Osprey's The Imperial Japanese Army: the invincible years 1941-42


Paul F. Crickmore


Osprey Publishing


$24.95 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 360 pages, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-1-78200-932-0

At the start of the Pacific War, Japan had the most experienced army in the east. This was due to years of fighting in China, which honed not only their troops but also their strategists. Japan also learned quite a bit from watching how Germany managed their war effort and learned from their example.

Always fans of the 'big battle/campaign', Japan launched the Pacific War on several fronts. It first went after what it saw as their main adversary, the US with attacks in Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines. This was as much to reduce American air and naval power as anything else. In that, they were fairly successful. Meanwhile, they also attacked the British in Malaya and Burma as well as the Dutch in the East Indies and the Australians in the southwest Pacific. At this time, these nations were fully involved in the war in North Africa or had been overrun by the Germans and were in no position to provide any sort of relief.

In terms of air and naval power, this area was considered to be a bit of a backwater and so the forces were inadequate, poorly armed and generally equipped with second rate equipment. What all of this did was enable the Japanese to move far quicker in conquering these areas as they had planned. It gave the generals and admirals 'victory fever' and the belief they were invincible. Well, for about 7 months, that was the case, but that all came to a halt for the Navy at Midway and the Army at Guadalcanal.

This book is about those invincible years. It includes not only the Japanese strategy and planning but also the Allied attempts to stop what seemed at the time to be a juggernaut. It seemed that the Japanese did everything right and the Allies everything wrong. Indeed, there was a definite lack of understanding of the situation on the Allied part. Much of that was the belief that the Japanese were stronger than what they actually were. There was also a somewhat defeatist attitude that was less than helpful.

We are provided insights into all of the major areas where the Japanese fought aside from China. Often armies that were successful in one campaign were pulled out and sent to other areas to bolster the attack groups, leaving behind a portion to consolidate their conquests. The Japanese also tried some innovative tactics for this part of the world including seaborne landings and parachute drops, the latter having been inspired by watching the Germans. They made wide use of bicycles in Malaya to move troops rapidly, as the Japanese were fairly devoid of motorized transport. Their engineers were able to quickly repair destroyed bridges that helped speed along the movement of troops.

In all, it makes for a great read and has several small photo sections that give some flavor to the book. It is a subject that has not been written about much in the West and is a must read for enthusiasts and history fans alike.

September 2019

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