices arose. The Japanese complained that they were being overcharged and insisted that the German prices would soon exhaust the one billion yen (586 million Reichsmark) credit Japan had obtained in January 1943. The Japanese accusations seem to have been justified in a number of instances. In fact, there is evidence that the German government had instructed German patent-holders to increase their charges in order to compensate for the rubber prices in Asia which Germany thought had been artificially raised by the Japanese.

By February 1943 some German authorities suggested that the Japanese submit the matter to Hitler for reconsideration and determination of a fair price. The Japanese, however, raised a more radical demand. They insisted that the profit motive should not enter the relations between allies at all and that Germany should turn her manufacturing licenses and designs over without compensation. Among the German governmental agencies who dealt with the Japanese and among the interested German companies there was considerable opposition to this demand. The ministry of economics rejected the Japanese argument, and insisted on “sufficient export prices” (“auskömmliche Exportpreise”) . The military admitted that Japan was being charged many times what some of Germany’s present enemies had paid for identical licenses before the war. They recommended that a new and fair price be decided upon by OKW.

In May 1943 Hitler handed down the basic decision. As usual, it was more favorable to the Japanese point of view than had been the preliminary decisions of lower German echelons. Hitler decreed that wherever feasible Japan ought to be given manufacturing rights and relevant designs immediately. Terms of payment should be worked out as speedily as possible, but delivery should not be made dependent on a settlement of the financial question. Only “moderate export prices” were to be demanded, and in no case should disagreement over terms prevent the dispatch of the item in question by blockade-breaker.

In the interpretation of the order, subordinate agencies reserved sufficient flexibility to insure that German economic interests would not be damaged by Hitler’s generosity. OKW instructed the German firms that if time were needed to “complete the data” for delivery to the Japanese it might be exploited (ausnutzen is the term) to press German price demands on the Japanese. In addition, OKW insisted that the Führer’s terms should apply only to those German manufactures which were “war implements” under German terms of classification. Whenever the copying of a war implement involved disclosure of techniques and procedures which were of more than strictly military relevance, the manufacturing rights should be granted and the data made available only after Japan had made satisfactory arrangements about payment.

It is not surprising that the Japanese had further occasion to complain of overcharging and deliberate German delays. In June 1943 they renewed their request to obtain manufacturing licenses and data free of charge for the duration of the war. The German government took the matter under advisement. After much soul-searching by the lower echelons and several alternative proposals, Hitler decided in early 1944 to accede to the Japanese request. On March 2, an agreement was concluded between the two governments, under which both nations would put important war materials at each other’s disposal without payment. The financial settlement would be determined “after the final victory” and in the meantime the German government undertook to compensate the German patent-holders for any licenses and techniques that Japan was given.

It is instructive to compare the Axis settlement of this question with the solution of similar problems among their wartime opponents. The practice at which the Axis finally arrived in early 1944 seems to have been adopted between the United States and Britain as early as the fall of 1940. No royalties were charged to Packard by the British, who in the fall of 1940 permitted the American company to produce for the United States Air Corps the battle-proven Merlin engine, a product of Rolls Royce. Whether the British government undertook to reimburse Rolls Royce or whether the British company waived all royalty rights in the interest of the war effort (a practice later adopted by some American companies in the synthetics field) is not known. In either case, the Allies had proved capable of subordinating private gain to the common national purpose much earlier than their opponents, even while Axis propaganda concentrated on the enemy’s addiction to “plutocracy.”

Under the Lend-Lease Act, a slightly different arrangement was adopted. Governments receiving lend-lease shipments from the United States agreed to reimburse any American citizen whose patent rights had been adversely affected by the transfer of a defense article or information under the lend-lease agreement. Perhaps this comparison is not quite so apt, however, since lend-lease involved mainly the transfer of manufactured items or raw materials or services, rather than the disclosure of industrial processes and know-how.

In addition to the irritation and delay caused by haggling over prices, the German government bound procedures in red tape by requiring the Japanese to purchase all equipment through the old German trading companies in East Asia, the Ostasienhäuser. The Japanese, using an extensive staff in the attachés’ offices in Berlin, would have preferred to purchase directly from the German manufacturers, many of whom had not been in the Far Eastern business before. To protect those firms which had been in the Asian market and perhaps to compensate them for the losses suffered earlier from Japanese commercial practices in China and Manchuria, the German Ministry of Economics decreed that unless a company had had a branch office in the Far East before the war it could not sell to the Japanese directly but would have to transact its business through one of the established firms. Although the requirement would not slow down negotiations in the same way that the financial disagreements did, it could not but add to the cumbersome and time-consuming procedure which had already hamstrung Germany’s aid to Japan.

There was a third major difficulty in the transfer of manufacturing licenses, which even Hitler’s decision of early 1944 did not solve. It concerned the protection of German patent-holders against Japanese competitors, should the information given to Japanese companies for wartime purposes be used after the war to infringe on German markets. Whether paid by the Japanese or compensated by the German government, the German patent-holders were determined to deny Japan any such advantage. The German companies therefore drew up elaborate clauses for insertion in the licensing contract, by which Japan promised not to use the German techniques except for production on government orders and during the war. This led to considerable unpleasantness between the German patent-holders and the Japanese services, who were the formal recipients of the licenses. The clauses, which seemed to the Germans a protection of their intellectual property, appeared to the Japanese as an insult to their honor. The matter no doubt was complicated by the differences in German and Japanese patent law and the lack of a German-Japanese patent agreement.

Eventually the German government drafted at Japan’s request a model license contract which all German patent-holders might follow. There is evidence that the contracts concluded between the Japanese services and individual German companies followed this government draft almost verbatim. By the fall of 1943 the guarantee it contained had become a standard feature of all German-Japanese licensing contracts.

German-Japanese Cooperation, Synthetic Oil: A Case History

The factory system at Monowitz-Buna, a part of the Auschwitz system, used slave workers to produce synthetic rubber and oil.

While German-Japanese negotiations about armaments and related equipment gave ample scope to private German interests, one episode, involving the German chemical industry, illustrates better than others the Nazi government’s inability or unwillingness to subordinate private interest to her ally’s need. This concerned the negotiations between the Japanese government and IG Farbenindustrie A. G, about the synthetic production of oil by the hydrogenation process.

Japan had first shown an interest in German techniques of synthetic oil production during the mid-1930s. In 1936 Mitsui had acquired a manufacturing license for the Fischer-Tropsch process from the German patent-holder, Ruhrchemie. This was meant to strengthen Japan’s own as yet insignificant synthetic oil industry. After 1937 synthetic oil production, particularly in Manchuria, received strong backing from the Japanese government under a new plan for the development of Japan’s natural and synthetic oil resources. When the manufacturing techniques available in Japan were judged inadequate to fulfill the plan’s goals, the Japanese government in the late 1930s approached IG Farben with a request for a manufacturing license for the hydrogenation process.

The delicacy of the subsequent negotiations was largely due to the peculiar status of the hydrogenation patent. The inventor of the process, Dr. Friedrich Bergius, had sold his patent to IG Farben in the mid-1920s and that company, in turn, had sold it to the Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) in 1927. After this date, IG Farben merely retained hydrogenation rights for Germany, and a 20-per-cent royalty in the rights and processes sold to Standard Oil. In 1931, Standard Oil turned its foreign (non-U.S.) hydrogenation patent rights over to its subsidiary, International Hydrogenation Patents Company (IHP) in The Hague. A half-interest in that company was later sold to Royal Dutch-Shell.60 IG Farben’s sale of the patent rights outside Germany also limited the dispositions which the company could make in regard to its technical data (Erfahrungen) in the hydrogenation field. Potentially the most valuable of IG Farben’s possessions in the eyes of the Japanese, the technical data could only be sold to a properly licensed party, at least according to IG’s agreement with Standard Oil.

When the Japanese army in 1938 attempted to acquire a manufacturing license for hydrogenation, it should have gone to IHP which held the licensing rights for the Far East, Considering IHP too closely allied with British and American oil interests, the Japanese instead turned to IG Farben. The German company, evidently pleased at Japan’s new interest in the hydrogenation technique, transmitted the Japanese request to IHP. IG Farben probably expected or knew that the Japanese army, as soon as it had obtained the license, would turn to IG for technical data and the use of IG engineers in the establishment of the first hydrogenation units in Japan.

By December 1938, IHP had notified IG Farben that Japan could be given a license, provided IG remitted 80 per cent of the royalties to IHP. The matter rested here for some time, because IG Farben in early 1939 had begun to lose interest in the Japanese project. It turned out that the Japanese plan was merely to build a plant to produce 15,000 tons of oil per year; IG Farben was apparently reluctant to part with its technical data for the sake of so small a contract. Later in the year, however, IG Farben’s views once more changed. The company discovered that the Japanese planned to use hydrogenation of tars rather than of coal. Under these circumstances, IG Farben was ready to sell Japan its data on tar hydrogenation while retaining its more valuable data on the hydrogenation of coal.

On this basis, a preliminary contract (Vorvertrag) was concluded between IG Farben and Mitsubishi, acting for the Japanese army, in the fall of 1939. A Japanese army mission was expected in Germany at the end of the year to settle final details. Before the negotiations had proceeded to this stage, however, highly political considerations were introduced by a third party, the American government, which brought Japanese efforts to a temporary halt.

In its attempt to exert mild but steady economic pressure on Japan, the American government in late 1939 insisted that no American company holding patent rights for synthetic oil production should license a Japanese manufacturer. The government’s moral embargo extended to foreign companies in which American firms had a controlling interest. On instructions from its American parent company, Standard Oil, IHP in December 1939 informed IG Farben that the preliminary contract with Mitsubishi had to be canceled.

If the American government invoked political motives to disrupt the German-Japanese business negotiations, IG Farben’s own commercial interests dictated that the company fall in line with the American decision. The Japanese contract was not lucrative enough to warrant the application of pressure on IHP or the breach of a contract. From the company’s point of view, this was not the time to strain relations with IHP or its American parent company, particularly since an IHP hydrogenation license for the Soviet Union was needed before IG Farben could proceed with a large and profitable hydrogenation project there. The IG records suggest that it was mainly the scale of the Russian project which caused the company to favor the Soviet Union over Japan; there is no evidence that the German government had influenced this choice for political reasons. From December 1939 to August 1940 the Japanese project made no progress. Most likely the Japanese did not press very hard after they had been turned down in December. They renewed their request for a hydrogenation license, however, after the American government had embargoed the export of aviation gasoline to Japan in late July. The Japanese now contemplated much bigger facilities than before; they spoke of a plant producing 100,000 tons of oil per year. The more ambitious dimensions of the Japanese project rekindled the interest of some IG Farben representatives. Since the Russian project had meanwhile been abandoned, consideration of that, it was thought, need no longer influence IG’s stand on the Japanese request. Some company spokesmen advocated the sale of IG’s technical data to Japan regardless of the solution of the complicated licensing question. Recommending this course of action to the company’s directors, IG’s Büro Sparte I thought that the German government might be prevailed upon to order IG Farben to go through with the sale of its technical data—a not unreasonable expectation at a time when Germany and Japan were drawing together politically, and the United States had begun to support Britain. Should the company act under government orders, the Büro concluded, Standard Oil would surely “understand” the political necessity which was forcing IG Farben to break its contract.

The advocates of this view were soon overruled by higher echelons in the company. By early September 1940 IG Farben officially declared that the fulfillment of Japanese wishes in contravention of the company’s contractual obligations to Standard Oil was opposed to the best interest of the company. Profits from the Japanese project were judged insufficiently attractive to warrant the very considerable risk of reprisals at the hands of Standard Oil to which IG Farben might expose itself. Since the company recognized the political implications of the Japanese request, however, it was willing to leave the final decision up to the German government.

By November 1940 the government had decided not to overrule the company’s arguments. Whether the government thought that political considerations were irrelevant or held that Germany’s political interest coincided with the interests of the company is not certain. At any rate neither the company nor the government changed its mind when Japan pursued the matter through her embassy in Berlin.

The basic reasons underlying IG Farben’s stand are set forth with great candor in the company records over the next few months. One consideration which weighed heavily with the company was the fear of reprisals should IG Farben give its data to the Japanese in the face of IHP’s ban on the license. The company thought it likely that in case of a contract violation Standard Oil might well sue in the courts of neutral countries in which IG Farben had extensive assets. The American company was thought to stand a good chance of being awarded damages out of IG Farben assets.

Throughout much of 1941 the company also seems to have suspected the Japanese of pursuing the license and data question as a mere blind to cover their quest for IG Farben technicians and German hydrogenation equipment. These, the company feared, would be used to improve Japan’s own hydrogenation technique. The company was therefore determined not to part with its specialists or its costly technical data unless the Japanese also purchased the license and the data. IHP’s refusal to sanction the license relieved IG Farben of the need to disclose its true objections to the Japanese.

But fear of reprisals alone did not determine IG’s policy. The company did not wish to damage its close and profitable relations with Standard Oil, particularly the patent exchanges in the synthetics field which the two companies had entered into in 1930. Though exchanges of data had been broken off shortly after the outbreak of the war in Europe, IG Farben considered the suspension temporary and was ready to subordinate most other matters, including the Japanese project, to the preservation of amicable working relations with Standard Oil after the war.63 While this consideration may have weighed most heavily with the company, in its communications to the German government IG naturally stressed the loss of foreign exchange should the company assets in neutral countries be forfeited as a result of court action.

The argument about loss of foreign assets may have counted heavily with the Nazi government. Whether it is the only explanation for the government’s refusal to aid its Japanese ally is not known. During his visit to Berlin in the spring of 1941 Foreign Minister Matsuoka discussed the hydrogenation project with IG Farben representatives in the presence of government officials. IG referred on this occasion to the “contractual difficulties” which stood in the way of the Japanese project, and Matsuoka pointed out in conclusion that if the procurement of oil through synthetic production proved impossible, Japan would simply have to go and “get her oil.”64 It is possible that the German government thought it could encourage Japanese expansion in Southeast Asia by withholding German aid in the hydrogenation field. Such an explanation is consistent with German policy during the spring of 1941, although no evidence for such a Machiavellian scheme has been found.

The scant evidence for the second half of 1941 rather points in another direction. Economic, not political, considerations still dominated the German government in the hydrogenation question as late as October 1941. By then, Foreign Minister Ribbentrop had approved the Japanese request for licenses and data, primarily at the insistence of the Wohlthat delegation and the German embassy in Tokyo; it was the ministry of economics that still held out against the Japanese, and although its precise grounds are not known, they were most probably of an economic nature. The ministry’s assent had apparently not yet been secured when Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war against the United States changed the picture. Ribbentrop ordered IG Farben to accede to the Japanese request for technical data. A consideration of IG’s relations with the American company, he insisted in early 1942, was no longer appropriate.

Faced with this demand, IG Farben sought to comply in a manner best calculated to safeguard its own and Standard Oil’s financial interests in the hydrogenation patent. Theoretically, at least two ways of circumventing the still existing legal obstacles against giving Japan the data suggested themselves to IG Farben. One method was based on the happy circumstance that a branch of IHP had remained in Holland when the company itself had moved to the western hemisphere shortly before the German invasion of the Netherlands. If Germany chose to consider the branch of IHP in The Hague as the patent-holder and applied pressure on the hapless Dutch, a hydrogenation license for the Japanese would no doubt be forthcoming, either directly from IHP or, with IHP’s assent, through IG Farben, The other method would have had Japan declare that she had acquired the hydrogenation license by compulsory licensing. In either case, IG Farben would be free to negotiate with the Japanese about the sale of its technical data, by then the true object of all Japanese efforts. If the first method was chosen, the Japanese would have to pay whatever price the Germans, in conjunction with IHP, put on the license. In this case, IG Farben was ready to put the royalties in a special account for later settlement with IHP and Standard Oil after the war. The second method would enable the Japanese to acquire the license for a nominal fee or at no expense at all. After some wavering, IG decided to pursue the first course.

In early June 1942 representatives of the Dutch IHP and IG Farben worked out an arrangement whereby IHP granted IG Farben a Generallizenz which would entitle IG, in turn, to license the Japanese and sell them its own techniques. The financial terms contemplated by the Germans and the Dutch at this stage of the negotiations are not known. At any rate, before the German-Dutch agreement had been in effect very long, IG Farben began to express doubt that the Japanese would recognize IG’s Generallizenz. If Japan discovered that the license was of such recent date and had been acquired from an enemy alien, she would no doubt refuse to cooperate with IG Farben’s plan.

The Japanese fell out of step, but for different reasons. IG Farben, proceeding on the course chosen, by early July 1942 had drafted a licensing agreement with the Japanese army on the basis of the Generallizenz; the draft was submitted to the foreign ministry and the ministry of economics for approval. From the available IG Farben records it would seem that the matter was then stalled for the next three months. If this was indeed the case, one reason may perhaps be found in Japan herself. Now that the Japanese had conquered the oil resources of the Dutch East Indies and were bringing them back into production, the pressure on Berlin for a hydrogenation license may well have relaxed. There is at least indirect evidence for this conjecture in the fact that the Japanese government during 1942 sharply reduced the priority of its own domestic oil industry, both synthetic and natural, in unrealistic reliance on the continued availability of southern oil supplies.66 But by October 1942 the Japanese resumed their negotiations with IG Farben. During 1943, as American submarines took an ever-growing toll of Japanese tankers bringing oil from the south, the urgency of their requests must have mounted.

Still the Germans would not be rushed. Between October 1942 and August 1943, the negotiations were deadlocked over the legal issue of Japan’s license. As IG Farben had feared, the Japanese government contended that it need not purchase a license at all, since it had already acquired all of IHP’s patent rights in the Far East by compulsory licensing. Hence, the Japanese argued, the sole object of their future negotiations was IG Farben’s technical data, for which Japan was prepared to pay “adequate compensation.” The Japanese also declared that they were ready to acquire a license for any IG hydrogenation patents taken out after Pearl Harbor day, since the compulsory license was held to cover only rights existing prior to that day. During the spring and early summer of 1943, IG Farben refused to accept the Japanese version of the legal issues at stake. The real reasons for the company’s position are not entirely clear: perhaps it really felt bound by its recent licensing contract with IHP; perhaps it refused to recognize compulsory licensing because of the financial loss to itself and IHP. Only pressure from the German government, the company argued, would force it to change its stand.

The government was slow in applying such pressure. It may finally have done so. At any rate, in August 1943, IG Farben declared itself ready to recognize the compulsory license acquired by Japan and to proceed with negotiations about technical data and post-Pearl Harbor patents.

Despite the agreement on the legal issues, negotiations about the technical data continued for another eighteen months. The IG Farben records suggest at least two reasons for the further delay: IG’s continued uneasiness over the recognition of Japan’s compulsory license, and disagreement over the financial terms of a settlement. IG’s qualms over the legal situation are sufficiently evident from the company’s insistence on a written assurance from the German government that the sale of the data had taken place at the government’s behest. Without such a declaration, the company was unwilling to conclude its contract with the Japanese.

In addition, disagreements over the price and payment schedule for IG Farben’s technical data delayed the conclusion of the agreement. The company’s records for 1944 are sparse but there is evidence that the financial terms of the final settlement were not entirely satisfactory to the company. It can only be surmised, therefore, that IG Farben held out against such terms as long as it could. Whether the German government eventually prevailed on the company to settle on Japan’s terms is not known.

It was not until January 11,1945, that the Japanese military attaché, General Komatsu, and representatives of the company concluded the final contract. IG Farben agreed to sell the Japanese war minister a license on all IG’s hydrogenation rights and, more important, all the company’s data and processes, on the further understanding that Japan had already acquired IHP’s hydrogenation rights by compulsory licensing. The price for IG’s rights and data was fixed at 18 million Reichsmark, which included payment for technical assistance, which IG promised to furnish in the establishment of the first three hydrogenation units in Japan. Of this sum, 20 per cent was payable upon conclusion of the agreement, 30 per cent within six weeks after the transfer of the data, and the remaining 50 per cent in five installments over a five-year period.

The remainder of the hydrogenation story is fragmentary. In the IG Farben records there is evidence that the first installment was paid on February 16, almost five weeks after the agreement was signed, and one week after certain data (Zeichnungen und Bestellentwürfe) had been turned over to the Japanese. Whether a complete set of the data was ever delivered to the Japanese is not known. Nor is it clear how much IG Farben was paid in the remaining few weeks of the war.

There can be little doubt that the transfer of data, if it did indeed take place, came far too late to do Japan any good. The German government certainly bears some responsibility for the interminable delays in the negotiations; it alone could have overruled the legitimate but militarily irrelevant considerations which had prevented IG Farben from sharing its knowledge with the Japanese at a time when such assistance might still have benefited the German-Japanese cause.

Britain Strategy in Iraq

The British Western Desert Force and, later, the British Eighth Army relied considerably on Iranian and Iraqi oil to fuel military operations during the North African campaign. While major military clashes were occurring during the North African campaign, other military operations in the Middle East were beginning to undermine Britain’s primacy in the region. In the spring of 1941, Axis intrigue in undermining Britain’s influence in Iraq culminated in armed clashes during the Anglo-Iraqi War (May 2–31). During this conflict, the German Luftwaffe flew from airfields in Syria and Lebanon to attack British forces in Iraq. Under Vichy French control, Germany also used Syria and Lebanon to resupply Axis-aligned Iraqi forces. In response, Britain struck targets in both Syria and Lebanon during Operation Exporter (June 8–14, 1941).

Following the demise of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, the League of Nations designated Mesopotamia a “mandatory” administrative political entity. As a result, the region was referred to in the aftermath of the Great War as the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. With the rise of both Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism in the two centuries prior to World War I, the population in Iraq was in no mood to move from Ottoman domination to British control. Recognizing this reality, Britain transitioned the Mandate (1920) into the Kingdom of Iraq, with nominal independence, in 1932.

However, given the strategic necessities brought on by global war in 1939, London moved toward the re-creation of the joint “RAF Iraq Command,” which served as the umbrella group for the RAF, Royal Navy, British army, Commonwealth, and locally developed military units falling under the command of an RAF officer who served at the air vice-marshal rank. While the British Mandate of Mesopotamia officially came to an end in 1932, two years prior, in 1930, the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty was created permitting Britain to maintain a troop presence beyond the Mandate. As a result, RAF Iraq Command transitioned to “British Forces in Iraq,” and their presence was kept to a minimum in terms of troop strength and confined to two RAF bases, RAF Shaibah, near the key Persian Gulf port of Basra, and RAF Habbaniya, about 50 miles west of Baghdad. Besides having a general presence in the land between the two rivers, Britain’s interests in Iraq as World War II approached were in protecting its investments in the development of Iraq’s oil reserves (at the time near Mosul and Kirkuk) and in maintaining a vital link in air communications between India and Egypt.

By 1937, however, Britain removed all but a small force to guard the air bases, as the nationalist sentiment grew in fervor. Following 1937, the government within Iraq assumed full responsibility for the internal security of the country. Italian intelligence operations within Iraq soon increased with the aim of undermining British influence. By March 31, 1941, as the war raged in Europe and North Africa, the regent of Iraq, Prince Abd al-Ilah, was made aware of a plot to overthrow the monarchy. The prince was subsequently whisked away to RAF Habbaniya and then transferred to the British warship HMS Cockchafter. Prime Minister Rashid Ali seized power April 3, 1941, in a coup backed by the “Golden Square,” which became the collective name for three top-level Royal Iraqi Army officers and one top-level Royal Iraqi Air Force officer.

Ali’s government was immediately recognized by Italy and Nazi Germany. Ali signed a secret agreement with the Italian ambassador that was intended to unite Syria and Iraq and nationalize all oil resources as well as provide the Axis powers three key fortified port facilities, with control for a radius of 20 miles. Iraq then cut off the pipeline of the British-controlled Iraq Petroleum Company in Haifa, Palestine, and redirected oil to Tripoli in Lebanon, which was then under the control of the Vichy French regime. In a side deal with the Germans, Ali promised the use of all military facilities in Iraq, should the British be evicted successfully.

Ali then demanded that Britain remove all military personnel from Iraq. While Ali was initially supported by Rome, on April 17, 1941, he requested military assistance from Berlin, should Britain take any military action against his “National Defence Government.” General Headquarters (GHQ) India dispatched the “Sabine Force,” a brigade based in Karachi (present-day Pakistan), with orders to secure Basra and lend support as best as possible to the British forces at RAF Shaibah and RAF Habbaniya. However, upon landing in Basra on April 18, the brigade was captured by Iraqi forces. Britain then dispatched the 2nd Brigade of the 10th Indian Infantry Division, which arrived at Basra on April 29, along with the carrier Hermes and two cruisers.

Once apprised of Britain’s decision to escalate rather than acquiesce, Ali mobilized the Iraqi army and air forces and ordered them to seize the RAF base at Habbaniya. By May 1, about 9,000 Iraqi troops and an assortment of armored cars, guns, and artillery threatened the base that housed fairly obsolete British aircraft, which was utilized primarily to serve as a cadet flying school with older biplane, World War I-era aircraft. Present at RAF Habbaniya were about 1,350 British personnel at the base (1,000 RAF and the 350-man 1st Battalion of the King’s Own Royal Regiment [KORR]), in addition to approximately 1,200 Iraqi and Kurdish constabulary personnel. Nonetheless, Air Vice Marshal Harry Smart had only 35 airmen at the base who knew how to fly an airplane, with only three of those pilots having combat experience.

In the midst of the crisis, cables went back and forth with London, as Smart attempted to ascertain what was expected and what course of action the British high command was prepared to authorize. The contacts were with the foreign ministry rather than British military leadership, which gave rise to increased concerns within Iraq with the level of ambiguity in the communications coming from the diplomatic corps as to what London actually wanted. Smart sought something more definitive and if possible something directly from the British military high command, because each time he asked for guidance from his military superiors, he sensed no one wanted to take ownership of any military action, even in defense, within Iraq. Nevertheless, his determination finally required London to respond with concrete authorization to take military action when Churchill finally cabled back personally: “If you have to strike, strike hard.”

Smart subsequently had the British ambassador in Baghdad issue a demand for the Iraqi troops to withdraw from the perimeter of the air base by 8 a.m. on May 2. However, apparently seeking the advantages of darkness and believing the Iraqis had no intention of withdrawing, Smart ordered his available aircraft to start engines at 4:30 a.m. Thirty minutes later, the RAF began attacking Iraqi positions that surrounded the air base. By day’s end, each pilot had flown six bombing strikes against the entrenched forces. The 33 aircraft flying out of Habbaniya were soon joined with 8 Wellington bombers flying out of RAF Shaibah.

The Committee of Imperial Defense, now at war in Iraq, transferred command of land forces within the country to British Middle East Command from India and called on General Wavell to provide a relief force for the air base. The force established for entry into Iraq was called the “Habforce” (short for Habbaniya Force) and consisted of a British joint force, which immediately set out for the 535-mile journey from Haifa, Palestine, through Transjordan to Habbaniya on May 11. Remarkably, particularly given the primitive state of the equipment and paucity of trained airmen, the forces at RAF Habbaniya were able to neutralize the threat to the base before Habforce arrived.

At the beginning of May 1941, the Vichy French government and Germany signed the Paris Protocols, whereby Germany was able to send troops into French North Africa and Syria. This provided Berlin with the opportunity for setting up bases for projecting military force into Iraq and Iran and, in the case of Tunisia, for the purposes of challenging British control in Egypt. On May 6, Germany concluded an agreement with the Vichy French to release war materials, including aircraft, from sealed stockpiles in Syria and ship them to the Iraqi forces then fighting Britain. These arrangements included making available several airbases in northern Syria to Germany for transporting Luftwaffe aircraft to Iraq. From May 9 to 31, about 100 German aircraft and 20 Italian aircraft landed on Syrian airfields. In Syria, German aircraft were painted with Royal Iraqi Air Force markings. Between May 10 and 15, these planes flew into Mosul, Iraq, and commenced aerial attacks on British forces throughout Iraq.

On May 13, the first trainload of Axis and Vichy supplies from Syria arrived in Mosul via Turkey, and the Iraqis took delivery of 15,500 rifles, 6 million rounds of ammunition, 200 machine guns, 900 belts of ammunition, and four 75mm field guns with 10,000 shells. Two additional deliveries were made on May 26 and 28, which included eight 155mm guns, 6,000 shells, 354 machine pistols, 30,000 grenades, and 32 trucks.

With the dissipation of the immediate threat to RAF Habbaniya by late May, British leaders set their sights on Rashid Ali, who was then ensconced in Baghdad. Elements of the Habforce were combined with select units that had advanced on Habbaniya from Basra. The Habbaniya “Brigade” consisted of the Kingcol, which was reinforced with the 2nd Battalion Gurkha Rifles, Indian army, assorted light artillery, and a group of RAF Assyrian Levies.

The brigade marched on Baghdad by way of Fallujah, which contained a key bridge over the Euphrates River. However, on May 22, the Iraqi 6th Infantry Brigade (Iraqi 3rd Infantry Division) counterattacked in the vicinity of Fallujah, with support from Italian light tanks (Fiat). British leaders moved in reserve forces to counter the attack and pushed the Iraqi 6th back. The following day, Luftwaffe aircraft attacked, and Allied and British positions in and around Fallujah were strafed by the Fliegerfuhrer Irak. German forces under such commanders as Rommel and Heinz Wilhelm Guderian had the ability to coordinate their attacks, effectively combining air and ground operations. However, beyond the German joint operations, when Germany attempted to aid other militaries such as the Iraqi army at Fallujah, attacks were not as efficiently coordinated, resulting in strikes that were not as effective as they otherwise might have been. For instance, as the Iraqi 6th counterattacked on May 22, and if the Fliegerfuhrer Irak had been directed to have flown in support at that time, the effectiveness of the counterattack would have been significantly amplified.

Instead, the 6th attacked without air support, and air attacks only took place after the Iraqi 6th had been driven back and had lost the initiative. While the Axis powers indeed had powerful militaries, their power projection capability vis-à-vis the British lacked a similarly robust forward presence and, in the British model, a forward presence aimed at conducting integrated and combined operations at the coalition level. This highlights a comparative advantage of the British Empire in relation to its competitors and its opponents. This advantage in the modern era arose from the ability of Britain to have trained with a variety of military forces around the world, as contrasted with the limited training for joint operations by Axis forces in the Middle East—outside of North Africa.

A strictly German battle against strictly British forces between 1940 and 1942 provided a competitive advantage to the joint German capability (panzers, infantry, artillery, air) of coordinating in a lightning-fast engagement or series of engagements (campaign). However, British military doctrine was not based on unilateral doctrine, that is, fighting alone. It had built and relied upon its worldwide strategic, multilateral, and competitive advantage in overcoming operational and tactical challenges. This required working closely with Commonwealth and Allied forces in combined joint operations. Thus, the Germans, try as they might, were unable to set the conditions in which the fight was simply a German versus Briton war—a war wherein London’s coalition advantages would be neutralized.

Nowhere was this better exemplified than operations in the Middle East during World War II, as Germany simply did not possess the wherewithal to coordinate, generate resources, and fight jointly as effectively as Britain did with its allies in North Africa or in the Middle East. This can be attributed to the inability of German armor to transit the English Channel, its inability to overcome the vastness of the Soviet Union, and the inability of the Luftwaffe to strike at the arsenal of democracy (America), which provided both British and Soviet forces the materials needed to stay in the fight much longer perhaps than otherwise would have been the case.

As the Habbaniya Brigade continued toward Baghdad, British Commonwealth (Indian army) forces in Basra began advancing northward toward the Iraqi capital. In two complementary operations launched on May 27, 1941, the “Euphrates Brigade” (20th Indian Infantry Brigade) in Operation Regatta moved north by road and riverboat up the Euphrates River, while the “Tigris Brigade” (21st Indian Infantry Brigade) transited by boat up the Tigris River during Operation Regatta. Seventy-two hours later, the 25th Indian Infantry Brigade (3rd Brigade, 10th Indian Infantry Division) landed in Basra and immediately proceeded north toward Baghdad. On May 29, Ali’s National Defence Government collapsed, and Ali departed first to Iran and then proceeded to Berlin where he was greeted by Hitler as the head of the Iraqi government.

In order to neutralize Germany’s efforts in establishing a military presence in Syria and Lebanon (which would give Berlin the ability to project military power into both Egypt and Iraq), Britain conducted the Syrian-Lebanon campaign (code-named Operation Exporter) from June 8 to July 14, 1941. Operation Exporter entailed a combined Allied force of British, Indian, Australian, Arab, and Free French, attacking Vichy French forces aligned with Germany in both Syria and Lebanon. Exporter called for four lines of advance by Allied forces: one moving on Damascus (Syria); a second advancing on Beirut (Lebanon) from forces originating in Palestine; a third against Ottoman forces in northern Syria and on Palmyra (central Syria); and the fourth advancing on Tripoli by Allied troops within Iraq.

By June 21, Allied forces occupied Damascus, and on the following day Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa—the invasion of the Soviet Union. Any additional support, materiel, or manpower Axis forces fighting in Syria and Lebanon had originally planned for would, henceforth, be quite limited, as Germany, locked in an existential struggle with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, that is, the Soviet Union (USSR), simply would not be able to properly supply its units fighting in North Africa and within the Middle East. By the second week of July, the Vichy French position with Syria and Lebanon had collapsed, and mass surrenders led to these forces being moved out of the Middle East. Of the 38,000 Vichy French taken prisoners, only about 6,000 opted to join the Free French led by Charles de Gaulle who flew into the region in late July 1941 to personally congratulate the victors. Shortly thereafter, Free French General Georges Catroux was installed as the military governor of Syria and Lebanon.

Problems of Coalition Warfare

The German blockade runner Odenwald underway. Odenwald was stopped and boarded by the U.S. Navy light cruiser USS Omaha (CL-4) in the South Atlantic, 6 November 1941. Odenwald was disguised as the U.S. merchantman SS Willmoto and the crew unsuccessfully tried to scuttle the ship. Omaha’s boarding party stopped the flooding, got the ship underway again and sailed it to Trinidad. This became known as the “Odenwald incident”, as Germany and the United States were not at war at that time. After Germany had declared war on the U.S. on 11 December 1941, Odenwald was seized and put into U.S. service as SS Blenheim.

Between Jan, 1941 and Mar. 1942 15 ships sailed from the Far East with a total cargo of 101,775 t. (including 44,450 t. of crude rubber); 12 ships with 75,000 t. (including 32,650 t, of crude rubber) reached German bases in France, In the opposite direction all 6 ships which left Europe arrived at their ports of destination in East Asia, After the autumn of 1942 the losses of blockade-runners increased considerably: thus Roskill, War at Sea, ii, 482 ff, (appendix n)

Rare color photo (the Navy actually took a number of color photos and film during WWII, but a lot has since gone missing.) of the U-234’s surrender. Unknown to many people then (and even now), Japan and Germany had a submarine highway between their two countries. U-Boats and Japanese submarines would transit between each country by rounding the Horn of Africa and crossing the Indian Ocean.

Effective and successful coalition warfare essentially calls for close co-operation among the partners to the alliance at all levels of warfare, from the opening of hostilities to the conclusion of peace, from the formulation of strategic objectives via a frank exchange of information and views, to tactical collaboration among the fighting forces. Direct geographical contact between the partners is an essential prerequisite of co-operation, facilitating as it does mutual support by fighting forces and armament potentials. This contact need not necessarily be a land link but can be based-as shown by the example of the United States and Britain-on largely secure sea communications. This ideal pattern of co- operation was nowhere approached by the partners Germany, Japan, and Italy. Their only common opponents were the western powers, as Japan remained neutral vis-ii-vis the Soviet Union. Their strategic objectives differed considerably, their exchange of opinions and information remained rudimentary and selective, as no partner was willing to reveal his aims or his own position openly and unreservedly. Intelligence communication was dependent on long courier routes and doubtful telecommunications. The biggest obstacle, however, was geographical separation, which was only sporadically bridged by a few blockade-runners and U-boats, so that the exchange of raw materials, armaments, and other industrial products remained exceedingly modest.

When the outlines of closer military collaboration began to emerge in the autumn of 1940, after the conclusion of the Tripartite Pact, Japan at the be- ginning of 1941 dispatched major naval and army missions to Germany in order to profit as much as possible from German war experience and developments in weapons technology. Analysing the voluminous catalogue of questions and inspection requests (77 questions on German war experience so far, 115 technological questions, 89 visits to specified German armament plants), the Naval War Staff gained the impression that Japan believed it could demand ‘an intellectual clearance sale from Germany’, which, however, was not justified by the conclusion of the Tripartite Pact alone. As the Wehrmacht High Command had not yet issued any basic guidelines for future collaboration with Japan, the Naval War Staff seized the initiative by issuing a directive on 11 February 1941; this emphasized the principle of reciprocity and recommended only short-term measures of support. Any requests ‘which amount to industrial espionage or industrial theft’ were to be refused. Tokyo’s past behaviour, when the German Naval War Staff was only very cautiously supported and only rather superficial insight into armaments granted in response to requests for information by the attaché, seemed to justify such German reserve. Hitler, however, sharply criticized that directive. He accused the navy of unauthorized intrusion into the realm of politics and gave orders that ‘Japanese requests for information on German war and battle experience and for support of an armament-economy and technological character [were] to be met in a comprehensive and generous manner’ in order ‘to enhance Japanese military strength in every way’ for future collaboration.

Raeder thereupon ruled that anything should be shown and explained to the Japanese ‘which is no longer in the phase of development or testing’. However, in view of Japan’s insignificant collateral in matters of direct support, the Naval War Staff continued to hold back. This applied in particular to the areas of radio intelligence and radio location (radar). Information on the former was confined to an explanation of the organization and basic principles; no specific reconnaissance findings or hints on evaluation were passed on. When in October 1941 the Japanese naval attaché in Berlin requested a short-term delivery of two DT instruments (the German radar device) for the location of aircraft, on the grounds that Japanese devices were not yet combat-ready, the German Naval War Staff explained that its own operational needs did not permit of such a delivery and ‘the threat to Japan [was] not particularly great’ anyway. Although this hint probably referred only to the threat from the air, this was an odd reaction from a partner who had expected so many advantages from Japan’s entry into the war.

‘Bismarck is avenged, will tighten our helmet-straps. Best regards to Grand Admiral.’ With these words on 11 December 1941 the chief of the Japanese Admiralty Staff, Nagano, dismissed the German naval attaché after a detailed report on the sinking of the British battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse on 10 December. It seemed as if trusting co-operation would now begin, but soon Wenneker and the other attachés discovered that the exchange of views with the Japanese staffs continued to be ponderous and was by no means marked by a willingness to discuss strategic plans or specific possibilities of co-operation in all frankness. Mostly the German attaches learnt about Japanese operations only when these had been successfully concluded. By always highlighting their successes and carefully concealing their losses, or else minimizing them, they were displaying an arrogance which seriously jeopardized co-operation.

Although on 12 February 1942 Wenneker had confidently reported to Berlin that, after a phase of self-conceit and arrogance, the Japanese officers had reverted to sober self-examination, thus re-establishing the old relationship of trust, a mere four weeks later he had to lodge a strong protest at the navy ministry against a speech by the Japanese navy spokesman, Captain Hiraide, which had been published on 13 March in all Japanese newspapers. Hiraide had said:

Napoleon once exclaimed: ‘Let me have command of the sea in the English Channel for six hours and I shall rule England.’ Shortly after the beginning of the present war in Europe the German Fuhrer said this: ‘I want to achieve command of the sea in the Strait of Dover, just 23 nautical miles wide; when I have that, the British Empire is finished.’ Today the British fleet still exercises command of the sea in that strait, although it is in fact only a distance of some 20 nautical miles. How are things with our Imperial Navy? We operate over 2,000 nautical miles and land our troops wherever we choose.

The British Admiralty could not have found a better formulation in the propaganda war against Germany, even though not long previously a German battleship force had managed to pass through the Strait of Dover unscathed. Wenneker saw these attacks as an attempt ‘to make Germany a laughing- stock in the world’s eyes’ and a belittling of the effectiveness of the German Wehrmacht in order to magnify Japanese successes. He therefore demanded satisfaction in the form of a visit of apology by Hiraide’s immediate superior. That same day Rear-Admiral Oka, chief of the Command Department in the navy ministry, appeared at the German embassy to present a letter from the navy minister, Admiral Shimada. This described the remarks objected to by Wenneker as ‘inappropriate’, expressed his ‘deepest regret’, and announced that Hiraide would be disciplined. Hiraide’s behaviour was nevertheless symptomatic of the euphoria which had seized Japan’s military leadership and public during the first few months of 1942, which was subsequently, in a spirit of self-criticism, labelled as a ‘victory disease’ preventing a sober view of military realities and befogging people’s minds.

When Wenneker had an opportunity in April of a four-week tour of the fronts to inspect the Japanese conquests in South-East Asia, he once more recorded the ‘unwelcome concomitant’ of a Japanese arrogance ‘which presented the British and Americans as an extremely worthless adversary, greatly inferior to the Chinese’. In response to ceaseless questions by Japanese officers about the date of the grand attack on the British Mediterranean Fleet, ‘whose annihilation would render possible a link-up with Japan and virtually decide the war in favour of the Axis’, the German naval attaché had to remind them time and again of the ‘massive achievements of the German Wehrmacht, which prepared the ground for the successes of Japan’s arms’.

While Vice-Admiral Wenneker and the military attaché, Major-General Alfred Kretschmer, acted in Tokyo as the German military leadership’s liaison with the Japanese navy and army-Wenneker providing the better information thanks to his rather good relations with Japanese naval officers-a major Japanese military mission had been in Berlin since the spring of 1941, headed by Vice-Admiral Nomura Naokuni, dispatched to Germany on the basis of the Tripartite Pact. This mission, in which Lieutenant-General Banzai, in his capacity of military attaché, represented the interests of the Japanese army, remained, even after Japan’s entry into the war, the central and most senior military mission in Germany. However, in view of the heterogeneous leadership structure in Japan it did not always maintain close touch with its own embassy in Berlin, but often bypassed it. Within the German military leadership the Naval War Staff was in continuous touch with Nomura and informed him in general terms about Germany’s war at sea. By contrast, the Wehrmacht High Command’s and the Army High Command’s contacts with the Japanese remained sporadic and superficial. Artillery General JodI, the chief of the Wehrmacht Operations Staff, did not receive the military representatives of Germany’s most powerful ally until two months after his entry into the war, and on that occasion displayed little inclination to explain to the Japanese officers even the basic outlines of Germany’s future overall conduct of the war. The army’s operational objective for its second assault on the Soviet Union, the Caucasus, was only vaguely hinted at. A little later the Naval War Staff observed with regret that no ‘large-scale strategic or operational collaboration with the Japanese armed forces command exists. The initiative for such collaboration would, strictly speaking, have to come from the Wehrmacht Operations Staff. But it seems that the Wehrmacht High Command attaches no importance to combined strategic and operational planning with the Japanese.’

Here undoubtedly was the root of the problem. The German leadership was not prepared, and probably not able, to make full use of the strategic chances of coalition warfare. When, in the summer of 1942, at the peak of the German successes in the east, it asked its Asian partner for vigorous support in the Indian Ocean, Japan had already passed its peak of military performance- though this, in turn, was kept from its German partner. In any case, specific possibilities of military co-operation existed only in the event of both partners’ employment of naval forces in the Indian Ocean-when the German navy in 1942 provided only two auxiliary cruisers, supply vessels, and, from the autumn onwards, a few large U-boats-and in the control of the blockade- runners which shuttled between the bases on the French Atlantic coast and the Japanese sphere of power. There too operational co-operation was laborious and cumbersome as soon as a crossing of the operations boundary (70* east) was envisaged. Not until ten months after Japan’s entry into the war was an ‘Agreement on Message Handling’ concluded between the German and Japanese navies, which laid down radio procedures, call signs, and coding matters. Even at the beginning of 1943 the Japanese naval command was reluctant to grant the German naval attaché in Tokyo a transmitter for radio traffic with German units, including the blockade-runners. In January 1943 Wenneker gained the impression that the installation of transmitters was ‘still a very eerie affair’ for the Japanese. By contrast, the exchange of the results of radio intelligence proved a positive aspect of German-Japanese collaboration. In the spring of 1942 the Japanese Admiralty Staff informed Wenneker that about a third of the German reports had been of operational use.

The only direct transport link between Europe and Japan was provided by the blockade-runners, which, at least until the middle of 1942, achieved a considerable measure of success. The operation and safeguarding of this limited freight traffic, however, time and again caused problems with Japanese authorities and staffs, who were not, as a matter of course, prepared to promote this goods traffic unreservedly, but frequently erected bureaucratic obstacles which were overcome only by Wenneker’s vigorous intervention. Typical of the tense situation in the Japanese sphere of power, with its long sea communications, were Japanese efforts to make additional use of the few German blockade-runners for their own transports between South-East Asia and the mother country. Among the German leadership staffs it was probably only the Naval War Staff which fully grasped the vital importance of coalition warfare. This emerges from the observations made on 7 September 1942 by its chief of staff, Admiral Fricke, to Vice-Admiral Nomura. Fricke expressed his ‘firm conviction’ that the greatest advantage would lie with that side in the war which, in continuous mutual contact, in ongoing discussion conducted with absolute trust, manages to wage a coalition war according to uniform points of view’. Here Fricke ‘was describing an ideal model which just then applied to the co-operation between the United States of America and Great Britain, even though the German admiral doubted this. Yet by conceding that hitherto Germany and Japan had not adequately achieved ‘a very close coalition war’ and by hoping ·for an improvement, he revealed where, after ten months of common war, the shortcomings, contributing to their defeat, of the Tripartite powers ‘were to be found-no common enemy on the Euro-Asian continent, no common war aims, no common planning, and no frankness or basis of trust,

Hungarian Army: 44M “Mace Thrower”

44M. Buzogányvető with the three-legged mount

The first 44M. Buzogányvető’s were mounted on a three-legged mount (or tripod), however with this solution, the Buzogányvető was a bit difficult to move. But, because of the lack of production capacity and time, the HTI didn’t construct new mobile platform/launcher for this weapon, they simply mounted the two rockets and the protection shield on the captured Soviet PM M1910 (Soviet-made Maxim) or SG-43 Goryunov machine guns’ wheeled mount, because the Hungarian Army captured plenty of them during the war.

The unguided ‘Buzogány’ HEAT rocket

44M. Buzogányvető on Krupp Protze truck

At the beginning of hostilities against the Soviets, the Hungarians sorely lacked sufficient anti-armour capability against the rugged and dependable T-34 tank. A large proportion of their weapons were supplied by Germany, but the Germans were not willing to share all their developments, particularly as the war stretched on and the logistical enormity of the war effort on the Eastern Front threatened to overwhelm them. Thus the Hungarians began research and development of their own anti-tank weaponry in 1942.

The Hungarian 44M “Buzogányvető” (translated most closely as “mace thrower” was a Hungarian designed experimental anti-tank rocket for use against Soviet armour towards the end of World War Two. The system allowed for two types of warhead, allowing a multi-purpose role to make it just as effective against enemy infantry. It is since regarded as one of the most effective anti-tank platforms of the War, despite its relatively short production run. The weapons were produced from Spring 1944 until December 20th 1944, when the WM factory fell to the Soviets. Between 600 and 700 were produced in total – the majority utilised in the Defence of Budapest in late December 1944.

The weapon consisted of a launcher capable of holding two rockets with shaped charge rounds, operated by a three-man crew. A tripod-based mount proved inefficient and captured Soviet wheeled mounts were often incorporated into the operational units. The weapons operational parameters made it ideally suited to the close-knit urban warfare of the Siege of Budapest

Two types of rocket were produced, the first was an anti-tank warhead known as ‘Buzogány’ (mace) from which the weapon derived its name. This carried 4.2kg of explosive and was more than capable of tearing through 300mm of armour – more than sufficient for any Soviet heavy tank at an effective range of 1200m. The second warhead was known as ‘Zápor’ (rainfall, shower), and was used in an anti-personnel capacity.

Main features of the 44M. Buzogányvető:

– full length without rockets: 970 mm

– launcher tube length: 523 mm

– launcher tube diameter: 100 mm

– rocket head diameter: 215 mm

– full weight: 29,2 kg

– rocket head weight: 4,2 kg

– range: 500-1200 m, max 2000 m

– penetration: approx. 300 mm

– operating crew: 3

Brereton or MacArthur to blame???

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Hi Mitch,

Well, I’m not sure my opinion would be short!   A good portion of my book, Fortnight of Infamy, delves into exactly this topic. Chapters 2 (“Gateway to China”) and 4 (“A Matter of Hours”) look at issues related to the “strategic bomber deterrent” build-up in the Philippines and the very poor and inadequate basing and support decisions that were made. Chapter 6 (“Disaster on Luzon”) recounts the tactical events of December 8, 1941, on which date both MacArthur and Brereton definitely made significant, still not completely explained, errors in judgment. Brereton’s “top secret” February 1942 report on the subject to Arnold, co-authored by Col. Francis Brady, continues to go missing from the archive files, contents unknown to those still breathing. Chapter 12 (“To Fight Another Day”) provides an extensive analysis of why both the Philippines and Malaya fell so rapidly – more quickly than even the Japanese expected. Naturally, in recognition of your assistance, I’ll be sending you a copy once it is in production.

 

If one buys Brereton’s own premise – that the Far East Air Force was set up to fail – then a substantial portion of “blame” can fall on the doorstep of Generals Arnold and Marshall, and even President Roosevelt himself. The laundry list of others influencing those decision makers in this regard is long and filled with famous individuals. MacArthur was only swayed toward support by his last-minute orders from the War Department and his faith in Col. Hal “Fighter” George (of whom I’m a big fan). I should point out that Bill Bartsch (Doomed at the Start and December 8, 1941) and I have discussed the topic and remain in disagreement regarding Hal George’s role in this. I’m actually working on another book, tentatively titled Aim Your Arrows toward the Sun: Franklin Roosevelt’s Secret Plans to Bomb Japan. This work will extensively explore the intrigue behind the fateful decision to place bombers in the Philippines in the first place, a decision to which Brereton has been documented as strongly opposing. Fortnight of Infamy only uncovers the tip of that iceberg.

 

In my opinion, both sides of the debate below have strong merit. Now, I’m not trying to dodge the bullet…

 

As I point out in my book, although Brereton was on Billy Mitchell’s staff in WWI, he was not considered a traditional “combat commander”. He was a highly talented organizer and manager, and, from the documents I’ve read, certainly no fool. On the other hand, he did not have the masterful public relations skill that MacArthur charismatically and brilliantly employed throughout his career. Interestingly, Brereton was well-liked and respected by the half-dozen or so people that I’ve met who personally knew the man — something I’m afraid I can’t say about the few folks I talked with who actually met MacArthur. I’m actually, personally, pretty neutral regarding MacArthur. I believe he was not a very good tactical commander, but do agree that his virtues outweighed his vices, especially in the larger picture of things. MacArthur was familiar with Brereton’s skills and embraced him enthusiastically until post-war discussions became heated. In addition to Arnold, Ike also seemed to hold him in high regard. (Ike was himself hardly well-qualified for the job originally placed on his shoulders by Marshall.) As for the opinion of Brereton’s peers, one must recall that Brereton was an Annapolis graduate in an arena dominated by Westpointers. Thus, Brereton’s previous Navy affiliation represented a bit of a stigma for many, however petty that may seem.

A couple of my more specific opinions:

 

  1. Far too much is made of the decision not to send all the B-17s to Del Monte. As far as I can tell, no one seriously suggested that all 34 operable Fortresses should go to Del Monte, at least not for any extended period of time. After all, had they gone, there would be no planes available for reconnaissance in the Luzon Strait or near Formosa.

 

  1. Major Orrin Grover, 24th Pursuit Group CO at Clark Field, deserves much of the blame for messing up the fighter coverage for his own airfield and the B-17s on December 8. In addition to fumbling the dispatch of three fighter squadrons, he may not have properly informed the 19th Bomb Group of the situation, though Lt. Col. Eubank could have taken better precautions for his B-17s on his own initiative. I should point out that history has not heavily challenged Grover’s role until recently, in part because Grover was the individual who wrote the history (ex post facto) of the units involved! Unquestionably, he had motive not to make himself look bad.

 

  1. There was no militarily valid excuse for MacArthur’s failure to meet with Brereton in the early morning of December 8. The best use of the Fortresses would have been the planned counter-strike at Takao. A recently promoted Brigadier Sutherland probably deserves some blame in this regard for maintaining an “iron door” between Brereton and MacArthur.

 

  1. MacArthur made significant errors in his sudden transition to the execution of War Plan Orange. His lack of preparation for that scenario, in which he was involved for many years before his recall to duty, is astounding – his greatest shortcoming in the war. On the other hand, it really would not have made much difference in the ultimate outcome. Most knowledgeable commanders considered the WPO scenarios a virtual pipe dream by the mid-1930s.

 

  1. The Tuguegarao and Baguio raids gave the Japanese the perfect, completely unintentional, decoy. If those raids had not occurred when they did, the fighter dispositions would have been better set to give the IJNAF a hearty reception. In addition, they were the primary reason that the B-17s were scrambled earlier in the morning of December 8, which set the timing for a lunchtime return to Clark. This represented an extraordinary stroke of good luck for Japan!

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John Burton Author of Fortnight of Infamy