Best Defense

Why didn’t Japanese subs raid U.S. West Coast shipping during World War II?

That thought occurred to me the other day whilst reading about Japanese operations during the war.

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Best Defense is on summer hiatus. During this restful spell we offer re-runs from the past 12 months. This item originally ran on Jan. 10, 2017.

That thought occurred to me the other day whilst reading about Japanese operations during the war.

The obvious answer is because the Pacific is big and so they didn’t have long-range submarines or the capacity for refueling underway. But that begs the question: Why didn’t they? Because they were wasting their money, talent, and resources on building useless superbattleships.

It is frightening to think of what Japan might have done with better strategic planning. It might have tormented the West Coast like German U boats did on the East Coast in 1942, hitting tankers, freighters, and troopships. (Where I live on the coast of Maine, I have heard talk about seeing flaming ships on the southern horizon back then. However, when I checked a database on where ships were torpedoed, I couldn’t find any that should have been visible from shore. But it wasn’t clear to me if the database included coastal shipping.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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