The Ishiwara Option Part 1



The POD is one we've talked about before. Chiang is being kidnapped in '36 to get him to sign up for the united front against Japan. In OTL he took a nasty fall trying to escape and got badly hurt. In this ATL, he happens to fall in an even worse way and SNAP, broke his neck.

When the Young Marshal was informed of this he broke down into tears. “I tried to save my nation, and instead have broke it’s neck.” He is alleged to have said. Word quickly travels throughout all of China that the Generalissimo is no more. Mao’s ememasry, Chau En-lai, who was with the Young Marshal to broker a peace deal between the two forces, swears that the “Communists would not exploit the situation and we call KMT to end the Civil war so that we may prosecute a joint effort against the Japanese.”

This raises an obvious question of just who is now in charge said KMT. Chiang, being a bit of a paranoid dictator himself, never had very many good people close to him. Why have someone who could be a possible replacement? But he's dead now, and who takes over? No one. Various people try, but consensus was not reached, and after a failed coup by one of the more ambitious leaders, the KMT starts drifting away from any semblance of unity. Chou En-lai writes back to Mao, “Peace has not become nothing more than a mirage of the distant future. I am leaving this very day, as it is growing ever more and more dangerous to be here. The Young Marshal has flown back to his land, infuriated at us as much as at himself. We must now tend to our garden. One now must consider our fight against the warlords, and our preparations for the anti-Japanese war to be like the two wheels of a richsaw, for example. That is to say, our fight against the warlords comes first, and following it, the anti-Japanese war.”

And just as the year ends, the higher ups of Japan start to become aware of happenings in China . . .

Part 2: 1937

In Japan, the increasing influence of the military over the government had started to become an issue. [1] They were even still talking passionately about the need to be wary of China, when it was by now obvious that the KMT is nothing more than a polite fiction and the current round of warlordism is even nastier than before. China is a train wreck, and everyone who is not blind can see. The Japanese Generals have started up the old game of playing one warlord against another (not that they ever much stopped), and getting various sub-groups to agree to trading concessions and whatnot. They have even launched one or two (depending on your definition) small raids against warlords who we’re acting to violently anti-Japanese. Which is all well and good, but they haven’t exactly been paying due respect to the proper procedures for such things.

Prime Minister Hirota is so obviously subservient to the generals that he is being widely denounced. One aroused deputy even told the War Minister he should commit seppuku (ritual disembowelment). The applause that greeted this suggestion were so insulting that the War Minister resigned in anger and in February of 1937 the Hirota cabinet ends too. [2]

After a great deal of scrambling around to find someone who the army would accept, but who would not be so in there pocket as to enrage the Diet beyond tolerance, Prince Fumimaro Konoye is chosen. [3] He’s 46 years old, a high member of the Imperial family, was trusted by the military, and viewed as above corruption. He was reluctant to become Prime Minister, but was finally convinced that the threat to the present crisis was too great. On his assumption of the Premiership he gives a brief speech in which he says, “Evolutionary reforms and progress within the Constitution must be our watchdogs. But the country demands national reform, and the government, while neither socialist nor fascist, must listen to its call. The impetus of the great Meiji Restoration has carried us thus far with honor and success; but now it is for the young men to take up the task and carry the country forward into a new age.” He did not mention, because it would be impolite to do so, that his hardest problem was how to rang in his own military. He has read a report how Chiang died by taking a bad fall while trying to escape. Konoye shakes his head ruefully at this and for a brief moment flashes back to his own father who was so overprotective that Konoye spend his childhood with a leash around his waist to keep him from falling. He must not slip a leash around the military, but they will be considerably more difficult to control than a small child.

Months pass by with no real change in the balance of power in Tokyo. The Chinese Civil War makes a brief appearance on the front page when some particularly bloody episode happens, or when some warlord is not as respectful of Japanese interests as he should be, but for most people China might as well be on the other side of the world. The military views it otherwise. Chiang got too perilously close to being able to have a possible chance at putting China in a direction where in some indefinite future it could be a small threat to Manchuria, which Japan had some interests in! Truly that could never be allowed to happen again! Therefore, gradually overtime the Ishiwara Kanji Doctrine comes to dominate there actions.

Ishiwara Kanji was one of the smarter Japanese Militarists. His personal view is that the Chinese Civil War was a godsend to Japan, but the very last thing Japan needs to do is get in a war with China. A weak and divided China, is a China that is more willing to be subservient to Japan. Therefore, the armies duty is to insure that China stays in it’s warlord phase for as long as possible. Any time one warlord appears to be getting to much power, it is up to Japan to influence the other warlords to resist him, but not so much that they become strong themselves. It’s a tricky game to be sure, but Ishiwara Kanji is pretty sure he can pull it off for long enough for Japan to fully develop and consolidate Manchuria, which he was a major force in annexing. [4]

Outside of Japan things go pretty much the same as OTL 1937, except one difference is that no Invasion of China, means no Quarantine Speech by FDR. In OTL this was a pretty unpopular speech and set the cause of internationalism back a pretty penny. So FDR’s a little more popular, and a little less reluctant to appear isolationist without the black eye he got. Also, the US’s Navy budget for 1937 and 1938 is a lot more modest without the actual full scale war of OTL’s Pacific.

Stalin is distraught at loosing Chiang, his best hope of someone who could keep the Japanese off his backside in case the Germans act up again. Nichevo. None of the others warlords looked that promising, so perhaps he should devote more of the glorious resources of the valuable soviet people (or perhaps he had those verbs backwards) to helping out this Mao fellow. The Japanese do seem to be building up there forces in Manchuria [5] . . .

There is a better vibe in the world without the flat out invasion of China, but vibe’s buy no yams. The Depression is still going strong in most countries and that’s overwhelmingly what’s important. The Chinese Civil War, and the millions of deaths that are being caused by the famine and chaos it is causing, and the brief forays by small number of Japanese troops, just doesn’t mean much to most people.

The year passes . . .

[1] This is all pretty much the same as OTL. If anything the perceived threat from Japan’s military is higher because of the removal of a unified China, and the death of Chaing to show as an example of what an overzealous military can do.

[2] Same as OTL. PG 46 The Rising Sun, John Toland

[3] This is different from OTL. In OTL Senjuro Hayashi became PM, but lasted only four months due to opposition from the Diet. In this TL the army has taken too many big steps in China, and it’s viewed as even more important and Konoye agrees.

[4] Ishiwara Kanji got a bit of smack down once the China War began in earnest in OTL’s 1937 because he was . . . AGAINST IT! Yea, he thought it was way to soon, and that it opened up the possibility of an attack by the main advisory, the Soviet Union, while Japan was busy. This sounded a little too close to what the rebels of ’36 were saying so his star got a little less shiny. In this TL he gets a little more polish because of the general success he has in convincing people of his China policy and in the areas where he carries it out.

[5] To a greater extent than OTL too.

Part 3: 1938

As autumn begins Prime Minister Konoye is starting to look more and more haggard these days. The chaos in china has been increasing every day, as has the money and troops flowing into it from Japan. It seemed just as the militarists were happy putting some warlord in his place and shoving a treaty down his throat, some new warlord (often one who they had previously supported) seemed to pop up and require the same attention. The commitments individually were never that large, but when added all together they became a significant strain on the budget and resources of Japan. Why just recently they had spent more money propping up this Wang Ching-wei fellow in Peking then they had on any other warlord in the past. [1] They said that the Communists were growing stronger and that they needed him as a valuable wedge against the Communists, which sounded very nice but he was the one who’d have to find the money for it. The Kanji Doctrine, as it has come to be called, may make good sense but it sure wasn’t cheap. [2] Neither is Kanji’s previous big foray; Manchuria. Ultimately it may be for Japan’s benefit, but for now the colonization was another drain on the budget. [3] Of course, the biggest colonization cost is defense against the Soviet menace. And defending in Manchuria is better than defending in Korea, which is extremely better than defending in Japan. There had been so much talk about the threat of the Soviet Union, and how Japan should strike first. After all, it had worked in 1904 hadn’t it and Japan was so much stronger now.

What would the army do? The border clashes were growing and getting ever more tiresome, but surely the army would keep it to a manageable level? The answer turns out to be, “No.” The battle of Nomohan has just happened, and over the next few days Prime Minister Konoye will discover just what happened at a place on the Mongolian-Manchurian border called Nomonhan.

50,000 casualties . . . 50,000 casualties . . . Konoye was shocked at the losses. In one brief battle Japan had lost more casualties than they'd taken at one time since 1905. More importantly, this was Japan’s first battlefield defeat since 1596. Something had to be done.

The something was of course, meetings. Long long long meetings. Long meetings in which green tea were served. Long meetings in which cakes were eaten. And most importantly long meetings which were not official meetings exactly, but more of a feeling out of what everybody was thinking.

The general thinking was that the army was fucked up and had to have it’s leash pulled a little. The problem was, that the army had spent all this money and time preparing for a war in China. But a fight had just occurred (of course the army was swearing that the Soviet had started it), and it was pretty obvious that the problems of a war in China were vastly different from a war in the flat planes of Russia. The question was, if Japan should reorganize it’s army for that fight against Russia? To do so we require at least one or two years, and insure that a fight against China would be that much harder. Despite the colossal loss [4] Japan’s main interest was still in China, and most promising of all was that the Soviet Union obviously showed no sign of following up it’s victory. It’s policy seamed to be that if Japan stepped past the boundary it would get hammered, but it was very willing to make concessions if Japan stayed behind the line. The army would have to accept that, at least now that it had gotten a black eye in the image of the public. [5] Many were actually calling for full out war to avenge the dishonor of this lost. They were a strong voice, but not strong enough thankfully. Kanji was very useful in convincing a number of the lower ranks that the timing was not right for such an attack. One more accomplishment on Kanji’s belt. For the first time Konoye wondered if Kanji was trying for the PM position. After some thought, Konoye realized he didn’t care. He was getting tired. As the youngest Prime Minister in Japan’s history, Konoye was already feeling old. This job wore on a person after a while, and if Kanji wanted it, he could have it for all the good it did him.

Meanilwhile, in Moscow, Stalin has just made a speech. “If our negotiations with the European countries should produce satisfactory results – which is not impossible – this may be an important step toward the creation of a bloc of peace-loving nations in the Far East as well. However, Time is not working favorably toward the formation of such a bloc. Since the dissolution of the KMT, Japan has greatly improved her position there. And while our ideological comrades have also improved there position, even as we speak Japan is seeking to undermine and isolate them. Now Japan has already received a counterblow from the Soviet Union, and we may hope she learns her lesson from such, but for our comrades we must recognize that there is not much we can do.” Mao may expect guns and ammo from Stalin, but if he expects anything else, he will be disappointed. But perhaps that is for the best. Mao is doing well on his own, and better to have Chinese troops winning victories for the CCP than foreigners.

In America the Army Air Force is getting a little more money than in OTL as the navy isn’t seen as quite as important, but only a little.

In Europe Hitler had gone from victory to victory and various people in Japan are beginning to take notice of him . . .


[1] Wang Ching-wei was the guy who was chosen to be the figure head for the Japanese puppet government in Peking in OTL. In 1938 he had an argument with Chiang and ended up escaping to Hanoi. In March of 1940 he formed his own splinter group in Nan king, but it didn’t get much support. He primarily wanted peace with Japan, and is this is true in this TL too, so he is the one the Japanese support the most.

[2] But it is a hell of a lot cheaper than the full scale war of OTL. Japan is having a much better economy and it’s industry is growing much faster than OTL.

[3] Without the China War, and with Manchuria more secure, there is a greater level of investment in it.

[4] The loss is seen as greatly bigger than

[5] The National Mobilization Laws, which effectively put Japan under the Armies control, were not passed in this TL because there is no China War to make them necessary. As a result, keeping the casualties secret is that much harder and soon it becomes known among the general public that the army has suffered some kind of defeat.

Part 3: 1939

Late one October night Prime Minister Konoye [1] was wondering why he ever wanted this job, only to remember that he never had wanted it. That was just one more fact to keep in mind, and facts were becoming very annoying things lately.

Like the fact that the Mao was now at least one of, if not the, strongest warlords in all of China and that he was beginning to make moves against Japan’s Son of a Bitch in Nanking. Not only were the Chinese Communist growing stronger day by day, but they also had the gall to be located far inland instead of conveniently at the coast where Japanese forces could make a quick “dash and slash” maneuver like it had used against a couple of warlords who were a little too reluctant in granting various concessions. But all of those had been rather small operations with easy logistics. Japan’s control over the various Chinese warlords was almost directly correlated to how close they were to the sea. Japan now had de facto control over most of the major costal cities, but the further into the hinterland, the more that control became a fabrication. Of course, many of the warlords didn’t actually control their hinterland either, but from all the reports Mao did and he was tightening his grip every day. But how to deal with him? They’re weren’t any Japanese troops near Mao’s territory. In order to come to grips with him, Japan would have to march through not just one but multiple Warlord territories all in order to come to grips with what was appearing to be a very elusive enemy. But to do nothing would risk China falling under sway of a Communist regime, which was clearly unthinkable. For now all he could do was throw a few arms to the various warlords fighting Mao and hope they held him off and eventually wore him down. It would have to do for now.

The Soviet border was another annoying fact. Why couldn’t they have been located next to Brazil or Australia? After the though pounding the IJA took last year, anyplace but next to the Imperial Japanese Army would be an improvement. So many things had gone wrong in that unofficial battle. The IJA grossly underestimated the Soviets, thinking they could be treated like Chinese rabble soliders. Army Intelligence hadn’t a clue as to what was going on when with whom. The armies equipment was perfectly fine for the rice paddies of China, but not exactly ideal for the plains of Mongolia. And so many others. But the government was still unsure of what exactly to do about those problems. Some were obvious enough, like not underestimating the Soviets again, but others were a delicate balancing act. If Japan wanted to be able to take on the Soviets it would need to seriously develop heavy tanks, heavy artillery, and mechanized infantry, which we be a complete change in the basic structure of the army, be hideously expensive, make it pretty ineffective at keeping warlords in line, and take at least two or three years. So the cabinet dallied, not wanting to flat out say that taking on the Soviets would be beyond Japan capabilities, but not wanting to appear as if it was doing nothing either.

At least Stalin hadn’t showed any signs of aggression. Which had actually surprised most of the cabinet. After the Nazi-Soviet Pact Prime Minister Konoye was besieged by various Army officials demanding that any Soviet demands on Japan be rejected in the hardest terms possibly. Yet, no demands had come. It was now obvious that he was supplying Mao with a serious amount of supplies, and yet he hadn’t tried to get Japan to concede anything. Not even a promise to not invade Mao’s area of China. What game was Stalin playing? As Ishiwara was so fond of telling the Prime Minister, Japan needed time to fully develop Manchuria. Would the Soviets be willing to give her that time?

Still, it wasn’t all bad news. The effort to counterfeit Chinese currency was going rather well, the only problem being that the Japanese counterfeit were often better than the Chinese originals, but that was easily fixed. Chinese money was quickly becoming worthless, and more and more traders in China were only accepting Yen, especially in the costal cities were Japan had de facto control. Economic penetration was getting widespread throughout those areas of China were people weren’t being actively shot at.

But the biggest issue was the war that had just started in Europe. Many in the army wanted to join the Axis, so as to insure against a Soviet invasion. Many more pointed out that Hitler had just signed a very big and very important deal with Stalin, and that the Soviet Union was fighting a war with Hitler, and that maybe joining an alliance with X against Y didn’t make much sense when X and Y were already partners. The first many then shot back that the Nazi-Soviet Pact was just a scrap of paper. The second many then replied then why should we want to sign a similar scrap of paper? To which the first many said that well this scrap would be different.

And there were so many factors to keep in mind. Not least was that a number of Japanese factories had just begun to receive a substantial number of war orders from Britain and France. Now perhaps Germany would order some herself if Japan joined in, but that pesky British blockade would make that rather difficult. The friction such a move would cause with the Americans couldn’t be ignored either. As every the Navy never failed to stress every time it came demanding more money, the Americans were one of the most serious factors in the far east and could not be ignored lightly. There President had just made a rather un-isolationist speech [2] and while it was being criticized in the press it couldn’t be ignored either. And a number of times Japan’s actions in China had been been brought up in diplomatic conversations. It wasn’t serious of course, [3] but it couldn’t be blown away either.

How many meetings had Konoye had on this subject? 40? 50? Something like that. It was too many. He was tired. His cabinet had been loosing it’s vitality for over a year now. He hadn’t wanted this job, but had taken it because the times had seemed grave, and it seemed like it was necessary. And now many people were outright saying that he had overstayed his welcome and it was time for someone new. And not just the Army cliché either. Fine. Let his job end now. He had done his best to ride the tiger, let someone else do it for a turn.

The next day a brief statement was released to the press. “The Cabinet herewith resigns because of complicated and inscrutable situations recently arising in Europe.”

Prime Minister Konoye was out, and his replacement Kiichiro Hiranuma would be taking over very shortly. [4]

[1] In OTL, Kiichiro Hiranuma became PM when Konoye’s cabinet fell about here (only to be reformed a few months later so they weren’t too upset at Konoye), but without the China war there is no need for this to happen, as the stress that caused his fall don’t exist. There is some dissatisfaction over the Soviet border clash, but nothing really bad has happened since then, and the economy has hummed along, Japan is improving it’s position in China, and so Konoye stays in power.

[2] Roosevelt never made his “Quarantine Speech” so he never got a bloody nose for going beyond what the public considered acceptable in international affairs. Hence, he’s a little more willing to push it in the beginning, but he goes a little to far and pulls back.

[3] Without an even semi-unified China, the China-lobby in the US is considerably smaller, and the Japanese haven’t been killing Chinese by the millions like in OTL.

[4] In OTL Konoye’s cabinet fell in January due to problems arising from the Sino-Japanese war, and Hiranuma replaced it only to fall due to an inability to reach an agreement on the Tripartite Pact. I assume that the problems arising from the loss against the Soviets, the rise of Mao, and disagreement about ties with Hitler would cause Konoye’s cabinet to fall ten months later.

Part 5 March 1940 - Every time I think I’m out . . .

The Argument, Part I

Prince Konoye was not happy to once again be back in the office of the Prime Minister of Japan. When he had left it just a brief five months ago, he had expected that his service to his country had been enough. He thought he had managed to steer Japan through a rough course and would be allowed to retire and return to the lifestyle he preferred. Sadly, this was not to be. In just five months two different cabinets had fallen, one from being too subservient to the military, and one for not being subservient enough. The military always had an ace up their sleeves when it came to cabinets. The Meiji Constitution had divided the power of decision between the Cabinet and the Supreme Command, but the military leaders, who had little understanding of political and diplomatic affairs, could bring down the government. But the Diet was watchful of the military, fearing, quite rightly in Konoye’s opinion, that they were hoping to get the country into war which would almost automatically remove what few barriers the Diet had in controlling them. The times apparently called for one who could juggle chainsaws and kittens to be Prime Minister, well, so be it. Prince Konoye was not one to shun from doing his duty.

Of course in the end, it might not matter. Events often have a life of their own, and the power of men to control them seemed increasingly small as the years passed Konoye by. On this day for example, the cabinet had come together to decide one of the most momentous decisions Japan had to make in a generation. But who in this room did not know the decision already?

Certainly not Lieutenant-General Ishiwara Kanji the new Minister of War. [1] He always knew that war would come between Japan and all of her neighbors. It was just that unlike most of the other’s here, Ishiwara was patient. He was perfectly content for it to take over one hundred years for Japan to become master of all Asia. Yosuke Matsuoka, the new Foreign Minister, however was not. He was an impatient man with a mission. He believed firmly in decisive and dramatic actions that should always be followed up on immediately with even more dramatic actions. He was a mystery to Prince Konoye, but then he was a paradox to most people. He assured his associates over and over again that he was pro-American yet talked insultingly about America; he distrusted Germany yet courted Hitler; he was against the rise of militarism, yet sprouted his arguments for war. He was one who would have to be watched.

If only watching Mao was that easy. Mao. How he dreaded hearing that name. The way the army talked about him you would think he was twelve feet tall and shot fire out of his bum. Mind you, he had performed some remarkable feats in the last five months. He was now by far the strongest individual Warlord in all of China and master of the north. How could any idea as evil as Communism find so many people willing to die for it? What made men fight for evil? Konoye would never understand the answer to that question.

Sociological questions aside, the real issue at had was that in the last month, two separate major Warlords had collapsed and come under Communist rule. This would be bad enough by itself, but these collapses had left Peking and Wang Ching-wei’s Government dangerously exposed. Even now the Communists were marching towards Peking, and once they got that city, how long until they had all of China? Wang Ching-wei was one of Japan’s most dependable “friends” in the region. There was even talk of allowing him to form some sort of broad-based umbrella government over all of China. It was only hot spring talk so far, but it was more than had been consider acceptable for any other Chinese. And now he was under attack. The thought of Manchuria surrounded by Communists, the thought of Japan having to face down not one, but two major communist countries was too horrible to contemplate. Compared to that, perhaps war was not such a bad thing after all. He had talked to these men before of course. All of them knew their parts. All of them knew what they were going to say. All of them knew the outcome of this meeting days before it had been scheduled. It was like a play. The only part of the play they didn’t know, no matter how hard they protested that they did, was what would be the ultimate outcome of their decisions. Would this play be a tragedy, or heroic epic? Would they be regarded as the wise leaders who saved their country? Or as foolish old men unable to handle the pressure of the times. Would their grandchildren revere them, or would they be too embarrassing to even be remembered? Who could say? The time for those answers was not now.

A long list of provocations the Chinese Communists had committed was read, an analysis of the probable disastrous future strategic position Japan would be in if Peking fell was discussed, the moral necessity of supporting our great and glorious ally Wang Ching-wei was implored. After which a few objections were raised by various civilian politicians which were politely answered and then forgotten, like where the money was going to come to pay for this glorious but necessary war. In the end, the vote was carried and operations against the Chinese Communists would commence shortly. [2] The play was now over. It was time for the real arguments to begin . . .

[1] At this point in OTL Hideki Tojo held this position. He got it because enjoyed great prestige within the army and was believed necessary to hold onto what civilian control remained. In this TL Kanji Ishiwara has gained great prestige in managing actions with and against various Chinese Warlords over the last four years. He has also helped Prime Minister Konoye a number of time in restraining the army from immediate action. It is believed that he will be a powerful force

[2] Incidentally 1940 is the earliest that Ishiwara thought that Manchuria could be fully digested and other serious operations against China could be enacted. I didn’t plan it that way, but that ended up being the time when I think Mao would have become too powerful, and too much a threat for the Imperial Japanese Army to not invade.

Next The Argument, Part II in which the course of action regarding Nazi Germany, the British and French Empires, the Soviet Union, and the United States, is discussed in light of Japan’s upcoming military actions against Communist China.


Oh, and we’ll have a “Where are they Now” around 1942 or so, for some of those people who are cool and would be effected by this but haven’t been mentioned yet. Any thoughts on who should be included besides Madame Mao and Claire Chennault?


Mike Ralls

Part 6: 1940 – The Politics of Fighting Chairman Mao

I’ll be dealing with the actual Japanese – CCP war later, but this covers the rest of the political events of 1940.

“Why are we, the people of all circles in Yenan, meeting here today? We are here to denounce the traitor Wang Ching-wei, we are here to unite all anti-Japanese forces and to combat the anti-Communist die-hards. Time and again we Communists have pointed out that Japanese imperialism is set in its policy of subjugating China. Whatever cabinet changes there may be in Japan, she will not change her basic policy of subjugating China and reducing it to a colony. Frightened out of his wits by this fact, Wang Ching-wei, the political representative of the pro-Japanese faction of the Chinese big bourgeoisie, grovels before Japan and concludes a traitorous pact, betraying China to Japanese imperialism. Moreover, he wants to set up a puppet government and army in opposition to our anti-Japanese government and army. Knowing that the Communist Party is the most resolute in fighting Japan and that Kuomintang-Communist co-operation means greater strength for resistance, they are trying their hardest to break up this co-operation and to separate the two parties, or better still, to set them to fighting each other. Hence they have used the die-hards within the “Kuomintang” and other reactionary regimes to create trouble everywhere. In Hunan, there was the Ping kiang massacre; in Honan, the Chuehshan massacre; in Shansi, the old army attacked the new army; in eastern Hupeh, Cheng Ju-huai killed between five and six hundred Communists; and as for the Shensi-Kansu-Ningsia Border Region, the die-hards are trying to set up a spy network from within and enforce a "blockade" from without, and are preparing an armed attack. In addition, they have arrested a large number of progressive young people and put them in concentration camps; they have hired that metaphysics-monger Chang Chun-mai to make reactionary proposals for the liquidation of the Communist Party, the abolition of the Shensi-Kansu-Ningsia Border Region and the disbandment of the Eighth Route and New Fourth Armies; and they have hired the Trotskyite Yeh Ching and others to write articles abusing the Communist Party. All this has one purpose only -- to disrupt resistance to Japan and turn the Chinese people into colonial slaves. That is why we must now fight! That is why we must now move on Peking, before Wang Chei-wei has all of China under Japan’s control! We shall advance toward Peking and advance toward the liberation of all of China!”

- Speech Given by Chairman Mao before the advance on Peking.

“With heavy responsibilities for the conduct of foreign affairs having unexpectedly devolved upon me, it is a great pleasure for me to avail myself of this opportunity today of speaking on the foreign policy of the imperial government.

Japan, striving for the construction of a new order in East Asia, is now marching forward to surmount current difficulties with the Chinese Communist Red Army. First of-all, I wish good fortune and success to officers and men of our gallant fighting services who are even now distinguishing themselves on the front under the august virtue of His Imperial Majesty, paying at the same time my humble and sincere tribute to the honored spirits of those who have fallen.

It needs no reiteration that the fundamental principle of Japan's foreign policy aims at establishment of peace in East Asia based on justice, thereby contributing toward promotion of the general welfare of mankind. It is by nothing other than the fruit of constant efforts exerted in the espousal of this great principle that our country has witnessed the unceasing development of her national fortune since the Meiji Restoration.

It may be recalled that in the past seventy odd years Japan has, on more than one occasion, successfully overcome national crises. Especially noteworthy is the Russian-Japanese War, in which Japan staked her national existence in order to eliminate an obstacle to the peace of East Asia. She has since been advancing her position as a stabilizing force in East Asia and is now endeavoring with unflinching courage to accomplish the great task of inaugurating a new order in East Asia on the basis of justice as a contribution toward the peace of the world.

But the horizon of this new world has suddenly gone dark. Our allies

in China are even now at this very moment under siege by the forces of Communism. Japan will not let this aggression stand. We will defend China! We will defend Civilization! We will defend all that is good and right!

Japan is fighting to save China from Communism. No treasure trove is in her eyes – only sacrifices upon sacrifices. No one realizes this more than she does. But her very life depends on it, as do those of her neighbors as well. This all-absorbing question before Japan today is: Can she bear the cross?”

- Speech given before the Imperial Diet Explaining the Military Action against the Chinese Communist Party.

The war was greeted with a mixture of feelings in Japan. It was viewed as a big job, but not by any means an insurmountable one. The memory of Nomohan was still on people’s mind, but surely the glorious Army of Japan could beat the Chinese Red Army. They were _Chinese_ after all. However, there are a number of fears. The Civilian politicians and Bureaucrats were extremely wary of it because it was clear that it would be both expensive and further co-rode their power and increase that of the Army. The Navy was lukewarm to the idea because it was equally obvious that it would be almost an entirely Army show, which would mean the army would get more funding and prestige while the Navy would not.

Internationally opinion is equally mixed. On one hand, nobody really likes Japan. They are viewed as seriously pushing China into warlordism and Civil War after Chiang’s death. But on the other hand, nobody besides the Soviet Union (and they are a little unsure) wants China to go Communist. With the Nazi-Soviet Pact still in full force, and Stalin’s campaign against Finland, Communism is seen by many of those in power as being almost an ally of Hitler, and if not that then pretty bad for it’s own sake. The far left looks rather badly on the Japan’s action against the CCP, but they have little power or influence at the moment.

The US is particularly concerned about the military intervention. Distrust of Japan is even wider there than in Europe, but no essential US interests are at stake. There are talks with the Japanese ambassador in which the US explains how since no war was declared [1] the neutrality act will not be enforced, but that the US is very interested in China and would like to be assured that no annexations will be taking place. The Japanese ambassador replies that of course no annexations will be taking place. After all, look at Manchuria. “Yes, look at Manchuria.” the US ambassador thinks to himself.

Complicating all of this is the war in Europe. After the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the invasion of Poland, the annexation of the Baltic States, and the invasion of Finland, Japan sending troops in early April to crush a Communist Warlord who no one recognizes, is just something that is quickly overshadowed by the fall of Denmark and Norway.

The fall of Denmark and Norway sends shockwaves through the Japanese political system too. The Army is sure that Hitler would soon conquer all of Europe, and thereby be in a position to help Japan improve its situation in Asia. But Navy Minister Mitsumasa Yonai and his deputy were convinced that a war between Britain and Germany would be a prolonged affair and that ultimately America would get into it, Germany would wind up the loser, and if Japan had a treaty with Hitler she would find herself fighting the United States alone. [2] Ultimately a request is made for Germany to express her interest in the crushing of Communism in China and possibly engage in some talks with Japan about future goals. However, Hitler is right now receiving desperately needed supplies from the Soviet Union, and just does not want to risk spurring them at this critical juncture by supporting a crusade against communism half way around the globe. While having Japan as a distraction to Britain and France would be useful, it would have to wait until the end of the current campaign. Plus Japan was currently selling numerous armaments and supplies to Great Britain and France, hardly the act of a friendly country. [3] He let’s the matter lie and does not reply to the request, partly for these reasons and partly because of the more urgent business of planning and executing the French campaign.

Over the coming weeks the Japanese generals realize that they will not be given a response and conclude that they have been “mukusatsu,” a Japanese concept which means various things but roughly translated as “ignore with silence.” This was not the reply they were hoping for. [4]

The Japanese Military Action is greeted with fear in China. Most of the warlords do not like the communists, but inviting the Japanese in strikes off numerous anti-Japanese riots in various parts of the country (some provoked by Communists, some not). Resentment increases when various warlords are asked in the coming months to contribute troops to fight the Communist menace. Those who decline quickly find that it wasn’t so much a request as a demand. Those who continue to decline are almost all either taken over by other warlords or overthrown within a year. It is soon becoming clear that once Japan and Wang Chei-wei decide a warlord is not longer acceptable he will not continue to be a warlord for very long. [5]

In the next few months the collapse of the French and the Battle of Britain also spark major debates within the Japanese government. The Pro-Hitler faction is still a little stung for their “rejection” but they press their case again anyways. However, with the War against Mao being in full bloom, no strong or significant protests from the American or European governments, and the trade situation, joining the Axis is right out. However, Hitler’s success has inspired everyone that they must not “miss the bus.” This is truly a once in a life time opportunity, and Japan must use it to her full advantage.

The European Ambassadors of the countries that are still at war with Hitter are given some friendly advice by Japan. It would probably be in their best interest if they were to remove their troops from China. It would also be nice if they were to recognize the Manchurian State as well as Chiang-wei as legitimate governments. And finally their was also the important matter of a number of pressing economic concessions throughout Asia. All of this would be very nice. If these nice things did not happen, then Japan may not view the Western European governments as so nice anymore, and Japan may have to start looking for allies in central Europe, and wouldn’t that be a shame?

Lacking firm assurances of American support, British gunboats leave the Yangtze in late 1940 and her troops march out of Tientsin and Peking. [6] Churchill grits his teeth, but the British Empire is in no position to have a major distraction in Asia right now and by the end of the year Britain has recognized Manchuria as well as signed numerous economic concessions throughout South East Asia. The European governments in exile also follow suit. [7]

Prime Minister Konoye and War Minister Ishiwara are overjoyed with these fruits, which were mainly what they had pushed for. However, many in the cabinet wanted a tougher line, including a takeover of some European colony like Indochina, or Indonesia. Ishiwara argues that their would be no point in taking these now, as for the moment Japan could get all that she needed from them while she finished off China. It was unwise to take on too many battles at once and to take Indonesia would almost surely result in war with Britain or the US. And to take Indochina would be extremely difficult, for Vichy France is allied with Hitler, and the only way that a direct takeover would be possible would be for Japan to declare war on France and Hitler. His head tilts a little to the side as he says this, and his eyes briefly glaze over for a second before he continues his speech stressing the need to take things slowly and not overreach. Some in the cabinet grumble over this, but the majority are very pleased with the results. As 1940 ends there is widespread belief that it has been a very good year for Japan.

[1] This is a “military action” with no declaration of war. Since nobody, not even Stalin, recognizes Mao’s government as the legitimate government of China or even Northern China, it is not a war or even viewed the same as the 1937 invasion was viewed. For one thing, the Japanese were requested and the Chinese situation is just a lot murkier.

[2] This is the argument as it was made in OTL. The Rising Sun by John Toland pg 171 However, the Japanese generals are not quite as pro-Hitler as OTL due to the China fight being explicitly anti-Communist, and Hitler being practically allied to the Soviet Union, as well as the lack of the radicalizing effect of the China War in OTL. Of course, now that Japan is at war that could change.

[3] Japan was too busy making armaments for the China war in OTL to sell much to the Allies, but with no China War (until now) it could and does in this TL. This helps the economy along as well.

[4] The pro-Hitler faction of the Army and government are now much weaker than in OTL, but not completely discredited.

[5] Japan has been managing herself rather well in China for the last four years, thanks in a large part to the influence and actions of Ishiwara (and others), but it doesn’t control China by any stretch of the imagination. Think of the US and Central America in the 1950’s for a rough analogy, but only for Costal China. The further inland, the less Japanese power and influence extends.

[6] This was done in OTL in October of 1939, but in this TL the lack of the China war causes Japan to delay asking it, and Britain from doing it.

[7] In OTL Churchill practiced what could realistically be called appeasement towards the Japanese. I think it would be similar in this TL, only Japan was asking for different things. IE, recognition of a puppet government is a lot easier than ignoring an all out war against China that had been going on for 4 years and killed millions.



Mike Ralls

Part 7: May 1940 – May 1941

The Mao War, Year 1

“The first soldier marching into China will only do so over my dead body,” were the words of Kanji Ishiwara a mere four years ago. Now as Minister of War, he was sending all the available troops he could find to North China. Times had changed though; instead of taking on the Nationalists like some hot heads were planning to, the Nationalists (or what faction remained of them in the North anyway) had made a formal request for Japanese troops. All neat and nice for whoever cared in the international community. Not that many did. Hitler’s War was gobbling up most of their attention, and the fate of some Commie Warlord in China just didn’t matter much. Ishiwara was glad of that. He had an idea of what the China campaign would entail, and better that there not be too many prying eyes.

In spite of Ishiwara’s premonition, the war began with a rather good photo-op; that of the Japanese Army marching in good formation through Nanking while the natives cheered. The city was nervous about the advance of the communists, and the local government tried to put on a good show. Japanese flags were passed out in many areas, and the picture of Japanese troops be cheered as hero’s by the citizens of Nanking would be published throughout all of Japan to prove what a good war it was.

But war isn’t about getting cheered by civilians, it’s about fighting. And fighting means killing, and there would be a lot of that before this war was over. The IJA faced around 500,000 Red Army soldiers, [1] but that was only half the story. There were also almost 1 Million members of the CCP (granted the two groups tended to overlap), and every one of these was considered an enemy by the IJA.

The strategy of both sides at the onset was basically to advance until they met the enemy and then to kill the enemy. As strategies go, there are worse ones. The Communist forces were in a headlong advance towards Nanking, the prize at which Mao dreamed of, while the Japanese were determined to meet and defeat the Red Army as far away from Nanking as possible, so as to insure that it’s sympathetic government didn’t get any more tarnished than it already was. The result was the battle of Kalgan (which actually took place about 40 miles east of Kalgan), and it was an utter victory for the Japanese, and an utter defeat for the communists. [2] After the headlong advance of the CCP over the last three years, it was a heavy blow to bear. Even heavier was the steady month by month increase of the areas under Japanese control. Within a year the CCP was pushed back to it’s stronghold and oldest base, Yennan, which the Japanese only didn’t take that year due to logistical constraints.

These catastrophe’s would have broken a lesser man, but Mao was up to the task. If he could come back from the Long March, he could come back from this. He began a breakneck program to adapt the Red Army to it’s new/old role. The Red Army would contest the Japanese only when completely unavoidable, and always attempt to make it’s gains as slow and as painful as possible, while not sacrificing all of it’s resources. It would now harass the Japanese as much possible while trying to blend in with the populace. That this would inevitably bring reprisals on the civilian population was considered acceptable, and even as a positive good as it would harm the Japanese cause.

The CCP forces quickly began operating in units no bigger than a platoon. Small groups could move undetected, whereas concentrations might be spotted by reconnaissance aircraft. [3] The units were virtually autonomous, out of contact with their divisional, commanders for much of the time. Yet they worked to a pattern directed by Mao and other high communist officials.

However, the Japanese had experience in fighting this type of warfare. In Manchuria, in the early 1930’s, the Kwantung Army had crushed Communist insurgency by moving all bona fide villagers into “protected hamlets,” burning their homes, and leaving the guerrillas to face the winter without food, shelter, or support. Such a strategy meant uprooting farmers from their land and concentrating them at points far from their fields. Often the “protected hamlets” were unfinished when the farmers and their families were moved in, and many people died. The fact that many people would die if Japan implemented this policy in North China did not stop Japan from implementing this policy in North China. There were, however, some protest by the Wang Ching-wei government, but these were largely ignored.

However, thanks to the network of CCP base areas, by the next year it was obvious that this strategy was not completely effective, so in 1941 the Japanese began to roll the communist back with an inexorably advancing line of defended blockhouses. This was proving very effective, and in addition the Japanese also began hiring large numbers of Chinese bandits to hunt Communists and deter others. This was proving very effective and the IJA began to consider what else could be done in this regard. [4]

Month by month it became clearer that Mao was losing the military struggle. His forces were getting weaker, while the Japanese position was improving. Soon, not even Yennan would be safe. Unless something happened to drastically alter the situation, the dream of a Communist China was doomed. And then, in May of 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union.


[1] These are about 100,000 more than OTL due to the increased opportunity for the CCP in the Chinese Civil War, and the decrease in harassment from a organized Nationalist and Japanese forces.

[2] Mao hasn’t had quite as much guerilla experience in this TL, and so he was more willing to try a straight up battle with the Japanese considering that he had already won a number of straight up battles against various warlords.

[3] Japan has been able to spend more money on machines over the last three years, since she hasn’t been fighting a full scale war. So she has a larger air force, though not to a huge degree. Combined with a smaller scale (I.e., North China instead of all of China) the Japanese have a much better air cover in this war.

[4] Much of the above is taken almost word for word from Soldiers of the Sun pg 251, 253 - 254




Mike Ralls

Re-Cap: China breaks out into Civil War in 1936, and Japan doesn’t invade in 1937. It’s more liberal than OTL, due to the lack of the stress brought on by the China war, but it’s not nicey nice either. It hasn’t joined the Axis, but many are considering it. Mao looked like he might have a shot at taking all of China, so Japan invaded about a year ago. The war has stalemated with Japan unable to take the final communist province, mainly due to logistical constraints.

Part 8: The Ishiwara Option: The Mao War – 1941 Part II

The Second Sino-Japanese War, or the Communist-Japanese War, or the War for Peace and Security, or any of the other names you want to call it depending on your political orientation and nationality, is if nothing else, big. It is greatly overshadowed by events in Europe, little things like the conquest of Europe tending to make it secondary news, but to those fighting it, the war is undoubtedly the biggest event of their lives, and in their nations. Not since the Russo-Japanese War has Japan committed so many troops to such an endeavor. Even the Russian Intervention was of a considerably smaller scale then this.

By the time Hitler invades the Soviet Union the Japanese have had a major troop concentration in China for over a year. There have been a few stand up battles, but only a few. Most of the time the Red Army would refuse to give battle but instead fight with delaying tactics, hit and runs, and ambushes. And all the while destroying every available farm, machine, and road that would fall under Japanese control. The resulting destruction is a sobering sight to behold.

The Japanese forces were ending up pretty thin in a number of areas. And every Japanese soldier in China will tell you that it’s when they are thin that the Red Army hits. But strategically speaking things have improved the last year for the Japanese. The Communists have been run out of most of China, and War Lords friendly to Japan have more often than not taken their place. There is however, one strong hold. Yenan. It’s still there, it’s still communists, and it’s still directing the fighting. The Japanese High Command have made this their main focus. After all, once Yenan falls, how could the communists possibly keep fighting?

The problem is, Yenan is smack dab in the middle of a huge land mass called China. It’s not easily accessible, and the communists have done everything in their considerable power to insure that Japan pay a heavy price for every step her troops take to reach Yenan.

By far the most spectacular act, and one that will be portrayed in Japanese movies, and in a different light Chinese movies, for generations is the destruction of the Yellow River.

In early June of 1941, the Japanese had been building up for a major offensive into Yenan for that summer. Logistics, never the Imperial Army’s strong suit, were assumed to be manageable thanks in a large part to the local railroads. The key was Chengchow, at the intersection of the Lunghai and Peking-Hankow railways. With it secure, the army could advance west, consolidate, and then turn north to Yenan using their dominance of the port and railway network to transport and supply their mechanized forces, and thereby advance at full force on the Communists in two directions. However, Mao and the Red Army high command had anticipated this course of action. And as almost the last act of the Communist government of Chengchow, the CCP breaches the dikes holding back the Yellow River. Swollen with the melted snows of winter, the powerful river plunged southeast, returning to its natural course. The wall of water was like a tidal wave, and swept aside large areas of the vital Lunghai Railway. Within days large areas of Eastern China as far south as the Yangtze were under water. The devastation was horrendous. There was no warning. And for many there was no escape. Over a million Chinese became homeless in this act, and although figures are vague, it’s possible that a million may have died by drowning, disease, and starvation caused by this act of resistance. [1] However, when Mao received news of the results of this, he practically danced with joy. After all, the Japanese main supply dumps, and logistical focus point had been destroyed. The Japanese were stopped. For now.

The destruction of the dykes drove home what a hard fought war this would be, and the Japanese troops in the China were becoming ever more hostile to the surrounding Chinese populations. Most of the troops had already been in country for over a year, and were becoming increasingly frustrated with trying to deal with an illusive foe, and now the main battle, the one they had been preparing for and hoped would end the war and allow them to go home, and been essentially called off on account of water.

The Japanese troops were here to save China from communism, but did the local Chinese appreciate that? No. They were resentful, and the Japanese troops viewed them as dirty, ignorant, and most of all untrustworthy. Every time a Japanese troop looked a Chinese in the eye, he wondered if he was going to get a knife in the back. The Chinese troops who were recruited to fight the Red Army along side Japanese troops, were often dismissed as less than useless by both the High Command and the troops on the ground. They were stereotyped as either lazy cowards who would never stand up in a fight, or shifty eyed turn-coat commies who would switch sides at the first opportunity. Either way, the Japanese did not want them around when it was time for “real fighting.”

Since an invasion of Yenan was most probably logistically impossible in 1941, the Japanese High Command set to work pacifying and tightening control in China. The only question was how to achieve this. The troops kept busy tightening up public security for the most part. Some are talking about how they should just adopt a three-all policy, "burn all, kill all, loot all." Not many are saying that, but those who are saying it, are also beginning to find people to listen.

This debate was probably best illustrated by the fall of General Masaharu Homma [2]. Homma was an amateur play-right as well as being one of the main leaders of the pro-British-American minority in the Army. Unlike many commanders, Homma has forbidden pillage and rape and ordered his troops not to regard the Chinese as enemies but to respect their customs, traditions, and religions. His defense is that he has been scrupulously following the Emperor’s instructions to bring enlightenment to Southeast Asia. At the start of the intervention, this was an unusual, but by no means radical, tactic in the Japanese Army. However, over the previous year the general trend has been to be more and more strict with possibly subversive Chinese populations, which has come to mean be increasingly brutal rule, so as to command respect. Homma’s policy, strange a year ago, now strikes many as not only foolish, but also dangerous and wrong. Indeed, some of Homma’s subordinates, in contact and collaboration with other more harsh Generals, have been forging orders in Homma’s name that countermand his liberal policies. One of these was the execution of prisoners of war. General Homma’s forces had taken far more prisoners of war than any other commander in China. And now it is increasingly viewed as wasteful to even bother to take prisoners. The Empire’s resources were not unlimited, and if Japan was to cleanse China of the communist menace she could not afford to be lenient to her enemies. Therefore, as a highly unofficial policy, prisoners were not to be taken any more. It was not a written order. It was something that every commander just quickly began to “know.” But not General Homma.

Perhaps this could have been allowed to slide, if his forces had been a little slower in taking a small Chinese village. The village was deep in the heart of China, were Japanese troops were a rarity, and where they only quickly forayed before going back to safer ground. But there were reports of a fairly large Communist cell in that village, so the raid went off. Logistics were a joke, the terrain was abominable, air cover was next to none, but General Homma’s troops pulled it off, surrounding the town, and obtaining the surrender of the communist forces after a brief and one-sided fire-fight. [3] The troops, were tying various prisoners up, to march them back to a Japanese base, when one of them who is particularly alert, and paid attention in one too many briefings on the Communists starts too point at one of the soldiers and shouts, “Hey! You’re Deng Xiaoping!”

Deng, who was dressed in normal soldiers attire and who hopped to slip away, at first doesn’t recognize the butchering of his name, but after a moment he realizes that the gig is up and bolts. He makes it about 10 feet before being shot by a Japanese soldier. The wound is bad, and it collapses him in mid stride, but he receives enough medical attention to stop the blood, and if he can get to a hospital then he’ll live.

As the troops are marching out, General Homma gets on the radio and reports the capture of Deng, who is by far the highest ranking communist the Japanese have captured. Within an hour he receives a reply that says simply, “HIS GUILT IS OBVIOUS. DISPOSE OF HIM IMMEDIATELY.”

General Homma is outraged. This is a complete betrayal of bushido, the Emperor, and Japan’s sacred mission in China. He replies that as this is against the code of the Imperial Army, he must have a written order before he will carry it out. The High Command then replies that as he is deep within the heart of China with no other Japanese forces for many miles around, it would be very hard to give him a written order. General Homma does not reply to this. After all, they have only told him something that he already knows.

When he returns to base, he asks for the written orders to execute the prisoner. He is given them. Deng Xiaoping, barely conscious, is tied to a pole, because he is too weak to stand. His bandages burst open as he was forced up, and his barely conscious moans of pain drift through the courtyard, right before a bullet silences them.

But the High Command has seen Homma’s true nature now. The Anti-American, and Anti-British side of the Army is growing stronger and stronger the longer the war drags on, especially now that Hitler has shown his true anti-Communist nature. As a commander in the field, Homma has not been nearly as aggressive towards the natives as many would like, often treating them as potential friends instead of probable enemies. There is talk about simply relieving him of command, [4] but this is impossible for various political reasons. The Pro-Western part of the army may be weak, but it’s not insignificant, and Prime Minister Ishiwara views it as a useful counterbalance to those who would start a war before Japan is ready. In the end, he is transferred to Formosa where he will begin training troops for various types of amphibious invasions. That’s a job that’s important enough to not be too insulting, but not important enough to actually effect anything. After all, Japan already has troops in China and Manchuria, so what possible need would there be for amphibious assaults?

[1] Chiang did this in OTL. I see no reason why Mao wouldn’t have done the same thing. It’s not like he showed a lot of concern over a loss of life in OTL. The description is from Soldiers of the Sun, pg 235 The logistical constraint on taking Yenan would be really hard on the IJA. It’s just too far inland, so even if it hadn’t been for the destruction of the dykes, Japan may not have been able to invade in ’41.

[2] In OTL, Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma. Here, anti-British/anti-US feelings aren’t as bad, so he is a little further up the chain of command.

[3] Lieutenant General Homma was rather good at this sort of thing.

[4] In OTL Homma was one of the major Generals in the invasion of the Philippines where he treated the Philippinos much like I have him treating the Chinese. He ended up getting relieved of command for essentially being too nice to the natives. In this TL the Army is less brutal, but not entirely so. As a result, he still gets kicked out of the action, but not out of the army. Also, in OTL he was executed for war crimes in a trial that many consider to be nothing more than a show trial for MacArthur. Associate Justice Frank Murphy of the US Supreme Court (and Presidential hopeful in Doug Muir’s FDR TL) protested the verdict strenuously saying that Homma’s treatment was shameful to the US. Many think his real crime was beating MacArthur.



Mike Ralls

The Ishiwara Option Part 9: 1941 – The Fall of a Prince

1941 began with Japanese troops fighting an elusive foe in China, and would end the same way. Due to the logistical problems and enemy action, a decisive victory over the Chinese Communists proved impossible in 1941. The sense of frustration at this in Japan’s High Command was palpable. Perhaps it was this frustration that brought about one of Japan’s most bizarre decisions in the 1940’s. Prime Minister Konoye made an announcement shortly after the destruction of the dykes that Japan would henceforth no longer have any communication with the Chinese Communists and that she was simultaneously striving to achieve an acceptable peace with all forces in China. [1] On this same speech he also delivered what was almost a throw away line, but one that would have deep repercussions far into the future. For it was on this occasion that Prime Minister Konoye first announced that Japan was striving to create a “New Order” in East Asia. How this was to come about was left to the imagination of the readers, but the further actions he took indicated that Japan was in for a strenuous fight. The United States reacted with alarm at this phrase. It suggested something more sinister than just destroying communists in China, and that Japan had wider goals in mind and might use the situation in Europe to launch aggressive acts. Combined with reports of atrocities by Japanese troops the US announced that from now on it would be renewing it’s 1911 trade treaty with Japan on a quarterly basis, depended on further Japanese actions. [2]

In the first few months of 1941 there is a flurry of major diplomatic and legislative action. Perhaps the most important though was the passage of the National Mobilization Law. This was a hard fought battle, with many members of the Diet abstaining or voting against it. It was ultimately designed to take away the Diet’s last vestiges of control over war measures and direct every aspect of national life toward an efficient war economy. But under strong pressure of Minister of War Ishiwara, most members of the diet were convinced (or pressured) into agreeing that total mobilization of the nation’s strength was the sole solution to the situation Japan found herself in. [3]

In Manchukuo (Manchuria), Japan’s regime had undergone a rather startling change of heart. Manchukuo was originally founded on the principle of state capitalism, and the zaibatsu had been banned from participation. However, in light of Manchukuo’s economic stagnation, the Army invited a major industrial conglomerate, Nissan, to fund and manage the country’s development. To have a country under the management of a corporation struck many as bizarre and wrong, but surprisingly Nissan quickly showd itself to be more efficient than the army. [4]

In North China, the army was relying on the zaibatsu virtually from the beginning. Under the umbrella of the North China Development Company, various zaibatsus ran factories and mines expropriated by the military. In the Summer of 1941, it seemed as though the “golden opportunity” presented to Japan by Mao was to be realized. The communists military forces in North China had been dispersed and their political power all but eradicated. The destruction of the Communists, combined with the destruction the communists had rained down on the previous rulers, had left a vacuum, a vacuum which the Imperial Army was determined to fill. The North China Area Army described one of it’s most important tasks as to “begin establishing a solid base to serve Japan’s long term interests. [5]

While the war and development in China proceeded, Japan enacted it’s first major diplomatic move of 1941. It was a move that shocked most observers; a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. It was widely believed that Japan was just following Hitler’s lead in this, but there are some other factors involved. Japan was spending far more resources fighting Mao than she had expected to, and the very last thing she needed was to stumble into a war against the Soviet Union. Stalin was anxious to secure his eastern flank, and the treaty was signed with rapid speed.

But the treaty was barely dry when June 22 pulled around, and suddenly the IJA isn’t that happy with the treaty. Foreign Minister Matsuka, who was the most strident pushers for the non-aggression pact, quickly changed his mind and decided that Japan must attack the Soviet Union and do so now. Prime Minister Konoye dissolved the cabinet and reformed it so he replaced Matsuka. [6] Matsuka was the most ardent supporter of the Nazis and with him gone there is a slight but noticeable tilt away from the Axis.

Months passed, and there was some talk about joining the Axis. As one high minister said, “Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union has presented the chance of a lifetime. The Soviet Union is spreading Communism all over the world and we will have to fight her sooner or later. The people are eager to fight her.” To which another minister replied that, “We are currently fighting communism in China. We are doing so at the request of the Chinese government, and as such we have received no serious problems from the United States. I do not think it wise for Japan to resort to direct, unilateral military action and thus be branded an aggressor.” There was also some discussion of giving more funds to the Navy, now that Manchuria was virtually secured, but Ishiwara managed to block this and keep those funds in the army. [7]

The debate over the Soviet Union raged in many forms and many times. Should Japan ally with Hitler? Should Japan invade the Soviet Union? Some said yes, and some said no. The war in China was not over, and both the Prime Minister and Minister of War were strident supporters of the one war policy. Ishiwara often had doubts about even if it was too soon to take on China with the Mao War, but overall he was confident of the future. The War in China, while hard, was judged a success, and Ishiwara’s credi grew throughout all of 1941.

In retrospect what happened should have been obvious. The Strike North faction gained power with every mile that Hitler gained. The closer he came to Moscow, the closer the Konoye cabinet came to breaking up. Many of the high command wanted Japan to do something because of the German-Soviet war, but were unsure of what. Japan’s forces (thanks in a large part to the design of Ishiwara) were designed for war with China. But the opportunities of a strike north were so tempting that many thought this could be overcome.

In the end it was the street fighting in Moscow that did it. [8] The Strike North Faction became so powerful that *something* had to be done, and Prime Minister Konoye was as good a *something* as anything. It was felt that with a more military Prime Minister, some more satisfactory action would come about. Ishiwara’s selection as PM was by no means guaranteed. Others were considered, but his experience as Minister of War, and his acceptability to both the hawks and the dove’s ultimately got him the job. The Hawks knew that Ishiwara really was striving for Japan to conquer the world, and believed they could convince him that the time for that was right now. The doves knew that Ishiwara was patient and wanted to wait and finish the China war before embarking on any more adventures.

Ishiwara actually considered not taking the job. He ended up doing so only after being assured that he could remain as Minister of War as well. [9] He felt that only with these two positions could he guide Japan in the proper course. He faced a more tumultuous situation than any in Japan’s history. And now the power and responsibility was his. He had a dream. He had a plan. It was so beautiful to him. And now it was time to see if he could pull it off.


[1] This happened in OTL too.

[2] In OTL, the US had cut off the treaty (basically most favored nations status) by this time in response to Japan’s action in China. This was a major push in the direction of “Japan most have AUTARCHY!” In this TL Japan is viewed a lot less as a bad guy do to timing and a different enemy. But the US is still very weary of them.

[3] OTL this law was passed March 1938. Now, that is a good 8 months after the start of full scale fighting when there was no end in sight, so I think the beginning of 1941 is when it should happen in this TL.

[4] Impossible? Well, that’s what happened in OTL. Things in Asia were WEIRD then.

[5] North China is a lot more stable than OTL, because Japan has committed way more troops. Remember, in this TL she’s only invading part of China instead of the whole thing. Those areas with good logistics are under decently tight control. This promotes investment and interest more than OTL.

[6] OTL again. Jeeze, am I writing anything?

[7] OTL the navy got more funds after Barbarosa for just this reason. But Ishiwara doesn’t really like the navy. No that’s not true. He HATED the navy, even more so than most soldiers in the Army.

[8] The Soviets can’t move as many troops out of the east, because there is still a real and credible threat of attack. As a result the Germans go further and better than OTL. But not by an insane amount. The Soviets hold most of Moscow, and the street fighting is an absolute meat grinder for the Germans. However, the massive counter-attack of OTL December runs out of steam a lot faster.

[9] Tojo did this in OTL as well.


OK, thoughts?

Also, I’m going to be doing a Who’s-Where type thing. Any suggestions for who should be on it?

The Ishiwara Option Part 10: 1942: Blood on the Snow, Blood on the Sand

Prime Minister of Japan, Ishiwara Kanji, looked at a globe on New Year’s Day, 1942. He had celebrated the night before of course, New Year’s was such a spiritual holiday it had to be respected, but now it was time to go back to work. As he looked at the globe in his mind he saw tanks treading over frozen snow, men fighting in the burned out wreckage of a city, and planes flying high above the sky dropping there deadly cargo. And all to change these little lines on this globe. Japan had desires to change those lines too, but it would not be easy. Ishiwara was aware of limitations, which was more than could be said for some other members of the Army. Japan was by far the strongest country in all of Asia, but there was so much to do. Her resources were limited, and her needs vast. The Communist War was going well, and was surprisingly popular, but it was sucking the country dry. Japan needed to win soon, so it could consolidate it’s gains and move on to greater things. But what those greater things were had yet to be decided.

It would not be his decision alone, of course. The Japanese government did not work that way. He had power, perhaps as much power as any PM in Japan’s history, but decisions were still made by consensus and committee. It was slow. It was arduous. But once that decision was reached, the entire country could re-act with unparalleled unified resolve. As he stared intently at the globe, Ishiwara pondered the fate if Japan made the wrong decision. He believed that Japan had been operating on a razor’s edge since the Meiji Restoration. It had taken much spirit and drive to modernize, but also it had required the right decisions. And now that Japan was just enjoying the fruits of those decisions, if he were to lead his country down the wrong path . . .

Slow. He must move slow. He needed more time. But the extremists were already pushing for conflict, and if he didn’t find something to appease them, than he would be out of office and one of their lackeys would be in. There were half a dozen Generals who he could think of who would kill to get the Prime Ministers job, some of them literally so. It had taken a lot of effort, and luck, that he had managed to get this job. And he had to keep it. If he failed, the results for Japan were too disheartening to contemplate. He then sat down, and finished the broad outline of what he would present to the Cabinet.

A few weeks later the Soviet Ambassador was presented with a list by the Japanese Ambassador. It states that, “In light of recent events it is time to re-think the current state of Soviet-Japanese relations.” After that it got a lot worse. After scanning through the suggestions / demands the Soviet Ambassador is not able to control his emotions (he’s no Molotov) and blurts out, “What have we done to deserve this?” He sighs and then explains that this will have to go to Comrade Stalin and the Politburo. The Japanese Ambassador explains that of course he understands this, but he encourages the reply to come quickly. If it doesn’t, well than Soviet-Japanese relations may undergo a great re-assessment.

When Stalin received the note he was furious. It didn’t require the Soviets to give up Siberia, but that’s about all that can be said for it. It does suggest that the Soviets sell Japan North Sakhalin for a pittance, as well and recognize Japan’s right to all offshore and fishing rights in the Pacific. It doesn’t stop there, but also goes on to state that any Soviet Support of revolutionaries in Japan’s sphere of influence will be considered a most unfriendly act, and goes on to list a number of individuals in the Soviet Union who Japan would like to have extradited. A number of other small economic concessions are also suggested, which are obviously a way for these Japanese capitalistic running dogs to get there feet into the Soviet Union.

The conference on which this proposal was discussed was not a fun one. One member asked if Japan would really dare start a two front war. Stalin’s icy stare sent shivers down that members spine when he told him to, “Ask the Hitlerites about that.” Nobody liked the thought of the Glorious Soviet Union caving in to blackmail. But the situation was so pre-carious. Fighting was still going on in the outskirts of Moscow. If the troops in the Far East had to actively fight the Japanese instead of just deterring them, the results could be disastrous. In the end, it comes down to one man, and Joseph Stalin won’t risk a two front war. The Japanese will have there pound of flesh, for now.

When news of the acceptance of the treaty reached the Japanese cabinet it went ecstatic. Some actually wished for a rejection, so as to provoke a crisis, but most were overjoyed that Japan had gotten all she wanted. A number of people remembered that Japan came dangerously close to disaster in the Russo-Japanese war, and were glad to have avoided having to throw the dice a second time. But many of the younger members regarded the Russo-Japanese war as a near inevitable march to victory, and didn't see the Soviet Union as that tough. But the concessions had convinced them to wait, for now.

In the coming months momentous events were reported in Japan about the war in Europe. After much hard and bitter fighting, the Germans are finally pushed out of Moscow in February. Not only that, but soon, the last of the German forces are kicked out of North Africa. [1] Through diplomatic channels the Japanese learned that the Germans begged the French to join in to prevent the loss, but the French government in Vichy adamantly stressed that they were neutral. Friendly to the Reich of course, but neutral in the war. According to reports Hitler was not pleased with this, and made a number of vague threats, but so far Vichy France was still in existence, although under heavier pressure from Germany than before. Something interesting was going to happen their and it needed to be watched closer. Ishiwara considered the possibilities, especially in regards to French colonies in Asia beginning with “I” and ending with “ndochina.”

This was the first major set-back that Germanys forces had received, and it caused a number of the pro-German Japanese to sit and pause for a bit. Of course Germany would still win, but perhaps Ishiwara’s “wait and see” policy wasn’t that bad after all. Some of his more vocal supporters went so far as to call him the next Ieyasu Tokugawa, one of the three unifiers of Japan. The contrasting personalities of these three great old leaders was summed up in a series of quotes on how to get a bird to sing:

"If a bird will not sing, I will kill it."

--Oda Nobunaga

"If a bird will not sing, I will make it want to sing."

--Toyotomi Hideyoshi

"If a bird will not sing, I will wait for it to sing."

--Tokugawa Ieyasu

Many wonder just when the bird will sing.

[1] No Pacific War in 1941, has a HUGE impact on the North African campaign. Rommel was pushed back from Tobruk in November 1941; but before their was a chance to consolidate the victory, the War in Asia sucked up all the available resources. I think without them they would have taken Tripoli by around March of 1942.



Mike Ralls

Pax Nihonia Current

The Ishiwara Option 1942 Part 11: In the Balance

12 Short Bio’s to explain the year 1942.

RICHARD SORGE is numb. He is being led down a long dark hallway. He knows where he is headed. His Japanese guards hold tightly to his arms and the chains bite into his skin. He can see the chair at the far end of the tunnel. That’s the worst part. To see the inevitability ahead of you, and know that there is nothing you could do to stop it. His conscious mind knows that he has no chance, but with the adrenaline pumping though his body, he gives it one last chance. He jerks, he pulls, he strives, and he does the dead mans dance. It’s a pitiful site, made worse by the heavy blow he receives to the head from his Japanese guard. He is dazed and groggy as he is strapped in the chair. He strives to regain consciousness in these his last few minutes. Earlier a Japanese guard had bragged about how the Soviet Union had cravenly given into Japan’s demands. Perhaps the guard meant to demoralize him, but inwardly Richard Sorge smiled. For it had been his recommendation that the USSR give in to these demands. It had been his reports that stressed the divided nature of the Japanese cabinet. It had been his reports that had shown the amount of troops Japan could have put into Siberia. He is convinced that it had been his reports that convinced Moscow to give in. He thinks this was a good thing. The Soviet Union needs time to turn back the Hitlerite aggression, and fighting Japan now could only be disastrous. He hopes it will be enough. As he hears footsteps behind him, Richard Sorge thinks of the life he has lived. He thinks of the good he has done for the Revolution. He thinks of the cause he has served. He thinks of the women he has loved, the places he has seen, and all that things he wishes he could still do. But in the end, the last thing to go through Richard Sorge’s mind is a bullet.

AKIRA KUROSAWA is very excited as he travels with the Imperial Japanese Army. His first two movie have received some good reviews, but they were also viewed as not quite patriotic enough. That wouldn’t have usually been that big of a problem, but since the national emergency of the Mao War the climate had gotten a lot colder. It was suggested, strongly suggested in fact, that he should take some time off from fictional movies and make a documentary or two about our brave boys in action. So here he was, in the heart of China with his camera crew in tow and surrounded by veteran troops. He had got some incredible interviews from them, and just hoped he could use some of the footage, but now it was time for the money shots. There was supposed to be a large contingent of the Communists in this village, and he was anxious to see how the army handled this. He had managed to get some good shots of a stand-up battle between Chinese Communists and Japanese forces, which was rare enough these days, but he hadn’t seen any anti-partisan efforts yet. Now it is time. He films the troops deploying before hand. He films them surrounding the village. He films the artillery firing into the most heavily populated part of the village. He films the soldiers running in and shooting anyone not cowering indoors. He films the soldiers storming random houses and marching out whoever is inside. He films the soldiers beating and torturing Chinese for information. He films the soldiers using Chinese for bayonet practice. He even films one or two soldiers rapping women in the open. And finally, he films the soldiers setting fire to the village, the crops, and in some cases to live people. When it is all over, a Captain comes over to him, and asks him if he got any good shots. Kurisawa says, “Yes. I have many good shots. But . . . I think they will require a lot of editing.”

CHAIRMAN MAO is determined. He finishes putting the final touches on his disguise. It’s not perfect but it will have to do. Hennan has fallen. The Japanese wolves had spent the winter well, building up supplies and transportation, and when the Spring came they fell on the last stronghold of Chinese Communism like demons of the night. He thinks of the reports he received and sighs with anger and frustration. He vows that The Rape of Hennan will forever be remembered in Chinese history. Not Communist History though. That bastard Stalin would see to that. He had made his deal, and washed his hands of his fellow revolutionaries. Mao had briefly considered fleeing to the Soviet Union, but with the reports of Stalin’s betrayal fresh in his mind, that is not going to happen. Mao had lived as a guerilla without a secure base before. He will do so again. He will go west. There, he will try to carry on the struggle as best he can. But the reach of the Japanese and their Chinese lackeys is far indeed. Even in the wilderness and desert, news of his defeat would spread. Who would welcome him? Two years ago he was on his way to unifying all of China under his benevolent leadership, and now he could look forward to nothing more than living like a bandit again. A lesser man might have wept at the thought, but Mao’s mind is cool and hard. He will survive. He will struggle. And he will never give up. If it means living in the desert, or the wilderness, or even a foreign country, then he will do it to keep the dream of a New China alive. He wonders if he can perhaps get sanctuary in Tibet . . .

GEORGE MACDONALD FRASER is exhausted. Training in the British Army is incredibly hard work. And after all that effort, here he is in North Africa staring across the sea of sand at a bunch of Frogs. GMF doesn’t like the Frogs very much. He thinks they let us down in both 1914 and 1940, and that Winny should just get off his doff and take care of them, at least here in North Africa. It’s not like Britain could do much else right now. The Soviets were screaming for Britain to do _something_, but once the Nazis and Italians left North Africa, there just wasn’t much _too_ do. An invasion of Europe was out until the Yanks got in, which given what was in the papers seams closer and closer every day. Until then, Britain’s Navy might be busy, but the Army had to sit tight for the moment. Odd that war was so boring. Perhaps he could try his hand at writing during the down time?

ADMIRAL PIERRE DARLAN of Algiers is nervous. He does not like having the British so close. His position is . . . delicate to say the least. When the British threw out the Axis forces in North Africa it seamed as if the boot would come down and Hitler would just occupy al of France. Thankfully that has not happened, but from what he’d heard it was closer than he’d like. If it did happen, what was he to do? And even if Hitler didn’t end Vichy, then what was he still to do? The British could come in from the west _and_ east, and the Germans couldn’t do a thing to stop them. The only thing that was preventing the British from taking all of North Africa was Vichy’s neutrality, and the UK’s respect of that. And considering that the UK had already bombed France’s ships, Admiral Darlan was not putting too much faith in that. What to do, what to do?

ERIC BLAIR is angry. His latest piece, Animal Farm, was rejected from publication because it played the glorious allies of the Soviet Union in a less than glorious light. A few years ago those bureaucrats wouldn’t have been able to tell him what he could and could not publish, but now they could. Everything seems to be going downhill. The world that he knew, the world that he dreamed of making seams to be being washed away in a hail of bombs. Soon London might be nothing but bombed out buildings filled with beaten down abject people. And it wasn’t any better anyplace else in the world. The Nazis and the Communists ruled Europe, and neither one was high in his worldview. And now he just read how Japan seamed likely to be master of all of Asia, now that Britain had practically abandoned it to Japan’s tender mercies. The world seemed to be dividing up into three areas . . . three areas which would always be fighting each other . . . hmmm . . . this was giving him an idea.

COLONIAL Administrator X is aghast. Word has just reached him that the Japanese are to be granted port facilities and “special rights” in Indochina. X is shocked. To let Asians into a position of such high authority can do nothing but undermine France’s position in Indochina. From a close reading of the treaty it would not be far off to say that without a shot being fired Japan has been given virtual codominon of Indochina. Granted, France was not at it’s height right now, and apparently Hitler had pressured Vichy to grant these concessions in order to sweeten up the Japanese, but France had to be strong. Still, X does have a career to think about. Orders are orders, and he has no choice but to help carry them out. He does have a pension to think about after all.

ADMIRAL DOENITZ is not happy. The Battle of the Atlantic has been a seesaw for a while now. Things have been getting better ever since mid March, about the same time when they got the new TRITON system. But this damn leash they are on keeps him from fully fighting the British. He has begged and begged the Fuhrer for a shot at the Western Atlantic, and has been rejected. Hitler is worried about the Americans, but as the Russian campaign has dragged on he has grown more and more irritated at them, chiefly because of all the lend lease they are giving the Soviets. Doenitz wants to move to stop all this “lend-lease” buisness so he is very happy when the great news arrives today. He reads the declaration with a smile on his face. It says that the German “blockade zone” will henceforth be extend all they way to Newfoundland and that any ships that are counter-productive to the Reich (it doesn’t say US ships, but that’s what it means) are henceforth fair game. This is great news, and will really help his job. Perhaps he can convince the Fuhrer to let him attack British-flag ships around Trinidad, so as to cut off the oil supplies that come from there. That would be even better.

The President of [X Japanese company] is very happy. The Imperial Japanese Army’s campaign against China is now basically over (after all, with the fall of Hennan how long could the Army stay in China?), and that means that (hopefully) soon the war taxes would go down as well. The loss of Army contracts would be troubling, but looking at these figures he is starting to make an interesting discovery. More and more of his non-military products are going to America and Britain. From the news he’s read in the paper, Britain was already in full out war production mode, and America was devoting more and more of its industry to War as well. But many consumers in America and Britain still had enough money to buy products, and it appeares as if his company was beginning to fill that void. He sees a very interesting trend that could provide a lot of opportunities, not only for his company, but for all the zaibatsus. He gets his secretary to make some phone calls. This will take time, but if he can pull it off . . .

HANS VON LUCK is very cold outside of Stalingrad. For the tenth time today he thanks himself that he is not cold _inside_ of Stalingrad. Hardly any Germans were of course. The nasty street fighting of Moscow last year seems to have made the Fuhrer’s a bit weary of ordering his troops to stick there dicks in a meat grinder. Hans Von Luck remembered that bloody campaign, and was glad he would not have to repeat it hear in this Stalingrad place. The Whermacht was trying to surround it, but he had just received word that the Soviets were apparently trying to envelop the German Army. That got his attention. The thought of being encircled by the Soviets was . . . surprising to say the least. He is shocked that they’d try to pull of anything that daring. He tells his crew that they are heading North to stop the Soviets, and as he later wrote, “When that hour arrived, I briefly turned west and looked in the direction where I thought my home was. Would I ever see it again? Would I see my family? Would I see my friends? Would I return a cripple or not return at all? I didn't know. I did know I had a duty to do, so after that brief glance I looked east. The past was behind me. The future was in front. The present was a gas key that I turned. I would like to say my Panzer roared to life and I headed off into the future. I would like to say that, but I can't, because while it would sound better it is not the truth. My engine did not roar to life. It coughed, sputtered, and then died. My crewmate Christopher looked at me aghast. While it was not unusual for tanks to have technical problems, it was unusual for the commander to watch as his men surged ahead of him. Suddenly I had a bad feeling about the coming campaign.”

MAHATMA GANDHI is peaceful. It is not always easy to lead a great campaign from jail, but he seems to be doing so rather well. The Civil Disobedience is continuing, and is hopefully hurting the British from using India for there stupid war. Why should India have to fight and pay for it? It wasn’t as if India was in any danger of invasion after all.

SENATOR ROBERT TAFT is near to the point of collapse. He has been speaking for hours and hours, trying desperately to delay this vote. It passed the house, and now the only way to stop it was here in the senate. How could it have come to this? Sure, he’d seen the number of people who favored declaring war on Germany increase steadily for the last year, but to vote on it? Again? 1917 all over again? The submarines attacks on American ships were bad, but no one seemed to mention that American ships were firing on German subs. That the US Navy had no business being a carrier to Britain. But Robert Taft is mentioning it. He’s mentioning it many many times, as well as every argument he can think of to keep the US out of this war. The blood it will spill, the treasure it will cost, the dream of an isolated America that it will kill, all gone so we could get into another mess. In the end, it does pass. Closer than FDR would have liked, but it does pass. The United States of America, has just declared war on Germany by the slightest margin it has ever declared war on anyone. Robert Taft weeps. He has failed. The US has thrown it’s lot into the balance of the war. Now it was time to see where the scale would fall.

1. I actually hoped Richard Sorge would live throughout the Ishiwara Option TL, but looking at his record I determined (read, guessed) that he had about a one in six chance of being caught every year he operated from 1942 on, due to butterflies and the nature of his work. So I rolled a dice, each roll being a year, and if it can up a six, than that was the year he got caught. It came up a six on the first role. Poor Sorge.

The Ishiwara Option: 1943 Decisions, Decisions . . .

POD and Brief Recap.

1936: Chaing-Kai Shek, the head of the Kuomintang (Nationalists) is killed when he is kidnapped, and China falls into another period of warlordism. OTL, he was not killed and was convinced to form a semi-united front with the communists against the Japanese.

1937: China falls deeper into civil war. Japan watches with interest, and helps out warlords sympathetic to Japanese interests. [In OTL, Japan invaded China this year.]

1938: Ishiwara Kanji, the leader of the take over of Manchuria and one smart cookie, makes a name for himself by promoting Japanese interests in China and helping Prime Minister Konoye keep the army from full out invasion. A border skirmish in Mongolia makes the IJA look bad after the Soviets annihilated the Japanese forces.

1939: Germany invades Poland. Without the pressure of the China War, Japan is more calm than OTL’s and not as close to Hitler. The Nazi-Soviet Pact is vilified in Japan, where the growing threat of Mao’s Chinese Communists, and the Soviet Union is considered the gravest danger to Japan’s security.

1940: After Hitler conquers the West, Japan gets a number of concessions from Great Britain and the European Governments-in-exile. Mao is about to triumph in North China and take Nanking (A.K.A. Beijing) when Wang Ching-wei, the top dog of northern Chinese warlords and a guy who is pro-Japan request Japanese assistance. Japan sends in troops and fights the Chinese communists. Kanji Ishiwara becomes Minister of War. Relations with Soviet Union worsen, and Japan asks Hitler for help, but is turned down due to Hitler wanting to keep the Nazi-Soviet pact in operation for at least one more year.

1941: Japan consolidates its victories against Chinese Communists. Unable to reach Yenan due to logistical constraints. Japanese-Soviet Non-aggression pact. Hitler invades Soviet Union. Japan racked by internal indecision about what to do now. Kanji Ishiwara becomes Prime Minister. Battle of Moscow more of a draw than in OTL, due to Soviet troops remaining to deter Japanese aggression in Siberia.

1942: Japan wrings concessions from Soviets in return for Japanese neutrality. British victory in North Africa. Vichy France and Algeria remain neutral, barely. Japan destroys last major Chinese Communists organization in Yenan. Mao flees. German U-boat campaign against Britain increased, even though it means further alienating the US. Hitler goes after Stalingrad, but avoids street fighting due to bad experience in Moscow. Japan given major concessions in Indochina (almost co-dominion, but not quite) from the Vichy government. The US has slowly become more and more interventionists, and FDR decides the time is right as asks Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. The vote is close but passes.

Now, I’ve been spending a lot of this ATL in Asia, but a lot of interesting things are happening in Europe at this point, so let’s swing on over to the lands of the smelly barbarians and check out what is happening in 1943 . . .

The Ishiwara Option Part 12: The War in Europe

It was in 1943 that the war began to go against the Axis powers in Europe. There was the British Victory in North Africa in ’42, of course, but that wasn’t technically in Europe (and was regarded as something of a sideshow by the Germans anyway). But for the second time, the Soviets had fought the Germans to a draw in their heartland. Indeed, by some standards it could even be considered an outright Soviet victory. In February, Kursk hasn’t fallen, but it was at least under heavy Soviet threat. [In OTL, Kursk was taken on Feb. 8, 1943 and a salient was formed in Russian front. Here, the Soviets have not been doing *quite* as well, due to the greater destruction wrought on Moscow and the Japanese threat.] Adolph Hitler viewed the Soviet Front as the be-all-end-all of his war. That he had fought two draws in winter was very disquieting to him. He was even considering switching Germany over to a complete and total war economy. Speer kept pestering him that it was necessary, but he was reluctant. Hitler was deeply worried about pushing his people to make too many sacrifices. And would he really need to? After all, the Soviets had only won in winter, and surely when the weather turned warm the Reich would be victorious? Speer of course agreed that was probable, but what about the Americans? Hitler was mildly worried about the Americans and British, but was confident that once the Soviets had been knocked out, they would pose no threat.

In the beginning of 1943, the U-boat campaign went well, but not great. The US Navy was transferring ships from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and was learning more and more about sub defenses. It began convoying and using blackouts along the East coast in early March. [May 1942, OTL. I figure a longer period of pre-war will help the US re-act faster when it’s actually *at* war. Also, without a Pacific War more naval energy and brainpower is spent on the Atlantic.] But slowly over the year, the U-boats face more and more US and UK Ships, and more and more convoys, more and more airplanes, and more and more depth charges. In September alone [May, 1943 OTL], Donitz lost forty-three subs. This was an utter disaster, as it was twice the replacement rate. For the U-boats it was all downhill from there. The U-boats also further estrange Germany from the world by their actions. Most of South America declared war on Germany after suffering from sub attacks during the year. South America doesn’t contribute much, but every little bit helps. By the end the year, it was the U-boats that are being hunted.

The US was happy enough with the victory over the U-boats, but it was a slow gradual campaign that merely resulted in the Allies not loosing, not something that would directly roll back the Axis menace. FDR was quite aware of that. He was determined that US forces must face off against the Axis sometime in 1943. During the Washington Conference [roughly equivalent to the Casablanca conference of OTL, only not there due to obvious reasons], he had made a promise that the US would open up a second front this year. Just what “second front” meant was left vague of course. Some considered that the bombing offensive constituted a second front of it’s own. Stalin had made it clear that he did not consider the mere flying of airplanes to be a “front.” He wanted the US and Britain to actually face and kill German troops, and to do so yesterday. The issue of invading Vichy North Africa was brought up again, but the US had made a non-interference agreement with Vichy North Africa. It felt that since North Africa had been quite for a while, that they did not intend to waste resources that could be spent on an invasion of something more important.. [In OTL the US made a non-interference agreement with Vichy Martinique for much the same reasons.] The US just didn’t see much of a point in doing it, other than to help out DeGaulle, a man Roosevelt didn’t particularly care for. France, itself was another matter. The US DID intend to invade France, but after an examination it proved to be impossible for this year. The question of an invasion next year was raised, and immediately put off. The US had only been at war for a mere matter of months at this time, and while it was building up it’s military fast, it would take time. [As a rough rule of thumb, consider this US to be 6 – 8 months behind OTL’s US’s military strength, with the variable of no Pacific War thrown in.] Even invading Italy is outside of the western allies abilities this year. However, before he was promoted out of the War Plans Division, Eisenhower had shown how if the US and UK pooled their men and equipment, and pulled out a few troops from the Pacific, they would be able to invade Sicily. It’s close enough to a second front for FDR, and the decision was made to go ahead.

Meanwhile, the bombing offensive against Germany began to pick up as well. It was as good a way as any to hit the Germans, and popular at home too. It was during this year that the first 1000 airplane raid took place, and German cities began to take a real pounding. Often that was accidental, because outright targeting of cities, instead of production, wasn’t quite official policy. Yet. A number of important dams, electricity plants, and factories, were hit this year. However, they weren’t nearly as hurt as the allies thought they were.

Diplomatically speaking, 1943 was a busy year. In addition to numerous other events, it saw the Cripps-Johnson mission to India. [March 1942, OTL. Less interest in Asia, and no threat of Japanese Invasion makes it a lower priority] The US, reluctantly for FDR was against colonialism, does not support the “Quit India” campaign. The British make the argument that the resulting chaos from them leaving India would only invite in the Japanese. They had only to point at the growing Japanese power in China for proof of this. The Japanese were also increasing their influence in Thailand, which borders India. [Burma was part of India at this time, as was Pakistan and Bangladesh.] This is very troubling for those members of the Indian Army, regardless of whether they support independence or not. No one in India relishes the prospect of exchanging British masters for Japanese ones. It’s also pointed out how Japanese good are becoming more prevalent in India, thanks to the trade treaty Japan signed with Britain in 1940. And as everyone knows, trading is how the British got their foot in India’s door. But Gandhi explains how even if the Japanese do try to take over India, he would then just lead a non-violence campaign against them. It was pointed out that the Japanese might kill millions of Indians anyway, but Gandhi is confident he could achieve victory anyway. But it’s all just speculative at this point. India is troubled, but certainly not in open revolt or anything. It’s a net benefit to the British War effort, and Indian troops and Indian goods are being sent to Europe to fight the fascists. The British even let Gandhi out of prison for a bit, but he of course insured that he was sent back in very quickly.

There was also brief dust up when DeGaulle Free-French forces invaded Madagascar in May, but Vichy Madagascar did not put up much of a fight and it was over quickly. The main effect was to increase DeGaulle image as the premier Free-French leader who was actually _doing_ something. The US didn’t much care for that, but Madagascar was not that important and after a one day of headlines most people forgot about it. Except for the Japanese, who seamed very interested in it and asked a lot of questions. [OTL, Madagascar was invaded by the British in May of 1942, mainly out of fear of Japan. Here, that doesn’t apply so it’s just allowed to sit there for another year]

The Soviet Front was undergoing a great flux this year. It saw the Germans go on the defensive for the first time during the summer season. Hitler launched a major offensive aimed towards Moscow, and not only was it stopped, but it was pushed back as well. In the southern area, the Soviets also captured Kursk and began driving west. They are a long way from Berlin though, and it is a slow mauling struggle as they advance for the rest of the year. Lend-Lease begins to make an even bigger effect this year than last. [The Soviets received more Lend-Lease in 1942 than in OTL, because the US didn’t have to build up it’s own armed forces as much.] It leveled off as the US had to devote more goods to it’s own Army, but after that it began increasing very rapidly. One major problem is that a lot of it is shipped from Vladivostock. That’s an awfully long way from the front, but every little bit helps. Stalin was nervous about the Japanese, but by the end of the year he becomes more complacent. The reports he has received about the Japanese army all point to it not being capable of inflicting serious losses on the Red Army. It is designed to fight in China and SE Asia, and by all accounts Prime Minister Ishiwara Kanji intends to keep it that way. By the end of the year, he begins shifting more and more of his troops west to face the Germans. But not all, of course. Stalin will keep a close watch on Japan. He is determined to not be caught surprised again.

Hitler reacts badly to the defeat of his second Moscow Campaign [The Germans held onto Kursk this winter, so Hitler decides on a different strategic objective and Moscow was the obvious choice.]. It didn’t even come close to Moscow, and has since been steadily pushed back, not just in the north, but in the south as well. When Kursk falls he is heartbroken. He had swore that he would never let Kursk fall, and he has. It was now time to get serious. After a typical session of ranting and raving at other people’s incompetence he tells Speer that it is now time to put the German Economy on a total war footing. Speer actually thinks the time was about six months or a year ago, but of course doesn’t mention this. Goebells gives a rousing speech to the people of Berlin, and asks them, “Do you want TOTAL WAR?” The answer he receives is, “Yes.” [The decision to put the German economy on a Total War footing was delayed about seven or eight months in this TL. I think this is realistic with the less dramatic defeat of the Stalingrad campaign, combined with the late entry of the US into the war. There was also the psychological effect of having the victories of Torch, El Alamein, and Stalingrad all happen within weeks of each other. Hitler was very reluctant to push his people too hard. The loss of North Africa in 1942 is received badly in Berlin, but since then the British really haven’t been able to do anything, so it faded from memory fast.] Hitler begins to put out more diplomatic feelers to the Japanese. Relations with Japan are good, but it’s not like they are a member of the Axis or anything. They could have been if the timing had been a little better, but one thing after another seemed to prevent it. Hitler worries about if it was to late now.

The US was worried about Japan in 1943 as well. The Philippines were scheduled for independence next year, and MacArthur was busy helping build up the Filipino Army, as well as prepare his own troops in the Philippines. He bitches every time some of them get pulled out for Europe, but what he bitches even more about is that he hasn’t been given a command in Europe, which is where all the glory will be. FDR, on the other hand, likes MacArthur out of the spot light just fine. But a number of Republicans are wondering why we aren’t allowing this glorious fighter of democracy to be fully utilized, so FDR knows that he could not keep Mac in the Philippines for ever. However, FDR doesn’t consider the Philippines a complete side show. He _is_ worried that Japan will do something in the Pacific, and wants the US to be ready. FDR largely blames the Japanese for the collapse of KMT China, and thinks that their war against the Communists was conducted abominably. He fears a strong Japan, and wants to do what he can to keep her weak. The near-take over of Indochina, as well as all the troops that have not yet left China, just confirmed his fears that Japan would expand anywhere she could. But what to do about it? After the Japanese pressured Vichy to give them extra rights in Indochina, FDR canceled the Japanese-American Trade Treaty of 1911, and he’s just not sure if he should do much more. [July 1939, OTL. This was the first major US move against Japan, and it was taken only after two years of nasty barbaric mass slaughter in China. I think it’s reasonable that the worry over Japan’s growing position in Asia would produce something similar, but it couldn’t go TOO far. The Japanese haven’t been nice in this TL, but the nature of their actions is a lot harder to register outright disgust than in OTL.] The expansion in Indochina was nothing more than outright opportunism to expand whenever you could. It was also a dagger pointed at the Dutch East Indies. But he has also made it clear to the Japanese that the US was now committed to defending it’s allies territory, including their colonies in the Pacific. The Dutch and British colonies should therefore be safe, and their just wasn’t much more for Japan to take. He had a war in Europe to fight, and while he’d keep an eye on Japan, his first priority had to be Europe. Hmm . . . here was something interesting. It seems that Japans oil importation has rapidly decreased since the US went to war against Germany. There wasn’t an embargo or anything, but the US and it’s allies were just using so much of the available production that there just wasn’t as much left over for Japan than there was before the US joined the war. FDR wondered what the Japanese would make of that?

But while diplomatic intrigue is important to the US, far more important is the actual conduct of the war. After all, the point of wars wasn’t to increase your strategic position, it was to win them and then go home. So besides building up the Air Armada, most British and American efforts in 1943 goes into planning and preparing for the invasion of Sicily. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and the war against the U-boats doesn’t help, but by October every thing is set up. [July OTL.]

The American forces, under command of a newly promoted Eisenhower are smaller than there British counterparts, but anxious for their first taste of war in Europe. The US forces have gotten tired of hearing about what the British did a year ago, and are anxious to prove themselves. [The British play a larger role in OTL because they haven’t been doing much since they won North Africa in mid-1942, so rather than continuous fighting campaigns they have been building and expanding their forces for when a campaign does start, as well as forces that were captured in Asia in OTL.]

The British Commander of 8th Army W.H.E. Gott, gets along fine with Ike. They develop a good repartee and grow to genuinely like each other. W.H.E. Gott is a little egotistically about his victory in North Africa, but nothing that can’t be overcome with a beer or two. [W.H.E. Gott was Churchill’s first choice, not Bernard Montgomery. But Gott died in a plane crash, so Monty got the spot. His death was a fluke, so it doesn’t happen in this TL.]

The Invasion of Sicily begins on October 31st, which leads to many troops making jokes to the Sicilians about wanting a “Trick or Treat,” but most of the Sicilians don’t understand because there is no Halloween in Sicily. For their first time at serious battle in WWII, the US Army doesn’t do too badly, but it doesn’t do too good either. A number of US Generals make a number of really stupid decisions, so in some ways the Sicilian campaign comes to be a learning experience for the Americans. The British do better, and there are a number of smug remarks in Sicilian bars that lead to brawls over this, but by and large the two armies begin to learn to work together more effectively. Most significantly, the lack of any grand strategy was shown to be very detrimental to the war effort and would have to be fixed in the future. Overall though, the invasion of Sicily was a resounding success, with over 100,000 Axis troops captured. [In OTL the campaign took 38 days. The Brits do better in this TL, and the US does worse. I’m of the opinion that Monty was too slow and his replacement does better here, although he’s no Slim. Overall it takes longer due to other factors as well. IE, in OTL the Allies got lucky and just happened to bomb the GHQ, so the Axis troops didn’t receive any orders for 24 hours until things were sorted out. Not so in this TL.]

The OSS receives word of opportunity in Italy soon after the invasion of Sicily. Mussolini took a hit with the loss of North Africa, and the bombing of Rome in August certainly hurt him, but the invasion of Sicily is an utter disaster. The OSS receives a number of reports about Mussolini’s possible overthrow, and by all accounts it appears as if he came really close, but in the end he manages to hang on to power, even if it’s just by his fingernails. [OTL Mussolini fell on July 26th. This was in a large part due to the invasion of Sicily, but the bombing of Rome in July at the same time also helped things a lot. Here, he had time to recover from the bombing of Rome before he had to face the aftermath of the Sicily invasion. But I still wasn’t sure if this would be enough, so I flipped a coin. Heads he’d fall anyways, tails he’d hang on. It was tails.]

Hitler’s reaction to the invasion of Sicily is a mixture of panic, fury, and cold blooded strategic analysis. He is livid that the Western Allies have begun attacking his Fortress Europa, he is furious at his generals, and he is scarred of what they will do next. More detailed reports than the OSS got tell him just how close Mussolini was to falling. Hitler can not allow this to happen, and together with Mussolini he takes steps to insure that it won’t. He is also very afraid of his strategic underbelly. It’s wide open, and with the Mediterranean quickly becoming an Allied lake, he has an awful lot of belly to watch out for. The most vulnerable, and important spot is France of course. On December 15th, when the Sicilian campaign was obviously over and his biggest concern was seeing as many of his troops escape as possible, he put the foot down on Vichy France. He’d been considering doing it for a while, but now it’s mere existence was just too much of a risk. Besides, with it completely under his control he’d better able to yoke it to the German war effort.

The reaction to this in North Africa is intense. Vichy was their one last remaining reason to not join the Free French. It may have been fascist, and under German influence, but they could at least pretend to themselves that it was the legitimate independent government of France. Now even that line of thought to them is closed. It’s obvious the take over was intended to remove whatever last bit of independence France had. This, combined with growing Allied superiority in the Mediterranean and the invasion of Sicily, convinces many that it would be best to side with the Allies. Many, but not all. A number of Frenchman in North Africa do not think it is in their interest to “flip,” and fear what would happen if they did. Within a week of the end of the Sicilian campaign, a state of flux and deals has broken out in French North Africa. It’s going to be an interesting Christmas, in the Chinese sense of the word, in North Africa this year.

Cordell Hull is pondering how the US should respond to these events in North Africa. The problem is that most of the US’s and UK’s available troops were in Sicily. They could probably be shipped to North Africa now, but it wouldn’t be easy. It’s going to take a lot of footwork to work this out. He just finishes talking with a representative of a Free-French faction the US likes more than DeGaulle’s when the Japanese ambassador requests an urgent meeting. The ambassador is quickly shown in, and after a brief speech he hands Cordell Hull a note. Hull reads the note, thinks about what the ambassador has said, then reads the note again, and then he looks back up at the ambassador. He licks his lips, rubs his temple and says, “Are you serious? [pause] Why on earth did you not tell me earlier, or at least give us some warning? This is like a bolt out of the blue. I am honestly and truly shocked that you have done this.” He looks at the note one final time. “Jesus,” he thinks. “Just what the hell was the US supposed to do now?”

And . . . that’s a good a cliff-hanger as any so I’m going to stop here.


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