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Friday, October 02, 2009

Japanese Intelligence in World War II

Japanese Intelligence in World War II日本軍のインテリジェンス

Japanese Intelligence in World War II

by Ken Kotani

Osprey Publishing
ISBN 1-8460-3425-6
232 pp; Hardback

Before the publication of this excellent book, little was known in the West about the methods and effectiveness of Japanese military intelligence during World War II. The general impression was that Japanese intelligence fared poorly in comparison to its more successful British and American counterparts. Based on new resources and memoirs only recently available in Japan and overseas, intelligence expert Ken Kotani has built an altogether more balanced assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of both Japanese and Allied intel in the war years.

The author begins with an introduction to Japanese intelligence and the establishment of the intelligence services of the Japanese army (IJA) and navy (IJN) at the beginning of the Meiji Period. This split in Japanese intelligence services between army and navy and the lack of a central intelligence agency was to have significant consequences for the Japanese war effort during the course of the Pacific War.

Kotani analyses both arms of the Japanese intelligence services, charting early successes and later failures as the tide turned against Japan after the Battle of Midway. At times the concise English, ably translated by the author's wife, reads like the pages of a spy thriller, making this book of interest to the non-specialist as well as the Japan historian. Individual spies and their work are brought to life from the dusty shelves of research institutes: the mysterious death of British journalist James Cox in Tokyo in 1940 and the nefarious activities of men like F. J. Rutland, Herbert Greene (author Graham Greene's brother) and Collin Mayers.

Both sides in the intelligence war underestimated their opponents, relying on racial stereotyping more than actual intelligence to gauge the effectiveness of their opponents' fighting forces, tactics and military hardware.

The author finds that Japan did indeed possess competent intelligence services but their efforts were undermined by inter-service rivalry and the bureaucratic failings of strategic planners and policy makers to make the best use of the often excellent intelligence made available to them. Fixed mindsets among Japan's politicians and operations staff allowed the Allies to gain a strategic advantage in the field of intelligence that helped to swing the balance of the conflict in favor of the Allies in the later years of World War II.

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