DAILY CALLER — When discussing the DF-21D, an anti-ship ballistic missile entering service with the People’s Republic of China, it is helpful to remember that China is not the first country that tried to use a weapon to inflict attrition on American naval forces. Japan also sought to use attrition to help defeat the United States – a strategy that failed in World War II.
Prior to World War II, Japan’s strategy was to try to whittle down American naval power in the event of a conflict to give the main Japanese fleet a better chance in the planned “Decisive Battle” by weakening the numerically superior American fleet. One way to do this was to use long-range weapons like the Type 93 Long Lance and the Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” to attack American forces before they could fire on Japanese vessels. Japan also was relying on the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” to ensure air superiority at great distances from its carriers.
Japan needed such a strategy. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s statement about America being “a sleeping giant” was borne out. American industry, even in the throes of the Great Depression, was out-producing Japan – and it wasn’t even close. The key for Japan was to use smaller units (often destroyers) to either damage or sink larger American units (like cruisers or battleships) in lopsided engagements.
One instance where Japan succeeded in executing those tactics was the Battle of Tassafaronga on November 30, 1942. This battle took place during the Guadalcanal campaign, a lengthy slugging match in which both Japan and the United States took heavy losses. A squadron of Japanese destroyers using Long Lance torpedoes sank one heavy cruiser and seriously damaged three others – losing only one destroyer in the process of doing so. This was the sort of exchange Japan had to make in the run-up to their planned “Decisive Battle” that would take place in the Western Pacific.
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