The ever-losing and rarely-known but superbly brilliant naval commander — Ozawa Jisaburo (小沢治三郎)

Jul 2018
269
Hong Kong
#1
Despite of his genius in torpedo and naval aviation warfare, and of his charismatic leadership and innovative mind (his famous quote : Never follow the textbook in naval warfare, find out the new tactics instead ! 固着した海戦要務令に捉われず、独創的斬新な戦法研究 )

The powerful aircraft carrier force, the night raid tactics, the improved methods of reconnissance....etc. All were largely attributed to his devoted contribution. He was a key player in the Imperial Japanese Navy, yet few knows about him. And perhaps over 90% of the Westerners have no or very little impression to his name. And even for those few who remember, they might only associate him with the crushing defeat of Cape Engano (part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf), or that "Mariana Turkey Shot" 's battle for which he took part in command.

As a commander of the navy, he never won any great victory but only met with catastrophic defeats, one after another. Nonetheless, surprisingly, even the US Pacific Navy's commander-in-chief, Admiral Chester Nimitz commended :

"The victorious general is generally regarded as the brilliant general, the losing general is generally regarded as the incompetent general, this is how the journalists think. People always focus on the result of the battle, rather than their potentiality. Even for those losing general, they still have potentiality to be a brilliant general. As the case of Ozawa, who was known for continuous defeats, displayed the astonishing potentiality in all those defeats. Probably, I would be glad to serve under him."

quoted from Noburo Kojima (児島襄)'s work Commanders — The First Volumn

He is definitely one of the best naval commanders in history. Anyone have knowledge about him ? I'll begin to have deeper research about him from now on.
 

macon

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
3,365
Slovenia
#3
Astonishing potentiality? So what were reasons for his defeats if not his incompetence?

Sorry, he can't be one of the best naval commanders with constant losses. Outcome also matters and a blind luck also counts for something.
 
Likes: frogsofwar
Oct 2015
657
Virginia
#5
What was Ozawa's role in the Malaya and Dutch East Indies campaigns?

On 7 December he was commander of the Southern Fleet in French Indochina, which consisted of 9th and 11th Base Forces (patrol craft, minesweepers and ground troops, the largest ship was a Light cruiser). However, S E Morrison says he commanded part of the forces that attacked Western Borneo, Sumatra and Java usually credited to Kondo.(?)
 
Jul 2018
269
Hong Kong
#6
Astonishing potentiality? So what were reasons for his defeats if not his incompetence?
Obviously you didn't even understand about the huge disparity of strength between Japan and US, particularly in late AD 1943 to late AD 1944, during which Ozawa took active command in the campaign against the US Navy in the Pacific.

First of all, the Japanese industrial capability and population were far inferior than US, thus its armament production and replacement of manpower were greatly outpaced by the industrial superpower US, meant that once Japan suffered tremendous losses in several campaigns / battles, it wouldn't be able to recuperate in short time. On the contrary, US not only could easily recover, but was turning increasingly stronger with huge amount of warships, aircrafts and other weapons in queue of construction endlessly streaming towards the frontline like its resource was inexhaustible at all.

Meanwhile, the swarming number of US bombers and submarines were conducting a series of wide scope of raid upon the Japanese cargo ships laden with oil and other materials precious for war, not even the area around the Indian Ocean and the west of the Philippines was safe before the mid-1944. The heavily-strained Japan which had already been in serious shortage of resource to continue the war against US was further depleted in war material supply.

And that's not the all, the Japanese had suffered the great losses of outstanding pilots in AD 1942-43, and they could not be quickly replaced. Vice-Admiral Ozawa tried very hard in training the new group of useful pilots, but US gave him no time, and pressing hard with endless waves of aerial bombardment and amphibious operations. On top of that, the US had great advantage whether in technological applications or pilots' quality (for which many new recruits received the enduring and professional training, unlike the Japanese "rookie" recruits hurried to frontline compelled by their superior because they're urgently needed for replacement due to serious shortage of manpower as the Pacific War inclined more and more unfavorable to the Japanese).

In addition, the US engineer & repair teams were so superbly professional and technological advanced that they could repair the damage the Japanese inflicted upon their fleets in astounding speed, enabled them to possess much greater capability in endurance of battles. In opposite, the Japanese was far weaker in this technique, the heavily-damaged warships were usually abandoned without any hope of restoring its fighting capability, further enlarged the numerical gap between the US and Japan.

Tell me, how much percentage the Japanese could "defeat" the US Navy in the AD 1944 Battle of the Philippine Sea and Battle of Leyte Gulf ? I would say it's almost "impossible". Indeed, no matter which Japanese generals commanded the IJN, the result of crushing defeat was much sealed in mid-late 1944 considering the "terribly overwhelming advantage" the US navy and air force had. Yet even under such dire situation, overwhelming disadvantage whether in quality or quantity, his incisive leadership and outstanding tactical command still won the widespread praise from the US commanders and military historians.

So we should not focus on how the Japanese navy soundly defeated by US — it was the certain result, unquestionable in mid-late AD 1944, but how much skills Ozawa showed in his military command. Did he make any fatal mistake ? Did he perform superbly well in some parts ?

Don’t forget that the US commander “Bull” Halsey ever fell into his “decoy” and left the San Bernardino Strait totally unguarded, enabled the Kurita Fleet a perfect opportunity to launch the surprising assault upon the vulnerable US rear closed to the landing zone of the Leyte Gulf. Do you seriously think that such a “cunning” commander who ever fooled the US general to using all-out strength to take his bait was incompetent at all ?

It is utterly ludicrous to criticize Ozawa incompetent.
 
Jul 2018
269
Hong Kong
#7
Sorry, he can't be one of the best naval commanders with constant losses. Outcome also matters and a blind luck also counts for something.
Perhaps you don't even know that Ozawa Jisaburo was the first Japanese high-ranking general suggested the organization of air fleets — placing the entire aircraft carriers under the unified training and command under a single commander. This innovative idea led to the foundation of the First Air Fleet on 10th April 1941. Unfortunately, it was Nagumo Chiuchi (南雲忠一) rather than Ozawa was appointed as the commander of that fleet due to the inflexible rule of seniority (this proved to be fatal to IJN because Ozawa clearly was much a better choice for the position)

Accordingly, the famous Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku (山本五十六) was greatly impressed by Ozawa's performance in the military exercise performing the combined operation of the carrier aircraft and the land-based aircraft in March 1940, remarked :

"Hawaii could be attacked with aircraft !"

Undoubtly, Ozawa's promotion of naval aviation had the great impact on the strategic planning and formation of the Imperial Japanese Navy. This was the outcome of his effort and foresightedness.

Of course, these're not the only part of his awesomeness. I would depict how great he was with more words in the later threads when I have more time to spare. For now I halt here and leave you for reconsidering his position in WW2.
 
Likes: macon

macon

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
3,365
Slovenia
#8
I was not claiming Ozawa incompetent, only asked what was a reason. I know about production and numbers disparity.

Thanks for answers in depth.
 
Jul 2018
269
Hong Kong
#10
What about the early naval battles? Did he secure any significant victory?
His main contribution in the early-mid stage of the Pacific War was covering the landing operation in the invasion of Southeast Asia and mauling the enemy supply convoys, not a dazzling triumph in contrast with sort of operation like the naval engagement in the Coral Sea or Santa Cruz. It seems the aerial bombardment on enemy ships operation under his command (partly or wholly in different period) in his late 1943 campaign met with catastrophic losses of aircrafts and crews with very little gains, an appalling failure at all.

I'll do a lot of translation from the Chinese or Japanese source later for narrating what Vice-Admiral Ozawa commanded and performed in all those operations.
 

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