"Reluctant Allies:German-Japanese Naval Relations in World War II" Review
Air & Space Power Journal

Air & Space Power Journal - Fall 2002 Document created: 20 August 02
Dr. Frank P. Donnini Newport News, Virginia

Reluctant Allies: German-Japanese Naval Relations in World War II by Hans-Joachim Krug et al. Naval Institute Press (http://www.usni.org/ press/press.html), 2062 Generals Highway, Annapolis, Maryland 21401-6780, 2001, 456 pages, $38.95.

After more than a half century, writers continue to produce new historical interpretations of World War II. Among such books, Reluctant Allies falls in the middle of the worth-reading scale. Part of its uniqueness is due to its authors: four men who approached the subject from German and Japanese perspectives but wrote in English to reach a wider audience. One of them, Capt Hans-Joachim Krug, served in German submarines in the Indian Ocean theater. Another, Rear Adm Yoichi Hirama, spent a career in the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and is a noted military historian.

The alliance between Germany and Japan covers three periods, from its inception during the prewar years that began in 1934 to its defeat by Allied forces in 1945. The first period started with active steps taken by the Japanese navy to establish closer relations with the German navy around 1934_35 and featured Japanfs interest in German military ordnance and technical innovations. The second period began in 1938, centering on partner perspectives based on an assumed armed conflict with Anglo-Saxon sea powers. The third phase commenced when the German and Japanese navies finally found themselves at war with both the Royal Navy and US Navy in the early 1940s.

The authors highlight the differing opinions of German and Japanese leaders and their mutual distrust regarding naval foreign policy, war planning, and domestic situations. A significant disparity also existed between Japanfs big-ship-navy approach and Germanyfs smaller navy, which relied on submarine warfare.

The common ground that bound the two was the Indian Ocean. In spite of diverging views and great geographical distances between them, these reluctant allies came together to conduct naval operations that could have had disastrous consequences for the Allies\that is, if everything had worked and if luck had been on their side. After many blockade-running ships were sunk, Axis submarines were reduced to transporting small loads of critical cargo and passengers\too little, too late. Most of the subs never reached their destinations.

Reluctant Allies fills a void in the literature of World War II naval operations. For true scholars, its narrative and extensive German and Japanese source documentation have merit. But readers interested in air operations will not find much here. Nevertheless, it is useful to understand how two powers, reluctant though they were to join forces, both succeeded and failed in fighting together.