How the "irresponsibility" by the Japanese Zero fighters' design led to the tragedy of "Great Mariana Turkey Shooting"

Jul 2018
508
Hong Kong
Zero-type carrier fighter.jpg

Introduction

The Japanese main type fighter used in WW2 was the well-known Zero-type carrier fighter (零式艦上戦闘機), simply named Zero fighter, renowned for its superior speed and manuoeverability in the contemporary era. It was the world-class fighter of that exceeded all the other nations, the dreadful threat to the enemy pilots. The chance to overcome Zero in 1 vs 1 dogfight was essentially “non-existent”.

However, on 19th June 1944, in the decisive Battle of the Philippine Sea fought near the Mariana Islands, the Zero fighters suffered the devastating loss, not only marked the full stop to the legend of the Zero fighters as the awesome aircraft, but also ruined the entire Japanese naval aviation force which could no longer stop the US domination of the Western Pacific….(in fact, the emerge of super-high-tech US “Hellcat”, VT fuse and advance radar had pretty much decided the fate)

In this thread we’re not going to discuss the reasons why the Japanese lost the battle, or narrate the history and functions of the Zero fighters in detail, but analyzing why had been the Japanese being failed to achieve sort of remarkable improvement for the Zero fighters’ performance and strength from AD 1941 Pearl Harbor to AD 1944 Marianas, and how the Japanese navy bureacurats’ foolishness in aircraft design guided by their “irresponsible” behaviour led to the inevitable tragedy of the “Great Marianas Turkey Shooting”.

The diaries from the Zero fighter designers had revealed the lethal deficiency of that type of aircraft, but why the Japanese authorities failed to correct it !? Surely many of you guys might probably know better than me about the comparison of the Japanese and the US air force and their aircrafts in the WW2 Pacfiic War, but I have grasped some information you probably haven’t known yet — the perspective came from the Zero fighter designers and those “irresponsible” bureaucrats.

So let’s discuss together and find out what we could learn and review. I’ll exhibit the content from those “diaries” for enabling you to comprehend more for the evolution of the Zero fighter design — the main cause that led to the Japanese catastrophe in the AD 1944 Marianas.

Hints : You could focus on the difference of culture and organization between US and Japan in pondering about my question
 
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aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,749
USA
Japanese industry was a joke. That they had aircraft at all was an achievement. The idea that they'd keep up, or win, an arms race against the most powerful industrial nation on the planet is laughable.
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
The Japanese did sort of address the short short comings of the Zero by coming up with new planes that did not have the same problem.

I don't think it is fair to call the designers of the Zero irresponsible. They made a judgement call, sacrificing armor to increase range and manueverability., And in the beginning of the war, the Zero was very successful. Problem was, it became a dated design as the war progrrssed, but the Japanese were unable to replace the increasing obsolete design as they should have due to.lack of resources.

More irresponsible was a lack of a program to adequately train new pilots to replace.ones lost. The new pilots were inadequately trained, and the Zero was the worse kind of plane for them. The lacked the experience to take advantage of the one key advantage it had, manueverability, and itz lack of armor helped insured they would never get that experience. But early in the war, the Zero's tradeoffs were a reasonable set of compromises with well trained pilots.
 
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Jul 2018
508
Hong Kong
The Japanese did sort of address the short short comings of the Zero by coming up with new planes that did not have the same problem.
Of course, the aircraft designers strived for improvement, but the greatest problem was those navy commanders who imposed their despotic demands on designers without adequately listening to their opinions and advices. Those navy officers foolishly adhered to the principal of mobility and neglected the other valuable aspects for fighters, even to the ridicule that advocating superior skills in manuoeverability could overcome the inadequacy in defense.

The Zero designer Sone Yoshimi (曾根嘉年) was inspired by the US's B-17 Flying Fortress which had the strong defense with fuel box covered with thick black rubber and cockpit equipped with fire extinguisher, and then he began to realize the parity between the US and the Japanese aircraft design. In the AD 1943 summer conference hosted for discussion about the improvement of the Zero fighters' performance, the designers contended for adding "bulletproof" as demanded by the frontline pilots. However, the Navy General Staff Commander Genda Minoru (源田實) refuted :

"I feel very disappointed after listening to everyone's opinions. We must launch the ferocious assault with the Yamato spirit in the battlefield ! With the mass-produced light-weighted fighters, and the pilots sharpened in skill by repeatitive training, wouldn't we able to score the final victory in this war !? "

Sone Yoshimi didn't even have a chance to explain and defend his arguments as the suggestion was rudely rejected like this ! This was exactly the situation that how the professional engineers were "commanded" by those ignorant, arrogant military officers reflecting the core part of the Japanese culture : despising the value of human life — the beauty of sakura which was the frenzy, distorted way dominating their military ideologies, the great contrast to the US culture and ideologies.

It was not simpily about the problem of aircraft design and shortage of industrial capacity, but those bureaucrats / generals had some serious problems as well.

but the Japanese were unable to replace the increasing obsolete design as they should have due to.lack of resources.
It cannot helps. The Japanese-produced aircraft engine was approx. 950 horsepower, only 80% of the Western countries' most advanced engines'. So what could the designers did was sacrificing armor in trading for superior speed and manuoeverability (in order to fulfill the harsh demand from the Imperial Japanese Navy commanders).

More irresponsible was a lack of a program to adequately train new pilots to replace.ones lost. The new pilots were inadequately trained, and the Zero was the worse kind of plane for them. The lacked the experience to take advantage of the one key advantage it had, manueverability, and itz lack of armor helped insured they would never get that experience.
Shortage of military manpower coupled with the Japanese culture of despising the human life's value, compounded with a series of ferocious campaigns causing tremendous casualties such as Battle of the Coral Sea, Midway, Santa Cruz, Solomon, Guadalcanal that greatly depleted the Japanese experienced pilots' number, not only weakened the Japanese navy's air arms, but also weakened the "coherent inheritance" of experience and knowledge from experienced pilots to rookie. The lack of training program further exacerbated this problem.

The rise and fall of the Japanese Zero fighters concluded one point, just like what Horikoshi Jiro (堀越二郎), the Zero fighter designer superintendent admonished after WW2 :

"Retrospect our nation's past through the Zero fighters and witness the increasingly advanced armaments of our side, I think that the greater sense of morality and science should be required for the use of those weapons."

It was not simpily about the weakness and deficiencies of the Zero fighters, or the lack of resource and industrial capacity that made the Japanese naval aviation far inferior than US in overall, but the essential "ideologies" had proven US much more progressive than Japan, shown in the aircraft design — the American trusted professionalism based on science and held the high regard over human life, the Japanese emphasized spirit and skills over science and did not respect the human life's value. This was their difference.

And this was the "irresponsibility" of those Japanese navy staff officers I'm talking about.
 
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Jun 2011
312
The Old Dominion
The problem with the A6M series was that it was a technological dead end. Just about everything they did to try to improve it sacrificed some other critical function or quality . . . improvements only made it worse. Of course after the F6F-5 version, the Hellcat was also a technological dead end. It wasn't just the A6M itself, a large part of the problem was how it was tactically employed. In June 1944 the IJN fighter formations were still using 3 plane sections and 9 plane divisions (to use USN terms). That's World War One thinking. The USN two plane sections and four plane divisions ate them alive. Further, at the time, the cream of the IJN naval air arm, especially fighters, had been pretty much wiped out in the Solomon Islands, mostly by F4F drivers, USMC and USN. The force the IJN projected into the Marianas was the second generation, short on time, generally, equally short on training, and very, very short, even at some of the tactical command levels, on combat time and experience. The results were fairly predictable, though not in the actual great disparity.

My father flew A6Ms on occasion when at ComFAirWest and when on the TF-38 staff, not to mention against them in F4Fs (two of his six credits were A6Ms). He thought it was a fun plane to fly . . . but he sure would not have wanted to take one into combat.
 
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Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
The Japanese did produce better planes by the end of the war, like the Nakajims Ki-84 but too few and too late.

However, when I look at the list of Japanese fighters, none of the improved fighters were naval planes. It seems the Japanese were stuck with the Zero for their carriers. Of course, by the time the next generation fighters were available, Japanese carrier force had been badly depleted.
 
Apr 2015
334
Texas
There were many mistakes made by the Japanese military.

Being an island nation wholly dependent on outside strategic materials, and in great amount dependent on external food supplies, they never developed a good ASW capability, just like the British did.
By 1945, US submarines had effectively sealed off the Japanese archipelago.