Coordination Between Germany and Japan in WWII?

I was watching the History Channel the other day and there was a program that talked about the well documented coordination between Germany and Italy during at least the early phases of WWII in places such as Greece.

Given that both Germany and Japan were facing off against the US at about the same time was there any tactical coordination between the two armies? I know that technology was traded (mostly from Germany TO Japan I believe) but was there any coordinated attacks involving both countries?

My guess is that the two theaters were too distant to allow any real coordination… but I really have no idea.

Well, I think I answered by own question. I found some info using Google that said that Japanese and German subs coordinated their efforts in the Indian Ocean, paritculary in their effort to control Madagascar.

Do you have a link? I’d be interested.

Also, I’m curious about the larger topic as well, does anyone have anything to add?

Germany and Japan were fighting two different wars, linked through political expedience more than ideological assonance.

Germany wanted, in the short term, to take advantage of the dissolution of Europe during the Great Depression to expand its Lebensraum into most of Europe and Western Asia, destroy the untermensch in the region (the Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, et al.), and establish an empire that would grow into the Third Reich.

Japan wanted to take advantage of the general chaos following the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in China to capture Korea, Manchuria, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific and establish a Japanese Empire that would also, not incidentally, rid the world of most of its non-Japanese Asians.

So, they were both imperialist land-grabs with racial overtones perpetrated on exhausted neighbors. They weren’t masterminded by some single cabal, however. They simply took advantage of existing conditions, which were pretty shitty all over. In a somewhat larger historical sense, they both rounded out the respective hemoclysms of the two regions. (Europe’s began with the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, Asia’s began with the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.)

The only country to my knowledge that participated meaningfully in both wars was the USA, which is why most Americans think of the Pacific War and the second half of the Great European War as a single conflict.

Twentieth Century Atlas – Top Ranked Atrocities – The main site on the Web to use the term hemoclysm' (lit. flood of blood’) as I do here, to wit: The long-term, multi-generational mayhem sparked by two key events in Europe and Asia that marked the 20th Century.

Derleth accurately and ably discussed the strategic answer to this question, but I can maybe fill in some of the tactical level. The answer is, however, similar. Aside from a very few joint U-Boat/I-Boat campaigns there were no joint actions by the German and Japanese. In fact, calling these campaigns “joint” is overstating them. The German U-Boats did not form packs or attack joint targets with the Japanese I-Boats. The U-Boats merely operated in independent fashion against Allied targets in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, with a few U-Boats refueling in Japan. Most of the U-Boats sent to the Pacific did not make it back to Germany.

The other level of co-ordination, technical, has already been mentioned. Some of these U-Boats carried engines, documents, plans, etc. to Japan.

There is one very small lingering nitpick I have to mention.

The UK was meaningfully involved in the Pacific War, from the Fall of Singapore and the loss of the HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse through to the surrender. Its commitment of troops and vessels was concentrated in SouthEast Asia and the Indian Ocean until late in the war. Because American histories tend to pay little attention to these theaters, this is not well-known in this country.

Also, there were Indian, Australian, and New Zealand troops fighting in the ETO.

Finally, the French and Dutch forces in SouthEast Asia were both attacked and defeated early in the Pacific War.

Despite loving history, I only know the larger picture and not many of the details so I have two questions that maybe one of you guys can answer in light of this thread.

The first is, if the Japanese and Germans weren’t really much of allies in the common sense, why did Hitler declare war on the US in the wake of Pearl Harbor?

Similarly, how significant was our involvement in the European theater at defeating Germany? If Hitler had not declard war on us, how much longer would the war have probably gone? Would Germany have been totally defeated or would they have sued for peace?
My second question is in response to Derleth’s comment about the Pacific and European theatres being considered as one war to Americans. That sentence implies that the other countries involved in the war(s) did not… how true is that? Is WWII taught in European schools as the European war and the Japanese campaign in the Pacific as something else? What about in Japan? How is it broken down there?

Is the US and Britain the only two nations to have factored significantly in both? What about Canada, Australia, and other Commonwealth nations? How signifcant were their contributions to both theatres?

I know that New Zealand was involved as heavily as such a small country could be, in both theatres. In Europe in defence of England, and in the Pacific in defence of herself and Australia.

Australia was heavily involved in both wars for the same reasons. Australia even suffered bombing attacks to its mainland (most notably Darwin) by Japan. There was significant land war in New Guinea which is uncomfortably close to Australia.

As far as I’m aware it is considered all part of the same (world) war in both countries.

I think there’s a bit of a distinction amongst the fighters themselves though. I seem to remember that airforce pilots who fought in Europe considered the work done by pilots in the pacific to be a bit low key.

They had a thing on the history channel where japan and russia were fighting a bit in tibet before ww2 started for us

Why didnt russia fight japan more in the pacific? seems like by the time they decided to it was just a quick grab so they could get a say in the treaty … ?

Sometimes mentioned as one of the greatest mysteries of WWII. Indeed, one of my reference books calls Hitler’s declaration of war against the US “a singularly short-sighted act”. The reasons are murky, but no treaty relationship required such a declaration. Japan and Germany had signed the Anti-Comintern Pact in November 1936, but the terms of that alliance were specifically directed against the Soviet Union. The Tripartite Pact of September, 1939 promised co-operation against a mutual foe, but was most concerned with dividing the globe into spheres of influence. Furthermore, the terms only required co-operation only if one of the parties was attacked by a third party, which was obviously not the case in Pearl Harbor. About the only widely agreed-to explanation is: “Hitler was nuts.”

The most important factor in the defeat of German armed forces was the Red Army. The second most important factor was the northern European front opened by Operations “Overlord” and “Anvil/Dragoon”. These operations would never have happened without the US, as Churchill was loathe to fight the German Army in France and the Low Countries. Make of that what you will. Battles of academic and national pride over this very question have taken nearly as many casualties as the was itself :wink:

I can’t tell you specifics about how WWII is taught in various country. From casual conversations, it seems that whatever theaters or campaigns a country’s forces were involved in predominates the curriculum.

Commonwealth Forces were vital in both theaters. The Australian Imperial Forces defended Tobruk in North Africa, and then returned to leapfrog through the South Pacific with MacArthur. I mentioned some other examples above of countries involved in both major theaters (European and Pacific).

I earlier left out the Soviet Union, which also fought in both theaters. Although Stalin did not declare war on Japan until 8/8/45, and the Red Army’s Manchurian Campaign only lasted from then until 8/23/45, there were also battles before 1939 between the Red and Japanese Armies in that area.

On preview: nightshadea, it was Manchuria, not Tibet. Northern part of China, not southern. But two answers to your question: Until 1945, the USSR was locked in a fight for its survival against Germany, one it nearly lost. It was in no position to move against the Japanese occupying China. But the other answer is exactly what you said: Stalin jumped in to gain a seat at the discussions about postwar Asia and to grab territory (Sakhalin, Kuriles) and influence (N. Korea, China).

Speculation I have heard is that by declaring war on the United States, Germany hoped to get help from Japan against Russia. However, the Japanese had little interest in attacking Russia. There were vastly greater resources in the British, Dutch, and American territories in the Pacific.

By not assisting Germany against Russia, Japan may have missed a golden opportunity to alter the war. I know of several sources that say a well placed spy in Tokyo informed Stalin in 1941 that Japan did not intend to attack Russia. This allowed Stalin to withdraw a large number of troops from siberia and use them in the counter attack at Moscow in the winter of 1941-1942. If these troops had instead been pinned down in siberia to counter the Japanese, could the Germans have won the battle of Moscow?

As others have said, Allied nations other than the U.S. certainly did participate significantly in the Pacific war.

The Royal Navy forces in the theatre included the Fleet Aircraft Carriers HMS Indomitable, Formidable, Illustrious, Victorious, Implacable, and Indefatigable, the Light Carriers HMS Colossus, Glory, Vengeance, and Venerable, plus 22 Escort Carriers (fourteen Ruler class ships and eight Attacker class).

British and ANZAC capital ships aided the American advance across the Pacific, including the naval bombardment of Iwo Jima prior to the Marine landings.

The last part doesn’t jibe with what I understand. I don’t think Japanese Imperialists ever sought to rid the world of other Asians. Subjugate other Pacific nations? Yes. Impose Japanese language/culture on these nations? Yes. Systematically wipe out entire ethnic groups like the Nazis tried? Nope. The ultimate goal, I believe, was to create a great Asian Empire to offset the dominance of Western powers.

In Japan, the war is always refered to as the “Pacific War” (Taiheiyo Senso). It’s generally perceived as a different conflict from the European war. This makes sense, as the Japanese military campaign started quite some time before Germany’s invasion of Poland.

One good spin-off for the Allies of the co-operation between Japan and Germany was in the field of intelligence . One example is the almost daily reports that the Japanese ambassador in Berlin sent back to Tokyo. He was privy to many military secrets and information , as well as reporting on daily life in Germany. The code he used had been cracked by the USA and the information it contained added much to the Allies’ knowledge of German intentions and the general mood in the country. This was useful on its own as well being a backup source of the information gleaned from Ultra.

Was the code name for the Japanese invasion of Siberia. Had this taken place (instead of “South Wind Rain”) Germany and japan may well have defeated Russia. The plan was for the Japanese Manchurian army to attack Russia in the Amur River region. Japanese forces would have cut the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and this would have forced the Russians to surrender Vladivostok.
In addition, by pinning down the Russians in Siberia, it would have been impossible to supply the Stalingrad front with fresh troops from Siberia.
Truly a miscalculation! Had Germany overwhelmed the Russians, the world would be different today. Of course, the Japanese had only a 60 day supply of oil at the start of the war-the leaders of the Japanese Navy wanted “South Wind Rain”-so they could capture the oil fields of the Dutch East Indies. :eek:

In the UK it’s certainly taught as one war but we recognise (or used to) both VE Day (Victory in Europe) and also VJ Day (Victory over Japan).

Well, I was speaking in terms of effects, more than goals. The Japanese dominance was an incredibly cruel one, including such atrocities as the Rape of Nanking, and it would have had the effect of wiping out whole ethnic groups had it gone on for an extended period of time. Especially, I think, the Chinese, who were on Japan’s short list of Groups We Hate.

So, did the Japanese run death camps like the Nazis were running in East Europe? Not as such, no, but they did do unspeakable things to the conquered and they did not show any signs of mellowing with time.

For smaller groups, maybe and that’s supposing active resistance to Japanese rule. I can definitely imagine Stalinian purges, forced cultural assimilation, etc. However, simply considering the number of people involved, Nazi-style ethnic cleansing, either as a goal or consequence, seems unlikely. I mean, we’re talking about hundreds of millions here.
The Rape of Nanking was a show of power meant to crush the spirit of the Chinese. I don’t think it would be accurate to see it in the context of an active program of extermination.

I’d certainly never argue that the Japanese were meaningfully “nicer” to their conquered subjects than the Germans. Both sought to establish empires/hegemonies with their ethnic nation at the top of the pyramid. The Japanese, however, had no equivalent to the Jews or Gypsies as an ethnic group that they considered “toxic” and sought to expel or exterminate. I think their policy towards most other Asian peoples was comparable to Nazi policy towards the Slavs – that they were inferior in most respects, but useful as slaves/serfs.

Returning to the original thread topic of Axis cooperation – I’ve read a number of articles regarding Japanese assistance to German and Italian blockade runners and surface commerce raiders, as well as submarines. Here’s one useful link I found:

I also read an article in a US Naval Institute Naval History magazine about an Italian aircrew that flew a plane over the Soviet Union to Japanese occupied China in 1942. They apparently got a red carpet and geisha welcome until Mussolini publicized the flight. The Japanese, who were sensitive about offending the Soviets, gave the Italians the cold shoulder for the remainder of their stay.

Direct interactions between the Japanese and their Axis allies were often strained. Not only was there (unsurprising) racial tension, but the German and Italian sailors, who were probably a bit more cosmopolitan and informal than their Japanese counterparts, had little patience for rigid Japanese hierarchy (ironically almost the opposite of the situation depicted in Spielberg’s 1941). I’ve read of German sailors, horrified by Japanese treatment of British and Australian POW dockworkers, conspiring to provide the POWs (who were Caucasian, after all) with food and medicine, and to distract their guards from acts of abuse.

Toward the end of the war the working relationship further deteriorated. The surviving elements of an Italian submarine flotilla based on Sumatra (mostly crewed by Germans after the Italian surrender) were essentially drafted by the Japanese. The destruction of Germany’s refueling ships and subs left the submarines stranded, and the Japanese were disinclined to provide them even with food. If the sub crews ran cargo from Japan to the garrisons of Indochina and Singapore, they would be allowed to carry back food for themselves and the otherwise starving foreign/embassy enclave in Tokyo.

While technology transfers were mostly from Germany to Japan, Japan returned useful raw materials, such as rubber and quinine.

Hitler’s motivation in declaring war was, I think, an attempt to extract some benefit from an irreversably worsening situation. One goal of the Tripartite Pact was to intimidate the US, by making it clear that it would be immersing itself in a global war if it didn’t mind its own business. By 1941, though, increasingly overt US support for Britain had led to periodic clashes between U-boats and US convoy escorts. Hitler realized that his hopes that the US would stay out of the war, and that an isolated Britain would eventually sue for peace, were for naught. Hitler’s intent in declaring war was, I think, almost comparable to Lee’s in ordering Pickett’s Charge – A symbolic “putting all the chips on the table”, and demonstration of his resolve. More immediately, I think he saw the opportunity to mount a U-boat offensive against a US distracted by events in the Pacific, and hopefully decisively break the British convoys. In fact, the U-boats did exploit US unpreparedness and do a lot of damage in “Operation: Drumbeat”, but the resources of the US were too vast for it to much matter.

Well, there was a plan by the IJN to launch seaplanes from (I-400 class?) submarines off of the California coast, raid L.A., then fly over to the Gulf of Mexico, be refueled and rearmed by German U-Boat, then attack Texas oil fields, and population centers. These plans got scrapped after Midway, although the Germans were apparently eager to cooperate in the scheme.

I’ll try and dig up a cite.