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EXECUTE AGAINST JAPAN, a Book Well Worth Reading

By Bruce Rule - Feb 20, 2014

This book draws its title from a message sent by ADM Harold Stark, the CNO, to every commander with forces in the Pacific Ocean at 1222 Hawaii time (HT) on 7 Dec 1941 in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which began at 0755 HT.

That message read: (quote) Execute against Japan unrestricted air and submarine warfare...(end quote). The CNO's message was proceeded by three hours by messages sent by ADM Thomas Hart (on his own initiative) at 0915 and 0929 HT to the US Asiatic Fleet that directed unrestricted submarine warfare.

This book, written by LT Joel ira Howlitt, then (2009) serving aboard the USS HOUSTON (SSN 713) – and who holds a PhD in history from Ohio State – recounts the historical background for the decision to conduct unrestricted submarine warfare against Japan.

In fact, Japan already had initiated such a campaign when the submarine I-26 attacked and sank (by gunfire) the American merchant ship, the SS Cynthia Olson, 300 nm off the California coast at 0808 HT, only 13 minutes after the attack on Pearl Harbor began.

The submarine campaign against Japan was enormously successful but at the loss of 52 submarines and 3,500 men, 22-percent of the total force of 16,000 men who sent to sea to support that effort, the highest casualty rate of any US service component.

US submarines sank 55 percent of all Japanese ships sunk during the war.

Howlitt states (on page 167) that “The submarine blockade against Japan was so successful that the submarine historian Clay Blair has claimed: 'Many experts concluded that the invasion of the Palaus, the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and the fire bombs and atomic bombs on Japanese cities were unnecessary.' ”