Read "Execute against Japan": The U.S. Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare by Joel Ira Holwitt Online


“ . . . until now how the Navy managed to instantaneously move from the overt legal restrictions of the naval arms treaties that bound submarines to the cruiser rules of the eighteenth century to a declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare against Japan immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor has never been explained. Lieutenant Holwitt has dissected this process“ . . . until now how the Navy managed to instantaneously move from the overt legal restrictions of the naval arms treaties that bound submarines to the cruiser rules of the eighteenth century to a declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare against Japan immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor has never been explained. Lieutenant Holwitt has dissected this process and has created a compelling story of who did what, when, and to whom.”—The Submarine Review“Execute against Japan should be required reading for naval officers (especially in submarine wardrooms), as well as for anyone interested in history, policy, or international law.”—Adm. James P. Wisecup, President, US Naval War College (for Naval War College Review)“Although the policy of unrestricted air and submarine warfare proved critical to the Pacific war’s course, this splendid work is the first comprehensive account of its origins—illustrating that historians have by no means exhausted questions about this conflict.”—World War II Magazine“US Navy submarine officer Joel Ira Holwitt has performed an impressive feat with this book. . . . Holwitt is to be commended for not shying away from moral judgments . . . This is a superb book that fully explains how the United States came to adopt a strategy regarded by many as illegal and tantamount to ‘terror’.”—Military Review...

Title : "Execute against Japan": The U.S. Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781603440837
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 262 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

"Execute against Japan": The U.S. Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare Reviews

  • Maria
    2019-01-03 05:00

    America entered World War I, in part to protest Germany's unrestricted use of submarines against merchant sailors. When she fought against Japan, the US Navy immediately started the same strategy. Holwitt traces, in excruciating detail, how that change in outlook came about.Why I started this book: I'm working my way thru the Navy's Recommended Reading list.Why I finished it: This book took a long time for me to read. It's dense with fact and details. I would recommend that anyone interested read the conclusion first and then go back and read the whole book. Reading it in this order allows any reader, not familiar with naval history, to realize the significance of what Holwitt is saying from chapter 1 on.

  • Ari
    2019-01-03 06:57

    The US entered World War One in large part because of outrage against German unrestricted submarine warfare -- particularly, the sinking of neutral ships. All during the 1920s and 1930s, US diplomacy and naval strategy emphasized that neutral ships ought to be inviolate during wartime and that even civilian ships belonging to an enemy government should not simply be sunk without warning. As late as 1941, the official Instructions for the US Navy required submarines to search merchant allow the crew to evacuate before sinking a merchant ship. This was not a point of antiquarian fussiness -- this was the public view of the President and the State Department who were repeatedly and publicly complaining about German submarine warfare.These elaborate rules lasted approximately 90 minutes into the Second World War. At 3:45 manilla time (9:15 Hawaii), Admiral Hart ordered the Asiatic Fleet "SUBMARINES AND AIRCRAFT WILL WAGE UNRESTRICTED WARFARE." A few hours later, Admiral Stark, the Chief of Naval Operations, signaled the rest of the US Navy: "EXECUTE AGAINST JAPAN UNRESTRICTED AIR AND SUBMARINE WARFARE. CINCAF INFORM BRITISH AND DUTCH. INFORM ARMY."As the author notes, this is a striking reversal of past US practice, and doubly so because it appears that the Navy adopted unrestricted submarine warfare with no deliberation with the civilian government. Certainly Hart issued his orders without any direction from Washington, and it is not at all clear that Stark had any, either. Possibly it was discussed verbally between Stark and the President, but there was no written record of such a discussion.The book explains the background of this decision-making, both for the Asiatic Fleet in the Philippines and for the Navy as a whole. As the author documents, the key people in the Navy understood by the mid 1930s that submarines could not, in practice, follow traditional cruiser-warfare rules and pushed for more relaxed laws of war. Memoranda advocating unrestricted warfare reached the General Board in 1941, and that body essentially declared "this is against US policy and if we were going to change that policy we wouldn't say so in advance." As the author shows, there was a great deal of nodding and winking between Admiral Hart and the CNO, immediately before the war. It was made clear to Hart that he _would_ be ordered to conduct unrestricted submarine warfare as soon as hostilities broke out (as, in fact, he was.) Moreover, he had been coached by Stark on how to justify such conduct based on his existing orders. In February of 1941, Stark wrote a private letter to Hart, saying "It is believed that further careful study of these tasks will reveal all their implications. The term ‘sea communications’ includes all naval as well as merchant shipping. .... The question of inability to sink merchant shipping by submarines, without warning, is unlikely to arise, since it is probable that all shipping within your reach will be under Japanese naval operation or control." That is, "you should just assert that the Japanese merchant ships are really part of the navy, and shoot them based on that."Overall, I thought this was a well-written and carefully-researched exploration of a topic that has previously been overlooked. It's a useful case study on how the inter-war navy formulated its doctrine, and in particular how these deliberations often happen out of sight of the civilian leadership. The author manages to be thorough without being pedantic, and the writing is solid for an academic historian, without any pedantic methodological asides.The book was based on the author's dissertation. If you don't want to read the book, the dissertation is available online.

  • Phrodrick
    2019-01-03 07:04

    Execute Against Japan began as a Ph. D. dissertation by Joel Holwitt. Then a Lieutenant, USN and serving in nuclear submarines. As such it is carefully researched and logically constructed. For a research paper the writing style is accessible to a general reader. At 184 pages and another 45 of notes it is not a long read. Because the research is in depth, it can be a demanding read on the casual reader who may tire of some of the extra steps required of a doctoral thesis.In the hours after knowledge of the Japanese attack on Perl Harbor, the US submarine fleet was directed to “Execute against japan, unrestricted submarine and air warfare.” The term “unrestricted warfare” had not been fully defined such that all commanders knew what this direction meant. Most air units were not in a position to execute any version of this command and it would be up to individual submarine commanders to convert it into what was one of the most complete victories by one naval power over another.Many of us will remember in our history classes that the United States had a long tradition of insisting on freedom of the seas, the right of neutrals to conduct sea born commerce with belligerent nations. Twenty years before the German decision to fight unrestricted submarine warfare against the US contributed to the American casus belli that brought us into WW I.Joel Howlet’s book carefully documents the fact that the US had not abandon this principle as a nation. The United States Navy had spent years working its way to its own policy for fighting with submarines and the above order was not an accident or a blind response to the surprise attack. The record suggest that the USN made this decision without consultation with the State Department, the president or even the Sec of the Navy. The record does not specify any instance of proper channels agreeing to or being expressly asks to agree to this decision.Several things make it worth the reader time to follow Lt Holwitt through the entire history of this decision. The details and the depth of the discussion by the many participants is worth following. While the author has a strong opinion that the right thing was to give the order, he leaves it to the reader to form an independent opinion.Perhaps the next book should ask: Why has no one noticed? If this is a precedence, what is the significance? Is this a precedence?

  • Kaushik Iyer
    2019-01-14 07:18

    Read after Aircraft Carriers At War, the third in a series of non-fiction books that've marked May so far.This is niche, dense stuff about an area that I knew absolutely nothing about. I'd recommend you read this for two reasons:First, to learn about the "freedom of the seas", a significant part of what drew the US into the First World War, and a key piece of Woodrow WIlson's Fourteen Points. And to see how this idea changed and evolved over time, as nations attempted to reconcile the submarine with naval law that had remained fixed since the time of prize ships and cruiser warfare.Second, and perhaps as interesting, to see how an organization and bureaucracy as large as the Navy changes its mind. The mechanisms through which arguments are made, the tactics used in ensuring that a 'new' idea can gain sway, and how analysis is used as a compliment to personality in decision making.Fascinating stuff.

  • Sean
    2018-12-22 02:01

    Dr. Guilmartin recommended this one to me a year ago, and I finally got my hands on a copy today via the Inter-library loan @ the Columbus Public Library (via the Ohio State Library). So far, I'm really intrigued and enjoying it. It's a scholarly work, so not for everyone.

  • Allyson
    2018-12-30 02:54

    An interesting account of the US decision to conduct unrestricted sustains warfare against Japan. I enjoyed reading about the moral and political thought behind the decision. Fun for an international/operational law nerd.

  • Ryan
    2019-01-18 03:58

    Very good history. Nothing much to add over what you can get from the synopsis. Well researched, solid, and important. Recommended.

  • Kevin Thomas Barnes
    2019-01-17 02:20

    I found this book very interesting as well as helpful in explaining why the decision was made.