11 Mar 2020

“The greatest evil… is done by quiet men in white collars, and cut fingernails, and smooth‑shaven cheeks, who do not need to raise their voices.

Hence, my symbol for hell is something like ‘The Bureaucracy.’”

CS Lewis

Probably the first westerner ever personally to observe the “Lugou Bridge” over the Yongding River (near present-day Beijing) was Marco Polo, sometime in the late 1200s AD. In western literature, it would forever-after be known as “Marco Polo Bridge.”

Since the Boxer Rebellion of 1901, western powers, and Japan, had been granted permission to maintain small military garrisons on Chinese territory, ostensibly for the purpose of protecting from brigands the route between Beijing (known as “Peking” at the time) and the port city of Tianjin.

By 1930, most western garrisons had been withdrawn, while Japan’s had been vastly expanded, to include armor and aircraft!

On the flimsiest of pretexts, Japan precipitously invaded Manchuria in 1931, quickly overcoming all resistance and subsequently manufacturing a puppet-state they called “Manchukuo.” Imperial Japan was, of course, seeking land and raw materials, while China, under its inept dictator, Chiang Kai-shek, with its poorly-equipped, poorly-trained army, simultaneously fighting its own expanding Communist insurgency, was in no position to successfully resist Japan’s military machine. The best they could do was to negotiate an anemic “truce,” which everyone knew would not last.

It didn’t!

As a result of this brutal invasion, Japan was unceremoniously jettisoned from the feeble and ineffective League of Nations, the impotent wet dream of American President, Woodrow Wilson.

However, these were years of the “Great Depression,” and Western Powers, with plenty of domestic impoverishment of their own to deal with, were mostly disinclined toward foreign military intrigue.

Japan was, of course, unimpressed, uninterested, and undeterred!

In July of 1937, tensions between China and Japan’s expeditionary forces finally re-erupted into open warfare, starting at the Marco Polo Bridge, mentioned above.

The “Second Sino‑Japanese War” (specifically “The Marco Polo Bridge Incident”) and Japan’s entry into what would become WWII, had well and truly begun!

All subsequent, increasingly-desperate de-escalation efforts failed.

The War was on!

Japanese forces quickly captured the Capitol City, and what followed, between 1937 and 1945, was China’s own “Holocaust,” where upwards of twenty million Chinese, the vast majority being civilians, were massacred by Japanese forces.

Japan is still mostly in denial to this day!

During the 1920s and 1930s, in Japan and all other industrialized nations, the race was on to design, test, mass-produce and issue to troops a self-loading military rifle. In fact, most enlightened war planners of the era well knew that bolt-action rifles had been obsolete since the end of WWI!

The bolt-action Type 38 Arisaka Rifle (after Colonel Arisaka Nariakira), chambered in 6.5×50mm, was adopted by the Japanese Army in 1905 (the 38th year of the Meiji Calendar, from which the rifle got its title). It was a Kijiro Nambu re-design of the flawed Type 30 Rifle, introduced in 1897, but whose flaws were made evident during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05.

By 1940, over three million Type 38 Arisakas had been manufactured and issued to Japanese forces. The rifle enjoyed an excellent reputation, and variants would eventually see service worldwide!

The improved Type 99 Rifle (also bolt-action), cambered for the more powerful 7.7×58mm cartridge, was officially adopted by the Japanese in 1939, but the mixture of types with incompatible cartridges led to crippling logistics issues. Thus, as WWII progressed, the update/replacement program stalled, and relatively few Type 99 Rifles were ever involved in actual fighting.

In Japan, the Ordnance Department also tested two innovative, toggle-lock, self-loading rifles in the 1930s that looked a lot like the American Pederson Rifle (that lost-out to the Garand in American trials). One was created by Nippon Special Steel, the other by Japan’s own Ordnance Department. The latter featured a spool magazine, very reminiscent of the one found on the American Johnson Rifle (that also lost-out to the Garand).

However, bureaucratic paralysis prevented either from ever seeing the light of day, and Japan would thus fight all of WWII with the Type 38 Arisakas, which they had been using since the first decade of the Century!

Coincidentally, and on the other side of the globe, Hitler’s new army was being endowed with a lot of brand-new, modern equipment, unlike France and the UK, where they were still vainly trying to salvage/update all their aging WWI equipment, most of which (by 1935) was hopelessly obsolete!

However, what simultaneously retarded much Nazi-era weapons development was the Nazi party itself unwisely inserting its influence into military decisions (much the same problem as in Japan) that should have been left to non-political military staff officers.

In fact, it is this nasty, territorial in-fighting which would characterize party/military functioning and decision-making that ultimately prevented the Germans from ever developing a suitable self-loading military rifle prior to WWII.

In Japan, the same paralyzing politics would yield identical results, as noted above.

So, Germany, like Japan, would fight all of WWII with the same Mauser bolt-action rifle that it had used since before WWI! The self-loading STG44 came along at the very end of WWII, and only on the collapsing Eastern Front, far too late to have significant influence on the War’s outcome.

Conversely, Americans and Soviets actually started WWII, both with excellent, mass-produced autoloading infantry rifles.

The American Garand and M1 Carbine, and

Fedor Tokarev’s SVT38/40

Due to cross-purposed, hyper-protective, micro-managing, paranoid, bungling bureaucracies, both Germany and Japan squandered the opportunity!

France and the UK fared no better, and for mostly the same reasons.

“When you sin, sin against God, never against ‘The Bureaucracy.’

God at least, will forgive you!”

Hyman G Rickover